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Pass Labs 20 Years and Counting

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  #21  
Old 03-26-2017, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by kzhtoo View Post
Trust me, F6, XA25 and XA30.5 are not the same. Pass don't do things like Goldmund/Job.
I believe this to be true, while there are similarities in the basic circuit design the implementation and resulting sound quality are significantly improved in the Pass Labs designs. First Watt amps are a great value at their price but not at the same level of performance, the differences are not merely cosmetic.
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  #22  
Old 03-26-2017, 11:39 AM
Randy Myers Randy Myers is offline
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I totally assume that in many cases the designs have been advanced with further evolution in the Pass lineup. And it is not a Goldmund/Job situation. It is in fact Nelson Pass's personal playground. Where he can experiment and explore new designs that he would not be able to in the "commercial line".

As he states:
"Dick Olsher famously remarked that “The first watt is the most important watt.” This sentiment has also been expressed by others as “Who cares what an amplifier sounds like at 500 watts if it sounds like crap at one watt?” With this in mind, I created First Watt in 1998 as a "kitchen-table" effort, exploring unusual low power amplifiers with an emphasis on sound quality.

Small amplifiers have a number of advantages over “big iron” in that very high quality can be achieved with simple Class A circuits using little or no feedback.

There is no such thing as a perfect amplifier. All audiophiles and their associated equipment have specific needs, but in each case there is such a thing as a best amplifier - the one that makes you happy.

First Watt exists because I wanted to explore a variety of amplifier designs in what I think of as neglected areas - amplifiers that might not fit into the mainstream and are probably not appropriate to my more commercial enterprise, Pass Labs.

With oddball characteristics and output power ratings of 25 watts or less, First Watt is not for most people. If you have efficient loudspeakers, listen at reasonable levels and are obsessed about subjective performance, then you probably have come to the right place.

If you want reliable audio product, then you really have come to the right place. For twelve years First Watt has had a near-zero failure rate.

First Watt amplifiers are routinely compared with tube amplifiers, although I make a point that they are not designed to mimic tubes as such. These amplifiers share some of the characteristics of the better tube products in that they have simple circuits with minimal or no feedback and emphasize performance of individual gain devices. In some ways they are better than tubes, in other ways perhaps not."

And his statement as to why he turned over the actually building of these amps to Pass Labs:
"This has always been about making amplifiers.

Dick Olsher famously remarked that “The first watt is the most important watt.” With this in mind, I created First Watt in 1998 as a "kitchen-table" effort, exploring unusual low power amplifiers with an emphasis on sound quality. I wanted to design a variety of amplifier designs in what I think of as neglected areas - amplifiers that might not fit into the mainstream and are probably not appropriate to my more mainstream business, Pass Labs.

Fourteen years later I have largely accomplished that goal, but along the way it seems that I have created a commercial enterprise that has outgrown my ability to handle alone. I tried addressing that by hiring my nephew and son to help, but they wandered off to their own careers (as offspring will do), leaving me with all the work.

Don't get me wrong, I like work - It's good for you. Building product is fun and keeps me grounded, but production demands are not leaving me with enough time to pursue the vast array of yet-to-be-designed amplifiers. So I am doing the logical thing, which is to hand the business end of First Watt over to Pass Labs, bringing my three business partners to the table as well. My relationships with these people stretch back to 1972 with ESS, through the Threshold years and for the 25 years of Pass Labs, and I'm certain they can do the job flawlessly.

Starting in April, Pass Labs will be building First Watt amplifiers and will also take responsibility for marketing and distribution. Support and service policies will remain the same.

I will continue at what I do best, the fun part."

And about heat:
"Q: Why do they run hot?

A: They are Class A amplifiers. They are very linear, but they run hot. Can I make them sound good without Class A? No. Because they run hot, it is important that they get good ventilation. Do not place them in a closed cabinet or on top of another hot amplifier."

Other info:
"Q: Do you really build them yourself?

A: Yes, until this last year, when my son Colin and nephew Sean began helping with assembly.

Q: Why do they all look the same?

A: Years ago I bought a lot of chassis parts in order to get volume pricing, and they are not used up yet. You can look forward to seeing this chassis for quite a while.

Q: What is the warranty?

A: 3 years parts and labor. We have not experienced a warranty case yet, but I imagine the service is good...

Q: Is there really a 0 percent failure rate on these amps?

A: Pretty much. One customer reported a case of bad solder connection, but the amplifier was apparently still running when it was discovered. He soldered it himself. Other than that, just the odd case of shipping damage."

He has at times expressed that designs he comes up with in First Watt many times gets passed on to Pass Labs.

Nelson also told me with life and such his son and nephew moved on to other things, so he could not personally keep up with the hand building. This is why he moved the assembly work to Pass Labs. Mine was built just before the move to Pass Labs, so I am fairly certain it was hand built by Nelson.

Any way a lot of good info.

So you totally understand, I am not saying that First Watt is exactly the same as Pass Labs. And certainly the Goldmund/Job analogy does not apply because these are designed and until recently hand built by the man himself. They are very fine amplifiers that sound as pure and accurate as any amplifiers in their price level if you fit the bill of someone looking for purity and not huge amounts of power.


I will put forth one proposition however, by an amp being sold and marketed within the Pass Labs moniker does impose certain restrictions. As Nelson himself stated, "First Watt exists because I wanted to explore a variety of amplifier designs in what I think of as neglected areas - amplifiers that might not fit into the mainstream and are probably not appropriate to my more commercial enterprise, Pass Labs." So with First Watt he can experiment and try things. When he comes up with a worthy design and tests to be something special, he creates a new model. It could be argued that First Watt may in fact be the better of the two. I am not saying it is, but do not assume just because it has the Pass Labs label makes it the superior of the two. After all Nelson backs both amplifiers the same and the First Watt actually has the better track record. He designs both but states, very clearly, that one is more "personal" to him. Also, one other consideration... if you have an issue with Pass Labs you call your dealer or Pass Labs. If you have an issue with First Watt, even now that Pass Labs is assembling them, you call Nelson. He personally stands behind them, and so far has had ZERO warranty claims.

Last edited by Randy Myers; 03-31-2017 at 08:57 PM.
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  #23  
Old 03-26-2017, 12:31 PM
BuffaloBill BuffaloBill is offline
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I prefer Sidney Cordnerman's opinion of Class A amplifiers. "The efficiency of Class A is really poor. They're generating a fantastic amount of heat when they're not amplifying a signal. I saw no advantage in considering Class A. If you properly bias Class B or Class AB, you don't have crossover distortion, so you can do a good job, and have high efficiency at the same time."

http://www.audioholics.com/audio-amp...lifier-classes
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  #24  
Old 03-26-2017, 12:38 PM
Randy Myers Randy Myers is offline
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I assume there are very good designs in all of the various flavors out there . This is just Nelson Pass's take... All I can say is the amplifier I am listening to right now is one of the finest, purist sounding amplifiers I have ever heard. It works beautifully in my system, in my room, for my tastes. After all, that is all that really matters anyway ...
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  #25  
Old 03-26-2017, 01:41 PM
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Randy, I thought I read somewhere where you wrote you think F6 is virtually the same as XA25 and again commented earlier in the thread that XA30.5 is similar to F6 but with just a pretty chassis.
To be honest I don't think speakers like your MC are the ones that Nelson Pass had in mind when he designed F6 and that's the reason I recommended XA30.5.

Last edited by kzhtoo; 03-28-2017 at 03:17 AM.
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  #26  
Old 03-26-2017, 02:08 PM
Randy Myers Randy Myers is offline
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There are similarities and when I read about the XA25 it seemed strikingly similar to the F6. Nelson told me it is not... I take him at his word... even though he may be required to say that ...

And I agree that he did not have my speakers in mind with the design, although his second and third main criteria for those who may be interested do apply.

All I know is it sounds really good, so much so that I decided it is my main amp and the ARC is my change of pace amp. I have played it exclusively other than when Dan and Bill came over and we spent several hours comparing the two, ever since the amplifier was delivered earlier in the week.

I also agree with your point about the XA30.5. If one becomes available to me and I can afford it at the time I would probably jump on it, especially because of the balanced inputs and a tad more power.

Last edited by Randy Myers; 03-26-2017 at 02:17 PM.
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  #27  
Old 03-26-2017, 05:48 PM
aardvarkbark aardvarkbark is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
....It works beautifully in my system, in my room, for my tastes. After all, that is all that really matters anyway ...
In this statement you have distilled down to the very core all of our thoughts. I simply don't have the luxury of time to demo components; I rely on guidance from others. I have been woefully misdirected by an AD I used to trust and one US brand, neither of which will ever see one cent of mine again.

My PASS integrated's performance plus their customer-focused culture has made me one very happy owner.
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  #28  
Old 03-26-2017, 10:13 PM
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If you're looking for Ayre bashing, save your breath, mate.
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  #29  
Old 03-27-2017, 07:00 AM
aardvarkbark aardvarkbark is offline
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I'm simply agreeing with RM's insightful comment and complimenting PASS for all the right reasons. Mate.
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  #30  
Old 03-27-2017, 05:09 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Randy Myers View Post
There are similarities and when I read about the XA25 it seemed strikingly similar to the F6. Nelson told me it is not... I take him at his word... even though he may be required to say that ...

And I agree that he did not have my speakers in mind with the design, although his second and third main criteria for those who may be interested do apply.

All I know is it sounds really good, so much so that I decided it is my main amp and the ARC is my change of pace amp. I have played it exclusively other than when Dan and Bill came over and we spent several hours comparing the two, ever since the amplifier was delivered earlier in the week.

I also agree with your point about the XA30.5. If one becomes available to me and I can afford it at the time I would probably jump on it, especially because of the balanced inputs and a tad more power.
I've had the First Watt J2, M2, and Pass Labs X150.5 and XA30.5 in the same system to see which matched with my speakers and sonic preferences. Although the FWs and X150.5 are at similar price points, sonically, the FWs tended towards greater transparency and speed. However, they did not have the bass heft, extension, or grunt of either of the Pass Labs models. I've found that listening to them was much more enlightening than any of the professional reviews available at the time, which tended to be paired with highly exotic and idiosyncratic speakers I was not familiar with. Reno Hi-Fi has a very good at-home trial program with very little risk and cost that allowed me to do the comparisons.

If you like the F6, I would think the XA30.5 would also be interesting, good luck!
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