Parasound A21 vs Bryston 4bsst 2


I'm looking for any information regarding the Parasound A21 vs the Bryston 4bsst 2. The amp will be used to drive a pair of Aerial 7Ts. It's not about what's better, but what one represents the better value, considering the cost difference. In other words, for those who say get the Bryston, is it twice as good as the Parasound? My room is 20' x 26', I listen to contemporary Jazz, and my priorities are soundstaging, imaging(front to back placement), and as close to neutral as possible without brightness. Thanks in advanced for your opinions.
ricred1
"In other words, for those who say get the Bryston, is it twice as good as the Parasound?"

Absolutely not, IMO.
Bryston hands down.
>for those who say get the Bryston, is it twice as good as the Parasound?

That's a poor way to frame the decision. The question you want to ask is whether the Bryston is $2,000 better, or whatever the price difference is. Diminishing returns kicked in well below the Parasound. Of course, only you can answer the what's worth the extra money to you.

Both of those products are available from Audio Advisor and perhaps other online retailers who offer 30-day return privileges. Buy them both and decide for yourself.
The Bryston will probably sound better, but the Parasound is the better value. And one reason is it's made in Taiwan, so the low cost production and labor gets passed on the consumer. Bryston used to be a much better value. I think they've priced a number of people out of the game with the price hikes over the last 4-5 years. I got my 4BSST for $2400 in '07. Anyway, you definitely have to listen to both. Or if you can, take Drubin's advice and get both from Audio Advisor or some other outlet...
i don't know anything about the Bryston, but my A21 is neutral, maybe a touch toward the warm side. It's stays in class A for the first 10 watts, and I probably stay within that 10 watts most of the time, running Paradigm Signature S6 from a Parasound p7 in 2 channel mode.

For me, interconnect and speaker cables made a huge improvement in the soundstage. Not sure what the OP has for gear or cables, but by saving some on the A21, I'd suggest getting some good cables, I've purchased from Audio Advisor and they are pretty knowledgeable.
Drubin,

Thanks for your opinion, but purchasing both of them isn't an option. I can get a Parasound A21 and Parasound P7 for about the same cost of the Bryston 4bsst 2.

Dave_72,

I don't have the opportunity to compare them directly, that's the only reason why I posted the question. I agree that Bryston may have raised their prices too much.

Runnin,

What cables and speakers are you using?
"Not sure what the OP has for gear or cables, but by saving some on the A21, I'd suggest getting some good cables, I've purchased from Audio Advisor and they are pretty knowledgeable."

No offense at all, but I really disagree with that statement. Cables make a nice difference, but I would never get lesser active components so I could spend more on cables. Not only that, but if you pick good components and match them well, it makes cable choice a lot easier.

"I listen to contemporary Jazz, and my priorities are soundstaging, imaging(front to back placement), and as close to neutral as possible without brightness."

If that's your main goal (not to say that you don't have others, as well), you need to build a system, not buy an amp. Your source and preamp components are at least as important. They all have to work together.
Zd542,

I understand that I need to build a system. I had one before, but I thought I was done with music and sold everything. After several months I missed listening to music and decided to build a modest system. My prior system consisted of Wilson Sasha's and Densen electronics. I begin my new adventure with Revel F52s and Peachtree electronics. The F52s were great for the money; however I wanted a little more transparency. I listened to a couple of speakers to include Rockport, B&W, higher end Revels, but decided the Aerial 7Ts offered the best value. Now I've decided to slowly build my system...the amp is just the first step. If I get the A21, the P7 will be the next piece, followed by a new source, and finally cables.
I would take Zd542's advice and focus on the entire system. You may be better served spending the money you save not buying the Bryston on your source components than cables.

Tough to beat the value of the Parasound gear overall. I am looking at the A21 and P7 myself now as an upgrade to my Anthem/Oppo system.

Good luck
I don't have the opportunity to compare them directly, that's the only reason why I posted the question. I agree that Bryston may have raised their prices too much.

I see. Very well then. Well, it looks like you're leaning towards the Parasound stuff. Their stuff isn't bad at all, and should last you quite a while if you take care of it. Keep in mind it's middle of the road stuff, and not the ultimate, imo. Bryston leans more towards actual high end equipment, especially in the case of the 14BSST2 and the 28BSST2. Anyway, those are out of your price range, but I was using that as an example. You should be ok with the Parasound, I don't see why not...
The A21 will drive the Ariels without issue. I have not heard a Bryston and so cannot comment. I found that this amp provides the best results with XLR connections. Great bang for buck!
Dave_72,
Have you compared the A21 to your 4BSST. I was wondering how I would be able to identify a middle or the road vs really high end component, if I get a chance to compare.
"Now I've decided to slowly build my system...the amp is just the first step. If I get the A21, the P7 will be the next piece, followed by a new source, and finally cables."

I don't know if I did a good job explaining my point in my first post. You list some specific qualities that you want your new amp to have. Setting goals is excellent on your part. Very few people actually do that. I'm just questioning how you are going about this. When I say you need to build a system, I don't mean that you need to buy everything at once, but just have a clearly defined path. At the very least, you need to hear your speakers with the A21 and P7. Otherwise, its just a coin toss. Its more work, but I would say that you really need to hear the combo before you purchase.

One other thing I see from reading your posts, is that you seem to be favoring the amp as the more important piece, as opposed to the preamp. I won't tell you what to think or how to spend your money, but I would highly recommend you treat the preamp as the more important of the 2. As long as whatever amp you get has enough power to drive your speakers properly, the preamp should make a bigger difference in terms of sound quality. If you skimp on the preamp, you're just going to start fooling with cables, tubes and other various tweaks. By the time you figure out what's going on, you'll have spent a lot of money. Not getting the right preamp has to be the biggest and most common mistake in audio.
Zd542,

I actually don't favor the amp, my experience mirrors yours. I have found more differences between preamps than any other components. The amp is just easier...determine how much I want to spend and find something that has adequate power that doesn't distract from the music. I submit the preamp is more difficult.
Ricred1, I take it you have the Aerial 7T's already? They are not cheap! A more difficult load with a minimum resistance of 3 ohms. As others have said, speaker amp synergy will be important, hopefully you can get the amp on a 30 day trial as many of the internet shops offer.

As for cables, they really are system dependant, but I really am taken with solid core conductor based cables. Morrow Audio makes a unique version, and Audioquest is another such option. Silver conductors can also be excellent for soundstage, but can be more forward sounding. There are some good cable threads in the cable section to get some ideas.
Dave_72, Have you compared the A21 to your 4BSST. I was wondering how I would be able to identify a middle or the road vs really high end component, if I get a chance to compare

Sorry, I haven't. I have heard them separately. Well, I wouldn't say the 4BSST is really high end. That is reserved for the big boys of the Bryston line; 14BSST2 and 28SST2.

Anyway, a middle of the road component will be a bit restricted in the frequency response and dynamic range. The music sounds more canned. A real high end component will be effortless in frequency response and dynamic range. You're coming very close to recreating an actual live event and approximating the sound of real instruments.
I have decided to purchase the Parasound A21 for now. Now I'm looking for a preamp with a built in DAC. I thought about the P5, but someone who's ears I trust told me the P7 was much better. The problem is the P7 doesn't provide me the flexibility that I require.
Great choice!!!
"The amp is just easier...determine how much I want to spend and find something that has adequate power that doesn't distract from the music."

"my priorities are soundstaging, imaging(front to back placement), and as close to neutral as possible without brightness."

This is kind of what I was talking about. The amp plays a pretty big role in bringing forth those qualities. While Parasound and Bryston are both great products, I don't think they are particularly good in those areas. I'm not saying they're bad, just average. If you are willing to consider amps other than the 2 we're talking about here, I would look at Ayre, Theta, BAT and Pass. They all make SS amps that do a much better job of going beyond adequate power and deliver a higher level of SQ. Its just something to think about. I've heard Aerials many times with Pass and thought it was a great combo.
The pre-with-a-dac category is fairly new I think, Wyred 4 Sound makes the mPre, and I think Peachtree Audio offers something, but they don't have a lot of inputs.
I'd recommend against a preamp with an integrated DAC. While I understand the convenience factor, digital technology is advancing at a blinding rate. It's the one area of my system that I expect to be obsolete quicker than any other. Being tied to an outdated DAC because it resides in my preamp is not something I'm interested in. Yes, you can always add a outboard DAC down the road, but then you spent money on a feature you are no longer using.

Just food for thought... Good choice on the Parasound over the Bryston.
Zd542,

Sure Ayre, Theta, BAT and Pass are considered to be great;however they are significantly more than the Parasound A21. Name a great amp that can be had for the same price of the A21.
"Name a great amp that can be had for the same price of the A21."

You can probably find a Pass Aleph, older BAT SS and maybe an Ayre V-3 in your price range.
Zd542,
I think you need to compare the A21 with Pass Aleph while driving the Aerial 7T. The Pass would probably do great with high sensitivity speakers, but might not sound good with the Aerials. Ricred1's room is also not a small one, so the Pass would not help there either.
One thing is - the A21 does not loose it's value as much. So Ricred1 could always sell the amp if he wants to upgrade. For now I think he has made the right choice. My only suggestion, based on personal experience would be, to go with a preamp that has XLR outs. It may have been my TVC, but my A21 is in a different league when used with the TVC connected through XLR Vs the RCA.
Congrats on the Parasound - they make great sounding gear. I love Bryston, but for the money (unless you really want that warranty) they're going to sound exactly the same. Level match them within half a dB and they'll be indistinguishable.

I also agree about having a separate DAC from the Pre - much better options with separates...
"09-30-14: Milpai
Zd542,
I think you need to compare the A21 with Pass Aleph while driving the Aerial 7T. The Pass would probably do great with high sensitivity speakers, but might not sound good with the Aerials. Ricred1's room is also not a small one, so the Pass would not help there either."

Sorry. I was in a hurry when I typed that out and couldn't go into too much detail. I've heard the Pass Aleph's many time with Aerial speakers. Its true that the Aleph series didn't put out that much wattage. That said, they were extremely clean. I had several models myself. For example, I took my Aleph o's, rated at 40 watts/ch and drove a pair of B&W 802s3's with it. At the same time, I also had a Krell KAV250a. Power wise, you could hardly tell the difference. The Krell, of course, had better bass, but beyond that, there was very little difference as to the amps ability to drive the speakers. If you looked at those 2 amps on paper, they are vastly different. The Parasound is an excellent all around amp. Its a really hard amp to screw up with. I just brought up some alternatives given the qualities that the OP said he was looking for.

Since we're comparing amps, I think its worth noting that while most people would pick the Bryston over the Parasound, there's really no guarantee that the Bryston will out perform it. Its entirely possible that some may prefer the way it sounds for any number of reasons. Just because its a more expensive amp doesn't always mean its better in every way. Overall, I see both amps appealing to the same type of person. If you like one, you'll probably like the other.
Congrats on the Parasound - they make great sounding gear. I love Bryston, but for the money (unless you really want that warranty) they're going to sound exactly the same. Level match them within half a dB and they'll be indistinguishable

Is that the way you feel about all amps, or? :D
I'd recommend against a preamp with an integrated DAC. While I understand the convenience factor, digital technology is advancing at a blinding rate. It's the one area of my system that I expect to be obsolete quicker than any other. Being tied to an outdated DAC because it resides in my preamp is not something I'm interested in. Yes, you can always add a outboard DAC down the road, but then you spent money on a feature you are no longer using.

I agree. I was interested in an integrated DAC, but now realize that by the time I buy the preamp with the DAC, the internal DAC will be significantly outdated.
Let me see if I got this right; the Parasound is flat out better than the Bryston, and the Bryston is only good for the warranty but not sound quality?
I am not sure if linking another web page is welcome overhere, in terms of a-gon forum policy... If not, I apologize. If so, I would recommend this page:

http://www.stereophile.com/content/bryston-7b-sstsup2sup-monoblock-power-amplifier-page-5

According to Mickey Fremer's opinion, the Parasound top monoblocs Halo JC-1 (400W) pretty clearly outperformed similarly priced Bryston 7BSST monos (600W). The next step-down in both brand lines are exactly the Halo A21 and 4BSST respectively... so, a possible outcome of similar comparison may be easily predictable, at least for ears similar to mr Fremer ones...

I would not vote, of course, since I have never heard any Bryston in my system. But as a former owner of the A21 I can say this amp is one of my most inspiring experience and true entrance-gate in (so-called) hi-end, for minor money. This particular piece of Halo A-21 ended at my friend's place, making him happy last 5 years or so.

I have extensive experience with the A21's bigger brother, the highly reputable Halo JC-1 monoblocs, comparing them many times to Krell-Evo-400 and Evo-400e monos. I can say Halos have not any reason to be ashamed in all those showdown parties with double-priced Krells. Actually, the outcome had turned vice versa sometimes, depending of preamp, speakers, music etc. In terms of final verdict, I would say Krells emerged as a bit more audiophilic, more neutral, sober amps, while Parasound Halos appeared mesmerizing with euphonia, sweet sustain-prone highs and delicious, meaty midband.

As far I could recall the sonic nature of smaller Halo A21, this is the very same type of sound. Warmest recommendation.
Well... linked page above emerged apparently unusable, so I would pinpoint the link verbally, towards the review of the Bryston 7BSST monoblocs in Stereophile (January 2010), page 5, comparison with Halo JC-1s.
"Let me see if I got this right; the Parasound is flat out better than the Bryston, and the Bryston is only good for the warranty but not sound quality?"

The point I was trying to make was that people (“professional” or otherwise) make amplifier comparisons that don't carry much weight... One must A/B two components that are perfectly level matched – tiny level differences make a big difference in sound – you will hear a difference in a component if one is louder than the other - it's just the way our ears work, but it's not necessarily the truth..

I'm not saying all gear sounds the same, but there's a lot of prose out there that is based on emotion and in unreliable test settings...

I'm a big Bryston fan – I've heard their amplifiers countless times in studios and would always recommend them. But when someone is concerned with cost, sometimes other options are better. In my experience, both amps will sonically provide Ricred1 with what he's looking for, and if budget is a concern, go for the less expensive one...

One other comment about Bryston – they claim that going up the product line will only provide you with more power – the sound is the same from model to model (unless you're running a lower powered model beyond it's intended abilities – thus the need to move to a more powerful model)...
Zkzpb8, thanks for your thorough explanation. Much appreciated. There's both pros and cons in subjective and objective testing. I have no problem with how anyone feels about Bryston anymore. I used to get upset about it, but life's too short...
Zormi, yes I read that review about the Bryston amps. I can't say whether it's right or wrong, because my experience with Bryston far outweighs that of Parasound. Anyway, Bryston is definitely not the best in sound. They are what they are, and that is good, solid workhorse amps. There's nothing really wrong with them, but one can do better, I suppose. That review became very infamous for a good amount of time. That won't be the last controversial review in the audiophile press!
Yeah Dave - I was the subject of a test recently, with two amps playing, one a .5 dB louder than the other. Needless to say that almost everyone liked the louder one (including me - I had all kinds of great things to say about it). It was pretty educational, to say the least...
Ok, that's interesting. I'll make a note of it. :D
A .5 decibel is not detectible above 40-50 db, sometimes we imagine we can hear differences because the meter says so.
"10-02-14: Zkzpb8
Yeah Dave - I was the subject of a test recently, with two amps playing, one a .5 dB louder than the other. Needless to say that almost everyone liked the louder one (including me - I had all kinds of great things to say about it). It was pretty educational, to say the least.."

Were you told what the test was for before you took it or did they say it was for something else and then bring up the volume issue after the fact?
Just as I was going to pull the trigger on a Parasound A21, I received an incredible deal on a new Peachtree Grand integrated X-1. The deal is so good, it's worth taking a chance...I will provide addition comments after receipt of the Grand Integrated X-1.
Hey congrats on the Peachtree! Let us know how it works out.

BTW, For the test, I had no idea what or if there was a difference between the amplifiers. Listen to A, listen to B, if you hear a difference, which one do you like better... I only knew of the slight volume difference, after the fact...
Yes, congrats Ricred1...
The Peachtree Grand Integrated is scheduled for delivery on 10/22/14. I will post my impressions after a couple of days.
I was wondering the same thing, But was considering a XA30.5 or a 150 Pass Labs vs Bryston 4BSST2. Is there any sonic differences, All I know there is a huge differences in price even in the used market.
I received the Peachtree Grand and preferred the 220se. To my ears the 220se is more musical. I decided to sell my 220se, return the Grand and purchase a Parasound A21, P5, and Wireworld Silver Eclipse 7 inter-connect cable. I should have everything by 10/30/2014. I had a Parasound A21 before in a different set-up, so I know it does very little wrong...I was just curious about the comparison to the Bryston 4bsst 2.
Interesting, I've always been curious about Peachtree. Yeah, the A21 is kind of a giant killer and i've read many good things about it being pared with the P5. I've got the P7 myself, you just can't go wrong with Parasound for the money.