Wednesday 17 January 2018

Do all amplifiers sound the same?

It's a question that's intrigued me for a while now. Reading around the topic, the experts seem to be saying that broadly, correctly designed amplifiers should all do the same job and should not significantly affect the sound.

I've recently installed 3x Kef LS50 speakers as front left, right and centre in my home theatre and love them to bits. They are supplemented by a pair of SVS PB-1000 sub-woofers and the whole thing sounds great powered by my a/v receiver, a Marantz SR7010.

However, I couldn't help wondering if there was more to be had in terms of volume, dynamics and transparency, especially for 2 channel audio.

The stars aligned and over the Christmas period I managed to get a couple of stereo power amps to play with, a Parasound Halo A23 and a Behringer A500. My plan was to conduct a comprehensive shootout between the two with my SR7010 also in the mix.

The two power amps are broadly similar. The Behringer is rated at 125W per channel into 8ohms and can be bridged mono to provide 375W. The Parasound is also rated at 125W per channel and can also be bridged, providing 400 mono watts. Both support balanced and unbalanced inputs.

The Parasound is a more refined hi-fi amplifier with niceties like 12v control and a sleek visual presence. The Behringer is much more industrial and is targeted at studio installations.

The A23 retails for £1299. You can pick up the Behringer for £180.

Wait, what?