Which would you choose?

Hello all. I am putting together a second system based upon vintage components. These include a Sony SCD-1 CD/SACD player, a Threshold 3.9/SE power amplifier, and a pair of Alon Phalanx loudspeakers. All cabling is generic, being a combination of Beldin and Canare.

I have narrowed my preamp choices to the following: a Krell KRC-HR or a Pass Labs X-02.

Thus my question, which would you choose?

Many Thanks!
I wouldn't go with a vintage preamp. I had the Krell in my system for a while and I've owned the Pass and neither was all that great when they were current, let alone what you can get for a more modern preamp used. You can make a case for a vintage amp, especially tube, but I was never impressed with vintage preamps.

If you absolutely must go with a vintage SS preamp, I think Rowland and Levinson preamps from that era are much better.
If those were my only two choices, I would lean towards the X-02.

Though I somewhat agree with Zd542, you can do better than either. I've always preferred a tube preamp, but if you require SS, Klyne is the best I've heard, and what I would look for. Rowland, Threshold and Classe also made decent preamps, though I found Levinson to be the worst of the bunch in my system.
I too spent plenty of time with each and didn't like them either. I ended up with a Quicksilver preamp and loved it after an MIT rewire. I think that technology has come way too far. The ML,while better than both was still a bit dark compared to good pre amps of today. What is the budget? Can you afford a used Ayre pre amp? I know the Audible Illusions is a great pre for the money if you're willing to do tubes (not sure how it mates with you amp though). I've yet to hear a SS better the Ayre....even the tube stuff usually isn't better unless you are into the esoteric stuff, but I'd want to hear it in my system first. Good luck.
Could just buy a modded PAS-3 , still sounds better than most preamps.
I always like Krell pre-amps when I hear them. VEry dynamic lively, clean, transparent.

Have not heard Pass but would expect excellent results there as well, though some difference (warmer sounding perhaps?) than Krell.

For a vintage system like that, I would go in thinking Krell would add some very nice ingredients into the mix and help work towards a more neutral sound. Pass might as well, but less familiar to me.
You call those vintage components? Seriously?


Even though this is a second system, I'm sure you want good synergy between the amp and preamp. For unbalanced (RCA) connections, there is very little risk of a problem, however, for balanced (XLR), the SA/3.9e will be very limited for a properly matched preamp. The input impedance of this amp is 50K ohms unbalanced, and 600 ohms balanced. The input impedance of the amp needs to be 10 times greater than the output impedance of the preamp for proper matching. So, for unbalanced, preamp should be below 5K ohms, and the vast majority of preamps will meet this spec. For balanced the preamp should be in the range of 60 ohms and below, and very few preamps will meet this spec.

Looks like the Krell KRC-HR should match properly with either connection, however the Pass Labs X-02 will match for unbalanced only. It's balance output impedance is 750 ohms, much to high for the input of the SA/3.9e.

BTW, back in the day at a CES show, heard Nelson say the SA/3.9e was the sweetest sounding of all the "e" series amps.
Thanks for all the responses so far. I appreciate them.

The Threshold 3.9e is a very sweet sounding amplifier. It also packs quite a wallop for its size.
those speakers demand a very high level of partnering equipment. they are exceptionally revealing and will not flatter inferior kit; they will expose it ruthlessly
since the phalanx can be made to sound a bit fierce at the top by ill-considered partners, i would suggest a more ethereal sound than that usually offered by krell or pass. i have found YBA electronics to be a good match, especially their cd player cd lecteur 1, available in one to three-box configurations, and the passion power amps, again various specification up to 1000 monoblock. (don't stint on the power because the phalanx aren't the most efficient)
i like the yba because they truly seemed to benefit from the massive soundstage the phalanx are capable of producing, combining to give an epic, huge presentation when called for, or breathy realism when that is what's required
if you can sense me getting a bit misty eyed for my own phalanx you'd be dead right. last year i traded them for focal stella utopia, and you could say they've left a hole behind.
i'm now trading back to nola because now you i've lived with well implemented open baffle speakers everything else just sounds like half the music is being left in the box

i would seriously consider mixing a valve pre-amp with solid state electronics...or even valve pre-power. i just worry solid state pre-amps are going to sound too bright in that setting
finally it's worth paying closer attention to cabling than usual because of the separate crossovers. i found solid core cables worked best for the bass, with van den huul for the mid and tops...but i'm buggered if i can remember which specific cables they were... sorry, i may get back to you on that
There are two Threshold Fet 10's listed here. They would be a great match with the 3.9.