Magico Mini 11 and Pass amp drivers

Laurence Goldman -- Sat, 08/30/2008 - 16:26


Looking for some advice. I have just taken delivery of my Magico Mini 11s and now need an amp to drive them. My existing Border Patrol SET amp - though wonderful - is not up to the task given the efficiency of these speakers. My short list had the Pass x350.5 and the xa100.5 which I am informed may sound more 'tubey'for me at least. Is the latter sufficient to drive the Magico's to the same extent as the 350s?

I have no chance to demo in Australia.


Robert Harley -- Sat, 08/30/2008 - 17:47

The Pass XA100.5 is indeed "tubey" sounding, but not in the sense that it has traditional tube-like colorations. Rather, the XA100.5 sounds very much like a tubed amplifier in that it doesn't possess the sonic signature of other solid-state electronics. (My full review appears in TAS Issue 185, which mailed yesterday.)

The XA-series is smoother and sweeter sounding than the X-series, but offers less power for the same price.

The Mini II benefits from lots of power behind it. You might consider one of the larger amplifiers in the new XA-.5 line.

I believe that Jonathan Valin might have tried the Pass X350 with the Mini II.

The Mini II certainly benefits from being driven by the highest quality amplifier. Either of the Pass amplifiers is an excellent choice.

Laurence Goldman -- Sat, 08/30/2008 - 22:09

Thanks Robert, your response was much appreciated.


Jonathan Valin -- Sun, 08/31/2008 - 13:40


I've been buried in work or I would've gotten back to you sooner. Here's what I can tell you. The Class A/AB Pass X350.5 is not as smooth and liquid in tone and texture as Pass's pure Class A amps. The X Series sounds like a pentode amp, where the XA Series sounds like triodes. This isn't all bad, BTW. I actually prefer "pentode-like" sound to triode sound in many respects: Pentodes are, generally speaking, bigger (in imaging), bloomier (in what I call "action"), brighter (in a natural way, Class A and triodes can sound darkish), more expansive (in soundstage), and easier (in power delivery). Class A/triode sound tends to be faster, more detailed, more finite (in the sense of "countable" things on the soundstage), richer in timbre, more controlled (in power delivery), and lower in noise and grain.I can tell you that when I first heard the Magico Mini at CES, it was being driven by a Pass amp. Generally speaking, I think more power is probably better than less with Mini IIs, so whether X or XA I would opt for the most powerful model I could afford.

Currently, Alon favors Boulder amplification and preamplification, which, to my ear, sounds a lot like ARC amplification in balance with lower noise, greater frequency extension, and better control and transient speed in the bass (and elsewhere), but without the same bloom and dimensionality and air (although Boulders aren't without air). I've not been a fan of Boulder in the past, but at last year's RMAF its electronics sounded terrific with Focal loudspeakers and at this year's CES its electronics sounded exceptional with Alon's V3. In other words, Boulder's growing on me.

As you know, my top pick for the Mini IIs would be the Audio Research 610T, but that is a lot of money ($40k) and Boulder amps are also very expensive. The Pass Labs amps are not only terrific sounding; they are very good deals.


Laurence Goldman -- Tue, 04/26/2011 - 20:48

So JV hi again from Brisbane, Australia. Well heard the Technical Brain amps in Sydney and was wondering hw you think they would mate with the Magico Mini 11? A lot of money even at our inflated Aussie dollar rates and not going to get a chance to hear in my room (who can schlap 70kgs these days anyway!)...over the pass lab 100.5xa I have will they really make that much of a magic difference???


Laurence Goldman -- Sun, 08/31/2008 - 14:27

Thanks Jonathan for the helpful response. So what I am hearing (says the patient to the therapist) is (and given my budget) probably a choice between the xl350.5 and xa.160.5 - and I think I am leaning to the latter. For what it's worth most of what you have had to say on the Mini 11 seems spot on from our perspective though our ideal would have been to have had just a little of the Sonus Faber E Amataor's 'brightness' added to what we are hearing from the Mini after 8hrs only break-in. But we also love the 'illumination from within' presentation the Mini gives. So thanks again to yourself and Robert. This is a really helpful forum and especially so for people who don't have the option of listening first to equipment. Now where did I put my cheque book.....


Robert Harley -- Mon, 09/01/2008 - 19:11

Please let us know which amplifier you decide on and how you like it after living with it for a few weeks.

I don't know how long it takes for TAS to get to you, but the issue with my review of the XA100.5 mailed from the printer about a week ago.

Laurence Goldman -- Tue, 09/02/2008 - 00:52

Thanks Robert and I will surely do that. Unfortunately when I rang a local supplier in Sydnet he reminded me of something that had eluded me in my considerations - my previous power amp had a volume pot - so what was I going to do since I ran my Simon Yorke S7 through the Audio Research PH5 with no intermediate pre-amp necessary. So getting either of the Pass amps won't take me all the way there since they do not have volume pots...any other ideas/suggestions Robert?


Cemil Gandur -- Wed, 09/10/2008 - 05:07

Not that many high powered amps with volume pots ... There's a preamp in your future :) or alternatively, you could go for a passive pot if you have short cable runs - but most of them do tend to soften the sound.

Laurence Goldman -- Thu, 09/11/2008 - 02:13

I'm working these 'issues' - I could go for a line only pre-amp alowing me to use my existing phono but that intrudes another unit in the path. So next week I am demoing a Manley Steelhead with a new power amp...that give me volume pot on Manley so then I have better flexibility than the AR unit - then I can demo soime power amps to suit my taste. All good hopefully....


Robert Harley -- Fri, 09/12/2008 - 09:26

The Manley Steelhead is an excellent solution, both functionally and sonically. It's one of the best-sounding phonostages available.

Laurence Goldman -- Sat, 09/13/2008 - 03:16

Well Wednesday the Steelhead goes in and Thursday a pair of xa100.5 Pass amps arrives (sale or return condition) stay tuned Robert to see what transpires. I'm guessing the 'tubey' pass amps are balanced nicely by the slightly analytical Steelhead to produce a kind of 'middle path'......will report back this week on results using my front end of Simon Yorke S7 and Clearaudio insider gold....Laurence


Robert Harley -- Sat, 09/13/2008 - 09:46

That should be a great-sounding system. Let us know how it works out. The Pass amplifiers are quite special. They really become liquid after about 90 minutes.

Peter Ayer -- Tue, 09/16/2008 - 12:18

I too just bought a pair of XA100.5s and think they are terrific. I am curious of your impressions and how well they drive the Magico Mini II. I would like to try a pair of Minis but think the V3 may be a more appropriate load for the XA100.5. Please let us know what you think of the combination. Thanks.

Laurence Goldman -- Tue, 09/16/2008 - 14:54

Thanks Peter - hoping today and tomorrow to get delivery and of course will let you know how they go. I have not heard the V3 so cannot comment. I have a 7mx7mx3m room and the Minis certainly are enough for the kind of music I listen to. I went from Sonus Faber Amati 1 which really are a great speaker but don't go as deep as the Minis. The minis excell in all areas but can sound just a tad dark by comparison with the SFs - but again they are brand new and I await the insertion of Pass and Manley components....stay tuned


Laurence Goldman -- Wed, 09/17/2008 - 02:15

Hi Robert and Peter. Will try to be succinct. In went the Manley and immediately faster more dynamic music over the AR phono. Then had two amps to compare: the Pass labs xa100.5 vs Levon 2000 (20oWatt NZ amp). Both nice but the Pass had better mid resolution. So the system is up and fine though not broken in at all. I take back any comment about the Magico top seeming dark - this is way not happening.

It's always difficult when you have spent a lot to say anything critical - one convinces oneself it must be so having put the effort and resources to the task. I'm happy, the music sounds glorious, I've enjoyed sharing the experience on this forum and I have received some great advice and feedback.

Cheers to all - better go put a shrimp on the barbie now...


Robert Harley -- Wed, 09/17/2008 - 15:03

Thanks for the update, Laurence. The midrange on the Pass is exceptional.

Peter Ayer -- Sun, 11/02/2008 - 09:34


Have you tried the Pass XA100.5 with the Magico Mini II. I would love to know your impressions. Thanks.


Laurence Goldman -- Sun, 11/09/2008 - 05:39

Hi Peter, sorry for the delay in responding. Both the speakers and Pass labs amp and Manley Steehead + cables are all still running in so difficult to separate out and ascertain what characteristic to attribute to which component. No doubt the PLs do drive the speakers and usually I have the volume pot at 12 oçlock as sufficient in my quite large room. The amps are indeed very 'tubey' in nature. They need some run in and sound much better after being on or about 1hr. Could the speakers do with more power as Valin would argue...maybe and I can't really comment as have not tried them with other amps. I'm happy and the sounds are glorious.

However, I'm about to put in Harmonic Tech Magic Link 2 interconnects and try some Silent Source Music Ref cables. Currently using some really cheap interconnects and some expensive Kimber cable...the Kimber does not enhance speakers or amps - way too steely and bright!

Hope this helps.


Peter Ayer -- Sat, 03/06/2010 - 22:53

Hello Laurence and Robert,
I am revisiting this thread as I have just purchased a pair of Magico Mini IIs. I have a Pass XA100.5 and Harmonic Technologies cables and magic link interconnects just like you. The sound is great, though I am still fine tuning speaker positioning. The needles move on my amps so they are going out of class A on occasion and I'm considering moving up to the XA160.5 which has 320 watts into 4 ohms instead of 200. Also current goes from 20 amps to 36. Any thoughts or advice about the amps and speaker positioning would be appreciated. Thank you. Peter

Laurence Goldman -- Sun, 03/20/2011 - 00:05

Wow apologies Peter - only just saw this!!! How did you get on? I still have the same system but went with the top Kimber cable against all other do you feel now that Mini 11 is discontinued??Did you go up to the 160.5? Laurence


Peter Ayer -- Sun, 03/27/2011 - 21:53

Hello Laurence,
Yes, it has been about a year now and I traded up to the XA160.5. These amps are more appropriate for the difficult load of the Mini II's. They provide better control over the lower frequencies, the overall sense of ease and musical flow is better and the dynamics have improved. These speakers just need lots of power. Regarding the discontinuation of the Mini II, it doesn't really bother me. I still enjoy my speakers a couple of hours each night. They sound fantastic and look great in my living room. I prefer the look of the wood/aluminum baffle to the all-aluminum Q series, especially the Q1 shown at CES, though the higher efficiency of the Q3 is a very nice improvement. I look forward to hearing the Q3 when it hits Boston, though I don't plan to upgrade anytime soon. The Mini II is a great speaker and remains so. Now if Magico comes out with an attractive Q1 on a stand for 60% of the cost of the Mini II and it sounds better, then that will be another story entirely. One can only wait and hear.

tuncer_ylmz@yah... -- Thu, 04/07/2011 - 06:10

 Hi everybody,
I own a Pass XA30.5 amp and combined it with a ARC Ref 3 pre.Must say that everythink about XA's is right, they have more likely tubey sound.When i listen to the other SS amps not Class A i allways need resolution ,warmth,and deept ot sound stage of XA.
Even 30 Watts which delivers XA30.5 is enough for me at normal listening levels.
So,combination of Focal speakers (as mine) with ARC and Pass XA's is very succesfull i thing.

 Tuncer Yilmaz

Laurence Goldman -- Tue, 04/26/2011 - 02:21

Well I just heard the Technical Brain amps - with their gorgeous urushi black gloss finish - and I must say they are dead flat neutral ...had zensati cables and Sashas attached but hoping to be able to try in my home system with Magico 11 ----'if looks could kill' I would have paid the hike but need to isolate what I heard as deriving from amps not cables etc. So stay tuned....


Peter Ayer -- Tue, 04/26/2011 - 14:01

That sounds exciting Laurence. I look forward to reading about your impressions.

Peter Ayer -- Mon, 05/02/2011 - 17:07

After reading JV's latest blog about TB amps, are you still interested in getting them into your system?

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