"Hey, you want to upgrade your pre-amp? I am having a special offer on my last piece of XP-20." Nelson Chia, owner of Centre Circle Audio, called me and asked. Awwww...., this is the worst time for me to be tempted by another piece of potentially lethal hifi equipment. As I have said earlier, I have already busted my budget for hifi upgrade this year.

But I have to take it home for a spin anyhow. I wanted to know how far Pass Labs have progressed from its X-series pre-amp days, though it may not be entirely fair to compare the XP-20 to my resident X2.5 - firstly, the X2.5 was the entry level pre-amp for Pass Labs, while the XP-20 resides at the current middle rung; secondly, there is a more than two times difference in price (the XP-20 is listed at around RM30k).

The XP-20 has the traditionally high quality construction of Pass Labs' products. It is a 2-box pre-amp, similar to Pass Labs' previous X1. One box is the power supply and the other contains the control and audio circuits. The separation of the power supply provides the audio circuit with a much cleaner electrical environment to operate in. The two boxes are connected via an umbilical cord, the construction of which is similar to the parallel cable used for computers, though this one is chunkier and of higher build quality.

The pre-amp has 5 inputs - 2 balanced (XLR) and 3 single-ended (RCA), plus a tape loop. Unlike the X-series, the balanced inputs are not doubled up for single-ended operations, so if you use only single-ended components, you have only 4 inputs to play with (including the tape input). It has 1 balanced and 2 single-ended outputs, all of which can be used simultaneously, making bi-amping or feeding a subwoofer easy. The user friendliness of the remote has been improved upon, it is now a direct-select unit, where a command can be selected directly via a button (on Pass Labs' previous pre-amps, you have to use the arrow button to scroll to a function before you can activate it).


Let me say that the past week has been a hifi roller coaster ride for me. First, you have read how the Torus Power PLC elevated the performance of my system, then when I had to take it out to pass to maggielurva by mid-week , I was brought back to earth. Then the XP-20 was inserted in place of my X2.5, my spirit was heightened again, but came the end of the week, it had to go back to Centre Circle Audio and I was back to square one.

Well, the XP-20 is a big leap in performance from the X2.5. While I could still recognize the normal 'signature' of my system, the XP-20 took all the virtues of the X2.5 and ratcheted them up a few notches.

The XP-20 increased my system's transparency and resolution greatly, the sonic picture was packed with more information and details. This was extended to the entire sonic spectrum, the bass became more impactful and better defined, the mid was more articulate, and the highs shimmered. The stage was lit up and bathed in a nice attractive sheen, and its clarity left very little to the imagination.

The XP-20 also has a very fine sonic texture, if I equate my X2.5 to the smoothness of a teenager's skin, then the XP-20's textural fineness is like a baby's. The other great attribute of the XP-20 was its timbre accuracy, everything, be it a musical instrument or a voice, just sounded closer to real.

I had the XP-20 playing in my system for only 3 days, shorter than my normal period for equipment evaluation (however, the XP-20 has been run-in in the shop), so I would take this as an initial impression.

I could already sense that some of you want to ask how my system sounded with Torus Power + X2.5 compared to my own Hydra 8 + XP-20. I would say that the improvement is bigger with the XP-20. What this shows, I think, is that there is a limit as to the magnitude of improvement I could get with my existing equipment, and indeed the XP-20 is a superior piece of gear. But I shudder to think how Torus Power + XP-20 would sound - it could have been audio nirvana. (No, I did not try this combination, the timing did not allow me to)

Sigh... too much temptation, too little money! :-)

Centre Circle Audio is holding a special offer on the XP-20 and some Pass Labs items for a limited time. Please call Centre Circle Audio +60 3 77282686 or Nelson Chia : + 60 12 2876807 to enquire.

24 comments:

km ng said...

Hifikaki,

What you're feeling, call it the accidental occupational hazard of being an audio reviewer.

Well, look at the bright side - at least you can do a CSI:XP-20 in your audio operating room whereas we can only imagine (and sometimes fantazise) the sound from your reports.

I must say the MACC comprising of M, Panzer and you are doing a great job independently, without fear or favour, on our local audio scene. Much, much better than the you-know-what %@#! MACC.

BTW, CSI = Component Sound Investigation; MACC = Malaysian Audio Comparision Caucus.

Panzer said...

hifikaki,

Congrats man! You've beaten me to audition the XP first!

So much poison, so little money! That's a common trait amongst us don't you think so?

km,

Your frustration is understood. And thanks for the kind words.

hifikaki said...

km ng,

Thoroughly enjoy your out-of-the-box thought process! :-)

hifikaki said...

Panzer,

The XP-20 is very potent, go test it out yourself! You should not miss this opportunity.

Anonymous said...

Its a bit unfair to compare entry level with top of the line. Its also unfair to use a Torus in a system where its more expensive than one of the key components such as source/pre/power.

Felix said...

Anonymous 11.04,

What has the XP-20 got to do with the Torus?

If the owner of a Honda City wants to use Shell V-Power, do you tell him its "unfair"?

First off, HiFiKaki already qualify that the XP-20 is middle-upper rung as compared to the X-2.5. Also, it gives the X2.5 owners a window to what may be had if they scale up.

You obviously don't know Pass Labs owners very well.

hifikaki said...

Anonymous of 11.04am,

Yes, there is a gap between the X2.5 and XP-20 in terms of ranking in Pass Labs' product range and price point, I wanted to make it clear so I pointed these out in the write-up.

As for the use of Torus - it is in my experience that electricity quality is very important for sound quality, sometimes to the point of making or breaking a system's performance. Such an improvement in quality may not even be obtained from an upgrade of a key component. I believe a PLC may conceivably be considered as a 'major' component for a system nowadays. I, for one, will always consider having a competent PLC in my system, even one that is more expensive than my source/pre or amp, as long as it gives me a corresponding level of performance.

I know there are opinions here that some products may not care about power quality (and cable choice), I respect such a school of thought as I believe they have compared these products in their own system and come to such a conclusion themselves.


Hi Felix,

It is ok, if some readers want to query about my listening method, I'll be glad to clarify. :-)

Anonymous said...

What I see is two good components being better than one good and another not so good component i.e. XP20+ Hydra is better than X2.5 + Torus.
We will never know but I suspect the difference between XP20 + Torus as compared to XP20 + Hydra may not be that great to sway you into chosing the Torus over the XP20.

hifikaki said...

Anonymous of 10.42pm,

I want to go for both the XP-20 and Torus Power. :-)

Anonymous said...

Hifikaki,

Just curious, whats your incoming voltage from TNB ? 240 or 250 ?

Anonymous said...

Interesting point, Torus does not handle voltage regulation?

Anonymous said...

Helo Felix,

If the owner of Honda City uses V-power, i won't tell him it's unfair but i will call the owner a MORON.
Just like you, anonymous 11.04 commented hifi kaki's review and why are you so "kepoh" and butt in.
Are you the gatekeeper of this blog???
You are rude!!!!

Anonymous said...

Hello Anonymous. You said Felix is rude. Have you also thought that you are rude? You are using rude words on a public website. Is this rude? Felix never used a single word that is rude and you call him rude, then you are using rude words on a public website. You are even more rude!!!!

hifikaki said...

To ALL,

Please do not get personal when posting comments, and please always stay on topic.

This blog is for the sharing of joy in music and hifi, let's always keep this in mind.

hifikaki said...

Anonymous of 11.55pm

I occasionally measure the voltage at my place with a multimeter, I get between 243V and 248V, most common is 245V.

The standard voltege supply for Malaysia should of course be 240v.


Anonymous of 12.06pm

The version of Torus Power that we tested does not come with voltage regulation. However, Torus Power has recently released an 'AVR' version with voltage regulation feature but it comes with added cost.

At the risk of stating the obvious, btw, Shunyata Hydras and the IsoTek Titan that I tested earlier also do not have voltage regulation.

Anonymous said...

I would like to have the latest Torus with AVR but unfortunately they come with UK outlets and I don't intend to have my cables termination altered. My incoming voltage is over 250 at most times. Anyone here know of any good power regulator that can be used without affecting the system performance ?

km ng said...

Hifikaki,

Thanks for your timely advice.

I believe in the freedom of speech, but not for someone who remained in the shadows and taking comtemptible potshots here.

If he/she posted the comments in the said car club, imagine what may/can happen?

Sayonara (and R.I.P), Anon-san.

Not the usual R.I.P., but Ripped Into Pieces!

Felix said...

Anonymous 5.30

I must have missed something...

I am curious anonymous 5.33, which part of my post did you consider rude? Kepoh? What makes it ok for you to post yr opinion and "rude" for me to post mine? I thought this was a open blog? The owner of this blog seems ok with my post. Who wants to be the gatekeeper now?

Care to show us who you are?

Anonymous said...

Anony 5.33

You are another degenerate ass***e in the making, if you are not already one.

My son drives the new City and I pump Shell's V-power for him.

What do u pump for your son? If at all.

Good clean power is essential, regardless of class of equipment.

Ken said...

Hi Hifikaki and all,

I was wondering if how the voltage regulator really works.

1. Let's say that the voltage that comes in is 230V, will the Torus be regulating it to 240V? If so, how does it do that?

2. If the incoming voltage is 245V, am I right to presume that the voltage will be cut down to 240V. Again how does the AVR do this? Will the extra voltage turn to heat?

3. It be interesting to check out the Torus with and without the AVR version.

I drive a Civic and occasionally use the V-Power. Maybe it's my imagination but when I use V-Power, I do feel a stronger acceleration or power when I do that. Again, YMMV;-)

Felix said...

Ken,

If you can "perceive" extra power and acceleration on yr Civic, in more ways than one, it is already money well spent!

Think of the AVR (any brand) as an auto "volume control" but the difference is, it regulates voltage.

Basically it works like an auto step up or step down transformer.

hifikaki said...

STOP ALL NAME CALLING & USE OF ABUSIVE LANGUAGE!!! This has gone far enough!

Please show some respect for everyone here.


maggielurva,
As discussed, if this bad vibe continues, you'll delete the comments. Thanks.

hifikaki said...

Ken,

Sorry, I do not have the knowledge to answer your quesiton. I see Felix has taken care of it though. Thanks, Felix.


Anonymous of 9.50PM

When I first moved into my condo, the voltage was higher than 250v too (as bad as 258v). We filed a complaint with the management office who in turn complained to TNB. Two weeks later the problem was fixed and I got my current voltage range.

Panzer said...

Guys,

Just a reminder, that this section is called "Desirable Thoughts"!

So hopefully no further "undesirable" postings please.