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Newport 2014: Usher gets a Pass, runs for glory

CT6A7099 hiresnewportlogoforwebKatli Audio was showing off the new Pass Labs electronics, fronted by Usher Audio loudspeakers. This was a crowded front half of the room. Big aluminum faceplates covered the floor between two hulking speakers; a stuffed rack of electronics lurking behind. And overlaying the whole, a throbbing sense of power. I'm making this sound a bit ominous, but that's what caused me to step back a second before I leaned into the room for a closer look. Thrummmm .... The amps were from the new dot-8 series from Pass Labs. There were two mono amps, a pair of the $19,300/pair XA100.8, and a $9,600 stereo X-250.8 amp in the middle. I'm guessing they were bi-amping the $12,950 Usher Audio Xtower? That speaker features a "diamond" tweeter, a 7" mid bass and a monster 11" Eton woofer. At 87dB and 8Ω, with a frequency response of 24Hz-40kHz, I'm thinking we were pretty much loaded for bear. And by 'bear', I mean Ursus Major.

I almost missed the new Pass Labs XS preamp tucked into the rack. This $38k box is dual mono with separate power circuitry. If you’re thinking “trickle down” from their premier XS-level amps, you’d be close — more like “trickle over”. This is the first time I’ve seen this preamp, and I’m hoping it’s not the last.

While in the room, I’m pretty sure we were listening to the $17,500 ccuphase DP-550 SA-CD player/DAC, but the glare off the front window made investigation impossible without tripping over the enraptured audience. A Transrotor turntable with a Triplanar tonearm also sat in the rack. Tara Labs cables were used throughout.

In my short audition, I heard the power and rumble of a very large-sounding loudspeaker. The fact that the bass didn’t seem to be crushing us all like soda cans was a clear testament to the setup skills at work. The sound was full but not lush, detailed but not sterile, and altogether what I expect from a system in this price range. I just wanted a bit more room to move around and let those beasties really rip, and I was pretty sure we’d be in for some serious s***. Nice work.

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About Scot Hull (975 Articles)
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and The Occasional Magazine.