Pass Labs XP-22

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
5,523
412
83
North Shore of Boston
#41
Hi Peter,

just to make sure: that's a typo, right? No successor to the XP-25 so far?
Yes, of course. I meant to write that I use it on my XP-25. Typo indeed.
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
5,523
412
83
North Shore of Boston
#42
I have had the Pass Labs XP-22 preamplifier in my system now for three weeks. In the past I have owned the Pass Aleph P, the X-1, and the XP-20. I also auditioned the XP-30 and XS Pre in my system. I directly compared the XP-20 to the XP-22 during this three week period. I subjected two friends to blind A/B/X tests and did numerous sighted A/B tests on myself as well as longer term listening evaluations. To directly compare the two preamps I used Burley Wire cables and for longer term listening I used my Transparent Audio REF XL interconnects which I sent back to Transparent for re-calibration to match the lower output impedance of the XP22.

At first, I thought the differences between the the XP20 and XP22 were fairly subtle. I don't know if it was the slightly lower resolution Burley Wire IC or that the XP22 needed a long break in period, but for whatever reason, I thought the differences were minor. I was able to consistently identify differences at the beginning but over time, these differences seemed to become more pronounced or at least once identified, they became easier to hear. At about the ten day mark, I began to really appreciate the improvements I heard with the XP-22.

I suspect that Pass Labs trickled down some of what they learned when they developed their statement preamplifier, the XS Pre. I have read about better shielding, a quieter volume control, higher Class A bias, a quieter transformer and one less gain stage. Compared to the XP-20, the XP-22 has a lower noise floor, higher resolution and better bass articulation. I also began to notice that there is a greater degree of palpability and sense of space with the XP22. Images are more dimensional and solid, and there is a richer, more full tonal palette. Finally, dynamics and low level detail are better. The overall impression is one of a more natural presentation which sounds more complete and correct.

Here are some of the LPs I listened to for the evaluation:

Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Argo
Johnny Hartman, Once in Every Life, Beehive
Bach, Parita Nr. 2 Chaconne, Gidon Kremer, Philips
Cantate Domino, Proprius
Acoustic Research Demonstration Record, Ensayo
Ella and Louis, Verve, 45RPM
Ray Brown & Laurindo Almeida, Moonlight Serenade, Direct to Disk Jeton, original
Muddy Waters, Folk Singer, Chess, 45 RPM
Beethoven “Appassionata” Kamiya, Direct to Disk, 45 RPM, RCA
Janaki String Trio, Debut, Yarlung, 45 RPM
Sonny Rollins, Way out West, Analogue Productions
The Sheffield Drum Record, Jim Keltner, Direct to Disk
Art Pepper + Eleven, Modern Jazz Classics, Contemporary

I identified four specific areas of improvement: Noise floor, Bass, Tone, Dynamics.

Noise. The XP-22 is definitely quieter. I hear more details and more information. Everything sounds cleaner. There is better contrast between notes, more sense of space. The performers are more palpable and present. The recording venue is more defined and apparent. Musical lines are better separated and distinguishable in complex music. This was particularly evident in the Vivaldi, the Cantate Domino, and Stravinsky “March Royale” on the AR demo LP.

Bass. Ray Brown’s bass was both more articulate and extended. It was more full and had better body. Keltner’s kick drums were more taught, deeper, more impactful, and had loner resonating trails. Kamiya’s left hand was less garbled, and individual notes were more solid and clean. They served as a better foundation for what her right hand was playing. Bach’s organ on the AR demo disk was deeper, airier, bigger. It was less constrained and swelled better into the listening room.

Tone. Vocals had more meaning. On “April in Paris”, Elle and Louis sounded more emotional. There was more subtle inflection in their voices, more “breathiness”, and sibilance was cleaner. Hartman’s baritone had more shading. Kremer’s violin had a richer tonal palette. The shifts with the bow were cleaner, quicker and more colorful. The distinction and balance between string tone and the wooden violin body was both more clear and more natural. Rollin’s saxophone was just richer sounding, from the quiet air leaving the throat to colorful and nuanced brass tone.

Dynamics. On dynamic music like Art Pepper and the Sheffield Drum LP, the horns and drum strikes were more startling, more explosive, and better focused. Sounds burst out of stillness more convincingly. Surprisingly, there was more ‘jump factor’, even on music I know well. Peaks were less bold or blunt, but more piercing and precise. The entire envelope between loud and soft seemed expanded.

The three recordings which seemed to benefit the most from all of these qualities were the Janaki String Trio, Beethoven’s Appassionata, and the Sheffield Drum solo. With the XP-20, these sounded wonderful for years in my system, but I was simply not fully aware of the range of sounds and energy captured in these three recordings. The XP-22’s low noise floor brought out such a range of dynamics, tonal color and musical expression, that these familiar pieces became more convincing and believable and introduced a new sense of beauty and meaning. The XP-22 seems to reveal more of what is on the recording, and with the best recordings, that increased information conveys a better, more complete musical message. My system is refreshed and more emotionally involving now.

I have decided to trade in the XP-20 for the new XP-22. The volume control now goes from 1-99. The umbilical cord is much more robust and apparently better shielded. The casework is slightly different on the side and bottom edges of the front face plate. If one already owns the XP20, deciding whether or not to upgrade will depend on how highly one values these differences relative to the cost to upgrade. If one does not already own the XP-20, I would say that the XP-22 is an incredible value and an extremely high performing preamp. For under $10K, it is a relative bargain, especially considering that it is so much less expensive than the flagship XS Preamp. It is much better than all previous Pass preamps that I have owned and I actually prefer it to the XP30, which had an overall warmer voicing, though it too has a very low noise floor and great resolution. The XP-22 has a neutral tonal balance like the XP-20 and XS Pre. There is clear evidence of trickle down technology from the XS Pre.

I have spent the last year or two working diligently to make steady, but often subtle, improvements to my system without spending any money. Most of these involved minor speaker placement shifts, better cleaning of cable connections, removing reflective materials from the listening room, and better fine tuning my cartridge and arm. Upgrading to the XP-22 will be the first major equipment change that I have made in about four years. In current high end audio terms, the upgrade is fairly inexpensive. However, the sonic improvement is significant. It is a good start to the new year.
 
Sep 1, 2013
127
9
18
Chicago, IL
#44
Thanks for the update. I had auditioned the XS pre in my system as well and it really set the bar for me. Sounds like the new XP22 gets closer to the XS capabilities. I’ll be curious what direction the XP32 goes as well.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
6,487
924
113
Beverly Hills, CA
#45
I have had the Pass Labs XP-22 preamplifier in my system now for three weeks. In the past I have owned the Pass Aleph P, the X-1, and the XP-20. I also auditioned the XP-30 and XS Pre in my system. I directly compared the XP-20 to the XP-22 during this three week period. I subjected two friends to blind A/B/X tests and did numerous sighted A/B tests on myself as well as longer term listening evaluations. To directly compare the two preamps I used Burley Wire cables and for longer term listening I used my Transparent Audio REF XL interconnects which I sent back to Transparent for re-calibration to match the lower output impedance of the XP22.

At first, I thought the differences between the the XP20 and XP22 were fairly subtle. I don't know if it was the slightly lower resolution Burley Wire IC or that the XP22 needed a long break in period, but for whatever reason, I thought the differences were minor. I was able to consistently identify differences at the beginning but over time, these differences seemed to become more pronounced or at least once identified, they became easier to hear. At about the ten day mark, I began to really appreciate the improvements I heard with the XP-22.

I suspect that Pass Labs trickled down some of what they learned when they developed their statement preamplifier, the XS Pre. I have read about better shielding, a quieter volume control, higher Class A bias, a quieter transformer and one less gain stage. Compared to the XP-20, the XP-22 has a lower noise floor, higher resolution and better bass articulation. I also began to notice that there is a greater degree of palpability and sense of space with the XP22. Images are more dimensional and solid, and there is a richer, more full tonal palette. Finally, dynamics and low level detail are better. The overall impression is one of a more natural presentation which sounds more complete and correct.

Here are some of the LPs I listened to for the evaluation:

Vivaldi, The Four Seasons, Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, Argo
Johnny Hartman, Once in Every Life, Beehive
Bach, Parita Nr. 2 Chaconne, Gidon Kremer, Philips
Cantate Domino, Proprius
Acoustic Research Demonstration Record, Ensayo
Ella and Louis, Verve, 45RPM
Ray Brown & Laurindo Almeida, Moonlight Serenade, Direct to Disk Jeton, original
Muddy Waters, Folk Singer, Chess, 45 RPM
Beethoven “Appassionata” Kamiya, Direct to Disk, 45 RPM, RCA
Janaki String Trio, Debut, Yarlung, 45 RPM
Sonny Rollins, Way out West, Analogue Productions
The Sheffield Drum Record, Jim Keltner, Direct to Disk
Art Pepper + Eleven, Modern Jazz Classics, Contemporary

I identified four specific areas of improvement: Noise floor, Bass, Tone, Dynamics.

Noise. The XP-22 is definitely quieter. I hear more details and more information. Everything sounds cleaner. There is better contrast between notes, more sense of space. The performers are more palpable and present. The recording venue is more defined and apparent. Musical lines are better separated and distinguishable in complex music. This was particularly evident in the Vivaldi, the Cantate Domino, and Stravinsky “March Royale” on the AR demo LP.

Bass. Ray Brown’s bass was both more articulate and extended. It was more full and had better body. Keltner’s kick drums were more taught, deeper, more impactful, and had loner resonating trails. Kamiya’s left hand was less garbled, and individual notes were more solid and clean. They served as a better foundation for what her right hand was playing. Bach’s organ on the AR demo disk was deeper, airier, bigger. It was less constrained and swelled better into the listening room.

Tone. Vocals had more meaning. On “April in Paris”, Elle and Louis sounded more emotional. There was more subtle inflection in their voices, more “breathiness”, and sibilance was cleaner. Hartman’s baritone had more shading. Kremer’s violin had a richer tonal palette. The shifts with the bow were cleaner, quicker and more colorful. The distinction and balance between string tone and the wooden violin body was both more clear and more natural. Rollin’s saxophone was just richer sounding, from the quiet air leaving the throat to colorful and nuanced brass tone.

Dynamics. On dynamic music like Art Pepper and the Sheffield Drum LP, the horns and drum strikes were more startling, more explosive, and better focused. Sounds burst out of stillness more convincingly. Surprisingly, there was more ‘jump factor’, even on music I know well. Peaks were less bold or blunt, but more piercing and precise. The entire envelope between loud and soft seemed expanded.

The three recordings which seemed to benefit the most from all of these qualities were the Janaki String Trio, Beethoven’s Appassionata, and the Sheffield Drum solo. With the XP-20, these sounded wonderful for years in my system, but I was simply not fully aware of the range of sounds and energy captured in these three recordings. The XP-22’s low noise floor brought out such a range of dynamics, tonal color and musical expression, that these familiar pieces became more convincing and believable and introduced a new sense of beauty and meaning. The XP-22 seems to reveal more of what is on the recording, and with the best recordings, that increased information conveys a better, more complete musical message. My system is refreshed and more emotionally involving now.

I have decided to trade in the XP-20 for the new XP-22. The volume control now goes from 1-99. The umbilical cord is much more robust and apparently better shielded. The casework is slightly different on the side and bottom edges of the front face plate. If one already owns the XP20, deciding whether or not to upgrade will depend on how highly one values these differences relative to the cost to upgrade. If one does not already own the XP-20, I would say that the XP-22 is an incredible value and an extremely high performing preamp. For under $10K, it is a relative bargain, especially considering that it is so much less expensive than the flagship XS Preamp. It is much better than all previous Pass preamps that I have owned and I actually prefer it to the XP30, which had an overall warmer voicing, though it too has a very low noise floor and great resolution. The XP-22 has a neutral tonal balance like the XP-20 and XS Pre. There is clear evidence of trickle down technology from the XS Pre.

I have spent the last year or two working diligently to make steady, but often subtle, improvements to my system without spending any money. Most of these involved minor speaker placement shifts, better cleaning of cable connections, removing reflective materials from the listening room, and better fine tuning my cartridge and arm. Upgrading to the XP-22 will be the first major equipment change that I have made in about four years. In current high end audio terms, the upgrade is fairly inexpensive. However, the sonic improvement is significant. It is a good start to the new year.
Dear Peter,

Thank you very much for this extremely interesting and detailed comparative analysis! I am delighted you have come to a clear and definitive preference!

Happy New Year, Peter!
 

BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
1,187
41
48
Silicon Valley
#46
Peter, excellent review. Nothing for me to add since you nailed it. I was a little apprehensive that the XP-22 would just be the equal of an XP-20 using the Revelation Audio umbilical, but it far surpasses it. I too am amazed at the improved bass definition, and the lower noise floor. I must have spent between $20K to $30K on power conditioners, power cables, and component cables to eliminate as much noise as possible, and give me the best signal possible. The XP-22 is now letting me hear the results of that expenditure.

One point I especially like is the new, improved, longer, umbilical. This allowed me to put the power supply on the floor under the rack. I think this also helped reduce noise in the overall system.

Happy New Year everyone.

A4A3B308-0E93-47B9-8B30-30D30C0B38D5.jpg
 

BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
1,187
41
48
Silicon Valley
#48
I know. I was thinking of that. Fortunately, the floor is over a concrete slab which sits on the ground, so floor vibrations are minimal.

Oh noes...now you need to buy isolation feet to protect the critical PS from floor borne vibration. There goes another $1k :p
 
Last edited:
Dec 26, 2011
267
1
18
#49
Missed this thread until just now. Wow! Something new to ponder in this year ahead.

I had been contemplating moving away from metallic clad audio components. Is Nelson Pass aware of the effects of eddy current?
 

XV-1

Well-Known Member
May 24, 2010
1,829
214
63
Sydney
#50
Missed this thread until just now. Wow! Something new to ponder in this year ahead.

I had been contemplating moving away from metallic clad audio components. Is Nelson Pass aware of the effects of eddy current?
wayne colburn designs the pre amps and phone stage.
 
Jan 16, 2012
31
0
6
Alpharetta
#51
Just received the XP-22, which I’m using with a X-250.5 amp. I have a question the only way to turn it off is via the rear switch on the power supply, is it designed to be left on? The second is I have to have the volume at 75 to generate reasonable level with Maggie 3.7i’s is that normal?
Thanks
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
5,523
412
83
North Shore of Boston
#52
Just received the XP-22, which I’m using with a X-250.5 amp. I have a question the only way to turn it off is via the rear switch on the power supply, is it designed to be left on? The second is I have to have the volume at 75 to generate reasonable level with Maggie 3.7i’s is that normal?
Thanks
Congratulations on your new Pass preamp. I also have the XP-22 and the XA160.5s. The volume setting range for most of my listening is 70-80. The Pass preamps and phono stages are meant to be left on all the time. If you turn them off for a while, it may take a day or two for them to sound their best again.

What preamp did you have before?
 

PeterA

Well-Known Member
Dec 7, 2011
5,523
412
83
North Shore of Boston
#54
I was using a CJ ET5, the 22 has detail that can't be believed over the ET5
Detail and resolution presented in a very natural, convincing way. It is an excellent preamp.
 

BlueFox

Member Sponsor
Nov 8, 2013
1,187
41
48
Silicon Valley
#55
Any news on the XP-30 being upgraded? If not then I still think the XP-22 eliminated the need for the XP-30. :)
 
Jan 16, 2012
31
0
6
Alpharetta
#56
Detail and resolution presented in a very natural, convincing way. It is an excellent preamp.
The scary aspect is this system is SME 20/3, SME V, Lyra Atlas, Vendetta (with all the latest upgrades), Sony ES5400, Oppo 205, Pass XP22, X250.5 and Maggie 3.7i’s yet on natural acoustic music it is sounding better than my main system which is about 5x the price. This preamp was a game changer in the system.
 

Annapurna

New Member
Mar 19, 2018
16
0
1
#58
I just ordered the Pass XP22 and XP27 to replace my ARC combo yesterday and both pre and phono will be delivered this coming Monday. I understand that the power supply units of both the above units should be placed separate from the main units. As I have limited shelf space for the units, I was wondering how I should stack the units together. Should I stack the 2 PS units together on one shelf and the 2 Main Units on another shelf? Or should I put the PS together with the main units? Any advice is well appreciated.
 

Annapurna

New Member
Mar 19, 2018
16
0
1
#59
I just ordered the Pass XP22 and XP27 to replace my ARC combo yesterday and both pre and phono will be delivered this coming Monday. I understand that the power supply units of both the above units should be placed separate from the main units. As I have limited shelf space for the units, I was wondering how I should stack the units together. Should I stack the 2 PS units together on one shelf and the 2 Main Units on another shelf? Or should I put the PS together with the main units? Any advice is well appreciated.
I wrote to Pass concerning the above and received a reply from Nelson Pass and Kent English in a day or 2. Excellent customer service from Kent English and Nelson Pass himself. I thought I should share with all of you so that we can all learn.

Nelson Pass - No real problem stacking the units anyway you like, but for the very
lowest noise I put the power supplies some distance from the gain
stages. If you want to stack them all, then power supplies on bottom
and phono stage on top is probably best. If you want two stacks,
then the phono and gain units together and the power supplies together.

A little distance is all that it takes.

Kent English - The XP27 by itself is very quiet, to preserve the best of that noise quality it is best to keep the XP27 away from radiated electrical noise. The XP22 is much less sensitive to radiated electrical noise.
If stacking chassis is the only option then the power supply chassis on the bottom, the XP22 on top of the power supply and the XP27 on the very top of the stack.
 

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