XP-12 Line Level Preamplifier

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Line-level preamp that offers amazing transparency, Class A topology, and great connections More details

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The Pass Labs XP-12 line level preamplifier is a sophisticated cornerstone of any high-end audio system. The XP-12 is meticulously designed to elevate your listening experience, offering unparalleled transparency and musicality. Boasting a fully balanced, pure Class A topology, this preamplifier delivers exquisite detail and dynamics, allowing you to rediscover your favorite music with newfound depth. With its advanced digital control system, the XP-12 provides precise volume control and input selection, while its premium components ensure low noise and distortion. Featuring a sleek, minimalist design and impeccable craftsmanship, the Pass Labs XP-12 is the epitome of excellence in audio reproduction, setting a new standard for preamplifiers in the industry.

Dragon Cable Recommendation: If you are connecting your XP-12 to an XA-series Pass Labs amp, then we recommend pairing the XP-12 preamplifier with our award-winning Silver Dragon Interconnects. The Silver Dragon Interconnect is one of our best-selling cables at Moon Audio. Sold in Pairs, it is our top-of-the-line silver conductor-based interconnect. With a braided geometry and amazing shielding, this interconnect is a remarkable solution where noise isolation is key. We recommend pairing the XP-12 to an X-series Pass Labs amp with the Bronze Dragon Interconnect. The Black Dragon Power Cable is also recommended to provide the cleanest and unbridled power to your high-end amplifier.

The Pass Labs XP-12 Line-Level preamplifier is packed with features that contribute to its exceptional performance:

  1. Balanced and Single-Ended Inputs: Offers both balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) inputs for flexible connectivity options.
  2. Fully Balanced Design: Utilizes a fully balanced design for improved noise rejection and signal integrity.
  3. Class A Operation: Operates in Class A for pristine sound quality and low distortion.
  4. High-Quality Components: Meticulously selected components contribute to the preamplifier's exceptional sound clarity and dynamics.
  5. Precise Volume Control: Features precise volume control for fine adjustments to suit individual listening preferences.
  6. Advanced Digital Control System: Provides precise input selection and control over various settings.
  7. Low Noise and Distortion: The XP-12 preamplifier is designed to have minimal noise and distortion for a clean and accurate signal.
  8. Minimalist Design: Boasts a clean and minimalist design that reflects Pass Labs' commitment to simplicity and performance.
  9. Balanced and Single-Ended Outputs: Offers both balanced (XLR) and single-ended (RCA) outputs for flexible system integration.
  10. Robust Build Quality: Crafted with attention to detail and high-quality materials for a durable and long-lasting preamplifier.
  11. Musicality: Known for its musicality, the XP-12 preamplifier allows listeners to fully immerse themselves in the nuances of their favorite music.
  12. Exceptional Transparency: Delivers exceptional transparency and clarity, allowing the listener to hear every detail in the music.
  13. Versatile Usage: Suitable for use with a wide range of audio sources and systems, from vinyl records to digital audio.

The XP-12 is the current Pass Laboratories entry point full functions line stage preamplifier. A line-stage is the traffic conductor of your audio system; it allows you to select and deselect inputs (source components) and control volume levels, while providing visual cues about your audio system status.

The single chassis of the XP-12 houses the power supply for the unit, input and output selection as well a chip based analog volume control using low noise 1% resistors and affording 100 single dB steps. The volume chip is used uniquely in that only the resistor bays are part of the circuit. The input and output buffers are low noise discrete devices. In spite of the single chassis topology, there are very few compromises in the XP-12. Any errors are relatively benign "errors of omission" rather than errors of commission. Which is to say the XP-12 does nothing wrong, but as you move up the Pass Labs product line the performance, features and control options simply get better. The XP-12 allows for two balanced inputs (XLR) and three single ended (RCA) inputs. As with all the Pass Laboratories preamps you may mix and match single-ended and balanced in' s and out's. The patented super-symmetry circuit topology seamlessly coverts single ended to balanced.

The XP-12 line level preamplifier is equipped with an all-new power supply. It uses a more efficient toroidal design with both an electrostatic and Mu metal sheld along with vacuum impregnating and epoxy fill. This results in an incredibly quiet transformer both mechanically and electrically.

The circuitry in both the XP-12 and the power supply in particular has additional filtering and a lower noise floor. This was more difficult to accomplish on the part of Pass Labs, but the trade offs sonically make the effort worth it. The XP-12 uses the single-stage volume control which is borrowed from the XS lineup of preamplifiers, offering the user one hundred 1 dB steps with lower noise and distortion. The gain circuitry uses excellent Toshiba transistors but has a larger higher biased output stage, making longer cable runs easier to drive. The XP-12 is a wonderfully quiet, neutral, and versatile control center for your high-resolution audiophile system.

Pass Labs and First Watt

Pass Labs and First Watt were founded by hi-fi legend Nelson Pass. After co-founding and later selling Threshold Audio, Pass began working out of his Auburn, California, home in the early 1990s to develop prototypes of single-ended Class A amplifier designs under the name Pass Labs. Pass Labs quickly became known for its commercially produced Aleph, X, and XA Series amps, and preamps. Pass later started First Watt as a passion project focusing on low-power amps for a niche audiophile audience. Today, Pass splits his time between the two companies, with production happening in Pass Labs' facility in Foresthill, California.


What are the key features of the Pass Labs XP-12 Line Level Preamplifier?

The Pass Labs XP-12 boasts several key features that audiophiles appreciate. It includes a fully balanced, dual-mono design for exceptional stereo separation and imaging. The XP-12 utilizes a discrete, Class-A output stage, providing low distortion and high linearity. It also offers a variety of inputs, including balanced XLR and single-ended RCA, accommodating a wide range of audio sources. Additionally, it features a user-selectable gain of either 12dB or 18dB, allowing compatibility with various amplifiers and systems.

What is the difference between the Pass Labs XP-12 and its predecessor, the XP-10?

The Pass Labs XP-12 improves upon the XP-10 with several enhancements. One notable upgrade is the use of higher-quality components, resulting in improved sound quality and resolution. The XP-12 also features a redesigned power supply for better noise isolation and regulation, leading to a quieter background and enhanced dynamics. Additionally, the XP-12 offers increased flexibility with its user-selectable gain settings, catering to a wider range of system configurations.

Does the Pass Labs XP-12 support home theater bypass mode?

Yes, the Pass Labs XP-12 includes a home theater bypass mode, making it convenient for integration into a home theater setup. When activated, the preamplifier bypasses its internal volume control and processing circuitry, allowing seamless integration with a home theater processor or receiver. This feature enables users to enjoy the benefits of the XP-12's high-quality audio performance for two-channel listening, while easily switching to a home theater system for multi-channel audio or movies.

What is the remote control like for the Pass Labs XP-12?

The Pass Labs XP-12 comes with a high-quality remote control for convenient operation from a distance. The remote features a sleek and ergonomic design, with intuitive buttons for volume adjustment, input selection, and other functions. It offers responsive and precise control over the XP-12's settings, allowing users to sit back and enjoy their audio experience without needing to interact directly with the preamplifier.

Who is Nelson Pass?

Nelson Pass, the man behind Pass Labs and First Watt, has been designing and building amplifiers for decades. His early passion, however, was speakers; at age 14, he started assembling loudspeakers. As a college student studying physics at the University of California-Davis, he co-founded a speaker company called PMA. He also worked for ESS, where he designed crossovers and enclosures. After college, with his interest having shifted toward amplifiers, Pass co-founded Threshold Electronics (now Threshold Audio). His achievements during the Threshold years include developing the first dynamically biased Class A amplifier circuit; developing a fully cascode audio power amplifier; and developing the STASIS stereo preamplifier and power amplifier. During the 1980s, Pass designed the Adcom GFA-555 amplifier. Later, after selling Threshold, he started Pass Labs in 1991 and First Watt in 1997. Pass holds several patents related to audio circuits.

How did Pass Labs make its name?

Pass Labs helped popularize solid-state, Class A power amplifiers. Pass Labs' first product, the Aleph 0 amplifier, operated as single-ended Class A up to its 70 watt rating and in push pull Class A at higher wattage. The Aleph series of amplifiers, some of the first solid-state amps that were said to be "tube-like" in sound, operated pure class A and contained internal circuitry using MOSFETs. The Aleph amplifiers had a unique appearance, a cube with heat sinks on all four sides, a solution to the heat generated by the class-A design. This can be attributed primarily to the specific MOSFETs used and the minimum number of gain stages that were implemented in the design. Pass Labs also developed the Super-Symmetry™ ("Su-Sy") circuit, which achieves exceptionally low distortion and noise levels. In 1998, Pass Labs released the X1000, the first amplifier using the patented SuperSymmetric™ topology. The X1000 achieved 1000 watts with high performance, local feedback and only two gain stages: a cascoded differential pair of transistors and a large bank of complementary output followers. This groundbreaking design informed all subsequent Pass Labs amplifiers.

What else does Pass Labs make?

In 2002, Pass Labs unveiled the first XA amplifiers, combining the X and Aleph topologies into balanced single-ended Class A amplifiers with many of the characteristics of both the X and Aleph series. The current Pass Labs lineup includes Class A amps (XA and Xs Series), Class AB amps (.8 Series), line preamps (Xs and XP Series), phono preamps (Xs and XP Series), integrated amps (INT Series), and one headphone amp.

What is the relationship between Pass Labs and First Watt?

When he started Pass Labs, Pass did everything out of his home. In 1997, having outgrown the space, Pass Labs moved into commercial space in Foresthill, California. When Pass started First Watt, it was a "kitchen table" venture, with work once again happening in his home. In 2016, with production demands not leaving him enough time to pursue the vast array of yet-to-be-designed amps, Nelson handed the business end of First Watt over to Pass Labs. Pass Labs took over the building of First Watt amplifiers as well as marketing and distribution. There's a synergy between the two operations, in that Pass Labs gets to gather up some of the more interesting First Watt finds and repurpose them as more commercially viable designs. Today, Pass splits his time between First Watt and Pass Laboratories.


Power Consumption
30 Watts
9.3 dB Balanced
Frequency Response
+/-0.05 dB @ 10Hz to 20KHz; -1 dB @ 100KHz
>100 dB
Residual Noise
15 uV @ 10 - 30 KHz
<0.001 @ 1V 1KHz; Double shielded low noise toroid
17”w x 12.5”d x 4”h