Atma-Sphere MA1 3.2 vs Pass XA60.8 amp

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  • #400
    hpfish10
    Participant

    Has anyone used or listened to AS MA1 vs Pass XA60.8 to drive SL A1 non-px panels? My current set up is CJ ACT2.2 and CJ Premier 350.
    Thanks for any comment.

    #401
    kilkil
    Participant

    Similarly, I’m interested in comparisons between MA1 vs any Pass amp.

    I’ve never heard any Atma-Sphere amps, so I can’t contribute much. I love the sound of the Pass XA30.5 with SL, but i wonder what more power would give me.

    My setup: Yggdrasil DAC-> Tortuga Passive LDR-> Pass XA30.5 -> Prostat 922.

    #402
    TWB
    Moderator

    Since I own 3 different Pass Lab amps, the XA-30.8, XA-60.8, and X-260.8, as well as Sound Lab U-1PX, and U-545PX, I can definitely state that more power would give you more satisfaction. While I have heard Sound Labs driven by Atmosphere amps on many occasions, and can attest they do a great job, I have never desired to own them. I am extremely pleased with the results of my Sound Labs being driven with Pass Lab amplifiers. In my opinion, the biggest Pass Lab XA series amp you can afford will probably be the best, assuming it’s big enough. The XA-30.5 or .8 does not have adequate power in my experience. If you can’t afford sufficient pure Class A power, the X-260.8 is a good compromise, and will drive even the least efficient Sound Labs well. Of course, room size is always a factor.

    #403
    kilkil
    Participant

    Thanks TWB.
    Due to convenience, I didn’t really want to go to tubes, though I’d be willing to if the sound justified it.

    I have a large room that is open to the kitchen/dining. I listen at low volumes most of the time. I was just toying with the idea of upgrading the amp. Though with your recommendation, I may need to upgrade sooner. Larger XA series is now on my wish list.

    #404
    D10
    Participant

    Ok … my experience .. the only Pass which can push SL – especially Non-Px panels is X350.5 and even better X600.5. XA – 60.8 is a joke. SL is electrostats and they are driven by voltage – it means they give their maximum with tube amps. I had good experience with JC-1s and Pass 350.5 but if you want to have the best from them – use tubes! Now panels are very efficient and 100w will be enough !
    Dejan

    #405
    chungjh
    Participant

    Dejan

    How would you compare X350.5 with JC-1?

    In my very small room (9 x 10′), M545 works well with my Pass lab x250.5 and the needle rarely every move past the midline (leaving class A, 15W). Do you think X350.5 will sound noticeably better than my X250.5? X350.5 is considerably heavier, runs hotter and more expensive. I may consider buying one if it will REALLY make a difference. What do you think.

    #406
    MikeB
    Participant

    My experience concurs with D10’s.

    A few years ago, when auditioning amps against my CAT (Convergent Audio Technology) JL3’s, we tried a Pass amp in the 250 watt range. It was a no-go!! And this was with consummate Backplates and PX panels. You said you had NON-PX panels and didn’t mention the Backplates. In any case, with NON-PX panels, the more watts the better – my guess the Pass x350 at a minimum with the x600 Pass probably more like it!

    Before acquiring CAT amplification, I used a stereo Mark Levinson 336 amp @350 w/ch. It did just fine with the Soundlabs I owned then — M1 NON-PX panels, NON-Consummate Backplates.

    Years ago, upon auditioning Parasound Halo JC1’s and then CAT JL1’s (a crazy underrated 100 w/ch.) against my Levinson 336, the CAT’s won absolutely hands-down — no comparison, no contest!! The Halo JC1’s were comparable to my Levinson. At that time, the cost difference was $10k for the Levinson vs $6k for the Parasound Halo’s. Thus, lacking a lengthy audition comparing both amps, my conclusion was that the Halo’s were a bargain. Because the CAT JL1’s were so damn much better in every area, there was no need to do a lengthy audition of the Parasounds. The CAT’s simply CONTROLLED the Soundlabs to an astonishingly degree when compared to the other 2-solid state amps. Bass was better, drive was better and nothing was diminished as far as resolution and frequency response was concerned. In fact, midrange was comparable to the SET amplification magic for which I had previous experiences — of course that was with other than Soundlabs (grin).

    Later, after purchasing the CAT JL1’s (8 output tubes per monoblock) a few years thereafter, I had the opportunity to upgrade to CAT JL3’s (16 output tubes per monoblock).

    Primarily Convergent Audio Technology (CAT) is known for their pre-amps. But from my experiences, CAT amps are where the company’s sweet spot really resides. However, because 55-pound transformers are used in the CAT’s, they are 190-pound (each) beasts. This coupled with my ensuing hip and spine problems, plus a sacrificial resistor at each tube socket, prompted me to seek different amplification. Unfortunately when a CAT’s (1 of 32 [CAT JL3] output tubes goes, it generally takes a resistor with it. In that case, one needs to manhandle 190-pounds by flipping the amp on its top, removing dozens of screws and de-soldering / re-soldering a new resistor that acts as a fuse. This was becoming a much too much of a literal PITA for me!!

    Thus, I auditioned the Pass Amp previously mentioned, a Mark Levinson in the range of 250 watts and Atma-sphere MA1’s. The Atma-sphere MA-1’s were comparable sonically and in drivability to my CAT JL3’s. And at 36-pounds each and with fuses as opposed to (32) PITA sacrificial resistors, the decision to trade my CAT’s for the MA-1’s was an easy one!!

    I should add that during my auditioning of the MA-1’s, the Mark Levinson choked – its protection circuit shut it down. Whether that was because it was fairly new or not, I don’t know. Additionally, the dealer had brought a pair of Rogue amps, but with the Levinson experience, he didn’t even take them out of his van.

    The MA1’s drive my M1PX with their consummate Backplates with aplomb. How well they would do with NON-PX panels and NON-Consummate Backplates I don’t know!?! Perhaps someone can chime-in with their experiences of MA1’s and the Soundlab A1’s you specified.

    After buying the Atma-sphere MA1’s, I must add that Ralph Karsten is one of the best and kindest manufacturers I have ever had the pleasure of dealing. He responds promptly to emails and does a good job of hand-holding new customers. I had an initial issue with the DC-Offset Adjustment. And Ralph simply advised to switch one tube from one bank of the amp to the other. Surprisingly, this can be done while the amp is operational, with the important proviso that heat-preventative material/gloves be used!! This robustness of hot swapping tubes and with a design of fuses as opposed to hand soldered resistors was a huge boon for me verses my CAT experience. I couldn’t recommend more than I already have the Atma-sphere / Soundlab combination. It just works!! -Mike

    #407
    bk12
    Participant

    It is so awesome to see all the discussions stepping up. I had previously used amplifiers with the 500 watt/ch Ncore modules, and a few other large Class D amps. Generally, they were great-but I found a whole new level of satisfaction when I jumped to Atma-Sphere amplification on my U-1s. I don’t think you can go wrong with them, and the MA-1s did a surprisingly good job on my U-1 with the PX panels and Consummate backplate.

    #408
    bk12
    Participant

    PS. Also, agree with Ralph being excellent to work with.

    #410
    Ralph
    Participant

    I don’t listen to my U-1PXes at rock concert levels, but when I heard MA-1s drive Brian Walsh’s pair, it was easy to clip them.

    I use 300 watt/channel VTL MB-450s and would really like double that amount to comfortably handle wide dynamic range classical content.

    #411
    Nolafile
    Participant

    So I gather that these newer PX panel are more efficient than prior offerings. So how much of a difference are we talking here? 1, 2, 12db? And what has improved to produce these improvements since the basic physics has remained the same?

    The Atma-Sphere’s I believe are a OTL design. Has anyone managed to incorporate a direct drive OTL tube amp bypassing the interfaces? I would imagine the efficiency losses are quite high just due to the interface coupling.

    DD

    #412
    D10
    Participant

    Chungjh,
    In your size room, 250.5 is more than enough ! It seems that you listen almost entire time in class A. One small secret between audiophiles is that 250.5 is the best sounding Pass! Just to let you know ! Keep it – 350.5 will bring you nothing new !
    For all other SLOG members – the difference between Pass 350.5 and JC-1s :
    Pass: better midrange – so sax, voices, etc is much more natural, entire sound is more tube like …
    JC-1s – better frequency extension , more dynamic and tighter bass
    What do I prefer ? Pass. Sound more like a real life .. some people would like JC-1s… they would say it is more neutral .. I agree..
    It is old story that Atma and CAT are good with SL … it used to be Wolcott in the past .. I never heard them on the SL so I do not know but I could bet they are good because many people love that combo.
    On other side I heard these amps with other speakers and I did not like them. But it means nothing! Different systems, my tastes , your tastes, etc… What I want to say is – do not believe nobody until you hear it by your own ears and in your system !
    Dejan

    #414
    MikeB
    Participant

    When hearing Brian’s U1PX’s driven by Atma-sphere MA-1’s, we never got into clipping level concerns. However, I never had him stress them or play at a level higher than he did, because I was happy with his chosen level and what I heard.

    Brian also had the Atma-sphere MA-2’s on hand. They had a bit more gravitas (if you will), but besides that, essentially sounded the same as the MA-1’s. Again I didn’t do a how-loud-will-they-play comparison between the two amps, as higher volume levels weren’t warranted for my tastes. -Mike

    #415
    hpfish10
    Participant

    Thank you for your input and comments!
    I pose the question since I am itching to see if what is out there could improve SQ of my setup. It sounds like the consensus is both high power Pass Amp (XA60 is a no no, may be X350.5?) and Atmasphere (MA1 is good, but may be MA2 is better) should do the job very well, but unless I buy and listen to them in direct comparison to my amps (Wolcott and CJ Premier 350) driving my old non-PX panel and toroidal back plate I would not know. In my setup, both Wolcott and CJ amp can play rather loud (90+ db, I don’t listen louder 85db) without any hint of stress. Lately I put the CJ amp into more service and like it a lot, more bass than Wolcott but still exhibits transparency, warmness and full body sound.

    #416
    chungjh
    Participant

    It seems that in my small room with M545, the sound from the left and right periphery (where the speakers are) seems more emphasized (?louder) than the singer (in the center). I am thinking that this may be due to speaker placement and toe-in angle (about 20%). What do you all think?

    the outer edge of SL is 11 in from the side wall and the space between SLs is about 4.5 ft. I am sitting about 6-6.5 ft from SLs. There is about 5 ft from the front wall (facing me) and SL panels.

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