October 22, 2011

Power with Finesse – Parasound Halo JC1 Monoblock Amplifiers

The Parasound JC1 is one big monoblock amplifier, in bulk, in weight and in power. Coming in at 29kg (64lbs) a piece, you need to have a sturdy rack to house it, or, sans which, you just have to let it sit on the floor, like me. Its power rating is 300w into 8ohm; 800w into 4ohm; and, get this, it is even rated down to 2 ohm with a whopping 1200w on tap. Peak current delivery is 135A. With specifications like this, it will remain unfazed by any real world speaker load, I believe.

Indeed, when partnered with my EgglestonWorks The Nine loudspeakers, any CD and any music was a walk in the park for the Parasound Halo JC1. I played Charly Antolini’s drum opus “Crash” to room shaking, chest thumping, ear splitting level. It was exciting! On the track ‘Co-pilot’, the snare drum was tightly focused between the loudspeakers, the sound and transient was fast and impactful, hitting like a relentless jackhammer and yet everything was well defined and well controlled at the same time. On the other more complex tracks, all the instruments – percussion, drum, electric bass were clearly delineated, rhythm and speed were very good. The entire performance was also presented coherently. Nothing ever got into mush. The JC1 held the woofer cone on the loudspeakers with a tight grip, starting and stopping with precision.

Another CD that allowed the Parasound Helo JC1 to strut its stuff was Nils Lofgren‘s ‘Acoustic Live’ album. It was recorded with a live audience. The JC1 conjured a huge soundstage at the front of my room, and gave a good sense of the audience surrounding the performance as indicated by their applause and their shouts of excitement at the beginning, mid and end of each track, ambient cues were also aplenty. My favourite from this album was ‘Keith don’t go’, the acoustic guitar’s low notes sounded weighty yet agile, the high notes were just slightly sweet and had an airy quality to them. When Lofgren got into his guitar pyrotechnics, the JC1’s speed and cleanness made a good account of itself. It was an exciting and exhilarating listening experience.

Having confirmed that the Parasound Halo JC1 could make an excellent account of itself at speed, dynamics and detail retrieval, I turned to something more introspect and refined – female vocal. Both my reference CDs – a Stacy Kent Compilation and the 2V1G first album came through with flying colours, proving that the Parasound Halo JC1 had the requisite delicacy to handle the human voice. The JC1’s mids and highs had finesse, it could deliver female vocals with naturalness and sweetness.

There are a few small toggle switches on the back panel, used to control bias level, use of the rca or the xlr input and, more unusually, to lift the ground connection

The Parasound Halo JC1 had none of the negative qualities associated with solid state. Its treble region never sounded brittle or too sharp. In fact, it was silvery smooth. The amplifier also never sounded aggressive, coarse or mechanical, qualities that could afflict some high powered amplifiers. Extension and airiness were very good. I never got listening fatigue playing the JC1 for long hours.

The JC1 had its foot firmly planted in the solid state camp. My similarly priced full Class A Pass Labs XA-60 monoblocks has a sound that kind of stood in-between solid state and tube, being warmish and organic. The JC1 compared to the XA was a little less colourful, but it gave an impression of sounding more accurate in its presentation. The sound was not lean, just a little less rounded. What it had in greater measure was focus and control.

The Halo JC1 has a bias switch, the ‘low’ setting gives out 10w of class A power, whereas the ‘high’ setting gives out 25w. After a short comparison, I found that I preferred the ‘high’ setting unsurprisingly, though it was less environmentally friendly since more electricity was thrown away as heat. At the ‘high’ setting, the JC1 sounded more at ease, the music flowed better. The sound approached that of a class A amplifier, yet its quality in terms of power, dynamic swing and control were not diminished one bit.

No audiophile will complain about having too much power. Especially when the power was delivered without compromise to other qualities that we also hold dear – delicacy, refinement, details etc.. Having huge power reserve on tap also gave some peace of mind. With the Parasound Halo JC1 I did not have to worry about what kind of music I wanted to play and how loud I wanted to play it.

The Parasound Halo JC1 is listed for RM39,000/pair. If you are looking for a powerful amplifier that can drive any loudspeaker, with lifelike dynamics yet remaining composed and never go coarse, check the JC1 out.

The Parasound Halo JC1 epitomizes the best of today’s solid state.

Parasound is carried by Centre Circle Audio. Call 03-77282686 for an audition.

1 comment:

Elizabeth J. Neal said...

Its power rating is 300w into 8ohm; 800w into 4ohm; and, get this, it is even rated down to 2 ohm with a whopping 1200w on tap. Peak current delivery is 135A. With specifications like this, it will remain unfazed by any real world speaker load, I believe. Home Electronics