To Hans Wetzel,
First of all, I wanted to say thank you very much for the time you invest replying to our questions. It really means a lot for us who can barely afford the financial luxury to have a decent sound system and who are not able to demo equipment on the fly with ease.
A while back, I sent an e-mail about my existing system: a Marantz SR7005 [receiver], Marantz CD5004 [CD player], Marantz TT-15S1 [turntable] (a recent add-on in the family), Bowers & Wilkins CM8 loudspeakers, matching CM Centre [center-channel], and an REL T7 subwoofer. When I sent you an e-mail last year, I had an opportunity to demo the KEF R700 [speakers] with my Marantz SR7005, but I was not able to find synergy with my Marantz, at least sonically. Sorry, I might be totally wrong, as well, because I know KEF's R-series speakers have very good reviews, which is why I demoed the R700 in the first place.
You recommended a Hegel Music Systems H80 integrated amplifier-DAC, or better yet, H300. But I accidentally read your reply a year after I submitted the upgrade question and it so happened that I was in with my local vendor trying the Parasound A 21 amplifier to drive my CM8 speakers. I put a hold on the Parasound order after reading your reply and I was excited and astounded about the Hegel integrateds you mentioned.
My local vendor is willing to loan me a Parasound integrated, which I am very grateful for, and I will be buying a Hegel system (if I decide to choose Hegel) blindfolded, since it seems hard to demo them here in California.
The Parasound's retail cost is $2500, while the H80 is $2000, and the H300 is $5500, the latter of which will be over my budget. I will bite the bullet and sacrifice some of my other expenses if the Hegel will become my ultimate reference system for the long haul. I still want to keep my Marantz SR7005 for surround and movie watching. I plan to upgrade my speakers maybe in the next 2-3 years.
I am totally confused since there are so many out there, but your good judgment, unbiased recommendations, and expertise will be greatly appreciated. I dearly love my local Parasound dealer and I believe in Parasound products being some of the best, but if Hegel has an edge and is worth the extra $3000, so be it. And the big final question: Will there be a night-and-day difference between the Parasound A 21's 250Wpc, the Hegel H80's 75Wpc, or the H300's 250Wpc? Kudos to you and your staff!
Thanks for the kind words, Emmanuel. While I am a big fan of Hegel's equipment and sound, I think it would be a step too far to say that their equipment is clearly better than Parasound's. If you are unable to audition the Norwegian company's wares at your local dealer, I wouldn't worry too much about it. Parasound makes excellent equipment, as my brother Erich found out earlier this year after reviewing their A 23 amplifier and P 5 preamplifier-DAC. Moreover, the A 21 is a dedicated amplifier, unlike the H80 and H300 integrated amplifier-DACs, which have preamps and full-fledged DACs built-in. If your only need is for a powerful and highly resolving amplifier, the A 21 sounds like a fine choice, and I don't think you should have a single regret over either the H80 or H300. If you like the Marantz sound, I think the Parasound will suit your tastes better than Hegel's sonic profile, anyway.
As for your big question of power, remember that each doubling of amplifier power yields an additional 3dB of output at the speakers. If you're going to play your system LOUD, that pretty well rules out the H80. The 250Wpc on offer from either the A 21 or H300 should be more than sufficient for your needs, though. And with the A 21 being less than half the price of the Hegel, I think your wallet will thank you by going with the A 21, and you'll be able to start saving immediately for your speaker upgrade in the coming years. . . . Hans Wetzel