Tag Archives: parasound

Parasound Taking the Audio-Show Plunge at RMAF

The following is a press release issued by Parasound.
SAN FRANCISCO (July 12, 2021) — When Parasound introduced and first started shipping its flagship Parasound Halo JC 1+ 450-watt monoblock power amplifier in early 2020, they were looking forward to demonstrating the amps to customers, reviewers, and dealers at the AXPONA 2020 High End Audio show outside Chicago that August, 2020. However, with the rapid spread of Covid 19, that show was not to be.
Now, with the Rocky Mountain International Audio Fest, popularly known as RMAF, opening to the public in October, Parasound will be exhibiting at its first domestic audio show since 2019. The centerpiece of the exhibit will be a pair of the company’s flagship Parasound Halo JC 1+ power amplifiers with a speaker partner to be announced at a later date.
The Parasound Halo JC 1+ is the result of a five-year effort by John Curl and Parasound to replace, after two decades, their legacy Parasound Halo JC 1 with a new amplifier that is noticeably better.
“‘A little better’ wasn’t good enough for me, and it certainly wasn’t for John,” said Richard Schram President and founder. “The improvement had to be noticeable and dramatic. It had to grab the listener’s attention and leave them in a state of amazement. This project encompassed an almost total redesign of the internal circuitry so it can deliver effortless power at 450 watts into 8 ohms, 850 watts into 4 ohms, 1300 watts into 2 ohms, and a peak current of 180 amperes; the JC 1+ excels even with speakers that can dip to 1 ohm. It operates in pure Class A up to 25 Watts and Class AB to full power, reflecting Curl’s attention to detail and sound quality.”
“In 2003, the JC 1 was an immediate success,” said Richard Schram, Parasound’s president. “For over ten years we couldn’t imagine how to improve it. Therefore, I was surprised and excited when John called me in early 2014 to discuss his ideas for a new amplifier that would significantly outperform the JC 1. During 2015 and 2016 we built numerous prototypes to confirm Curl’s theories, and the sonic improvements he’d predicted. The results were outstanding. We decided to create a new amplifier built on the JC 1’s legendary reputation. The JC 1+ is a technological masterpiece, raising the bar for amplifier performance and value for years to come.”
Parasound invites enthusiasts to experience the new Halo JC 1+ amplifiers displayed on NorStone Spider amp stands in room 11-116 at RMAF 2021.
The Parasound Halo JC 1+ power amplifier, in black or silver finish, is currently available from authorized Parasound dealers as well as any of our authorized e-commerce partners.

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Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

McIntosh C49 Preamplifier and MC312 Power Amplifier | REVIEW

I feel like I’m the designated Part-Time Audiophile power lifter lately. I received another freight shipment containing the McIntosh C49 preamplifier and MC312 power amplifier, weighing in at back squat workout weight of 234 lbs. [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Parasound JC 1+ Monoblock Power Amplifier

In Oscar Wilde’s novel The Picture of Dorian Gray, the flibbertigibbet Lady Henry observes, “I like Wagner’s music better than anybody’s. It is so loud that one can talk the whole time without other people hearing what one says. That is a great advantage, don’t you think so, Mr. Gray?” Dorian doesn’t miss a beat. “I am afraid I don’t think so, Lady Henry,” he replies. “I never talk during music—at least, during good music. If one hears bad music, it is one’s duty to drown it in conversation.”

By this humorous standard, when listening to the new 450-watt Parasound JC 1+ monoblock amplifier, my guess is that you’re not liable to engage in much small talk because it makes most music sound so good. “JC” are the initials of legendary audio engineer John Curl, who has given his original JC 1 design a complete overhaul. [John Curl was inducted into The Absolute Sound’s High-End Audio Hall of Fame in 2018, Issue 289. —RH] As it happens, I used a pair of the original JC 1 Class AB monoblocks for several years to power Magnepan 1.6 loudspeakers, which prospered from the clean current that those amps provided. Any Magnepan lover knows that these big panels suck up watts like almost nothing else in the way of loudspeakers on the planet, but also that the sonic rewards can be great. In this case, they were.

Naturally, I was curious to hear what Parasound and Curl had accomplished after almost two decades. On paper, the revisions to the JC 1 appear to be extensive. It boasts a new power transformer with 20% higher capacity than its predecessor, as well as Nichicon power-supply filter capacitors that have been increased in capacity from 132,000uF to 198,000uF. Both measures typically translate into an increased stability that provides a wealth of sonic benefits, including better imaging and dynamics. The amplifier also employs Bybee Music Rails to help eliminate the input-stage noise that can have a deleterious effect on tonal purity. The amplifier has a two-position toggle switch that allows you to choose between 23dB or 29dB of gain, depending on the sensitivity of your loudspeaker. With the Wilson Audio WAMM Master Chronosonic loudspeaker, I relied upon the 29dB setting. The amp also sports two nifty pairs of CHK Infinium speaker terminals that grasp the loudspeaker cable lugs very firmly, indeed. As long as you insert the lugs straight up into the terminals, the CHKs are a breeze to use; deviate, however, by even a millimeter, and the lugs simply won’t glide in. At 83 pounds (the original was 63), these amps are no lightweights, but they’re not too difficult to maneuver into place by yourself.

As with most big powerhouse amps, it’s always tempting right away to declare, like the Thing in the Fantastic Four, “It’s clobberin’ time!” Whether running the Parasounds on the subwoofers or the front speakers of my system, I consistently found that they can, as you would expect, deliver quite a wallop. Initially, I ran the Parasounds on my subwoofers to break them in and to test their mettle on the deepest bass passages. Quite frankly, I was taken aback by what they brought to the table in the bass realm. They seemed not simply to plunge down more deeply into the nether regions, but also to more fully energize the notes themselves. This was apparent on both CDs and LPs. On a Decca pressing of the Solti recordings of the Wagner operas—recently bestowed upon me by Ali Saad, a classical aficionado and avid audiophile in Los Angeles—the forging of Siegfried’s sword came through with a remarkable clang, resounding to the back of the room. Jeepers, creepers! It was though the Parasounds were delivering the current into the loudspeaker unmediated by cables or anything else. I consistently found that the Parasounds not only increased the dynamics of my overall system, but also the perceived sense of hall space. It’s been said, time and again, that subwoofers play a pivotal role in defining the soundstage dimensions of a recording, but it’s always a pleasure to hear the phenomenon vividly demo’d, as it was with the JC 1+. 

As tempting as it might have been to retain the Parasounds on the subs, duty called. It was time for the Full Monty. I ventured to the recesses of my listening room, eyed the Parasounds for a moment, then hoisted them into the air, one at a time, mind you, to install them on my main loudspeakers. The results were quite revealing. 

The first thing I noticed was that same sense of enveloping space I’d heard with the subwoofers. On a BBC Music CD that I recently received, a whoosh of ambient hall and audience sound came through even before the music began, followed by Frederick Delius’ pleasant trifle “On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring,” a tone poem he composed in 1912. It features an onomatopoetic cuckoo call that is sounded first by the woodwinds, then the strings. With all that surplus power on hand—the first 25 watts in Class A—the Parasounds vividly conveyed the sweeping and shimmering sound of the orchestra, turning it into an engrossing experience. In part, the Parasounds possess such an enveloping character because of their ability to plumb the depths with satisfying richness and grip. 

To give their ability to stand up to a real high-powered orchestral performance a go, I played an old EMI, Herbert von Karajan conducting the Berlin Philharmonic on Sibelius’ tone poem Finlandia. This one has it all—melodrama, pathos, and grandeur. Right from the outset, the Parasounds delivered the staccato trumpet fanfare with precision and alacrity. No less impressive were the timpani whacks, which were never drowned out by the orchestra, but clearly audible in all their majestic force. There was none of the smearing or congealing or discombobulation of the various sections of the orchestra that you might expect with a lesser amplifier, without the power to keep everything from spiraling out of control. On the contrary, the JC 1+ kept the proceedings firmly in hand right up through the very grand finale, as the orchestra crescendos triumphantly while the tympani delivers a sustained roll—a kind of emphatic period to the overture. Once again, the clear delineation of the tympani even as the orchestra was playing full bore was most impressive.

Another blockbuster was a CD on the Sony label called Oriental Trumpet Concertos that features the Hungarian trumpeter Gabor Boldoczki playing Alexander Arutiunian’s Trumpet Concerto in A-flat major. The Parasounds effectively captured the velvety sound emanating from the bore of Boldoczki’s trumpet, as well as the more nasal quality when he deployed a straight mute for the wonderfully plangent and meditative middle movement. On the cadenza that wraps up matters with a triumphant finish, the trumpet almost sounds as forceful as a machine-gun, as Boldoczki double-tongues the sixteenth notes. The transient dynamism of the amps was consistently apparent on trumpet recordings—it was as though the music were snapping to attention, like a soldier crisply saluting a flag.

As noted, the spaciousness and power of the sound has a lot to do with the bass control of these amplifiers. On a very fine recording by Stephen Hough of the final piano pieces of Brahms [Hyperion], the rumbling of the piano in the subterranean regions was quite palpable. On both the Fantasias and Intermezzos, both the delicacy and lingering quality of Hough’s touch were discernible as his left hand traveled down the keyboard. I’ve rarely heard such fidelity and accuracy in the bass as I did with the Parasounds. The PS Audio M1200, an amplifier based around a tubed input and switching output stage, may have gone even deeper, but I don’t think it boasted the same grip, or, to put it another way, the same variety of timbres. 

I heard something similar in terms of bass fidelity on an oldie but goodie, the Concord label album called “Don’t Forget the Blues,” which sounded unforgettable. On the song “Rocks In My Bed,” Ray Brown’s bass was tautly defined, moaning and groaning as he accompanied the superb trombonist Al Grey, a master of the wah-wah mute, if there ever was one. If the sound of Brown’s bass line were a rubber band and any tauter, it would have snapped in two. 

How did the Parasounds perform on more delicate fare? You’ll get few quibbles from me, friends. There were moments when I was simply startled by the finesse that they offered. On Louis Bellson’s album Thunderbird, for example, I was smitten by the rendition of the Neal Hefti standard “Softly With Feeling.” The Parasounds were able to provide the hushed backing of the winds with total control, endowing the song with a sense of realism that it would otherwise have lacked. This was one of those times when this LP on the Impulse! label really sounded opened up rather than claustrophobic. I mean talk about pristine. Suffice it to say, that the Parasounds conveyed, or appeared to convey, just about every last little nuance the cartridge excavated from the black grooves.

But even on the delicate passages, the sound was never wispy. Take the magnificent album Festival of Trumpets [Nonesuch]. It was mastered in 1974 by Bob Ludwig and features the New York Trumpet Ensemble, directed by Gerard Schwarz. I was riveted, among other things, by a lovely Sonatina by the baroque composer Johann Christoph Pezel, who himself  played trumpet and violin. The gossamer-like trumpet playing of Schwarz and Louis Ranger sounded very enticing, but it was the accompaniment of the bassoon and harpsichord that really caught my ear. It’s easy for them to get lost in the mix. But here it was easy to hear the pleasingly sonorous sound of the bassoon as it puffed along, as well as the soft and deliberate plucks of the harpsichord. If I had to pick a nit, it would be in the treble. It’s not that the sound ever became hard or dirty—the Parasound always has a rich, warm, inviting sound on top—rather, the amp could sometimes be less slightly transparent and pellucid on top than some of its far-pricier brethren.

The JC 1+ shows just how far amplifiers have come in the past several decades. Always a stalwart, it has been vastly improved in its latest incarnation. Both consummately reliable and stellar in performance in my listening room, it offers a beautifully refined, flowing, and organic presentation of music. It is clearly voiced on the sumptuous and warm side, which is to say it has the breath of musical life. I could listen to it for hours and hours, and did. 

No doubt you can spend a lot more money on amplifiers ranging from $50,000 and up, and I’d be the last to dissuade anyone from chasing audio rainbows as vigorously as they please. The gains will be there in tonality, dynamics, and filigree of detail, particularly in the treble. But the JC 1+ monoblocks come so darned close to the best, in so many categories, that for more than a few listeners it may seem an otiose pursuit to look elsewhere. Parasound and John Curl deserve a rousing round of applause for producing a real-world-priced amplifier that delivers otherworldly sound.

Specs & Pricing

Type: Monoblock solid-state power amplifier
Power output: 450 watts @ 8 ohms; 850 watts @ 4 ohms; 1300 watts @ 2 ohms
Class A power output: 25W, bias switch set to high; 10W, bias switch set to low
Frequency response: 2Hz–120kHz, +0/-2dB; 20Hz–20kHz, +0/-0.25dB
Total harmonic distortion (THD): <0.15 % at full power; <0.02 % at typical listening levels
IM distortion: <0.03 %
Damping factor: >1200 at 20Hz
Input impedance: Unbalanced, 50k ohm; balanced, 100k ohm (50k ohm per leg)
S/N ratio, inputs shorted: >122dB, IHF A-weighted, bias set to Low; >120dB, IHF A-weighted, bias set to High; >113dB, unweighted, bias set to Low; >111dB, unweighted, bias set to High
Dimensions: 17½” x 7¾” x 20″
Net weight: 83 lbs.
Price: $8495 each

PARASOUND PRODUCTS, INC.
2250 McKinnon Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94124
parasound.com

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Original Resource is Articles – The Absolute Sound

Parasound Halo P 6 2.1 Channel Preamplifier and DAC | REVIEW

Parasound has been an audio name for quite a while. They were well-established way back during my audiophile indoctrination in the late ’80s. While they still have the classic line, now called New Classic, they have since introduced the Z Custom, Zone Master and Halo product lines, with Halo being their flagship products. I was fortunate enough to receive the Parasound Halo P 6 2.1 Channel Preamplifier and DAC, and the JC 5 Stereo Power Amplifier. I just finished reviewing the JC 5 Stereo Power Amplifier, which you can read here. The Halo series comes with either a silver or black finish–I received the former. I think the appearance is a step up from a standard flat faceplate and looks elegant without getting too fancy. There is optional hardware for rack mounting (model HRA) in a pro audio or home theater rack. In the box you get the Parasound Halo P 6 2.1 Channel Preamplifier and DAC, a remote control, a USB cable and a 12V trigger cable. According to Parasound’s website, several movie and music companies use Parasound in their systems, hence the rack mount options. Parasound Halo P 6: the Proverbial Multi-Tool I have to admit that the [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Parasound Halo JC 5 Power Amplifier | REVIEW

Though I received the Parasound Halo JC 5 Stereo Power Amplifier, designed by John Curl, along with the Parasound P 6 2.1 Channel Halo Preamplifier and DAC, I felt that each product was different enough that they warranted independent reviews. I’ll get into why I felt that way below, but first let’s dive into this refined beast of a power amp. John Curl has worked as Parasound’s premier designer since 1989. Before that he designed and built a variety of kit for the likes of The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Mark Levinson, Wilson Audio, and Mobile Fidelity. Mr. Curl has the audio pedigree to produce something special and the creativity and knowledge to implement an interesting design that I have never seen before in another amplifier. Under the Hood Parasound has an informative in-depth brochure where you can look under the hood of this Halo JC 5 Stereo Power Amplifier. I’ve never seen an amplifier use JFETs, MOSFETs, and bi-polar transistors all in one chassis. Everything about this 400W into 8Ω and 600W into 4Ω with 12W of pure Class A transitioning into Class AB oozes thoughtfulness and attention to detail. Stability into 1.5Ω ensures that the Halo JC 5 [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Sonus faber Maxima Amator Loudspeakers | REVIEW

The Sonus faber Maxima Amator loudspeakers (website) have taken me by surprise. I was so zeroed-in and focused on the idea of the perfect two-way bookshelf monitor, a longtime passion of mine, and now I have this feeling that someone with an Italian accent is leaning close to me, whispering in my ear: “Have you thought about a nice two-way tower? Maybe that’s what you’ve been searching for all this time.” It’s an interesting argument—while the floor-standing approach may introduce a couple of problems since it’s less of a point source design and its increased size and mass might create an obstacle when it comes to the “disappearing act,” I’m sure to enjoy a loudspeaker that reaches further into the lowest frequencies than your average shoebox monitor. I’ve also been dialing in one of the largest listening rooms I’ve ever had at home. I’m allowing some big speakers and big amplifiers to crash at my pad over the next few months, so I’m about to get a crash course in perspective. To tell you the truth, I was also getting tired of dealing with stands. I have a pair of 24” stands and a pair of 28” stands, but they [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile

Parasound Halo JC 3+ Phono Preamplifier | REVIEW

Is the Parasound Halo JC 3+ phono preamplifier (website) a modern incarnation of the Vendetta Research? Before you answer that, have you ever heard John Curl’s original Vendetta Research phono preamplifier? I have, maybe about a dozen years ago when I was writing some sort of column about “old school” amplification. The Vendetta Research was a revolutionary product, one where the importance of the phono stage was instantly elevated into a component that could make a big difference in the sound, leading many audiophiles—including me—to wonder, “Do I need this? Have I been missing out?” That Vendetta phono pre was sort of plain in a way, with its slim and relatively unadorned rack-mount chassis that inspired me to call phono preamplifiers “little black boxes” in my columns for many years. (My first outboard phono stage, from LFD, was also a mystery box—there wasn’t even a logo or a model designation on the front panel.) That Vendetta Research, however, impressed the heck out of me. It was transparent and natural, and a nearly perfect match with my J.A. Michell Orbe SE, SME V and Koetsu Rosewood Standard that I had at the time. This was one throwback article where the product [...]

Original Resource is Part-Time Audiophile