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Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Speaker Review!
Bryston Mini T
Compact Stand Speaker:
"Bryston Stresses Accuracy In New 3-Way"


Brevis...
Price: $3,195 per pair
Likes: accuracy, great imaging
Dislikes: sensitivty a bit low
Wow Factor: Bryston does it again
More info: Bryston Mini T

by John Gatski
  Noted for its line of audio amplifiers, preamps — and more recently DACs and digital music players, Bryston entered the loudspeaker game in 2013. Judging from the Mini Ts, up for review in this article, the company’s initial foray into transducers products is going well.
  The Bryston speaker lines includes the T-Series (Model T, Middle T, and Mini T), and A-Series (A1, A2 and A3 and the Mini-A. The individual speakers in each line are mainly different in numbers of drivers and cabinet size to accommodate various listening rooms. Each line also offers matching center channel and subwoofer for multichannel scenarios. Bryston’s speaker line was spearheaded by long-time VP James Tanner, who brought in a Canadian speaker company, Axiom, to help design the speaker.
**Designed and tested in anechoic measurement rooms, Tanner says the Bryson speaker line typifies the company's dedication to accuracy and hi
Features
  The Mini T is a compact, three-way passive speakers utilizing an 8-inch woofer, 5.25-inch midrange an a 1-inch titanium dome tweeter. The speakers dimensions are 22.5” H x 10.5” W x 10.0” D. Weight is a reasonable 42 pounds. The MDF cabinet is heavily braced to reduce any excess, accuracy-robbing resonances that can blur midrange and midbass clarity.

Whether you are an audiophile, semi-serious home listener, or an uncompromising professional recording engineer who still likes to match his own amp and speakers, the Mini T is a speaker you should consider.

  The rear-ported cabinet is triangular shaped shape — full width in front, narrow in the back. The bi-wireable speaker terminals can handle spades, banana plugs and bare wire cables. The magnetic-attached grill is removable. Standard cabinet finishes include natural cherry, Boston cherry and black ash. The Mini Ts comes with padded feet, and optional spikes are available to decouple the speaker from its mounting surface. Optional custom Bryson stands are also available.
  Rated specifications includes a 33 Hz to 20 kHz frequency response, +,-3 dB, 86 dB sensitivity (1W, 1meter). The crossovers are centered at 160 Hz and at 2.3 kHz. Nominal impedance is 4 ohms.

The setup
  My tester pair of Mini Ts were a demo pair, thus, they were broken in and ready to go. Amplifiers used in the test included my personal Bryston 14B SST2, (600-wpc bipolar output), Pass Labs Xs-150 (Class A, 150-wpc and $65,000 price tag), Rogue Audio Medusa (hybrid digital/tube 200-wpc), and Benchmark’s new ultra-low noise analog amp, the AHB2 (180-wpc). I even fired up an original 1964 Macintosh MC275 to mate with the “T’s.”
  Audition preamps included Coda, Rogue Audio Model 99 Magnum tube pre, and assorted DAC/line stage combos: Benchmark DAC2D, Mytek Stereo192-DSD and Oppo HA-1. I used Wireworld speaker cables and line stage cables for all the speaker/amp/DAC/preamp connections. As per my normal evaluation system, Essential Sound Product’s Essence II power cords and distributor handled the AC duties.

Simple, but effective: Mini T cable terminals


  Because of Bryston’s professional audio heritage, I also set up Mini Ts in my home-based recording studio room. Using the Bryston 14B-SST2 amp, an Oppo GA-1 DAC,  and a Trident 16T analog mixer, as well as my Macbook ewcording  DAW, the Mini Ts became closefield reference monitors for QC checking of direct-to-24-bit acoustic guitar recordings, as well as monitoring EQ mixes via the Trident.
  In the audiophile room, I Installed the Mini Ts on Apollo metal stands, about seven feet apart. They were angled in a few degrees, and I removed the grills. i did most of my listening with the grills off. In the recprding studio, I set the speakers on Raxcess Stand on either side of the Trident console.

The audition
  First up, I played several SACDs, including Warren BernhardtSo Real SACD, recorded direct to DSD by Tom Jung in the late 1990s. This piano, drums, and bass drum recording is a showcase case for the natural space of musical instruments, and the hi-res DSD captures all dynamics and detail subtly of room reverb, piano tone, etc. Immediately, I knew the Bryston Mini T’s were my kind of speaker.
  Starting with the Bryston 14B-SST2 amp, the speakers’ sound was open, with tonally-correct top end, tight bass and a wide soundstage. Dispersion off-axis was impressive as well, as I walked around the speakers. The Mini T pair's aural projection was neither forward or recessed, but a well-balanced mix of midrange and treble with a good dose bottom. As I played various types of hi-res music, the Bryston Mini Ts’ showed themselves to be an “everyman” speaker. It had no trouble handling Rock/Pop, Classical genres, as well as Jazz and Classical and acoustic music.
  Vocal music, especially female vocalists, were clean with no exaggeration of excessive sibilance. For example, on Linda Ronstadt's  “Keep Me from Blowing Away,” from the classic Heart like A Wheel album, now available as a hi-res 24/192 HD Tracks download, Ms. Ronstadt's vocal power came through loud and clear via the Mini T’s. Ditto for Tuck and Patty's - With Love CD. Great vocal delivery, immersed in Tuck Andress' beautiful guitar playing. This CD sound almost 24-bit.

Mini Ts on Bryston custom stands


  As I previously noted, the bass delivery was quite god for a compact monitor. With my RTA and the speakers well away from room boundaries, I measured bass flat to 38 Hz and the character was clean in the 80-Hz to 150 Hz midbass zone; no accuracy-robbing bumps. The hi-res download of The Rolling Stones “Beast of Burden” showcased that bass impression. The intro tom whack from Charlie Watts has enough power through the Mini Ts to give me a bit of hit in the chest. And the Bryston's admirably handled the cannon shots of the classic Telarc recording of Tchaikovsky - 1812 Overture. It did not reveal much sub-30 Hz bass available in the recording, but the audible portions — within the Mini T’s — range were pretty clean.
  I can’t say enough about the Mini T’s projection of the stereo image. For a small monitor, its ability to fill up small-to-medium rooms is above the norm of a speaker this size; it’s more like a small tower. Versus my the Legacy Studio pair, which is smaller bookshelf speaker, the Mini T has a bit bigger throw. The midrange helps. The Mini T reminded me of my much pricier Westlake LC8.1 stand speakers, but with more bottom end. A smooth, neutral character that lets the music shine through.

For pro use
  With its welcome accuracy character, I had no problems integrating the Mini Ts into my home recording rig. I used the speakers as a digital audio recording monitor system for editing and mastering tasks via my Macbook pro DAW. I powered the pro Mini T setup with a Bryston 14B SST2 or a Benchmark AHB2. I also used speakers for real-time monitoring while EQ’ing a series of digital audio dubs, via analog routing. The EQ audio was run through a Trident 16T mixer. One pair of the mixer’s line outputs was fed to the amp, which powered the Mini T's.
  On the DAW playback, using an Oppo HA-1 DAC/preamp as the line-out to the amp/speakers, I found the Mini T pair's generous helping of accuracy as a dependable tool for hearing the results of my work, My 24/384 acoustic guitar and jazz guitar recordings emerged with a spacious two-track image and lots of detail. No hype in the crossover region and a smoother top-end vs. numerous dedicated powered pro speakers that I have used. The sonic payoff of passive speakers and/separate amp combos was readily apparent. And Bryston’s titanium dome does not exhibit that hard “sizzle” I often hear in lesser metal dome tweeter-speakers supplied in low-end powered monitors.

If a professional can look beyond the fact that the speakers need a separate amp, the Mini T is a really good closefield monitor for professionals. This kind of sonic neutrality is what you want in a studio.

  In my EQ sessions, the Mini T’s easily allowed me to hear the subtle EQ changes that I made in the 2-6 kHz band of a rather dull pop recording I had dubbed. But the bit of presence enhancement added from the Trident mixer’s analog EQ did not emerge from the speakers as harsh or edgy — a trait of of a well-designed speaker.
  If a professional can look beyond the fact that the speakers need a separate amp, the Mini T is a really good closefield monitor. This kind of sonic neutrality is what you want in a studio, and I have heard many home pro system where the powered speakers were the weak link; that would not be the case with the Bryston Mini Ts and a good amp. Mastering engineers still use passive speakers, and I believe the Mini Ts would be a perfect fit for their audio suites.
  I had no major complaints with the Mini Ts. There was plenty of space for large wire connections and the bi-wire option. The 86-dB sensitivity is not as high as other speakers as I have tested, but I am sure most people will use amps with plenty of power.
  Speaking of amps, the Mini Ts match well to most any amplifier design. Obviously, the bipolar output Bryston amps are a natural fit, but other amps work as well. The Rogue Audio hybrid and Benchmark's low-gain/low noise ABH2 bipolar amp stood out for their detail and space impression, but even esoteric amps, such as the Pass Xs-150 and my old tube Mac, made the Brystons sound good.

The verdict
  The Bryston Mini T easily exceeded my expectations of the company producing a no-fuss, accurate loudspeaker with smooth clarity and excellent bass for its size. The tweeter is neither dull or sizzly, but exhibits an optimal balance of transient tonality, which contributes to an expansive soundstage for such a compact speaker. And its character was consistent from amp to amp, even with different designs. From an old Macintosh Mc275 to Rogue Audio highly recommend tube/digital hybrid and Benchmark’s ultra quiet ABH2, to a pair of $65,000 Pass Labs Super Class A Xs-150s, the Mini Ts always sounded good.
  Whether you are an audiophile, semi-serious home listener, or an uncompromising professional recording engineer who still likes to match his own amp and speakers, the Mini T is a speaker you should consider. (A pair of the Mini T’s and a Bryston 4B SST2 amplifier would be a perfect combo.) The Bryston Mini-T is definitely an “EAN Stellar Sound Award” winner. I can’t wait to test the bigger models. 


  John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.



Monday, November 24, 2014

Audiophile Review!
Pass Labs Xs-150 Amplifier:
“Super Class A Presentation,
Super Class A Price Tag!"



Brevis...
Price: $65,000 per pair
Likes: amazingly open sound stage
Dislikes: really expensive, lots of heat
Wow Factor: a Vette or a pair of Xs-150s
More info: Pass Labs XS-150


by John Gatski
  In nearly 20 years of reviewing Pass Labs amplifiers and using various models as reference, I have followed the evolution of the company’s essential MOSFET designs. From the Aleph to the original Class A/AB X Series, to the highly regarded Class A XA models, the amps have steadily improved to attain Pass’ ultimate “musical” amplifier goal. The platinum priced Xs Series is the culmination of that evolution.
  Built to order, the $65,000 Xs-150 monoblock reviewed here and its big brother, the $85,000 Xs-300, are for well-off audiophiles who want the ultimate hi-fi amplifier — in terms of build quality, as well as delivery of a luscious audio sound stage that is the epitome of width and depth.

Features
  The Xs-150 is a 150 wpc channel, high-power, pure Class A amplifier that is built into two chassis-per-channel; one box houses the amp section and the other the power supply. They are connected by a twist-on connector, heavy duty power umbilical cord.
  At a premium price, the Xs-150 is equipped with high-end parts in the signal path, power supply, capacitors, etc. and includes such niceties as heavy duty speaker binding posts with solid-metal knobs. premium XLR and RCA connectors, and beefy IEC receptacle and power switch. The familiar, blue-hue, illuminated Pass analog current meter adds that bit of extra class. Normal Class A operation leaves the needle squarely in the middle.

  I have listened to a lot of amps in my 25 years of reviewing, but the ML Montis electrostatics/Pass Xs-150 pairing  delivered premium spaciousness in transients, reverb decay and instrument subtleties that make music reproduction sound like live music.

  The two-chassis-per-channel equals a hefty weight to manage in set up: 100 pounds for the amp and 130 pounds for the power supply. Even with rear-mounted, rack handles, you will need two people if you are setting up in a rack arrangement. I was able to unbox and maneuver the components for floor placement, but it took care, deliberate handling. I would not advise it if you are not used to moving 100+ pounds.
  Since 2007, Pass Labs has produced its Class A, XA.5 amps, using the patented Supersymmetry MOSFET design. But, according to Pass, the evolutionary improvements, based on previous designs, along with newer techniques, has increased the musical conveyance of the XS amp.
  According to Nelson Pass, the major design differences between the XA .5 and Xs are:
•Separate power supply chassis for lower electromagnetic noise:
•Upgraded power supplies with greatly enhanced storage capacitance;
•Banks of redundantly parallel high speed/soft recovery rectifiers;
•Improved high frequency noise filters;
•Larger (and quieter) transformers;
•Improved passive decoupling;
•Lower power standby;
•200 k-ohm input impedance, balanced with negligible capacitance.
  In asking Pass about the genesis of the Xs amplifier, he said that it is more evolutionary than revolutionary. “In 2008, we began work on the Xs amplifiers and ultimately drew upon a design features of the Aleph 0 from 1992,” Pass explained. “Like the Xs, it used a complementary follower output stage in parallel with a very large constant current source — enough to provide single-ended Class A bias to rated power.”
  He continued:”The simplified topology of the Xs amplifier looks like that of the ".5" amplifiers — except that the hardware is much bigger, and the bias currents involved are more massive. Also, there are some other details — involving new methods of applying local and global feedback and more sophisticated regulation of the voltages and currents.”
  Pass said that the sound of the best tube amplifiers has influenced the design of the Xs series, a characteristic I very much noticed while doing this review. “The working out of the details of the Xs amplifier depended very much on the information about the subjective performance we were obtaining with our experiments with custom SIT (aka VFET) transistors rendered in Silicon Carbide by SemiSouth. These parts captured some of those very elusive qualities belonging to the finest tube designs and informed the development of the Xs design, a process that took about four years.”


Rear panel connections: XLR, RCA and 12V trigger

  Much of the research and implementation of the Xs design also has been incorporated into Pass’ new XA.8 series of Class A amps, though with a bit more modest specs, Pass added. “The XA .8 series is very much the same topology as the Xs, but the hardware and bias currents are scaled down to reasonable values. The single-ended bias currents are much larger than those of the .5 series, but not enough to support single-ended bias to full power. It is reasonable to think of them as more modest versions of the Xs amplifiers — they are smaller — but they still make use of all the circuit details and parts that went into the Xs.”
  Spec-wise, the Xs-150 delivers 150 watts from each amp. Input impedance is 200 Kohm balanced; 100 Kohm single-ended. Gain, 26 dB; Bandwidth, DC to 150 kHz (-3 dB); and 30 amps peak output current. The distortion is rated at .03 percent at 1 watt and 1% at full power. Power consumption is 500 watts (with a lot of heat dissipation!).
  The main amp chassis and power supply each measure 19 W x 11.5 H x 21.5 D. The power supply section weighs 130 pounds; the amp chassis is 100 pounds. To conserve space, it is recommended to stack the amp chassis on top of the power supply chassis.

The setup
  It took me about an hour to wrestle the shipping boxes, unpack the amps and position them into my downstairs listening room. Although it is logical to use a partner to unpack and place these amps, I did it solo. Sometimes, you just can’t wait for a helper; I even managed to “power lift” the amps on top of the power supplies.


Big Class A power means big supply capacitors

  Associated equipment for the review included an Oppo BDP-105 universal player, Oppo HA-1 Class A output DAC/headphone/line-out preamp, Benchmark DAC2-D DAC, Mytek Stereo192-DSD DAC, Coda and Pass XP-10 preamps. Other sources included Dell tablet with USB Audio Player Pro (up to 24-bit/384), Clear Audio turntable, and Rogue Audio Model 99 Magnum tube line preamp with tube phono stage.
  Speakers included my reference MartinLogan Montis electrostatics, Westlake LC 8.1’s, Legacy Studio’s and Pass SR-2 three-ways. In for review, I also mated the Xs-150 with the new Benchmark SMS-1 compact speakers (review upcoming), Bryston Mini-T (review upcoming) and the recently reviewed Legacy Expression tower.
  All cables were courtesy of Wireworld; AC cables and power distributor were provided by Essential Sound Products Essence Reference II. I did a lot of listening using the Oppo HA-1 discrete headphone amp output, driving the amplifiers through a 1/4-inch-to-RCA adapter and a pair of premium Wireworld unbalanced cables, but I also used other preamps as well.
  Though the factory nominally burned in the amps, I gave them an extra day of break in, uninterrupted. And the word burn has more significance when breaking in a Class A amp that idles at 500 watts. It takes about 90 minutes for the amps to get to full temperature; about 110 degrees on the chassis. And that heat in a closed room in Summer easily pushed the temperature into the mid ‘90s — even with the AC on.


Inside the amp chassis: more big caps, lots of MOSFETS

  In listening sessions, I could only handle the heat up to four hours before I turned it off for a break (and a shower). Bigger rooms should have less heat build up, and normal-use amp heating will vary with room size, ventilation and your willingness to nudge down that thermostat. Although I did most of my listening during warm weather, it is the perfect cold weather hi-fi amplifier.

The audition
  After a couple days of the, er, burn in, I was ready to listen. First up were my reference MartinLogan Montis, the advanced electrostatic panel-design loudspeaker with powered woofer from 300 Hz down. These speakers have the ability to present maximum musical space, in terms of depth and width, as transmitted by the upstream components. If the sources, preamp and amp can deliver the sonic portrait, these speakers pass it on. A good sonic test for any amplifier.
  From the very first play of “Britta’s Blue” cut from the Anthony WilsonOur Gang SACD, the separation of the Gibson guitar, drums and Hammond organ was astonishing through the Xs-150; I could almost walk between the instruments. And the extra sonic dimension just above the typical listening sphere, thanks to the Montis extra height gets more coverage as well. I have listened to a lot of amps in my 25 years of reviewing, but the Montis/Pass combo delivered premium spaciousness in transients, reverb decay and instrument subtleties that make music reproduction sound like live music.
  The general character of the Xs is definitely Class A; there is a warmth and smoothness that is very much like premium tube amp, yet the transients are taut and bass is focused. Versus an older first generation XA30.5 Class A amp that I had on hand, now priced at $6,000, the smaller, older amp is not in the same league as the Xs-150. The Xs' enveloping sound stage is much more live by comparison. The first gen X350.5 (current version is $11,500) is closer in sound stage, but still not quite there, plus does not have that musical richness on Classical and Jazz.

Pass Labs XS-150
The review pair od Pass XS-150s


  On the Janos StarkerThe Bach Cello Suites — the early 1960s Mercury Living Presence recording is a minimalist originally recorded with three tracks, but mixed to stereo. With all this musical “space” captured intact via DSD transfer, the Xs-150s showcase the cello’s sonic panorama. And the amp is so detailed that Mr. Starker’s breathing, bow handling noise, chair squeaks, etc., all could be more clearly heard using this set of amps. You can hear those subtle sounds with other amps, but they are more noticeable with the Pass Xs.
  And along with that audible delineation, the tone is rich and pure. The cello is big, not overly bloomy. The string harmonics are all there, and the aural picture is bigger via the Xs — versus other amps. The ability to deliver this open, musical sound stage with all the subtle detail, is the amp’s forte. Classical solos, duos, trios, quartets, Classical guitarists, Jazz guitar soloists, small jazz combos are like live performances in the living room! Really good hi-res transfers and newer hi-res recordings heighten the experience
  On the Steve DavisThought About You, a Tom Jung-recorded Jazz SACD from the late 1990s, that spacious, warm, yet dynamic tone — with percussion, piano and guitar — is world class through the Xs. The recording has a wide, instrument-distinct presentation with crisp, precise percussion and piano notes; the Pass takes it up another level with its ultra spaciousness.
  In keeping with the “minimalist recordings sound the best theme,” I played an “ultra-res” stereo 24-bit/384 acoustic guitar track that I made, using a new Taylor 810E guitar, recorded with two Audix SCX-25 condenser microphones through a True P2 discrete microphone preamp that fed an Antelope Eclipse A/D and Macbook Pro. The recording has intricately strummed and picked layers with excellent width and dynamics in ultra high res.
  Again the Pass Xs-150 transports these seemingly simple recordings into life-like performances. It does not sound exaggerated. In fact, it is super natural in tone and presentation. The amp finds the track’s essential bigness in the stereo image and passes it on.

  Again the Pass Xs-150 transports these seemingly simple recordings into life-like performances. It does not sound exaggerated. In fact, it is super natural in tone and presentation. The amp finds the track’s essential bigness in the stereo image and passes it on.
  My observation of the Pass’ character did not waver when using other speakers. All speakers may not have the space impression of the ML electrostatics, but the results were just as impressive within the character of the particular speaker.
  Through Pass’ own SR-2, three-way tower that I reviewed in 2013, the Xs-150’s spaciousness and solid bass performance on George BensonBreezin’ 24/96 DVD-A was quite a treat for my ears. The piano solo part on “Down Here On the Ground” emerged from the mix with the just amount of upper register tinkle.
  I also had a pair of Benchmark’s new SMS-1 bookshelf speakers for a brief couple of sessions with the Xs-150s, as well as the new Bryston Mini-sT (review upcoming). The Pass’ Xs-150‘s ability to project the image brings out the best in smaller speakers. You might think that these $65,000 amplifiers would need a big, premium, $10,000+ speakers to achieve their best. But even with small, under-$3,000, audiophile speakers, the amps shined their sonic spotlight. Piano tone really stood out with the Pass Xs amps and the new Benchmark speakers. (Stay tuned for that review)
  I though the Pass might be more of classical/jazz/acoustic music amplifier, which are often less processed. But listening sessions with numerous, well-recorded, less processed Pop recordings pleasantly surprised me. The 24/96 remaster of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway To Heaven,” from the reissue of the Led Zeppelin IV HD Tracks download, really benefits from the Xs' wide sound stage prowess. The separation among the acoustic guitar and electric rhythm guitar layers interjects a breath of openness to this played-to-death classic.
  There are always going to be the extravagant products, but it is hard to make a quantifiable justification over a lesser priced comparator because high-ticket items are purchased for more than sheer performance.

  The Dire StraitsBrother in Arms DVD-A reissue also sounded quite good through the Pass. The title track, again, really comes alive. The percussion, guitar/vocal/percussion/accordion interplay gets that full spread across the image. And I was knocked out by how good the 24-bit/192 remaster of The Commodores' hit "Sail On" sounded; the song came from the 1979 Midnight Magic album, which is now available from HD Tracks as a 24/192 download.
  The remaster brings out all the multitrack embellishments of "Sail On," which are easily heard through the Xs-150’s big-ticket presentation. Subtle steel guitar licks, acoustic and lead electric guitar fills, funky bass line precision, shaker percussion really pop from this hi-res transferred track. I could hear these various instruments via the Pass and the Montis as well as I could through an audiophile DAC and headphones. Wow!
  As with most amps, heavily compressed Pop and Rock gets a bit mushy through the Xs-15; that bit of Class A warmness doesn’t flatter those types of recordings as much. Cleaner, less complicated Rock music work better, at least with the speakers I was using. I think the Pass X.5 series like my X350.5, which operates more in Class A/B at louder levels is a amplifier for the dense stuff.
  The Xs-150 tandem has no real sonic flaws, or any ergonomic negatives as well. Besides its astronomical price, the biggest negative is the heat. The inefficiency of Class A means lots of heat from two, very powerful Class A amps housed in four boxes. Even lowering the thermostat on the AC, located on another floor, I could not keep the listening room cool enough beyond 4 hours. Maybe if I had the rest of the house at 65 degrees I could have kept it under 85 degrees. Aah, the afterglow of Class A.
“The XA .8 series is very much the same topology as the Xs, but the hardware and bias currents are scaled down to reasonable values...It is reasonable to think of them as more modest versions of the Xs amplifiers — they are smaller — but they still make use of all the circuit details and parts that went into the Xs."
—Nelson Pass 

  We can’t gloss over the price either. Not everyone can plunk down $65,000 grand for amplifiers. It takes a fat bank account to buy these monoblocks. So where do the Xs150 and Xs 300 amplifiers fit in? are they a very expensive custom-built, Class A technology design designed to showcase the ultimate in Class A design where cost is not an issue?; Or is it a merely the company’s evolutionary top-of-the-line amp series that proudly highlights state-of-the-art, but also serves up technology that can be spun off into more affordable models, such as the XA.8 line.

The verdict
  In my opinion, the Xs Series is all of the above. Its costs means it will rarely be purchased by us non-wealthy audiophiles, but much of its sound can be heard in new models, such as the Xa-160.8 — a similar sonic signature, though at less current, and without the exquisite steel chassis and all the top-tier parts contained in the Xs-150 and Xs-300.
  Several audiophiles asked me, during the review process, if the Xs-150 sounds $45,000 better than a $20,000 amp.  There are always going to be the extravagant hi-fi products, but it is hard to make a quantifiable justification over a lesser-priced comparator because high-ticket items are purchased for more than sheer performance. Is a Lexus really worth double the price of a Toyota Camry? Depends on who is buying it. For those who can afford it, the Lexus has more bells and whistles, incteased performance handling and a certain, upscale prestige factor. It'd a luxury product, but it has its market.
  In my opinion, the Xs series (and other ultra priced audiophile products) are purchased for the same reasons. It was designed to give well-to-do Pass customers the finest Class A amp Pass has ever made — with no shortcuts in parts and build quality. And it happens to sound fantastic! I can’t give it an award for value, but I certainly can give it an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound for its exquisite audio quality. Bravo to Pass Labs for making it available for me to review.

  John Gatski is publisher/owner of the Everything Audio NetworkArticles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio NetworkAny unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited.


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Home Theater Speaker Review!
Episode Triple 10 Powered Subwoofer:
“Single-Active, 2X-Passive Complement
Deliver Major League Low-End Energy



Brevis...
Price: $999 (installer dealer only)
Likes: tight, clean, small sub bass
Dislikes: huh? this sub has everything
Wow Factor! big performance/small size
More info: Episode Triple 10

by John Gatski
 Snap AV’s Episode speaker line continues to amaze me with its high-end performance at great prices. The company’s Triple 10 Powered subwoofer reviewed here is perfect example of the Episode’s value/performance quality.

Features
  The contractor-supplied Triple 10 Subwoofer, priced at $999, utilizes a single 10-inch active woofer/two 10-inch passive-radiator arrangement in a compact cube enclosure that pumps out really clean bass down to about 35 Hz. Its onboard 500-watt (continuous RMS), class D BASH amp puts out plenty of level, and its array of controls offer just the right amount of adjustment — without being complicated. To highlight its great utility, the Triple 10 also sports balanced XLR I/O and RCA connectors (including LFE input) and remote trigger capability.
  The crossover is adjustable from 40 Hz to 120 Hz, and the phase control is variably adjustable from 0 to 180 degrees. The Triple 10 also features always-on/signal-sensor turn-on options. To make the sub an even better value, it also has speaker level inputs and outputs for legacy products, such as receivers and analog amps, that have no line I/O. The LFE/crossover switch allows the crossover to be switched out when using the sub as an LFE-only speaker.

The Episode Triple 10 subwoofer is  feature packed, has plenty of power and projects excellent bass performance for its size, making it a killer deal! In any room scenario where you would want a high-quality subwoofer in a small package, the Episode Triple 10 is damn-near perfect.

  The Triple 10 measures a compact 13.7" x 14.9" x 14.7" (H x W x D) and weighs a modest 43.6 pounds. The driver complement features one active 10-inch woofer — a woven, fiberglass sandwich-cone with 2.75-inch voice coil —and two 10-inch sandwich-cone passive radiators.
  I have always been a fan of passive radiator bass driver. The design utilizes the in-cabinet energy to augment bass performance. The passive radiator, a speaker without an active voice coil, releases the primary woofer’s box energy like a port, but the passive driver better controls that extra air, allowing a tighter, yet extended, low-bass response. And good passive radiator designs help control the mid-bass bloom when subs are placed near a wall; in my opinion, the PR is cleaner sounding than a port. Plus, they add in low-end frequency response extension at higher SPL.
  Episode also offers a smaller version, with three 8-inch drivers, the Triple 8 at $799. Its rated performance is nearly the same, though we did not review it.

The setup
  After a week or so of general music playing through the system for break-in of the Triple 10, I played a series of test tones and warbles tones calibrated for subwoofer testing. In my room, the Triple 10’s low-frequency extension was just shy of 35 Hz at -2 dB, in reference to the 80-Hz test tone. This series of tests were conducted in the LFE mode with internal crossover disabled. The sub could play plenty loud at the lower frequency limit, about 95 dB, and sounded clean — without cabinet or driver noises.
  I utilized the Triple 10 in my primary home cinema room. I placed the sub against the wall on the room’s left side, about midway between the main speakers and the listening position. Main speakers included Westlake Audio LC 8.1 L/R speakers, Westlake LC 2.65 center and two NHT One surrounds. Signal routing and amplification was via my reference AudioControl AVR4 receiver. An Oppo BDP-105 provided the A/V signals. All line and speaker cabling was courtesy of Wireworld. Power cables and power strip were provided by Essential Sound Products.


Triple 10 is loaded: XLR/RCA  inputs, speaker-level routing, etc.

  With real world movie and music soundtracks, the Triple 10 surpassed my low-end sonic expectations. Its clean bass and ample extension for such a small box, created an impression of smooth, loud, low bass — without a hint of strain. No, it did not go anywhere as low as my Paradigm Pro-15 (17 Hz), but most of home cinema’s real-world low bass is in the 25 Hz-to 100 Hz realm, which the Episode delivered in spades. Other than the lack of any under-20 Hz bass, such as the dirty bomb blast in the Sum of All Fears Blu-ray, I was impressed with the bass performance on LFE delivered movie soundtracks.
  On music, the Triple 10 is a perfect mate for small speakers. Its 45 Hz to 80 Hz performance is clean without any exaggeration or overzealous midbass bumps, and it sounds acoustic-suspension tight. A pair of these would give you almost perfect bass for 99 percent of the music that you play. At a reasonable level, this sub even played the essential bass energy of the cannon shots from the famous Telarc-produced Tchaikovsky — 1812 Overture with frequencies way lower than you can hear. Many small subs I have tried with this recording and grossly distort. The Triple 10 thickened a little, but output was controlled at 38 Hz.

The verdict
  Like the Episode ribbon-tweeter stand speakers EAN has reviewed since 2009The installer-sold Episode Triple 10 subwoofer is a best buy product., The sub is feature packed, has plenty of power and excellent bass performance for its size, making it a killer deal. One does the job; two would be perfect. In any room scenario where you would want a high-quality subwoofer in a small package, the Episode Triple 10 is damn near perfect. It also gets selected for an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award.



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