Parasound Halo A21 vs Aragon 8008BB/MKII vs Bryston 4B-SST

Discussion in 'Amps, Pre-Pros & Receivers' started by brad1138, May 12, 2010.

  1. brad1138 Audioholic

    brad1138
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    After reading this review of the Halo A21, I was sold. Not only was he using my M-3SIs as test spks, but he also compared it with a Citation 7.1, I have a Citation 5.1, (both the 5.1 & 7.1 give more watts @ 6 ohms than the M3s are rated for, 400-500 range). The comments he made about the 7.1 are exactly how I feel about my 5.1. The qualities the reviewer described of the Halo are just what I am looking for.

    That being said, if I tell my wife I want to spen over $2k on an amp, the next call she would make is to a lawyer :( I was Googling a LOT about amps that compair with the A21, that I might be able to find used for less. The two amps I came up with are the Aragon 8008BB/8008MKII or the Bryston 4B-SST (or maybe the 4B-ST). After reading dozens of reviews of these amps, It sounds like they have that same level of quality (sound stage, detail, imaging) as the Halo (the 4B-SST maybe a half step above).

    What can anyone tell me about these, The 4B-ST is a step down from the SST, but maybe still be as good as the others. I guess I am interested in if you agree that these are all as good as each other, and if so what one do you think I will find the best deal on.

    Thanks,
    Brad
  2. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Could shave some dollars by buying used from a well respected audio exclusive auction and classified website.

    Parasound A21

    Or better still, match up your Adcom with a pair of 300 watt mono blocks.

    Adcom 565 pair

    Get's you the same power as the A21 but at a very competitive price. As an owner of Adcom you know they are very well built and reliable amplifiers. 9/10 is basically new, great price here. No lawyers.

    Adcom GFA-5800
  3. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    I guess this statement may have collapsed my recommendation, but I'll try to explain this short form. Any modern (last 30 years) amplifier of competent design and good quality should not impose a sonic signature on the orginal signal when driven within it's operational parameters. Now if you are noticing stress with your current amplifier (Citation 5.1) when you are pushing to higher levels of output I won't dissagree that more power my be required. What I do disagree with is that amp A. has a better soundstage, imaging, and detail than amp B. in the simplest form. Now I won't dissagree that some amps sound different, but there is usually a clear reason for it to sound different. The two most common reasons for an amp to sound different is because one is significantly less powerful or is unable to handle complex loads as well as the other amplifier. The other reason is that they are intentionally made to sound different from other amplifiers. Tube amplifiers are often colored giving them a strong presense in Hi-Fi for their warm sound.

    Another factor not to be ignored is SNR, but depending on listening habits may not be as significant as you think. In my experience all but the worst amplifiers have a good enough SNR that the amplifier will maintain "black" levels from the seating position.

    Adcom and Parasound are both good companies that have competently designed and manufactured amplifiers that should be linear within the audible frequencies. The Adcom amplifiers I recommended are very capable and can handle complex loads and have enormous amounts of headroom.

    I've said my piece, it's fine if you don't agree. If you happen to agree, you could save some money.:D
  4. T2T Senior Audioholic

    T2T
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    There was just a Parasound HCA-1500A that sold on eBay this evening for $375 + shipping. 205 watts per channel into 8 Ohms, etc. It's a John Curl designed amp.

    I'm currently running an HCA-1000A and am quite pleased with the performance and sound that it provides.
    T2T,
  5. brad1138 Audioholic

    brad1138
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    Seth, thanks for your comments and let me say I respect your thoughts and mean no disrespect in my following comments.

    That being said, I get really tired of the "all amps sound the same" argument (I know you didn't quite say that). In my view, anyone who says that has never really listened to (or compared) high end amps w/high end speakers. And yes, amp A can have MUCH better imaging and detail than amp B. The better the equipment gets the more you can tell the difference in imaging and detail etc., from one amp to the next. This quote from the review "The Citation [7.1] produced an enormous amount of power, however overall detail and transparency were reduced" is exactly what I have said about my 5.1. in other/older posts I could dig up if you want me to. It isn't a coincidence that we both had the same opinion of the sound of the Citation amps. When I compare my Citation to my BIAMP Eminence 300, the BIAMP has a wider, more detailed and accurate sound stage (in fact I have it running the M3s at the moment) but @ only 100 wpc it lacks the bass and impact the Citation gives (the M-3SIs are very power hungry and really need 250+ watts). The Eminence 300 is also more laid back where the Citation is much more forward. These characteristics are all at low, as well as high, listening levels, has nothing to do with the amps being stressed. I also have an Adcom GFA 545, it doesn't come close to sounding as good as any of my other amps.

    Another quote from the review (also found similar descriptions from all the reviews I found when Googling):

    Soundstage: The Mirage M3-si's are known for their wide, open soundstage and require an amplifier capable of exploiting their strength. The A 21 did not disappoint. In fact, the sound stage with the A 21 was the best I've ever heard from the Mirages.

    Imaging: Scary. Placement of instruments can easily be distinguished both on the vertical and horizontal planes. Center imaging is so accurate it's as if I could reach out and touch the performer...now that's an amplifier.

    Do you believe that he just made that up or that it is all in his head? Someone with access to plenty of high end gear for comparison. Obviously anyone can make stuff up or imagine it, but as I said his reviews were not unique, many others felt the same way about the amp.

    With the "all amps sound the same" mind set, the answer to every question about what amp should I buy should be "Adcom". No need to ever spend more on an amp than $1,000 for a used Adcom, nothing in the world sounds better. Heck I think I'll sell my Krell monoblocks, buy Adcom and a Car with whats left over.

    Sorry, I got on a bit of a rant. I will never believe that there aren't very noticeable differences in amps and generally speaking, sound quality (as outlined above) improving the more you spend.

    Thanks,
    Brad
  6. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    See, at least you have a sense of humor about it.:D

    I have a better idea. Sell Krells, buy Adcom, give me the remainder so I can buy a company van.:D

    To an extent spending more will get you more, but it eventually reaches a point of diminishing returns where you are spending more for a name (Bose comes to mind, although not related completely). When you see what some of these manufacturers do with certain products like the Lexicon/Oppo fiasco it certainly makes you wonder how different a product may be from another. For example, Lexicon hasn't made their own amplifiers since I don't even know when. They used to be made by Bryston, I believe they have another OEM provider now.

    Here is a 4B-ST rebadged for Lexicon. The Lexicon models don't seem to hold the same resell value, but it's the same amplifier to be certain. In fact, it seems like this guy might fit into your budget nicely. The amp is as near to new you'll find. Bryston makes a solid amplifier, I'd certainly own one if I could aford it.

    Lexicon NT-225

    Act fast if you want that amp, the last Bryston 4B-ST sold for a similar price in less than 10 days, the Lexicon is on day 8 and appears to be cleaner and in better condition.

    Here's a Parsound HCA-3500 on Portland OR craigslist.

    http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/ele/1726366594.html

    350 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms

    500 watts x 2 @ 4 ohms

    Edit: At least I'm not recommending you buy an Emotiva or something.;)
    Last edited: May 13, 2010
  7. brad1138 Audioholic

    brad1138
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    Thanks, I did see that. From the reviews I read, Parasounds Halo line (the A21 & A51 & JC1 monoblocks anyway) are a notch above the rest of their equipment, and that is what I am looking for, that next step.

    Don't get me wrong, My Citation is a great amp, highly reviewed & respected, but I am looking for that next level. I probably wouldn't even be looking for better if I didn't have my BIAMP to compare it to, it shows me what the Citation lacks. I want the detail and imaging of my BIAMP with the power and richness of the Citation. I believe the A21 is just that amp (probably even better imaging than my BIAMP amp) and I think the 8008 and 4B-SST are as good or better than the A21. Just need to keep looking for them on Ebay I guess.

    I would like a comment from someone who has used the 4B-SST and 4B-ST and can compare them for me.

    Thanks again,
    Brad
  8. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Keep in mind that the Parasound HCA-3500 was released and discontinued prior to the Halo series. The HCA-3500 was squeezing buy for Parasound's profit, and is considered to be a tremendous value. Also keep in mind that it's a monster and it weighs 85 pounds unpacked. The HCA-3500 design belongs to John Curl and principle of the HCA-3500 is were the JC1 mono blocks come from (JC1 - John Curl...).

    If you can find an HCA-3500 you may never need another amp, and they commonly sell for around $1200.

    The HCA-2200 is smaller and uses the same design but is in your power requirement range 250 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms.

    Edit: Basically the HCA-2200mkII is what the Parasound A21 is. The HCA-3500 is the JC1 monoblocks. You'll note the similarities between the models and it becomes evident that Parasound got wise to the fact they could change the outward appearance of the product and market it as a higher end product even though the difference is marginal.
    Last edited: May 13, 2010
  9. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    Out of those, I would go with Bryston for warranty reasons alone. None of the others come remotely close to the 20 yr offering from Bryston. If judging by specs, all of these amps there distortions level so far below the threshold of hearing that it really doesn't matter.
    3db,
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  10. T2T Senior Audioholic

    T2T
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    Additionally, keep in mind, the HCA-3500 requires "2" outlets to plug it in.
    T2T,
  11. walter duque Audioholic Samurai

    walter duque
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  12. AcuDefTechGuy Audioholic Slumlord

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    The Audio Critics have tested many speakers, including high-end speakers from Revel Salon to B&W800 Matrix, etc. They have also tested many high-end amps including Aragon & Bryston.

    And they found that all amps pretty much do sound the same.

    With that being said, I do like powerful amps myself.:D

    And if I were rich, I would get the 1000 Watts 8 ohm Bryston amp. :D

    So I would vote for Bryston amps.

    I also like Aragon a lot. By the way, Indy Audio Labs now owns Aragon:
    http://www.indyaudiolabs.com/1home.aspx
    Last edited: May 13, 2010
  13. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Because it's basically two JC1s in one case.:D
  14. Chicagorep Junior Audioholic

    Chicagorep
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    Take a look at this,

    http://parasound.com/about.php

    A pretty impressive list of where Parasound can be found. I think it's pretty funny Sony doesn't even use their own junk.
  15. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Sony is capable of designing and manufacturing very high end gear. Unfortunately, due to a stigma they don't market such extravagant products outside of Japan and what products they do make in the superlatively high end are very limited in production.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. Chicagorep Junior Audioholic

    Chicagorep
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    But the question still remains, why use Parasound over their high end gear? Maybe because the Parasound gear is still better.
  17. Nuance AH Audioholic General

    Nuance AH
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    I'll be buying the Halo A21 in the next few weeks. I too have researched a lot, and I've finally made my decision. I can't wait until it arrives!

    So yeah, obviously I vote for the A21. :)
  18. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    If I am tired of something I wouldn't avoid it but that's just me.

    I am curious to know why you adopt such view. I know of people, including myself, who has listened to (or compared) high end amps with high end speakers and I could,or might have said "all amps sound the same" but not quite like that, as I would have qualified what are "all" those amps and speakers are first.

    I don't know about you but I find it hard to compare imaging and detail etc., unless I have a good idea what my references are. In my case I tend to use my memory/impression of live performances as reference but it is hard to do and very subjective as there is no way I can do any A/B comparison between "live" and a recording of that "live" performance played in my system. So I find those jargons thrown around by certain professional reviewers funny and full of sense of humor.:D

    Warning: If you don't want to get tired, stop right here...
    I am willing to bet my 4B SST that after a some what (not even have to be totally) controlled blind listening test you would start doubting your belief.

    For some people's set up this could well be the case. Snake oil does cost a fair bit of money but do we all need it?

    Same here, heck we are human.

    Have a great weekend!
    PENG,
  19. AcuDefTechGuy Audioholic Slumlord

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    My criteria for buying amps

    My criteria for buying amps where #1 is most important:

    1) Front handle bars:D
    2) Looks cool:cool:
    3) At least 200 wpc into 8 ohms RMS MEASURED:)
    4) Weight - I can lift without help:eek:
  20. Seth=L Audioholic Overlord

    Seth=L
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    Because it's cheaper.:D Designing amps for limited production instantly puts them in the "we must sell for very high prices to make our money back" category. If they kept an amplifier that retailed for $15,000 rather than selling it, then it would undoubtably cost them more than if they sold that amp and purchased a less expensive alternative from Parasound which can produce a higher quality per dollar than Sony does.

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