Need suggestions on efficient book shelf speakers for a Pass Labs XA3.5

*sorry amp is XA30.5 -will not let me edit headline.
My current speakers are KEF 201/2 which have a low sensitivity of 85. Amp is only 30 watts class A. Sounds good but the volume is limited. Hoping more efficient speakers will provide greater volume? Looking for suggestions in the $2k -4k used or $3k- 8k new.


If you can wait a little a couple months more, the first batch of Epos is supposedly shipping out next month and according to a local dealer who actually heard it in Munich, there's simply nothing else better at that price point. 

3K - 8K new should be able to get you the flagship Triangle Magellan Duetto and AudioVector R1 Arrete. If you prefer more neutral sound you could get the cheaper ATC SCM19. I am using Cabasse Riga, the current iteration Riga 2 cost around 6K for the base/bookshelf version. I love it to bits and it is a very easy pair of speaker to drive, but you need to have a good sub pairing for it. 

2K - 4K used I would probably keep a lookout for an used Special 40th or any of the speakers I mentioned above. 

There are many out there, but if I have to recommend I'm going to say: TOTEM model ONE, Dynaudio Special 40's, JBL Century 100's (current version).



Matt M

Thanks for those suggestions.  

What kind of sensitivity should I be targeting for this amp? What is the minimum? It’s class A - but only 30 watts.  

Your amp puts out close to 130 watts when driven out of class A.  That's sufficient for nearly all bookshelf type loudspeaker at reasonable levels.

@puffbojie ha! I drive Wilsons Audio Sabrina with XA30.8. Your XA30.5 is 30w into 8ohms in pure Class A at lowest distortion rated by Pass Labs. It then switches to Class A/B and delivers around 130w/ch. You know it’s in Class A/B when the needle on a bias meter starts to move. 

What’s the rest of your set up - source, preamp, running balanced or single ended? How could the volume be too low? Define low volume - knob position or step number relative to max setting. 

I had a 150 watt class d amp previously and remember it being much louder at an 8/10 volume (using same speakers) .  The amp is at a pleasant volume as it stands but it seems capped to my ears -volume wise. I have a Benchmark 2 Pre/Dac and a Bluesound streamer using rca interconnects.  

@puffbojie Benchmark DAC 2 with built in pre? I would seriously consider a good linestage to go with the XA30.5. I just sold my Benchmark DAC3 HGC that I tried as a preamp for few days (it was sold due to a DAC upgrade and not because preamp in it wasn’t up to the task).
While it was accurate, it was no match to my Pass XP-12 when it comes to dimensionality, soundstage and natural tone. Also, in my experience Pass amps sound best when run using balanced interconnects. Going from benchmark into pass balanced should result in higher gain and lower noise floor. Give it a shot.

Focal Aria 906s work great with a FirstWatt F8. Conservatively rated at 89.5 dB sensitivity.


I’m running Harbeth C7’s on my bookshelves with a Sugden IA4 (30w Class A). Great tandem. More recently I added a little REL HT1003 sub and I like the extra oomph. Streaming only with this setup with Bel Canto DAC and Streamer.

@audphile1 I actually have those benchmark-made cables where one end is rca and the other is balanced.  Do you think those would work at all?  Otherwise I might get some balanced cables and see.  

fritz are excellent

also consider the best pair of proac standmounts you can afford... very synergistic with the warmish pass labs

You may want to attend the SpeakerFest event August 27th in the Phoenix area.

Nearly 20 different makes of standmounts to be auditioned. Two are models

new to the market and making their debuts. Bonus -Raffling off the Elac Reference

Unifi UBR62 speakers. $1,200 MSRP.  Also Special pricing on Bucharts, LSA,

Tekton and Totem. Details on

Another thought on your speaker quest. I also own a low power Pass

INT 25 amp. I would suggest you adds subs. 

The Pass is great. Keep it. I use the REL T5X sub.

I listen at 65-70dB. You are much higher.

Brands I like: Totem, Sonus faber, Fritz, ATC

That's a wonderful amplifier.   Try ZU AUDIO or Klipsch. Tannoy as well.  

@puffbojie not ideal especially if the source end is RCAs.
ick up a pair of balanced Mogami Studio Gold cables from Amazon. Give it a shot and if you’re still not happy, just return them and start checking out other speakers. I have a feeling this will change things for the better though. 

Hoffman’s Iron Law:  For a given cabinet volume, sensitivity and bass extension are interdependent variables…no amount of money will change that. If you define your bookshelf speaker by size, increased sensitivity will necessarily mean reducing bass extension. Is that what you want?  

I would look into Tannoy Autograph Mini's...I am exceptionally impressed with mine, driven by a Manley a 17x25 ft room with cathedral ceilings

I recently bought a pair of Goldenear Technology BRX monitors. They are 91 db efficiency & $1598 per pair. They are excellent with a great soundstage & especially good on vocals. I love them. 


With 30 watt class A you do not need sensitive speakers. That’s like 60w class A/B or 120 watts class D. 

Really depends on what sound characteristics and improvements (besides sensitivity) you’re looking for.  That info would help a lot in making better recommendations. 

You should look at NSMT 15SE. They are built and sold out of North Carolina. Fabulous speakers that work with most all amps, certainly yours.

I use them with a Naim NAIT 2...20 watts/channel.

$1995 list factory direct

The good news is LSA makes a few book shelf speakers that could rock your world. The bad news is you have to be willing to suspend disbelief and give them a shot as they are < $1500

I'm rocking the Closer Acoustics OGY with a 10W Tripath TA2024 amp and a REL T5x. 

The OGY are very efficient, very revealing and very well built. The sub provides the extra "oomph" for rock music and movies. The OGY excel at dialogue clarity. They're tiny bookshelf speakers, so don't expect deep bass. 

I am going to look into some of these.  Thanks for the suggestions. I think a small Rel sub would solve most of my problem but it would need to go where my hamper is lol.  It’s a small room with lots of absorption- curtains & carpeting & bed etc. That could be why it appears less loud at full-ish volume.  I just remember when I had a wadia 315 Amp (which is 150 watts) hooked up before and felt it was much louder. The pass labs sounds more heavenly of course.