Pass Labs XA30.5

Pass Labs XA30.5 Power Amplifier

Amplifiers from the great Nelson Pass have one thing in common – Sheer brilliance. His amplifiers are some of the best designs ever to grace our ears!

The looks of this power amplifier is amazing. Strong modern industrial look. Its not trying one bit to be subtle.

Most people notice it immediately. And for most its love at first sight!

Nelson Pass has for years designed some of the best amplifiers known to man. It started more than 35 years ago and is still going strong.

From the Threshold’s to the amazing Aleph to the monster X1000 monoblocks.

This amplifier is now in Version 8 – The XA30.8….but some versions were skipped. There is no .6 ot .7

I had the XA30.5 on hand for month or two and fell in love with it. Unconditionally

For me the dark and lighter aluminium just emphasizes the amplifier. The new look on the 30.8 much less so.

The electronics in this little beast are surprisingly ordinary. Only where it REALLY matters were very high quality “special” components inserted. I can live with that. Too many smoke and mirrors out there.

That front meter – Unlike McIntosh, this is less in your face but beautiful. Looks like blue liquid.

Enough of the drooling. The sound ?

Sublime…that simple. Its an incredibly smooth detailed and pure amplifier. Almost like a valve amplifier in the mid-range and upper registers but with that typical hefty SS control over the notes.

You have balanced and single ended connections. Remember to use the jumpers when not in use.

A single set of binding posts does the job, driving your speakers.

A ground connection for subwoofer is provided and two rather different looking 12V5V trigger connection.

Top end. The are of so much contention between valve lovers and SS aficionado’s.

Take a trumpet for instance. It can be a very annoying and harsh instrument through the wrong amplifier. It starts to shout and screech at you….or ring in your ears.

Here it just picks up the note and makes it float. Sharp, detailed and lovely.

Never does it seem to loose that special ability to portray the fine details. Its stays airy with a big and wide soundstage full of detail.

A massive strong point for me. The way it gels with the treble ? Perfectly. Voices come out so natural and beautiful. Very very lifelike and clear!

I kept throwing one song after the other on to hear Leonard Cohen, Norah Jones, Krall, Chris Rea, you name it.

Some instruments were so realistic it jumped out at you, producing notes with very little hint of smearing.

Bass. The downfall of so many amplifiers.

A strong point for me here. I love the bass this amplifier produces…. but here also my disbelief. Who is trying to pull the wool over my eyes ?

Driving Sonus Faber Amati’s to very loud levers ? 30W ? BS…no other word for it, but later some more on that!

The bass is dynamic, deep and so punchy. Its fast but not the fastest I have heard. Yet it sound better to me than some 300W Goliath’s out there. Meaty and strong. Lovely.


I can safely say that after listening to SS and valve amplifiers for 25+ years now, this is the very best SS amplifier I have heard thus far. It goes right past my Jeff Rowland Model, Krell, Plinius etc, to the top. It competes for the very top with one or two very, very good valve systems. I compare it to big Levinsons, McIntosh and other brands and for me it brings more music to my ears.

The last time I was so surprised is when I got my Krell FPB700cx…

I cannot wait to hear the 30.8, or my goodness the bigger brothers…and there are so many!

The POWER Issue

This little bugger is supposed to be 30W. Bollocks. No 30W amp can drive the Amati’s like that.

Futher Investigation reveals (courtesy Stereophile)

While the XA30.5 may give 30Wpc into 8 ohms in class-A (14.8dBW), the distortion at this power level is low, at 0.015%. The amplifier doesn’t actually clip (defined as the THD reaching 1%) until a much higher power level: 130Wpc into 8 ohms (21.14dBW). Even higher powers were available into lower impedances before clipping: 195Wpc into 4 ohms with both channels driven (19.9dBW), and 332W into 2 ohms with one channel driven (19.2dBW).

Full Class A

Gain (dB) 26
Full Pwr @ 26 dB gain (V) 0.77
Low Frequency Response 1.5 Hz
High Frequency Response 100 kHz
Power Output/ch (8 ohm) 30W
Power Output/ch (4 ohm) 60W
Distortion (1 KHz, full power) 1%
Input Impedance (SE & BAL kohms) 30/20
Damping Factor 150
Output Noise (uV) 200
Power Consumption (Watts) 200
Temperature (deg C.) 53
Number of Chassis 1
Dimension (W x H x D) (In.) 19 x 7 x 19.2
Unit Weight (LBS) 62

  • Source

    EMM Labs CDSA driven via USB from PC via JRiver. SACD and CD also used as source

  • Pre-Amplifier

    Ming Da MC300B

  • Feature List Item

    Sonus Faber Amati Homage

  • Cabling

    Van den Hul Mountain, Supernova Speaker Cables

  • 9/10
    Style and Looks - 9/10
  • 8/10
    Features - 8/10
  • 9/10
    Soundstage - 9/10
  • 9.1/10
    Detail - 9.1/10
  • 9/10
    Midrange - 9/10
  • 9/10
    Bass - 9/10
  • 8.1/10
    Price - 8.1/10

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