How much difference in sound?

I have a lower end amp ( Parasound 5125 ). How much sound difference would I hear with say, a $1000 or $1500 or even a $2000 used amp? I'm trying to slowly move up in quality , but I want to make sure I can hear the move up.

I also have a Nad C720 Bee
It would be of some help if you were to mention what speakers you have. The best amp would need a decent speaker capable of resolving what info it received.
Gary, that is a very hard question. Some people hear big differences and some don't. Some want that dry,edgy and bright, and forward sound and some prefer it to be laid back but I want neutral. Some want detail and some want less. Your speaker wire, interconnects, and other equipment all make a huge difference in how your sound is presented. I have a friend that loves the word "WARM"! He drives me nuts with it. I lean towards neutral but with a very good soundstage, width of soundstage and a pretty good placement of instruments and artist within the soundstage giving me a live perspective. But the one thing I forgot to mention is musical. It has to make me pat my feet and sing along. I call it "PYFQ" Pat Your Feet Quotient. Any piece of gear I own has to make me do that. It won't last long in my system if it isn't musical.
There are many great sounding amplifiers out there in the tube and solid state arena. We all will have varied opinions and one or maybe none of them will or will not please you. But, from a neutral perspective I will give you my 5 cents worth. Odyssey Audio Stratos @150 w per channel in 8 ohms and nearly double in 4 ohms and is a darn good sounding amp in many different applications and is high current for low impedeances. Muse 100 is a very sweet sounding amp @ 100 watts in 8 ohms and nearly doubles in 4 ohms. But all this depends on the speakers, preamp interconnects and speaker wire too. They will both give you a very neutral and musical experience. I am a tube guy. There are many very good sounding tube amps on the market today. Solid enginering is the key to purchasing one of them. Since you are in the solid state arena I won't suggest any tube amps but if you are interested let us know. Both the amps I have mentioned will serve the music well under the right conditions and better both the units you mention above. I hope my 5 cents worth helps you some and good luck. I say visit a local dealer and see if they have anything that catches your ear. Many of the good dealerships do take trade-ins.
hi, if you switch to something like threshold sa3 , or pass labs aleph 5, or for tubes a rogue audio 88 , you should hear a big diffference in sound for the better !! all of these amps can be had these days for under 2 grand, and all of them sound killer with the right gear. you failed to mention your speakers and size of room , what kind of music do you listen to ? all of these things will determine what amp will work best, good luck and happy listening, chrissain
I don't think anyone can answer your question. If your current amp is under powered for your speakers and you switch to an amp with ample power, you'll likely hear an improvement. Best advice is to listen at dealers and friends. Otherwise, buy the most watts you can afford from a good quality company. I don't put much value in the terms "low-end", "mid-fi", etc. Ultimately, it's important to have enough watts and a good impedance match with the preamp and speakers.
I am using PSB T65's for my speakers. If I can hear a better sound ,I would not be opposed to getting new (used ) speakers in the next year to put with a new (used ) amp if the sound would increase in quality. This is the route I would like to follow. I would like a really clear maybe nuetral to warm sound. I don't understand quite yet what this would cost,but that is where I want to end up without going through numerous units,speakers, etc. ,(if that is even possible)

Room is 12 by 16, and music is rock,classic rock, jazz, blues
hi, after working at some of the best dealers is my state, and counting 20 years in the hobby at 37 years of age, I have heard some of the most expensive gear out there, no I have not heard it all, but I can tell you there are some amazing sounding stuff out there, that does not cost an arm or a leg. you will have to spend some money, in the long run maybe even ten grand or so, this could be out of your buget, maybe not , but this would get you a system that is as good or better than most systems I have heard in the fifty or sixty grand range. you will have to buy most gear used, which sucks for the local dealers, inless
they have used gear. your room is going to play a huge role in the overall sound, good rooom treatment is money well spent ! now to put the above comments into perspective, I have friends that have over three hundred thousand dollar systems, and some that have three thousand dollar systems, both can sound great. a good friend of mine has one of the best systems I have ever heard, regardless of cost, belcanto dac3 [used 1200-1500$ ] rogue audio m150 tube mono blocks [used 2200$ ] and revel gem speakers [used 3200$ ] with a revel b15 sub [used 1500$ ] this sytem sounds better than most sytems I have ever heard, including some very expensive ones ! simply amazing sound. last friday i brought over some other audio buds, one who owns maggies, most maggie owners think their speakers sound better than anything, especialy any box speaker, and he was blown away by how open the sound was, he said it was the best he had ever heard. the best really cheap sytem I have heard is a theta miles cd player, fed directly into a threshold sa 3 amp into a pair of revel f30 speakers, simply awesome for the money, less dough than the powercords now in my system ! just remember that no system is perfect, no matter how much it costs. life is about compromise. my short list of stuff to check out , revel anything, magnapans, vandersteen, threshold , pass labs, [ older aleph series ] rogue audio , conrad johnson,
theta, cal labs, belcanto , oh and forte amps, also a nelson pass design . good luck , chrissain
I think your speakers are quite good. How do you like the NAD C720? That looks like a very good pairing to me.

You could spend quite a bit on Parasound Halo separates and maybe get a different sound, but I'm not sure how much "better" it would be -- possibly more revealing.
I would keep the amps, even after you upgrade to something better. There is quite a bit of enjoyment to be had from those amps... perhaps for a second system.

I like your speakers too... Your present setup should be pretty good as they are... Good mid-fi system.

Seems like you caught the upgrade bug - please don't go ever upgrading like some audiophiles, and dig deep into your bank account.

See if you can live with the present system, before upgrading - should be enjoyable system - what CD player are you using at the moment ?


No one is going to be able to give you a real true life value in regards to your question…. There are too many variables. Even if you said which amp, it would be awfully hard to give your question any certainty

I’ll assume you mean to spend the $$ on a 2 ch amp.

At $1000 to $1500 into a used 2 ch amp…. I’d say you should hear some improvement depending upon the amp you select. But not as much as if that money was spent somewhere else in your system… like with a source.

I feel the threshold for the point of diminishing returns is at the $5.5 > $6K MSRP for amps, by and large.

With many preowned amps of this ilk finding themselves nearing 50% of the original MSRP now, the used amp market of between $2500 - $3000 should put you pretty square into it.

How much? Ok… 20%. To 25%.. perhaps more, maybe less.

However, as was said, the better the associated components the better wil be the results of such a step up. The room too is another matter entirely and it does matter as well.

Naturally the synergy between the amp and speakers is pretty important… and if all else in your rig is to encounter upscaling at some point you may wish to begin elsewhere… like at the speakers or at the source itself. I’d go with upgrading the source first, if it was me.

I feel the two places that the biggest change in sound can come from, is either from upgrating the source or upgrading the speakers.

Looking to swap out an amp without knowing how the ‘future’ source sounds, or what demands the upcoming speakers may have, seems counter productive to me.

If you already know which way lays your goals, low power amp + high eff spekrs, high power amps + moderate eff spkrs, All tubes, all SS, a mix of both, etc. then I guess changing out the amp first is as good a place to start as any.

The amp is just one piece of the puzzle. As with any puzzle the rest of the pieces must fit together. I’ve used the scissors and tape approach in the past to put my puzzles together and wasn’t keen on the outcome… even though the pieces were all there… more or less… it did fit though!

Front to back or back to front seems the two more popular approaches for system building. To start in the middle I’d need to run across a real gem or a deal I simply could not pass up.

It’ll sure sound a lot different… the margin of betterment however might not gbe as great. Upping the amplifier ante as was said will increase the odds in your favor.

Prior to settling on an amp, do consider the speaker amp match first or have some outline in mind for prospective ‘down the road’ speakers… 2 ways, flr stands, panels, horns, omni, etc. That will aid you in selecting your amp.

Good luck.
Thanks for all the input,
I guess I have the upgrade bug, wanting a full brillant sound on the least amount of $'s needed to have that sound. I am willing to preceed piece by piece to reach that rainbow sound in the sky.
I believe that I will shy away from tubes, and look for SS amp and pre.
I am using an onkyo cdp that is about 14 yrs. old, would like to upgrade the cdp too.
I guess I should start with the amp,then pre, then speakers?
Hi Gary.
I would upgrade the speakers first. You might then find no need to upgrade the pre and the amp.


If you are indeed sold on doing the amp first... get a popular one that will hold it's value and it's ability for re-sale.... given the budget you initially provided. Later on you can sell it and take one more step into ampland and be near done there... for all intents and purposes.

Also keep in mind this... amps only can increase the signal amplitude they recieve. They don't purify it, sweeten it or improve upon it. Whatever the integrity of the signal it see's is what it will increase... Better amps will convey whatever the upstream devices provide. Clearly usually with greater detail and resolution.

Consequently, if the info is off somewhat or somehow, the resultant amplified info may not be better and can be less acceptable in fact, as it will reveal more so the quality of what it sees coming into it.

If there's any chance for you to in home demo one or two, by all means do that first... just to see what's going to happen with this upgrade.

Good luck
Mr. Blindjim has nailed it for U. I say start with a better cd player. There are very good players at different budgets.
I think you need more information from your source, just to be able to tell which amp,which speakers--
Any suggestions on a cdp that will be a nice piece in the system if I do choose to upgrade the amps in the future?
NAD and Cambridge Audio make good affordable CD players. I like the idea of using a fairly low cost player, say a CA 340C, driving an external DAC. The CA 340C + their DAC Magic should be quite nice and very affordable.

I use the CA 340C in my office system and like it well enough. Adding a Benchmark DAC1 made an improvement to my ears. I've also heard it with a Lavry DA-10.

I didn't mention it earlier, but the ATI AT2002 balanced amp would be another amp to consider.

Bob's got some good ideas there for you Gary.

Just what sort of sound do you prefer, to begin with? high res & detailed? neutral and balanced throughout? Warmish? Fat and lush? Quick and dynamic? Loud listening levels? All rock all the time? Opera only? Just small jazz groups with female singers between the ages of 22 & 31, that have a vibrphone & upright bass player?

Big room? gonna use a sub? con speakers or panels in your future?

If you stay mainstream, with cone driver speakers, having moderate eff (87-90db) with decent impedance curves, then a 100-200wpc amp should be fine enough. Improving upon the 2125 also shouldn't be too difficult. mcCormack's upper end stuff perhaps, BAT's SS amps for sure, Pass labs might suit you too. Ayre does a good job, as well as Belles.

With only $1000 - $1500, I'd also look 'used' (which I do in fact... look used) first. new? bob said ATI & I'd say Odyssey... both will save ya some $$$ and put ya under that $1500 line. Easy.

But in all, your biggest bang here and now is gonna come from the front end or the speakers... and a good source can be had cheaper than really good speakers, and why I keep pointing towards that end here. Either of BR's ideas on CD + DAC are good indeed... I like the Lavry DA 10 myself. maybe with a Rega or CJ player... or even with an Oppo!

There's a thought... the new Blue ray player from Oppo is about to ship... around $500. Add either a Bench mark or Lavry DA10, a Stereovox xv2 cable, and you'll have a multi format disc player that'll do virtually every disc format, (though not dVD audio immediately... they're gonna add that via firmware later), a great DAC and really, really good coax/BNC cale ... all for under or right at $1500.

Less if you choose a lesser Oppo player.

Be well & have fun picking....

I would suggest to get a nice external DAC instead of another CDP. I currently am enjoying a Valab NOS DAC from ebay. Check it out on for more info/impressions. This unit displaced a very popular DAC in the $2K range in my system. Unless of course if your CD can't do justice as a transport.

If you upgrade the CD player, and cables ( unless you already have good ones ), you might not need to upgrade other parts of the chain.

I like the NAD/PSB combo.

I would try this before the amp.
Look around on agon there are so many nice amps to pick from,yes you will notice a big change,much bigger then a cd player change
I respectfully disagree - at least in my listening experience, I found the source to be quite important part of the chain !

The onkyo CDP is holding you back - while the rest of the system is good mid-fi.

If you get something like this, you will definitely hear a difference - hopefully satisfied enough not to upgrade, at least for a some time.

I don't know which one is better - you might want to read reviews on them - but I have 7000 series, and I simply adore it!

Hope this helps...

What's lost upstream (at the source) cannot be recovered downstream (amp/speaker end). That said, upgrade should occur at the weakest link of the chain--whatever it may be in a given system.

But once you have a decent cd player, at that point thwen is when you notice just how big a difference a nice amp will do.
Garbage in/garbage out .
I would suggest that you get the best CDP used , that you can afford , and a decent set of IC's . You will hear the difference and what the rest of your equipment is capable of sounding like . A solid/well built unit with digital out should take you down the road for quite a while and is able to be altered by the addition of a DAC if you care for change .

Speakers and amps can change a signal from the source but they can not do much to improve it . If you want to truly 'build' a system I think that you should start with supplying your system with the best signal that you can afford . Then at least you will hear what the rest of your components are capable of rather than limiting their ability .

Good luck .