The Wyred4Sound STP-SE. State of the art Preamp for $2K. A reviewer of the STP-SE two years ago put it up against the Esoteric C-03 Preamp which cost $10K. In the same sound room, the STP-SE trounced the Esoteric. It has tremendous detail, large soundstage deep and wide, and will bring out the very best of the A21. Very smooth and grain free. Killer Pre-amp for the price.
If you are willing to go used, have a look at these: Ayre K5, VTL 2.5, CJ premier 18, BAT 3. You should be happy with any one of them.
Good suggestion, thanks. Would the CJ ET3 or CJ pre-Classic be able to fill the role?
I use the A21 with CJ PV15 and they sound great together. I think both ET3 and Classic will do just fine.
Agm..don't be deceived by the bland utility look of the Wyred4Sound STP-SE. It has 88,000 microfarads of filter capacity. It has 164,560 microfarads of current storage capacity which is one of the highest in the industry of
any Pre-amp at $20K or below. Uses all Dale resistor's. If you like tube's, you will like the Wyred4Sound. Quote from Srajan Ebaen from the 2009 SixMooons review.." Tube Aficionados could be quite shocked to discover that the STP aces the dynamic and timbre expander action one traditionally expects from superior valve units. Compared to most of those I've had through, the STP is quieter and hence more resolved "...For $2K your getting a Pre-amp that has all the performance of Pre-amp's costing up to $15K.
I use an A-21 with a pair of Thiel 3.6s. I initally auditioned a used Audio Research SP-17 that sounded fantastic, but the owner would not lower the price below $2000. I ended up with an SP-16 instead. Not quite as special overall, but still excellent sounding. If you don't need the phono preamp, you could go with a used LS-16 or LS-17 and be within your budget. Good luck.
What do you have for source? If the source can output more than 2V, then I would suggest a Passive or TVC route. The A21 is a very sensitive and I have been successful using a TVC in my system. TVCs are very transparent and the basic ones do not cost an arm and a leg. But GAIN is important for this configuration to work!
Milpai, for source, I have a Clearaudio Concept TT and a Quad 99CDP.
Agm,i you get a passive pre-amp or TVC with a XLR out to A21, you will have more than enough gain in the system. The reason is that the 2.4V from the Quad CDP will be seen as 4.8V on XLR to A21. This made a HUGE difference in dynamics in my system. If you do not intend to go XRL between the passive preamp or TVC and the A21, then I would suggest you to avoid the passive preamp or TVC.
I have no idea on TT and what how much voltage it sends to the preamp. Good Luck in your search.
Agm..you may want to consider the new Parasound Halo P-5 Pre-amplifier that has been pushed back to a late June release. The Preamp has everything. Built in phono stage, bass management, digital inputs with a built in DAC. Price is set at $ 1400.00
Audiozen, I suspect that P5 is a P7 with the multichannel stuff lopped off. Will see when it arrives, but I guess it will not be the long-term solution I am looking for. For now my dealer will let me use the 2100 until an answer becomes clear. (I guess we never discussed the 2100). Thanks for your suggestions.
No Way...recent pic's I have seen of the new P-5 on Google images shows a larger unit than the P-7. It has more height. It has control knobs on the front instead of push buttons. Previously owning three Parasound Preamps including the previous flagship, the PLD-2000, I would never own a Parasound preamp again. John Curl has always designed better amplifiers than Preamps. The first time I saw the interior of the Wyred4Sound STP-SE was like looking under the hood of a Bentley. I asked myself how the
hell can this Preamp cost $2K with the remarkable boardwork
and very high quality parts and the largest power supply of any Preamp I have ever seen in twenty years costing $10K
or below? The designer and owner of Wyred4Sound, EJ Sarmento has a degree in micro electronics and is a circuit engineer. He really knows his stuff.
The Parasound P5 will be about 950, not 1400. It sounds like you have your preference for preamps, but that doesn't mean that audio legend John Curl doesn't know how to design good ones, or that he has a hand in the P5 for that matter.
At any rate, it's worth checking out if it meets one's time frame and criteria. It meets mine, I'm hoping to pick one up at the end of summer and really like what my Halo A21 can do, a P5 could make real magic with it. Time will tell I guess. I had wanted the W4S pre, but it seems expensive for what you get.
a Jeff Rowland Capri preamp sounds wonderful pushing my A-21 along!
Used you should be able to snap one up just a tad over your 2K budget
Onkyo P-3000R. I would give it a try.
Thought I'd update this thread since I have a Parasound Halo A21. When I first got it 2 years ago I ran an Oppo 95 straight into it. The result was pretty good but any digital source with volume is going to have limitations at lower volumes, and plus I wanted an option for a turntable and iphone. I'm running Paradigm Signature S6 speakers, pretty decent stuff with great top end resolution but can be brightish with the wrong amp/pre combo. I'm using Audioquest Type 4 speaker cables and Morrow Audio mid grade connects(m3?)
I waited around for Parasound to update their P3 since some of the owners reviews just weren't that great, and the 2100 seemed to almost match it for hundreds less. Finally the P5 came out, but I've had to wait a while for financial priorities to come around. In the mean time I used a NAD integrated as the pre, the C372. I also tinkered with the C326CEE, and liked them both for different reasons, but in the end thought it a bit of a waste to use an integrated for a pre.
So I had most of the money put aside for a P5 when locally a P7 came up for sale used and for pretty much the same money. I couldn't make up my mind, but after kicking it around with a few posters on a couple of forums went for the P7. I am presently waiting for it to come, should be here in 3-4 days. For anyone interested, I'll share my impressions. The P7 is said to have a great analog section and though it'll be for mainly 2 channel, I'll swap it into my theater system on the odd weekend.
The P7 finally arrived, and I put it into my 2 channel system as listed above. I posted my results elsewhere, I hope it's okay to post them here too.
I just finished a listening session of about an hour of everything from Yoyo Ma to The Mission soundtrack to old 70's Elton John and more. First of all, it sounds simply gorgeous with the A21. A good step up from the NAD C372 I had been using as pre(until I recently sold it to fund this purchase) and the Oppo 95 connected directly to the amp.
Early on I got an idea and started listening to tracks that I know sounded unimpressive with my previous gear. The Mission soundtrack, from 1986, was one such example. Also this Best of David Bowie CD that was so bright and digital sounding it was really offputting. Also some Martina Mcbride which although had good production, her voice was somewhat sibilant on a couple of tracks with the Emotiva XDA/XPA combo I started my journey off with. What some others have said about Emotiva was that it revealed whatever was in the recording, and crappy stuff really sounds bad.
Not sure about that, and I wouldn't say any of the above was truly awful, but with the P7, the Mission for instance was much better. I could place sections of the choir and there was depth to the stage I haven't noticed before. There was more detail or resolution and it added to the experience. I was also impressed with the improvement of the old Elton John Best of, material from the early 70's. Piano, drums, bass all just sounded more real and better placed. I don't know what specifically made it better, but man, this thing is the real deal. From what I've read, the P5 and P7 would be pretty close, with the P7 having a better phono section. All I know is this is the second Parasound component I've purchased, and it's another winner.
I also listened to tracks that are favorites of mine for their excellent production and sound. One impression was that it was all so clean and uncluttered and clear sounding. i wasn't listening to speakers anymore, the superiority of the imaging gave that impression. I haven't tried the 7.1 capabilities or the phono section but I feel like I hit a home run with this addition. It's really well built and looks great, I'll never go back to variations of flat black again!
Many of you no doubt already have with your gear what I've been missing. I'm sure that there are many good manufacturers out there, so what I'm describing may be something you already have. All i can say is Parasound is one such option. There is really good synergy with their preamps and amps. Happy listening!
A follow up as I thought I'd test the P7 in my theater system. I have an Opp 103 doing the processing and sending the video straight to the projector, taking out the Onkyo TX SR876 which was being used as the processor/preamp. The Parasound takes the 7.1 analog audio from the Oppo and sends it to the Outlaw 7125.
At first I thought the sonics were pretty close comparing the Onkyo to the Parasound. But then I recognized that the Parasound's reproduction was imaging better. The effect was that the sound stage improved and the speakers disappeared. It has better specs than the Onkyo, but maybe it is just as simple as moving the video and processing out of the same box as the analog switching. Whatever it is, Parasound really has an excellent sounding product here.