Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier

PARASOUND HALO INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER

 

OVERVIEW:

According to Parasound, the integrated amplifier project began back in 2011 when they set out to re-imagine what a modern integrated amplifier should be, and using their 34 years of experience to craft a killer, bang-for-the-buck product. The goal was an integrated that would be the sonic equal of their Halo separates. Their heralded P5 preamplifier was the basis for the preamp stage with the output section employing the John Curl-designed topology found in the A23 and A21 power amplifiers. In addition, the full-featured Halo Integrated employs the latest ESS Sabre 32 Reference DAC for decoding PCM up to 384kHz and native DSD.

 

The list of features found on the Halo Integrated is seemingly endless, but a few of the high points include: Five unbalanced analog inputs, one balanced analog input, both balanced and single ended main outputs, a MM/MC phono input, USB, Coax and Optical digital inputs, home theater bypass, stereo subwoofer outputs with adjustable crossover and main preamp outputs with adjustable crossover. The massive power supply is a dual mono design employing a huge shielded toriod power transformer and 40,000mF filter capacitance. The John Curl designed output stage features a matched JFET and MOSFET driver stage utilizing 12 high voltage/high current bipolar output devices in a high bias A/AB configuration. The result is 160 watts per channel at 8 Ohms and 240 per side at 4 Ohms; enough to drive most any speaker with ease.

Okay, so now guess the price. WRONG! It’s $2495… no misprint, just $2.5k!

LISTENING IMPRESSIONS:

Right out of the box this unit was impressive, both physically and sonically speaking. Lift the unit and you'll know there's a seriously big transformer inside. Parasound certainly didn't skimp on the power supply! Wanting to hear as much of the Parasound's character as possible, we connected an Aurender X100 music server to the Parasound's internal DAC using a Wireworld Platinum USB cable. Speakers were Spendor A6 connected via Shunyata ZiTron Python speaker cables. Even before break-in was complete, we began to realize the qualities that would fully develop as the process continued. First noticed was the units' very refined presentation (a somewhat unexpected surprise for a product in this price category). The very low grain structure made listening very enjoyable, even on less than stellar recordings. This wasn't perceived as a deliberate softening or induced roll off to make aggressive recordings more palatable, rather it was the ability mostly found in far more expensive gear that is capable of presenting detail without being overly analytical. Some of this I think may be attributed to the ESS Sabre DAC, which is a characteristic I've heard in other products employing this chip set. But clearly the amplification chain, from the DAC output onward, had to be equally capable to preserver this quality, and it surely did.

There was power aplenty. And though the Spendor's are not at all a difficult load, one could certainly appreciate the "macro capabilities" of this amplifier when dynamics or strict control of demanding bass was required. The 160 watts per channel at 8 Ohms should be enough to drive most any speaker that would be mated to an amplifier in this price range. I will be interested to see if it drives Maggie's, as Parasound's A21 stereo power amp has become a favorite among owner of those outstanding planars. I'm thinking it would be a really sweet compliment to any of the midrange models from Magnepan.

Features? Oh my word, this thing is loaded! I can just imagine the fun someone with an extensive or complex system would have exploring all the possibilities! We've just tested the basic functions so far, but have been extremely impressed with everything we've heard. Parasound has indeed created yet another outstanding product of incomparable value. Kudos guys!

 


Parasound Integrated Amplifier


See page two for Reviews -

REVIEWS:
 

  SoundStage! Access - "In the Halo Integrated, Parasound has succeeded in creating the ultimate affordable DAC-integrated amplifier. It has a raft of analog and digital inputs, built-in bass management, fully featured moving-magnet and moving-coil phono stages, a discrete headphone amplifier, and defeatable tone controls -- a feature set that, all by itself, makes Richard Schram’s Hint unique among its peers. And when you include a sound of ruler-flat neutrality, top-to-bottom linearity, and a gorgeous midrange, it becomes peerless. There is no better DAC-integrated on the market for $2495 or less." Hans Wetzel, SoundStage! Access -  Full Review


The Absolute Sound - "I suspect that many audiophiles who never anticipated wanting or needing an integrated amplifier may find, someday, that they do need a compact yet powerful one. If that is the case, they may find that the Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1 amplifier is the high-value solution. For $2495 it includes a powerful basic amplifier coupled to an excellent preamplifier that includes a built-in analog crossover as well as a DAC that supports all modern formats.

"Combine the Halo Integrated with a comparable set of speakers, such as the wonderful Audience 1+1, and a good subwoofer like the Velodyne DD10+, and you have the basic building blocks for a glorious-sounding small-room or nearfield system for around $7k. And while I wouldn’t call this an entry-level system, I’d hazard to guess that for many audiophiles, including myself, such a mid-priced system can deliver a high enough level of sonic excellence to make for a joyous listening experience for many years to come." - Steven Stone, The Absolute Sound - Full Review


Enjoy The Music - "So as I said I wanted the Parasound Halo Integrated to shine, and I got what I wanted. It concentrates on sound quality while including home theater pass-through, subwoofer output, bass management, high resolution digital inputs, a decent phono input stage, quality headphone output and tone controls in a conservatively styled package. When you take a look at what Parasound is asking for this component, just $2495 in black or silver finish, you may well be as impressed as I am. I'm going to miss it around here." - Phil Gold, Enjoy The Music - Full Review
Enjoy The Music - Best of 2016 Award Winner


Home Theater Review - "As I said in the intro, I (reasonably, I think) expected Parasound's Halo Integrated 2.1-channel amplifier to perform pretty much identically to its P 5 preamp mated with one of its own amplifiers...and I would have been quite happy with it had it done so. In practice, though, the Halo Integrated is so much more than the sum of its parts with a few extra bits thrown in. Its performance blew me away, and its incredible bass-management capabilities make it stand apart in what is slowly but surely becoming a crowded integrated amplifier market." - Dennis Burger, Home Theater Review - Full Review


Stereophile - "After lots of listening, I realized that it has a recognizable sonic personality: easy flowing, mostly smooth, and decidedly mellow. I imagine a big part of this perceived mellowness might be a result of John Curl's disdain for odd-order distortion. But don't worry—it's not milquetoast mellow or unwashed-hippy-stoner mellow. It is, instead, an everything's-under-control, don't-worry-now mellow. The Halo played tunes and sang songs as if they mattered. It stuck close to the facts. It was never boring. It frequently enhanced my feelings of devotion and mindfulness.

"I believe that J. Gordon Holt would characterize the Parasound Halo Integrated as neutral and accurate. Why? Because, with certain extra-vivid recordings, I perceived the Halo as tracking the input signal pretty close to the feeling of master tape. Likewise, it was neutral, in that well-considered, just-right Goldilocks way: It was never too anything—except, maybe, too inexpensive!" - Herb Reichert, Stereophile - Full Review



Parasound Halo Integrated


See page three for specifications -


PREAMP & DAC FEATURES:

        • Latest generation ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC (ES9018K2M)
        • Asynchronous USB 2.0 supports PCM up to 384kHz/32-bit
        • USB input decodes Native DSD64, DSD128, DSD256 and DoP DSD
        • Windows USB drivers for ASIO & WASAPI - install instructions here
        • Mac OS does not require any drivers
        • Coax and optical accept PCM up to 192kHz/24-bit
        • Analog bass management with high & low pass crossovers
        • Home theater bypass input for surround sound integration
        • Front panel subwoofer level control
        • Dedicated high current headphone amplifier (TI TPA6120)
        • Phono for MM & MC with 100 Ω or 47k Ω load
        • Front panel Aux input with automatic +12 dB gain stage
        • 5 pairs RCA line level Analog inputs
        • 1 pair XLR balanced Analog input
        • Balanced XLR and RCA left and right preamp outputs
        • 1 balanced XLR and 2 RCA subwoofer outputs
        • Bass & treble controls with relay bypass from remote or front panel
        • Rear panel IR input and IR loop output jacks
        • 12 Volt input and output to triggers
        • Back-lit remote control with discrete buttons
        • 0.5w standby power consumption meets Energy Star & EU specs

 

POWER AMP FEATURES:


        • 160 Watts x 2 @ 8 Ohms (RMS, both channels driven)
        • 240 Watts x 2 @ 4 Ohms (RMS, both channels driven)
        • Power amp circuit topology designed by legendary John Curl
        • Direct amplifier input to bypass preamp section
        • High bias class A/AB operation
        • Oversized shielded toroid power transformer
        • Dual-mono power supply and power amplifier
        • 40,000uF power supply filter capacitance
        • Matched JFET input stages and MOSFET driver stages
        • 12 high voltage/high current bipolar output transistors
        • Heavy-duty 24k gold-plated 5-way speaker binding posts
        • Over temp and short circuit relay protection

 

SPECIFICATIONS:
 

Power Output - Both channels driven
   (0.05% THD, RMS, 20 Hz - 20 kHz)
   160 watts x 2 @ 8 Ω
   240 watts x 2 @ 4 Ω
Power Output - Both channels driven
   (0.9% THD, RMS, 20 Hz - 20 kHz)
   180 watts x 2 @ 8 Ω
   270 watts x 2 @ 4 Ω
Current Capacity -
   45 amps peak per channel
Frequency Response -
   10 Hz - 100 kHz, +0/-3 dB
Total Harmonic Distortion (THD) -
   < 0.01 %, average listening levels
   < 0.05 %, 160 watts x 2 @ 8 Ω
Interchannel Crosstalk -
   > 50 dB at 20 kHz
   > 70 dB at 1 kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio - IHF A-weighted
   Line in: - 103 dB (input shorted)
   Digital in: - 106 dB
Amplifier Damping Factor -
    > 800 at 20 Hz
Preamp Stage Input Sensitivity -
   300 mV in for 1 V at Pre Out jacks
   Total Preamp Stage Gain: 10 dB
   Max Output Unbalanced: 7 V
   Max Output Balanced: 9 V
Power Amplifier Stage Sensitivity -
   1 V at Bypass/Amp In for 28 V at Speaker Out
   Total Amp Stage Gain: 28 dB
Phono Stage Sensitivity / Input Impedance -
   MM: 35 dB / 47 k Ω
   MC: 52 dB / 47 k Ω or 100 Ω
High & Low Pass Crossover Slopes -
    12 dB per octave
Supported DAC Sampling Rates -
    USB: up to 384 kHz / 32-bit PCM
       DSD Native: DSD 64, DSD 128, DSD 256
       DSD over PCM (DoP) at 384 kHz
    Coax/Opt: up to 192 kHz / 24-bit PCM
Digital to Analog Converter -
    ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M
    384 kHz / 32-bit
USB 2.0 Controller -
    VIA VT1731, 384 kHz / 32-bit
Headphone Amplifier -
    Texas Instruments TPA6120A
    Output Impedance 10 ohms
XLR Pin Identification -
   1 = Ground (Shield)
   2 = Positive
   3 = Negative (Return)
Input Impedance -
   Unbalanced: 24 k Ω
   Balanced: 100 k Ω per leg
Output Impedance -
   Unbalanced: 100 Ω
   Balanced: 470 Ω per leg
Dimensions -
   Width: 17-1/4" (437 mm)
   Depth: 16-1/4" (413 mm)
   Depth, with cables 17-1/4" (437 mm)
   Height, with feet: 5-7/8" (150 mm)
   Height, without feet: 5-1/4" (133 mm), 3U
Net Weight -
   33 lb. (15 kg)
Shipping Weight
   45 lb. (20.4 kg)
Power Requirement -
   Standby: 0.5 watts
   Idling power: 70 watts
   Maximum: 750 watts
   110-125 VAC 60 Hz or 220-250 VAC 50 Hz
       AC mains voltage is set on rear