Summary: What I purchased was actually a PAS2, which has the same circuit as the PAS3 but is a lot cuter looking if you're into art deco et al. I probably overpaid for it but it's hard to find one with a really clean faceplate, which this had.
While I knew that David Hafler's PAS design was highly respected in its day, what really convinced me to buy one was a remark by Steve Melkisethian in his Angela Instruments catalog some years back -- that he'd rather listen to a well-serviced PAS than any solid state pre extant! After listening I understand his enthusiasm. The PAS has a distinct personality and despite some rough spots, it is a classy sounding pre that is lively and musical, and its limitations should no more disqualify it than those of a Quad ELS, LS3/5a or triode power amp. While the PAS is a favorite with modifiers, I would hesitate to mess with David Hafler's design -- instead I would focus on upgrading parts and bringing everything to perfect spec -- I'd hate to lose the "PAS sound", as I experience it.
I had a lot of trouble getting my PAS up and running. At one point, the dam burst on the volume control and I was treated to instant full blast at 11PM. Anyone buying one of these things should be or have access to someone who can work on it. When things were finally straightened out I played some old lps and CDs, still angry at all the hassle I had put up with, and prepared to dislike it. Listening quickly won me over. The PAS, to my surprise, sounded quite dynamic, with lots of detail, three-dimensionality and atmosphere. Imaging was, frankly, as good as I've heard. There was warmth and liquidity and sheen, yes, but this was no old biddy designed to tame the music's savage breast; instead it sounded lively, fast and funky through the mids and treble. The bass was a little subdued, but, mine being an unmodded unit, I availed myself of the liberty of goosing the bass and treble knobs just a tad and really liked the results. It had the clarity of a modern set together with a certain life to it that solid state often misses.
I suspect that even after stuffing it with the best available tubes and caps the PAS would lack the sonic refinement of my new/used c-j PV9, but that's just a conjecture. The PAS is so agreeable to listen to -- if only it had a remote! If you've never owned tubes I suggest you take one for a test drive today!
Strengths: Tube warmth and naturalness together with peppy dynamics, soundstaging, imaging, pace and musicality.
Weaknesses: Somewhat uneven performance: Bottom octaves a little subdued -- think twice before bypassing the tone controls. Tweaky and fussy like an old sports car, but worth the trouble. To max out the design you could spend a couple hundred on replacement parts, or more.
Similar Products Used: Conrad-Johnson PV9, various vintage integrated amps: Fisher X100B, Sherwood
Reviewed by: jesta10, Audio Enthusiast, from NY, USA
Price Paid: $100 at Ebay
Product Model Year: Pre 1995
Summary: I have Magggies driven By 2 Velemen monoblocks. When I first hooked wasn'tbad but then tubes warmed up after a while and what an amazing thing i love the sound mids and highs are clear as anything...I cant wait to replace the caps and clean it up can't even imagine what it sounds like then
Strengths: awsome value, great warm sound
Weaknesses: old, needs cleaning and replacement parts but who cares bout that anyway if your buying a kit! or prebuilt kit like mine
Summary: What can I say? It's a PAS, and it's mine ! Everything that's said in the other reviews is true as far as I'm concerned, so I won't waste your time repeating others. I recently bought the unit and plan on totally revamping it. All capacitors Philips HQ polypropylenes, Bourns pots, 1% metal film resistors, stab. heater supply, ond so on. But no way I'm replacing the tube rectifier!!! It's a great asset to the unit's sound. It does got hot however, almost boiling the high tension capacitor, but that will be replaced by a couple of 100uF's anyway.
All this should bring it up to five stars (I hope!).
Tip: if you suffer right-channel hum on a factory-wired unit (especially when using a high-gain power amp), this is caused by 2 mains wires running directly underneath the R tube socket of the line stage PCB. Yes they're twisted but still they're the cause of this. Just bend them so they run along the edge of the PCB.
Summary: The PAS-3 is a classic tube preamp from the ideas of David Hafler and a team of dedicated individuals.
Owning an PAS-3 can be both rewarding anf frustrating. In original un-restored state the condition can vary from a 9/10 to a 1/10, possibly even shocking the user a bit!
Once the major issues are out of the way (Selenium rectifier replacement, FP Cap upgrade to NOS, other aging and out of tolerance components. Given a good DeOxit and ProGOLD treatment, you can end-up with one remarkable preamplifier.
Sound wise every PAS-3 is different, like that of a hand made musical instrument. The 3-position blen control hints to an age where stereo was king!
The Tone Controls are very creatively implemented. One can literaly increase the tone without skewing the frequency response. Quite a unique design feature.
Apart from lacking a Rolloff filter for those pesky warped classic LP's, the overall presentation character if Dynaco PAS-3 and PAS-2 is quite brilliant if not clearly laid out. Soundstage can be compressed or deep, depending on the tubes chose.
The Vintage RCA connectors on the rear are a challenge for those only having the newer, bigger RCA types which will not work properly on PAS-3's or other similar vintage equipment. If you can find original Switchcraft RCA's get a hefty stock. Vintage equipment requires vintage cables to operate properly. Unless you want to strip-out and 'upgrade/butcher' depending on who you are to 'better' RCA's ?
Anyhow the final coup de gras would be to install a 2A Fast Acting fuse. The original PAS's didn't come with fuses, but the probably never made it out of a UL Lab.
Enjoy but understand what you are acquiring. Classic Dynaco PAS-3's can be a source of many hours of entertainment, or it can be a hassle piece that hums, etc.. and acts-up. If you care to sharpen your electronics skills, getting a used one and completely upgrading it to modern parts can make a dramatic improvement in overall sound.
I have seen some very rare un-built kits on Ebay, so if you really want an ultimate PAS-3, just surf this site a bit. You might be surprised what PAS'2 lurk in this bidders paradise. But before you bid, get as much info on the piece as possible to avoid misunderstadings later. Upgrading a typical PAS-3 can amount to about 300 dollars for all of the high-quality parts. New capacitors can make a big difference in the sound. Make sure all Mica caps are upgraded to 2% or better. Some caps have to stay in the Dyna, and you will get to them. You will know when the sound goes completely off, that those particular caps must stay.
Output impedance is 'semi-selectable' with the 510K resistors in place, you get 470K output impedance. With them snipped off, you get 250K output impedance. You can even put a toggle switch. This is a real vintage feature as most old pieces had input impedances of 500K to 1 Meg. So the 250K setting is best for modern solid state or long interconnect runs. You see that these pieces of vintage tube gear have alot more than meets the eye!
Strengths: Classic Design, impeccable and tasteful build. Upgradeable and very stable construction. Amazing presence, it's overall sound quality and finally it's simplicity.
Weaknesses: Old components, finicky controls. In their un-restored state could be very problematic for the average music lover. Tweakers paradise. Hard to find original parts. No Headphone Jack. No fuse installed on original models.
Similar Products Used: Dynaco PAS-4, McIntosh C-28, Adcom GTP-400, Harman Kardon Citation I, McIntosh C-20
Reviewed by: David Harris, Audiophile, from Madison, WI, USA
Product Model Year: 1995
Summary: Got to admire them for their longevity. Still usable in a low-cost system where a warmer sound is preferred. Nice project for upgrading and learning how to work on tube gear.
Sonically it is a second rate product that I would not put in my main system. I did use one in my work office for a while and it did a good job, warm soothing music is fine there and a loss of detail isn't important.
Compared to my ARC tube preamp, the sound from the PAS-3 is muffled, like it is playing through a blanket hung over the speakers. Then again, my ARC cost 10X more than what you can find the PAS-3 for.
Strengths: Warm sound, low cost, nice collectable
Weaknesses: Aging components need replaced, loss of detail
Similar Products Used: Audio Research, Parasound, Sonic Frontiers
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