Pass xp-17 vs Stellar phono preamps

Any comments on comparisons between the two? How would you choose?

I have no experience with either but my first guess would be price.

This may not help much since I haven’t heard the XP-17, but I have a Pass XP-15 and tried out the Stellar phono pre when it first came out.

The only significant difference I heard was with respect to the “shape” of the soundstage depth. The XP-15 soundstage was a bit wider left to right at the rear-most reaches of the soundstage. In other words, facing the speakers, the soundstage was more “V” shaped (the point of the “v” being towards the rear of the soundstage) than the Pass, which was more of a wide “U” shaped. Hope this makes sense.

That difference may or may not matter depending on your speakers/room/setup, etc.

Since the two were essentially equal in my setup, I kept the XP-15 but if I did not already have that, the price differential would tip me towards the Stellar. Also, the Stellar controls via the remote are pretty convenient and cool.

Since PS Audio and Pass (through Reno Hi-Fi) offer 30 day in-home trials, I know what I would do . . .

1 Like

I have or have had both.
The XP-17 sounds better in every way. It’s something you hear immediately.
But it’s about twice the price and depending on your system, the Stellar might be the far better value.
The Stellar is a fine sounding phono stage, way beyond it’s price.

5 Likes

I’ve had the XP-15 and moved up to the 17. I’ve never used the Stellar so I can’t comment on that, but just launching off what’s been said about the XP-15, I can say the XP-17 is better still. A bit quieter, more dynamic, a bit smoother without loss of detail.

1 Like

Haven’t owned the XP-17, but have owned the XP-15 and SPP. There is an immediate difference between the two IMO: tonality. The XP-15 is neutral, top to bottom. The SPP is very noticeably voiced to the warm side of neutral in the midband. Neither is bad or wrong, but again IMHO system synergy would be a major discriminator with these two products. Need a bit of juice in the midband, the SPP is likely to be the ticket. Don’t need any more midband warmth, the Pass is the way to go (my assumption is the XP-17 is just an evolution of the -15 sonically).

1 Like

The biggest difference in my setup between this 2 fine units is the soundstage. I’m missing sometimes the depth with the Pass which I have with the SPP.

Knowing the phono cartridge used can provide additional insight regarding comparing phono preamps. As others have said, it is all about system synergy. I like hthaller’s suggestion to take advantage of PSA and Reno HiFi’s 30 day trial, providing for a meaningful head-on comparison in your system.

I use an Pass Labs XP-25 along with an Austin Audio works blackswan head amp. I also have used a MOON LP-5.3 for a long time.

The XP-25, by design, is a warmer sound using specific output devices to capture that sound. It is warmer than either of the other two units I’ve used with the same SUMIKO Black Bird high output MC cartridge.

The idea of warmer is ONLY valid to a specific group of comparisons. You can have a situation where it is LESS warm than all the other alternatives and have opposing views from people who use the same unit but have made different comparisons.

I agree with weedeewop, you’ll need to compare both units as your benchmark and with the cartridge you like. This can’t be overstated. I have a Benz Ruby Z low output MC that is a smooth a sound as it can be. The SUMIKO is a far more dynamic and lively sound (like most LYRA cartridges). The matching of the type of cartridge sound you like to the head amp is also a major influencer on the sound of the head-amp. It is the sound of both units.

Some may like a warmer head-amp blended with a lively cartridge. Some may go warm/warm or lively/lively. It’s all your preference. Do listen to a ton of source material and don’t make the two best records you have sound good or the two worst. Go for the overall sound center across sources. Records vary a lot so try to center your balance to that fact. How can you tell? When you enjoy what you hear most of the time.

This is hard I agree. We have the sound of the cartridge, records and head-amp all being something in the chain that is unique to phono. That’s a lot to wrestle with.

We can make mistakes, mostly listening to others opinions. I’m a bouncy kind of sound guy, not a crooner. I have a $$$ MC not being used as a result of that taste. I bought someone elses’s ideal cartridge. Over the years I know to go for a dynamic quick cartridge or I’ll be unhappy. I needed to shop more for a cartridge, not the head amp. Make sure you aren’t doing this backwards.

Get that general cartridge sound right first, then go to the head amp. You’ll know it when you hear it, the cartridge is stronger in nature than the head-amps. The head amp fine tunes it for you. If the cartridge has no sound stage, the head-amp can’t add it back. If the cartridge is softer, the sound will remain that way no matter the head-amp.

The best sounding cartridge may be the worst for you. I have a RUBY-Z to remind me of that. Once that is right the head-amp is less likely a big mistake as it takes a more back set to the cartridge. Not ALL the way back but you get the idea.

Best,
Galen

3 Likes