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The Pinnacle of The Electrostatic Sound

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Audiophile Speaker Review!
MartinLogan ESL-11A Impression
Electrostatic Loudspeaker/Subwoofer:
“My High-End Speaker Of The Year”

©Everything Audio Network


Brevis...
Price: $9,995 per pair MSRP
Likes: glorious stereo image, more bass
Dislikes: the ARC is still Windows-only
Wow Factor: favorite ML gets an upgrade


by John Gatski
  It is no secret that am a big fan of electrostatic speakers. I have listened to electrostatics — from Quads to MartinLogans — for years. I have owned a pair of ML Montis since 2012 and have never regretted, for a single moment, that vivid, open, sonic spaciousness that an electrostatic projects. It’s tough to listen to anything else.
  As good as the Montis is for small-to-medium rooms, its replacement, the new $9,995 per-pair Impression ESL-11A, adds more room presence and significantly increases the lower bass, via twin 8-inch, powered woofers.

Features
  Electrostatic technology has been around for years from such companies as Quad and ML. The design produces audio by electrically charging the steel perforated stator with an audio signal. Because of the low-mass of the electrostatic-panel driver and its dipole radiation properties, the driver’s essential audio character beams a vast stereo image with a fast, accurate tone in the midrange and treble — without multiple drivers and complex crossovers.

  The ML Impression’s 44-inch panel, combined with powered, twin 8-inch woofers, is an ideal size for most small-to-medium sized listening rooms, and it is marvelously adept at handling Hi-Res music, especially the more detailed sounds of Classical and Jazz.

  In the early years of electrostatics, bass performance did not match the midrange and treble, but over the years, developments in driver efficiency, powered woofers, etc., have provided bass performance that now precisely matches the speed of the electrostatic  driver.
 The ML Impression is designed for small-to-medium sized rooms and features the renowned ML Curvilinear (CLS) XStat electrostatic transducer panel. The panel is 44-inches tall by 11-inches wide panel offers a 30 degree horizontal dispersion and frequency response out to 23 kHz.
  The ML’s XStat novel design includes the MicroPerf stator technology, which allows for almost twice the exposed electrostatic diaphragm surface as a traditional electrostatic panel of the same size. A reinforced electrostatic panel with rigid ClearSpar™ spacers, maintains consistent tension on the vacuum-bonded diaphragm — without obscuring the see-through design. Other panel highlights include the slender, pointed-arrow design of the AirFrame™ Blade construction, which is said to create “a harmonious connection” between the panel and its woofer cabinet.

The 44-inch ML panel exudes a gorgewous stereo image

  The bass section features two, 8-inch (20.3 cm) cast basket, high-excursion, rigid aluminum cone drivers with extended-throw drive assembly, driven by a 2 x 275 watts/channel (4 ohms), 2 x 550 watts peak Class D amplifier. One woofer is front firing; the other woofer is rear firing. The ML-designed crossover components include custom-wound audio transformer, air core coils, polypropylene capacitors, coupled with a 24-bit, DSP-based preamplifier that controls the woofer amp.
  The overall frequency response is 29 Hz –23,000 Hz ±3 dB, which is about 5 dB more extended in the bass than the Montis’ single-powered 10-inch driver that was housed in a smaller bass enclosure.
  The Impression also sports several tone-tailoring options. The onboard bass control on the back panel adds/reduces the under-75 Hz bass up to 10 dB in 1 dB increments. The bass can further be dialed in with a midbass cut/boost/flat switch (+ or - 2 dB).
  If you really want to be precise, you can let the (sold separately) PC-based Anthem Room Correction (ARC) mmeasures and corrects bass response to match the Impression exactly to your room. It takes a bit of time, a PC and microphone handling skills, but works really well for problematic rooms that have bass nodes that overly reinforce excessive midbass. I have seen (and heard) it dial in “flat” bass in really boomy rooms.

Other ML Impression Specs:
•Sensitivity: 91 dB/2.83 volts/meter;
•Impedance: 4 Ohms, 0.6 at 20 kHz;
 4, 6, or  8 ohm amplifiers recommended;
•Recommended Power: 20‒550 wpc;
•Crossover Frequency: 300 Hz (woofer/panel);
•Power Draw (per channel): 500w (full Power)

  The Impression comes in a variety of standard finishes, including gloss white, gloss black and walnut, or custom finishes: rosso fuco, cordoba red, basalt blue and several others. The plain walnut version sent for testing looked fantastic.
  The Impression weighs almost double the Montis at 90 pounds per speaker, mostly attributable to the much-larger bass box (27-inches from front to back), two woofers and two amplifiers. With spikes the Impression is about 4-inches taller than the Montis and just a little wider. Overall dimensions are: 60.75" × 11.9" × 27.4" (inches).
  The rear panel was relatively easy to access with the trio of switches/knob, a RJ45 connector for ARC, and the WBT-0703Cu nextgen™ 5-way binding posts. The cable connectors feature a filigree-signal conductor made from gold plated, nickel free, non-ferromagnetic, pure copper for high conductivity, and it is fully insulated. The design is claimed to be free from eddy current effects.

The setup
  I placed the Impression pair in my audiophile test room about six feet from the back wall and two feet from the side walls. Overall separation of the speakers was eight feet. I toed them in a few degrees and located the listening position eight feet from the speakers.
  With the walls not that far away from each Impression, I predicted a rise in midbass response, and I was correct. Playing bass test tones and measuring with my RTA, the meter showed a 3 dB rise from 80 to 120 Hz. Moving the speakers further from the side walls reduced the room-aided bass boost, but I lost my speaker separation.
  I opted for the onboard tone controls. Using the midbass cut -2B switch position and a few dB of the under-75 Hz bass control, I achieved a pretty flat sounding, low-end response in my room — without having to move them.

Rear half of bass system, connections/controls

  I later used the Anthem Room Correction system to see how flat I could make the bass since its software-set control was more precise. In fact, ARC made it flat within 2 dB, based on the measurements, but my usage of the onboard controls also gave me a good balance between the bass and treble.
  With the speakers properly set up, I opted for a wide array of amplifiers for the review. The list included Benchmark AHB2 bipolar output (very low noise), Rogue Audio Medusa Class D/tube hybrid, an amp that I use extensively with the Montis; Pass Labs X350.8 (MOSFET); Bryston 14B-SST-II (bipolar output), the recently reviewed Pass INT-60 MOSFET integrated, and even the $800 integrated 30-watt, Class D TEAC AI-503.
  Preamplifiers included the Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamp, Coda High Current solid state, and an assortment of DAC/preamps including Benchmark DAC3-HGC, Mytek Manhattan II, and an Oppo Sonica. Digital players included: an Oppo UDP-205, Asus tablet with USB Audio Player Pro (bit perfect mode), and an Apple Macbook Pro using Audirvana Plus. I also played some vinyl using the ClearAudio Emotion turntable with a Benz MC cartridge, utilizing the tube phono stage of the Rogue RP-5.
  Speaker and line cables were provided by Wireworld.  And all the components were plugged into the AC with Essential Sound Products Reference II cables and power strip, including the Impressions.

The audition
 Having owned and played music through the Montis hundreds of times, as well as many years of monitoring through various generations of electrostatics,  I expected a lot from the new electrostatic tandem: that wide dispersion with tons of depth that envelops the plane of the speakers.
  The electrostat’s large surface and its dipole radiation of the audio conveys more “air”, which enhances the sonic realism of musical instruments. Solo instruments, such as piano, classical guitar and drum cymbals are lifelike through good electrostatic speakers. The sound is addictive; when I go back to point source driver speakers, it takes me a few days to adjust to the difference.
  Based on experience with the Montis, I first paired up the Impressions with the Rogue Audio Medusa hybrid tube/Class D, 200-wpc amplifier that is always a good match with electrostatics.


Class D subwoofer amp/control and crossover section 


  My first music demo via the Impression was, of course, the Warren Bernhardt - So Real SACD. The airy drum cymbals, closed mic’d stereo piano and juicy bass line were mixed live in the studio by Tom Jung. The recording’s openness is well showcased by electrostatic speakers.
  On the cuts "Autumn Leaves" and the title track "So Real," the horizontal “space” between the instruments evokes a realness that is hard to ignore. The piano’s upper-register notes resonate from the room with such completeness that you can clearly hear the edges of reverb tails. The brushed drum cymbal attack has that live, bristle-to-brass percussive tone that is about as real as I have ever heard from electronics and loudspeakers.
  Because of the Impression’s height, the listener gets a bigger sense of the soundstage above and below the normal speaker plane. Recorded room sound, emerges as larger sonic snapshot of the original recording space and microphone setup.
 Listening to my favorite cello recording, the Mercury Living Presence SACD of Janos Starker —  Complete Bach Solo Cello Suites, the solo cello was magnified much larger than your average point source speaker. The stereo recording’s width and remarkable depth extended beyond the speakers. Not only could you hear the cello’s full roundness and seductive string vibrancy, but all the incidental sounds!

  Switching to the Pass X350.8 amp, the piano’s rich middle frequencies emerge with a prominence you don’t often get from other speaker designs. The Steinway’s sound is so complete you can hear the low-level audio nuances of the wood — just like you do when listening to a piano in a real room. Man, do these speakers sound good!
  The tonal balance of the Impression was perfectly matched. I never noticed any tilt or significant reduction in the overall bass/midrange/treble balance. The two-eight inch woofers, have plenty of kick down to about 30 Hz (-3 db in my room). And thanks to the onboard fast pair of eights and Class D amps, the bass was super tight.
  Recordings with full drum kits emerge more prominently from the Impression than the Montis. There is a sense of a more room-filling low end. I never thought the Montis lacked bass, but the Impressions bigger box volume and extra woofer moves more air.
  Switching to Classical music, I was extremely impressed with the listening session with SACD of Joshua Bell - Tchaikovsky Violin Concert in D. Like the Montis duo, the Impressions superbly reproduced those bowed string harmonics that give the the violin its sonic realism. Dynamic and fully dimensional, there was not a hint of excessive “edge.”
  The orchestra, of course, was equal to the task. Full, lush and a huge stereo image. Cranking it up a bit showcased the ML’s (and Pass’) smooth factor. Clean as the proverbial whistle.
  Listening to my favorite cello recording, the Mercury Living Presence SACD of Janos Starker - Complete Bach Solo Cello Suites, the solo cello was magnified much larger than your average point-source speaker. The stereo recording’s width and remarkable depth extended beyond the speakers. Not only could you hear the cello’s full roundness and seductive string vibrancy, but all the incidental sounds: Starker’s breathing, chair squeaks and handling noise. Just like a live concert. That is what hi-fi is about — hearing the previously unheard bits of music
  One area where an electrostatic speaker really excels, is lack of sibilance in vocal reproduction. As with the Montis, female voice sounds incredibly clean and accurate via the Impressions — without the excessive “s” you get from many traditional tweeters.
  One area where an electrostatic speaker really excels is lack of excessive sibilance in vocal reproduction. On the 2003 Tuck and Patti — “With Love” CD, the 2010 Diane Krall — Glad Rag Doll (24/96 download) and the 24/192 Linda Ronstadt — Heart Like A Wheel, the sibilance was nil. The voices were all amazingly accurate.

  On the 2003 Tuck and Patti - With Love CD, the 2010 Diane KrallGlad Rag Doll (24/96 download) and the 24/192 Linda Ronstadt — Heart Like A Wheel, the sibilance was nil, allowing me to concentrate on the beauty of the female vocal range. You don't have just a 4 or 5 inch midrange and a tweeter handling the voice, you have the entire panel. It makes a difference. The rich tenderness and power of Linda Ronstadt’s version of “Heart Like A Wheel” is simply gorgeous.
  On recording after recording using any of the previously mentioned amplifiers, the Impression handled everything, I threw at it. Rock and Roll, Folk, Country, Bluegrass, etc. The speakers did all the music justice. In my room, the heavy rock and dense pop, does not sound as good cranked up too high with any speaker.  And that included the Impression. The rear reflections, combined with the front’s increased projection with extra volume, sounds too smeared when you push the volume levels to the high 90 dB’s. I like a maximum peak in the low 90 dB range. Because of the panel’s increased radiation surface, however, lower decibel levels don’t seem so low with the Impressions. 

A pleasure to review
  To punctuate what a pleasure it was to review the MartinLogan Impression (as it was with the Montis), I must say there were zero problems or criticisms with the speaker and its operation with many pieces of gear.
  They are heavier than the Montis, and I needed two people to move and unbox, but there were no issues. MartinLogan tells me that the panels are very reliable, with very few returns for repair or replacement. I can attest to that with the Montis, no problems at all — in almost six years of heavy use.
  The only critique I had, was related to the Anthem Room Correction. ARC is one of the best set up systems for tailoring bass via DSP, but its lack of Apple Computer OS compatibility bothers me. I extensively use Mac, and I do not have a dual-boot Mac version that is bootable in Windows. Thus, I had to borrow a dedicated Windows PC to just test the ARC.
  I should mention that MartinLogan makes several audiophile-class electrostatic speakers. I have listened to many of the current line, including the larger $25,000 per pair Renaissance and the flagship Neolith ($80,000, gulp!) that I reviewed in 2014. They all have that electrostatic sound, but are made in different sizes and different bass driver arrangements to project their superb sound into variably sized rooms. 

The verdict
   The MartinLogan Impression shows how the evolution path of electrostatic speakers has improved the technology to the point where it is nearly flawless in its performance. They now have low bass that matches the speed of the panel’s immaculately, focused midrange/treble, and they can be played much louder than the original ‘stats.

                       
                       

  The big selling point, however, is that gorgeous spread of sound. That space impression and the ability to convey the finer details of music — it all helps deliver on the promise of musical realism through the speaker. The Impression is a perfect replacement for the Montis. A bit more of the sonic image, combined with more bass power/low-end extension. Plus, it looks great,  yet still  costs the same price. 
  The Impression’s 44-inch panel is an ideal size for most small-to-medium sized listening rooms, and it is marvelously adept at handling hi-res music, especially the more detailed sounds of Classical and Jazz.
  But regardless of what music you like, if you are seriously into electrostatic speakers, the MartinLogan Impression is one you should consider. And if you don’t know the lure of an electrostatic, you should try it to find out what you have not been hearing. You may never listen to any other kind of speaker again.
  With my highest confidence, the MartinLogan Impression ESL-11A receives our Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award and a prominent nod to the Everything Audio Network’s Speaker of The Year list. I guess I liked it.

 John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net


Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Audiophile Review!
Pass Labs INT-60
Stereo Integrated Amplifier
“A Top-Notch Combo Amp
Nets Blend of Sound, Features”


Brevis...
Price: $9,000 MSRP
Likes: perfect mix of clean sound, features
Dislikes: should have an onboard phono pre
Cool Factor: that big ‘ole volume knob!
More Info: Pass Labs INT-60

by John Gatski
  In 20 years of testing Pass Labs amps and preamplifiers, I always get a little excited when a new one hits the market. The super Class A XS-150 amp and the HPA-1 headphone amp were recent examples of products that I effusively waxed positive. And now the INT-60 integrated amp joins the list.
  The INT-60 is an integrated that not only lets you listen to any kind of music with that point 8, MOSFET output ease, but it is very accurate in its transmission of Hi-Res audio, such as 24/192 PCM and DSD. Much like the INT-30 from half a dozen years ago, the INT-60 quickly became a favorite in my listening room, despite its heft.

Features
  Priced at $9,000, the INT-60 is a 60-watt Class A-A/B stereo amp (30 watts in Class A), utilizing the Pass Supersymmetry .8 design implemented a few years ago. The .8 amps run higher into Class A and offers a subjective listening character that is both linear, yet super smooth, with a wide, two-channel presentation when using the best speakers.
  The basic .8 structure of the INT 60 is the same one used in the X30.8 stereo amp, but with a high voltage to get the extra power.
  The INT-60, indeed, is one of the best sounding integrated preamp/amplifiers I have ever reviewed. It is tough to better the INT-60 with separates in this price range. Even if you spend a bit more, you probably will not top it. Incredible detail, width and depth in the expansive stereo image, plus quick bass response.

  The INT-60 features four sets of inputs: three sets of RCAs and two balanced XLRs (inputs one and two have both). There are also a set of XLR and RCA variable outputs if you just want to use the preamp section with another amp. Five-way binding posts complete the connection section.
 Of course, high quality parts abound: precision matched MOSFETS, massive power supply and lots of heat sink to keep this significantly Class A running integrated cool.
  Pass Labs Designer Wayne Colburn says the INT-60 is a quality integrated amp that offers medium-sized power and bridges the dollar gap between the old INT-30 and the INT-150.8. Plus,   it is an integrated that eases the complexity of having to run separates if you don’t want the fuss.
  “I suppose in some ways an integrated is a compromise,” Colburn says, “but it also eliminates a set of cables and simplifies things. I use an INT-60 as my home amp.”

All the line connections most audiophiles need

  Colburn noted that the INT-60’s sonic improvements stem from extra power and a better preamp stage then the previous .5 integrated amps. Spec-wise, the INT 60’s numbers include 35 dB of gain. Distortion well south of 1 percent and a damping factor of 150. Power consumption at full power is, gulp, 375 watts.
  Pass’ classic front mounted current meter shows relative amp operating mode. With 30 watts Class A on tap, you seldom will ever be in Class A/B. The meter’s blue light hue looks really cool in the dim light.
  A Class A/AB amp means a big power supply, combined with a beefier output section, plus it has an onboard line preamp. Translation: this is no lightweight amp at over 70 pounds. The amp’s dimensions  are: 19-inches wide, 21.2-inches front to back and 7-inches tall.

The set up
  I auditioned the Pass INT-60 with numerous speakers, including the MartinLogan Impression electrostatics, Audio Physics Tempo tower, Amphion  Argon3S small stand speakers and PSB T3s.
  Other amps on hand included a 2004 Bryston 14B SST II, Rogue Audio Medusa Class D/tube hybrid,  Pass XA30.5 30 watt Class A stereo amp, and my very old original mid-1960s Macintosh MC275. Review preamps included a Rogue Audio RP-5 tube preamplifier, Coda line preamp and a slew of DAC/preamps including Benchmark DAC3-HGC, Mytek Digital Manhattan II, Oppo Sonica and Prism Sound Callia.


$6,000 PSB T3's were a perfect mate for the INT-60


  I also routed a VPI Player turntable through the INT-60, with the help of a phono section in the Rogue Audio RP-5. The Hana hi-output, moving coil “E” cartridge was a good match for the Pass amp/speaker combos that I auditioned.
  Per usual, interconnects and speaker cables were all from Wireworld, and the AC accessories were courtesy of Essential Sound Products, based in Michigan.

The audition
  The first speakers we powered with the Pass INT-60 were the MartinLogan Impressions, a new model that replaces the Montis. With a slightly bigger panel, and dual-powered eights with digital crossover, the 45-inch tall Impression is a wonderfully detailed, airy, accurate electrostatic that kick solid bass down 32 Hz.
  Since the Impression has a powered subwoofer section, I was mostly focused on how well the INT-60 resolved the low-to-high midrange and treble sounds. And the unanswered question regarding the new integrated was whether the addition of a newly designed preamp changed the texture of the .8 amp section sound that I knew quite well?
  The .8 amps run higher into Class A and offers a subjective listening character that is both linear, yet super smooth, with a wide, two-channel presentation when using the best speakers.

  I played the Warren Bernhardt jazz SACD So Real that I usually audition with new gear. And I immediately noticed the clarity and space in the drum cymbals and piano. The dimensional room reverb cues and that brush-to-metal cymbal tone was very real indeed. But the mostly Class-A delivered sound never had an edge, which made the music that much more listenable.
  The other thing I noticed was how neutral the INT-60 is. It is musical in the sense that we are listening to music delivered as it was played and recorded, but the lack of artificial color made my ears quite happy. This integrated has nearly perfect balance of listening ease and accuracy. I would challenge you to find separates in this range (or more) that deliver sonic faithfulness.
  Okay, so it sounded great with electrostatics that have a powered subwoofer, how did it fair with passive speakers? The PSB T3 towers, one of my favorite bargain audiophile speakers, offered a terrific blend of treble extension, smooth midrange and nice tight, extended bottom end. With the amp now driving a full-range speaker, the bass delivery of the modestly powered, INT-60 was clean and quick through the PSB’s.
  I confirmed the Pass’ bass capability with my review pair of Westlake Towers 5’s as well. The midbass is a little leaner on the Westlake than the PSB’s, which made it sound even quicker. The INT-60 amp is not some overly warmed MOSFET circuit; it is really clean! Classical guitar picked notes, drum cymbal brushes and upper-piano notes rang with accuracy without any edge.
  Switching to another Classical SACD, I played the RCA Living Stereo of Berlioz — Symphony Fantastique from 1958, great dynamics from analog tape, and recorded in a superb venue. The PSB T3s relayed all the Pass-powered intensity that I am used to hearing from this recording, but nary any hardness. Though 60 watts does not seem like much power. It is plenty. Likely only the hardest-to-drive speakers would give the Pass INT-60 any problem.

Pass remotes still made of metal, exuding that classy feel...

  On Pop Music, I popped into the Oppo the 2015 remix of YesFragile, done by Steve Wilson. The Hi-Res files are on Blu-ray. The long album cut “Roudabout” sounded really good with a wide spread of the acoustic/classical guitar intro, and then clearly separate drum, guitars and keyboards. A fairly complex recording for its time, it really holds up in Hi-Res. Another track that showcases the reissue is “Heart of A Sunrise,” which has really good vocals by Jon Anderson centered nicely with the Pass INT-60 powering the Westlake Tower 5s. This amp can do no wrong.
  As good an amp as the INT-60 is in keeping the congestion out of complicated, multitrack music, I really dug its ability to convey the minimalist  acoustic tracks and solo music I was listening to. On the MartinLogan Impressions, the system sounded so good on the Gene BertonciniBody and Soul SACD, which is one of my favorite nylon string solo recordings. Mr. Bertoncini’s version of “Greensleeves” has this enveloping acoustic image that just spreads across the room, courtesy of the INT-60 and the ML’s. And it is clean and warm, just as a nylon string guitar should be.

A serious choice for LPs
  I played a bunch of vinyl with the budget VPI Player belt-drive turntable, equipped with a Hana “E” series MC high-output cartridge. I bypassed the onboard VPI phono pre, and used the excellent phono pre section of the Rogue RP-5 preamp. On my limited edition, 45 RPM West MontgomeryFull House LP set, the sound was clean and well defined across the image, and delivered that live percussive character the recording is known for. Guitar, piano, sax, bass and drums sounds are relayed via the Pass with the audiophile's original energy intact. Me thinks the INT-60 can do no wrong.


  Ditto on the Three Blind Mice reissue of the 1970s Jazz audiophile classic Isao Suzuki TrioBlow Up. I paired the Pass with the tube phono pre stage of the Rogue RP-5 tube preamp to play this classic reissue; the LP sound was just about as clean as the SACD version from the same tape, and the Pass kept the percussion from becoming too course, as it is some places.
 Whie we are on the subject of vinyl, I would like to see the INT-60 have a built-in phono pre for those who decide that 60 watts is plenty for their vinyl playback system. Using an outboard phono pre shows that it is quite capable with vinyl. Maybe Pass could add one as an option, and keep the cost under $10,000
  Overall, the Pass INT-60 worked perfectly as far as function and ergonomics. The remote reliably switched between sources, and I love the tactile feel of that big, on-board, volume control. Although it got plenty warm, it never got too hot to touch.
  I did use the balanced outputs to drive another amp during the review, a hybrid Rogue Audio Class D/tube Medusa (200 wpc). The combination of the .8 preamp and the Rogue’s precision also reinforced what I heard with the integrated’s internal pre/amp collaboration: the no-nonsense character of the preamp complements what ever good amp you are using. The Pass/Rogue pair sounded great as I expected they would. You can also use the variable XLR and RCA outputs to drive powered subwoofers if you desire a system of speaker separates.
  One other pairing that I did included the INT-60 and a pair of made-in-Finland, Amphion Argon3S stand speakers. I bet a lot of Pass customers will buy the INT-60 to pair with space-saving, stand speakers, like the Amphion's; the integrated worked wonderfully with the Argon3S  two-ways, which are very analytical and have a clean bass character that is not pumped in the midbass. 
For those who desire more power in this design, Pass Labs also offers the 250 wpc INT-250, which is essentially the same design with four times the power. It is priced at $11,000, and is said to be able to drive even the most difficult-to-drive speakers.

The verdict
  The INT-60, indeed, is one of the best sounding integrated preamp/amplifiers I have ever reviewed. It is tough to better the INT-60 with separates in this price range. Even if you spend a bit more, you probably will not top it. Incredible detail, width and depth in the expansive stereo image, plus quick bass response makes it ideal for those who want to explore the best in Hi-Res, or their CD collection. Or hook up your favorite phono preamp (the only thing missing from this fine package) and you got a dandy vinyl playback system.


  Although separates often attract the audiophile’s attention, 99 percent of us HQ-audio listeners would be happy with the simplicity, economy and, in this case, great sonic attributes, of an integrated. And look at all the space you save.
  The list of my INT-60 accolades concludes with an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award, and a nomination to our EAN Integrated Amplifier of The Year category.

 John Gatski has been evaluating consumer, audiophile, home cinema and professional audio gear since 1988. In 1995, he created Pro Audio Review, and he has written for SoundOnSound, Audio, Laserviews, Enjoy The Music, The Audiophile Voice, High Performance Review, Radio World and TV Technology. Everything Audio Network is based in Kensington, Md. Articles on this site are the copyright of the ©Everything Audio Network. Any unauthorized use, via print or Internet, without written permission is prohibited. John Gatski can be reached via email: everything.audio@verizon.net