the cart or the horse?

I currently own a Parasound ZAMP, Denon PRA-1500 preamp, and Omega 7's speakers. I stream through a Bluesound Node 2i.  All this resides in a home office of approx 15x10. 

I am not happy with the sound and do not know which component to attack first. There is a lack of presence and body and the sound is well.......boring. I listen to jazz at low volumes and would like your opinion on what to work on first. 

Replace amp,preamp, or speakers? The cart or the horse? My budget is very modest but am willing to go step by step. 

All my best,



Replace amp and pre with an integrated. Need not be big. Something like Unity Atom, NAD M10, Rogue Sphinx (for a touch of tube magic) or BEl Canto C5i. For all tubes any Rogue integrated.  For something very small but good sounding, a Glow Amp 1 if you can find one.   

@onebean  - the old stuff is always fun.  I am actually running a factory refurbished ‘93 Mc pre on my main rig, in part because its so simple I figure they couldn’t have messed it up. Still have my father’s 40 year old Luxman gear and it works just fine (would of course benefit from a refurbishing)

Are there specific vintage dealers you could recommend for @wavendon , and all of us? Would be good to know dealers who do a good job with vintage

I have worked with Audio Classics and had good experiences, but that’s mostly Mc focused

There is SkyFi, but I’ve never worked with them - just note that they do vintage and refurbishing/restoration


Low power amps don’t sound better they just have less power.

This statement is problematic. Most traditional amps of A or AB design tend to sound better in lower powered embodiments. In the case of all transformer coupled tube amps its because the output transformer has wider bandwidth; in solid state amps its often because less output devices are in parallel and so the circuit has less complexity.

I agree that the speakers are a good thing to keep. A surprisingly good little integrated amp is the old Dynaco SCA-35, but it would have to be refurbished (replaced filter capacitors in the power supplies and any parts not to spec; you'll need to find someone competent at this sort of thing) to really strut its stuff. It has the best output transformers Dynaco ever made, and they made some pretty good transformers. Its a 15-Watt/channel amp using EL84s. You might look at other EL84 amps available too, such as the Leben CS300.

Since the room is not that large and the listening tends to be light jazz, an SET could work quite well too. I would also consider some of Nelson Pass' lower powered amps, like some of his First Watt stuff, if tubes seem too daunting. I would also consider a powered subwoofer to help out in the bass department; if it is not operating above 60-70Hz it will not draw attention to itself no matter where it is in the room (and you might have to move it around a bit until you find a spot where its output is nicely audible at the listening position).

Above all- this is supposed to be fun. Don't sweat it, and be willing to audition the components that interest you in your room. BTW, any tube amp will need at least 1/2 hour warmup to really be taken seriously.

Look for an integrated amp and ditch the parasound and denon. I’m a McIntosh guy so I’d recommend one of their used integrated amps if budget it tight. Good luck. With a bette preamp and amp you’ll be amazed at how good it will sound.