What's a good alternative to Pass Labs?

Owner of the x250.5 (pass labs). It's a remarkable amplifier, it just doesn't seem to synergize all that well with my speaker. Something a little less bright (a little more forgiving) and something slightly less warm. It seems to get warmest in the mid-bass (bloat), and brightest of course in the higher treble. The mid-bass warmth/bloat exists at lower as well as higher volumes, the brightness starts to get bad at louder volumes. I think they that Pass is a warm neutral, so perhaps i'm just looking for something that's just neutral. Any advice is greatly appreciated!!

budget less than $10k. used or new ok.
And your speaker is? Sensitivity? power rating? 2 way/3 way?
average listening level? 8ohm/4ohm?

Give us a little info otherwise your going to get a lot of
answers that do you no good.
Colonel, did you say less bright and less warm at the same time?
Look at Clayton audio M300 monos
Musical,effortless, audiophile quality
Linear and emotionally engaging
Warning may be addictive!!! Lol
Besides the question of what speakers are you using which is necessary in order to make suggestions I'd also want to know what preamp, interconnects and speaker cable you use? All of those can have an effect on what you hear.
First a response to Lak will help put you and responders on the right track. Then, consider a CODA amp, made in Sacramento, CA. I could not be happier with my 15.0 amp. Coming with gobs of Class A sweetness, it may be just what you seek. Alternatively, the higher-power but less Class A model 33.0 may also fit your bill. Top quality, super solid engineering, and great folks to work with. Good luck.
Hey guys, I apologize, I should have my system info in my original post.

I have these speakers:

Pre-Amp/Dac: CP-800
Amplifier: Pass Labs X250.5
Source: Mac Mini w/Dirac Live
Subwoofers: 2 JL f113's
Sorry, I have experience with both Clayton Audio and CODA amps, but they are warm neutral as you describe Pass Labs, so I don't think they are what you are looking for. Looking at your speakers, maybe you are best to stay with SS. You may want to check out Ayre MX-R amps if you can, the are less warm sounding than Pass Labs, CODA or Clayton Audio. You can get a used pair for under $10K. If you are looking for an amp that will really light up the room, try a Spectral amp.
04-20-14: Abrew19
Colonel, did you say less bright and less warm at the same time?

Let me rephrase. With regards to warmth, there is a little to much warmth in the mid-range--it's especially apparent in women's voices with medium-higher pitch. Also a little bloat in the mid-bass--the sound is exaggerated & larger than life.

With regards to brightness, I'd classify the x250.5 as ever so slightly bright. It is by no means ruthless, nor is it forgiving. Given that a lot of the music I love isn't particularly well produced or mastered, something slightly forgiving may end up making me happier.
IMHO, the issue is not the X250.5. Rather, the Pass amp is revealing issues elsewhere in the chain, most likely upstream: source/pre-amp/dac.
How confident are you that your speakers and listening seat are in the right places? The tonal balance issues you describe can be altered by addressing how the speakers are reacting to the room and where you are sitting.

Start with sitting in the spot which has the smoothest bass. Then work with the speakers. This will cost you nothing. If you still have the issues you describe, then consider equipment changes.
In my experience the older Coda amps were very good and yes they do have a warmth to their presentation. I certainly haven't heard all the newer amps, but I have heard the 15.0 that Ren mentioned. It does have a rich midrange presentation, but I would not call it warm, rich and layered, yes. Not warm...
You may want to RE-visit the review of these speakers. The reviewer says that they are "shouty" at higher volumes. You may be sensitive to this region of hearing frequency??? I think the perceived bass warmth comes from the transmission line architecture. You just will not get the tight/taught response from the drivers with large surrounds and there is an 8" line/port that helps to reinforce the bass, but causes timing issues with the mid bass drivers which are faster. This may cause you to lose some detail/resolution.

Do you always use the JL subs when listening? (they may be faster or slower than the main drivers). Integration can be tricky.
Hey Tom6897, can you link me to the review that called them shouty? I don't think I across that one.
I'm familiar with your amp and preamp. Your issue is your preamp/dac. I think this is the 1st time I've ever heard anyone describe the x250.5 as bright.

I'm not familiar with your speakers.

If you want a forgiving amp, look for so,etching with tubes,,but not AR
Why don´t you try an external power supply unit with the Mac Mini. Thus you will avoid distortion coming from the Mac.


I'm in agreement with the others, as I find it hard to believe the Pass amp is the problem. This review on the Pass Labs X250.5 describes the high frequencies as natural, which has been my experience with other Pass products.

This may be the review for your T+A Criterion TCD 110 S that Tom is referring to. The part about being "shouty" is toward the end, but prior to the "Conclusion" section.

IMHO, the issues you describe are not related to each other, so making a single change will not solve both problems. As Peterayer suggests, speaker/room interaction may be a problem.

If you don't use the subs, do you still have the mid-bass bloat? Also, curious as to the cables you are using, digital, IC's, and SC's.
Tls49 is correctnwith the link: here isk the paragraph in question~ "When I moved on to Lara Ruggles’s “Snowflake,” also from Sony’s AR1 SACD Sampler, I found that voices through the Criterions sounded less colored than through my reference B&W 802 Diamonds. The T+As’ midrange actually reminded me a lot of what I heard while listening to this track through Wilson Audio’s Sophia 3s -- Ruggles’s voice was vibrant, with excellent timing and depth, but also a bit harder and cooler at higher volume levels than through the PMCs or B&Ws. This brings me to my one and only criticism of the Criterions: Like the Wilsons, when the T+As are pushed hard, the upper midrange can sound a bit tilted up and teeter on sounding sharp, most notably with female voices. That’s not to say that their tweeters become noticeable, as do the Sophias’ -- they don’t -- but with some recordings, the Criterions’ CD arrays could sound a hint shouty".
I too think you are looking in the wrong place. Trying to find a better amp than the Pass that fits your speakers perfectly in the areas you are not happy with will be an enormous task. And likely not fruitful.

In the realm of SS amps I would never classify Pass as bright.
The sound you describe could be the overwhole sound of your system. I have owned many Pass Labs amps. I own now also the 250.5. Which I will replace by the 350.8.

I have sold Classe for over 6 years of time. It is a nice brand. But it is not in the same league as Pass labs is.

The difference is in the realism of instruments. I also prefer the bigger stage of the Pass Labs.

Mini mac with a dac never convinced me. Why? Because you don't get the 3d image and sharp individual focus as with some gear in just one box. You loose dynamics and also sound realism.

I even think the other parts in your system are the weakest parts of your set.

The pass labs .5 series and Classe have both the properties of a wide and deep stage.

But you need an intimate and smaller individual focus of instruments and voices. They are in real a lot smaller. The combi is not the best choice to be honest.

What kind of cables do you use. Because they have there own properties as well.
Jeff Rowland 625?
I would also look at your pre-amp. The Classe is an extremely flexible and high quality pre. I had a earlier Classe CP-65, the top of the line before the Delta series, and,as much as I liked it, it did have some edgy forwardness in the treble. I replaced it with a Cary SLP-05 and the problem went away. Something like the Cary or a Conrad Johnson might smooth out the top end without introducing tub bloom. Rest of my system is Mark Levenson 432 and Sonus Faber Cremona. Very different, but is some ways, similar components. Anyway, just wanted to sugest you consider a tube preamp. Sorry, I know you probably got the Classe recently and I love its versatility.
Can you shorten your speaker wires? I solved my bloat that way.
I recently bought a Pass Labs X350.5 ( In 2015 I will buy a .8
series one) This is my fifth Pass amp ( XA30.5, 60.5, 100.5 and

I was surprised how much better it was than the X250.5. The
dynamics are superior, the stage is wider and deeper. But within
the stage the individual focus of instruments and voices is
sharper and more intimate. I already had a stage on the sides of
my speakers. But Now I also have the height increase ( I use 2
pair of the brand new Audioquest Wel Signature XLR) as I have
within and behind the speakers. It is a lot more musical in the
overall sound. It gives me the same feeling as I had with the
XA100.5. But with a better spatial and a faster and more dynamic
low freq. With the Purist Audio LE I prefer this over the
XA100.5 which I also owned.
Just got 350.8 wow great dynamics,great stage.wonderful imaging.The alternative get a Soulution 711 its only $65.000.00 i think its a little better.
Coda 40.0 meets your requirements
The amp is very, very unlikely to be your problem. You are far better off fixing the offending component. And if it is the speakers causing the brightness problem you can work all you want to use compensating equipment, but the distortion causing the brightness, and the distortion causing the "fixit" components to cover up the brightness, will all just add masking distortion.

In the end, you will end up getting rid of the offending component anyway, you might as well avoid years of trying to fix it and a lot of wasted money, and get it out of there now.
When you still own the T&A loudspeakers I would sell them
directly. They are very poor in crossovers. To be honest I could
not sell this to my clients. In this price range there are
enough better speakers. The biggest limitation in audio is that
over 90% of all products is not worth their money in my personal

you may want to re-think your preamp. Any preamp is going to be the heart of any system. If you do not get this right, nothing else matters...

List your cables/powers cords as well. IMO, this is the 2nd most over-looked aspect of any rig. Keep me posted!

Happy Listening.
Colonel, Classe gear is neutral sounding. If you like your Classe CP-800 pre, for synergy I would consider a Classe CA-2300 which you could buy new for about $7k. Alternatively, you could move on your Classe pre & look for a good 2nd hand Vitus RI-100 which would be a nice upgrade for about the same coin.