Discovering pure Class A - It's true, not all Watts are created equal

mugen808

Newbie
Wammer
Feb 28, 2022
5
3
18
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
  • Like
Reactions: hiacedrifter

hiacedrifter

Newbie
Wammer
Sep 26, 2017
191
105
63
Worthing
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Pass labs ... aleph ... F5 ... Joe Henry ... please can someone confirm the relationship, and perhaps the model hierarchy or equivalence between brands. I'm after a power amp (or pair of monoblocks) for my 97db speakers.
 

hifinutt

Wammer
Wammer Plus
Dec 23, 2007
14,684
3,112
208
midlands , , United
AKA
phil
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
pass labs and aleph and first watt are original amps made by nelson pass firm

joe henry is a lovely chap on ebay who makes imitation clones that are very good indeed . a fraction of the original but of course they sell for a lot less second hand
 
  • Like
Reactions: hiacedrifter

hiacedrifter

Newbie
Wammer
Sep 26, 2017
191
105
63
Worthing
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
pass labs and aleph and first watt are original amps made by nelson pass firm

joe henry is a lovely chap on ebay who makes imitation clones that are very good indeed . a fraction of the original but of course they sell for a lot less second hand

Are the joe henry amps still easy enough to sell on should the need arise, and hold their value fairly well?
 

hearhere

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 9, 2013
740
521
98
Portsmouth, UK
AKA
Peter
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Had to google that one (not very familiar with any Accuphase models) ... lush! I didn't actually know they did power amps. Are they rare?
Yes, Accuphase offer a range of Class A power amps and integrateds too.

I owned an A36 for a year or so and it was far and away the best Class A amp I've tried. It also has rare features such as front-panel Gain adjustment, 2 switchable speakers outputs, big VU meters and exceptionally good construction.

My only issue was its slighly soft sound (but this is typical of Class A) where I was looking for a bit more "bite".

I think the main reason for the brand's rarity in the UK is down to its distributor. I know little about them but they certainly don't seem to advertise or publicise the Accuphase brand. The price is also rather high, but not unreasonably so in view of its quality, both in construction and sound. Peter
 

hifinutt

Wammer
Wammer Plus
Dec 23, 2007
14,684
3,112
208
midlands , , United
AKA
phil
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
Are the joe henry amps still easy enough to sell on should the need arise, and hold their value fairly well?
if you buy them cheap enough yes . he is getting quite a good reputation . the chap i that mine came from had 12 made by him and several folks i know including the moderator of the proac forum are on 2nd or 3rd generation of amps from him [ they have bought 3 times ] .
 
  • Love
Reactions: TheFlash

TheFlash

Deliberately Rive Gauche
Wammer Plus
Jun 22, 2013
12,270
7,966
198
Rural Leics [system 1] & Kendal [systems 2 & 3]
AKA
Nigel
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
pass labs and aleph and first watt are original amps made by nelson pass firm

joe henry is a lovely chap on ebay who makes imitation clones that are very good indeed . a fraction of the original but of course they sell for a lot less second hand
For the avoidance of doubt as they say: the generous Mr Pass has licensed many of his (typically earlier) designs. So we’re not talking dodgy knock-offs here; in fact, in Joe Henry’s case, far from it. The difference between clones is the quality of components and of engineering obviously, and Joe is right up there reputation-wise.

Regarding price @hiacedrifter , unless anyone has evidence to the contrary, I’d suggest that the value of Joe’s creations will be broadly in line with the hifi market ie prices will start at 50% of the price the first/original owner paid. If you look at sold, rather than asking, prices you’ll see that as a general guide this isn’t far off. Cue wammers highlighting exceptions! Which is why I don’t think I’ve ever bought stuff brand new at RRP.
 
  • Like
Reactions: hifinutt

MotherSky

Introspective onanist
Wammer
Jun 5, 2010
1,295
861
158
Shropshire
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
My only issue was its slightly soft sound (but this is typical of Class A)
This differs profoundly from my experience of Class A amplification, and is a very misleading generalisation - certainly not an accurate description of any Pass or Sugden designs I have had the pleasure of listening to - perhaps a "synergy" issue? I've never actually heard any Accuphase gear, though, so perhaps they're a bit more pipe and slippers - cue angry mob of offended Accuphase owners brandishing pitchforks....
 

hearhere

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 9, 2013
740
521
98
Portsmouth, UK
AKA
Peter
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
This differs profoundly from my experience of Class A amplification, and is a very misleading generalisation - certainly not an accurate description of any Pass or Sugden designs I have had the pleasure of listening to - perhaps a "synergy" issue? I've never actually heard any Accuphase gear, though, so perhaps they're a bit more pipe and slippers - cue angry mob of offended Accuphase owners brandishing pitchforks....
Interesting that you mention Sugden as I had a Masterclass FPA-4 Class A power amp for a while in my system. Frankly, compared with several other amps I was auditioing with my Avantgarde speakers (including the excellent Accuphase), it was a serious disappointment and a non-starter - my auditioining notes were left at "flat sounding". It may be worth mentioing that this Sugden model was from their up-market Masterclass line, but it was discontinued in 2019. Maybe it just wasn't one of Sudgen's best offerings and derserved to be discontinued

https://www.sugdenaudio.com/fpa-4-power-amplifier
 

hearhere

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 9, 2013
740
521
98
Portsmouth, UK
AKA
Peter
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
For the avoidance of doubt as they say: the generous Mr Pass has licensed many of his (typically earlier) designs. So we’re not talking dodgy knock-offs here; in fact, in Joe Henry’s case, far from it. The difference between clones is the quality of components and of engineering obviously, and Joe is right up there reputation-wise.

Regarding price @hiacedrifter , unless anyone has evidence to the contrary, I’d suggest that the value of Joe’s creations will be broadly in line with the hifi market ie prices will start at 50% of the price the first/original owner paid. If you look at sold, rather than asking, prices you’ll see that as a general guide this isn’t far off. Cue wammers highlighting exceptions! Which is why I don’t think I’ve ever bought stuff brand new at RRP.
I don't think anyone should be under the impression that an item bought from any one-man band who sells through Ebay will keep its value in the way a top branded item will. Granted these guys don't have the overheads, but they don't have the R&D either and when they are gone (retire, sell up, die) the owner is scratching around for someone to fix it if it fails.

Reckon on a VERY LOW resale value, even if the guy is still in business. As far as I can see JH used to make clones / copies (call them what you will) of Quad 303 amps. but would anyone buy a used one? No, but a used NAD or Quad or Sugden or Pass Labs of that vintage - yes. Sorry but let's be realistic.
 

rabski

Everything in moderation
Staff member
Dec 2, 2006
33,134
20,067
173
Kettering
AKA
Richard
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
A great many companies are not far short of being one-man bands in this industry, and the irony of the suggestion here is that if any hifi company could be described in those terms, then Pass Labs would be it. You could add many to the list mind you. Croft, Modwright and Tron immediately come to mind, but there are countless others.

Will a Joe Henry built Pass clone have a similar resale proportion to an NP original? I doubt it, but to suggest it will be effectively worthless is also likely to be way off the mark. I've seen quite a few sell on for actually relatively low losses, not least because they look reasonable value in the first place.
 

hearhere

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 9, 2013
740
521
98
Portsmouth, UK
AKA
Peter
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
A great many companies are not far short of being one-man bands in this industry, and the irony of the suggestion here is that if any hifi company could be described in those terms, then Pass Labs would be it.
I would agree with you that many hifi companies have a leader who is regarded as top man and many of these companies are named after their founder / principle designer.

The successful ones go on to develop popular products that are sold worldwide through distributors and dealers. They have matured into viable companies that employ many people, usually including other directors, designers, an R&D department, marketing guys, etc. These are the companies that can "afford" to lose their figurehead leader and remain viable and successful companies, run by other directors.

Mark Levinson, Sugden and numerous other companies have successfully continued after their founders go to pastures new. A one-man band is just that. It is unlikely to find success after its leader departs if it hasn't succeeded financially (apart from providing an income for its owner) during his tenure. By that I mean that it hasn't flourished to the point that it employs sufficient other senior staff to continue almost unaltered, it will just disappear to a footnote in the hifi history book.

I suspect that one or two of the companies you mention will effectively fold if and when their head man leaves. Who is there to take the reins? Sadly often no one. These outfits may be bought up by bigger rivals, but there’s often nothing really worthwhile to buy. The contents of a garage and (if the owner actually owns them) the patents of the designs are unlikely to be snapped up.

This of course doesn’t change the fact that many exceptionally good amps, etc are designed by very clever small scale builders who are often content to carry on their “cottage industry” business with no real ambition for it to continue after they retire or just shut up shop. I’ve owned a couple myself, but the brand enjoys a remarkably good reputation, it doesn't peddle their wares through Ebay, and demand has always outstripped supply, so they retain their value very well.
 

TheFlash

Deliberately Rive Gauche
Wammer Plus
Jun 22, 2013
12,270
7,966
198
Rural Leics [system 1] & Kendal [systems 2 & 3]
AKA
Nigel
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I don't think anyone should be under the impression that an item bought from any one-man band who sells through Ebay will keep its value in the way a top branded item will. Granted these guys don't have the overheads, but they don't have the R&D either and when they are gone (retire, sell up, die) the owner is scratching around for someone to fix it if it fails.

Reckon on a VERY LOW resale value, even if the guy is still in business. As far as I can see JH used to make clones / copies (call them what you will) of Quad 303 amps. but would anyone buy a used one? No, but a used NAD or Quad or Sugden or Pass Labs of that vintage - yes. Sorry but let's be realistic.
We disagree. Strongly.
 

TheFlash

Deliberately Rive Gauche
Wammer Plus
Jun 22, 2013
12,270
7,966
198
Rural Leics [system 1] & Kendal [systems 2 & 3]
AKA
Nigel
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I would agree with you that many hifi companies have a leader who is regarded as top man and many of these companies are named after their founder / principle designer.

The successful ones go on to develop popular products that are sold worldwide through distributors and dealers. They have matured into viable companies that employ many people, usually including other directors, designers, an R&D department, marketing guys, etc. These are the companies that can "afford" to lose their figurehead leader and remain viable and successful companies, run by other directors.

Mark Levinson, Sugden and numerous other companies have successfully continued after their founders go to pastures new. A one-man band is just that. It is unlikely to find success after its leader departs if it hasn't succeeded financially (apart from providing an income for its owner) during his tenure. By that I mean that it hasn't flourished to the point that it employs sufficient other senior staff to continue almost unaltered, it will just disappear to a footnote in the hifi history book.

I suspect that one or two of the companies you mention will effectively fold if and when their head man leaves. Who is there to take the reins? Sadly often no one. These outfits may be bought up by bigger rivals, but there’s often nothing really worthwhile to buy. The contents of a garage and (if the owner actually owns them) the patents of the designs are unlikely to be snapped up.

This of course doesn’t change the fact that many exceptionally good amps, etc are designed by very clever small scale builders who are often content to carry on their “cottage industry” business with no real ambition for it to continue after they retire or just shut up shop. I’ve owned a couple myself, but the brand enjoys a remarkably good reputation, it doesn't peddle their wares through Ebay, and demand has always outstripped supply, so they retain their value very well.
You appear to be completely missing the point. These are not Joe’s own designs, they are tried and tested amps based on “open source” blueprints. Joe is not the only person making them, he just happens to have a reputation as one of the best at doing so.
They are also extremely well priced in the first place, so I’m sticking with my assertion that they will hold their value in line with the market for pre-owned hifi in general. Do feel free to present data/evidence to the contrary!
Another way of looking at this is in hard £ terms: most Pass creations are on the attractive side of £2,000. If the first owner took a massive hit (they don’t), the biggest hit will be £1,500 but is more likely £1,000. Compare that with the hit people will take on say a £5,000 RRP big name amp or pair of speakers and it’s neither painful nor embarrassing. Oh, and of course it’s a Pass design so the chances are it will sound pretty damned good and will take something seriously pricier to improve upon. All in all then, the approach has a lot to commend it.
 

hearhere

Wammer
Wammer
Apr 9, 2013
740
521
98
Portsmouth, UK
AKA
Peter
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
most Pass creations are on the attractive side of £2,000.
Pass Labs Class A amps prices start at £4800 (XA25), I think and resell for £2900 - 3500 (asking prices per HiFiShark). Not bad for an amp that may be several years old.

Buying a clone / DIY / copy of an established design is like buying a replica car. It may cost half the price, it may offer good street cred, it may be just as fast - but it'll be worth a fraction of the real McCoy when you get round to selling it. Recently Bangers & Cash quoted AC Cobras selling for £1m minimum for a genuine original, £15-40K for good clones. I'll stick with a branded product.

Interesting you mention speakers. My first Avantgardes (Unos bought brand new in 2002 for a discounted £4200) were sold in 2019 for £4200 - not a penny lost, but only possible because of the high reputation of the branded builder. I wonder if my latest Duo XDs (bought new in 2020 at a discounted £21000) will resell in 17 years' time for that price! I doubt it, but I know for certain that a copy or clone wouldn't be worth a fraction of its original purchase price.
 
Last edited:
  • Sad
Reactions: TheFlash

TheFlash

Deliberately Rive Gauche
Wammer Plus
Jun 22, 2013
12,270
7,966
198
Rural Leics [system 1] & Kendal [systems 2 & 3]
AKA
Nigel
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Nope, you’re still not getting it. The Pass Labs amps are current models. The connection with the Pass clone amps of which we speak is a common designer. Your reference to the price of Pass Labs amps shows clearly that you continue to miss the point.
These are not like replica cars. Unless you can point me to a car manufacturer who licenses the designs of their earlier models to enable people to build exact replicas. Your comments suggest you are thinking of the cheap knock-offs of various hifi components one might find on the ‘bay, which in terms of component quality and even circuitry might bear only a passing resemblance to the thing they copy. Licensed Pass designs made using quality components by a highly regarded assembler/engineer are far from this. We’re not talking knock-offs here. It’s as if ProAc or Spendor licensed their cabinet and crossover designs and publicised precisely which drivers they use. A skilled cabinet maker and engineer would be able to produce an excellent speaker as close as possible to the original, perhaps identical. You seem to have a mental image of a DIY enthusiast having a bash.

I’ve made and remade my point. We’re both entitled to our opinions. I just happen, obviously, to believe I have a better understanding of that of which we speak!
Peace and love.
 

karlsushi

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 1, 2022
483
899
108
Melton Mowbray, East Midlands
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
Being someone who has just paid a deposit for a JH amp, perhaps my own justification for doing so may be of interest.

I will be paying £2k for an amp which I am expecting will be (internally at least) almost identical to a genuine Pass Labs amp. I believe when the Pass Aleph 5 was released (quite a few years ago now), it cost around £3.5k.

So first thing to say is yes, it is actually an older Pass Labs design. But if I want a current version from the Pass line-up, the only one I can see that does 60W of pure Class A are the XA60.8 monoblocks. These retail at £13k.

The clone won't be visually as nice (I have to admit, the new pass designs are seriously smart - although the original Aleph 5 was a far cry from the current styling) and it may not hold value in the same way as a genuine Pass amp.

But it gets a 12 month warranty from Joe, plus I have a local friend who would almost certainly be able to step in in case of issues beyond 12 months (ease of repairs greatly helped by the fact that all circuit diagrams, pcbs and parts are readily available - something which is a big problem with manufacturers with secret sauces and ingredients that only they can repair).

The way I see it is that from day one, I will have a few grand sitting in my back pocket compared with buying new. Even if I chuck it in the bin after a couple of years at a loss of £2k, I've probably only lost a similar amount (or less) than I would have by selling on a genuine Pass I'd purchased at several thousand more.

I'm not suggesting it will sound quite like the XA60.8 monos. But given how much enjoyment I'm getting out of my Aleph 3 in my second system (an even older design than the Aleph 5 and rated at half the power output), I'm expecting to be pretty happy! 🤞

And if all else fails, just for the record, I don't plan to chuck it in the bin. I'm sure someone else will get to enjoy it, even if for me, it will be at a bit of a financial loss compared with the starting price, but the way I see it, I'll still have a fair few quid sat in my pocket compared with having forked out for a new one.
 

karlsushi

Wammer
Wammer
Feb 1, 2022
483
899
108
Melton Mowbray, East Midlands
HiFi Trade?
  1. No
I should have added to that, the biggest risk I am taking here is going in blind with the purchase, without any option to demo. I feel this is a calculated risk given my experience with a similar circuit by the same designer, but it is a fairly significant risk nonetheless.

I suppose you could argue that the resale value might be a problem if I really don't like the amp, which you could argue is a risk which can be completely avoided with a new Pass amp where demoing is an option.

Fingers firmly crossed there!

But as with any purchase, perceived value is in the eye of the purchaser.
 

hifinutt

Wammer
Wammer Plus
Dec 23, 2007
14,684
3,112
208
midlands , , United
AKA
phil
HiFi Trade?
  1. Yes
When my f5 clones came up for sale made by Joe Henry. There was quite a queue to buy them and they sold in hours !!!! I was very very fortunate to get them !
 
  • Like
Reactions: TheFlash