Upgrade bug has hit, interested in Pass Labs Amps

So as I am feeling the upgrade bug, I have been looking into upgrading my amp. Currently I have Bel Canto Ref1000s and I feel that the class D amps are not giving me the quality of sound that I would like to receive, lacking fullness and realistic qualities. So I have been looking into Pass Labs X250 and X250.5 amps, from what I have read these are very good amps and should be a considerable upgrade from my ref1000s???? Also what is the difference in the X250 and the X250.5? Is it worth the extra 1000-1500 that I have seen them for on here?
Also any other SS amps in this price range give or take a few dollars that are recommended?

I recently purchased a Pass X250 and am very impressed with both sound and build quality. Great bass and smooth highs, I didn't have the coin move up to the X250.5, but this is a hell of an amp!
I don't want to bash Pass Labs, because they are great people, and their service goes over the top, but I would urge you to listen to the amp first. I was accustomed to various McIntosh solid state primarily, and I bought a 250.5 on the strength of owner reviews which were very positive. With 3 very different speakers that I own, the sonic signature was thin and somewhat "solid state" sounding (for want of a better description). It was sent back to Pass and thoroughly gone over- everything was OK. my point is, try before you buy with this one, it may not be your thing. From your description of the sound you like, McIntosh may fit the bill.Good Luck.
I have had a Pass X350 for a couple of years now, having driven Dunlavy SCIVs and now Wilson Maxx IIs and I find the overall sound to be very detailed, musical and well paced. It also will not be confused with a tube amp. It is solid state sounding, not to a fault, and warmer than my old Rowland Model 7s, but still solid state. I bought the amp used, without auditioning, based on a friend's recommendation. I am very happy with it, but auditioning is always the best scenario. Just find somebody very strong to haul it for you! My back was out for a week.
Hi Tim, how long have you used the BCs? Are you using Bel Canto Ref 1000 Mk.1 or Mk.2 monos? If you own the earlier version, it is my understanding that the very recent Mk.2 version is musically signifacantly enhanced and that the cost of the upgrade is quite reasonable. I am breaking in a pair of Mk.2s and am quite stunned by their musicality. Granted, I would not call them 'warm' per se, but neutral and harmonically complex. My 20 year old Rowland 7Ms could be rated as 'warm' instead but I much prefer the sonic signature of the Bel cantos R1000 Mk.2s.
If you want to try the Pass series, and your preference were for a sound on the warmer side of neutral, why not have a look also at the Pass XA.5 series? They are said to be even slightly more refined than the X.5 models, and slightly warmer as well. Guido
I have prob had them about 7 months now, they are the mk1s. Yeah, I to have heard good things about the mk2s. I just dont know if I can justify putting 2k into upgrading them, when I can sell the mk1s, for about 2k, and add about 2k to that, and start looking for amps in that area. Also, I am using Paradigm Studio 60 v3. Which will get upgraded before or after the amp.

My short list is
Focal Electra 1027BE
Dali Helicon 400mk2
Dali MS4
Dynaudio Contour S5.4
Wilson Sophia

Would I be better off replacing the amp or speakers first??

One more thing to consider is connectivity and PCs. . . What are you using right now? not everything works well with any electronics, and Bel Canto amps are no exception. Guido
So I run a bel canto dac3 into the ref1000s viA analysis plus solo crystal oval balanced Interconnects. That is connected to a mac mini via kimber USB cable. Hope this helps to get a better image of my setup .
Speakers first! The only speakers on your list I have heard are the Dynaudios, actually it was the S 3.4s. As a previous owner of the Studio 60v.2 speakers I can say the improvement with the Dyns was not subtle.
I totally disagree about speakers first. Amps can completely change the sound, for example. I was considering changing out my speakers as I was constantly hunting for more and tighter bass among other things in the soundstage. I looked at every speaker under the sun and instead swapped out my amp and couldnt be happier with my sound. The improvements were startling. I liken the amp to the engine in the car. The car may look nice (i.e., speakers), but if the engine (amp) cannot drive it well it is all lost.
Speakers first. They'll make the biggest absolute contribution to the sound you hear in your room so make sure you get them right (obviously electronics are also hugely important to what you ultimately hear, but the differences tend to be smaller in absolute magnitude although are no less important in the end). Go find a pair that really blow you away, then you can always find an amp that will drive them or you could even buy the amp you heard during the demo. Tougher to go the other way in my opinion, but there are valid arguements the other way too.

Best of luck.
The Pass amps are very good.The X series will probably mate better to the paradigms.I believe that if you were to upgrade to one of the others that you mention,it would be worth moving to an XA model.The efficiency and tonal quality will be more revealing.
The area in which you are unsatisfied with is notorious with a "non-preamp" configuration.Using a digital EQ might also remedy your problem,but you have to use good judgement when applying this solution.
>>01-10-09: Arbuckle
I totally disagree about speakers first<<

That's a shame because you're dead wrong.

Speakers first followed by an amp that matches them.

It's that simple.
the recording matters more than anything else.

if the recording is done poorly, the speakers will only reproduce a poor recording.

a master analog tape iswith a mediocre stereo system is prefereable to a poor recording with the best components.
My experience has been that the pre-amp has had more of an impact on sound quality than the of the amp. But as far as Pass Labs amps go they are excellent and I would suggest the X.5 series over the X series and the XA is better still assuming speakers synergy.
Audiofeil and Soix are correct. Back on topic, I owned the X-150 and upgraded to the X-600. That was a long time ago. I have never looked back on my evolutionary journey through class D.
Settle your loudspeakers first, then consider what to do with your amplification. If you settle on some higher efficency speakers then you frankly don't need gobs of amplifier power.

Regarding the BC 1000, i had some Ref II's driving difficult planar speakers and they work a treat. Would Pass Lab's also have worked? Sure, but the X350.5 is not exactly inexpensive, neither is it light, nor is compact and cheap to run.
MrTennis, I have all the recorded music I had 10 years ago. The sound the recordings produce have been evolving with my system. Everything has been changed out over those years including speakers. The speakers made the most difference in sound. After that, the amps, preamps, and source. They are all important, but the same system on another pair of speakers would go wasted in my opinion.
Helllo Tmesselt.

Speakers are highly dependent on room acoustics, placement AND amplification.
Speakers demand proper matching to an amplifier, due to widely varying driver impedance curves, sensitivity, reactance and bass damping.
E.g, planar speakers need lots of current; horns like low power AND low noise amps; low efficiency speakers need very high power amps (both voltage and current).
Most ported speakers require an amplifier with a high damping factor, however sealed speakers actually sound worse with a highly damped amp.
Room size is also an important factor when selecting the speaker/amp combo.

In summary, my "methodology" is as follows:
-Choose a speaker that matches your taste, room size, acoustics and your loudness preference.
-Then buy an amp that drives that speaker REALLY well.

If you upgrade the amp first you may be forced to change the amp when you decide to upgrade the speakers.
Of course the source and preamp are extremely important.

I agree with Soix and Audiofeil, dollar-for-dollar you get the greatest improvement by upgrading the speakers, however, "garbage in, garbage out", the source is very important, though one needs to spend mucho dinero to hear a small improvement in digital playback.

IMHO the weak links in your system are the USB connection to the DAC (lots of jitter) and the speakers, because Paradigm speakers are voiced for home-theater use. HT requires powerful bass and dialog intelligibility, therefore most HT-oriented speakers have underdamped bass and a peak in the voice range. I hear that in my friend's Paradigm speakers. They are excellent for movies, so-so for music.

If I were in your shoes, I would use an SPDIF digital input to the DAC (to reduce jitter) and install two dedicated AC lines, one for AC-polluting digital server + DAC, another one for the amps. This will clean your digital signal and pollute less the AC feed to the amps.

Then I would start looking for better speakers.

I have owned a Mc402 amp and an Mc275 MKV, I have also auditioned Pass amps several times. I am sure that Mac and Pass amps wil give you the fullness and correct timbre that you are looking for, but not with an USB-connected digital source or with your present speakers.
I hope this helps and is not taken as criticism.
Good luck
>>I agree with Soix and Audiofeil, dollar-for-dollar you get the greatest improvement by upgrading the speakers<<

Whoa, Nellie.

I never said that. My contention is every system should be built around speakers that knock your socks out. After that, choose an amp to match.

Your assertion is system dependent. I've seen and heard many many systems whose greatest improvement would not have been a change in speakers.

Big difference.
>>IMHO the weak links in your system are the USB connection to the DAC (lots of jitter) and the speakers, because Paradigm speakers are voiced for home-theater use

>>If I were in your shoes, I would use an SPDIF digital input to the DAC (to reduce jitter)

Yes I agree about the usb link being weak. Although I just purchased this mac mini which I would like to use as my transport, but the only options are a mini optical and the usb for audio.
I have heard that a nice glass optical cable like the wireworld supernova can be a good option, as there is no spdif output.
(Since I dont have the funds for a mac pro with a lynx soundcard ouputing via the AES)

Thanks to all for your input, I actually have heard the Focal's paired with the ref1000s and they sounded great.

Another issue I could be having is room size, the room is 11'x17' The spearkers are on the smaller wall. 16" from the side walls and 25" from the rear wall.
I know that this is not ideal but unfortunately what I have to deal with.
Messelt, I agree that your Kimber USB cable could be part of the issue. . . my experiences with listening Kimber wiring is that they tend to be a bit on the tippy side. Not sure that going to a glass connection would improve things though. . . a glass fiber connection means that the electrical signal is converted to light pulses at one end, then back to electrical signals at the other end of the wire run. . . that introduces additional potential for timing inaccuracies or jitter. . . which we perceive as edginess in the sound. What power cords are you using on your Ref 1000? I am having excewllent results with Cardas Golden Ref on the Mk.2s. G.
I am using Analysis Plus Power Oval 10 for the Ref1000s and a Aural Symphonics Cappuccino for the DAC3. I am in the process of running a dedicated circuit for the ref1000s using a hospital grade duplex (all thats in the budget for now.) Maybe that will help with my issues for a while. That will not happen for a few weeks, I have to install a sub panel as I have no room for expansion in my current panel.
Guido, you lost me there. Cardas Golden Reference????? I tried those and they mushed the sound horribly. All cables with heavy dielectrics do the same. It was the Anti-Cable that taught me to try naked ribbons.
A lot of the testimonials at Spetz's site are from former Analysis users.
Hi Messelt, I am grasping at straws of course, but I suspect that the Oval 2 may be a better choice for the BC amps than the Oval 10. . . I know that Oval 2s are often recommended with other class D amps like the JRDG 201s and 501s. . . I even heard Oval 2 on the big JRDG 312 and it works quite well. If i interpreted the descriptive page on PCs on the Analysis Plus web site correctly, the Oval 2 PC has a braided shielding. I just recently read somewhere on Audiogon that shielded PCs may be appropriate for some switching amps. As far as I know, the Cardas Golden Refs are shielded, and they sure work well on the BC Ref 1000 Mk.2s in my system.
Yet, I also suspect that the Kimber USB cable may be part of your problem set. . . . I heard very good things instead of the Ridge Street Audio USB wire. . . mind you, I am not speaking out of personal experience. G.
My experience - long - with class D amps is that the PCs need full shielding That goes for all the components.

Quite the opposite is true of all the other wires. Speaker cables must be naked as possible. I am using ultra thin copper ribbons thinly clad with Saran Wrap to prevent shorting. My interconnects are Speltz antiwire, and I have yet to hear better.
the weak link is the recording. who wouldn't trade an expensive stereo system for analog master tapes, a decent tape deck and a modest stereo system ?

if it is poorly recorded , a speaker will not help.
Ok Mttennis, as you've posted the same answer twice in this thread you must be looking for a response. I'll bite.
The original poster is not looking for any advice concerning the quality of the recordings he is listening to so your idea is of no relevance.
But to go further, how many "analog master tapes" of any recorded event are produced for public consumption? I have no idea how many are made but suspect there aren't enough for each Agon member to own one. So what's the point?
I won't argue whether or not your assertion is true as I haven't listened to a master tape on a "mediocre" or "modest" stereo system.
doesn't mrtennis have it right? Could be wrong but I was taught that in terms of the heirarchy it goes source, room (or room acoustics), and then speakers. The reason there is so much fixation on speakers is that it is the easiest to control....
Why do people have a need to frame the importance of individual pieces of audio equipment as a mutually exclusive argument? The fact is that in audio every piece is important, and to claim that getting one right is most important is useless. If your source sounds like shit, the sound you hear will be shit no matter what else you've got. If your speakers sound like shit, you'll hear -- you guessed it -- shit, no matter what you're using as a source, amp, etc. Who gives a crap what flavor the shit is?

One of the questions posed here was whether to upgrade the amp or speakers first. That's a question of strategy, not importance. I think it's easier to start with the speakers and then find an amp that is capable of driving them and producing the sound one is looking for. Others may prefer a different strategy and that's fine if it works for them. At the end of the day it doesn't change the fact that every link in the audio chain is vitally important. I would hope we at least can all agree on that.
Translation from a stored medium to an electrical and the electrical to acoustical are often the barriers hardest to over-come,at least in this hobby/pursuit.
Many have a vested interest in this pursuit and will viciously attack anyone who might disrupt them or take a portion of said meal.Dog eat dog.Thought we might have evolved past this ,but we may have a long way to go.
So earlier in this thread a few topics have been discussed and as I have plans to nearly upgrade all of my current components step by step in the next few years I obviously want to be on the right path.

So it was pointed out that the mac mini via usb cable to my bel canto dac3 is a weak point causing jitter.

A few possibilities I have thought of:

1 - Bel Canto USB Link 24/96, which converts the usb to spdif.
Will this type of conversion reduce jitter as it says? After all I am still using the usb from the mac mini.

2 - Getting a Transporter or the Modwright Transporter and outputting via ethernet / wireless / etc ... ???

3 - Looking into some sort of dac with Firewire inputs