Preamplifiers

Parasound 2100 Stereo Preamplifier and 2250 Stereo Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

The Sound

As usual, I installed the Parasound duo in my system and ran them on home theater duty for a few weeks before doing any critical listening. The bypass mode of the preamp made this job very easy. As with previous amplifier/preamplifier combos, I listened to these as a single unit, and made no attempt to separate the performance of the amplifier and preamplifier.

After this break-in period, I had a system that sounded very close to what I had before (with my Emotiva separates). If you've read the review of those components, then you will understand the sound quality was excellent across the board. It took some careful listening, and going back to the Emotiva pair, to find all the small differences between these components. The short answer is that I would be an extremely happy audiophile with either of these preamp/amp pairs.

As with the components they replaced, the Parasound duo offered excellent tonal and spatial separation of instruments. The Emotivas were champions in the tonal separation of instruments, but offered slightly flat, two-dimensional representations. The Parasounds gave much rounder, three-dimensional images but at the expense of overall clarity and tonal sharpness. This might be due to the balanced design of the RPA-1 and RSP-1. When used with single ended interconnects, the Emotivas lose some of their clarity. Overall soundstage depth and width was also superior with the Parasounds. This surprised me, as the Emotiva RPA-1 has true dual mono construction inside, while the Parasound Model 2250 is a traditional stereo amplifier. This is just another example of why a list of specifications can't tell you what a component sounds like!

With an additional 50WPC, the Model 2250 did an excellent job controlling the bass of my Gallo Reference 3.1s. The extra low-end grunt had me readjusting the gain on my Gallo Reference SA subwoofer amplifier that drives the second voice coils of the Reference 3.1s. The Emotivas might have offered just a tiny bit more bass agility and clarity, but the big model 2250 really delivered in the impact department. If you have power hungry speakers, this $1200 amp could be just what you need. If you have REALLY power hungry speakers, you can even get two and bridge them to mono.

I found that the phono stage in the Model 2100 was very similar in performance to the excellent phono stage in the Emotiva RSP-1. When listening to LPs, I heard the character of the components as with any other input. Both phono stages were excellent at getting out of the way of the music, and were obviously superior to the Lehmann Black Cube phono stage I used to own. For those out there who still love listening to LPs, the Model 2100 should be on your short list of reasonably priced preamps with good built in phono stages. In fact, the $600 MSRP of the Model 2100 is about what I paid just for my Black Cube.

Overall, the Model 2100 and 2250 are excellent products, and perform way beyond the $1800 asking price for the pair. They are clearly superior to many products I have heard costing twice as much, including the Plinius 8150 integrated amp that the Emotivas displaced. Compared to that amp, which garnered many awards from reviewers, the Parasound pair is superior in almost every way. The bass impact and control of the 2250 is absolutely spectacular. The wide, deep and three-dimensional soundstage offered by the Parasound pair is also superior to the Plinius, although the Plinius did have the ability to reproduce a very tall soundstage that could reach from the floor to the ceiling. The Parasounds also bested the Plinius in terms of overall clarity and image separation. While I do believe that the Emotivas have the edge here, the Parasounds still outperformed the $3000 Plinius. While I did not have the Plinius for direct comparison, it was still obvious to me that the Parsounds sounded better.