American muscle amp, blingy appearance, heatsinks along the sides.

Yawn – not another one?

Certified for THX – why are you wasting my time with this AV stuff?

Move along, nothing to see here for a 2-channel audiophile.

But wait – it’s wonderful!

“Circuit design by the legendary John Curl” it says on the website.  And yes, the legendary amp designer John Curl has done design work for Parasound for many years.  It’s a Californian company with a long and illustrious heritage, they focus on A/V as well as pure audio and a lot of their products are THX certified.  The AV market in the USA is large and crucial for a company like Parasound. The Halo range are their top of the line products, with the JC1 monoblock amps being above the A21.

I read that the first 7.5WPC of the A21’s 250wpc is class A, and yes there is a special musical naturalness, transparency and delicacy to the sound that is very reminiscent of a good valve amp design.

250WPC into 8 ohms, 400WPC into 4 ohms, so it’s not quite a Krell-like power house with its doubling of power when the load impedance is halved.  You need to go to the top Halo JC1 power amps to achieve that.

Balanced XLR and single ended RCA inputs.  A single pair of speaker output terminals.

Currently the A21 is available in the UK for £2345.  Which strikes me as a huge bargain.

Multiple award winner, including The Absolute Sound’s “Best Solid State Amplifier 2008/2009.”

Hmm, there must be something going for it.

I’ve had over 20 amplifiers here since I bought my MBL speakers, many of them worked very well in many respects.  But the Parasound is the first that does it all.  Excellent transparency, soundstaging, resolution.  It has real solid bass slam when fed appropriately.  A very fast amp, but it never sounds harsh.  It displays excellent top to bottom continuity – no part of the tonal spectrum stands out at the expense of other parts, it has a very natural tonal richness.  …. hmmm, OK – I suspect it’s just a little sweet at the top end.  Huge amounts of power, of course, but always delivered with finesse and control.

It’s a bit of a gushing review, this, isn’t it.  But I haven’t heard anything better to compare it to, and that’s not for want of trying.

I have used over 20 amps since I obtained my MBL speakers nearly 2 years ago. They range from the £60 Mini-T t-amp, to the £5500 Chapter Audio Two power amp.  All have come and gone, but the Parasound Halo A21 has been here for over 7 months now and I have no plans to change it.  It really is that good.

Author – Jerry

Technical specifications

Continuous power output:
250 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 8 Ω, all channels driven
400 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 4 Ω, all channels driven
750 watts RMS x 1, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, 8 Ω
Current capacity:
60 amperes peak per channel
Power bandwidth:
5 Hz – 100 kHz, +0/-3 dB at 1 watt
Total harmonic distortion: < 0.2 % at full power
IM distortion: balanced 16 V rms < 0.04 %
Dimensions: 17-1/4″ w x 7-5/8″ h x 19-1/8″ d, 7 ” h without feet
Net weight: 60 lb.

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