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.