The big question is of course: is there a difference audible between Pass Labs XP-10 and Pass Labs XP-12? After all, there is hardly any difference on the outside. You really have to look closely to distinguish the two.
Bigger, more engaging
When it comes to sound, it’s a completely different story. If you hear Pass Labs XP-10 and Pass Labs XP-12 separately, you won’t fall off the couch. However, if you take the step back from the XP-12 to the XP-10, you will immediately hear that the XP-12 has made a big step in terms of imaging – especially in height -, neutrality – especially in the middle area -, and tranquillity.
There’s nothing like real 3D playback from two speakers. And that’s exactly what the Pass Labs XP-12 can do. We hear effects left, right and behind us with the greatest ease. With the right music, of course. But to give you an example: Opera from the album Metropolitain. We can really hear the effects shooting through the listening room. It’s beautiful.
It is also noticeable that the voice on the XP-12 is higher between the speaker and that it ‘presses’ less than its predecessor. Now, at first glance, that seems to take some energy away. But listening longer learns that it brings peace and just presents more neutral. And that’s nice for longer listening sessions. Still, someone who prefers punch and attack will probably like the XP-10 better in that respect.
If we step to the next track, I may know the word of Nathalie Merchant, then we hear a beautiful flow and refinement in Merchant’s voice. The beginning of words, intelligibility… wow. Now this is already a great high-res recording (The new Tigerlily Recordings), but still… the XP-12 manages to convince with an extra step of honesty and conviction. The number’s coming in even more… Yeah. That’s possible. It remains a special hobby, that high-end audio.
Who are the competitors of Pass Labs? We can name a few. Think about it: MOON, AVM, Metrum Acoustics, NAIM, Mola Mola… Every brand has its pros and cons. Metrum has the advantage that it is directly a dac. An extremely good dac. However, there are no analog inputs available. And that could cause problems. The stereo image of the Pass is also larger. NAIM can be expanded with a complete ecosystem and offers upgrade power supplies. Mola Mola, Moon and AVM have modules that can be added. Do you want a dac later? It’s no problem… phono stage? Might as well…
Pass Labs focuses purely on an analogue pre-amp. And it’s doing very well. It’s one of the best in the world. With a Pass you always have a top product in your hands. A jewel for the audio rack. A jewel with a well-deserved, very strong name that commands respect among enthusiasts.