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RE: Parasound A23

Wow - I'm really surprised at a few of the responses in this thread. A few things that I've found to be true in my experience:

* Dual volume pots are better than one single volume pot (channel imbalances are a lot more common on very expensive hi-fi gear than people think)

* Dual voltage gain controls are better than one single gain control

* You can easily use 'gain controls' as volume controls, but adjusting 'gain controls' will also take into account the capacitance of your cables more than traditional 'volume controls' do with an amplifier that has a fixed gain

Personally, I very much strive to eradicate the volume control from my system and solely focus on the voltage gain of my components playing well with each other. You get a ton of transparency, but it is one of the tweakiest audiophile rat-holes you can ever venture down (aside from hardwiring all of your components together so as to entirely avoid RCA or XLR connections).

A lot of the E.A.R. amps, Parasound amps, old McIntosh amps, and a few others that I cant think of at the moment have dual voltage gain controls at their inputs. I know that some Accuphase amps have a single dial which offers 3 settings for their voltage gain too.

Perhaps some people commenting in this thread shy away from the inconvenience of having to bend down and twist two knobs manually. Perhaps some dont like dual volume pots that leave some doubt (unlike stepped attenuators) on whether their volume is equal in both channels. Finally, perhaps there are some that have cables which dont play so nicely with voltage gain controls, and so they abandon ship when the sound seems a little off somehow.

But it also sounds like there are just some who might as well just throw a graphic equalizer in their system in order to screw up the signal even more. To wit, experimenting with removing components and playing with the versatility of amps that the designers intentionally put there was what I always considered the playground of audiophiles (at least for a little bit).

I commend DanS on his willingness to put on a hairshirt and play around with such an ergonomic puzzle. Around 2010 I did the same thing for a while with an E.A.R 861 amp. I was plugging an Ayre universal player's XLRs outs directly into the E.A.R's XLR inputs. I was plugging an E.A.R 834p phono stage's RCA outputs into the E.A.R. 834p's RCA inputs. I would then use a toggle switch on the amp (similar to the one on your Parasound) to switch between my analog and digital sources, and I would then use the gain controls to modify my volume. The speakers that I was using at the time were either restored PK Quad ESLs (the 57s), or the old Greg Timber designed JBL L300. It was a system that changed a few people's ideas about transparency and hi-fi. Of course it was an ergonomic pain in the neck that only allowed two sources, but nobody ever said that sonic purity was easy to achieve.

Funnily enough, now in 2017, I started playing with this concept again. I'm currently running an E.A.R. 834p directly into the inputs of a vintage McIntosh MC-225 using the gain controls at the inputs of the amp to control my volume. The speakers I'm running are those little HornShoppes with NO crossover. My cartridge (on my Well Tempered table) is a Lyra Helikon SL so it is a super-low gain cartridge. The E.A.R. 834p is on the MM setting so as to reduce the gain on that part of the chain too.

As Nelson Pass says on one of his First Watt product pages (I'm paraphrasing a bit here), "we've got all this gain in our systems today and we just throw it away with our volume controls". I ask myself, yeah - why do we do that? I then think, well....I wonder what would happen if I can play off of low gain components across the signal chain and end up with a special level of transparency which currently remains unheard by the audiophile masses?

Today, my system speaks for itself. All the low level information is there, even at the softest volumes. I love it.

BTW, @Dave789 - with respect, I believe you may be off your rocker a bit with the line "The pair of big separate continuous knobs is a design mistake." Ummm - My understanding is that the A-series of Parasound amps was designed by John Curl. That guy's design "mistakes" dont pop up too often, and when they do, it usually is somebody breathing pretty rare air who discovers them.


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  • RE: Parasound A23 - rottenclam 19:16:46 04/05/17 (1)

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