Review: Pass Labs Aleph 3 Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

Old design, apparently still sends tremors in the shape of dissmisal or wholhearted approval, througout the audio community. Regardless of all the fuss, the Aleph is thing of the past, along with Aleph 30. Scratched of the board. Finished. Done! Even Nelson has distanced himself from this design, by going probably more modern path?!
So why all of the fuss? Is this "box" soo good to become a classic, or it is "lifeless", "collored" etc... that some had named this amp?
Just replaced my old SFC-1 (also reviewed) with Pass Aleph 3. And now, when all the excitment is over with, i feel i can draw some conclusions about this amp.
I have several CD's that have been my favorites for last couple of years that i am familiar with. And would for sure know if something is missing, or if i would to hear MORE? In fact that's the same reason we usualy upgrade.
I chose 'bare bones' Cary Slp-50 tube amp, with two 12au7's running in pure class a operation (that's what technical data said). Old (1994) defunct DPA three piece DAC/Dpa T1 transport totaling over $15K when new. I figure, if it was great then, it must be good now?
Speakers are DIY watt/puppy clones (Focal/Seas/Peerless and all the good x-over parts)
Wire Discovery 123 speaker cable, Pbj for Dac/pre and unknown Monster pre/amp (i am not big into wires)

Sound? My tube amp had deeper soundstage, and solid imaging. Softer treble, and looser bass. What gave overall darker presentation. Even 'emotional' sound that was definitely sign of higher colloration than the Pass. Much higher! I just had to play piano (Satie Piano Works vol.1 Naxos) to hear those high notes, where sound is like striking chips of ice againsteach other. Alwas have complained about Sony's John Williams The Guitarst, and the sound quality. Aleph brought these performance much closer to me, even at the low volume levels. Bossa Nova brasil on Verve in past, alwas brought bass troubles int my system. Even though that Alep 3 is not supposed to DO bass, still brought some improvement. Especialy, with electric bass! Robert Lucas Luke and Locmotives(Audioquest), was feast and the beast! On this one i had to turn-up the volume somewhat. Not because of lack of dynamics,but for pure joy!
Large orchestra and Pass did wonderful job together! Berloz Symphony Fantastique, with all the bells and whistles was outstanding wit its panoramic soundstage!Bruckner symp. No 4 (Naxos), and quite slow beginning wasn't just empty space. I could "peek" into the concert hall and hear many things they were just void, in the past. When all the action started in Rossini's Barbiere di Sivilia (ACUM), all came together but still preserved steady placement of the individual instruments. Meaning, that there was a lot of going on i wasn't aware of!
YoYo Ma's Bach's suites, Cello did sounded "woody" with tho dose of high energy, that sounded like flatulance on my tube amp. Very impressive with the Quarteto Italiano's Beethoven Late Quartets vol.2. This analog recording outclasses all the modern recorded attempts.
The amp delivers detail, detail lots of it! But it doesn't do just that. It comunicates the artist intentions. It isn't "cold", nor "warm". It is just. Music. With purity that Aleph delivers, i do not believe i'll be looking for more! It runs hot, but not as hot as my old tube amp with four Kt90's.

Other recordings: Calamus Splendor of Andalus Ma rec
Arvo Part Tabula Rasa naxos
Wagner Taunhauser opera
Mozart collection 10 cd's

Associated gear
Cary slp-50, Dpa Dac/T1 transport

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i love the sound of the aleph 3 as well as a friend's 1.2 monoblocks, but i HATE the ergonomic placing of the power switch on the BACK right next to the speaker terminals. if someone could explain to me why nelson pass HAD to design the amp this way i would appreciate it. my friend was able to get a remote switch box to turn the amps on and off (vans evers- but it's no longer made); the box is of decent quality but still sits between the amps and the wall.
1. I guess it is the efficiency of the speakers which matters, not the physical size. I have no problem to drive bulky dunlavy with Aleph-3.
2. it is probably the most economical & smart way to design a 200 watts class A amp that way for mass heat dissipation.
I now own an Italian amp that apes the alephs single ended topography as well as it's rear power switch. The way I look at it, if your going to wait thirty minutes for it to heat up you might just as well turn it on from the back.