BHK or Pass Labs Pre with DirectStream DSD?


I’m in the process of moving up to a DS DSD DAC (from Benchmark) and currently have, and love my Pass Labs X350.5 power amp.

Looking for opinions for a pre-amp. Top two choices right now are the PSA BHK Pre and the Pass Labs XP-10. The Pass Pre would, of course, work super well with my power amp but the BHK would do likewise with the DSD, hence my dilemma!

Any thoughts?


I have used the XP30 with my DSD and enjoyed very much. To me, the pass preamp sports a warm and welcoming sound, never harsh or bright, that invited me to the music. Never heard the bhk pre, though. Hope it helps a bit and that you enjoy whatever your decision may be.

I use the XP-20. Couldn’t be happier. But I’ve heard the BHK pre only at shows.

I don’t use a benchmark DAC. I do use a Bryston BDP3/BDA3 combination with my BHK Signature Pre and Pass X250.5. I’ve also used a XP-10. I sold my XP-10 in favor of the BHK Pre.
I love that combination.
Hope my experience helps!

The only way you would know what each sound like is to really try it in your own system. I know with PS Audio, you can take one home and try it and if it doesn’t work for you, just return it. I don’t know about Pass though. My experience with Pass is, I compared a Pass X600 to a Lamm M1.2 at a showroom once, and the Lamm wasn’t as dry and transitor sounding as the Pass. Similarly between a Aryes and Audio Research. The Audio Research sounds more liquid and real. But these are power amps comparisons. I’m sure their preamps are similar sounding though.

I have X250.8 and XP-22. It’s a sublime pairing.
I’m pretty sure the XP-10 is discontinued but you can buy one used for roughly half the price of the BHK.
I also have a BHK and they don’t sound as different as you might expect. Both great products.

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Thanks to everyone - all very useful feedback. I don’t find the Pass dry at all, at least compared some others. And yes, the XP-10 would be used from a very reputable source. The price differential between the XP-10 and the BHK would be approx $750.

Heyya Ron…what speakers are youbdriving with that 250.8? Think it would have enough juice to drive a pair of Magnepan 3.6R’s…?

The Pass was a little dry only in direct comparison to the Lamm. The Lamm has a couple of input tubes in it’s input stage which probably made it more liquid. The audio Research is also a tube unit compare to Arye which is solid stage. That is what I hear. I believe the BHK Pre also uses a couple of tubes to make it sound more liquid.

My speakers are roughly 100db. But the 250.8 can drive any speaker. Pass specs are very conservative. Read the specs, Pass papers, reviews, interviews. There’s enough to keep you busy for a long time.

Nelson Pass is one of the true geniuses in this field. And Wayne Colburn, who designs most of Pass preamps is as well. Brilliant, beautifully made products that obliterate the standard notions of solid state vs tube sound.

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I agree with you Ron, Pass is a genius. Seeing as you own both Pass and the BHK, what is your recommendation for my combo?


I have not heard the BHK pre, but I’ve owned an XP-10, XP-20, and finally a gently used XP-30. I’ve also owned Audio Research and Conrad-Johnson tubed designs.

There is a certain “je ne sais qua” to well executed tube designs. No doubt. That said, Pass (and some other contemporary) designs have gotten “close enough” for my tastes.

The good thing about the BHK is the ability to “roll tubes” to tailor the sound to your liking. The bad thing about the BHK is the ability to “roll tubes” and keep second-guessing yourself. :grin:

My $0.02: get a used or refurbished XP-20 from Mark at Reno HiFI and a BHK from PS Audio and do your own shoot-out. Both Reno and PSA support no-cost home trials, although with Reno HiFi you’ll pay for shipping one way.

Oh, yes. Using the XP-30 in conjunction with the DSD Sr. It’s a nice combination.


hey ron, thanks, yes, i’ve been reading tons, watching videos, interviews, etc about Pass Labs products - but sometimes, it’s nice to hear from a real live person …:slight_smile:
I found this video particularly interesting, and thought I’d share it.

good day! T

@hthaller put it perfectly here. I agree with each point, especially the point about endlessly rolling tubes.
My primary system is Pass/Pass and that’s the way I would go. Mark does have some XP-20’s used and they’re excellent.

Thanks again everyone.

You guys are recommending the XP-20 over the BHK but unfortunately that’s over my budget. Best I can do would be the XP-10.

Would you still take the XP-10 over the BHK?

In home trials are a must of course but it would have to be XP-10 vs. BHK.

I am running a BHK preamp with my Pass Labs XA25. Personally I find the slight bloom of tubes goes really nicely with the PL in my setup. I can also tube role which is fun. Though I can see how people would like the set and forget aspect of a SS PL preamp.

Waymanchen11 beat me to the punch. Give us a call and and we’ll arrange to send a BHK preamp to your house where you can just play with it in the system for the next month or so and see what you think. It’s really the only way to know if it’s going to work
in your system or not (obviously I think it will because of the synergy we built into it). Hearing a comparison between the two in a dealer’s showroom doesn’t really tell you what you need to know.

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Thanks Paul I will definitely do that, I just need to get the timing right so I have both units in house at the same time.

I’ve never heard the XP-10