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Parasound A21 vs. Emotiva XPA2

post #1 of 36
Thread Starter 
Looking to replace my current pro audio Crown XLS 402D. I have narrowed it down to either the Parasound A21 or the Emotiva XPA2. Aiming more towards the Emotiva because it costs less then half of what the Parasound costs. The A21 is beautiful and looks much higher class then the Emo.

However, my biggest concern is sound quality. I know it's a touchy subject around here but can someone comment who has heard both? Is the A21 worth the cost difference?

I will be hooking this up to Boston E60 speakers and running through the Asus Essence STX.
post #2 of 36
I'm guessing this is for a computer set-up since you mentioned the Asus soundcard. What are you using as a pre-amp?

Those Boston E60 speakers look to be very easy to drive speakers and you likely wouldn't hear the difference between either power amplifier.

If you have the budget for a Parasound A21, my advice however, is to skip either amplifier and put most of that money into upgrading your speakers. Spending $2,300 on a Parasound A21 to use with $500 speakers would be foolish (no offense.) If you're strictly doing bookshelf speakers, you have many competitively "high-end" options for your budget. For instance, Soundfield Monitor 1s, Vapor Breeze, the WOW1s sold by Salk, Ascend Sierra-1s, etc... Spend the rest on a nice little integrated amplifier like a Cambridge Azur or NAD C BEE series and you have a set-up that will sound 10x better for the price.
post #3 of 36
Thread Starter 
The STX card functions as the preamp. RCA out from the card to the sub, RCA out from the SUB to the amp crossed over at 80hz. I mostly listen to FLAC files from the PC.

The E60s are not that bad. They retailed for $1,200 when new. I really like them but I may pick up some higher end Dynaudios down the line. I like to listen loud sometimes and the E60s are currently able to handle all the Crown can give them (300w/channel). However, I can't stand the fans on the Crown and want to buy something that will be future proof as well when I do upgrade the speakers down the line. I can get the A21 for $1,750 new from a local dealer. I wouldn't be satisfied with a small integrated amp as they just don't have the headroom to let it crank...

I just don't know if the A21 will be worth the difference in cost compared to sound quality over the XPA-2. The Parasound dealer seems to think so, obviously...
Edited by drewTT - 7/12/12 at 3:52pm
post #4 of 36
I've never heard those particular speakers and i'm sure they sound nice, if you're perfectly content with the sound then you should most definitely stick with them. For your speakers, either amp would be a waste of money in my opinion, and you can find something that will drive them just fine (and will sound the same) for much cheaper.

Just for reference, I have a pair of harder to drive 6 ohms, 87.5 dB bookshelves powered by a HK 3485 integrated/receiver (2x120 watts) and I can effortlessly push the speakers to ear bleeding levels. Doubling the power rating only provides 3dB more headroom, and those E60s are easy to drive speakers so even just a receiver like an HK would be more than sufficient for really loud volumes.

If you are dead-set on buying either the A21 or XPA2, for your particular case, i'd easily choose the XPA2 due to price. The A21 is a nicer amp designed by a brilliant engineer, but it's completely unnecessary for those speakers, especially considering the price difference. In a real-world listening application, I am nearly certain you wouldn't be able to tell the difference between both amps in an ABX test.
post #5 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for your feedback loop. I need to give this more thought... I know for a fact I want to get rid of the Crown, the fans are driving me insane.
post #6 of 36
I haven't heard the XPA-2, but I did recently replace an XPA-3 with a Parasound A21. It's a significant step up from the Emotiva amp. The first 10 watts of the Parasound is class A and that's loud enough for me. But I also noticed a more articulate soundstage and tighter bass. The voice frequencies and highs seemed to get somewhat harsh at higher volumes with the XPA, while the Parasound remains composed.

But it's not cheap. The improvements were well worth it for me and the good looks made the Emotiva look like a bargain brand by comparison. I should add that I' m driving Paradigm Signature S6 speakers.

Hope this helps.
post #7 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback. I am also looking at the smaller A23. It may just be enough for my needs.
post #8 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by drewTT View Post

Thanks for the feedback. I am also looking at the smaller A23. It may just be enough for my needs.

I would suggest the A23 as well. I had the A52 and it was a nice sounding well built amp. I would take the money saved on the amp and upgrade your speakers. Dynaudio would be a great choice as well as the Ascend Sierra-1s. I have had a number of different amps in my system over the years. But the biggest gains in SQ have been when upgrading speakers not with amp upgrades.

Bill
post #9 of 36
+1. The A23 should suit your needs well and i've heard it's a very nice amp. If you can find it for much less than the retail price, I think it's a safe deal. I've found lots of used Halo amps on craigslist, Audiogon, and Ebay located in southern California.

And mostly a minor, unrelated note. I really wish Parasound made the Halo series in brushed black aluminum (The HCA series doesn't count.) I've been looking for a good deal on an A51 myself and one of the reasons I decided to forgo it (besides price) is that a shiny silver chassis would stand out like a sore thumb in my setup. Also, the "THX certified" label is kind of tacky and is something you'd find common place on Logitech speakers.
post #10 of 36
You must have a very fine eye for detail to be bothered by the THX logo, on my A21 it looks understated and pretty small, I guess to each their own. On the color if you're stuck on black or dark, the Classic series is the only option. I must say though, that beside my old black amp, the A21 looks gorgeous.

The A23 is not actually a John Curl design, though I'm sure it's a fine amp. I was looking at that model as well and it can be had on discount occasionally.
post #11 of 36
Thread Starter 
Hey runnin', the description on the website does say that it was designed by John Curl.confused.gif

http://parasound.com/halo/a23.php

Seems like most dealers I talked to are willing to sell it around the $800 mark. Is that a good deal?
post #12 of 36
Thread Starter 
I can also get a Rotel in the same price range. I don't have any experience with that brand. How do Rotel and Parasound Halo compare?
post #13 of 36
The Parasound Halo products are considered above the digital designs of Rotel unless you are a big digital fan. On the A23, I may have found a forum where John Curl's involvement is discussed: http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:xTYV5H9WDcQJ:www.diyaudio.com/forums/showthread.php%3Fthreadid%3D116329+curl+A21+A23+diy.com&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=3&gl=us

At any rate, the full retail for the A23 is 950 and the A21 2300, so both options to you are a good discount, and good sonic improvements.
post #14 of 36
Thread Starter 
I also ran across a Vincent SP-331 for $950 from a local dealer. I've never even heard of this brand before. Designed in Germany, built in China. Any good?

http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=VISP331
post #15 of 36
runnin, not all of Rotel's amps are Class D (which, by the way, isn't "digital.").

The RB-1552 and RB-1582 are Class A/B and are fairly similar in design to the Parasound A21 and A23.

As to whether J. Curl designed the A23, even if he didn't design it per se, it's very, very similar to the HCA-1500A, which I think he did design (?). So it's certainly "based on" his designs, or, to put it another way, a copy-and-paste of one of his designs. wink.gif
post #16 of 36
Class D, digital, everyone knows what we're talking about. You're not going to correct my grammar next, because I sure is hoping you don't!smile.gif As for the John Curl issue, it's just a bit of information that might go into someone's decision making process. In the end, it's one reason why I decided to go for the A21, but YMMV. I also turned down the digital amp idea for different reasons that we don't need to get into here.
post #17 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by drewTT View Post

I can also get a Rotel in the same price range. I don't have any experience with that brand. How do Rotel and Parasound Halo compare?

I much preferred the A21 to a Rotel RB-1070 that I had. Really liked the A21 except for how hot it got (and the 52 for that matter).
post #18 of 36
I had a Rotel RMB-1095 that I loved. I started having a hum problem from the amp that I could hear from my listening area over 13 feet away. This was a hum from the amp not the speakers. It was driving me nuts. It's a long story but it turned out it wasn't the Rotel amp. It was an issue with noise on my power line.

But to make a long story short, I decided to replace the amp with a Parasound Halo A 51. It hummed to but I solved that problem later. But the Parasound was significantly better sounding then the Rotel! I could go into greater detail on the comparison between the two but lets just say that there was no turning back! I still own it and use it every day in my system since I bought it 7 years ago!
post #19 of 36
Thread Starter 
Thanks for the feedback on Rotel. I think the Halo A23 will be it...
post #20 of 36
Quote:
Originally Posted by runnin' View Post

You must have a very fine eye for detail to be bothered by the THX logo, on my A21 it looks understated and pretty small, I guess to each their own. On the color if you're stuck on black or dark, the Classic series is the only option. I must say though, that beside my old black amp, the A21 looks gorgeous.
The A23 is not actually a John Curl design, though I'm sure it's a fine amp. I was looking at that model as well and it can be had on discount occasionally.

Hello,
The A23 is almost identical internally to the HCA-1000a and indeed both were Designed by John Curl. Pretty much the entire Halo Lineup is heavily based off the HCA Series which proceeded them. The flagship JC-1 Monoblocks are based on the HCA-3500. the A51 is based off the HCA-2205, etc... Just like the current Halo's. the HCA Series were Class AB with a Class A Bias. The New Classics are not biased into Class A.

The Halo's do offer XLR's, fancier casework, and so forth, but the differences internally over their HCA counterparts is slight. For instance, the A51 uses a 2.2 kVA Toroidal Transformer and 164,000uf of Filter Capacitance compared to the HCA-2205's 2.0 kVA Toroidal Transformer and 150,000uf of Filter Capacitance. Where the real difference lies is in the price. For instance, the A51's MSRP is $4999 whereas the HCA-2205AT's was $2500.
Amazingly, the HCA Series even offered a longer Warranty.(5 Years Parts/Labor for Halo versus 10 Years Parts/5 Years Labor) as well.
Cheers,
AD
post #21 of 36
Yes, John Curl was involved in the HCA's as well. There is little difference between them and the Halos, how can you improve on near perfection at that price point? All I can say is I am loving the A21 and will not be needing to upgrade. I do want a new pre amp however...rolleyes.gif
post #22 of 36
Thread Starter 
I got the A23 setup today and had a chance to listen to a few FLAC files. Pretty freakin incredible! This is one hell of an amp. Pretty damn huge upgrade from the Crown pro amp.
post #23 of 36
Your crown must not have been setup properly....
post #24 of 36
You have a really great amp there: I've had mine 8 years now, and perfect operation. The A23 will produce 200WPC, into 4 ohm loads, and still have over 1.5db headroom-that 300+watt peaks, with no signal clipping-a great amp at a reasonable price, for the quality of craftsmanship and performance.
post #25 of 36
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by fordf250 View Post

You have a really great amp there: I've had mine 8 years now, and perfect operation. The A23 will produce 200WPC, into 4 ohm loads, and still have over 1.5db headroom-that 300+watt peaks, with no signal clipping-a great amp at a reasonable price, for the quality of craftsmanship and performance.

Good to hear. Thanks!
post #26 of 36
Thread Starter 
I am glad I didn't go with the A21. It would have been way overkill for my needs. The A23 is perfect power wise. It's pretty amazing how much clean power this thing puts out. Thanks for all the advice guys!
post #27 of 36
Folks, I realize the OP's question has been answered, and that he made a decision to go with a Parasound A23. I figured I'd resurrect this thread because I've been considering an A21 and XPA-2 myself, and I saw no reason to create a second thread with an identical title.

I currently am using an Emotiva UPA-2 to drive a pair of Ascend CMT-340 SEs. My rig also includes an Emotiva XDA-1 DAC and a dbx 223s active crossover (which I use to send sub-65Hz signals to a sub). These latter two components have balanced circuitry, but the UPA-2 amp is unbalanaced, so the system currently runs unbalanced. I've read in several places that switching to a balanced systems offers noticeable improvements to sound quality, and I'm very tempted to try this. At the same time, I'd like to increase my headroom. Both the A21 and the XPA2 would accomplish these two feats. Of course the A21 costs more than double.

A few of the responders to the OP mentioned that the A21/A23 sounded much better than this amp or that amp that he/she'd previously owned, but I didn't see anyone who'd directly compared the A21 to the XPA2. Has anyone heard both? Did the A21 sound better? Are you able to describe it?
post #28 of 36
In for comments as I'm considering an upgrade from an Emotiva UPA-2 to a Parasound A23.
post #29 of 36
I recently acquired a Halo A23 amp and I am very happy with the results. I purchased it used off CL and believe it is a remarkable value 2nd hand or retail. i opened up the chassis to inspect the build quality and ended up cleaning up a lot of dust off the main board - probably due to the venting of on both the top and bottom sides of the case. The unit does run fairly warm, so make sure you have adequate ventilation around it.

I upgraded from a vintage 80's Audire 75Watt per channel amp and used its matching Legato preamp combination for a while which sounded pretty good with my turntable and certain CDs, but I still found the CD playback still lacking and overly bright on some recordings. So I recently found a mint Halo P3 and paired it up the the A23. This combination has definitely helped rounding out the overall performance. The sound is very balanced, open and detailed while providing a fairly good sound stage. Some of the "bells and whistles" are a nice plus (like a remote, and balanced inputs/outputs), when compared to the minimalist setup I had previously.

I'm waiting for some Zebra Cables balanced interconnects and hope I will hear some further improvements (not sure what to expect). My next goal is to experiment with adding a DAC to the digital out of my Integra DPS 10.5. I am currently considering the Emotiva XDA-1 and new Parasound Zdac. Any comments / suggestions on good quality value oriented DCA would be welcomed.
Thanks!
post #30 of 36
I have owned amps from both Parasound and Emotiva although not the A21 or the XPA-2. There is no doubt the A21 is an excellent amp but it is quite a bit more expensive than the XPA-2. The price for the A21 is $2300 and the XPA-2 when it was available was $800. So the A21 is almost 3X the cost of the XPA-2. If money was no object I'd definitely go with the A21. But it is so the XPA-2 would be my choice if I was looking for a powerful two channel amp.

Bill
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