Glowing dials. GLOWING DIALS! I don’t know about you, but I love glowing dials. Especially ones with needles that move. Pass Labs has those in spades, and speaking from experience they also sound supremely musical. The Pass Labs Xs 150 mono blocks ($65,000 USD/pair) on display in the Quintessence Audio LTD room at AXPONA were offering up an open window into music reproduction in a way that few other mono blocks that I’ve come across can, whether solid state or tube. They produce beautiful, room-filling instrumental tone, and have an incisiveness to attacking notes on horns, and strings, along with a vice-like grip on lower octaves that sets them apart.
The fact that the Xs 150s were being fed a healthy diet of vinyl from the new Clearaudio Performance DC Wood turntable ($5,000 USD approx.) sporting the Clarify tonearm, and Stradivari V2 LOMC cartridge, a Pass Labs XP-30 preamplifier ($16,500 USD), and Pass Labs XP-25 phono preamplifier ($10,600 USD), and then pumping that analog goodness into a pair of Focal Sopra N°2 loudspeakers ($14,000 USD/pair) only made my time in this room that much sweeter.
I’ve come to truly appreciate Pass Labs ability to translate complex musical harmonics over the years. A friend has an earlier version of Nelson Pass’ seminal First Watt series of amplifiers, and every time I visit his place I’m struck at what Pass has been able to achieve with simple circuit design, execution, and quality parts: all hallmarks of every amplifier I’ve ever taken to heart. Quintessence Audio did a great job of bringing this together, and the Focal Supra loudspeakers never let me down, always transparently broadcasting whatever they are being fed without coloration.