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Pass Labs 20 Years and Counting

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Old 11-15-2018, 10:32 AM
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Default Considering Pass Labs XP-10 or XP-12 Preamp

I would very much appreciate some input in possibly purchasing a good used priced Pass Labs XP-10 or XP-12 preamp. I have some exceedingly efficient horn speakers, the Oswalds Mills Audio (OMA) New Yorker Prototype speakers that I purchased some years ago (you can see some photos below). These speakers have an efficiency of 104 or 104.5dB which has been a mixed blessing. I really like these speakers and have no intention of replacing them. I have gone through several amps over time due to the fact that I have been hearing hum through the speakers at my listening seating 10 feet away. I had purchased a First Watt M2 (25 watts Class A at 8 ohm) which is the noisiest of the First Watt amps with a noise of 500uV and still heard hum coming through the speakers at my seating now for the last 8 years. I have been using the amp with a highly modded Audio Research LS10 preamp. I just purchased a much quieter First Watt amp, the F7 (20 watts Class A at 8 ohms) which only has a noise of 100uV. When I plugged in the amp there was silence coming through the speakers which was an excellent sign. Unfortunately, when I then connected the modded ARC LS10 preamp I was again getting hum through the speakers at the listening seating. It has been suggest that the LS10 is a high gain preamp and is having a mismatch with the First Watt F7 amp.

I am trying to avoid a passive preamp and may wish to replace the ARC LS10 as mentioned with a Pass Labs XP-10 or XP-12 preamp that will have lower gain output and will be quieter. Hopefully one of these preamps will mate well with the First Watt F7 amp and will at least be quieter so that I no longer hear the hum at my seating location.

I wish to use the preamp both for my 2 channel listening (both analog including vinyl and digital) and also would need to have the Pass Through for a processor capabilities to use with my Home Theater. I know that these preamps have a fine reputation for their performance, are known to be quiet, and they offer the capabilities of using Input 5 for a processer. I am interested in the best sound though. The Pre Pro processor to be used with the Preamp is the Marantz av8802A. Additionally, I presume that a tape source could be used as one of the 3 single ended sources for both preamps though there are no record options.

Thanks very much for your consideration and your observations and suggestions.

Rich




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Old 11-15-2018, 11:36 AM
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From reviews I read:

The new XP-12 starts with a new power supply. It uses an efficient toroidal design with both an electrostatic and Mu metal shield along vacuum impregnating and epoxy fill. This makes a very quiet transformer both electrically and mechanically. The power supply circuitry is also quieter and has additional filtering. The XP-12 uses a single stage volume control borrowed from the XS line preamp. This gives one hundred 1 dB steps with lower noise and distortion while removing some signal path parts. This redesigned volume control results in greater precision with a more luxurious feel.

The gain circuitry continues to use our favorite transistors from Toshiba but has a higher biased output stage similar to the XS Preamplifier. This makes longer and multiple cable runs easier to drive and gives the advantage of simplifying single ended output circuitry while increasing performance. Overall this makes for a quieter, more neutral, musical and versatile control center for your system.

I imagine you might be reading this note wondering if the XP-12 sounds better than, the same as, or not as good as the XP-10. And the answer is yes, yes and... . For those that want the Wikipedia answer, the XP-12 seems a distinctly more refined preamplifier with a yet finer granularity—or so I imagine as I hear no granularity with either. Granularity is perhaps the wrong word here, as that implies a detectable granule, and I did not note any. Perhaps it is instructive to say its liquidity was less viscous and obscuring? Think of the XP-12 as better educated, more refined, and more worldly if you will. It sounds very similar to the XP-10, but the Stygian and cavernous bass of the XP-10 is less immediately evident—it remains, but it walks through the door more surreptitiously until thundering feet announce themselves.


Metaphorically, one might say the XP-12 is Catherine Denueve to the XP-10's Raquel Welch, both very attractive in different ways, with the latter having more... obvious charms. The slightly more "obvious" bass characteristic of the XP-10 will appeal to listeners who partake of electronic music, which features deeper bass than acoustic instruments produce. And, the point of deep bass in electronica is to be noticed and experienced as force, which might give a nod to the XP-10. It occurs to me the bass performance is as good with the XP-12 as with the XP-10, but it's just not as obvious. However, for those inclined toward acoustic instruments and their realistic reproduction, both would be great with me giving a nod to the XP-12.
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  #3  
Old 11-15-2018, 12:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by djwhog View Post
From reviews I read:

The new XP-12 starts with a new power supply. It uses an efficient toroidal design with both an electrostatic and Mu metal shield along vacuum impregnating and epoxy fill. This makes a very quiet transformer both electrically and mechanically. The power supply circuitry is also quieter and has additional filtering. The XP-12 uses a single stage volume control borrowed from the XS line preamp. This gives one hundred 1 dB steps with lower noise and distortion while removing some signal path parts. This redesigned volume control results in greater precision with a more luxurious feel.

The gain circuitry continues to use our favorite transistors from Toshiba but has a higher biased output stage similar to the XS Preamplifier. This makes longer and multiple cable runs easier to drive and gives the advantage of simplifying single ended output circuitry while increasing performance. Overall this makes for a quieter, more neutral, musical and versatile control center for your system.

I imagine you might be reading this note wondering if the XP-12 sounds better than, the same as, or not as good as the XP-10. And the answer is yes, yes and... . For those that want the Wikipedia answer, the XP-12 seems a distinctly more refined preamplifier with a yet finer granularity—or so I imagine as I hear no granularity with either. Granularity is perhaps the wrong word here, as that implies a detectable granule, and I did not note any. Perhaps it is instructive to say its liquidity was less viscous and obscuring? Think of the XP-12 as better educated, more refined, and more worldly if you will. It sounds very similar to the XP-10, but the Stygian and cavernous bass of the XP-10 is less immediately evident—it remains, but it walks through the door more surreptitiously until thundering feet announce themselves.


Metaphorically, one might say the XP-12 is Catherine Denueve to the XP-10's Raquel Welch, both very attractive in different ways, with the latter having more... obvious charms. The slightly more "obvious" bass characteristic of the XP-10 will appeal to listeners who partake of electronic music, which features deeper bass than acoustic instruments produce. And, the point of deep bass in electronica is to be noticed and experienced as force, which might give a nod to the XP-10. It occurs to me the bass performance is as good with the XP-12 as with the XP-10, but it's just not as obvious. However, for those inclined toward acoustic instruments and their realistic reproduction, both would be great with me giving a nod to the XP-12.
Hi djwhog,

Thank you. I believe that I may have read that or if this is from multiple reviews at least one of them.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Higgens View Post
Rich - I would suggest contacting Mark Sammut at Reno HiFi. He’s a knowledgeable Pass dealer who can provide honest advice. I’ve had good dealings with him over the years.

775-829-7333
Hi Higgens,

Thank you. I have dealt with Mark on several occassions having purchased both my First Watt M2 and First WattF7 amps from him. He is and would be a good source, but at this point, I think that I would need to purchase a used rather than even a demo unit unless I waited for sometime to come up with the additional funds.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Beet Farmer View Post
Beautiful speakers!
My comment will be a bit vague. I would suggest preamps with separate power supplies, in general.
Keeping the power supply separate from the circuits really helps lower the noise floor.
So my suggestion is to not just limit the focus to one preamp. But almost all preamps which have independent power supplies.
A separate power supply really does lower the noise threshold.


The Pass Labs Xp-10 and Xp-12 both have internal power supplies.
The XP-22 is the lowest level PASS in current lineup with a separate power supply..
There are older models, but one would need to watch the used ads a lot. They sell quickly.
Hi Beet Farmer,

Thank you regarding your thoughts on my speakers and for your input. I am not sure that I will be able swing the additional money for something like a used XP-20, XP-22, or even some of the older 2 box Pass Labs Preamps.

Rich
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Last edited by naturephoto1; 11-15-2018 at 12:03 PM.
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Old 11-15-2018, 11:41 AM
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Rich - I would suggest contacting Mark Sammut at Reno HiFi. He’s a knowledgeable Pass dealer who can provide honest advice. I’ve had good dealings with him over the years.

775-829-7333
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Old 11-15-2018, 11:44 AM
Beet Farmer Beet Farmer is offline
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Beautiful speakers!
My comment will be a bit vague. I would suggest preamps with separate power supplies, in general.
Keeping the power supply separate from the circuits really helps lower the noise floor.
So my suggestion is to not just limit the focus to one preamp. But almost all preamps which have independent power supplies.
A separate power supply really does lower the noise threshold.


The Pass Labs Xp-10 and Xp-12 both have internal power supplies.
The XP-22 is the lowest level PASS in current lineup with a separate power supply..
There are older models, but one would need to watch the used ads a lot. They sell quickly.
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Old 11-16-2018, 08:46 AM
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If you are not opposed to another manufacturer, you might consider a Bryston BP-25 preamp. Dead quiet with a separate power supply.
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Old 11-16-2018, 09:14 AM
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Comment on the Bryston. I own a Bryston BP-26 and find it to be close to that ideal of 'straight wire with gain'. I also have a bunch of other preamps. The Bryston has repeatedly surprised me with its clarity and great performance as I have upgraded other bits of gear.
TAS has finally recognized the goodness and given the Bryston BP-26 a'recommended' rating. (I am not claiming it is the ops answer. just responding to the comment about the Bryston preamp.
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Old 11-16-2018, 12:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Formerly YB-2 View Post
If you are not opposed to another manufacturer, you might consider a Bryston BP-25 preamp. Dead quiet with a separate power supply.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Beet Farmer View Post
Comment on the Bryston. I own a Bryston BP-26 and find it to be close to that ideal of 'straight wire with gain'. I also have a bunch of other preamps. The Bryston has repeatedly surprised me with its clarity and great performance as I have upgraded other bits of gear.
TAS has finally recognized the goodness and given the Bryston BP-26 a'recommended' rating. (I am not claiming it is the ops answer. just responding to the comment about the Bryston preamp.
Hi Formerly YB-2 and Beet Farmer,

Thank you for the suggestion. I believe that the Bryston lacks a Home Theater Bypass unless I am mistaken. The Preamp is intend for usage for both stereo audio as well as for being incorporated into my 7.2.4 Home Theater.

Rich
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Old 04-11-2019, 01:53 PM
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I very much enjoy the XA30.5 (I would say it has a similar sound signature to the OP's First Watt amp, the F7), and am considering the XP-10 or XP-12 Preamp as an upgrade to my Primare PRE30.
What true balanced designs would you suggest me to consider as alternatives to the XP-10/12 for about the same money, please?
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