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New hardware: Parasound A21

For the past three years I’ve been using a Marantz MM 8003 7.1 channel home theater power amp for what passed for my two-channel system. The 140-watt-per-channel hulk was adequate, but it strained when you cranked it up, and last week I heard the fans turn on for the first time after blasting LPs for a couple hours. Listening fatigue was unavoidable. Now the Marantz been moved to the family room A/V system, where it’ll replace a venerable Adcom GFA 6000. Why? Because:

I’d been looking at Parasound’s A21 power amplifier for a couple years and finally found a four-month old used one on Audiogon for $500 off list. After a seamless local transaction — thank you, Don — I brought it home last night.

Parasound A21 power amp

The original packaging (included, thank you again, Don) consists of a double-box enclosure adding about 10 pounds of cardboard and polystyrene foam and 8 or 10 inches to the dimensions of this 60 pound hunk of metal, bolts, and wire. Getting the thing into the bed of my truck and through the door at home (and out of the boxes) was a major chore.

Once it was wrestled into the rack at home and hooked up, though, it was more than worth it. Immediately my system no longer seemed to be laboring uphill whenever I turned up the volume more than halfway. With the Marantz, I could almost hear the thing wheezing and panting at moderate volumes; the Parasound made the amplification of everything I threw at it last night seem effortless. LPs, CDs, high-resolution FLACs… all good.

I don’t think this A21 has too many hours on it, and, while Parasound insists its amps don’t benefit from burn-in periods, I’m looking forward to seeming how this heat-sinked behemoth settles into my system. It’s going to be a good weekend.

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