I was just wondering if anyone has experience with a PASS XP-12 / M700 combo and could please share their thoughts. Bonus if anyone has compared the PASS XP-12 and BHK Pre directly (super bonus if comparison was made with a pair of M700s, pushing my luck here).
I can provide direct experience with the BHK preamp and Pass Labs XP-12 preamp. I owned the BHK for a few years and was generally very happy with the performance and sound. This preamp has an unusual volume control circuit that does have a “side effect” when changing volume. You get “minor clicks/pops” at every volume level change and “more audible clicks/pops” at very specific volume levels (25/53 as I recall). The level of these “ticks” is highly dependent on tube triode/pair matching, but even very well matched tubes sometimes exhibit this behavior. Mind you it only occurs during volume changes not while listening at steady levels.
Anyway, I’ve always had huge respect for Nelson Pass (and Wayne Colburn) and wanted to try one of their solid-state preamps. I’ve had the XP-12 for several months now and couldn’t be happier with the sound, build quality and absolutely silent operation even while adjusting volume. My system is now fully solid-state and the XP-12 has many (all?) of the sonic qualities of tube and hybrid gear. I’m a convert.
My system is comprised of the following: Sanders Sound Systems Model 10e hybrid 'stats and Magtech amps, PS Audio DS DAC and SP3 regenerator for source components, Pass XP-12, Jay’s Audio CDT2-Mk3 transport, Rega RP10 with Aphelion2 cart and Rega Aura Phono Preamp. It is a very revealing and gratifying system to listen to for hours on end. The Pass preamp did not detract from that in any way.
Edit: Tube rolling can be fun (and expensive) which I tried with the BHK preamp. Each selection provided an audible change (sometimes much better sound quality, sometimes “different”). Other than the audible volume adjustment “quirk” the BHK never gave me any trouble and did sound fantastic.
Thanks for the input. The “quirkiness” is one of my concerns. I understand it’s not a huge issue, but personally, I just want to set it and forget it so to speak and not have to worry about tubes and some of the baggage that can come along with them. Not bashing tubes in any way - I have had tubes in my systems in the past, but now I’m kind of in low-maintenance mode. The XP-12 is under consideration because I think it will give a somewhat similar type of sound without the tubes. Weight, energy efficiency, size, and heat are also important factors for me (in addition to sound quality), so the M700s do tick a lot of those boxes for me.
Some folks go absolutely apoplectic when I say this, but since I started using Pass Labs amps and preamps, many different models, and different topologies (class A, class AB), this ex-tube guy believes that the claims of “tube sound” or “solid state sound” are archaic and useless.
I’m a huge fan of Pass Labs products and Nelson Pass, but I think if you’re assessing options in that price range you may want to consider Coda’s 07x preamp as well. Reviews I’ve found for it are quite favorable.
I actually don’t disagree with that at all. I think we’re at a point where the same can be said about Class A, vs. A/B and D - a good amp is a good amp. By “similar type of sound” in my response, I meant a sound that is more “organic” than analytical, not SS vs. tube. In other words, I’m not saying, “I want this type of sound, and it can only be achieved with this topology” if that makes sense.
Since we are talking about pass labs. Can someone comment on the xa.8 vs the x.8 different sounds. Really thinking about used market on the x350.8 w magnepan 20.7. I just don’t know if the xa series would float my boat more. Or if something like the x350.8 would create the system synergy. So any diffs would be appreciated.
The most efficient path to the answers you’re seeking is to speak to Mark at Reno Hifi.
Also, go to Pass Labs’ website, click on “My Pass” and then “Technical Articles”. That should keep you entertained for quite a while.
First, I still have a couple tube amps, a Decware Zen Triode and a very old Cary Rocket 88 and I listen to them occasionally and I love them.
Second, although there are very real differences in the family of Pass amps; Class A, AB, point 8, the older point 5 amps, they all have a “house sound”. I’ve had at least one of each of them and they’re all wonderful.
Some noticeable differences between Pass and the tube amps are just what one would expect; the SS have better grip, better definition in the bass and upper bass, lower mid regions.
Overall, and trying to avoid the nauseating “audiophile” bombast, I feel that every Pass amp I’ve owned offers a sense of refinement and believably that just makes me feel like they’re money well spent. Their influence on the sound of my hifi is ever present.
I “think” I understand that sound. I’ve heard a Mark Levinson preamp feeding Mark Levinson monoblocks that fed B&W800D3 speakers. The mids were noticeably grain free, clean, and silky smooth. I noticed this with 20 years of listening to Conrad Johnson tube pre & tube power amps at home.