Parasound Halo P5 Preamp Mini-Review

Discussion in 'Preamps' started by purr1n, Jan 23, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Parasound Halo P5 Preamp Mini-Review

    See here for associated articles:

    1. Parasound A23 Amplifier Review: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.or...asound-halo-a23-stereo-amplifier-review.3745/
    2. Schiit Freya Preamplifier Review: http://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/schiit-freya-preamp-review-episodic.3725/

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    Going to make things succinct because life is too short. The Halo P5 has a bunch of features. There is a built-in DAC with USB/Coax/Toslink inputs and a built-in MM/MC phonostage section. I am going to assume that these pieces are gimped compared to separates, so I will not bother; but please tell me if anyof you guys are interested.

    The Halo P5 has five unbalanced inputs and one balanced input. The balanced input shares the switch number 5 position. There a fixed output and HT bypass (max volume) inputs for 2.1 of the 5.1 channels.

    The remote (not pictured) is very nice and lets us control volume and input. Inputs can easily be switched on the front panel with a knob. There are also bass and treble tone controls. The tone controls are a nice touch and I wished more gear would have them. A "tone" button allows bypass of the bass and treble adjustments. There are also balance and subwoofer volume knobs.

    The P5 provides for a line-level subwoofer crossover with a wide latitude of crossover frequencies ranging from 20 to 140Hz. They low-pass and high-pass sections are separate and can be independently adjusted. Personally, for music (not HT), I prefer to run amplifier speaker outs into subwoofer speaker level inputs. Music (as opposed to music) is more demanding of coherent seamless audio reproduction between the subwoofer and mains. Running speaker level signals from the amplifier into the subwoofer will make sure any coloration or distortions from the main speaker amp will also be carried forth to the subwoofer amp. It actually sounds better, more integrated this way. If you don't believe me, try it out yourself, at least for music. One feature that seems handy is the high-pass for the mains. This sure beats putting a large cap, or a cap / coil, in front of the mains.

    So let's get down to it. There are no tubes on this thing, so my expectations are that the P5 pass the signal from the source to the amplifier as transparently as possible , or perhaps with a modicum of euphonic coloration while not committing significant errors of omission. The Schiit Freya's JFET buffer will be used as the reference. It's a circuit that I consider fairly transparent.

    Compared to the Schiit Freya's JFET buffer, the Halo P5 exhibits these characteristics:

    1. Flatter sound, less microdynamics, less lively, less microdetail
    2. Slightly veiled, lacks clarity and space around individual voices and instruments
    3. Flatter soundstage, less layering, front to back depth, and ambient information
    4. A tiny bit rubbery in the bass (not significant, nitpick)
    My conclusion is that the Parasound P5 is OK. The component is not utterly incompetent like the A23 amplifier. My recommendation is that this preamp only be used for non-demanding applications such as home threatre. You guys getting into two-channel audio in a serious way should avoid and get something more transparent sounding. In the meantime, I will solicit the ears of the non-audiophile ears in the family and report back.

    Associated gear:

    Schiit Freya Preamp
    Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC
    Marantz CD5004 CDP (modified for use purely as a transport)
    Fostex FE108 Sigma in BK-16 BLH Enclosure
    Fostex T90A Supertweeters
    Crest CA2 Power Amp

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    Last edited: Jan 23, 2017
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Anybody interested in this for the loaner program?
     
  3. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    The silence is deafening.
     
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  4. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    hm. can we review social media to see if JA claimed this was obsolete also?
    :D
     
  5. OJneg

    OJneg The Most Insufferable

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    Quick loopback measurements might prove interesting...
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    Back to the non-audiophile session. The differences this time around are closer than that of the Crest CA2 and Parasound Halo 23 amplifier comparison. My wife and son required more back and forth. My eight year old son more easily heard the differences. For fun, we also tried out the Freya tube stage, which he really liked. My wife preferred the straight up presentation of the JFETs and didn't care for the tube bloom, which she felt got in the way. Over time, during longer listening sessions, the differences started to be more easily discernible to my wife. Initially she felt the Halo P5 was good, and the Freya JFET better, but over time (more relaxed listening) she realized what the P5 was missing a lot.

    In summary, to the rest of the family, the shortcomings of the P5 (compared to Freya) to the family were with the missing ambient cues, followed by the decreased ability to discern individual instruments or vocalists on the stage, and then the subtle inflections with voice and instruments - the P5 seemed to reproduce sounds at less range of volumes.

    BTW, I volume matched and did this blind with them as test subjects. Only referring to A and B. And then switching labels around to E and F.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I could run AD conversion through these preamps and provide files for you guys. But honestly, I think it's a waste of time. If you want a nice remote control, attractive chassis with a million features, and shit that turns on instantly without a wait, go Parasound. If you don't mind a remote that looks like an afterthought (but works) and a plain silver chassis, and care mostly about sonics, go Schiit.

    I don't mean to dump on Parasound, but it is what is it. I suppose only the Parasound stuff with Jesus Christ initials sounds good, but I don't want to pay that much and I still refuse to believe that good sound cannot be obtained for reasonable prices. Good individual components should be available below $1200 considering what I knew was available in the 1990s and taking into account inflation.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    I guess the tube circuit of the Freya could be considered obsolete. It would also measure like shit too, at least compared to the solid-state circuits. Depends how many zeros we want to chase.
     
  9. jexby

    jexby Posole Prince

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    I hereby propose that SBAF forever moderate the term "blind A/B" testing, and refer to such experiments as "blind E/F" test methods.

    kudos to your family for taking time out of a busy day to devote ears to SBAF progress.
     
  10. purr1n

    purr1n Super Friend

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    My wife is happy we have a system that isn't DIY or a work in progress and that she can turn on with a button on the Belkin power conditioner.

    My son enjoys it. He does think the other system with the "spinny" thing sounds betterer. He asked me what tubes were. I told him they were ancient tech that were obsolete and that only special guardians of audio are allowed to possess them.
     
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  11. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    Just wait until you tell him about the internet!

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  12. Big D Design

    Big D Design I've got stereo junk in my trunk.

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    @Marvey. Great review. I liked how you brought in the minions to listen to both the Halo P5 and the Freya. I'm sure the P5 is decent kit, but the Freya is quite the piece for an audiophile. Your review is very refreshing on this day of hard labor for me. Just finished and came to the computer and you put a giant smile on my face. Thanks for that. You are very thorough will your testing, and that's what I like. Kudos.

    PS: I have that Freya thing as well. And put more time into listening to some music with piano, guitar, violin and male and female vocals singing soft songs. The special resistor volume control is worth it's price in gold at low levels. Never before have I heard a stereo match at such low volume levels with such detail still intact. Holy Moly.

    Thanks again Marvey. You are truly a breath of fresh air into my "totally predictable" retired life. Dennis
     
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  13. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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