Pass Laboratories XP-32 line preamplifier Review

March 4, 2021 § Leave a comment

I had two high-performance preamplifiers on hand with which to compare the Pass XP-32: the MBL N11 ($14,600) and the Benchmark LA4 ($2599) that had so impressed Kal Rubinson when he reviewed it in January 2020.

First up was the MBL, with sound pressure levels matched within 0.5dB at the listening position. (The N11 was set to its unity gain condition, which limits the maximum gain and which reviewer Jason Victor Serinus had preferred.) With the MBL N31 DAC in front of the preamplifier and the Parasound monoblocks behind it, the back-to-front soundstage on my Mozart Piano Quartet recording was as apparent as it had been on the XP-32, with as much image depth. The tonal balance, however, was a tad warmer and the presentation of acoustic objects within the soundstage was a little more—and how I hate using this word—palpable. For example, toward the end of the Joni Mitchell track, a high tenor voice appears in the center of the stage, floating slightly behind and slightly above Joni The MBL pushed this voice a little farther back than it had been with the Pass Labs, as well as a touch higher. A close-run thing, but like I said, more palpable.

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