Pass Labs vs Mark Levinson vs Parasound - best 2 channel amp used under $2,500?

I am in the market to to replace my dead Chapter Two ss amp.  My system includes a SAS Audio tube preamp, Metronome tube CD player, Oppo Blue Ray, Talon Raven C speakers, Saturn dual 12" sub, Integra AV processor, Eastern Electric tube phono stage, and several turntables.  The new amp will power the front channels (Talons) for HT and also for dedicated 2 channel listening.  I haven't figured out how to run both preamps yet so likely the amp will reside in my HT system and when I want to platy records I'll have to switch cabling.

I would prefer an A/B amp over class D with at least 100 wpc.  My last amp provided 300 wpc.

I listen mainly to jazz and vintage rock.  My listening room is roughly 25' x 35' x 12' with rudimentary acoustical tweaks (will work on refining).  I want a grain-free, natural sound with a  deep soundstage.  I am open to any amp but want to stay with established brands, as i have in the past purchased off brands  that have performed well but don't hold their value or can't be repaired (like the Chapter Two).

I will eventually replace the preamp/processor and would love opinion son an appropriate pairing with the amp you suggest.

Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.
Pass X250 all day long. The Parasound A21 and A23 are very competitive amps in their respective price points but not in the same league of a Pass... yes I have listened to them and the older one’s. I think you’re going to have to dig way back to get a Levinson at $2500 and although good in their days the Pass is more refined than vintage Levinson’s. I dragged home several older Levinsons before I bought my Pass. To my ears and on my system the Pass was just better. The Pass probably won’t fool most listeners it’s a tube amp but closer than most. If you’re budget was considerably more, newer Levinsons are a different story. Cap concerns on older Levinson amps especially the 300 series.

A lot of other really good manufacturers to look at such as McCormack, Conrad Johnson, Bedini, Pliniius, Odyssey, and plenty more so I wouldn’t limit your choices.

if you’re considering selling your preamp as well maybe bump your budget up a little and consider an integrated amp by Hegel, Modwright or Ayre. For the power you’re looking for, the Modwright KWI 200 might be something to read up on.

Good luck
There's a BAT 2 channel VK-6200 listed right now for about $3100. It's better than both the Pass Labs and ML at this price point. Sublime on both 2 channel and home theater, with the ability to add up to 4 more 200 watts per channel modules. 
No doubt Pass Labs would be great... but... I don’t know where you’ll find one in your price range. And... if you do... it’s going to be ready for refurb (cap replacements, etc.).

So... the next best alternative, which will not require refurb is the Parasound Halo A21. Superb sound in all respects, with sufficient power to drive most anything you may want to drive. And... you’ll find many of them in near new condition in the $1500-$2000 price range.

I’ve got 3 of them, as well as the JC-1’s and they are all great. I also have some great tube amps (Atmasphere M-60’s), and the A21 comes very close to the sound of all of those.
Bryston 3B SST 2 {cubed} or the
4BSST 2. u
Used but well inside the 20 year warranty. You will not regret it
If you can find a Mark Levinson 332 or 334 amp thats has been recapped i would pick it up. They have sold here in your price range.
Pass is the best for your money great sound and great service.What else is there?
I agree with pkvintage, I have owned Bryston amps for the last 33 years. 3B for the last 30 years, and 3B SST2 for the last 3.  The 3B SST2 has more detail and tighter bass than the 3B had, the only reason I replaced the 3B was that I just wanted to upgrade after 30 years.  Bryston service is second to none, and they have a 20 year warranty that is transferable. I I expect the 3B SST2 to keep me happy for the next 30 years also.  IMO you can't go wrong with Bryston.
I bought a recapped Levinson 333 for $2700 a few weeks ago and love it, but I don’t have anything in this price range to compare to, so I realize my comment isn’t terribly helpful.  
Paramount not in the same league as pass or Levinson. Moon another good option. 
Try the Anthem P2, 325 wpc and can drive any speaker, very neutral sounding amp, + everything in the amp is made in house at Anthem in Canada.
Definitely Pass Labs but you will need more money. On the other hand Pass amps tend to be very reliable and versatile when using them with other equipment. And finally they have the best customer support I know of.
May want to look at Threshold and Forte amps as a sub to Pass Labs. Echo Audio has a Threshold T-100 for half your budget. My system still has a pair of modified Threshold T-50's and a Forte 6 running. I also had a Forte 4A which I sold a couple of years ago. Hard amp to find but a great pure Class A amp.
Honestly between Pass and Parasound, you need to listen.

I have gotten to hear a LOT of Pass gear lately, and none of it worked for my ears. I found Pass to be like old Audio Research. Clinical and not particularly robust. Parasound is much warmer, richer and lively to my ears. You don't have to agree, but I _really_ don't agree it's a matter of high-end vs. mid-fi. Pick what you want to come home to. 

The idea of which is in a better league is not a good answer here.

I will say, there are plenty of Class D amps I would listen to as well. For sound quality, size and being environmentally friendly they are very competitive.


Threshold s/500 II. The one with optical bias. It should be in your price range recapped.
Have to agree on the Class D amp suggestion.  

I've got a Class D Audio (brand) SDS-470C and for $700 you get a great amp that sounds virtually as good as any of the others mentioned above.  Truly remarkable amplifiers - giant killer.

And... they're much easier to handle and manage - much lighter weight... and... run only slightly warm compared to all the rest. 
My Pass is far from clinical or cold. To say they sound like older ARC amps is the first I’ve heard of that. As far as not being robust my amp has no problem making my Aerial Acoustics speakers which need power to come alive with plenty of authority. Now to say it has the slam as some older Krells and others, no. Pass have plenty of slam but better balance and disappear - not bringing a lot of attention to one thing over another. I’ve had amps amps that really made the bass really stand out but I felt it was overly done and brought too much attention to it. I personally want my gear to disappear or get out of the way so I can enjoy the music.

I’ve listened to the Parasounds and I felt they sound very good but not as open or refined as mine and other Pass amps I’ve heard on my and other systems. No doubt system synergy has a lot to play with how one piece sounds with others. I had an ARC 100.2 which is only 100 watts and I’d take that over a Parasound A23 in a heartbeat, even being a much older amp and a little less power . Again not bashing Parasound... they make very good equipment for the money. I have not heard the JC1’s so I can’t speak for those but I know they also get great press and probably more direct competition with Pass and others.

Most my listening with Parasound amps has been on Magnepan 3.7i and 1.7i’s and several Monitor Audio’s which they’ve played very well with. Just mentioning this because I think a lot of people compare their gear to stuff they really haven’t heard. As always it best to hear for yourself and understand some gear regardless how good it is, it may not have the synergy with some gear.
Forgot to add that from a cold start, at least my Pass amp doesn’t really come alive; it doesn’t sound horrible by any means. I do find if I leave it on for twenty four hours it sounds its best.

I did discover after adding dedicated circuits and better receptacles that I felt the amp was starving for power before a little. Nelson Pass notes in the manual, power cords don’t make a difference which I found isn’t accurate and indeed they do make a nice improvement.
Is the A23 the only Parasound you’ve had in your system? I only ask because the A23 is so far behind the A21 in just about every way possible. I’ve had an A23 and A21 and the difference in bass control, tonal balance, transients speed, depth and air is considerable between the two. It’s a night and day difference. I’ve lived with both amps for a few years each.I recently sold my my A21 and bought a Nelson Pass designed VFet amp. It’s like a cross between a Pass designed First Watt J2 and F6 sound wise. It’s better in every way over the A21 except bass control (as it’s only 25wpc vs 250wpc), but that’s a fine trade off for me as I feel it gives some of the best sound I’ve heard at any price.

My recommendation would be to look at a gently used First Watt amp. They’re all designed by the man himself, Nelson Pass. He used to manufacture and tuned them all by hand himself. He’s since passed all the manufacturing over the Pass Labs. A used First Watt J2 can be had four around $2000. Some of the best sound you’ll ever hear as long as your speakers aren’t extremely inefficient. If that’s the case and you have inefficient speakers then I’d wholeheartedly recommend an A21. Both are stellar amps that are worthy of the high end classification. It’s just the Pass designed stuff I find is a little more refined overall.
To everyone who has disagreed with me:

That's totally cool, but I really do suggest a buyer listen first. :) 


"...but I really do suggest a buyer listen first. :) "

I agree with you.

That said, I have had numerous Levinson, Pass Labs, and Parasound Halo and non Halo amps in my system. I currently listen to JC1s and think they are great. I think the various Pass Labs Class A amps are better still.

Have had Levinson 534 monos, and currently using Pass XA 60.5s in a system somewhat like yours. Its mostly 2 channel music with vacuum tube preamp, but also L-R in a home theater, Pass is noticeable superior in my system. Less flat (both spacially and sonically) more dynamic, more accurate bass and highs.
Just so you know my preferences - I listen more often to a tube integrated amp in another less costly system, and actually prefer good tube “sound”.
Have not heard the Parasound, but I understand the latest JC is quite good, also.
I have had many amps pass through my system including ML 336, ML 436 mono’s, Pass X350.5, Pass X250.5, and have had my Parasound JC1’s for several years. They are all fantastic and I could have happily lived with any of them.

So... I'd check out any of the aforementioned manufacturers.

Guys, remember he’s looking for to keep it under $2500. You aren’t going to find any of the newer (past 5 or so years) Pass Labs or Mark Levinson stuff for that price even on the used market. You can, however, find Nelson Pass designed First Watt amplifiers (his other amp company) used in that price range. For under $2500 I think your best amp options would be a used First Watt J2 or Parasound Halo A21. The J2 if you have efficient speakers (think >86dB) and the A21 if you don’t as it will have more output. The A21 stays in class A for the first 7.5 watts per channel and then goes to A/B up to 250wpc, but the J2 is pure class A putting out 25 watts per channel but that’s it so you can see why having efficient speakers with the J2 is key. The J2 will sound better, but the A21 is no slouch either.
Have you considered the Son of Ampzilla MK 2 by Spread Spectrum Technologies? Here is a listing from Underwood (whom I have no connection with). Very close to your budget new.

If you are thinking about Parasound and Pass you need to consider Coda.



I am actually intrigued that you own a Metronome CD Player.

Which model? How long have you owned it?

Happy Listening!

I’ll 3rd the Bryston.
You can pick up a used 4BSST for around $2,000.00
or a 4BSST2 for around $2,500.00. If you can find used from a dealer, either would still have the remainder of it’s 20 year warranty. Not only are the Brystons incredible sounding amps, that have no problem driving difficult loads, there is a reason Bryston can put a 20 year warranty on their products - they are very reliable and well built.
I had a 10 year old Bryston 3B, that started having a problem with the switch. I sent it in for repairs and about 10 days later I received it back with a new switch installed, along with a few other internal parts upgraded, re-biased and brought back to new spec - all at no cost, except shipping. By comparison, I had a 3 year old Krell that had the rt. channel go out; when I called the service dept. at Krell, they said that they no longer serviced that model (I was not asking for warranty, just to get it fixed) as it was being replaced with a new model, but they would be most happy to sell me the new model for a mere $6,500.00 - how good of them.
Both Pass and Parasound are very good amps, but, for the money, you would never be disappointed with the sound, performance or reliability of a Bryston. JMO...Jim
With his size room, about five times the volume of my room, I'd say he needs some real juice to play sound at realistic levels.  With average efficiency speakers we're probably talking 200 watts minimum. 
Heh, I’m listening to an NAD D3020. Much more modest, but also a hybrid class D.
I think the M22, if based on the same principles, is really worth a listen.
I owned the Pass X250.5 and it sounded good. It weighed over 100 lbs., got almost too hot to touch, and was power hungry. I now have a class D 1200AS based amp, and it sounds every bit as good as the Pass did, weighs around 12 lbs., runs extremely cool, and uses way less electricity. You can get a new one for way less than the price of a used Pass, or any other expensive, hot and heavy amp. I also owned Mac, Plinius, Classe, Sumo, and others in the past. I'm not going back.
I am afraid that my experience echoes @spenceroo

I’ve heard plenty of Pass, and my nCore and ICEPower amps in my home sound as good or better, for fractions of cost, weight, and power consumption.

I also like Parasound more than Pass though, so judge accordingly.

I keep hearing this concept that the Pass are "more refined." To me they sound like an audio fetish. A definite unique style.
Which brand AS1200 did you get?
I’m looking at Nord, Apollon, Mivera. 
I own Bryston 14b cubed I would match that against all three . Hands. Down for me ,Bryston . These amps are like splitting hairs M
I got the 14b3 last summer and its a remarkable amp. It bests the 14bsst I had in smoothness. The first note I played I noticed it came out of a dark background.