Thoughts on choosing an amplifier


After much thinking, too much actually. I have narrowed my amplifier choices down to a Parasound a21+, a Benchmark AHB2, or two Schitt Aegirs. Presently, my modest system is a Pioneer PL 71 turntable with an Ortofon 2M Red cartridge into a Schitt Mani into a NAD C 326BEE feeding Quad 12L Classic monitors. Time for an upgrade, eh? I though I would start with an amp and some more speakers. 

The plan is to remove the jumper on the NAD integrated and use the NAD as a preamp until I choose a preamp to go with the amp. For what it is worth, I am leaning towards a tube preamp - maybe a 6NS7. I also plan to buy a few modestly priced speakers, such as Magneplan LRS,  Zu Omen Dirty Weekend, Bowers & Wilkins 603, GoldenEar Triton Five, KEF LS50, or Warfedale Linton, rather than one more expensive speaker. I like the idea of swapping out speakers for fun, type of music, etc. So I am looking for an amplifier that pairs well with many different types of speakers designs.  Which one of the three amplifiers would you choose?

From reading the forums, people often ask the poster what type of music they like to listen to. My music tastes run from Americana to jazz to opera to classic rock to ambient electronic; mostly Americana and jazz tho.

Thank you in advance for your collective advice. It is very much appreciated.
Cheers,
BigMusic - First time poster
bigmusic
 I also plan to buy a few modestly priced speakers, such as Magneplan LRS, Zu Omen Dirty Weekend, Bowers & Wilkins 603, GoldenEar Triton Five, KEF LS50, or Warfedale Linton, rather than one more expensive speaker.


Select your speaker. Once you've settled on a speaker, then select the amplifier.

Otherwise, you risk spinning your audiophile wheels.
I agree with tvad, if you want the best match.

tvad and tsgury,

Thank you for your input. I guess, in a manner of speaking, I am looking to spin my audiophile wheels. I plan to have several speakers. I do not want to settle on one. I understand I won't end up with the best match but that is an acceptable trade off. 

Cheers,
BigMusic 
What has narrowed your choices to Parasound a21+, Benchmark AHB2, and two Schitt Aegis?

What's your amplifier budget?
The reviews of each amplifier seem generally positive. There seems to be sufficient power with each to handle maggies or demanding speakers. The manufacturers are well known and established. If I decide to buy used (unlikely) or sell, there seems to be a market for these brands. And, least important, I like the way they look.

My budget $3,000. But I'd like to spend closer to $2,000; hence the attraction to the Aegis. I'd love to purchase the Pass Labs XA25 but it is nonstarter at $5,000. Such is life.
But I'd like to spend closer to $2,000

You may want to audition the Gold Note PA-10.
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"I understand I won't end up with the best match but that is an acceptable trade off. "

Then why ask for advice...

???

DeKay
Whats wrong with asking for advice even if the OP feels that he/she may not end up with the best match.

Perhaps after asking for advice and receiving positive suggestions, the OP may actually end with a good match or matches. It's only after asking would you find out and learn more, whats wrong with that?

OP, never heard of the Benchmark but certainly looks nice and the Parasound I'm sure would be a good contender. 



Jay & Big:

Sorry I missed the Magnepan/ZU choices (my bad, it's been a hectic day).

My advice is to opt for Two different speakers which would be well mated with the same "type" of amplifier (thus achieving a decent match with both).

DeKay

I'm using a Benchmark AHB2 now and can't imagine that being the weak link in your system, no matter what speakers you choose.

I use one AHB2 with multiple powered subs, so 100 wpc is fine.

It is extremely transparent and throws a deep, wide soundstage with great imaging. My only complaint is that it's compact, lightweight, energy efficient, and affordable. If they put it in a huge case and doubled the price it would be even better.
Following because I am considering the Benchmark AHB2 for a second system after reading the detailed measurements of this amp’s performance.
https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-benchmark-ahb2-amp.7628/
In particular, .00016 THD is impressive.

I would recommend reading about the Belles 150A Reference here:

Can’t go wrong with an old Belles amp, lots of power, and a wonderful sound. I was looking for a 150A, but they move fast on the used market, so jump fast on one if the price is right. I finally found an old Belles 400A @ 200wpc, and am very happy with it. Although it was more expensive than any of the 150’s I saw.
Give the NAD M22v2 a look.  It's 300 wpc at 8 ohms.  I use mine with a Herron tube pre-amp and Tannoy DC8Ti speakers, sounds good to my ears.  You can find a used NAD in the $2,500 range.
I'm using an NAD M22v2 amp with an  NAD M10 for streaming. The system is driving 4 ohm Totem Tribe Towers and a pair of Sumiko S.0 subs all with ease. 
I would also submit that the Aegirs would heat up and possibly shut down occasionally as they are not recommended for 4 ohm loads when running as monoblocks.

I've been on an audio journey the last 3 or so years.  I owned the C326BEE, the C356BEE and the C375BEE.(the big let down of the NAD line is the pre amp sections are weak)  Also some Adcom amps and the Parasound P5, after selling the A21 and P7 to start over.  I went through too many speakers from Tannoy, Paradigm and Totem Acoustic to mention.

I will give a vote of confidence to Schiit Audio.  Their stuff isn't just good for the money.  Their Freya+ and Multibit dacs are shockingly excellent sounding period.  I would get you to change up your plan and replace the Nad.

Get a Schiit Freya+ and either the Vidar or Aegir, depending on the speakers you decide on.  You'll be way under the 3000 budget and your ears will thank you.  You'd also need the Mani phono pre.  Or, if you're going to get efficient speakers above 93db or so, the Ragnarok integrated with phono built in would be an option.

The LRS speakers need to be placed at least 3 feet away from any walls.  The LS50 are somewhat bright sounding, depending on speaker cables.  I like your idea of cycling in speakers, it's what I ended up doing.  Any of the speakers on your list could work depending on the provisos I mentioned.  
Any DAC Cherry rated at 200 wpc @ 8 ohms.  The Magnepans won't do much at 100 or 150 wpc.  I looked at the Parasound A21+ for a long time.  I use a DAC Maraschino 60V for my Magnepan DWMs and a DAC 4800A for the MMG mains.  With a tube pre you will be in audio heaven in my opinion.
The wharfedales have positive reviews everywhere I read. They also go well with tube amps. I’ve owned many a wharfedale and they all sounded great. My latest pairing before going to the big time (at least to me) was the diamond 225’s combined with the marantz reference pm14s1 integrated, fantastic combination. I’m a Sugden class A and Tannoy guy now, but still retain my wharfies/marantz. A great pairing would be the lintons and the rogue sphinx v3.....combine this with a tubed outboard phono stage and a Tubed dac such as the jolida glass dac and it would sound great. The sphinx has a Tubed preamp stage combined with class D amp. The rogue goes well with lots of speakers and is a very well equipped integrated for the money. As a side note, me personally would upgrade the turntable to achieve better sound quality. That red cartridge is not all that great either and can be improved upon. But of course if u are happy, then it's a moot point. Just a sugestion and not a slight in any way....
If you really want a Pass XA25, Reno hifi has a used one for $3595. 
https://renohifi.com/PassUsed/PassUsedInStock.htm
+1 on the A21+, I have the A21. It pairs well with several different speakers.
I too seriously considered the Parasound a21+ to use with my recently acquired 0.7's Maggie's but being a frugal Canadian I came across a used Spectron MK III D class amp that has more than enough watts/current to drive my Maggie's and my DT Mythos ST's (91 db) for that matter. The tube pre amp I use is a ARC LS 15 and I really like the synergy between the two. If my used Spectron goes up in a puff of smoke, I will get the A21. So if you do decide on the LRS keep in mind they love power, the more the better. Happy hunting 

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Agree on choosing speakers first. Once I knew I had the sound I wanted I went through a few demos before picking the perfect match.


If I were to make a wild guess as to what would drive the majority of speakers well, I'd go for the Parasound. When I was looking, I had power up the wazoo, but not quality current. Once I got that, I found I didn't need that much absolute wattage. It just seems the speakers I gravitate towards are usually difficult loads.
I definitely recommend the A21+. I have the A21 and love it. I’m using a Parasound P5 preamp which is ok and I too am thinking about a Tube Preamp.

i agree you should choose your speakers first. The Parasound will drive pretty much anything you’d buy. I loved my Triton 5’s and they were my main speakers until I recently bought Klipsch Cornwall IV’s. I did however have to use two subs with the Tritons to get the extra oomph I wanted out of my system. They still sounded excellent without subs, that’s just a personal taste set up thing for me. The Tritons are very detailed and smooth sounding speakers. 
Best of luck to you!

John
I use Magnepan. 7's with the Parasound A21. I purchased the A300 Emotiva and it just could not drive the Maggie's. The Parasound has complete control, the sound stage is immense and the instrument separation is the best my 62 year old ears have ever experienced. 

My feeling is you can't go wrong with the A21+.
I’d suggest going with the Parasound Halo, or Hint integrated instead of the A21. I own one and I’m extremely happy with it. It has a built in phono stage (moving magnet or moving coil) for your turntable, as well as a DAC, should you consider streaming. It includes controls for a subwoofer which I would recommend if you purchase the KEF LS50’s or Magnepan LRS.

You wouldn’t need to purchase a preamp, so you could sell your NAD and apply those funds to your speaker search. I purchased my Parasound integrated used last year in near mint condition for $1700, which would leave you money for a power conditioner and to upgrade your cables.
Read the reviews on it, its highly rated and loaded with features, including a remote control.
Good luck.
I really liked the Parasound I heard (the A23+ driving Spendor towers). The more I learn about Parasound, the more I respect and trust them as a company. If I wasn't headed for tubes, I'd buy Parasound, very likely, unless a Belles or Pass or something higher up piqued my interest.

Nice video here with two key guys, Schram and Curl. Replace dot with . to get the link working.

www dot youtube dot com/watch?v=fZwS-oyqc3w
I owned the KEF LS50 + Benchmark AHB2 + Benchmark DAC3 HGC and it was my favorite setup with the LS50s.

These are the other amps I had with the LS50s

Peachtree Nova 150 (not bad, can listen long hours, maybe 80% of the AHB2 in details)

Bryston PowerPac 300 (same as Byston 4B-SST) (a little hard on the top end). I needed my BAT preamp to smooth out the top end.

Parasound A21  (not much detail and my least favorite)

The AHB2 was my favorite because it was so clear and smooth with more than enough details. That almost invisible noise floor is noticeable relative to the other amps I have listed. Each amp listed was used for at least 1 year with the LS50s. I had either the DAC3 as a preamp or the the BAT VK 42-SE with a Benchmark DAC2.



Thank you very much for all the excellent opinions. I will definitely look into the suggestions offered.

I am planning to replace the Ortofon 2M Red. That may even happen before I finally select an amp as I just bought the "tools" to help me learn how to replace a cartridge myself. I figure as long as I am isolated I may as well try to learn a skill.

Thanks again for the collective wisdom. You're the best.
Big Music
I too have the p5/ A21+ with magnapan 1.7i.  I get a wall of effect but no soundstage.  Try as I may no luck. My previous set was a mc250 with a conrad Johnson tube pre. Lots of soundstage but no dynamics.  Great for jazz but like to listen to many kinds of music.  If you do go with the A21+ get the best tube preamp you can afford. Just mho.
How about a used Audio Research Vsi60?   It's a fun amp with plenty of power, a big sound stage and a lot of get-up-and-go.  I prefer it with the original 6550 tubes,  not the KT120.   It falls in your price range.      
One of the best sounds I have ever heard for anywhere near the price was at CES several years ago. A pair of KEF LS 50s powered by a Prima Luna integrated tube amp. The amps you mentioned are all good, especially the Pass XA 25, but all have an electronic edge.
If you are already leaning toward a tube preamp, go integrated tube! Put your money into a smooth, natural and musical foundation for a great sounding system you can build on and enjoy for years. Rather than trying to mix and match with mixed results, lots of cables and lots of money. The KEF/Prima Luna combination is a sure thing. And focus on upgrading your source. I would highly recommend even an entry level Rega TT and entry level phono stage and move up some in the Ortofon cartridge line. I have been at this game for 61 years.
The amps you mentioned are all good, especially the Pass XA 25, but all have an electronic edge.

I disagree that the XA-25 has an electronic edge.

None of the Class A amplifiers from Pass Labs have any hint whatsoever of electronic edge.

Consider a pair of M700 Monoblock’s from PS Audio..
Better reviewed and cheaper than the Benchmark and listed as a ’A’ Component by Stereophile in the most recent issue..
I run them with a Schiit Freya and XLR connections..

Zu and Maggie’s ! Wow that’s a stretch . I’m in the Zu camp . First Watt for SS, Had Inspire for tube are both great . I run a Schiit Yiggy and a restored and modded Thorens . But your locked into the low power world . Wanna cover all those speakers you listed , try Bryston ( over your budget ). Talk to AGON member “ rvpiano “. He has the Benchmark , Tritons , a recapped Conrad Johnson tube pre . Runs a TT and Schiit Gumby . We both love NOS Telefunkens in our pre amps . Both of our systems have a wide soundstage and crystal clear imaging . But he’s at 100wpc and I’m at 12 WPC . My system has its limitations. I suggest you PM him and chat . He’s very pleasant to talk with . Also I’m classic rock and he’s classical . If I can be of any help , feel free to PM me . Regards , Mike B. 
Once again great suggestions. I may reach out to a couple of you if that is okay.

Thank you so much,
BigMusic
The type of music is irrelevant as any good system simply doesn't care what it's playing. Note that with most very efficient speakers (ZU, Tekton, Klipsch, etc.) you can free up the amp portion of your quest because  efficient speakers can utilize generally ANY amp from 5 watts to 500. I use a 12wpc (more or less depending on power tubes) single ended tube power amp that sounds astonishingly good with 99db efficient Klipsch Heresy III speakers. You can pour a lot more power into the mix of course, but you'd have to listen from another room to protect your hearing, or only turn the level up to one. Maybe two...not three...unless drinking and dancing are involved.