Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23

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Thunder240

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I just sold my Emotiva UPA-2 on Audiogon, to be replaced by an Odyssey Stratos Plus, and while I wait for Klaus to build me my new amp, a buddy of mine offered to let me borrow his Parasound Halo A23. I've always been a fan of the Parasound Halo amps since the first time I heard them in a dealer's demo room, so how could I resist? I also have always wondered how my Emo stacks up against the Parasound. So I figured before I boxed up my Emo to send it off to its new owner, I'd spend some quality time doing an A/B comparison. The results were illuminating. Although I came away feeling that the Parasound is a superior amp (which was my hypothesis going in to this exercise), its very hard to say it is 2.5 to 3 times better (i.e the difference in price), and I actually have a better appreciation for what my Emo does (did?) well.

Test system:

MacBook Pro (source, sending signal via wifi)
Airport Express (transport, sending signal via TOSLINK)
Emotiva XDA-1 (DAC, wired unbalanced)
dbx 223s (active crossover, wired unbalanced)
(amp)
Ascend Acoustics CMT-340SE (main speakers, biwired)
Outlaw LMF-1 EX (subwoofer, receives signal from active crossover)

All electronics plugged into a Panamax M8-AV-Pro power conditioner
All interconnects are from Blue Jeans Cables
Power cord for amp is an Acoustic Research AP813N (12 AWG, shielded)

Test tracks (all Apple Lossless rips from CD)

Diana Krall, Fly Me to the Moon (Live in Paris)
Eva Cassidy, What a Wonderful World (Live at Blues Alley)
Dr John, Janko Partner
Duke Ellington, Minnie the Moocher (Recollections of a Big Band Era)
Erroll Garner, Lullaby of Birdland
Dave Brubeck, Hometown Blues
Istvan Szekely, Chopin: Etude #1
James Horner: Glory Soundtrack: Preparations for Battle
Mozart, Requiem: Track 1 (I unfortunately don't have this track properly tagged so I don't know who is playing/singing)
AC/DC, Back in Black
Led Zepelin, You Shook Me (BBC Sessions)
Stevie Wonder, I Wish
Clyde Carson, Slow Down


Disclaimer -- what follows is my opinion. YMMV

I came into this expecting to Parasound to best my Emotiva, but I wasn't sure by how much. To summarize my takeaway, I thought that the Parasound had superior detail recovery, had a wider spundstage but not quite as deep, and it did a better job cleanly reproducing high female voices, high piano notes, and high strings. However it did not image as well as the Emo (this did not surprise me, as I've always loved how well my Emo images), and I actually felt that the Emo had slightly superior dynamics (this surprised me). Finally, The Parasound is slightly warmer than the Emo. Whether this is because the Emo is neutral and the Parasound is slightly warm, or the Parasound is neutral and the Emo is slightly cool, I can't say. Both a darn close to neutral, but to my ears the Parasound is warmer and the Emo is cooler. Now for the specifics.


Fly Me to the Moon - I think the Emo does a very good job reproducing the band, and Diana Krall's voice is beautiful. However I could hear a little more texture in Diana's voice with the Parasound while. This, combined with its slightly warmer tone and wider soundstage, gave me more of a sense that I was listening to the music live.

What a Wonderful World - This is a go-to test track for me, both because I truly love it but also because it's dynamic and combines lush high piano with an awesome electric bass, and then oh yeah, there's also Eva Cassidy's amazing voice. While the highs sound plenty airy through my Emo, the piano has a sparkle that, while pretty, is probably not supposed to be there. The Parasound, on the other hand, nails the piano tone, giving it round texture without the extra sparkle. Having said that, I was surprised to find the dynamics coming through more with the Emo than with the Parasound, which in turn made for greater sense of being live.

Minnie the Moocher - This song lets the Emo show off what in my opinion is its best attribute, its ability to image like a champ. Every horn is fixed in a slightly different spot. You can tell exactly how the band members were sitting in the studio. This is also helped by a nice deep soundstage. The Parasound is no slouch, but it can't quite fix the various brass and wind instruments to the same degree as the Emo, and the soundstage sounds slightly flatter. It makes up for this in detail recovery. The Duke just has so much going on, and the Parasound find's it all. For example, there is a passage toward the end of the track, after the tempo picks up, where the trombones walk down into the upper bass register. The Emo loses the trombones for a short instant, allowing them to blend with the double bass, but the Parasound resolves the two.

Hometown Blues - The opening passage of this song requires a ton of control, and I was pleased to hear both amps were able to reproduce the micro dynamics of the piano. I didn't notice any audible differences throughout the track.

Lullaby of Birdland and Etude - Both tracks highlight the Parasound's superior reproduction of the piano's texture, which is just a little more lifelike. One area where I was disappointed with both amps is that on the Etude, it sounds a little bit like there is a film over the speakers. It may just be that I need better speakers or a better DAC, or it may be an issue with the recording. At any rate, this was the Parasound's opportunity to 'lift the veil' so to speak, but it didn't do that. In fact, while I have mentioned several times that the Parasound reproduces detail slightly better, I didn't have any 'lift the veil' moments. These two amps are both very good, and the Emo reproduces tons of detail. But as I listen critically, I can hear instances where the Parasound finds something that the Emo doesn't, usually texture in a voice or in a piano, or else resolving two different instruments playing in unison.

Janko Partner - Another song where it sounds like there may be a film over the speakers, regardless of amp. In this case, I'm pretty sure its recording or mastering. The Parasound's slightly warmer tone was a bit better suited for to the song, giving it a more electric, rocking feel. I also noticed one passage where there is a piano playing high and soft behind several horns that are blaring. This piano in the background wasn't noticeable through the Emo unless I went out of my way to listen for it. It simply blends with another instrument playing in the same register.

Requiem and Glory - The emo's superior imaging gives me a better ability to pick out individual voices in the choruses. However, in both songs the violins sound slightly shimmery, which the Parasound can better control. Also, in the 'Kyrie' portion of the Reqiem, there are a few bars where the violins and sopranos sing/play in unison. The Parasound is able to separate to a degree that the Emo cannot.

I Wish, Back in Black, and Slow Down - The Emo's superior dynamics come through in these tracks. The Parasound can certainly find the dynamics and show you that they are there, but on Slow Down and Back in Black the Emo explodes just a little more (within the limits of its 125W, of course). Both amps were rocking on I Wish, with the notable features being the Parasound's somewhat wider soundstage and the Emo's better imaging of the individual instruments.

You Shook Me - Another song well suited to the Parasound's warmer tone. Also, Robert Plant's harmonica gives sounds a touch more realistic, probably because the Parasound handles the overtones a little better. The Parasound is rated as having a slightly higher SNR and slightly lower THD -- maybe this can account for the harmonica? That's just a guess.


To recap, the Parasound Halo A23 did not walk all over Emotiva UPA-2, I was pleased to find, though its superior detail retrieval make it a better amp, in my opinion. That said, there are certainly characteristics of the Emo that endear it to me (i.e. its excellent imaging paired with its deep soundstage). I'm not quite sure what to make of the comparison of dynamics. That was probably my single biggest surprise from this A/B comparison, and it causes me to doubt myself considering that the Parasound's power supply is a little beefier (48,000 microfarads vs 40,000). Finally, since I've had the Emo in my rack for a couple years, I've gotten used to whatever color it has. When I first fired up the Parasound, I was taken aback by what sounded to me like warmth. But this grew on me. It never got in the way, and for some tracks I think that it enhanced the experience, making it more lifelike. Again, none of the differences that I've been mentioning are huge. The amps are quite comparable, and I can get lost in the music with either amp. That said, for me differences are audible, and I can only hope that the Odyssey Stratos that Klaus is building me will capture the best of both worlds!

geowak

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #1 on: 27 May 2013, 04:46 pm »
Great review! Thanks for sharing your opinions here. Not trying to stir up any fights here but let me throw in my 2 cents from what I found from my system. I have had similar components compared to what you have.

I started with an Odyssey Stratos with the red board. It was a fine amp, until I developed a hum and spurious noise issues I could not rid of (neither could Klaus). I went with the McCormack DNA-125 after that. The DNA sounded better IMHO. Later I went with the Parasound A21.

Of all three amps, I rank them in this order;

1 Parasound A21
2 McCormack DNA 125
3 Odyssey Stratos

I might be comparing apples to oranges. I evaluated these areas;
accurate tonality,
musicality,
soundstage,
depth of low frequency and tightness of bass,
accuracy of high frequency and lack of harshness,
separation of instruments and sounds,
low noise floor,
ability for low level listening,
retrieval of all sounds in the recording,
detail and vibrancy of sounds,
superior dynamics.

Once again, these are my opinions only. I thought it was interesting, compared to your thorough review.

Happy listening...

Thunder240

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #2 on: 29 May 2013, 04:36 am »
Hi geo, thanks for your reply. I don't see anything inconsistent between our respective impressions of the A23. Of course it's kind of difficult to compare our respective comparisons, since the other amps we listened to are not the same. I'm concerned that you feel the A23 is noticeably better than the Stratos, ie my recent purchase (I don't have it yet). Is the reason you feel this way specifically because of the hum you described, or are there other reasons you prefer the A23? If there are others, do you mind describing them for my edification?

Also, one thing I forgot to note is that my system is 2.1 with an active crossover set to at 65 Hz. Because my sub's amp is taking over the load at lower frequencies, I don't even attemp to to determine how well my stereo amps handle the low end.

PMAT

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #3 on: 29 May 2013, 04:45 am »
Remarkably good review. Great takes on the music and your transparent biases. Refreshing. Sometimes I wonder what my preferences would be IF I knew nothing about audio prior to right now.

srb

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #4 on: 29 May 2013, 05:44 am »
Hi geo, thanks for your reply.  I'm concerned that you feel the A23 is noticeably better than the Stratos, ie my recent purchase (I don't have it yet). Is the reason you feel this way specifically because of the hum you described, or are there other reasons you prefer the A23?

It was the Parasound Halo A21 he preferred, not the A23.

Steve

jarcher

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #5 on: 29 May 2013, 06:01 am »
If I can offer up a few comments - I don't own any of these amps, so don't have a "horse" in this race. I am interested in Parasound Halo amps for home theater + 2 channel listening, so found your comments about general sound quality helpful.

I'm a bit surprised that you found the Emotiva to be more "dynamic". Though the Emotiva & the Parasound have similar cap capacity, the Parasound transformer has more than 3 times the capacity : 350KVA vs 1000KVA. I.e. it's capable of putting out a LOT more current.

I think that if you ran these amps into a full range speaker - particularly a relatively inefficient one - you might feel different.  I've been evaluating a Marantz amp vs a Krell, both with similar power ratings, but the Krell w/ almost 3 times the transfomer capacity, and w/ my inefficient Magnepans there's just no contest.  The Krell stomps all over the Marantz.  Not to say that the Marantz doesn't have other nice qualities - e.g. a very nice crystalline top end - but when it comes to bass response : from an electric bass down to HT explosions, there's just no contest.  If you're using an external crossover with it set at 65hz though and using sub, this bass performance difference may not be noticeable.

One general sound quality suggestion : I'd suggest cutting the DBX crossover out of the loop.  You're putting together a nice system and a $160 pro audio crossover would now be the weakest & perhaps unnecessary link.  Run both the Ascends & the sub from the speaker outputs of the amp.  Set the crossover + level directly on the sub and also connect using the speaker level inputs (I'm assuming you're going direct from the emotiva DAC to the amp w/ no preamp & using the Mac to volume control).  Often the simpler / more direct the chain, the better.

I know that's not what your review was about & it's unsolicited advise, but there's no cost (aside from some speaker cable between the amp & the subwoofer) & minimal hassle to trying it out.........

Hope you enjoy the Odyssey amp!


srb

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #6 on: 29 May 2013, 06:46 am »
Though the Emotiva & the Parasound have similar cap capacity, the Parasound transformer has more than 3 times the capacity : 350KVA vs 1000KVA. I.e. it's capable of putting out a LOT more current.

The UPA-2 has an even slightly smaller transformer of 300VA vs it's replacement model, the UPA-200, which has a slightly larger 350VA transformer (I know you meant to say VA instead of KVA!).  A larger transformer in itself doesn't always guarantee higher current capability because the maximum current of the output devices will often be a limiting factor, but you're probably correct that the A23 has a higher current capability.  The A23 has a capacity of 45A peak current per channel, but the UPA-2 does not list a peak current specification.

But another revealing spec is that the UPA-2's 125W/225W power output is only measured at 1KHz, while the A23's 125W/225W power output is measured from 20Hz-20KHz.

Steve 

geowak

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #7 on: 29 May 2013, 02:19 pm »
Hi geo, thanks for your reply. I don't see anything inconsistent between our respective impressions of the A23. Of course it's kind of difficult to compare our respective comparisons, since the other amps we listened to are not the same. I'm concerned that you feel the A23 is noticeably better than the Stratos, ie my recent purchase (I don't have it yet). Is the reason you feel this way specifically because of the hum you described, or are there other reasons you prefer the A23? If there are others, do you mind describing them for my edification?

Also, one thing I forgot to note is that my system is 2.1 with an active crossover set to at 65 Hz. Because my sub's amp is taking over the load at lower frequencies, I don't even attemp to to determine how well my stereo amps handle the low end.
I liked the Odyssey's sound very much, it was very powerful. Had the Candela preamp with the Stratos. I just had many problems with the quality of the parts. Before I had the noise issues, the amp was very good. Again
in this hobby, synergy and one's own preference with regard to how many components sound are really key.

Not saying one is better than another at all. I had very good experiences with a few Parasound components. The Halo is top-notch in my book, for the price point they sell it. John Curl is a good engineer IMHO.

The Halo gear is well made, sounds very refined, and I did not have QC issues at all. Plus I found them easier to contact than Klaus. YMMV. Good luck!
BTW I had the A21, not the A23. The A21 has much more current and power.

jarcher

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #8 on: 29 May 2013, 08:30 pm »
The UPA-2 has an even slightly smaller transformer of 300VA vs it's replacement model, the UPA-200, which has a slightly larger 350VA transformer (I know you meant to say VA instead of KVA!).  A larger transformer in itself doesn't always guarantee higher current capability because the maximum current of the output devices will often be a limiting factor, but you're probably correct that the A23 has a higher current capability.  The A23 has a capacity of 45A peak current per channel, but the UPA-2 does not list a peak current specification.

But another revealing spec is that the UPA-2's 125W/225W power output is only measured at 1KHz, while the A23's 125W/225W power output is measured from 20Hz-20KHz.

Steve

Thanks for the correction - have to be more careful w/ the late night posts.  Yes - a 1000 KVA (vs VA) transformer would be at least the size of a dorm refrigerator!  I meant 1KVA vs 300VA (google search for emotiva UPA-2 has Emotiva as first result, but to the UPA-200, which is 350VA).

Anyway - interesting that Thunder240 impressions coincide w/ some other reviews I've read of the UPA-2.  I.e. that it's voiced w/ a deep & wide soundstage and clear sound but without the aboslute resolution / detail that higher grade amps manage - and that it pulls far above its even new retail cost of $300 (Now 350).  The A23 retails for 3 times that amount.  I can understand parasound voicing their amps a bit more on the warm side - a lot of overbright & noisy source material out there, probably even more so w/ video sources. 

I imagine the A21 & the A23 would sound very similar - just more output transistors & twice the power for the A21. 

Thunder240

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Hey guys, thanks for all the replies, and for noting that geo was talking about the A21, not the A23.

I didn't realize the Parsound's toroid is so much larger than the Emo's, which is further reason for me to doubt what I perceived as "better dynamics" on the part of the Emo. I'm curious, is it possible that the Emo's caps are capable of discharging and/or recharging faster than the Parasound's? If so, that might explain what I was hearing, since I was making both of these amps work, especially on Back in Black! Please bare in mind that I don't know much about capacitor construction, and maybe this guess is totally implausible. I also agree that it's probably not fair to critique dynamics of these two amps when I'm not running my speakers full range. For a few of the songs (especially Slow Down), there is a lot going on in the bass register, and that might have been a differentiator.

jarcher, I definitely appreciate the unsolicited system wiring advice. To answer one question, my XDA-1 DAC has a volume control on it (digital preamp, as opposed to the XDA-2 which has an analog resistor ladder preamp which digital control). I use this is my master volume control and set the system volume on my Mac to max. If I were to cut out the dbx crossover, are you suggesting I run wires from amp to sub, then from sub to speakers, utilizing the sub's passive crossover? I actually used to do this, and at one point got advice from Dave Fabricant (sp?) at Ascend that my speakers would sound better if I added an active crossover to the rig and wired them as I'm doing now. I didn't actually notice much of any difference except right around the crossover point, where I felt the active crossover gave me somewhat better integration of speakers with sub. But I believe part of Dave's reasoning was that it'd relieve some of the low-end strain being placed on my amp, freeing it amplify the high frequencies with more headroom and less distortion. Which brings us back to the earlier question of dynamics and whether my impression means a lot given that I was not running full range. But anyhow, I appreciate your pointing out that the dbx is currently the worst component in my signal path, and therefore the component that ought to be next on my list to upgrade. Whether I do that just by replacing it with something audiophile grade or by removing it entirely and running the signal with the sub, we'll see. Definitely something to research carefully.

On the question of A21 vs A23, I read elsewhere on Audiocircle that according to a Parasound rep, the chief difference is that the A23 runs class A to 2.75W while the A21 runs class A to 10W. Therefore you're going to be in full class A much more of the time with the A21, which may improve sound quality.

Anyhow, I'm really glad to enjoyed the review.

srb

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #10 on: 3 Jun 2013, 06:00 am »
To answer one question, my XDA-1 DAC has a volume control on it (digital preamp, as opposed to the XDA-2 which has an analog resistor ladder preamp which digital control).

I was told by Emotiva that the volume control on the XDA-1 utilized the AD1955's On-chip Clickless Volume Control, which was in fact a lossless analog resistor ladder.  Maybe the XDA-2 has a better performing external one?

Steve

jarcher

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #11 on: 3 Jun 2013, 02:21 pm »
I think it's hard to gauge the bass performance of the two amps w/ an external crossover @ 65 - it's possible that the parasound has the deeper / faster bass.  Nonetheless it's possible that emotiva has a more transparent mid to high range, and because of that greater perceived detail it sounds more dynamic to you. 

As for the transformer capacity, typically I've heard the benefits here again in the bass range.  Other aspects of the sound may be more determined by other design choices, such as the choice of input / output transistors, etc.  I'm not aware if there are faster / slower capacitors, but I'm going to guess that if there are the audible differences to the human ear would perhaps be imperceivable.  But I'm talking beyond my knowledge level here.  I do know that I once asked Dan Agostino of Krell fame what made his amplifiers so fast, in particular in the bass department, and all he said was that there were no capacitors in the signal path.  I think that still means that there are or might be for the power supply, but just not in the signal path.  He didn't mention anything in the way of transformer capacity, quality of caps, etc.

On the crossover : I've heard of others running pro crossovers in their high end audio system, but it just always seemed to me that it would be better to run things as pure & direct as possible and avoid if you can introducing additionally connector breaks and components in the signal path.  At the price point of that DBX I'm assuming that compromises need to be made in the quality of the components, and also a bit nervous about what the "active" in the description refers to and what violence it may be causing to the original signal. Then again, presumably the Ascend engineers would know better if using an external crossover would cause material harm to the sound.  I somehow doubt the subwoofer crossover is going to be any better than the DBX one.

Happily as there really is no cost to the experiment, I'd suggest the following:

- Hook up the speakers direct to the amp (not via the subwoofer)
- Hook up the subwoofer direct to the amp (i.e. speaker level, not line level, as the dac doesn't have a sub-out RCA)
- Experiment by ear w/ the subwoofer crossover point & level to best integrate / merge the sound of the subwoofer w/ the speakers

That in effect means you're running the speakers at their full range, and yes, that means it will put somewhat more load on the amp, but as your speakers are fairly efficient and the amp choices you have at hand more than powerful enough, I doubt the sound quality will suffer.  If it were an anemic receiver, things might be different.

Lastly, as for volume control, I think you're doing the right thing : i.e. running the volume from the MAC at max and controlling at the emotiva dac side.  I think the criticism of some digital volume controls is that when the volume is reduced it also truncates the bits / resolution of the signal.  I don't know if itunes does that when using it's volume control, but if you have an analog volume control alternative in the emotiva, best to use that. 

Hope that helps & best of luck!


Thunder240

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #12 on: 25 Jul 2013, 03:38 am »

On the crossover : I've heard of others running pro crossovers in their high end audio system, but it just always seemed to me that it would be better to run things as pure & direct as possible and avoid if you can introducing additionally connector breaks and components in the signal path.  At the price point of that DBX I'm assuming that compromises need to be made in the quality of the components, and also a bit nervous about what the "active" in the description refers to and what violence it may be causing to the original signal. Then again, presumably the Ascend engineers would know better if using an external crossover would cause material harm to the sound.  I somehow doubt the subwoofer crossover is going to be any better than the DBX one.

Happily as there really is no cost to the experiment, I'd suggest the following:

- Hook up the speakers direct to the amp (not via the subwoofer)
- Hook up the subwoofer direct to the amp (i.e. speaker level, not line level, as the dac doesn't have a sub-out RCA)
- Experiment by ear w/ the subwoofer crossover point & level to best integrate / merge the sound of the subwoofer w/ the speakers

That in effect means you're running the speakers at their full range, and yes, that means it will put somewhat more load on the amp, but as your speakers are fairly efficient and the amp choices you have at hand more than powerful enough, I doubt the sound quality will suffer.  If it were an anemic receiver, things might be different.

Hey Jarcher, I apologize it's taken me so long to run this experiment. I actually didn't have a spare set of speaker cables, and before long I got side-tracked on other projects. However, recently I got around to borrowing some cables from a friend and ran the test as you described.

The good news is that I was unable to discern any sort of coloration difference with and without the dbx crossover in the loop. The bad news is that with the crossover in the loop, the noise floor is slightly but unmistakably higher. It's still below the level of many of the recordings I listen to, which unfortunately have a fair amount of background noise. But when listening to well-recorded material such as Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Back Home" album, there is definitely more hiss with the crossover than without it.

Having said that, I use this system for TV and movies as well as stereo, and for action flicks with big bass, I really like freeing my amp of the burden of amplifying the low end, so I'm reluctant to ditch the crossover. I think the solution is to keep my eyes open for a used high end crossover like an Accuphase, Marchand, or Bryston. Picking up from another thread of ours, I recently got my music server up and running using XBMC, so I plan to expand my collection of hi-res music, which should benefit from a lower noise floor.

Thanks for the suggestion!

jarcher

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #13 on: 25 Jul 2013, 04:32 am »
Hey Jarcher, I apologize it's taken me so long to run this experiment. I actually didn't have a spare set of speaker cables, and before long I got side-tracked on other projects. However, recently I got around to borrowing some cables from a friend and ran the test as you described.

The good news is that I was unable to discern any sort of coloration difference with and without the dbx crossover in the loop. The bad news is that with the crossover in the loop, the noise floor is slightly but unmistakably higher. It's still below the level of many of the recordings I listen to, which unfortunately have a fair amount of background noise. But when listening to well-recorded material such as Dave Brubeck Quartet's "Back Home" album, there is definitely more hiss with the crossover than without it.

Having said that, I use this system for TV and movies as well as stereo, and for action flicks with big bass, I really like freeing my amp of the burden of amplifying the low end, so I'm reluctant to ditch the crossover. I think the solution is to keep my eyes open for a used high end crossover like an Accuphase, Marchand, or Bryston. Picking up from another thread of ours, I recently got my music server up and running using XBMC, so I plan to expand my collection of hi-res music, which should benefit from a lower noise floor.

Thanks for the suggestion!

Thanks for the update!  I've recently changed my tune somewhat re: pro digital processors, having witnessed what a modest Behringer DEQ2496 digital equalizer can do in capable hands (between the digital source & a DAC keeping all in the digital domain).  The internal DAC (an AKM model) was surprisingly decent as well.  I heard no significant noise either (but all again was in digital doman w/ no A-D conversion taking place).

A Behringer DCX2496 would to me make an interesting choice as it's both a crossover & digital eq.  Doesn't have the real time analyzer functions of the DEQ2496, but if you could do that w/ something else and be able to tweak both crossover + eq'ing in one unit, that would be very exciting indeed.  I'm gonna go out on a limb here also & say that the DCX as DAC may not be too outclassed by the Emotiva XDA-1 - potentially allowing keeping the single chain one box less.

ADDITION : I.e. with a USB / AESBU convertor or toslink / asebu convertor depending on whether direct from mac or aiport, you could run straight to this behringer from the Mac & keep everything in the digital domain until it converted to analog in the same unit then sent to the amp + sub.  If these don't have XLR inputs, then there is the cost of convertor plugs.  Anyway - the idea just being that you try to keep everything digital, have the benefit of digital eq as well, until the final conversion to analog.

Nice thing is, Behringer goes for only about $350 new, so even if it doesn't work as a DAC alternative, you still have all the functionality as crossover + eq.  Some complain of build quality w/ Behringers - at that price I think its worth taking the risk - unless someone else makes a better product at similar money.  Haven't researched this one too much though.

Best of luck to you!

Thunder240

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #14 on: 25 Jul 2013, 09:37 pm »
Thanks for the update!  I've recently changed my tune somewhat re: pro digital processors, having witnessed what a modest Behringer DEQ2496 digital equalizer can do in capable hands (between the digital source & a DAC keeping all in the digital domain).  The internal DAC (an AKM model) was surprisingly decent as well.  I heard no significant noise either (but all again was in digital doman w/ no A-D conversion taking place).

A Behringer DCX2496 would to me make an interesting choice as it's both a crossover & digital eq.  Doesn't have the real time analyzer functions of the DEQ2496, but if you could do that w/ something else and be able to tweak both crossover + eq'ing in one unit, that would be very exciting indeed.  I'm gonna go out on a limb here also & say that the DCX as DAC may not be too outclassed by the Emotiva XDA-1 - potentially allowing keeping the single chain one box less.

ADDITION : I.e. with a USB / AESBU convertor or toslink / asebu convertor depending on whether direct from mac or aiport, you could run straight to this behringer from the Mac & keep everything in the digital domain until it converted to analog in the same unit then sent to the amp + sub.  If these don't have XLR inputs, then there is the cost of convertor plugs.  Anyway - the idea just being that you try to keep everything digital, have the benefit of digital eq as well, until the final conversion to analog.

Nice thing is, Behringer goes for only about $350 new, so even if it doesn't work as a DAC alternative, you still have all the functionality as crossover + eq.  Some complain of build quality w/ Behringers - at that price I think its worth taking the risk - unless someone else makes a better product at similar money.  Haven't researched this one too much though.

Best of luck to you!

I don't have any personal experience with Behringer equipment. I've read plenty of reviews of their equipment, though, and they appear to be quite mixed, by which I mean that some equipment is nearly universally hated while other equipment gets a positive reaction. Based on your experience, it sounds the DCX2496 rates positive.

However I'm not sure how much more tweaking I want to do on my electronics for marginal improvements, at least not until I've first upgraded my speakers. The price is certainly reasonable, but I have no reason to believe that the DAC stage sounds better than what I have right now. (It'd be a different story if I didn't already own the XDA-1 and was trying to decide on which DAC to spend $350.) The chief benefit of the DCX2496 would therefore be to add digital EQ, and that's not something that really interests me, since I'm mucking with bits. Actually, my chief dissatisfaction with the XDA-1 is that it uses a digital preamp. The next time I tinker with my electronics, it will probably be in the direction of getting an analog preamp and either replacing the XDA-1 with a solid DAC-only unit or else maxing its volume control to reference level so that the digital preamp is bypassed.

However, If I ever were to add digital EQ, I'd definitely want to do it upstream of the DAC stage and not downstream, with an all-in-one solution probably being the best way to go, as you suggested. Multiple AD-DA conversions is something to avoid at all costs, and I see little to no benefit in using separate boxes for low current applications in the digital domain!

North Star

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #15 on: 26 Jul 2013, 12:41 am »
...

However, If I ever were to add digital EQ, I'd definitely want to do it upstream of the DAC stage and not downstream, with an all-in-one solution probably being the best way to go, as you suggested. Multiple AD-DA conversions is something to avoid at all costs, and I see little to no benefit in using separate boxes for low current applications in the digital domain!

I too agree. ...Stay all the way Analog, or all the way Digital. ...Don't mix them together. ...Same thing at the back of your preamp.

raindance

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #16 on: 28 Jul 2013, 11:08 am »
Interesting discussion. I have tried a long list of amps including the stratos and keep coming back to the Parasound HCA1500a which is similar to the A21. I have Maggie's and this amp drives them well.

I recently obtained the service manual and reset the bias current - one channel had drifted with time - and now it sounds like a new amp agin.

Johnny2Bad

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #17 on: 22 Jan 2014, 06:48 am »
In my experience the DBX xover is no slouch Sound Quality-wise. It does add a bit of noise, but overall it does quite well and you could easily do worse with other electronic crossovers. I don't think it's fair to refer to it as a "Pro Audio" device ... it is at least "Studio Grade".

Stepping up to, say, a Bryston would improve the sound but then again, that is a fairly significant cost increase as well.

roscoeiii

Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #18 on: 22 Jan 2014, 05:52 pm »

However, If I ever were to add digital EQ, I'd definitely want to do it upstream of the DAC stage and not downstream, with an all-in-one solution probably being the best way to go, as you suggested. Multiple AD-DA conversions is something to avoid at all costs, and I see little to no benefit in using separate boxes for low current applications in the digital domain!

Though, in some cases AD-DA can work work well and with little to no sonic detriment, IF well implemented. And even where there are detrimental aspects, the tradeoffs for the benefits offered by something like DSP may be worthwhile, depending on your system, your room and your sonic preferences.

Love my DSPeaker 2.0, which I run my high end turntable and phono stage into through the tape loop of my line stage. Easy to click the DSPeaker in and out of the chain, and I prefer it in the chain.

Doctor Fine

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Re: Sunday night shootout -- Emotiva UPA-2 vs Parasound Halo A23
« Reply #19 on: 20 Mar 2014, 02:39 pm »
I had three of the Parasound A23 amps and threw them in the garbage because I wouldn't sell them to anyone in case they came back to shoot me.  This all happened three years ago after struggling with the Parasounds for a year and a half.

Two of the Parasounds were trying to vertically bi-amp my main speakers which are $5000 Harbeth monitors.  They blew a woofer which sort of ticked me off but what made me go insane and throw them away was that they were completely unstable.  The volume would change every single time I turned them on possibly due to thermal resistance in the volume controls on them, but who knows.

Sometimes the volume would change DURING a song!

I sent them back twice and they laughed at me out in San Francisco and returned them unchanged.

I replaced them with three QSC 2450 public address pro audio amps which have a very loud fan but not an issue as the amps were mounted one floor below hooked up to fresh power lines near my electrical panel.  The QSC amps absolutely do NOT drift.  EVER.  Great for bi-amping!!!!

In advance of keeping them in the system as I moved it---I bought some dead quiet fans to update their cooling a bit and make them more room friendly.  Then I decided to just replace them as I have used them for three years and am ready for something a step up. Stay tuned as I may sell them if they can be beaten by my replacements which are on order, IF you are interested.

The QSC pro audio amps put out a prodigious 500RMS per channel so I had in the end 1,000RMS per side at my disposal.  No more blown woofers as I now had unlimited clean power and no clipping!!!

However the sound is somewhat unrefined compared to the finest I have heard (I used to sell Bryston/Krell/McIntosh etc) and I dearly miss class A for more detail retrieval at low volumes even if the dynamics on the QSCs are absolutely incredible and the imaging is so precise you can count how many feet apart the horns are on Sinatra At The Sands...  In short the QSCs are an unqualified success but not at the very top in refinement. which is as to be expected considering their origins.

And so in the end I just last week ordered a pair of the big Emotiva XPA-1 Gen 2 power amps at 600 watts per channel and 60 watts class A.  I am hoping for more palpable "reach out and touch" imaging, not just precision.  And a little more convincing timbre would be nice.  We shall see.  I chose the Emotivas as I am a believer that having a TON of headroom is a very good idea to avoid blowing drivers.  And Emotiva claims their new XPA-1 Gen 2 is a world class amp.  Hmmmm.  Let's see what two grand buys you.

But PARASOUND?  Never again in THIS lifetime...

As for the original "test" at the head of this thread---I am not a bit surprised that the little Emotiva amps had more dynamics than the Parasound A23.  Parasound does some rather fancy biasing to get a few watts of class A out of their amp and as I have noted, there is something very problematic about the whole amp possibly in the input stage or the driver stage.  Mine sucked!!!!! 

In my case a clean class AB pro audio PA amp at half their price has clearly shown the Parasounds the door.  The simpler circuit was more robust and so I wouldn't make so much out of the power transformer in the "test" amp being smaller.  The first few watts are the most important.

A pure class AB amp just might be more dynamic than the Parasound even with a smaller power supply.  If it is "faster."

Now of course, I will have a follow up if you wish---and discuss whether I keep the Emotiva amps because the XPA-1 Gen 2 is a winner.  Or will my cheap public address QSCs still have the last word?  Anybody interested?  I have been doing pro audio/recording/high end stuff for 40 years and will be ruthless in my evaluation of the new Emotivas when they get here next week.  If they don't "Win" they shall go BACK.

Later.