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Pass Labs 20 Years and Counting

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Old 10-03-2011, 11:02 PM
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Default Pass Labs XP-15 arrived today

The Pass Labs XP-15 phono preamp arrived today. I was surprised at its weight when I unpacked it. Quite hefty. It took less than 15 minutes to get it installed using balanced Wireworld Silver Eclipse interconnects to the line stage inputs on the McIntosh C2300. I powered the XP15 using a two meter Wireworld Silver Electra power cord.

Pass Labs' system for setting the phono preamplifers gain and cartridge resistance loading is simple and fool proof. There are 16 dip switches arranged in two groups of eight per channel. I initially set the gain at 66 dB, and loaded the Ortofon Cadenza Black cartridge with 100 ohms resistance, and began playing Steve Winwood's album Talking Back To The Night, followed by Stacy Kent's 180 gram album Dreamsville, and Joni Mitchell's album Hissing Of Summer Lawns. Then I adjusted the cartridge loading to 50 ohms and listened to Stacey Kent's album again. The 50 ohm setting was richer sounding with better low frequency definition.

The XP-15 sounds very good right out of the box, but did not outperform the C2300's moving coil phono stage. In fact, it sounded very similar, although a tad drier, which I equate to the XP-15 not being broken in, and not having the the C2300's two Telefunken 12AX7 tubes in the signal path. Switching back to the C2300 moving coil phono stage revealed a more organic presentation where voices seemed to have a hint more life and presence.

What really surprised me is the XP15 phono preamplifier is noisier than the C2300 MC phono stage. With no signal I raised the volume to 50% and heard considerably more rushing type noise through the XP-15 than at the same volume setting through the MC phono stage of the C2300. This drove me to try adjusting the XP-15 gain to 76 dB, which brought the noise floor up along with the gain, so I was hearing the same background rushing noise at 40% volume. Lowering the XP-15 gain to 56 dB dropped the noise floor but required the volume to be raised to equal a given sound pressure level when compared to the MC phono stage of the C2300. When volume was equal from the XP-15 I raised the cartridge from the groove, and the noise floor once again exceed the C2300 at the same sound pressure level. This is disappointing. I intend to put some additional hours on the XP-15 to see how it sounds as it opens up, but my opinion at this time is the XP-15 will be returned. Fortunately, the dealer allows a 10 day in home trial with a full refund if I am not satisfied. At this moment I have to say I am not satisfied. The McIntosh C2300 moving coil phono stage is quieter, and sounds equally as nice. Like I said, this is a big disappointment for me, and quite revealing of the quality MC phono stage in the McIntosh C2300.
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VINTAGE - McIntosh MA230, Tandberg 3011A tuner, Olive 04HD, Sony DTC-59ES DAT, McIntosh 4300V, JBL 4312A
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:09 PM
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Dan, thanks for calling them as you hear them. I hope it is just a break in issue, but I fear that dryness may be cured with break in, but the noise floor may not. (Keeping fingers crossed).
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:11 PM
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Very interesting Dan, we can't always nail the right choice every time. As long as we can return gear we are not pleased with; the quest goes on.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:17 PM
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Dan, sorry to hear that but I did mention that you would have to "invest" quite a bit of money to get a meaningful improvement in performance... I guess in this case the $3800 isn't quite enough although it is a decent sum of money no matter how you look at it.


I'll send you my EAR324P to play around with if the XP-15 does not improve after a brief break in over some days. I'd like to hear your take on the 324P, a SS phono stage with step up trannies for MC side of the equation. I personally think it is an absolutely smoking phono stage as far as SS goes.

Last edited by PHC1; 10-03-2011 at 11:19 PM.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chessman View Post
Dan, thanks for calling them as you hear them. I hope it is just a break in issue, but I fear that dryness may be cured with break in, but the noise floor may not. (Keeping fingers crossed).
Randy.......I believe the XP-15 may well warm a touch, but I do not believe the noise floor will shrink. I really can't take that gamble. I'll give it until Friday before I make a firm decision about returning it, but right now I am leaning towards rejecting the XP-15 in my system. A low noise floor is essential, and I fully expected the XP-15 to be substantially quieter than the C2300 with tubes, but it is not, and that I cannot tolerate.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:19 PM
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Well, that's unfortunate, Dan. I look forward to hearing if things change for you over the coming days.
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Masterlu View Post
Very interesting Dan, we can't always nail the right choice every time. As long as we can return gear we are not pleased with; the quest goes on.
Ivan.......This is the first new component I have purchased in a long time that I have not been happy with right out of the box. Anticlimactic to say the least.
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STUDIO - McIntosh C1000C/P, MC2301 (2), MR88, Aurender N10, Esoteric K-01X, Shunyata Sigma spdif digital cable, Sonos Connect, PurePower 2000, Stillpoints, Furutech Flux 50, Michell Gyro SE, Michell HR Power Supply, SME 309, Ortofon Cadenza Black, Wireworld, Sonus faber Amati Anniversario
LIVING ROOM - McIntosh C2300, MC75 (2), MR85, Magnum Dynalab 205, Simaudio MOON Neo 260D-T, Schiit Audio Yggdrasil, Aurender N100H, Shunyata Sigma USB cable, Micro Seiki DD40, Ortofon Cadenza Blue, Nakamichi BX-300, Sony 60ES DAT, PS Audio P10, Furutech Flux 50, Sonos Connect, Stillpoints, Wireworld, Kimber, PMC EB1i, JL Audio f113
VINTAGE - McIntosh MA230, Tandberg 3011A tuner, Olive 04HD, Sony DTC-59ES DAT, McIntosh 4300V, JBL 4312A
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdandy View Post
Ivan.......This is the first new component I have purchased in a long time that I have not been happy with right out of the box. Anticlimactic to say the least.
Sorry to hear that Dan. There are a lot of phono stages out there - I have no doubt you will find the right one!
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PHC1 View Post
Dan, sorry to hear that but I did mention that you would have to "invest" quite a bit of money to get a meaningful improvement in performance... I guess in this case the $3800 isn't quite enough although it is a decent sum of money no matter how you look at it.


I'll send you my EAR324P to play around with if the XP-15 does not improve after a brief break in over some days. I'd like to hear your take on the 324P, a SS phono stage with step up trannies for MC side of the equation. I personally think it is an absolutely smoking phono stage as far as SS goes.
Serge.......I heard you when you made your comment with respect to dollars versus performance, and I am in agreement. It is unfortunate that investing $3800.00 in a phono stage doesn't produce greater results. The real eye opener for me was how well the McIntosh MC phono stage sounds in comparison.

I appreciate the offer to audition the EAR324P. I may just take you up on it.
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STUDIO - McIntosh C1000C/P, MC2301 (2), MR88, Aurender N10, Esoteric K-01X, Shunyata Sigma spdif digital cable, Sonos Connect, PurePower 2000, Stillpoints, Furutech Flux 50, Michell Gyro SE, Michell HR Power Supply, SME 309, Ortofon Cadenza Black, Wireworld, Sonus faber Amati Anniversario
LIVING ROOM - McIntosh C2300, MC75 (2), MR85, Magnum Dynalab 205, Simaudio MOON Neo 260D-T, Schiit Audio Yggdrasil, Aurender N100H, Shunyata Sigma USB cable, Micro Seiki DD40, Ortofon Cadenza Blue, Nakamichi BX-300, Sony 60ES DAT, PS Audio P10, Furutech Flux 50, Sonos Connect, Stillpoints, Wireworld, Kimber, PMC EB1i, JL Audio f113
VINTAGE - McIntosh MA230, Tandberg 3011A tuner, Olive 04HD, Sony DTC-59ES DAT, McIntosh 4300V, JBL 4312A
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Old 10-03-2011, 11:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jdandy View Post
Serge.......I heard you when you made your comment with respect to dollars versus performance, and I am in agreement. It is unfortunate that investing $3800.00 in a phono stage doesn't produce greater results. The real eye opener for me was how well the McIntosh MC phono stage sounds in comparison.

I appreciate the offer to audition the EAR324P. I may just take you up on it.
Yep, the built in McPhono is no slouch. I think you will be very impressed with the EAR324P though. My preference is for tubed phono stages having experienced the Shindo with SUT and the REF2 phono but.... The EAR324P comes awfully close and in combination with a decent tubed preamp.... It simply rocks and may very well knock your socks off with its bass and tube like liquidity. I've enjoyed it tremendously for the past few years. Here is a primer in case you haven't seen this review: EAR 324 phono preamplifier | Stereophile.com

By the way, no obligations on your part whatsoever.... I simply want to share the EAR with you so you can come to your own conclusions and have another frame of reference.
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