New Parasound A21 VS Mark Levinson #23


Hello all

I have the option of buying new Parasound A21 (2500 )  Vs Mark Levinson # 23 for 2300 (in good working condition). I will be pairing for B&W 803S

any suggestion?

any advice appreciated
ask17
The Parasound is a fantastic modern sounding amp in all respects. Robust, powerful, quiet, neither euphonic nor dry or sterile. 

I would strongly recommend it based on age alone. 

Best,

E
The Mark Levinson has a very unique sound to the midrange.  It's hard to describe if you have never heard it.  It's sort of like a very thick sounding midrange with unique and different overtones.  Some people love it, others do not.  You really have to hear it to understand.
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The Parasound A21 is slightly on the warm side, but it is a more conventional sounding amplifier.  It's not in that "different sound" category like the Levinson.  For my own opinion and preference, I think the A21 sounds more natural and open than the Levinson.  I am in the camp that likes the Parasound and doesn't really like the Levinson.  It's all a personal preference.
I have not heard the Levinson, but I know many audiophiles hold that brand in high esteem. I had pulled the trigger on the A21 and really like it. If I were to change amps I would only go with mono amps or an integrated amp in the $5k range. That is how much I like the A21. BTW I used to own about six or seven other brands, including the often talked about Odyssey brand. The Parasound Halo was much better. I know there are better sounding amps, I heard a Musical Fidelity dual mono integrated (M6 500i) that was better, but again in the $6k range. The A21 is like a taste of champagne audio on a beer budget.
Agreed....the Parasound Halo A21 is a great amp especially considering its modest retail price of $2500 new.
One of the best sounding amp in that price range.

Mark Levinson IMO makes outstanding gears, especially their preamps, but priced much higher than the Parasound.
I have never heard that Levinson #23 amp before so can’t really comment on that particular amp.

You can never go wrong with the Halo A21 amp IMO. It’s a steal at $2500 new for the kind of performance you get. It is a phenomenal sounding amp.
I think it will sound good on your B&W 803. Which B&W 803 do you have? 803 D2 or the latest 803 D3?

The flagship stereo power amp from Rotel called the RB-1590 will also sound great on your B&W 803. The Rotel RB-1590 retails for $3k and is huge massive and weighs in over 90 lbs. Rotel & B&W have great synergy together.
But in general IMO the Halo A21 is a better amp than the Rotel RB-1590. But you’ll never know.....the Rotel RB-1590 might pair better with your B&W 803. Who knows?

For your B&W 803 speakers if you’re willing to spend more I would look at the Classe Delta CA-2300 class AB stereo power amp. This amp, along with other Classe Delta series gears, were discontinued last year and nowaday it can be had in used after markets at discounted price. Its original retail price was $7k but since it’s been discontinued you can find a used one for around $4k ish. The Classe CA-2300 is a class AB amp and it will be an excellent match for your B&W 803 especially the latest B&W 803 D3 speakers. They will sound great together. Classe will pair really well with B&W. But again this CA-2300 amp is huge and very heavy weighs in well over 90 lbs.

In my dedicated home theater room my front speakers are the B&W 800 D3 driven by a pair of Classe Delta CAM-600 class AB monoblock amps and they sound terrific together and you couldn’t get any better than that. But of course performance wise and sonically the CAM-600 monoblock amps are step up from the CA-2300.

One thing you should note that the Parasound Halo A21 amp runs kind of hot so I wouldn't put it in a confined rack. The Levinson amps can generally run kinda warm too. However, both the Rotel RB-1590 amp and the Classe CA-2300 amp never run hot no matter how hard you drive them. They run cool the whole time. 


Having personal experience with Parasound A21, I will say that the Parasound sonic signature is definitely on the warm side of things.  It is a very good amp and has a very refined midrange sound, but still on the warm side. 

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Parasound uses excellent parts and components and they have an excellent overall design.  I have found that the one thing that holds back the Parasound is how many fuses it has.  Parasound likes to fuse the heck out of their amplifiers.  The A21 has 5 fuses total.

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You can make the Parasound A21 a world class amp by just investing a little more into fuse upgrade:

1 x Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme LARGE 15A for the back panel main fuse.
4 x Furutech LARGE 10A for the internal post-transformer fuses.
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When using Furutech for all 5 fuses, the sound was still excellent (much better than stock), but was still too warm for me (I lost resolution and attack).  The single Hi-Fi Tuning Supreme silver fuse boosted the speed just enough so that I had excellent attack / resolution / detail.

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However, in your case, with the older 803S that uses the aluminum tweeters and the older kevlar midrange breakup issue, you might want to try out all Furutech first.  400-500 hours of burn-in required for Furutech before you should make a decision.   

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The older kevlar midrange had an issue with break-up which caused distortion in the sound and could come across as too bright/harsh in some systems.  A slightly warmer amp can mask this problem as well as the bright/breakup of the aluminum dome tweeter.
Thank you all for the wonderful advise.very helpful.  I am new to audiophile and just  learning new things everyday. I will go with A21 as it appears solid in every aspect for now. I may need help with fuse upgrade  etc which I may have to request the dealer to help. Thanks again! 
Which B&W 803 do you have? 803 D2 or the latest 803 D3?

Mines is 803 Nautilus
While I agree with the above about the Parasound A21, if the Levinson has had the caps replaced and completely serviced within the past few years, it is hands down a better sounding amp.

I was a Levinson dealer for many years and have owned a bunch of their equipment. I wasn't ever a Parasound dealer, but have owned a lot of their product also, including the A21.

Once you hear a properly working Levinson amp, it's hard to get it out of your head.  They are indeed quite nice, but I agree, that they have their own sonic signature, (just like everything else).

Without knowing the provenance of the Levinson, the A21 is a safer bet. 
Which B&W 803 do you have? 803 D2 or the latest 803 D3?

ask17 - I'm not sure who you're asking the question to.  Your 803S is the last of the original Nautilaus series before B&W moved to the diamond tweeter.  If I remember right, the "S" series had a better aluminum tweeter where B&W was able to raise the resonance breakup to something like 28khz.  I used to have the B&W D2 series and now have the D3 series.  I'm driving them with fuse-upgraded JC1 and A21 amplifiers.
If you go the A21 route I would wait on the fuses to get acquainted with the stock sound and then later on add the fuses. Just my 2 cents. 
Oopps.....sorry didn’t see that the OP has stated the 803S. The older B&W S models before using the diamond tweeters totally have different sound profile than the newer models. I myself never liked the kevlar midrange drivers too as they distort and colored the sound and did not sound natural or organic to me. I never liked B&W until the newer D3 series with a new continuum midrange drivers instead of kevlars. B&W was never my go to choice for music anyway but they are great for HT and is one of my favorite HT speaker system. Except the newer 800 D3 models are quite good for music but still not my number 1 preference for music. 
Why a 23 instead of a 331 or 332?  I got a 333 here for $2700 with an extra set of very expensive caps.
By the way, there are a couple "brand-new-in-box" Parasound A21s on ebay for $1999.  One in silver and one in black.  I actually bought mine from the same seller a few months back. 

I agree that in my opinion the ML23 is a better amp.  That said, If it were me I would get a ML23.5 instead. That amp is very, very nice.  it has different input circuitry from the 23 and I've owned two and still have one.   believe it was the last that actually has Mark Levinson (the person) design associated with it before he sold the company.

I've compared it with amps today and I beats most. 

just my two cents.

enjoy

sigh, spell  check.

"it beats most"

enjoy

just make sure the Parasound is truly new, as it has been around almost 15 years...
In general, ML isn't in the same league as the Parasound Halo as ML is superior to the Parasound, but IMO the Halo A21 is still a great sounding amp especially considering its asking price points. I can't say that the ML23 is superior sounding than the Halo A21 as I haven't heard the ML23 so can't comment. The current new ML gears are very expensive and aren't really affordable to some people whereas the Parasound gears are much more affordable to most and Parasound Halo line makes quite spectacular gears especially for the money. 
But in general I wouldn't put Parasound in the same league as ML, especially when it comes to linestage preamps. 

Hello All

Happy  New year!!!

Thank you for your feedback. Much appreciated

I just got and  tuned the

Parasound A21+ (Newer Model)
JC2 BP
Arcam CDS50

with my B&W 803N

Can't be any more happier. Worth every penny. Without any doubt, nothing comes  close  to A21+& JC2 from the price stand point what this product as to offer. I am sure individual opinion will vary and I take all your feedback. 

Happy Holidays!!!