Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier/DAC
The arrival of Parasound’s new ‘Halo’ integrated amplifier/DAC came as something as a surprise to this reviewer, because Parasound has not built an integrated amplifier since 1986. This doesn’t mean that founder Richard Schram and designer John Curl have been sitting around doing nothing for thirty years. What happened is that after that first integrated amplifier, the two decided to instead specialise in building separate preamplifiers and power amplifiers… which they’ve done with resounding success, winning dozens of awards and literally hundreds of rave reviews over the decades. Maybe the reason they decided to build the Halo is that it’s not ‘just’ an integrated amplifier.
This new Parasound amp has an on board digital-to-analogue converter, as well as a subwoofer output with its own variable low-pass crossover network, and a built-in electronic crossover that can be used to tailor the signal at the Halo’s own speaker terminals as well as those at the ‘pre-out’ terminals on the rear panel. It also has home theatre bypass circuitry. Plus it has a high-quality headphone amplifier. So while it’s certainly a two-channel integrated amplifier, it’s one that offers much, much more than you’d expect.
Parasound’s Halo is certainly full-featured. On the analogue side, there are five line-level analogue inputs, four of which are unbalanced (RCA terminals) and one of which can either be balanced (XLR terminals) or unbalanced (RCA terminals)—but not both at the same time… you can only connect one or the other—plus there’s a phono input that handles both moving-coil (MC) and moving- magnet (MM) cartridges—with selectable load (100Ω or 47kΩ) for the moving-coil option. Additionally, there’s a front-panel 3.5mm input so you can connect your phone or portable player. On the digital side, there are optical (Toslink), coaxial (RCA) and USB (Type B) inputs. The digital inputs route to a 32-bit/384kHz Sabre32 Reference DAC (ES9018K2M). Via optical and coax this DAC can handle PCM 16-bit and 32-bit words at sampling rates of up to 192kHz. Via the USB input it can handle up to 32-bit/384kHz PCM as well as DSD and DoP. Apple users can just plug ‘n play, but Windows users will need to download the free USB driver from Parasound’s website: www.parasound.com.
The Halo also has a home theatre bypass output that outputs the left-channel, right-channel and subwoofer signals without any processing or volume adjustment, plus there’s also a pair of fixed-level Record Outputs, so you could send analogue audio to a recorder of some kind. The front panel continues a cosmetic theme that has been a constant at Parasound for many years now. The slightly outwardly- curved front panel has a shallow groove running along the bottom that houses most of the tell-tale LED indicators and, in this case, the Power on/off and Mute buttons as well. Also carried over is the symmetrical control layout, though in this case Schram has not achieved perfect symmetry, with four controls at the right of the panel (the input selector, subwoofer level control, balance control and volume control) and only two at the left (bass and treble tone controls). Despite this, a degree of symmetry is achieved because the left side of the panel is also home to the tone control circuit’s on/off button, an infra-red receiver window, a 3.5mm auxiliary input and a 3.5mm headphone output… both of the latter being gold-plated.
For the full review & test visit: http://www.avhub.com.au/product-reviews/hi-fi/parasound-halo-amplifier-review-test-438388