YBA Passion PRE550/AMP650 pre/power amplifier

hfncommended.pngCombining simplicity with flexibility, this pre/power combination from one of the best-known names in French hi-fi has much to offer – including the odd quirky feature...

Like some other French audio companies, Yves-Bernard André's eponymous brand has hovered on the periphery of UK hi-fi enthusiasts' perception. But the company has been on a mission to change all that, taking a more global view with a lineup extending to no fewer than five product ranges. The Passion models, represented here by the £6750 PRE550A preamp and £5750 AMP650 power amp, sit near the top of the pile.

A French Flair
Although the majority of its products are built by Shanling in China [see Sidebar], they still retain a French flair – or should that be idiosyncrasy? – for which past YBA products have been known. While the PRE550A may follow a familiar 'modern preamp' pattern, with both digital and analogue inputs, the digital implementation is atypical and eschews the ultra-high-resolution formats highly fashionable at the moment.

Yes, there's an asynchronous USB input here, but it's limited to 192kHz/24-bit files, the tried-and-tested Cirrus Logic CS4398 DACs being fitted with additional vibration-damping measures. All incoming digital signals, whether via USB or coaxial/optical S/PDIF, are upsampled to 192kHz and a digital output, if required, is offered on a single coaxial socket.

Meanwhile, and perhaps more unusually, there's an Apple AirPlay module slotted into the rear panel, with not a hint of Bluetooth capability, along with a USB Type A port labelled for use with an iPod. There's Ethernet for network connection, providing a rugged wire link to the AirPlay module, while a second RJ45 socket allows the transmission of digital data in the I2S format, with its separate clock signal.

YBA offers several players and transports with this connectivity, the most obvious match for the PRE550A being the £3950 CDT450. An interesting addition here is a little flip-switch on the rear panel of the preamp allowing the digital section to be shut down when not required, for the best possible signal purity in the analogue section. That analogue department is relatively simple, with just one set of balanced XLRs and two sets of RCA inputs, one having a switchable volume bypass feature, so the PRE550A may used in tandem with an AV processor or receiver.


There's no phono stage here, either built-in or available as a fittable option. Instead you are guided to YBA's own Passion series phono preamp, the £4250 PH150. As an aside, it would be useful if the somewhat minimal manual were more forthcoming when it comes to the use and purpose of some of these facilities. For example, it depicts the network connection and analogue bypass function, but doesn't illustrate what they might offer the user. There's a little too much assumption of knowledge.

Front panel controls extend to no more than source and volume selection, plus switches for phase and muting, the long and hefty metal-cased remote handset adding some niceties such as display dimming and storage/recall of a volume setting. However, either the 'angle of view' of the remote sensor on the preamp is rather narrow, or the remote's infrared output a bit weak, meaning the handset had to be used quite close to the PRE550A to ensure a response.

The internal layout of the preamp is entirely logical, with the digital and analogue sections separated to the point of individual PSU transformers, and the whole plot sitting on a hefty aluminium chassis. The design eliminates passive components in the signal path, in the quest for signal purity, and most of the parts are sourced in France.

Lettered Fins
Output from the PRE550A is provided on two sets of RCAs and a single pair of XLRs, while Yves-Bernard André also explained to HFN that he prefers the RCA connection over XLR to the partnering AMP650. While this might seem to fly in the face of perceived wisdom, it's less puzzling when, as PM discovered when lifting the lid, you realise that the amp's 'balanced' XLR input is wired in single-ended guise. Otherwise, the AMP650, while not huge by the standards of some high-end rivals, is plenty big and heavy enough, tipping the scales at some 25kg.

Bures sur Yvette, France/Shanling, China
Supplied by: Nintronics Ltd, Herts
01707 320 788