We bought this Pass Labs X150.8 brand new. And boy. What a rollercoaster that has been. The first few days it played great, but then it went downhill and slowly got better. We estimate that after about three weeks the whole thing was in tune. That’s why we waited a while with this review; we really want to make sure it’s all right.
Fast and open
Two words that for us are synonymous with this Pass Labs X150.8 are fast and open. The difference with the Bryston is easy to hear; the Pass Labs is really more nimble. The Bryston, however, is a bit rounder in the bass and midrange (more feedback), which can be pleasant with some speakers. The Focal, for example, gets more body, which makes this speaker a little friendlier. However, it comes partly at the expense of resolution in the bass; we just hear more layering and detail in the low regions with the Pass.
And that’s another feature we’ve come to appreciate immensely: the layering. It’s all so easy to follow and so incredibly beautifully constructed. Particularly with the TAD, that comes out beautifully. This speaker is also more in the class of these Pass Labs than the other candidates. We estimate that a Wilson Audio or Revel Perfoma 328Be will also go very well. Both very detail rich and neutral sounding speakers.
What we hear very well with the TAD / Pass combination are the instruments themselves; the structures, harmonics, placement and nuances. We also hear back the characteristics of the Grimm and Sonnet very well: NOS versus OS dacs. An instrument such as a piano comes through better on NOS (more attack and harmonics audible), but rock and electronic music has more freedom and extension with an OS dac. They are miniscule differences, but (quite easily) audible on this system. And that really gives us a big smile!
The moment we knew for sure that we had found the combination we were looking for (with the TAD), is the moment Bettye Swann with Then you can tell me Goodbye started playing… Not an audiophile perfect recording, but very pure and full of emotion. And that’s what the Pass with TAD put down so perfectly. Pure. Insightful… straight to the soul. We hear it so pure that with our eyes closed we just believe that she is standing there. Yes, then try to hold back those moist eyes! We didn’t manage it.
To be honest, there are very few systems that can transmit emotion so well. The bulk are unprecedentedly expensive and half of them are active. Consider Grimm LS1be or the top ATC SCM-Active series. The Vivid with Halcro power amplifier can do that too. But then we are in a totally different price range. In short: very impressive!