Country of Origin
This review first appeared in March 2020 on fairaudio.de. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby translated and syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of fairaudio or Pass Labs – Ed.
Reviewer: Ralph Werner
Digital sources: Luxman DA-06, Innuos Zenith Mk3, Audiodata MusikServer MSI, Auralic Aries, HP Notebook w. JRiver
Integrated amplifier: Unison Research Triode 25
Preamps: Octave HP300 MkIKI
Power amps: Musical Fidelity M8 700m
Loudspeakers: Blumenhofer Acoustics Genuin FS 1 Mk2
Cabling: Boaacoustic Silver Actinium, fis Audio Studioline, Ascendo Tri-Wire-Kabelsatz, Dynamikks Speakerlink, Ecosse ES 2.3, Zu Audio Libtec, Boaacoustic Blueberry Signal.xlr, fis Audio Premiumline Lifetime, Ecosse, Vovox, Audioquest Cinnamon (Toslink), Boaacoustic Silver Digital Xeno (USB), Wireworld Series 7 Starlight Gold (Koax-S/PDIF), fis Audio Studioline
Equipment rack: Creaktiv Trend 3
Power delivery: fis Audio Black Magic
Room: 40m² w. 2.45m ceiling
Review component retail: €7'200 + €11'900
Passed out. Double! For today's gig, the vow to myself was not to use 'master', 'guru' or 'papa'. Having read plenty of Pass reviews elsewhere, I felt saturated. Clearly our famous California amp designer enjoys a sterling reputation. He needs no fawning from me. What is the gig at hand? A pre/power combo of their smallest preamplifier and second-biggest stereo amplifier. I foresaw a good match which even on price was sensible: €7'200 and €11'900 respectively. The former model hadn't seen much ink in the German press yet. Unless I was mistaken, the latter none. Change was afoot!
The XP-12 linestage is a newer addition to the Pass portfolio. It replaces the XP-10 as the only single-chassis type on that catalogue's page. The two bigger XP versions and the XS models all scale up to two chassis for external power supplies. The flagship XP-32 splits into three for dual-mono signal blocks plus a separate PSU. Where does excess begin? With the XP-12, I would keep my feet closer to the ground. Over the XP-10, there are changes in the power supply with a new circuit, improved filtering and a resin-potted 70VA toroidal power transformer with electrostatic and mu-metal shielding. The switched resistor-matrix volume control was inspired by XS precedents. So explained Wayne Coburn who is Pass Labs' resident preamp designer. His attenuator solution nets sonic dividends as does a revised output stage with higher bias current on the transistors. This too trickled down from the massive flagship.
Going in, Pass fans knew to expect a purist machine which would shun DAC, Bluetooth or streaming modules. This firm do analog not digital, period. Analogue does include phono but not when embedded in a high-level environment. In the Pass range, separate phono stages live on their own page. As a fully balanced affair, the XP-12's three RCA inputs immediately symmetrize to duplicate how the two XLR inputs progress past entering. Besides source and volume selection, features include mute, balance and a home theater bypass. And that's it. More happy dogmatism becomes lack of a standby switch. Just what audiophile ninny would consider turning off their high-performance solid-state preamp? If 20 watts of idle consumption have you fidgety, use the mains switch on the rear.