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A Fantastic Little Stereo System - Part 2

02-04-2017 | By John Marks | Issue 89

Parasound's Zamp v.3 stereo amplifier

Parasound's Zamp v.3 stereo amplifier

One of my favorite lines from the original Star Trek TV series (and please, nobody forget that Alexander Courage's theme music borrowed heavily from Mahler's symphonies 1 and 7) was something like:

I bet five Quatloos on the feisty newcomer!

Well, Parasound's Zamp v.3 is hardly a newcomer, but, it's very feisty! And, at a US Suggested Retail Price of $349, it is a stellar bargain.

Among the requirements for the desktop stereo systems I specified for two offices in Steinway & Sons' NYC headquarters were that the systems not take up too much desktop space, and also that the total cost be relatively reasonable.

Harbeth's LS3/5A-heritage speaker, the P3ESR, had the perfect combination of small footprint and detailed, listenable sound. The Digital-to-Analog Converter/line stage I selected was Grace Design's m920, which is a one-rack-unit height, half-rack-unit width component. So I went looking for a stereo power amplifier with the same footprint and general look. Parasound's Zamp v.3 stereo amplifier was the perfect match. (As was the Parasound Z Series CD player used as a transport; but, that model has been discontinued.)

Parasound's products are designed in the USA but manufactured by a longtime partner in Taiwan. I received a sample of the Zamp v.3, and I was really taken by its sound quality and its ability to drive loudspeakers of lower efficiency. I attribute a good part of its natural and non-fatiguing sound to the fact that it is a traditional analog, Class A/B transistor design, and not a switch-mode, "digital in scare quotes," integrated-circuit "amp on a chip" design.

The Zamp v.3 has a rated power of 45Wpc;  its output can be bridged to mono for 90Wpc. There are all manner of uncommon features, including power-up via music signal or remote control, rear-panel level-setting for gain optimization, pass-through RCA outputs, and very well-made, sturdy binding posts.

As a general proposition, I would say that in the affordable price ranges, it is usually better to spend more on the source (e.g., Grace Designs' $1995 m920) and, if you have to economize, do it on the amplifier–especially given the exceptional value proposition Parasound's Zamp v.3 represents.

Those wishing to order a Parasound's Zamp v.3 stereo amplifier, with free US shipping and a 30-day money back guarantee, can click here.

Next installment: Grace Design's m920 DAC/pre/HPA.

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