6/15/16

Pass Labs pt.3 – The X250.8 Amplifier Review



I’m here to tell you, the Pass Labs X250.8 amplifier is…

I’ll finish that sentence later.  It’s my version of a teaser trailer.  But first, a little informational infill.  Backtracking, if you will… After all, this is “part three”.
In the first installment of my Pass Labs series, I introduced you to a fellow named Nelson Pass, the godfather of much in the amplifier world, including the 95-pound powerhouse residing in my stereo rig.  Part 2 was your introduction to the Pass Labs “Point 8” series of amplifiers. 

 In today’s part trois, let’s focus on the afore-mentioned X250.8 stereo amplifier.  With 250 watts into an 8-ohm speaker, double that rating into 4-ohms, this amp won’t drive your auntie to church, but it will drive nearly any speaker out there, and do so without raising a sonic eyebrow.  I won’t geek you out with slew rates and damping factors, but I will tell you that build quality is top shelf and the design has just enough subtle “audio jewelry” to delight the audiophile crowd.  Pride of ownership is part of the equation after all.  Try to avoid being impressed by the Furutech speaker cable binding posts on the rear panel or the hypnotizing blue glow of the bias meter on the front...!
While most of my critical listening is done seated in the “sweet spot” in front of the stereo, I also pay attention to what it is like living with audio gear, having music playing while reading, cooking or entertaining.  Summed up, all perspectives can be revelatory, including the reactions of other unwitting guest “reviewers”.  As an example, a longtime friend of mine, an accomplished and talented female jazz singer, commented on the “incredible intimacy between mic and voice” that the amp put forth.

Some other notes from my listening…    Let’s start with The Civil Wars from their EP Between the Bars.  Listen to their cover of M.J.’s Billie Jean and specifically John Paul White’s vocal work.  The detail of technique and emotion presented by the Pass Labs amp is spot on.  Now go to layered vocals such as the Fairfield Four or even backing vocals with multiple singers and everything is correctly represented as singular parts of a whole, as opposed to a mash-up of voices.  This excellent separation of singularities carries over into classical music, while listening to the various sections of an orchestra.  You don’t hear a blur of cellos, but the singular instruments working in concert.  (was that a pun?) 
Jazz anyone? 

How ‘bout some big band from Dave Holland’s Overtime album.  A lessor amp will present this combo of multiple saxophones, trumpets, trombones, a vibe/marimba and of course drums and Mr. Holland on bass as a slightly cacophonous mess when the whole band energetically riffs.  Not so with the Pass Labs.  Everything makes perfect sonic sense, from the scale and location of the instruments to the tonal colors and dynamics. 
Even hard rock/metal works with the X250.8.  Think of Maynard James Keenan’s offshoot band A Perfect Circle and the opening cut The Package from their Thirteenth Step CD, or some Nine Inch Nails or Disturbed’s latest.  The crunch of the guitars, power of the drums and drive of the bass are all present and accounted for in a palpable, real-life manner.  Trust me, I did that stuff (rock and roll bassist) for 12 years. 

As you are starting to realize, all genres of music flow correctly from the Pass Labs amp.  There is no bias toward intimate jazz or chamber music, as some audio gear is wont to do.  Craving a listen to J.T. or Mary J?  Go right ahead… It will rock your world! 
And now for today’s Q and A…

·         Can an amplifier be appropriately authoritative and refined at the same time?

·         Can an amplifier be catlike nimble and still contain a drop of honey when called for?

·         And can it achieve this without changing or “coloring” the intended sonic presentation?

The answer is an unequivocal YES…! 
Along with my home system, I have heard the Pass Labs .8 amplifiers in multiple systems with many different brands of speakers, cables, digital or analog sources and so on.  The result is always the same.  I am pulled into the music.  Are there other similarly priced amplifiers that will give it a run for the money?  Products from Constellation Audio, Simaudio, Hegel or Gryphon Audio come to mind, but do they have that certain something?

Hocus Pocus…
To my ears there is a little magic going on here.  I think what Nelson Pass and his team have done is to create an amplifier that viscerally connects you to the heart and soul of the musician(s) you are listening to.  Clever and inventive engineering combined with exhaustively thorough listening tests have done the trick.

…the Pass Labs 250.8 amplifier is…   amazing!



13395 New Airport Rd.
Ste. G
Auburn, CA  95602
(530) 878-5350


 Review system:
·         Logitech Squeezebox w/custom power supply
·         Parasound Zdac dac
·         Simaudio Moon P3 preamp
·         Meridian G57 amp
·         Dynaudio Contour S3.4 speakers
·         Richard Gray power
·         Cables from Transparent, Zu Audio and A.R.T. Audio
·         Dedicated 20-amp home circuit
·         All music in FLAC format


Marty Feldmann, The Connoisseur, is the highly sought after consultant who assists businesses and individual clients with the acquisition of the finer things life has to offer.  Whether you are planning a weekend getaway to wine country, selecting audio equipment to outfit your home, planning your dream vacation or purchasing your ultimate transportation, Marty is your personal connection to the good life…

Marty can be contacted at:   916.952.9529    Marty@ConnoisseurCorner.com

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