CES 2015: Pass Labs Upcoming Headphone Amplifier

One of the tasks I set out for myself this year was to go into every room in the Venetian high-end audio exhibits and ask, "Got any headphone stuff in here?" The question is often met with an odd look from exhibitors, but if you're not willing to turn over every rock, you're not going to find the tasty little grubs.

I entered the Pass Labs booth with a muted sense of awe—I have huge respect for Nelson Pass, his designs, and most importantly for me, his dedication to the world of audio DIY—and got up the courage to ask the fateful question.

"Why yes, yes we do. We'll be coming out with a headphone amp this year. Come and chat with the designer."

Jam Somasundram, previously with Cary Audio and now a designer at Pass Labs, claims a three decade long relationship with Nelson Pass and his work, and seemed genuinely pleased to be working at the firm and even more pleased he's been able to lead the charge into the world of headphones at Pass Labs with his new design.

There's no model designation as yet (it was simply referred to as the Pass Headphone Amp) and price remains unfixed (though expected to be in the $3000 neighborhood), but the innards of the amp sounded fairly well fleshed out.

Jam told me the amp does share a number of characteristics with some of their power amplifiers including: a "low feedback" design; all discrete components including power regulators; and custom wound power transformer with mu-metal shield and Faraday cage. Evidently a great deal of care went into keeping noise to an absolute minimum in the design. The amp will have two unbalanced inputs, and the production unit is expected to be operable as a pre-amp as well. Availability is currently expected in March-April 2015.

The headphone amp has not made it's appearance yet, but you can check out the entire Pass Labs line on their website. Those interested in audio DIY should also take a nice long wander around Nelson Pass' "Pass DIY" website, which is chock-o-block full of interesting and educational posts.

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COMMENTS
ashutoshp's picture

Currently, I'm saving for my son's college but someday.. I shall own a Pass. Along with Parasound (John Curl designs), I've seen his beasts driving all and sundry at audio shows.
Very much awaited. I'm also quite keen on the new Ayre amp+DAC. Auralic, Teton et al have competition.

TheAudioGuild's picture

College is overrated. ;-)

Good job so far, Jam!

se

USAudio's picture

Personally I would be more interested in a headphone amp from Nelson via FirstWatt.

Just looked on the Pass Labs website, no mention of a headphone amp at all ... has it been canceled?