PASS LABS INT-250

TR26.09.2018

Integrated amplifiers

The INT-250 was “optimized for difficult speaker loads” and it works in class A up to 15W and then switches into class AB to deliver 250W of continuous power into 8ohms and 500W into 4 ohms. Continuous power. Transient peak levels that the INT-250 can handle are close to 3 kilowatts, according to Nelson Pass, which represents a huge dynamic reservoir.

100% reference

Function and form

92%
Ease of use
92%
Sound
90%
Appearance

The INT-250 was derived from the Pass X-250.8 power amplifier by combining a line preamp and the power amp in one chassis. The amp is running quite hot during operation as it draws 300 watts at idle though it is much friendlier in stand-by with only 0.5W consumption.

The INT-250’s precisely machined front panel is a typical Pass Labs with its industrial and rugged look, an oversized blue-lit analog meter that shows output voltage and is more decorative than useful, and a dazzling blue segment display for volume level. The volume is digitally controlled in 1dB steps which may be quite rough especially at low listening levels. A universal aluminum remote is included so some buttons on it are inactive. It is a pity as it would be nice to have at least the balance button working. The rear panel features four RCA + two XLR inputs, an RCA/XLR output, and two pairs of Furutech speaker terminals. The industrialism continues with large heatsinks that are like razors, so be careful when you carry the 48 kilos of the INT-250’s weight around (handles on the back panel are provided for this reason).

Bass management

Weight
92
Slam
92
Articulation
90

The INT-250 has very good grip on bass which is a proof that Nelson Pass knows a great deal more than most amplifier makers, considering that the amp’s damping factor is ‘just’ 150. Today’s race for the as high DF as possible leads us to believe that without values like 1000 an amplifier cannot control the low-end properly. I did not experience it with the INT-250 that went prodigiously low and presented explosive bass dynamic. That way the KODO ensemble sounded big and real, and the drums had everything: the leading transient edge, beautiful powerful bloom and deep resonant texture.

Clarity & delicacy

Detail
90
Air
91
Transparency
91

There was a sense of air and ambience to the sound of the INT-250. Compared head-to-head with my Mark Levinson No.326S/No.432 set up I would say that the INT-250 integrated had a smidgen more openness, air and high level detail, the music was breathing better. The combination of the more nuanced Class A and the more powerful Class B also results into delivering both smooth and authoritative sound without sounding harsh or sterile.

Tonal accuracy

Timbre
87
Dynamics
94
Temporal resolution
93

With the INT-250 the music seemed to have a natural and organic flow with no frequency being forced into the room. Both micro and macro dynamics were impressive, although they were not on par with the Pass’s own preamplifier and power amplifier combos neither with my Mark Levinson line up. However, the Pass Labs INT-250 had a fantastic rhythmic drive that I experience so rarely with today’s integrated amplifiers. Recently I have been auditioning new Accuphase E-650 integrated and although it is a wonderful amplifier based on the MOSFET devices like the INT-250, in comparison it tends to sound softer and more congested, especially at high volumes. I cannot imagine a speaker which the Pass Labs INT-250 would not tame.

Spatial resolution

Holography
92
Soundstage width
92
Soundstage depth
93

Soundstaging of the Pass Labs INT-250 is beyond reproach. The spatial clues were coming at me from all directions and they extended to well beyond the speakers. I had no problem whatsoever to immerse in the three-dimensional pictures that the INT-250 conjured in my listening room. Instruments and voices were locked in the space and complex moving sounds like thumping and stomping feet on Paco de Lucia live flamenco recordings were easily trackable in how they travelled between microphones. It was not just like the images were precisely located within the soundstage but they had their own specificity, dimensionality.

The only drawback is that the Pass Labs INT-250 is a very expensive integrated. At its asking price some very good separates are available. I would not call it “the best buy” therefore, however sonically it is a gem.

Price as reviewed:379 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

KAS Audio, Praha, tel. +420 602 406 436

Associated components

  • Sources: Luxman D-08u SACD, C.E.C. TL-51XR
  • Amplifiers: Mark Levinson No.326S, Mark Levinson No.432, Accuphase E-650
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Kubala-Sosna Emotion, Siltech Crown Princess
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2, Bowers & Wilkins 804 D3
  • Power conditioning: Accuphase PS-1220, Furutech Powerflux

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