Compared to the remarkable Carver Research Lightstar Direct preamplifier used in its passive balanced-output mode (see review elsewhere in this issue), the Pass Aleph ran a very close second. On Sara K's cover of the Allman Brothers Band's blues chestnut "Whipping Post" from Tell Me I’m Not Dreamin' (Cheeky JD 133), the Pass was slightly darker harmonically, losing some of the "plastic pick sound" from Bruce Dunlap's exceptional guitar and some of the sibilance from Sara's s's. Microdynamics seemed slightly compressed on the Pass, with some of the subtle vocal shadings on Sara's voice reduced Depth was somewhat truncated by the Pass, as was the dimensionality of the reverberant field in St. Peter's church.
Again, the difference in low-level detail between the passive Carver and the active Pass made the music easier to decipher through the Carver. Fortunately, the Aleph P's harmonic balance is remarkably close to that of the Carver, lacking only a speck of top-end air on cymbals and low-bass resolution on synthesizer, percussion, and bass guitar parts.
However, when the Aleph P was compared to the Carver's active single ended output, the results weren't even close.. . the Aleph clearly outclassed the Lightstar. There wasn't a single sonic parameter where the Pass wasn't vastly superior—dimensionality, grain, transient response, transparency, bass extension, top-end air, basic noise level, lowlevel detail—you name it, the Pass ruled.
It would seem that unless you use the Lightstar's passive balanced outputs (based on this review), you may want to consider a different preamp. What say you to this, Lightstar Direct owners?