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Eventually I did move the hefty box to the main system. Here’s the deal. Every time I listened to this thing it showed me nuance I had missed before. A lot of gear offers the initial thrill yet in the long run betrays the shrill as well. For me it was a simple extension of what it was like—many years ago—to hear various speakers in a showroom for the first time.
In my young and naïve state (as opposed to my now dated yet immature state) I took the bait and fell for the ones with the serious boom and sizzle. Two weeks later I was suffering migraine-like headaches and couldn’t possibly care any less about the prospect of a listening session.
Not so here. I did keep looking for things to fault. And truth be told, from my long-term observational listening I didn’t come up with much if anything of disapproving consequence. Subjectively I did come up with few nits to pick. But seriously people, most any criticism I now have to throw the way of the 30A is either a stretch or the result of deeply ingrained preferences that you might be better off ignoring. Unless you like your presentation as I do. As Mr. Pass said earlier, "appreciation of audio is a completely subjective human experience". Who am I to argue with the man who has been perfecting amplifiers since the 70s? Although I did not favor the INT-30A over my current reference integrated, the Melody I2A3, I still looked forward to listening to the Pass. And not as a passing fancy or chore mind you but for hours at a time.
I am at a loss for how to describe the looks of this piece. I did however catch myself staring at it repeatedly. It is luxurious but in a practical way. Given its size it certainly has presence—covering most of the territory offered by the 21" by 24" shelves on my GPA Monaco Modular—yet is not daunting. There was something very satisfying about its form. And the big-ass volume control is a look I always fell for with old tuners. Anyway it looks great. It can make music both delicate and intense. There’s just one box and a remote. No tubes with which to fuss. Plus a pre-out to service my sub. Bonus! A critical downside was the stock power cord; let’s just say that it went the way of the dodo after the first hour in my reference system.
The definition of smooth
The word "smooth" is often used an adjective. Let’s take a moment to explore some of the meanings that are commonly conveyed and how they might apply to the device under test:
1. not having a rough or uneven surface
Check. This levelheaded player offered properly scaled performers on appropriately sized stages. A pulse emanates between the speakers and from there things spread out. Once in place all the images manage to be more stable than any other amp I’ve encountered. I am not an imaging freak so take that for what it may mean in terms of your list of priorities. Layering and detail were abundant—permitting both close-up and vista-like views into recordings—but never became hifi-ish. Let’s call it suavely resolute.
2. proceeding without interruption, upheaval or problems
Check. Almost. There was one small problem.* After the unit would warm up, the volume dial on the face of the unit failed to do its thing. It rotated confidently but did not affect the gain. Fortunately there was the nicely weighted and easy-to-use all-metal (yet not clunky) remote. And the best thing about that (other than controlling volume), it allowed for balance control.
* The problem turned out to be a bug in the software. The sub-routine responsible for the volume knob would go off somewhere and not return. "I did confirm the volume control issue. It was a software eprom issue that has been fixed," wrote Wayne Colburn who designed the INT-30A for Pass Labs.