Pass Labs XA30.8 vs. Supernait1 - Fight!

Hello all - I’m very new to the forum and just want to say how awesome it is that this forum even exists! Not all audio manufactures have this type of forum available to lean in on others experiences and advice. Just glad to be here, and excited to learn about all the Naim products!

So recently I was looking for a new power amplifier for my outdoor patio speakers PSB CS1000 but had a very specific depth requirement for said amplifier of around 13" - after doing a bit of research I boiled it down to the following options:

Naim 5si-60w, xs2-70w, sn1-80w
Atoll a200 12" 120W
Schiit Vidar 13" 100W
Rotel RB1552 13.4"D 130w

I didn’t need a preamp or dac, but just the power amplifier - however the added possibilities of the Naim won me over with having lots of flexible configurations, as well as having the shortest depth at 12", and a used one just so happened to popup as I was doing my research - which led me here!

I have to say the moment I hooked it up to the PSB CS1000 it was just so authorative, completely cleared up the sound compared to my prior Emotiva A100 50w amp and I’m very happy with it in this regards. Exceeded my expectations for it’s intended purposes. Regardless of my comparisons to the Pass Labs - it’s found a permanent home with me for sure.

But I couldn’t just leave this Naim amp in my patio speaker configuration, I had to try this thing out in my main mancave setup. Currently running a Holo Audio Spring 3 KTE w/ preamp module via XLR to my Pass Labs Xa30.8 power amplifier to Magico A1 bookshelf speakers. Absolutely wonderful 4ohm speaker, tons of detail retrieval - very happy with these $9400/pair bookshelf speakers in my small room and near field (ish) listening experience. I bought these new at a local dealer and compared them to some B&W 805d3, Harbeth bookshelf (forget the model) - the Magico A1 for me just blew them both out of the water, as well as my current at the time B&W 705S2.

Some quick history of other gear I’ve owned: Auralic Vega > Chord Qutest > Spring1 lvl2 (was upgraded to spring3), Hegel H95, Ayre V5xe, Emotiva XPA-1g2, Pass X150 and Aleph 5 - the XA30.8 has sounded the best to my ears over all others, same with Spring3 on the DAC side - I simply enjoy NOS (non oversampling) dacs more than the OS I’ve heard. Speakers owned over the years: Whatfedale OpusII, Vandersteen Sig3A, Salk Songbird, B&W 705S2. I’ve had only budget preamps in the past (1.5k range), nothing worth mentioning and will say the Serene preamp module built into the Holo caused me to sell my preamp, it just smoked all preamps I’ve had. These I’ve had all in around the past 10 years, also too many to remember <$500 dacs - as they all just sounded so similar and/or meh - mostly you get what you pay for in audio.

I tried the following configurations, however, did not try the built-in DAC for hopefully obvious reasons. All Naim tests were using the single ended RCA output of the Holo, shared power cord with Pass (direct to wall), and same speaker cables.

Double Preamp w/ Holo volume on max - First I fired up the Naim with the Holo volume on max and using the built in preamp of the SN1. I have to say, overall, just with first listen I was decently impressed with the sound, it brought a smile to my face as I thought to myself, ah this is what the Naim fuss is all about. Definitely in the way it reveals notes and sounds - deliberate starting and stopping to notes, the transient speeds, musicality and the PRaT. It was an eye opener for sure and the sound signature reminded me most of the Hegel, but this was better, faster, more tonally accurate and less fatiguing.

Double Preamp w/ Naim volume on max - This lasted for about 10 seconds - just awful, clearly max volume is not the way to use this integrated. Looked through the manual and found AV Bypass mode!

Holo preamp w/ AV Bypass enabled - Much better than both prior - just more refined and increased clarity. I am noticing certain things in tracks pop out / stand out differently, as though they draw attention more especially say in a live recording with people either coughing/shouting or just having a conversation. One of my favorite test albums is ‘Live at Eddie’s Attic’ by The Civil Wars - just a really great listen if you haven’t heard it.

Holo preamp w/ Power Amp in RCA/DIN cable - I decided to buy a RCA/DIN cable and decoupled the preamp from the power supply removing the coupler on the rear and went straight into power amp mode on the 4din pin from RCA. Immediately I got a blacker background and more robust presentation. This was by far the best I’ve heard the SN1. It clearly has some extra clarity/detail retrieval over the Pass in some tracks. The biggest ISSUE I have with the Naim is simply when I turn the volume UP. Yes, it will play loudly but the listening fatigue kicks in almost immediately. It’s as though it just can’t deliver the current to the Magico A1’s for anything louder than a low/medium listening level. This listening fatigue was really my only gripe about the SN1. I can tolerate many things in audio playback but fatigue of any kind is a big no no for me.

Comparison to Pass Labs XA30.8

For those of you who don’t know the XA30.8 is a Class A bias to 30w then A/B to a tested 165w @ 4ohm - The majority of this was using XLR, however to rule out the Holo Spring RCA as the culprit for my listening fatigue - I did try the Pass Labs in single ended mode, and had 0 listening fatigue confirming my suspicions that the SuperNait1 was just lacking the current/power to happily feed the power hungry Magico A1’s. Needless to say my thoughts comparing to the 2 directly: I can hear the same things in both amps, but the Naim will make certain background images POP more. The pronunciation of the letter P is especially prominent hearing more of the puh phonetically. The Pass being smooth and mellow, the Naim being lively with some added clarity/brightness over the Pass.

In lower volume listening I just hear more micro details via the Naim than I do in equal SPL of the Pass. They exist in the Pass but I just need to turn the volume up to notice them. Where the Pass I think has the edge is also in soundstage - this is very apparent in watching movies in stereo - as things move around or voices come from various direction - the Pass wins here in spades in comparison to the SN1. Not that the SN1 didn’t sound stage to some extent but it revealed to me that it doesn’t have quite the authority over the driver in the same way the Pass does.

Further Analysis: For fun I did a double blind test to my wife (God bless her soul for putting up with my shenanigans), who honestly has a really great ear. Her notes for the Pass were: Fuller, more rounded. Naim SN1: Musical (her literal exact words and I’ve never mentioned to her Naim reputation LOL) She said she could live with either or - some high praise indeed.

In conclusion: The ease, smoothness of the Pass combined with the total lack of listening fatigue at any volume indicates to me that this is the better pairing for my setup. It was a close call at lower listening volumes, however, I just pulled the trigger on a Naim 250DR to demo as I want to see how the Pass does against a dedicated Naim amp with a little more grunt, that’s how impressed I was with this underdog SN1!

More to come!


It sounds like you are trying to run a Naim amp (SN1) off your Holo May Dac,while also using it as a Pre-amp? Naim amps generally sound better with Naim pre-amps,so the 250 DR might not sound great either,if used this way. You should try to get a Naim pre,like the 282 for example.Then use your Holo May as the source into the 282 preamp.
I have been reading a lot of good things about the KTE,would love to try one into my Nagra.
Good luck with your search.

Heard for sure. I will also use the SN1 as a preamp when the 250DR arrives this weekend. I am having a custom cable made as well for RCA stereo to the single ended XLR on the 250DR that I will also test using my Spring preamp to compare.

Question - which Naim component is considered the most influential to the Naim signature sound? The PRaT more specifically - I get that all the components combined ultimately make that up, but if you had to choose the most influential - would you say it’s the amp/preamp/dac ?

I’ve been reading some reviews of the DAC and the reviewer will use non naim pre/amp and say they hear the signature Naim sound, but then also many don’t use the Naim DAC/streamers and get the signature sound from the pre or amp regardless of source. This all leaves me a little confused as to me it should be the amp that has the most impact, but perhaps I am off base.

A Pass Labs XA30 to drive a pair of €599,- PSB patio speakers.
This forum never fails to amaze me! :flushed: :grinning:

I’d get the sn1 serviced since it is likely overdue and add a hicap dr.

Or defenestrate the sn1, replace it by an atom he, run it into the nap 250.

Naim 250DR vs Pass Labs XA30.8 Round 2 - FIGHT!

First, I’d like to say that I’ve never used the XA30.8 to power my PSB CS1000, only ever the Magico A1 - so not sure how that got misinterpreted but just to clear that up - that would literally make no sense :slight_smile:

So after hearing what the supernait1 was capable of on it’s own, I was intrigued enough to want to compare the Pass with a Naim amp for a true throwdown.

This is just straight out of my Holo Audio Spring KTE w/ preamp module direct to each amp, Pass will be using XLR and Naim using a custom RCA > single ended XLR, same speaker cable / power cords used on both.

In my time with Pass Labs amps every time I’ve tried something to compare this against after careful A/B, blind tests, etc. The Pass Labs has always won out, will Naim be another amp to come and go? Read on to find out!

Initial impressions to me are always where I find the most relevant information - especially as time goes on and you flip back and forth you typically will question these initial impressions, but for me it’s that first power up and hit play moment that presents the most dramatic differences because I’ve been listening to the XA30.8 for years now so I know right where it stands performance wise.

As the first track plays I immediately grin ear to ear - wow what EASE, what effortless playback of music, whatever fears I had about fatigue were immediately dismissed from my mind, this amp really is something special. The music just flowed so grain free I was in honest shock that now my Pass XA30.8 sounded more metallic and grainy in memory and that my friends is saying A LOT! The detail just oozed, I knew right away this amp just delivered another level of refinement previously unheard from my Magico speakers. I just wanted to keep turning the volume UP and the louder it went the more of the same - just pure MUSIC and calm effortless playback.

The speakers weren’t struggling anymore like they did with the SN1, they were SINGING with all their might. The control over the loudspeaker was very apparent - 80Watts spec but total control, not even a hint of harshness or clipping here.

One by One I fed my speakers tracks I’m so familiar with and I just wanted to listen to all of my favorite albums again as though new life had been breathed into the music. I was in love at first impression… but I need to be fair to the Pass Labs, I fire her up to compare…

The XA30.8 just needs to be warmed up for at least 30 minutes before it sounds good, an hour at best - at first the XA30.8 was just grainy and metallic but then she warmed up ready to deliver that smooth, sweet luscious sound I’m used to.

That’s when I hear the biggest difference between these 2 amps - soundstage, ah that’s right - the sound wasn’t just coming at me from the front, I was hearing objects from behind my head as though I had surround sound on - the Pass just has this way of adding three dimensionality to the music that’s just outright spooky at times. But then I missed the ease, the flow, the musicality, the PRaT of the Naim. Cymbals just had a smidge less clarity, less real sounding in direct comparison to the Naim. Sure the Naim didn’t make me think something was coming from behind me, but what was presented still had plenty of image, clarity but more life like - more real and natural sounding to my ears. As though Pass somehow playing with phase to trick the mind, the Naim just delivering the signal in a purer fashion, more palpable - cleaner lines, with the usual better pace and timing.


Dave Matthews / Tim Reynolds live at Radio city music hall - Dancing Nancies about 7m in Tim Reynolds just LIGHTS into his guitar with so much speed, I honestly don’t know how his hands survive the concert. This, This is the track that explains why the Naim 250DR will become my next reference - it puts that guitar down without a hint of delay, total accuracy and control over some of the fastest guitar playing I’ve ever heard. Soundstage? Who cares - turn the volume up loud enough and you are smack dab in the middle of the performance.

The wife test: Simple A/B for her - her only feedback was the Naim sounded Flat vs. Round (Pass labs) her words :smiley:

What she was eluding too was the sound stage - she just doesn’t know to call it that.

My 1 word synapses to describe each component: Magico A1 - Imaging, Holo Spring 3 - Realism, XA30.8 - soundstage, Naim - Effortless

Time to move on from my Pass Labs amp, summer is coming - you know what I won’t miss about my XA30.8? The heat!

TLDR: Nap250DR triumphs over the XA30.8 with perfect synergy with Magico A1.


I just want to say I am thrilled with the Naim NAP250DR still - after more time with it I am convinced I made the right decision to sell the Pass Labs XA30.8. Next week I’m going to try a couple PS Audio power conditioners in my system (P5 and a Dectet).

But I wanted to share that I recently decided to try out my SuperNait1 as a preamp into the Nap250DR as of now I am currently going direct out of the Spring 3 KTE preamp (which works wonderfully in case anyone wanted to try this combo out).

I set the Spring to volume max, RCA cables to the CD input on the Supernait with the SNAIC cable to the Nap250DR.

At first it appeared to close up the soundstage a bit, but also moved things around a bit - hard to explain, but in some tracks the voices just sounded less precise in image but also made them float deeper in the soundscape.

After maybe 30 minutes of listening I would experience just a shrill sound that really put me off. It was that feeling of listening fatigue again which again for me is a big NO NO. I’d wager the supernait1 really could benefit from a HiCap or FlatCap in my setup. But the reality is I’m just going to start hunting for some preamps down the road just to compare to the built in Serene preamp on the Spring.

Obviously whenever that time comes I’ll leave some feedback. On my shortlist is a PrimaLuna EVO 300 (tube pre) and probably a NAC202/282/252 when time and budget affords. :slight_smile: Either way I will continue to enjoy the music and look forward to trying out some various power strip/regen upgrades on the upstream devices.

I may also try the Atom HE as recommended here as well - but prefer to eventually be full separates. The SN1 was already serviced last year @Ardbeg10y


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