Is the move up to Parasound Halo A21 worth it?

Currently enjoying my B&W CM10s, Parasound A23 and P5. I really love the balanced, open sound that I'm getting from the current setup. However, there are a few areas where I'm seeking improvement. A wider soundstage and more engaging sound at lower than moderate volumes. And, a bit more bass, at any volume, won't hurt either.

I thought of moving up the Parasound chain to an A21, but I have no way of listening to an A21 prior to buying it. Has anyone else here moved from a 23 to 21? If so, did you think the move was worth the extra $$$$? Very interested in knowing what improvements people heard. And yes, I understand that room acoustics and treatments will give you a better bang for your buck. But, unfortunately, my setup is in the family room with very little flexibility. So it is what it is.

On an unrelated note, I was thinking of buying used (couple of current A21 listings here @ agon), but after you take into account shipping and paypal charges, the diminishing returns kick in. I'm struggling to see if net savings of around $500 (over a new one from audio advisor) is worth losing warranty, as Parasound warranty is not transferable. I'm sure these are highly sought after units and the premium is better than other comparative brands, but for me it's not worth the risk. So, I'm now thinking of getting a new one from audio advisor (no tax, no shipping charges) and have the peace of mind that comes with a full warranty.
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I've never heard the A23, though I am an A21 owner.  I hope I'm not stepping on a landmine by suggesting you try better cabling, if you haven't already.  

ARAFIQ hi, Another great circuitry designed by legendary John Curl, have a look at the Halo integrated as well, it is loaded with features like a dsd ESS saber dac, and maybe cheaper than separates, also designed by JC.

Cheers George

I have two A 23s, an 21, and three JC 1s.  I use the 23s for side and rear surrounds, but briefly used one to drive a pair of KEF LS50s before I replaced it with the A 21.  I thought the LS50s sounded anemic with the A 23 and lacked the sense of presence the A 21 brought.  It's hard to describe in detail, but something was missing.  In fact, I preferred using one of my old Proceed Amp 2s to drive the LS50s.  But after I installed the A 21 and played a Decca BD of Aida, I was amazed and delighted by how well such a simple setup (Oppo 105 balanced to A 21 to LS50s) could handle the large sound of an opera with aplomb.  IMO, if you can afford an A 21, it's worth it. 

213running, you raise an interesting point. Yes, cabling is definitely part of my plan but probably not in the short term. I was told that I should spend the money on upgrades in the following order: speakers, preamp, amp, speaker cables, power cord and interconnects. And to be honest, I don't understand speaker wires that well to make an informed decision. Plus I don't know what would be a mid price point for wires considering the rest of the system. I'm surely not comfortable with spending anything more than $1000 on wires. But the question is where and when do you see significant differences in SQ. In other words, what's that sweet spot, price-wise, for a mid-range system like mine.

So the question is do I spend the money on speaker cables first and perhaps postpone the amp upgrade? Not sure. What do you think?
georgelofi: Actually, before I bought the P5, I did think long and hard about buying the HINT. No doubt, it has a superior DAC compared to the P5, but for whatever reason the flexibility of separates appealed more to me. I've always had integrateds before (Yamaha a-s1000, Peachtree Nova 125), so I wanted to try separates this time.

But, yeah I agree that the Parasound integrated is a very strong contender. If I was in the market for an integrated, this would have been my first choice.

I'm hoping the next version of P5 will have the better DAC ... you know, trickle down technology and all. Actually, eventually I would like to buy a really nice preamp when the funds allow but that's several  years down the road. Thanks for a great suggestion though.
dbphd, thanks for your response. I was searching for the right words when trying to describe what I thought was missing. 'Lacking the sense of presence' is a very apt description. The A23 is a pretty amazing product, and I think it punches above its weight. But, definitely a bit lacking in 'heft', for lack of a better word.

I think I'll pull the trigger in a few days. Let's hope it's worth it.
Based on the above comparison between the A23 and A21, I'd concur that upgrading the amp would be a higher priority than cables.  When the time comes for cables, there are several good options and I think your system could certainly benefit. 
Thanks, 213runnin .... can you provide some suggestions for speaker cables that go well with the A21? At least it'll give me an idea about what to expect.
Before I pull the plug on the A21, are there any other recommendations within the same price range that I should consider?
Odyssey Stratos with upgrades. I like the A23 for it's price, do not particularly care for the A21. 
Thanks, jl35. What exactly is it that you don't like about the A21? I'll look into Odyssey, perhaps a used one.

I also saw a Hegel 300 integrated on sale here at agon. Have always heard good things about it but not sure how it stacks up to a A21/P5 combo.
I found it kind of bland or flat. More that I didn't like it as opposed to disliked it. If you're looking at integrateds too there are very many possibilities...I've been very happy with recent Simaudio products...
If you found it bland, then there was something in your system that was at fault, or perhaps your speakers didn't blend so well.  The A21 has the detail and imaging I'd been missing.  Better cabling shows up in the sound as well.  

Hey, buy what you like, but if the A21 was a bland or flat amp, it wouldn't have been in production for 12+ years now.  
Just not my preference. System sounded great with Odyssey, Thor and Pass amps. My point really is to not lay out $2500 for an amp because other people like it.
I like the A23, the JC-1, and many of the previous generation Parasound, just not the A21.
Jl35, your impressions of the A23 are also against what most have found when comparing to the A21. If you liked the A23, then you'd love the A21.  Something was at play there.  Maybe the amp was defective.  Perhaps one of your cables was not seated properly.  Did you have a cold and couldn't hear properly?  I'm telling you, friend, there is no way you could like the A23 and not love the A21.

I've tried it with several pairs of my speakers.  Detail, lush midrange, highs airy but not harsh, I can't get it to sound strained.  It's a killer amp for the money.  
I like the A23, the JC-1, and many of the previous generation Parasound, just not the A21.
Now that is the first one I have read comparing A21 to A23. You should immediately let John Curl know about this. Hopefully he will mod the A21 so that it starts sounding like A23. Sorry, could not resist.
I am with 213runnin. Something was not right about the A21 you listened to. Give it another shot.
Yikes!!! I thought the 23 was a good value at $900, not so much the 21 at $2500    Clearly the A21 is a much better amp    I will try to call Mr. Curl later...  I liked to comparably priced Odysseys much better
agree with tswisla 
Clearly John Curl is one of the greats, not sure that Parasound always produces the amps exactly as he designs them...
Okay, finally took the plunge and bought an A21 from a seller @ agon. I should be getting it next week.
I have heard very good things about the A21 as well.  Curious how it might compare to an Aragon 8008bb?
I've owned the Parasound Halo A21 twice now.  Bought one years ago, sold it, then bought another one a couple years back and it's been running in my main rig the last year +/-.  Pretty sure it's going to stay this time.  Coupled with a First Sound tube pre-amp and a Cary Audio PH-302 phono section, I just can't pull the trigger to spend a lot more on amplification.  Every time I start drooling over a new Pass Labs or VAC or Cary or Electrocompaniet set of monos (many of which I've owned at one point or another), I listen to the current set-up and wonder why even bother.  I'm sure I could squeeze out an 'improvement' (which is likely only to be different, not necessarily better), but why, when the current system sounds as good as it does?  For me, the problem is mental:  how can an amp that cost less than my phono cartridge, less than my phono section, less than my turntable and tonearm, less than my pre-amp, and much less than my speakers sound so good?   
I had a boutique amp and preamp for which I saved all my pennies to get. I really had a big desire for this sought after combo. When I finally got it I had problems with noise and after many, many months sold the gear. I had an older Parasound 5 channel amp which I was very pleased with.. so I thought I'd get the A21 and P5. WOW what a surprise. It sounded 3x better than my speciality setup which costs x4 more. The A21 is really a sleeper. It compares equal to a Musical Fidelity which I auditioned which was double the price.
Since last posting in this thread, I’ve changed up my system. Gone is the Oppo 95, replaced with the Nad C 565BEE which was a clear cut improvement. I was hoping for equal performance but didn’t need the universal swiss army knife player, hoping that a dedicated cd player from a well respected brand would not disappoint. Plus I ended up with cash in pocket as a result.

I also sold the Paradigm Signature S6 towers. They just never sparkled in my system, plus the midrange was too warm for me and they had limited bass for a tower. I could have experimented more with cables, as I only had Audioquest Type 4, but with the same cables my existing Ascend Sierra 2 had superior midrange, and the highs were pretty much a wash.

Then(!) I upgraded the speaker cables with Wireworld Oasis 7, and that brought an immediate improvement as well, though I haven’t broken them in yet. That all said, the A21 with P7 have the detail, imaging, and 3D soundstage that can take advantage of good cables and good speakers. The speakers completely disappear and the artist is in the room, it’s that dramatic.
213runnin, sounds like you've made some great changes. I was surprised how much I liked the Parasound equipment. I think John Curl is one of the best audio engineers. Enjoy
Thanks, I gotta agree with you on how impressing the Parasound gear really is.  Like you I started out with something else and came home to Halo.  
John Curl has nothing to do with the A23. So there’s absoulutly no comparison between A23 and A21. A21 is legit, A23 is not!  
according yo Parasound, John Curl designed the circuits for both the A23 and A21...
John Curl on AA denied designing the A23. He claims he only got paid for the A21 & JC1. Feel free to do a search. It's still a damn good amp.
The reason Parasound can claim Curl’s name to it is because they both use the A21 board, which WAS designed by Curl. Curl has nothing to do with A23 besides them using board he designed for A21.
The way I see it, all of the "equipment" plus the room work together (or against each other) to deliver a sound that you either like, or wish was better.  Once you start thinking that there might be something better, you have opened the door to lots of options to try.

I think that the A23 is a very good sounding amp, deep low end, smooth high end and pretty big soundstage.  You may well get a slight improvement from the A21....but I'm guessing you may find a larger improvement by going with a better DAC or a tube or tube hybrid preamp...Why?

Because a better DAC can easily give you a more engaging more detailed soundstage (the P5 DAC was decent in its day but nowhere near state of the art today)....and a tube or tube/hybrid preamp can really take your overall sound to the next level with much improved musicality and soundstage depth.

Audio Advisors gives you lots of option worth trying, all of which are returnable and many of which will give better results than upgrading to the A21.
I’ll take your word bigdady...Parasound used to say amp designed by John Curl but later changed it to circuitry designed by John Curl...what’s the story with that ? I had heard that was due to using lower quality parts than the original designs...true ?
+1 @bigdady76.The A21 Vs A23 was also discussed on some DIY forum. I had read that way back when I was researching on the A21.
You are correct. The original A21 had Elna caps, while the later ones do not. I believe that the internal pics of the A21 were initially on the company website, but not shown anymore. But the A21 is a fantastic amp for the money.
So... these speakers are bi-ampable? 

May I suggest you use 1 A23 per side, and use the attenuators to set the relative level between the top and bottom sections? 

If it were me, I'd use that plus an outboard EQ on the bass section, but no one ever likes that idea. :) 


Also, have you seen the B&W manual regarding fine tuning the bass? :)