Pass and Usher from Katli Audio of Chino Hills

First, the big news from Pass Labs. As in BIG NEWS. The Pass Labs Xs preamplifier, which was removed from production after the manufacturer of the company's vacuum fluorescent displays discontinued them without advance notice, has found an LED matrix alternative that looks virtually the same and works perfectly. So, expect the return of the Xs preamp in the beginning of 2024.

But that's not all. A Pass Labs power amp upgrade is expected sometime in 2024, possibly in the fall. I have no other details to supply.

With those not available, Katli Audio opted for Pass Laboratories' X-250.8 stereo amplifier ($10,500) to drive Usher ML-802 loudspeakers ($16,550/pair in piano gloss or $14,850/pair in satin wood). The ML-802s have a magnesium/lithium-diaphragm tweeter and midrange, a specified sensitivity of 90dB, and a frequency range of 26Hz–38kHz. A Pass Labs XP-22 preamp ($9975) with a separate power supply, Esoteric N-05XD network player/streamer/preamp ($11,000) that served as a DAC, a Cocktail Audio X-45Pro music server with database ($5995) that served as a hard-drive player, an Isotek Titan power conditioner ($4400), and Cardas Clear cabling completed the system.

On Allan Taylor's "Colour to the Moon," the lovely Pass midrange came to the fore, balanced out by a lively top. An excerpt from the soundtrack of Pirates of the Caribbean sounded appropriately bombastic, exceedingly full-range, and blessed with an exceedingly large soundstage. This was a lovely showing.