Which Pre-Amp Pass Labs or Audio Research

I`m now using The Pass X350 Power Amp and a Audio Research upgraded LS22 preamp. I`ve also used the Ref5 both preamps sound great the Ref5 was just adorable much better control etc. Im wondering would the Pass Xp20 or Xp30 be a better way to go. I`v heard the AR preamps are much better than the Pass Labs Preamps.
I have been using a PASS X250 and now X25.5, I originally had it with a passive preamp and it worked fine, then I wanted to try tubes bought a Audio Research SP16. Boy was I disappointed. Kept it about a month then bought a matching PASS X2.5 preamp running balanced and it was an eye opening experience.

My advice get the PASS preamp, you wont regret it!
It all depends what type of sound you like. Pass is clean and timbre-accurate and very neutral.

AR has tubes and adds harmonics and bloom but timbre isn't accurate - it has more of a whitish sound, but beautiful just the same.

Personally I prefer the Pass but it's a matter of taste - apples vs oranges. Both are excellent.
"AR has tubes and adds harmonics and bloom but timbre isn't accurate - it has more of a whitish sound, but beautiful just the same."

How do you know the timbre isn't accurate on the AR? As far as I know, there's no way to measure timbre.
I had an XP20 with X350. It sounded amazing!! I am not a fan of audio research based on the few times I heard them in showrooms so I would clearly suggest the pass.
Thanks Guys, I`ve been into tubes since the 70`s and have been thinking about change but could never get the information you wonderful audio enthusiastic enthusiast have supplied me with. I have one questioned the preamps before the xp10-20-30 the X2.0 its a possibility I can get it for a pretty fair price should I or go with one of the newer preamps? Best regards, 813Sheridan
most the reviews are saying that everything in the current xp lineup are better than the older x pre's but i have not heard the older ones myself.
It sounds as though you enjoyed the Ref5. What was wrong with that setup? What do you feel are your current deficiencies sonically that you want to improve on? That information might help make a more useful recommendation.

I just got the xp10, I like it it's very dry compared to an AR. Personal taste I suppose. If I had the means for a Ref5 I would strongly consider it, it is very very good.
With some tube changes I like my recently bought Einstein The Tube mk2. Search and you will find the Audiogon thread. It may not be your cup of tea, but I mention it also since I saw it in the Audiogon ads, reasonably priced.
Sunfentanil, as I stated I`ve been into tubes since the 70`s Audio Research sp3 my first High end tube preamp Its been AR every since. After so many hours tubes go bad tube rolling isn`t cheap; there will be know need to worry about this problem going transistor. The Ref5 I adored but my buget would not allow me to hear the maximum performance of the Ref5 by that I mean I just could`nt see my self upgrading to a great 2,000 cart. 3k speaker cables may be better speakers than my 3.6 Maggies heaven only knows what else, are you feeling me?
Well, most recently I tried used AR LS17SE and Pass XP-10 at home for extended listening. From a system matching standpont, the XP-10 was better to these old ears, but your mileage may vary. Have owned several AR pieces (SS and Tube) and they make great gear.....so does Pass though.
I have owned the Pass XP-20 as well ARC Anniversary Ref 40. Very, very different sounding and you'll hear that difference immediately. It's hard to say which you would prefer as you don't say why you are dissatisfied with your current sound and what type of music you listen to primarily. Help us out please.
Barrysandy, I think I`ll have a much better match pass to pass. I also want to try S/S for a while after a few years or thousands of hours down the road its time to change tubes, don`t have to worry about that with S/S. My taste in music is classical,Jazz,blues, gospell
I posted a response in my system description but here are some further thoughts. I don't think tube usage would be an issue with the Ref5 unless you leave the preamp on all the time. My Ref40 warms up in an hour and doesn't sound much better after that. The signal tubes will easily last 5000 hours and are not that expensive.

If set on Pass, read the description of the Xp-20 v. Xp-30 here at dagogo:


The XP-30 would be my choice if you wanted to go with the Pass preamp.

As another less expensive option, I don't know whether you have tried different tubes in the LS22?

I also found this article of interest. I have tried these specific types of mods in other equipment with terrific sonic results but few people have the skill or want to damage the resale value of their stuff:


Good luck!
Are you using the old 350? not a .5 serie?
I recently saw the GamuT D3i preamp at the recent Newport show and had a chance to listen in a quieter environment thanks to the local GamuT dealer. It's a beautiful looking dual-mono preamp and it sounds great.

I hate to admit it, but I am seriously thinking about replacing my Conrad Johnson CT-6 for the GamuT. I don't really want to spend the money, but I was really captivated by the sound (and I hate it when that happens). It might be the quietest, most resolving preamp I have ever heard.
In my opinion Pass Labs creates stunning amps and good pre amps. But there is still a difference between stunning and good. In the world of Highend it is all about details what makes a tool stunning.

I owned the XP-20. It is a very good pre amp, but not a stunning one.

I have a client with the AR Ref 5SE. It never gave me the feeling it is a stunning pre amp either.
Thanks Barrysandy, I replaced the sovtek 6922 tubes for the mitsushita`s the change in sonics over the sovtek 6922 well worth it. I think that is as far as I want to go with the LS22 I`m thing about the resale on a modded preamp.