Pass XA 25 versus Parasound A21+ - anyone compare?
Basically I'm looking at solid state amps to run my current Totem Rainmakers - with the possibility of upgrading the speakers to Joseph Audio Pulsars (used if I can find some) as well.
My listening room is modest sized - about 18' by 13" with 8' foot ceiling.
Rest of system: Naim cd 5 player, Hana EL cartridge on a vintage Pioneer 600 table, Classe DR 5 II preamp. Amp to be replaced is original Adcom 555.
I'm thinking both could work well, with the Parasound providing more dynamics and the Pass more finesse. Obviously the Pass is about an extra $1000, which is a factor given the modestly priced system. Also no balanced option with the Pass - not sure that is important.
BTW no Pass or Joseph dealer in my area (Atlanta), though Parasound is available for a listen.
I know that this comparison will sound harsh, but the Parasound A21 sounds like "grains of dry sand on a flat sheet" and the Pass Labs XA-25 sounds like "a beautiful flowing stream which allows all the colors of instruments to shine through from a 3D space. The XA-25 is on a totally another level of refinement and musicality.
OP is asking about a21 "plus" not the outgoing a21. we would assume an improvement in the new model, which was recently rated Stereophile Class A. Also compared favorably to the Benchmark AHB2. For such exclusive amps used Pass Labs are frequently available.
I’ve heard a lot of Pass and a lot of Parasound. Neither have great bass, but while the Parasound sounds warm, Pass always sounds lean to my ears. They both lack absolute smoothness in the mid to treble region.
I can’t listen to pass for very long without getting annoyed at it. I can listen to Parasound forever. It's faults just don't itch me the way Pass does.
There’s still a lot out there I like better, but for the money if those are your two choices, Parasound hands down.
Another two the OP should listen to is Ayre and Luxman. Between those four the OP will 100% develop a strong personal preference that will make my own meaningless.
Reno has them now...my only guess is that you will pretty quickly know which you prefer once you try both in your system...both are very popular and well reviewed, though clearly have some that do not like them at all, never ever...
I have been enjoying a Parasound a21+ for two days now and it is a very nice sounding amplifier. Driven from a tube preamp and driving Harbeth SHL5+ speakers. The sound is different than the original a21 which had its issues as a true audiophile amp. The new one is smooth, detailed, refined and seems to make everything sound excellent. The Stereophile Class A rating is justified.
I would also chime in that the Rainmaker is pretty low sensitivity and your room is pretty moderately sized. The Pass does make closer to 80 watts per channel (at 1% distortion) so it should be enough power, but the only way to know is to try it.
Lucked into a used pair of Pulsars last fall. Woke up the bug again and have been replacing everything else I had. Found an Atma-Sphere pre that I've decide is a keeper. Respect to amps, have auditioned a couple ss ARC's (class a/b and d), McIntosh L275 and a Hegel H20 (just what I have available locally to try). Neither the ARC(s) nor McIntosh did much for me. Sound was fine, but little to no soundstaging. Just sounds coming straight out of boxes. The Hegel on the other hand dances pretty well with the A-S and Pulsars. Regardless of volume level, there's an openness and dimensionality to the recordings that the ARC(s) and Mc just don't offer. Not that I take it to '11' all that often, but for such a small unit the Pulsars can actually light things up. And this particular Hegel is more than one would ever need to get the most possible out of the Pulsars in this respect. Do know the Pulsars are very revealing. Good recording (i.e.: Still's 'Treetop Flyer', Patricia Barber 'Too rich for my blood') will put the biggest grin on your face as your windows rattle away. Poorly recorded stuff can become almost intolerable once you've heard how good the good stuff can sound.
Not fully committed to the Hegel just yet. Will be giving the Parasound a21 a listen. Would love to hear the XA25 as well, but fear that will be a harder find. Would like also to know what the First Watt SIT-3 and Atma-Sphere S-30 do, but again, availability? If you plan on spending any time at all occasional annoying your neighbors (volume up), your likely going to want at the very least 100w/channel for the Pulsars. Efficiency is not their thing. If however, like me, you're willing to sacrifice the ability to rattle windows in favor of the best possible low volume presentation, the Pulsars can that game well, too.
I agree with teajay completely. I have the Pass Labs xa30.8 and it’s basically the same as the xa25 only with balanced inputs and outputs. I also had the Parasound a21 in the past and trust me, there’s no comparison. The xa25 will be so much more musical it’s not even funny. Parasound is good but the Pass amps are, in my opinion, great. That xa25 punches so far above it’s weight class it’s not even a fair fight. I found the Parasound amp to be very boring and just ok. There are some people and some reviewers out there that feel that the xa25’s midrange sounds even better than the xa30.8! I find the xa30.8 to be magical. For under $5000.00 I don’t think You could find a more musical amp. The drive capability of the Pass amps is just insane. My speakers are 83 dB efficient and the xa30.8 doesn’t even break a sweat driving them. Most importantly it always remains so musical. Nelson Pass is a genius IMO. Reliability is off the charts as well. Good luck.
i did sell the steteo 100 . excellent amp but there were times i wanted a little more volume. the a21+ does that very well without losing much. the stereo100 would have been perfect with higher efficiency speakers than my 86db harbeths.