Should I Sell My ARC REF 6 and Get A Pass Labs XP-32

So here's the question.  I love my ARC REF 6.  It's a great piece of equipment.  But  lately, I have been thinking that maybe I should switch from tubes to a Pass Labs XP-32, as I don't want to worry about replacing tubes in the future (like 5-10 years from now -- I know that there is plenty of stock now and I have a spare set anyway) as I approach retirement age.  Of course, other than buying a Pass Labs XP-32 and putting it into my system to see how it sounds, I am at the mercy of professional reviewers. The rest of my system: I have a Pass Labs 250.8 (so I think that there would be great synergy with the XP-32), MSB Discrete DAC with Premier Power Base and Wilson Sabrina X speakers, and a full loom of Shunyata cables.  Will the XP-32 be an improvement over the REF 6 for my system?  Should I sell the REF 6 and get an XP-32?


I’ve had the XP20 and I currently have ARC SS gear, the LS10 and D240.

The XP20 was honestly a straight gain tool no features to speak of, ultimately I sold it and moved to the musicality of the ARC set.

You may find you like both because they do different things to their music signal. Try to demo the XP32 without selling your ARC gear.

Good luck with your tests.


@OP. Given the way geopolitics are evolving, I would be concerned about the availability of 6H30 tubes. For what it's worth, I recently did an extensive A/B comparison of an AR Reference 2 Phonostage v a Pass XP 27. The Ref 2 was good - especially on simple material where it had that slightly larger than life presentation that I often hear in tube gear. But on anything more complex, the XP 27 was better - more detail, more refined tonally, and more dynamic.

That's a limited comparison in terms of the preamps, but it does give a bit of insight into as the AR Preamps and Pass Pres have a fairly consistent design philosophy, respectively. I have an XP32 and it's an excellent preamp and, obviously, works very well with the Pass power amps.


WOW - And there’s me thinking I had ’Valve (tube to you guys) Anxiety’! You’re worried about replacing them every 5→10 YEARS?!?!? I wish! Sounds like (no pun) you hardly ever switch you system on! I have a Ref 3, which I believe uses the same tube complement, and, using ARC recommended replacement period of 4000hrs for best SQ (although recently a correspondence from ARC said 2000hrs is best!!) I need to replace my set every TWO YEARS!! That costs me MORE than it does to run my car! 6H30 EH are c£70 each at the moment here in the UK, which is why I bought from VivaTubes over there at $60 each, and 6550WA’s are also becomming scarse and rapidly going up in price, mainly due to the ’Russian Problem’!

Back to your dilemma - due to my continued valve anxiety, I too am considering a change to an XP-20, even though I love the sound of the Ref 3 into my Threshold Stasis S300 II, and maybe a good or better match with an XP-20, into my Maggie 1.7i’s. But I cannot hear an XP-20 first, as I cannot buy an XP-20/22 before I sell the Ref 3 due to being a cash strapped pensioner. So I have a very similar situation to you, except I use my system a LOT more than you seem to do in that tiny tiny room of yours.

Good luck, and please repport back once you’ve listened to the XP-32.

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As @lalitk suggested, the only way to know for sure is to buy the Pass and compare with Ref 6 in your system. I’ve gone almost all-VAC here (across 2 systems), and STILL have trouble letting go of my Ref 6. I’ll post it for sale, then almost immediately regret that and take it down lol. It also feels like the current market is somewhat soft on Ref 6 - the 6SE goes for a lot more, and 5SE goes for not much less, which makes NO sense. A 6 is far closer to 6SE than 5SE, and it’s still upgradeable by ARC!

Agree, the Renaissance V simply wasn’t enough to compete. Even versus Master (at 2x cost), the Ref 6 gets some licks in - its rendition of bass frequencies is just perfect. The VAC preamps have more midrange clarity and "sparkle" (for lack of a better term), but versus a solid-state preamp, Ref 6 should find advantage in its (slight) fullness and sweetness there.

I still have no great anxiety about tube supply...and I'm in my 40s, and my main amps use 16x of KT88 plus 8x of 6SN7. Anyways, don’t sell the Ref 6 first!