Our first Spotlight will focus on Pass Labs and their glorious amps. Pass Labs is one of the keystone solid state amplifier manufactures along with Krell and Mark Levinson and, unlike the other two, goes against the grain of what to expect from solid-state amp design by championing lusciousness, warmth and other tube-like qualities. And, as you can see, Pass Labs sports some of the finest industrial design around.
Keep reading for the rest on Pass Labs and a roundup of past reviews.
Nelson Pass, the man behind the scenes, has been building amplifiers since 1993 in Foresthill, California. His Aleph series put him on the map, building his reputation for near tube-like sound with solid-state reliability and bass as well as winning him many awards.
His current series are the X and XA (pictured above) and the X.5. The X replaced the Aleph in 2000 and brought with it a massive amount of wattage - up to 1000 watts - but was missing the richness of the Alephs. Soon, the XA was born ("A" for Aleph) which bridged the gap between the X and the Aleph series but brought with it lower ratings of 30 to 200 watts. In November of 2004, the X.5 was released, this time bridging the gap between the X and XA series, getting as close to the warmth of the XA while offering up big, big power - up to 600 watts at the moment. The X.5 series will eventually replace the X series.
The cutting-edge of solid state design doesn't come cheap. Expect to spend between $4k to 20k to get set up with either a stereo amp or mono block pair. And, yes, they are as sexy in real life as they look in the pictures. As Michael Fremer of Stereophile puts it:
"The amp's exterior is among the most dramatic-looking and aesthetically pleasing I've ever seen or stroked with quivering fingers. Your reaction may be different, but I doubt it."
Just make sure you don't do any stroking or quivering with other people around, you may get funny looks (not that audiophiles aren't subject to funny looks to begin with). Pass Labs also makes a range of pre-amps as well as the monstrous active-powered Rushmore speakers. Additionally, Nelson has a side project under the name of FirstWatt that's getting a lot of attention from the high-efficiency speaker crowd and will be the subject of a future Spotlight.
Pass Labs Home
The following reviews are all before July 11th, 2005.
XA 160 Review [Stereophile]
X 250 Review [Positive Feedback]
X150 Review [Stereo Times]
X 1000 Review [Stereophile]