The Go Labs XP-12 Pre-Amp Overview.
By Steve Huff
I really cannot imagine we’re already inside February 2022. How time has flown by! Right here I’m once more, sitting in my music room listening to some stunning sounds as I write this. In reality I’m listening to the brand new album from Molly Lewis referred to as The Forgotten Edge. She makes whistling an artwork type and it makes for excellent background music as I write an audio overview. The sound is beautiful, supple, wealthy, expansive and oh so candy. I’m Listening with a Go Labs XP12 and XA60.8 Mono block Class A Mono amps.
The Go Labs sound could be very musical certainly.
My time with Go Labs Separates
It was again within the early summer time of 2021 that I had my first actual style of a separate Go Labs Pre-Amp and Go Labs Amp combo. Earlier than that I used to be thrilled with my Go Labs built-in amps as they had been among the many finest I’ve owned within the built-in world. I used to at all times choose built-in amplifiers as they had been simpler, sounded virtually pretty much as good as separates (generally simply pretty much as good) and reduce down on cable prices as effectively.
I at all times knew that separates had been a bit extra refined in sound in addition to extra versatile. Having two bins means I may swap my pre-amp or amp if I needed a unique sound character.
When Go despatched me the older XP-10 and XA60.8 to judge and overview again in Could 2021 I used to be fairly pumped because it was actually solely my third or fourth attempt with “separates” inside my audio lifetime.
Coming recent off of reviewing some excessive finish built-in amps I used to be very curious to see how these rather more expensive separates would do.
I’ve been listening to a setup of the Go Labs XP-10 and XA60.8’s for round seven months now and have been very happy with the sound of those items embedded inside my system. To me, Go Labs gives up among the sweetest sounding gear I’ve ever heard when its involves amplification. I’m a man who loves the sound of a very good Class A amplifier and the XA60.8’s are really within the “particular” class.
A lifetime set of amps certainly in case you worth an enormous, candy, natural 3D sound. They’ve been the rock and the muse of my system ever since they had been set in place.
As for the pre-amp, the previous XP-10 was doing fairly good in my system with these 60 watt class A amps. It wasn’t the proper be all finish all pre-amp (and I’ve heard higher in additional dear choices) but it surely had an excellent synergy with the mono block amps. The pairing simply labored out so effectively and supplied up a slice of that magical Go sound that’s by no means fatiguing or overdone.
In reality throughout my time with the XP-12 I additionally had a Nagra Basic Preamp in the home. This $18k pre-amp has three tubes inside and is about as clear, refined and candy as I’ve ever heard. I used to be capable of hear the $6k Go Labs preamp together with the $18k Nagra and the variations had been fairly stark, however simply that…variations. Not higher or worse actually, simply completely different. I’ll converse some some on this comparability later down on this overview.
From XP-10 to XP-12
Simply earlier than the beginning of 2022 I swapped the XP-10 overview unit out for the XP-12 overview unit. The XP-12 will not be new. It was launched approach again in 2017, or 5 years in the past. So this isn’t a “scorching off the press” overview of the XP-12 as there are lots of to be seen on-line. I’m certain if you’re studying this you could have perused a couple of of these already.
The XP-12 is a pre-amp that’s nonetheless a present mannequin throughout the Go Labs lineup and that’s one factor I like about Go Labs.
They don’t create a brand new product simply to make a buck, they solely launch one thing new when it’s really an enchancment on what has come earlier than it. One can anticipate 7-9 years between new substitute merchandise from Go Labs. THAT IS AWESOME because it means we wouldn’t have to drool over new fashions yearly or two, and in flip lose cash yearly or two by buying and selling up.
Go Labs has a couple of choices within the pre-amp realm and the XP-12 is the one which is available in on the beginning place of the worth ladder changing the a lot older XP-10 that can also be a unbelievable pre-amp.
The XP-12 will not be unique or fancy nor does it price $20k. It’s fantastically made and fairly straightforward on the eyes and simply warrants its asking value in that division. At $6,000 it’s actually moderately cheap within the realm of excessive finish pre-amps.
Above the XP-12 Go gives up the XP-22 which is a two field unit (and I’ve heard it’s a good soar up from this XP-12) that separates the ability provide right into a separate field. The XP-32 is a 3 field mannequin after which there may be the uber excessive finish providing referred to as the Xs which is available in at a cool $38,000 USD.
Every mannequin goes up in efficiency and value.
LOOKS, DESIGN, BUILD…MADE IN THE USA
Go Labs is a model that’s made right here within the USA.
Based mostly in California this can be a firm identified for high quality, service and reliability. Oh, and naturally the large, elegant, detailed, magical and natural sound these items can produce can also be a pleasant perk ; )
The XP-12 seems to be precisely just like the XP-10 which is an effective factor because the XP-10 is a pleasant wanting pre-amp. It’s hefty with a silver faceplate that doesn’t have the bling or flash of some excessive finish manufacturers who attempt to promote you on cool seems to be. 5 inputs, RCA or balanced XLR connectivity, an enormous metallic distant (although I want it lit up for night time listening), and a big quantity dial.
The blue show is considerably straightforward to learn as effectively, if not a bit on the smaller aspect.
THIS IS A PRE-AMP. Interval!
There is no such thing as a DAC. No Streamer. No gimmicks. This can be a pre-amp. Interval. It mates extraordinarily effectively with Go Labs amps however I’ve additionally tried it with one other amp or two with stunning outcomes. Actually I choose items like this, with out every part stuffed inside it.
Once you begin including DAC’s and Phono Amps inside a pre-amp it might begin to trigger points with noise. By holding these issues separate, we’re holding noise from the system.
The XP-12 is about as silent as a pre-amp will get. It offers a deep black background for the music to emerge from. That is essentially the most noise free and silent pre-amp I’ve ever had the pleasure to have in my system. In reality, aspect by aspect it’s a contact quieter than the rather more costly Nagra Basic PreAmp.
It’s true that probably the greatest enhancements we will make to our techniques is to remove all noise as this enables the music to breathe and emerge from blackness. It’s how particulars and micro particulars emerge and create that magic I converse of usually.
HOW the XP-12 DIFFERS FROM THE XP-10
After I learn what was modified from the XP-10, I admit, I used to be skeptical. It didn’t appear that an excessive amount of was modified to warrant an improve however within the audio world, issues that appear small will be big with regards to sound.
The XP-12 has been improved in a couple of methods. First, the quantity management is borrowed from the $38,000 Xs pre-amp. Sure, trickle down is sweet ; )
In reality. I’ll simply paste what Go Labs says about this pre-amp as they speak concerning the variations..
“The brand new XP-12 begins with a brand new energy provide. It makes use of an environment friendly toroidal design with each an electrostatic and Mu metallic defend together with vacuum impregnating and epoxy fill. This provides us a really quiet transformer each electrically and mechanically.
The facility provide circuitry itself can also be decrease noise and has extra filtering, a bit extra difficult however value it.
The XP-12 makes use of the only stage quantity management borrowed from the XS line preamp. This provides us 100 1 dB steps with decrease noise and distortion whereas eradicating some sign path elements.
The achieve circuitry continues to make use of our favourite transistors from Toshiba however has a bigger greater biased output stage much like the XS preamplifier auto bias. This makes longer and a number of cable runs simpler to drive and offers us the benefit of simplifying our single ended output circuitry whereas growing efficiency. Total this makes for a quieter extra impartial, musical and versatile management middle to your system.”
So we get the only stage quantity management from the flagship. For me this can be a very good addition/change. After I first put within the XP-12 to exchange the XP-10 I observed I needed to flip up the quantity to “54” moderately than my regular 38″. It’s because the XP-12 has 100 1db steps which is kind of a change from the XP-10. The XP-12 provides a degree of refinement that’s usually heard in preamps that price a bit extra and I can hear the distinction simply in my system.
The 12 is simply extra refined and even sweeter than what the ten was giving me inside my system. Extra particulars emerge with the 12 in place as a result of absolute lack of noise.
The quantity dial feels a bit completely different between the 2 as effectively. The Xp-10 is clean, strong and silky. The XP-12 has this as effectively but it surely feels higher, once more, extra refined, premium. Undecided I can clarify it but it surely feels barely nicer to me.
The proof might be within the sound although, and I had this new pre-amp operating in 24/7 for some time earlier than I sat right down to pay attention for the modifications between it and the older XP-10. I used to be not anticipating a big night time and day distinction however I knew there was going to be a change.
With the XP-10 eliminated and the XP-12 as an alternative I instantly observed the variations. After 100 hours or so of being powered up I knew precisely what these variations had been and so they had been actually not so subtle.
The XP-10 is a superb pre-amp, even in the present day. I may dwell with it for an extended very long time and never need for higher. It produces sound that could be a bit meaty and daring. It brings large bass, a contact of heat and a seductive detailed candy sound.
What I felt it was ever so barely missing throughout my time with it was all out delicacy, transparency, crisper instrument separation and finesse.
Actually although, I didn’t understand these items till the Xp-12 arrived.
With the XP-12 the sound was fairly a bit extra refined and effectively, quiet. The music emerged from a blacker background. Because of this the brand new energy provide circuitry was doing its job and residing as much as its promise. The music emerges from the blackest backgrounds I’ve ever skilled and this in itself is definitely worth the distinction between the 2 pre-amps if you need my opinion.
However wait, there may be extra!
The XP-12 with XA60.8 amplifiers are really a spectacular combo. I’m listening to very good transparency, particulars, and a slight growth of the soundstage in each width and peak. There is a little more depth.
The bombastic bass of the XP-10 is toned down a bit however not taken away. Slightly, it’s rather more balanced, refined and practical. It may be bombastic as effectively, however solely when that information is within the music itself. Usually although the XP-10 added just a bit bit extra physique to the music which took away from it’s transparency just a bit bit.
The XP-12 has a sweeter sound. It has a bit extra magic. It’s certainly extra clear. It brings that “see by way of a transparent window” form of sound. It’s extra holographic and spacious. It does the house factor very effectively. I simply saved pondering how extra open every part sounded.
The XP-10 is usually a contact closed in (solely in direct comparability) and hotter. Whereas they share the identical stunning home sound, the XP-12 is simply providing extra of what made the XP-10 so good.
Inside a a pleasant system the variations are usually not exhausting to listen to and sure to those ears it’s a worthy enchancment to the a lot older XP-10. The XP-10 was launched approach again in 2008 so Go Labs had loads of time to carry these enhancements. They hit it out of the park.
With that mentioned, the XP-10 could also be most popular by these of you with a need for a extra beefier direct sound vs the extra spacious and ethereal sound of the XP-12. The XP-10 may also be discovered used for underneath $3k, which is a superb deal and possibility as effectively.
THE GEAR IN MY MAIN SYSTEM as of 01/25/22
Fleetwood Deville Audio system – See overview
Chord Dave DAC – See overview
Lumin U1 Mini Streamer – No overview but but it surely’s superb and all I want in a streamer.
Go Labs XA60.8 – See my overview
Audioquest Niagara 1200 – Overview
Nagra Basic Amp (for comparisons)
Nagra Basic PreAmp (for comparisons)
Had an XP-10, now testing the XP-12
One other space I really feel the XP-12 differs from the XP10 is within the midrange. Whereas the XP-10 had a pleasant full and heat midrange the XP-12 cleans it up a bit. The result’s a extra practical vocal efficiency that’s so clear and practical.
I attempted this pre-amp with each a Nagra Basic amp and an Audio Analysis Reference 75 amplifier. Each sounded nice with the XP-12 although I nonetheless most popular the XA60.8’s with the XP-12 because the synergy is ideal. The Nagra supplied up a cleaner and punchier sound whereas the Reference 75 tube amp was virtually like a mixture of the Nagra and Go. Beautiful. All of them sounded superb, as they need to, with the XP-12 driving them.
In comparison with the $18,000 Nagra Basic Pre-Amp.
The Nagra Basic is a candy pre-amp and one that’s really made to final a lifetime. It’s mentioned, after you have a Nagra setup you by no means return to others. The very fact is the Nagra is certainly a nicer pre-amp than the Go Labs XP-12 however take a look at the worth. The Nagra is $12k costlier than the Go Labs.
After I listened to them aspect by aspect the variations had been there however I used to be completely satisfied to see that the XP-12 was not far behind the legendary and mystical Nagra.
The Go was a contact extra laid again, hotter, gentler. The Nagra was extra sparkly, had an even bigger sound and was extra dynamic. The Go was liquid, and introduced forth the music in a pure approach. The Nagra vibrant forth the music in an even bigger, extra detailed and practical approach.
Each sounds right here had been unbelievable and I by no means felt something was missing with the XP-12. It held its personal and allowed the music to return by way of with that Go character. Huge, heat, fluid and with musical magnificence.
FAR BEYOND “STARTER”
One other factor that I like about Go Labs is that their “starter” merchandise similar to this XP-12 are usually not actually starter in any respect. They’re totally fleshed out and refined items that provide up a real excessive finish sound. Does it get extra refined as you go up the road? Certain, however that doesn’t imply you’ll choose the upper up the chain mannequin! All of it will depend on synergy inside your system, and your private preferences.
However you possibly can relaxation straightforward figuring out that even the XP-12 sounds completely as you assume it ought to. This isn’t crippled or hobbled, moderately it sounds stunning, is constructed to a excessive finish normal and has an organization behind it with an outstanding fame.
I really feel blessed to have the ability to expertise the XP-12 because it has taken my system to new heights but once more. At $6k it might sound costly to a few of you however in todays excessive finish audio and HiFi world it’s really not. Not for a preamp of this pedigree. Made within the USA from an organization with a stellar fame for high quality I might even say that is fairly the cut price within the HiFi realm.
Made within the USA, stunning construct, beautiful sound, and can final a lifetime.
IT’s EASY like Sunday Morning
The XP-12 is an EASY 100% full on suggestion if you’re searching for a excessive finish pre-amp that may inject some magic, magnificence and holographic sounds into your room. It excels at transparency, air, 3D and is at all times clean and easy with none glare or edge.
It’s not essentially the most tremendous dynamic piece and in my expertise it makes a speciality of heat, humanity, transparency, and a clean detailed expansive sound.
Simply be ready to show up the quantity dial a bit greater than you could be used to to get to the quantity you anticipate.
Whereas Go amps are designed by the legendary Nelson Go, the XP-12 was designed by Wayne Colburn who designs the pre-amps for Go. It’s apparent to me he additionally is aware of his stuff.
WHY I LOVE PASS
There are a couple of manufacturers I’ve grown keen on in audio. There are some I’ll by no means purchase once more. I’ve turn into a lifetime fan of Go Labs as they ship the sound I crave.
Under are some the reason why I like Go Labs.
- Beautiful construct
- Superb sound high quality
- Made within the USA (I do know, I repeated myself once more)
- Superb really feel
- Ask anybody who has had Go. The customer support is at all times rated about as excessive because it will get.
- They may final eternally.
- Nearly at all times downside free. If not, they are going to repair it quick.
- Nelson Go is an Audio Legend.
- You may see extra concerning the XP-12 on the Go Labs web site HERE.
LISTENING NOTES (vs the XP-10)
25 or 6 to 4 – Chicago Stay at Carnegie Corridor 4/5/71 – Listening to Chicago’s 25 or 6 to 4 dwell with the XP-12 introduced out each instrument intimately with vocals projecting useless middle from between my two audio system. It had an enormous dwell really feel and virtually appeared as if these artists had been in my room. The recording is a bit skinny however nonetheless sounds very dwell and really actual inside my system.
Tremendous clear and open. With the XP-10 in place the track had extra “beef” to the mid bass but misplaced some measurement within the soundstage. It wasn’t as clear but additionally sounded unbelievable. The Xp-12 was sounding like a extra dear preamp right here with it’s imaging and extensive open sound. Incredible. Once more, if it had a teeny bit extra heft it might be the proper preamp. Even so, we get rather more transparency, air and magic so that’s the tradeoff.
Look Up – Pleasure Oladokun – This track is concerning the vocals and acoustic guitar at first. Then it opens up right into a candy sounding expansive presentation with piano and sounds popping up throughout me. With the XP-12 operating the present the music is introduced completely. There’s heat, scale and an excellent clean big window to the music and sounds that emerge from left proper and middle. The XP-10 sounds a bit extra closed in and a teeny bit much less refined however I’ve to say, is simply as stunning. The XP-12 brings that top finish refinement and there may be completely nothing in any respect that’s offensive or missing.
My Little Love – Adele from her “30” Album – This can be a effectively recorded album and this observe brings out every kind of sounds and power shifts throughout the music. It may be explosive and fill a room with a full three dimensional presentation in the fitting system and the XP-12 exploits this splendidly. It’s magic, it’s clear, clear and candy. It’s received physique, heat and presence. With the XP-10 we hear related traits however much less of them. It does the vocal simply as candy however once more, is a bit much less open and expansive. Barely. The XP-12 brings out the musical layers a bit higher than the older 10 and with this observe the bass is served up splendidly.