Amp upgrade, speaker cables or both

Over the last 4 years I have upgraded every bit of my system except for my Analysis Plus chocolate oval speaker cables. The last major upgrade I made was replacing my ancient Kef 104/2 s with Tannoy Cheviots.  Now I am wondering if my Parasound A23+ amp is under powered for the speakers, or if I should bite the bullet and replace my speaker cable, a project I find not very interesting and potentially expensive as I have some long runs. As to the amp, I could spend $5-6000, though would be happy to spend less. I also would consider a used amp, if it wasn't so old that I had to worry about caps going bad, etc.

My system is as follows:  

Amp: Parasound A23+ 165w x 2 into 8 ohms Pre:   Parasound P6
Speakers: Tannoy Cheviots, Analysis Plus Chocolate Oval speaker cables
Digital Streamer/Source: Heavily modified BlueSound NODE 130 (added Fidelity Audio clock board, replacement PSU module & LPSU)/ Innuos Phoenix USB clock/reclocker / Gustard X26 Pro DAC (connected by Shunyata Alpha USB cables)
All other interconnects: Synergistics Research Foundation or better
Power: Power conditioner: Synergistics Research Powercell 10 SE Mk 3 w SR Atmosphere level 3 cord; All power cords SR Foundation

Listening room: WIFE's LIVINGROOM  14' left to right on the front wall, 16' deep, opening up to a dining room area to the rear. That means my speakers are in the corners of the front of the room with a large window and couch in between them, and all of my audio boxes are in a cabinet on the right wall that supports the TV. On the left wall opposite the cabinet/TV is another couch, where the end towards the front of the house partially blocks the left speaker. I have a comfy chair 9' back from the front wall, about 9' from each speaker (speakers are pulled away from the front wall)(as an aside, I got the Cheviots in part as Tannoy was a brand that my guy at Upscale Audio in Laverne said would be able to deal with my listening room, and he was right as I have a pretty good soundstage, considering).

So now to the issues:


I am wondering if I should upgrade my Parasound A23+ amp. I wrote Tannoy, and they told me they recommended an amp with 250w x 2, and told me the max power handling of the speakers was 125w continuous, 500w peak. Needless to say, I probably never play the A23+ at more than half way up, but you always read about people talking about headroom. I was looking at the A21+ which has 300w x 2, though it doesn't seem like a much cleaner amp than the A23+.  What would you folks suggest? 

Speaker Cable:

I am wondering if upgrading that would improve SQ. The problem is that with my audio electronics on the right side of the room, I have a pretty long run to the speakers, especially the left one. I was wondering if it might be cheaper to relocate my amp to the right front corner behind the right speaker, and get a long interconnect between pre and amp. When I upgraded my amp power cord to SR Foundation in line with all of my other cords, I got one that would be long enough to go from my SR Powercell to that location.



First, thanks for all the good and helpful info. It would also be most helpful if you could share what specific improvements you’re looking for and what sound characteristics are most important to you.  This will lead to much better recommendations based on your particular tastes/goals.

As an aside, if you can figure a way to even temporarily hang a thin blanket or such in front of the window just to see what happens it might be a worthwhile experiment. That big window in between your speakers is doing you no favors sonically. Just a thought FWIW.

I have upgraded my system over the last few years and there's two things I have experienced that may be valuable to you:

  1. Audition different things to see what's out there.  My preferences for sound changed over time (used to own McIntosh and preferred a more transparent sound when I audition stuff).  Also amp power varies across manufacturers.  You may want more power and I have significantly more power from my Moon  amp (225 watt/channel) than I did from my McIntosh MC302 (300 watt/channel)'s not close.
  2. Speaker cable made a difference for me - its not close to the impact of the amp.  I'd consider this after you determine if a new amp is desired/required.

Your current cables are much better than your current amp.   You should also consider upgrading your pre.


Second point: cables aren’t a component. they are a secondary effect. Junk cables degrade sound. Once you have good cables, there is very little to be had by changing cable.


You don’t need more power.



"Second point: cables aren’t a component."

Oops! Wrong! I think that most agreed a long time ago that they are after realizing the influence that they have on the sound of our systems. 

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Hi Jerry

I would never say that cables are as important as an amplifier or preamplifier. I don't think that they are. However, by their definition as part of the chain leading to the sound that reaches our ears, they are a component.

I'm not sure what you mean by "all in or all out". I only said that most agree.. As far as saying that you were wrong, if you found that offensive, I apologize.


OP, good write up. 

I definitely agree with @soix on throwing a thick blanket in front of the window.


I would say that you have a very well balanced system, obviously carefully chosen. I think it would be a mistake to think of nudging one part of the system… although a more powerful solid state amp will get you more kick… but probably not much else. Here is the approach I recommend.


Consider this the end point of your system. Think about the next level, which will take a long time to reach and will be done slowly and one component at a time. The first step would be to decide what you would like your next system to sound like… what flavor. 

Go listen to an all MacIntosh system, all Audio Research, all Pass… maybe a system based on Wilson speakers, Sonus Faber, B&W, Focal. Listen to high end systems… you can get most of the sound for little money. As many as you can… is there and audiophile group around you could join?


Get an idea of where you want to go. Then if your speakers fit in to your future… upgrade your preamp first… no less than 2x investment (lots of research… think used high end)… then amp, then your digital end. Then look over your cables and power cords. 

This strategy should take your system to a whole new level and hopefully in the direction pleasing to you in the long term.

Soix pointed out I'd get more information if I "could share what specific improvements you’re looking for and what sound characteristics are most important to you." Hear is what I listen to and what I listen for in evaluating new gear:

I am heavily into guitar oriented rock both, Classic Rock and the punk rock/ post-punk/garage stuff I got into in college, but listen to a lot of singer-songwriter (both voice & guitar/piano and those folks who go on to front actual bands) and roots music, and a lot of jazz. I have spent a lot of time in jazz and rock/punk clubs where the different instruments hit you from the stage rather than through a PA system, so I really appreciate the illusion of a 3D soundstage. A lot of the rock stuff I listen to now tends to have a lot of complex arrangements with a log going on, so I want to be able to hear all of the separate instruments distinctly and realistically. I like acoustic guitars, drums, cymbals, piano, trumpets, sax, string base to sound like real instruments that are being played with all of the percussive sounds and decay you would hear from the stage. I am not a bass freak in the sense that I don’t need the house shaking, but when it is present, I want to hear it tight and controlled. An upgrade would bring me joy if it significantly improved soundstage, increased clarity of the distinct musical lines in busy tracks, or increased the reality of real instruments that are struck, blown, or plucked.

Overthemoon, I made the mistake or reading a review of you Moon 225 x 2 amp you are quite happy with before looking at the price. :(  It sounds amazing, but more than twice my budget.

Thanks for your thoughts, Jerry ( Carlsbad2 ). To clarify, you think that even though my Analysis Plus speaker cable is not as good as my Synergistics Research power cords and interconnects, that it is good enough that you wouldn't upgrade it? And if I don't need more power, what amp and/or pre upgrade would make sense? If I replaced my Parasound gear I could probably get $1400 for the A23+ and $1200 for the P6 pre to add to the $5-6000 I could spend without it being an issue (I love the way tube amps look in homes where they can be displayed, but since my gear has to be out of the way and I worry about having to replace tubes, I'm partially to solid state).

Thanks GHDPrenticefor your thoughtful response. I’m curious as to why you suggest focusing on upgrading the preamp first, especially as the A23+ and the P6 preamp are basically Parasound’s Hint 6 integrated in two separate boxes. I also feel that part of what you get with a good preamp these days is a good DAC section, and that is less relevant to me as I think the Gustard X26 with the Innuos USB would be hard to beat in a preamp I could afford. If I do think a preamp upgrade makes sense, what do you think would make me hear a real difference in the $3-4 range (roughly double the cost of the P6 new)?

And btw, I did note you and Sois both suggested trying to throw a blanket over the front window between the speakers. I’ll try that, and if it makes a big difference, maybe I can suggest my wife go for some curtains of some fabric with some weight to it over the blinds.

Thanks for all the info — most helpful. Given what you said it points heavily to a tube preamp and SS amp. The tube pre will help give you the 3D holographic soundstage you’re looking for and the SS amp will give you the power you need for rock, punk, etc. Incidentally, I’m surprised Tannoy said you needed so much power. Your speakers are rated at 91dB and 8 Ohms, so unless they exhibit some big impedance dips in the lower mids/bass I’d think a good 100 Wpc amp that near doubles into 4 Ohms should be more than fine.

You could do this two ways — obviously a separate tube pre and SS amp, or a hybrid integrated with a tube pre section and SS amp. The thing about tube preamps is the tubes tend to last a long time and usually cheap to replace so relatively low maintenance. I’ll just say right off the bat what I’d do. I’d get this nice used Linear Tube Audio MZ2 (w/ optional linear power supply — a must) and this McCormack DNA 1 Rev A Gold +. The tubes in the LTA last forever and the DNA 1 will give you all the power and grunt you’ll need to really bring it. This combo would likely cost only $3500 - $4000 (the DNA 1 is at least $500 overpriced IMHO).

For hybrid integrated you could look at the Unison Unico 90 or 150 — the 90 should be fine but if you really wanna shoot the lights out the 150 is still in your price range if selling your current stuff.

Anyway, just some ideas and hope this helps, and best of luck


Sticking a good tubed preamp in from of your A23+ will give you a dramatic improvement in sound quality.

@lloyd1969 Admittingly, I got a little carried away with my system thought I did get it as a demo! 

I suggest you check out Moon's 330a or 340i...I heard the 330a when auditioning a McIntosh C462...I was shocked at the sound and the value for the price (so I bought 2 M400s). 

It's why I encourage you to listen to different brands.

I used to run the A23+ and moved to the A21+. World of difference in power which will definitely benefit your choice of music.

I drive my tannoy Sterlings with tube amplification. Based on the Cheviots specs I believe your A23+ provides enough power. You might want to consider a tube preamp. There are several threads here on AG requesting suggestions for them. 

Cables do make a difference. So why not maximize your new amp with good cables.

I've used various Tannoys over the years. I've found they all scale significantly with amplification - both quality AND power - though I must qualify this by stating that I listen loud. I'm not a 75dB listener. 

I've got a A23 (not currently in use) that I've tried on my Glenair 10's. It's serviceable, but really holds them back IMO. An A21+ should be a significant improvement (owned A21 in the past but didn't try with Tannoys). As a cheaper option, the NAD M22 (v1 or v2) absolutely clobbered the A23. The NAD class D has a slightly "dry" midrange so I think it pairs much better with a tube preamp. But the slam, dynamics, and clarity of this amp is such a fun ride on good Tannoys. The newer NAD M23 Eigentakt looks interesting! 

Anyways, I'd definitely do amp first in your shoes, and allocate most funds there. I've never regretted a splurge on amps. Cables have been more of a preference / random synergy thing, though with a long SC run I think you'll definitely here a difference. In one of my Tannoy setups I use a long XLR IC run, keeping SC's cables normal length, and it works great. 

Hello lloyd 1969!  The "in the room" difference in anticipated loudness is very poorly understood. Watch the VU meters on some piece of gear as some favorite music plays. Big jumps are common in Classical music, but much commercial music has a pretty steady volume. You have an amp with a 165 WPC rating. Somebody says you need 250 WPC. What is the real difference?  If you double the output power you get a 3db inctrease in room loudness. That is about the smallest increase the untained ear can detect. Of course, we audiophiles have "trained" ears.

So a 10 db increase in loudness requires a ten fold increase in amplifier power. (4x power is 6db louder, 8x power is 9 db louder . . .) So the jump between an amp cruising along at 1/10 th of a watt, gets a volume jump of 10 db from a cymbal crash and puts out one watt. if the amp had been cruising at 1 watt, the crash would require 10 watts. Can you see where this is going? Suppose you have very inefficient speakers and you're cruising along at 10 watts; the cymbal crash now requires 100 watts!  Suppose you had a 20 db jump in program mateiral - the choir jumps in as the bass drum thunders, you will need 100 times the amp power to handle the 20db jump in volume. In the case of the ten watt cruiser, you suddenly need 1,000 watts!  The little 9 wpc, 300B amp, rated as 9 wpc at 10% harmonic distortion must put out 10 watts to handle the 20db volume increase, and it can't. OOOPS!  Can you see why big amps are so popular?  The big amp sounds cleaner because it distorts less when pushed beyond its limits. In your case 165 watts verses 250 watts is hardly an audible difference. A 3 db loudness difference would requre 330 watts.) VERY few people listen with their amps cruising at ten watts. Maybe Dodger Stadium, but not you house or my house. So don't worry about amp power unless you want to go to at least 400 watts per channel. You want an amp that NEVER overloads when you are listening to your music at the loudest level you would ever want (unless the baby pushes the remoter control button, vaporizing your tweeters). Try better cables. Nobodys system is exactly like yours so you have to try aout a few cables to see if they are better than what you have. Remember, a 4 ohm speaker requires much more current than a 16 ohm speaker (common in the old days). That's why the old timers say cables don't make a difference. Their 16 ohm speakers didn't need heavy duty speaker wire because their speakers didn't draw much current. But lighter weight voice coils allow the speaker to move faster (but they draw lots of current) and that's the trend we see these days. And copper is expensive, so 4 ohm voice cois are cheaper to make than 8 or 16 ohm ones.  Enjoy the Music! 

If you decide to go both routes, start with your preference, listen a few weeks then the next. I changed several things at once back when I was getting serious about the hobby and had a hard time discerning what was helping what, etc. Cost me extra $ at first.