SS balanced preamplifier for Krell FPB 400cx

Currently my system is,

Sony DVD player/Laptop Music Server
Mark Levinson 360S DAC
Balanced Audio Technology VK-3iX Preamplifier
Krell FPB 400cx Amplifier
Focal JmLabs Electra 926 Speakers
Balanced Audioquest cables

I am extremely happy except sometimes I feel that some speed and resolution is lacking. Because I have listened to other components performed flawlessly at other places, I believe tube preamplifier is the limiting factor. I have decided to experiment with balanced solid state preamplifier and currently considering used Mark Levinson 380s, Pass Labs X1 or Ayre K-5xe.

Kindly write your opinions.


I use a PS Audio PCA-2 with my 700C and it sounds super.
Thanks Rwwear!

Any opinions on Mark Levinson 380s, Pass Labs X1 or Ayre K-5xe with Krell FPB series amplifiers?

I have tried the Pass XO and it is excellent. The low level detail was better than the PCA but it could be a little bright. The remote and ergonomics needed improving for the Pass also.
Why don't you have Krell KCT on your list? One of the finest preamps out there and totally matched to your amp.

I have demoed my KCY in many other systems and it always pleases.

Especially via CAST.
The Fire preamp.
Thanks all.

Stevecham, Krell KCT will be ideal but it is out of my price range which is less or more $2,500.

Rwwear, I have heared stories that Pass remote is not user friendly, however, the same stories also praised Pass sound as being open and dynamic.

Muralman1, the H2O Fire Preamplifier is not a balanced design.

Please more opinions on Mark Levinson 380s, Pass Labs X1 or Ayre K-5xe!

Haroon, have you looked inside the Fire? If not, how can you say it is not a balanced design?
I have owned the Ayre K-1xe with my krell amps. I have also heard the Ayre K-5xe with krell amps at thiel. Both work very well with the krell amps.
Muralman1, this is off topic discussion. However, I went to the website of H2O Fire Preamplifier and checked the specifications before I posted the comments. The preamplifier doesn't have XLR inputs/outputs. I believe you intend to say that some preamplifiers do have XLR inputs/outputs but they do not have balanced circuitry and vice versa.

Please more opinions on Mark Levinson 380s, Pass Labs X1 or Ayre K-5xe!
Hello Haroon-
The Pass remote takes a bit of getting used to, but as long as you can SEE
the X-1 you'll get it. It will take a couple weeks or so of cursing, but
then no problems. As far as the volume changes I do not have an issue. With
my high output Moving Coil cart the volume was too loud for my wife, but
truly with a pre this good you want a low output MC cart anyway (which I
bought, and now no problem). My VSA SR.IV's are pretty efficient at 92 Db
and my Pass amps rate @600 watts, so a little volume goes a long way. I do
not notice ANY noise when the volume is up, though there is a bit of static
if you turn up the volume very quickly (only as your turning it up). A non
issue IMHO. I LOVE my X1-Pre and all my Pass equipment (X-600 Monos, X-1
Pre, Xono phono stage.
Hope this helps-
I forgot to mention the Pass pre has High (14db) and Low (4db) gain settings for each of its' inputs. I use the low setting.
Get a Wyetech Opal pre or one notch down in line (Jade?) and you will not have to give up tubes -- and will have speed and resoultion in spades, plus tube magic. And the pre will outlast you!

I had a Krell 700cx and the only thing that made it sing was the matching Krell KCT preamp, connected with Cast cables. Try it, they go together like peanut butter and jelly!
just hooked up an x1 purchased here on agon. almost exactly what i was hoping for. this is the 4th pre in 6 weeks and i think it hit the mark.

was really enjoying the sound without a pre. using my ps audio pwd without a pre was a tough act to follow in my rather limited price range. wanted a pre for connection reasons with a mostly hands off approach to the sound. with about 24 hours of warm up, the x1 is already sounding fantastic. will do some a/b's in a few days to see how it compares to having no preamp. i'm thinking it'll fair very well.

alot of folks recommended x1 and in the 2k-ish price range used, it's a good value imo. having tried the aleph p already makes me more then willing to try more pass gear.

glad i decided to try the x1. so far it's fitting in just right.
Nice looking set up! I am wondering how you like the sound of the PW combo without the X-1 compared to with the X-1.
thanks you Srwooten. so far i do like the sound with the x1. don't have golden ears so i need to do an a/b comparison to determine which configuration works best for me. i think it's gonna be close this time.

i can tell you that the x1 gives me the added detail up high that i found missing with the aleph p (otherwise the aleph p was outstanding). it also sounds like i have better control down low with the x1 vs the the other pre's i've tried.

if i didn't enjoy satellite radio so much, i'd be going without a preamp, as it does sound sweet when using the pwd/pwt. like i said before....just looking for connectivity options while keeping the sound as unchanged as possible. hoping the x1 is it this time.