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Pass Labs Xs 150 Monoblock Amplifiers Review

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The following records and SACD’s were used for listening:

Weather Report, Mysterious Traveler , Japanese Columbia SIPC 1243 (DSD), Sony Music Japan International
Kenny Burrell, Midnight Blue, SACD, Analogue Productions, Blue Note ST-84123
Joni Mitchell, Court and Spark, Asylum, Rhino re-issue   (180 Grams)
Boz Skaggs, Gray Cat, GCD 4000
Nick Drake, A Treasury, Super Analogue CD B0003518-36, Universal- Island
Debussy, Jeux, French Columbia (Cluytens) SAXF 993 (vinyl) blue label, silver printing
Mussorgsky, Pictures at an Exhibition, (RCA “Shady Dog”), LSC- 2201 [Reiner conducting Chicago] vinyl
Joni Mitchell, Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter,
Stravinsky Conducts Stravinsky, Orpheus (Columbia)  (vinyl)
Bill Frisell, Good Dog Happy Man, Nonesuch Records 79536-1 (180 grams)
Hats, Blue Nile, A&M Records SP-5284 (1999) (vinyl)
Monteux, Daphnis and Chloe, ORG 105 (45 rpm)

Pass Labs Xs 150 Monoblock Amplifiers meter close up


Transistor amps typically do an excellent job of accurately capturing the leading edge of triangles, bells, cymbals and other percussion instruments, but often truncate the tail, namely the ringing which follows.  This is easily heard on any of the Weather Report albums, all of which have abundant and often very complex percussion.  With respect to the Pass amps, percussion was superb with excellent drive.  Instruments were realistically sized and located in space.   Mysterious Traveler gave way to Kenny Burrell’s Midnight Blue.  The guitar had somewhat less of the woody character which I normally associate with this album, but was otherwise excellent.

On Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark, Mitchell’s voice seemed somewhat lighter and less commanding than with tubes; however, the Pass amps had excellent detail and clarity and handled complex material extremely well.  The Xs 150 also did an excellent job of not artificially sweetening the tinny sound of the plane on the first track which was noticeably unpleasant here.

The saxophone and piano on the Boz Skaggs were extended and clear without any hint of brightness.  The piano was also well served.  The balance on the cut “How Long Has This Been Going On?” was nice.  It’s all there including the sax and cymbals which are not at all bright.  The only thing that may be missing in comparison to the best tube gear is some additional breathiness and magic on sax and voice.  When I’m listening via tubes, the voice is the center of attention and it sounds as if it is meant to be.  It is big, with a warm edge to it, and an aural halo around it.  On the Pass, everything seems somewhat the same.  My ear is not led to one thing or another.  There is an “all-over” quality to the soundstage, such that I need to direct my attention to one place or another, rather than being drawn in naturally.  However, tubes do not handle the cymbals quite as well.  On the Nick Drake, Drake’s voice is believably sized with nice tonality and is not brought forward in the mix which is to say in my estimation, is correctly portrayed.  The violin is sweet.  There is a nice sense of depth.

One Response to Pass Labs Xs 150 Monoblock Amplifiers Review

  1. r.dunki says:

    Dear Mr.Crowder,
    Did you use a valve or solid state preamp?
    Rgds, R.D.

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