Amp(s): Parasound / PS Audio / NAD

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by RockAddict, Apr 16, 2019.

  1. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    This post is mainly a foray into the cyber equivalent of thinking out loud as to what could work and what would be an unmitigated disaster. For the avoidance of doubt, I'm at the stage of getting as much info together and then heading off for demos. Constructive thoughts and observations are welcome.

    Having started looking for new speakers, I've decided a slight diversion ( :shrug: :) ) is needed to sort out the amp department first - 2 channel stereo. Preferred total budget is GBP £3,000 all in (i.e. 1x integ amp or 1x pre + 1x power).

    Current amp is a fully integrated Rotel RA-1572 (including on-board DAC) with Q Acoustics Concept 20 speakers (on the list to upgrade later). Sources are both digital and analogue. The majority of listening is to rock music ranging from melodic (e.g. Floyd, Genesis, Porcupine Tree) to heavy, even the odd piece of metal (e.g. Metallica / Evanescence) but pop-rock and classical also make appearances.

    Another integrated is a possibility but I'm open to a two box pre/power amp combo.

    For features, some are definite requirements (for me) whilst some would be preferred (aka a nice bonus). In no particular order:
    - tone controls (definite)
    - 2x speaker posts for 2 spkr sets or bi-wiring (preferred)
    - A/B spkr switch (definite with 2x spkr posts)
    - headphone socket (definite)
    - 2x optical inputs (definite)
    - 2x coaxial inputs (must have at least 1; 2 strongly preferred)
    - USB asynch (not critical)
    - 1x HDMI (strongly preferred but not critical)
    - 2x analogue inputs or 3 if including phono stage (definite)
    - onboard phono stage (not at all critical)

    Integrated amps still in the running: Parasound Halo HINT 6; NAD M32 Masters. I've read enough to know the M32 beats the HINT 6 hands down for features BUT, a general consensus seems to have formed that, relatively, the HINT 6 delivers to a higher level sonically.

    Pre-amps still in the running: Parasound Halo P6; NAD C 658. The P6 is pretty much the same as the HINT 6 sans the power unit. BUT, as a pre, it gives greater flexibility for potential future changes and leaves the door open for a non-Parasound power amp that may or may not out-perform the Halo A23+ power amp which, on paper is the natural pairing for the P6. The NAD is once again feature rich but I've seen reports that the sonic delivery tends to clinical, even harsh on occasions. The PS Audio Stellar Gain Cell would have been a real contender but I really need that second optical in as well as tone controls.

    Power amps still in the running: Parasound NewClassic 275 v.2 (90W); NewClassic 2125 v.2 (150W); PS Audio Stellar S300 (140W). I haven't found much feedback for the NewClassic amps but the write-ups for the Stellar S300 are hugely positive. There is a decent consumer review where the user compared the A23+ with the Stellar S300 and s/he indicated the Stellar edged the A23+ for scale. Unlike the A23+, the Stellar and the NewClassics have 2 sets of spkr posts.

    Budget wise, the Stellar S300 is just about doable with the P6. If the NAD C 658 (pre) could be made to "sing" by the Stellar S300, the boatload of features would make the NAD hard to resist (notwithstanding one or two known software issues).

    I don't mind re-opening the door to possible alternatives so long as they provide the features I'm looking for.

    If you're able to offer any info / insight, great. If not, no problem - thanks for reading. In any case, happy listening all.
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
    bluemooze likes this.
  2. Catcher10

    Catcher10 I like records, and Prog...duh

    All good choices, I can only state that an audition would be a must. The PS amps are Class D vs the Parasound are Class A/B.......have fun
    TarnishedEars, Mike-48 and RockAddict like this.
  3. bluemooze

    bluemooze Forum Resident

    Frenchtown NJ USA
    Or, you could try a Schiit Loki. :edthumbs:
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  4. bradleyc

    bradleyc Forum Resident

    Take a look at the Marantz PM-8006 integrated amplifier, made in Japan. Just purchased one recently. It has 3 separate tone control knobs for treble, midrange and bass attenuation. Don’t know if it checks all your other boxes, msrp is $1,200USD. The Marantz Reference Series PM-14S1 integrated also made in Japan has even better sound and build quality, msrp is $3,000USD. I have two and speak from experience. Don’t know how many boxes it checks for you either, but both are stellar performers.
    bluemooze and RockAddict like this.
  5. keiron99

    keiron99 Forum Resident

    Stockport, UK
    What are you looking to achieve by changing your amp? I have the Rotel 1592 which I believe is just a more powerful version of yours. These are truly excellent amps with superb measured performance and all the features you need.
    KT88, timind and RockAddict like this.
  6. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Fair question. For the most part, the RA-1572 sounds, well, really good. It has a great 3D soundstage with real depth and drums / percussion hit home with real authority and there is plenty of "air" in the audio picture. Contrary to the rather strange review in "What (do we know about) Hi Fi", I also found the timing to be perfectly decent. However...

    There are two main issues that no amount of tinkering with the tone controls will overcome such that retaining the Rotel would be within reach. Firstly, upper-mid range piano strikes sound as if they are coming from under a cover of 2 or 3 blankets and I haven't been able to find a way of changing that without completely messing up the rest of the soundscape. Secondly, when listening to busy rock music, especially with metallic / jangling guitars and the likes of the heavier passages of material by Metallica or Evanescence, the guitars take on a distinctly emphasised metallic edge which seems pulled to the centre of the stage whilst, at the same time, squeezing out the bottom end to almost nothing. I can't recall these issues being within any other set up I've experienced. I've even A/B'd the Rotel with my previous amp (I still have a Cambridge Audio CXA60) and whilst the latter lacks the same level of depth and authority compared to the Rotel, piano sounds definitely sound more "natural" and there isn't the same condensing / squeezing when playing the same heavy rock material via the Rotel. Just today, to check yet again, I played a song ("Dark Star" by Fish from the album 13th Star) and this perfectly illustrated the second issue. Same results with sections of "Enter Sandman" by Metallica but, to show it isn't the mastering of a whole CD at fault, I also played "Nothing Else Matters" which sounded really good. Contrast those with, say all of "Wish You Were Here" (album - 2011 remaster) by Pink Floyd, and you'd never guess there were issues with other material. WYWH sounds great on the RA-1572 - including the guitars on "Welcome To The Machine".

    For completeness, I have played around with speaker positions to no avail, albeit within the limitations of available space.

    For most types of music, the RA-1572 will sound rather lovely. But, it just doesn't like "busy" "jangly" heavy rock and there is just enough of that in my music collection to prompt me to look at alternatives.

    Not sure that's quite what you expected @keiron99 :) . Anyway, I look forward to achieving musical nirvana soon. So long as I manage to get the all-important right cables of course... :shh: :D
    Last edited: Apr 16, 2019
  7. DaleClark

    DaleClark Forum Resident

    Bexley, Ohio
    I've been looking into the Stellar M700's myself. The reviews I've read said any sign of "class D" does not exist in its sound. Paul Mcgowan, owner of PS Audio, stated (paraphrase) he thinks the best class D (like the Stellars) can get to 90% of the worlds best class A and A/B. Of course Paul wants to sell amps. However, if watch many of his videos, he seems to be honest with strengths and weaknesses of his own components vs other brands.

    I'm running a fantastic Class a/B Nuforce STA200. If I did not listen to all kinds of music, I would be happy for life. Rock, Electronic music really shows the strength of the amp. I just wish it were a little more refined in acoustic, jazz and lighter classical (The STA200 does great with big, thunderous classical music).

    Keep us updated on your journey
    RockAddict likes this.
  8. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Chicago metro, USA
    A sweet choice and a good technical match would be the Rogue Audio RH-5 headphone / linestage amplifier combined with the Parasound a23+. Will give you a slice of the 3d smooth sound of tubes and the option to change the sound to your liking by swapping them if you need.
    RockAddict likes this.
  9. Mike-48

    Mike-48 A shadow of my former self

    Portland, Oregon
    The Classe Sigma 2200i integrated (with DAC, USB and HDMI inputs, and digital bass management) is being offered for US$2745, half the original price, by Listen Up Audio. If you have TAS, see page 188 in the May/June issue. I have heard the Classe CA-2300, which I found excellent at keeping tonality constant with increasing complexity.

    I don't know if this is a practical option for you in the UK, but perhaps....
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  10. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Just a minor update. Many thanks for all the suggestions so far - I have looked into ALL of them and even where the products didn't necessarily meet the spec set out in the OP, they did provide food for thought and got me looking at products by other manufacturers.

    Although still looking, a couple of considerations mean I'm now waiting until later in the year before pulling the trigger. Firstly, the feedback on the NAD C 658 continues to be mixed but the features are so tempting that I'm prepared to wait and see if the software glitches and delay(s) in implementing DIRAC are resolved such that the NAD C 658 is fully functional AND sounds great. Secondly, @Mike-48 's post got me looking more closely at Classe and I noticed a new "Delta Series (by Classe)" of products is under development which may well be available this year - it makes sense to see if that range has something of interest. Having checked, there are enough Classe dealers in the UK for demos and purchasing to be a practical option.

    In the meantime, there will be plenty of thumb twiddling and lots of fun figuring out which wires cables shall help to reveal the true glory of the mightily awesome output of the boxes that eventually make it into the new system.... *cough* It's tempting to promise not to start a(nother) thread about cables but there is a little mischievous voice in my head that suggests it would be so wrong to offer such a guarantee :yikes: :uhhuh:.

  11. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    I just bought the Parasound 275v2. Very happy with it. Compared to my Adcom 535L, it is a slightly warmer sounding amp and slightly more powerful..but not a ton (Adcom 60/100- Parasound 90/150). I liked the feature set more than Emotiva. You can bridge them and still run a 4 ohm pair of speakers like mine. That is what I will do in the future for 200wpc. Or I might go the Bi-amping route. It also runs two sets of speakers for my old/classic Stax headphones. The slim profile is very attractive and it is surprisingly heavy when you grab a hold! Plus it was a great deal from Safe and Sound, which is authorized for Parasound.
    RockAddict likes this.
  12. gguy

    gguy Forum Resident

    Wildomar, CA
    I’m running a recently acquired P6 and an A21. It’s a killer setup and I have been pretty happy. I was intrigued though by the PS Audio products, and they can be had at a much lower cost than listed (if you call up a few dealers). I’ve heard that class D tends to sound better at lower volumes than your standard A / A-B amp, which is something to consider. What sold me on the P6 was the features.
    RockAddict likes this.
  13. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    I'm trying not to be swayed by which class the power amps are but; lower running temps, lower power consumption and effectiveness at lower volumes aren't factors that are easily ignored (at least for me). If it's a shoot out between amps with differing classes, I'm hoping any differences in audio character make the decision relatively easy!

    On the pre side, the P6 features are definitely great but the NAD C 658 is even more feature rich and has greater flexibility. Again, I'm hoping the decision is made easier by significant differences in audio character. If both sound more or less as good as each other, the C 658 will win out. The problems start if the P6 edges the C 658 sonically but only by a smidgen! When I say "problems", this doesn't mean I've lost the plot in the context of a "world" perspective. Well, not completely.... :shh: :)

    As an aside, but far from irrelevant, NAD has finally announced that Dirac Live for the C 658 is scheduled for release in June 2019. Some might say something like "...oh jolly good, nice to see it's coming...". Others may say something a bit stronger such as "...about bleeping time...". The Live (or lite?) version is free and makes [audio] compensations up to 500 Hz. The pay-for "Full" version (currently US $99) gives " correction across the full frequency range."

    Dirac Live to Arrive for the NAD C 658 BluOS™ Streaming DAC in June 2019 - NAD Electronics

    If that schedule is kept, demos will commence soon after - with gusto :goodie: .
    Last edited: May 7, 2019
  14. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    First, if you want new speakers, then look at, and listen to new speakers.

    Now, once you have the new speakers in place, see if you still feel the same way about the amp. You really have no way to know if the amp will not suit the new speakers much better (or likely the new speakers suit the room and your ears much better). Then when and if you find that you are not thrilled with the amp when combined with the new speakers, look for a DAC and then an amp. Keep the digital and the analog separate. It'll be a mistake regarding technology and longevity buying an amp that integrates digital features. Buy digital devices for their performance and features, and then buy an amp (in the unlikely case that you still need one) for its performance, not features.
    Mike-48, Boltman92124 and RockAddict like this.
  15. Boltman92124

    Boltman92124 Fish tacos.

    San Diego
    Emotiva super fans like their new Class D Monoblocks. $600 for the pair.
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  16. Ataraxia8

    Ataraxia8 New Member

    Any updates? I've been considering similar combos myself. :)
  17. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Still no decision - did I mention this was a (very) slow burner? :) But, taking into account all the suggestions kindly offered by other posters here and elsewhere, my original list of possibles has expanded and now stands as follows:

    Integrated amps still in the running: Parasound Halo HINT 6; NAD M32 Masters.

    Pre-amps still in the running: Parasound Halo P6; NAD C 658; Elac Alchemy DDP-2.

    Power amps still in the running: Parasound NewClassic 275 v.2 (90W); NewClassic 2125 v.2 (150W); PS Audio Stellar S300 (140W); NuPrime STA-9 (as 1x stereo 120W or 2x mono 290W/ch); Nord Acoustics (more than one possibility).

    At the moment, there doesn't appear to be a UK NuPrime seller so getting a demo with their STA-9 might be a problem. We will see.

    I appreciate the thoughts about sorting out the speakers first but, knowing the Rotel is definitely not right for me, it's a case of getting the amp sorted first. The reasoning is relatively easy: the choice of amp set-up is relatively limited (for me) whereas there is a huge pool of speaker options. In turn, it will be easier to find speakers to suit the amp set-up than it will be to find an amp set-up to suit speakers. Also, the current in-use Q Acoustic Concept 20s punch well above their price point and will give many speakers costing 2-3 times as much a run for their money. When the demos do eventually get off the ground, the speakers will be either mine or genuine potential replacements within the future budget point.

    Updates will follow when there is some real-world movement but don't be surprised if there is a rather long wait...:) :righton:
  18. Ataraxia8

    Ataraxia8 New Member

    Thanks for the update. There's a long thread at AVS forum about the C658, as of today still no Dirac implemented. I'm looking to get Dirac into my system and at the moment I think I'm going to wait for Arcams SA30 this fall. I'm new to this and started trying to combine a movies/music system and put together my KEF R3's, Dual Rythmik F12SE subs, and a Yamaha A2080 AVR. Looking to add an integrated to see if I can improve upon the music experience although the A2080 sounds really really good. If it's better with an integrated that will be sweet. :)
  19. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Brief update.... a continuation of meandering thought processes....

    For personal reasons, I had to put my quest for audio nirvana on hold :shh: :) . However, it gave me some time to reflect and gently cast some of the original ideas to one side and allow some sensible options to enter. Demos will, at last, be arranged in the next few weeks but, in the meantime, here is an updated list of what is still in the running:

    After careful research, all the integrated amps (with DACS) were dropped. Value / reviews / features all played a part. That does have the slightly unfortunate effect of leaving the title of this thread only 1/3rd accurate as will be seen below :help:.

    An option I'd initially overlooked was to try out my existing Rotel RA-1572 as a pre-amp hooked up to one of the power amps mentioned below. That experiment will happen. If it doesn't "cure" the audio issue with the Rotel, then it's back to a separate boxes.

    Pre-amp still in the running: NAD C 658

    Parasound was quietly dropped simply because, time and time again I found articles/reviews and some sensible forum posts in which Parasound came out of it perfectly well... but... a.n.other product was "better". In addition, some UK dealers didn't have the same level of enthusiasm for Parasound products compared to alternatives. If the NAD doesn't cut it, then it's a case of saving for a lot longer and, probably, looking at the Anthem STR pre-amp + a separate headphone amp (RME ADI-2 DAC & HP amp). The Elac Alchemy DDP-2 didn't quite have enough of the features I was looking for but there are terrific reviews for it.​

    Power amps now in the running: Nord One MP NC252 (maybe the SE version); NAD C 268; Mytek Brooklyn Amp.

    Parasound power amps were dropped for the same reasons as above. The Nuprime STA9 was dropped purely because of limited UK distribution and the difficulty in getting a demo. After more research, other products appeared to offer even better value that the PS Audio Stellar S300 which has also dropped off the radar. The NAD C 268 came in simply for reasons of convenience and it will be demoed but, if the hype(x) [see what I did there? :shrug:] is anything to go by, the Nord should be superior to the C 268. The Mytek amp came in because a friend whose opinion I trust recently got one and he is mightily impressed. The price point is obviously very different so, for me, the Mytek will have to be flipping good to kick the others out of the equation.​

    Next post will be after the demos and, hopefully, happy purchases! :-popcorn: :D
  20. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Final (and slightly embarrassing) update.

    Well, all of the above posts were made with the best of intentions. Also, I dip my hat to @KT88 (Bill) whose information. which I almost dismissed, turned out to be rather good (grateful thanks!). In short, I have stayed with the Rotel RA-1572. The "problem" I had identified (disappearing bottom end and a couple of other more minor issues), is no more.

    Circumstances finally allowed the opportunity for a demo and, at the last moment, I decided to take along the Rotel intending to smugly demonstrate the "issues" mentioned above. That isn't quite how it worked out. I hadn't entirely dismissed what Bill and indeed a couple of others elsewhere had said about the speakers, so although the original focus of the demo was a new amp setup, I asked for a couple of different speakers to be made available. To cut a potentially long story short, it turns out that the likely issue is the crossover point of my now soon-to-be former speakers.

    I tried 3 different amp setups, including the Rotel on its own and a full NAD combi (C 658 pre + C 268 power). Of course, if the Rotel was the problem, it would sound markedly different through identical speakers. It didn't and, rather more importantly, the "problem" I had with my home setup didn't reproduce. The penny dropped that the problem must be with the (relative) limitations of my speakers - just as Bill et al clearly had an inkling it might be. So, instead of coming out of the store with a new amp, it's a new pair of speakers that have been ordered. It was a flip between the KEF R3s or Monitor Audio Gold 100 G5s. I plumped for the latter because, to my ears, the KEFs had a slight "zing" to the upper frequencies and I preferred the MA Golds overall.

    As I put on another thread (about the Rotel): "Moral of the story: listen a bit more closely to observations and suggestions by others! So, to anyone put off the Rotel, I can only apologise and hope that whatever you got instead is bringing a musical smile to your face :) . As for me, it's very much a Homer Simpson moment. Doh! :sweating:" Humble pie is in the oven.
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  21. Joefarrell

    Joefarrell Forum Resident

    I know this is old thread. Just wanted to comment - it is process not outcome that matters. I admire process OP went through to arrive at unanticipated outcome. Great feedback from SH community as well. I too am in a "what preamp" search and considering many of same options - Parasound, NAD, PS Audio, etc. or just a Yamaha a-s 2000 as preamp.
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  22. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    The above final update turned out to be, well, not so final.... :)

    The Rotel has since been shipped out and a combo of a NAD C 658 with Emotiva Stealth PA-1 monoblocks has taken the place of the Rotel. The following thread takes an idle look at matters that weren't so final after all:

    Retail therapy: NAD C 658 + Emotiva Stealth PA-1 + spkrs
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  23. voxnix

    voxnix New Member

    Portland, OR

    At the risk of pulling you back into this rabbit hole...Did you ever get the opportunity to try out the Rotel as a pre-amp fed into another power amp? I ask because I'm about to purchase the pre-amp only version of it (the RC-1572), and I'm curious if the the unpleasantness you were experience originated in the pre-amp or power amp sections of the unit. I'd like to avoid repeating the same lengthy investigation you had to endure, but I suspect I'm doomed to it.
    RockAddict likes this.
  24. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    From the rabbit hole... :)

    Funnily enough, I did get the chance to try the Rotel RA-1572 as a pre-amp with a NAD C 268 power amp and, IMO, there was no significant difference in the context of the issues I experienced with the Rotel as a standalone integrated amp.

    As indicated elsewhere, the RA-1572 (or any variation of the same tech) will work for some people, especially if their musical palette is for more laid back material which doesn't require as much resolving as busier music.

    If you're in a position to demo a range of options, especially if that can include an A/B with the Rotel you have in your sights, I think it would be more than a worthwhile exercise, even though the acoustics won't be the same as your own space. Whatever you end up with, I really hope it leaves you smiling for the right reasons.

    Am I done with tinkering with my system yet? Not on your life :shh: :shake: :cry: :help: . Fortunately, a higher entity has put a brake on further "enhancements", at least for a few months. The higher entity in this instance is known as "lack of finance".... ;)
  25. RockAddict

    RockAddict Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Latest... A bit of time to save along with a reasonable trade-in has resulted a change to the power amp section. The Emotiva Stealth PA-1 monos did a perfectly decent job but it was a budget led needs-must at the time. The PA-1s have been moved out and replaced by a PS Audio Stellar S300 (dual mono). It's early hours for the S300 but, so far, I'm liking it very much. The audio is just a touch sweeter and the scale just a bit bigger. The PA-1s are a more than decent starting point but the S300 beats them, as indeed it should taking into account the design and price point.

    Interestingly, or not, both the pre-amp and power amp now in my setup were mentioned in the OP. The guts of the system is now:
    - NAD C 658 (Pre / DAC / Streamer)
    - PS Audio Stellar S300 (Power)
    - Monitor Audio Gold 100 5G (Speakers)

    The (relatively) weak spot is now the speakers which, to my ears, have excessive brightness and have had since day 1, irrespective of amp (I've demoed several with the MAs). Once the S300 has got some serious hours on the clock, I'll implement DIRAC (goes with the NAD) but if that doesn't sufficiently tame the MA Golds, it will be time for (yet another) speaker replacement. I'm OK with that; I could have spent £000s on a completely new amp/DAC set up with zero budget left for speakers. The S300 move leaves wriggle room for more saving, right in time for the November sales - but only if DIRAC doesn't do the job (I haven't ruled out purchasing the full DIRAC version).

    IF DIRAC doesn't succeed as hoped, there are three sets of speakers currently on the radar, two of which haven't even been released yet:
    - Q Acoustics Concept ?? (in the pipeline; probably to slot in between the Concept 20/40s and the 300/500s - release date TBA)
    - Dynaudio Special 40s (MK I or MK II)
    - Buchardt S300 (MK III - not yet confirmed but known to be in the pipeline at some point)

    If/when the speaker journey recommences, I'll add to a separate thread I started months ago.

    Hi-fi fun fact: Any product with equivalent model numbers, such as S300, must be compatible. Right? :D

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