Portable Desktop: ALO The PanAm

Other Headphone Pairings

Afterwards I wrote an early impression on Facebook about the PanAm, mainly praising its performance with the LCD-2. Some readers started asking about an impression with the Hifiman Orthos and the Sennheiser HD800, and I realized I have been too excited about the LCD-2 pairing that I have completely ignored the Hifimans. A few days later I had some free time and I tried the Hifiman HE-500 and the HD800 on the PanAm. I wasn’t so impressed. The sound is quite clear and if you’re listening mostly to instruments with no need of powerful bass impact, it would do. Once I start listening to Rock and Electronics or even Classical, I feel a big lack of bass weight and that the sound is mostly treble and mids. The Burson Soloist is clearly the amp for the Hifimans, and the difference is not even close.

With the HD800, though the sound was quite nice, I’m still not getting the wow I know I get with some other tube amps. Of course my reference HD800 amplifier is mostly the big tube amps like the Woo WA5, Manley or the Zana, but I also enjoy the HD800 more from an OTL Bottlehead Crack than I do the PanAm. Weird, right? Of course the Crack doesn’t work with heavier headphones like the LCD-2. I just felt that although the sound is incredibly clean and clear, the PanAm doesn’t quite have enough soundstage to fill in the HD800’s huge space. It has to be OTL, I guess. Or something else high end.

Good news is that I enjoy the PanAm with the HD650 and the HD580 very much, so that doesn’t rule out the Sennheisers. The PanAm paired with the HD650 for instance is so enjoyable it’s taking over the role of my Bottlehead Crack as the HD650 amp. Likewise the Alessandro MS-Pro was very nice out of the PanAm, so you Grado owners should try this amp out. The tonality of the PanAm adds a good low end and mid body while relaxes the treble of the MS-Pro, so I would imagine this amp to work well with Grados and even Audio Technica AD-Series as well. Not to mention the clean, clear and grainless sound you get. Plus the sweet mids. This is just about as good as a sub $1,000 amplifier gets, and even comparable to some ~$1,500 amps out there.

 

DAC Performance

The PanAm comes with its own built-in DAC that I don’t even know based on what chip. ALO’s website only said “Wolfson Digital to Analog Converter Chip”. WM8740/41 perhaps? It supports 24/96 out of USB so it’s all good. I sort of wish it does 24/88.2 since 88.2’s been my favorite sample rate for quite some time now, but no biggie, 24/96 is good enough.

After some early impressions, I tell people that the sound of the built in DAC was very enjoyable and musical, and even though it being a built-in DAC unit I don’t really see the need to upgrade the DAC section since the sound is very good already. For all I care, if the sound is good, why should I be bothered about the numbers and the comparisons? But of course it doesn’t work that way, and being a reviewer I am required to throw in a comparison. So I took out the Centrance Dacport LX which have been my favorite $300 DAC for quite sometime now and I compared it with the PanAm built-in DAC.

The comparison re-assured me that I really won’t bother upgrading the PanAm’s built in DAC. The Dacport is a little less grainy (mostly on the lows), but that’s about it. I enjoy the weightier lows and the slightly less upfront treble I get from the PanAm’s DAC more, where the Dacport now sounds a little too upfront in the treble and lacking low end weight. Soundstage width is mostly the same with the Dacport being a little more airy, but the PanAm has a superior depth which I always prefer. I think the fact that the PanAm DAC is powered by the PassPort battery adds a lot to the performance of the built-in DAC, because it hasn’t been easy to find a DAC that betters the Dacport LX.

 

Power Supply Comparisons

The best of all the three available power supplies is clearly the Passport battery pack. For this reason, I advise you to go straight for the Passport and not even worry about getting the Gateway. You get a bigger and cleaner sound than you do out of the Gateway PSU. The Passport works even while being charged, so I don’t think you’ll be needing the Gateway even if you listen to the amp 24/7. There is some concern about battery life, and indeed that is a valid one, but if you want the best sound then the Passport is the one you should get.

Second best is the Gateway PSU unit which is AC-powered, but a more proper power supply than the standard switching wallwart. Last and should only be used for charging, is the switching wallwart.

 

Tube Rolling

I received two extra pair of tubes from ALO so I’ll be adding tube rolling impressions.

The stock tube is a Chinese 6J1 tube. A good all rounder with good mids and lows and soundstage. I really have nothing to complaint with the stock tube. Tonality is great, just not as clean and as wide as the other tubes.

The NOS 6AK5W Siemens tube ($29 in a pair) gives a more forward and sweeter midrange, an even cleaner sound than the stock and an even bigger soundstage than stock. With some headphones like the Aurisonics ASG-1, I didn’t like the extra midrange which is a little too tubey. Also PRaT is a tad less than the stock tube. With the LCD-2 which has no problem producing PRaT, this tube simply rocks, and the more forward midrange is just perfect for the LCD-2.

Then there is a third set of tube which I call the “bass tube”. This is the NOS 6J1-P EV Russian Military tubes ($9/pair). I call this the bass tube as it gives me an extremely detailed bass section with powerful impact, more than the other two. Midrange is less full compared to the stock and Siemens. The sound however is bigger and cleaner than stock, though again not as big as the Siemens’ soundstage. This is my favorite tube but that’s just because I love high quality bass more than anything else.

Note: There was a question about using the PanAm with the bass tube to aid the K550’s bass. It doesn’t add bass quantity, rather this tube improves the texture, articulation and impact. 

I think for most people, the NOS 6AK5W Siemens tube is probably the recommended upgrade. If you’re like me, go with the NOS 6J1-P EV Russian Military tubes. Brilliant bass out of a tube amp.

 

Extras

Along with the tubes I also received three different cables designed to hook up your source to the PanAm. The first is a long mini to mini cable with a angled jack on one end. This is what I use when I’m using my Tera Player or CLAS, or some other audiophile players. The second one is a USB cable which I use for connecting my computer to the PanAm’s USB DAC. The third is an Ipod dock to a mini jack, which frankly I never use since the Ipod DAC quality simply don’t cut it these days.

The cables are built very well, and the length is perfect for these applications. The cotton sleeving looks high end, but you need to keep them away from grease and dust.

 

End Words

I guess you can call this a miniature, yet semi high-end tube amp. It’s a no-go with the Hifimans, but for almost everything else out there it’s just a brilliant amp that pairs well with a lot of different headphones and IEMs. The pairing with the LCD-2 is just magical as many visitors to the store have confirmed. I still don’t get the whole “Portable Desktop” concept, but the good thing we get out of it is that clean power from the Passport Battery pack.

Initially ALO planned to sell the PanAm for $699 and while it was an okay price, I told them it would be great to have the amp for $599 since people will still have to spend extra money for the power supply / battery pack. I don’t know if it’s the result of my lobbying, but I’m excited that they finally decided to go with the $599 price. That way, you can tell the spouse that it’s only a $500 amp instead of a $700 one (don’t mention the extra battery you need to buy). Nice.

headfonia_3386 headfonia_3385 headfonia_3383 headfonia_3381 headfonia_3378 headfonia_3372 headfonia_3363 alo_audio_panam_19 alo_audio_panam_15 alo_audio_panam_14 alo_audio_panam_12 alo_audio_panam_10 alo_audio_panam_11 alo_audio_panam_09 alo_audio_panam_08 alo_audio_panam_07 alo_audio_panam_06

 

 

 

 

 

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139 Comments

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Spencer Chan

    Damn. Just got the V200 too and was wishing I could take the thing out on the porch…. *wallet cries* =D

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      Mike

      Why we all need time machines…

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      L.

      Extension cables!

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Rūdolfs Putniņš

    Any news on the topology? Most likely a hybrid, no?

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      Mike

      Hybrid. Tubes input, output with transistors.

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Stephen Loke

    Hi,

    Nice review! Would you recommend this amp with an IEM like the Westone 4R?

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      Mike

      Stephen,
      Haven’t tried it with the Westone 4R, but it works very well with the FitEar 334.

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    Trent_D

    Any reason, especially with the bass tube, that this wouldn’t be a good amp for the k550?

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      Mike

      It doesn’t boost the bass, rather it improves texture articulation and impact.

      • Reply September 12, 2012

        Trent_D

        It isn’t so much quantity that is the issue, it is impact. Although, I imagine most things will have more impact or quantity than a usb dac cable connected to a cmoy. This is why I wish I never looked beyond the ipod ear buds. Every time I think I made a choice, here comes something new.

        • Reply September 12, 2012

          Mike

          Well it’ll improve the impact, but still not as much as I’d like it to be. But the problem with me is that I have the HD650 as my reference for impact.
          Lol the good old iPod buds days.

          • Reply September 12, 2012

            Trent_D

            This looks like a pretty solid deal, though. And when I finally get that HD650, I will be ready for it.

            • Reply September 12, 2012

              Mike

              Yes it’s very nice indeed. Sorry about your wallet though.

              • Reply September 13, 2012

                Trent_D

                But, if I was going to get the Dacport LX and the SR-71a (or Crack or whatever it happens to be at the moment in my crazy head) that is already the same price. And I like this all in one solution, that also satisfies my need for a small footprint.

    • Reply September 12, 2012

      Mike

      Good question, though.

  • Reply September 12, 2012

    L.

    We can’t really ask our friends from ALO to send us another PanAM, so it doesn’t look like we’ll be making that comparison soon. Sorry

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    Michael Mercer

    GREAT job Mike, as always! I’m loving the Pan Am w/ PassPort & Gateway. We took a little road trip, and I brought the Pan Am and Passport. Next thing you know I’m writing on the road, w/ my Audeze LCD3’s!!! Glorious sound. Review comin from me too – nice read man

    • Reply September 13, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks Michael. Must be awesome with the LCD-3 too bad I don’t have one around.

      • Reply September 30, 2012

        Michael Mercer

        Oh, its incredible! My favorite rig at the moment, next to the Audioquest Dragonfly or HRT Headstreamer!!

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    Benedict Brown

    Great review as always. No need for one of these personally right now and a little out of my budget, but nice nonetheless. Also loving the return of in-line pictures, glad you took the suggestion.

    • Reply September 13, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks Benedict for talking to me about the in line pictures.

      Glad you enjoy the review.

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    Aric Ross

    Have you had an opportunity to try these with the Fidelio L1? do they scale up well?

    I’m really enjoying the e17 and L1 suggestions you have made by the way! Just think the next amp headphone pairng I buy has to be top of the line to really enjoy

    • Reply September 13, 2012

      Mike

      Thanks, Aric.
      I will give it a try with the Fidelio. Too many headphones these days. 😉

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    khubmai

    Mike now i use W1000x – dacHD – Asgard and always listen acoustic or classic , now i want to ask u about compare between Asgard to PanAm?
    Thank.

    • Reply September 13, 2012

      Mike

      Ah the PanAm is much better than the Asgard, but I haven’t tried it with the W1000X.

  • Reply September 13, 2012

    Eugen

    ALO pricing is funny. Designer cable funny. 🙂

  • Reply September 14, 2012

    TODD LILES

    Can you make any comparisons between the PanAm’s DAC and the Burson DAC or Centrance DACmini DAC?

    • Reply September 14, 2012

      Mike

      Good question, Todd.

      I made a comparison to the Centrance Dacport LX which I found to be technically below the Dacmini, but musically better. (here is the LX reviw: http://headfonia.com/cheaper-better-the-centrance-dacport-lx/)

      The Burson stand-alone DAC I’ve never auditioned, however the DACs on the HA-160D and DS is technically just as good as the Dacport LX but I find the LX to be more musical than the Burson.

  • Reply September 14, 2012

    Brian Werner

    Mike does the built in DAC in this thing work with iPods and iPhones the way the CLAS does? Is a tube amp practical as a transportable unit?

    • Reply September 14, 2012

      Trent_D

      No, it is not able to draw the digital data straight from an apple device.

      • Reply September 18, 2012

        Brian Werner

        Oh alright… So to use the DAC you’ve got to have a powered source like a laptop or desktop computer…. I am sure this thing sounds heavenly. I love the sweet dose of color that the Continental’s hybrid circuitry yields but I honestly don’t get the attempt at making a desktop tube amp portable… It kinda seems like a weird tweak on the Millet Minimax.

        • Reply September 18, 2012

          Trent_D

          I’m not sure it needs a powered source (Mike might now, or if not him ALO), but in order to take the digital information straight from an ipod, you need some proprietary whatsithoosey from Apple. CLAS, Fostex HP-P1, iStreamer all have that.

          • Reply September 18, 2012

            Mike

            Well the DAC draws power from the battery power supply, not the USB hub so we thought we could run it to the Ipad using the camera connection kit. But we tried and it didn’t work. I think it was an Ipad 1.

        • Reply September 18, 2012

          Mike

          Yea honestly I don’t get the “portable” desktop part either. But I’m not complaining since battery power rocks.

    • Reply September 14, 2012

      Mike

      What Trent said.

  • Reply September 14, 2012

    spudgered

    Mike,

    I’ve had my PanAm and PassPort for a few days now and am beguiled by the lush tonality, crisp dynamics and overall musicality of this diminutive combination. The tubes are easy to roll and my favourite so far is the Mullard M8100 – available on eBay quite cheaply. The only concern I have is that all of the valves that I’ve tried in the PanAm don’t seat very securely in the socket – on a couple of occasions inadvertently nudging the unit(s) caused the tube to flop to one side resulting in loss of sound in one channel. ALO are sending me a replacement PanAm so this glitch might just be a one off fault in my unit, but it’s something to be aware of.

    Andy.

    • Reply September 14, 2012

      Mike

      “Beguiled”. Interesting word to describe the experience, Andy.

      Alright thanks for notifying us about the problem in the socket. Personally our sample unit doesn’t have that problem.

      Mullard M8100, how does it compare to the Russian tube and the Siemens?

    • Reply October 30, 2012

      Trent_D

      I second Mike’s question. How do the Mullard M8100 compare to the Russian and Siemens tube?

  • Reply September 19, 2012

    Verawat

    hi, i kinda wonder how well it goes with W3000anv? ,this small footprint amp looks extremely interesting!

    • Reply September 19, 2012

      Mike

      I haven’t checked yet, Verawat. This weekend I may be able to, but not sure.

      • Reply September 20, 2012

        Verawat

        that’d be great if i can hear some of your opinion on that one : )

      • Reply January 20, 2013

        Stanley

        Hi Mike I would also love to hear about PanAm’s pairing with W3000ANV. Thanks.

        • Reply January 21, 2013

          Mike

          I thought it was a good pairing, nothing mind blowing, but a good pairing.

  • Reply September 24, 2012

    Trent_D

    How did the LCD-2 do with classical? With the HD650, I am going to assume you favored the bass tubes with it. How were the mids and treble? Was it able to fill the 650’s soundstage?

  • Reply October 30, 2012

    Trent_D

    To anyone interested in the Pan Am and the Passport or Gateway or the ALO cables, or any combination there of, check this out. Go to ALO’s website, and click on the Pan Am. Click on the tab that says “Buy Together”. That will bring up a page of different bundles for the Pan Am. Amongst other deals, they will have the Pan Am, the Passport, and a travel bag together for $700. That is half off the passport with the bag for free. Not a bad deal.

  • Reply November 5, 2012

    Tam Ho

    Hi Mike,
    Can you comment a little bit about the sound quality between the Schiit Lyr and the Pan Am? Many head-fier said that the Lyr is the best amp for the LCD-2s at sub $500(some even said $1000) and I am about buying a Schiit Lyr for the Xmas event this year but i have just found this thread of your 🙂
    Thanks in advance.

    • Reply November 5, 2012

      Mike

      Hi Tam,
      I wasn’t too impressed with the Lyr. Here is my review of it:
      http://headfonia.com/triple-schiit-asgaard-valhalla-and-lyr/

    • Reply November 19, 2012

      L.

      I listened to both this afternoon with my LCD-2s and I wasn’t impressed AT ALL with the LYR. There was no magic. the PanAm did much better and while I wouldn’t say it’s the perfect amp for the LVD2 it has great sound for its tiny size. Man that thing is small!

      • Reply November 19, 2012

        Mike

        How is it that you always agree with what I say 😉

        • Reply November 19, 2012

          L.

          I could say that too :p

      • Reply November 27, 2012

        Tam Ho

        Thank L., About the Pan Am, did you heard it along with the $200 passport? do you think the Pan Am’s passport worths its cost?
        Thanks again 🙂

        • Reply November 27, 2012

          L.

          It was the full set I listened to. If it’s worth it or not I can’t generalize. To me the whole set is a bit steep, but that’s just me personally

      • which amp you think is ”perfect” for the lcd 2 ?

        • Reply December 10, 2012

          L.

          That’s no secret: the V200 🙂

          • wow,and how the pan am is compared to the pan am amping the lcd 2 ?

            • Reply December 10, 2012

              L.

              Excuse me?

              • sorry my english is terrible,which is better amp for the lcd 2 ?

                • Reply December 10, 2012

                  L.

                  If you don’t need a “portable” amp: V200 imo

                  • hmm,but in which things the violetric is better?can you do a quick comparision for me?sorry not being very clear

                    • December 10, 2012

                      L.

                      To me it has more power, more body, more base, more warmth. the pan am, is cleaner, clearer and portable. But to me the Violectric is the better all rounder and it has lots of gain settings and 2 outputs. With the PanAm you can ofcourse get the PSU and Dac. If you look at the amps part only, the V200 is quite a bit more expensive

                    • thanks,L

            • Reply December 10, 2012

              Julius

              They are so different 🙂 kidding

    • Reply November 19, 2012

      L.

      It’s over your budget, but up to date the violectric amps are the best amps for the LCD2 for me

      • Reply November 27, 2012

        Tam Ho

        thank you, i will consider it 🙂

  • Reply November 24, 2012

    kkl10

    Hey there Mike, I’m learning to trust and enjoying reading your reviews more and more.
    I would like to know if you can compare the Pan Am amp to the Apex Butte?
    And what would you consider to be the most transparent non-DIY amp in the sub-500$ range you’ve heard?
    Thanks!

    • Reply November 24, 2012

      Mike

      The most transparent non DIY amp, I probably would think the Butte.

      A comparison, I really would be more comfortable if I still have the Butte.

  • did you try the pan am with any grado headphones?

    • Reply November 24, 2012

      Trent_D

      From the review “Likewise the Alessandro MS-Pro was very nice out of the PanAm, so you
      Grado owners should try this amp out. The tonality of the PanAm adds a
      good low end and mid body while relaxes the treble of the MS-Pro, so I
      would imagine this amp to work well with Grados and even Audio Technica
      AD-Series as well.”

      • Reply November 24, 2012

        L.

        I used it with the gs1000 I think and it was a nice match indeed

        • thanks i was thinks use the pan am with sr 125i and trent i saw that before ask but i want to know if you already tested a grado with this and not only a assumption.thanks

          • Reply November 29, 2012

            Mike

            I used an Alessandro which is not quite a Grado, but very close.

      • Reply November 24, 2012

        Mike

        Thanks, Trent.

  • Reply November 24, 2012

    Kenneth S.

    Mike,
    I’ve been reading your website for years now, and I love your pictures. And reviews. I’ve been looking at getting a new amp for my HD650s (Bottlehead Crack and HRT Music Streamer II + ) and am wondering how you think the Pan Am pairs with them in comparison to my setup?
    Thanks,
    Kenneth

    (Edit)
    I see you wrote that the Pan Am is taking over from the Crack in your HD650 listening-could you at all explain what you like better? Thanks!

    • Reply November 24, 2012

      Trent_D

      Is your crack a base model, or have you tried some upgrades? First question I have seen by someone looking to upgrade PAST the crack with the HD650. Nice to see something new!

      • Reply November 24, 2012

        Kenneth S.

        Trent, I am using the Speedball upgrade and it sounds great. Its just that I’m curious to see what Mike thinks was better about the Pan Am’s sound. Sound aside, transportability is especially enticing to me, as does upgradability. <-If the Pan Am powers the LCD-2s as well as I've seen so many say…
        XD

        • Reply November 24, 2012

          Trent_D

          I actually asked Mike this question a bit ago. He said he preferred the Pan Am’s DAC to the dacport lx for the HD650, but thought the Crack was the better amp for the HD650. I know the MS2+ and the dacport have a different sound, so dac part of the answer doesn’t help you. You could always try the kingrex 384 with the uPower supply for an upgrade.

          L actually tried the Pan Am with the LCD-2 the other day, and he still preferred them with the Violectric V200.

  • Reply November 27, 2012

    Alfani Gunawan

    which is the sounding for pan am? with passport or gateway or direct???

    • Reply November 27, 2012

      Trent_D

      The best of all the three available power supplies is clearly the
      Passport battery pack. For this reason, I advise you to go straight for
      the Passport and not even worry about getting the Gateway. You get a
      bigger and cleaner sound than you do out of the Gateway PSU. The
      Passport works even while being charged, so I don’t think you’ll be
      needing the Gateway even if you listen to the amp 24/7. There is some
      concern about battery life, and indeed that is a valid one, but if you
      want the best sound then the Passport is the one you should get.

      Second best is the Gateway PSU unit which is AC-powered, but a more
      proper power supply than the standard switching wallwart. Last and
      should only be used for charging, is the switching wallwart.

  • Reply January 3, 2013

    ryan

    What is the height of the pan amp with the tubes on?

  • Reply January 15, 2013

    ryan

    How does this compare to Solo SRG II? All this while, I have been looking for a tube amp (while waiting for the HP-A8). Current headphones are 770AE, HD650 and T1.

    • Reply January 15, 2013

      Mike

      You can say that they’re comparable but one is a tube device. My best advice is to try one out as it’s hard to explain what a tube sound is, if you’ve never heard one.

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

    • Reply January 15, 2013

      Mike

      If I can add, I think the PanAm will be great with your headphones.

      Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

      • Reply January 15, 2013

        ryan

        Does the PanAm sound mellower and warmer than SRGII? I have tried a Darkvoice 332 before.

        About battery life of the Passport, let’s say it has been deteoriarated to about 10% (1 hour of playtime instead of the initial 10 hours)…while leaving it to charge all the time, does it still supply constant voltage to the PanAm for optimum performance?

        • Reply January 15, 2013

          Mike

          The Solo is mellower.

          I don’t know the details of the battery you are asking.

          Sent from my mobile device. Sorry for any mistype.

          • Reply January 16, 2013

            ryan

            Pm’ed you in facebook

  • Reply January 20, 2013

    ryan

    Can the PSU1 from SRGII be used for the Pan Am?

    • Reply January 21, 2013

      Mike

      How many volts is the PSU1? I think it’s a 24V isn’t it? In that case no, the Pan Am takes 12V.

  • Reply February 24, 2013

    Fabrice

    I realize you may not be a big fan of the K701 but I would love to hear your views on how the Pan Am / Passport sounds with them.

    • Reply February 25, 2013

      Mike

      Fabrice, I am sorry but I don’t have the 701 around.

  • Reply March 13, 2013

    Isaiah Mackler

    Hey Mike,
    After a couple months, would you still confirm what you said about the Pan Am being comparable, if not preferred, to the Crack w/ the HD600/650? I’ve been looking for a good tube amp, but don’t want to do DIY and don’t want to spend much more…. Anything else you’ve liked more since in the same price range?
    Thanks!

    • Reply March 14, 2013

      Mike

      Yes,
      I haven’t gotten anything else for the HD650 these few months.

  • Reply April 30, 2013

    bm885

    how does it compare to matrix m-stage amplifier+dac combo?the price should be roughly equal…i have akg k701 beyer dt 990 250 ohm

  • Reply May 7, 2013

    George Lai

    Hi Mike, can you clarify this for me?
    1. On photo 7 the Passport Output is connected to the Pan Am but on photo 9 the Passport 12V is connected to the 12V on the Pan Am. Can you tell me more.
    2. Is the Pan Am running off the supplied wall wart really that bad compared to off the Passport?

    • Reply May 7, 2013

      Mike

      1. It works either way
      2. YES

      Regarding #2 if you don’t want to get the Passport, try looking into their battery powered portables like Continental V3 and International. A Continental V3 review is coming up.

      • Reply May 7, 2013

        George Lai

        Hi, I’m not familiar with electrical plugs, jacks, etc but how does it work either or both ways? I’ll take your word for it though! As for Q2, I know I’ve been bugging you regarding the Continental, National, etc to go with my CLAS (my National is on the way), but I think my reservation with the Continental is that the tube is what one website called “a hearing aid valve!” so if I’m going to dive into tubes, a full sized one like the Pan Am seems better value when it’s practically the same price as the Continental. Then when I read your review it would seem that the Passport is a must so that messes up the cost comparison. Or maybe I should just pay Bottlehead to assemble the Crack for me. Decisions decisions.

        • Reply May 7, 2013

          Dave Ulrich

          In case you didn’t see it, on ALO’s Pan Am page, there is a tab labeled “buy together” and it gives you the option of buying the Pan Am and Passport together for $60 off the passport. Not a HUGE deal, I know, but thought I would point it out.

          • Reply May 8, 2013

            George Lai

            Hi Dave. Here in Singapore we buy from the dealer and there’s no such discount. Thanks for pointing it out though

  • Reply May 31, 2013

    Joseph

    Hi Mike,

    Do you think buying an alternative battery pack like the Anker 14400 mAh would be a suitable replacement to the Passport? It’s cheaper and if the only issue is a source external to an outlet, I figure this would suit my budget situation. Thanks in advance.

    • Reply May 31, 2013

      Mike

      It may work.. I really haven’t tried that but it may work, yes.

    • Reply July 24, 2014

      elubis

      Hi Joseph – how is the Anker 14400 mAh battery pack performance after a year? Is the signal still clean and strong? Considering since i would save $80 by buying this versus the Passport.

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    Eli Segal

    If ill never move the PanAm from my desk, should I still opt for the passport. Just for the improved sound?

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      Yes

    • Reply August 24, 2013

      ohm image

      The Passport is a phenomenal item. Being able to take your amp on the road is one of the best reasons for choosing the Pan Am. I consider it an essential upgrade.

      Also, because it uses batteries, its signal is cleaner than wall power.

  • Reply June 13, 2013

    Eli Segal

    Would the PanAm be a major upgrade in sound compare to my SR-71A+DAC for the HD650 (Yes, now I have the HD650 too, I guess you can’t read this site and not buy one)

    • Reply June 13, 2013

      Mike

      Maybe not so much, the 71A is a good amp. More of a different flavor, the PanAm has a nice midrange from the tube. The 71A stronger in bass.

      • Reply June 13, 2013

        Eli Segal

        So good that it’s comparable to a desktop amp? Nice!
        What would be a good DAC for this setup? right now I have the Saffire Pro 24 sound card

        Thanks!

        • Reply June 14, 2013

          Eli Segal

          Right now I’m thinking something along the line of HRT or dacport lx? What do you think?

          • Reply June 14, 2013

            Mike

            Both are good depending on what you like. The HRT warmer, the Dacport cleaner.

  • Reply June 18, 2013

    Joseph

    Has anyone tried pairing the Pan Am with the Beyer DT990/600s? I’m debating between the Pan Am and WA7 at this point for a very long term investment and most likely my last amp/dac.

    • Reply June 19, 2013

      Mike

      Sorry no i haven’t

    • Reply August 24, 2013

      ohm image

      I have the DT880/600. The Pan Am is one of the most powerful small desktop amps out there. It has beautiful balance, great impedance matching for headphones, and modular.

      I’ve used it with hard to drive headphones like the LCD-2, too. NO problems at all.

  • Reply October 18, 2013

    Black3020

    Hi Mike,

    You recommended me the combination RSA Intruder+V-Moda M-100 for alternative rock and metal. Can you recommend me other headphone amps (in the same price range) with a signature similar to the RSA, but available in Europe? And I wanted also to ask you if you think the Burson Soloist is better than RSA Intruder for this genres.

    • Reply October 19, 2013

      Mike

      Hi,
      AHA audio can be an alternative but not quite the same.

      The Soloist is similar to the RSA Intruder yes.

  • Reply November 21, 2013

    BattousaiX26

    Hi Mike i just want to ask what is the benefit of getting gateway if you already have the pan am+passport? Will there be an improvement in sound?

    • Reply November 21, 2013

      Mike

      There is no need for the gateway then.

  • Reply February 28, 2014

    Minh Hoang Nguyen

    Hi Mike, does the Theorem 720 DAC pair well with The Panam. Now i use ATH AD2000X , HD580 and HD650. Thanks Mike.

    • Reply February 28, 2014

      L.

      The Theorem DAC is very good. I tend to use it as my desktop dac lately for all of my amplifiers. You’re safe with that setup

  • Reply March 5, 2014

    Minh Hoang Nguyen

    Hi Mike and Lieven, now i have to choose ALO The Panam or Schiit Lyr for my HD580 and ATH-AD2000x. For source, I use Theorem 720 DAC . Which amp have benefits from rolling tubes and the sound quality better with my headphone. Thank you !

    • Reply March 5, 2014

      L.

      Aren’t you happy with the Theorem amplifier? I would choose the Alo amp.

      • Reply March 5, 2014

        Minh Hoang Nguyen

        The Theorem amplifier is good, it’s clean and have a fantastic high that pair well with classical. But i don’t like midrange of it. I think with tubes amplifier, midrange will be better and more sweet. Do you think so?. Thanks Lieven, i will buy the Panam next week .!

        • Reply March 5, 2014

          L.

          Not really, depends on the tubes but I do find the theorem and pan am mid range similar

  • Reply July 29, 2014

    KhoaNguyen

    Greetings to Mike, Lieven or Dave 😉
    I recently bought the Pan Am + Mullard cv4010 as well. It has been a great purchase for me, very powerful, musical and beautiful with the tubes glowing <3
    I am currently using the Grado Ps500 (blind buy last year). The amp did smoothen the treble of the Grado somehow, espically after the tubes burning period for about 20hs now. However my biggest concern is that the soundstage is not improving that much. I think this would be due to the Grado not responding well with amping becuz in the past i used it with the E17 and I thought, honestly, no change at all except louder sound. I used it with G-cush, the sound is open and separation on width is fine, but depth is really lacking. This appeared especially when I heard the saxophone sound, as if it is played in the same layer with the vocal. So the soundstage is quite unaccurate for me, very limited depth.
    You said you like the Pan Am with the HD650, could you describe it with more detail. Because I also heard that HD650 scales very well. And finally, is the cable upgrade very crucial for the hd650?
    Thank you very much! Really like reading your posts. Pictures were fabulous 😉

  • Reply August 31, 2014

    lowbies

    Which one is better pairing with Alpha Dogs, PanAm or WA6/SE? Thank you..

    • Reply August 31, 2014

      L.

      Tough one. I would choose the one with the most output power

      • Reply September 1, 2014

        lowbies

        Hmm..according to what I’ve found on the internet, WA6SE output power rated @ >1watt, and the PanAm maximum output rated @22V peak to peak. So which one is more powerful? @_@ I can’t find the PanAm’s wattage power output ..

  • Reply September 7, 2014

    SoundEskimoo

    Hi,

    What is power rating output PanAm has?

    For HD650, you chose PanAm over Crack (Very surprising because I thought OTL is the one to go for Sennheisers)
    What is the comparison between two?
    And also how PanAm compared to legendary WA6 or SE? I might buy one Pan Am haha
    The passport is additional Battery Pack or wall power supply?

    thanks

    • Reply September 7, 2014

      L.

      see below for specs. This has been discussed before

  • Reply October 20, 2014

    Sergio Mejia

    Does Panam amplifier requires the passport drive and gateway unit to work with a laptop and headphones HD700 or could be used independently? What feedback have the combo Panam – HD700?

    • Reply October 20, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Depends if you want a dac. Havent tested

    • Reply October 20, 2014

      Tronco

      Hi,
      You don’t need the passport or gateway unit, the Panam is enough. The passport is a battery so you can take your Panam for camping or so and the Gateway gives you cleaner power. But you don’t need them.

      The PanAm has been discontinued. Hurry up if you want one, you’ll get a good price.

  • Reply October 23, 2014

    Robin Mus

    Help me with your opinion on the following question:

    I have the combo amp / dac Panam + ​​Senn HD700 and reproduce music with my laptop, which would be the ideal cable for connecting the amp, USB B, Mini Jack or RCA? Which gives me better sound quality?

    Thank you

  • Reply October 23, 2014

    Robin Mus

    Help me with your opinion on the following question:

    I have the combo amp / dac Panam + ​​Senn HD700 and reproduce music with my laptop, which would be the ideal cable for connecting the amp, USB B, Mini Jack or RCA? Which gives me better sound quality?

    Thank you

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