Power Amplifiers

Parasound Halo A 31 Three-Channel Power Amplifier

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The Parasound Halo A 31 Power Amplifier In Use

Ideally an amplifier should reach out and grab your speakers tight, exerting full control over them at all times. A well-designed amplifier should perform like the most ideal car, able to start and stop instantly, take a 90-degree turn without slowing down, and be able to keep the accelerator pressed to the floor without worrying about damaging the engine.

From the time I plugged it in until I wrote this review, the A 31 grabbed my speakers by their throat and never let go. Listening to all my favorite music cuts and films, the A 31 never hiccups or backs off, and even driven to the limits that I could provide the case was never hot to the touch. On the SACD version of Wish You Were Herethe front soundstage was huge and dynamic, with guitars coming across clear and natural, with smaller details remaining clear and not obscured. Bass notes were clear, fast, and tight, as the A 31 never lost control and allowed the bass to turn muddy and fat.

On Simon and Garfunkel’s iconic Bridge Over Troubled Water, the soundstage thrown by the A 31 was very wide and deep, more so than the Emotiva could manage. The location of the instruments and vocals were precise, and their vocal harmonies sound fantastic. Melodies were smooth and clear and the treble isn’t fatiguing at all, but a pleasure to listen to.

The Mobile Fidelity version of Sea Change from Beck continues to be my reference CD recording, with clarity and detail I find unsurpassed. Though the A 31 the heartache of his voice was palpable, with words lingering on his tongue and in the air. Accompanying instruments effortlessly floated in the air around his voice, which anchored between the speakers but well behind them. Delicate acoustical instruments sound crisp and clear, with each note distinct and clean. The power of the A 31 might be overkill for a laid back album like this, but it certainly hasn’t sounded much better. The A 31 amplified everything in the music: backgrounds were blacker, instruments had more space around them and notes were better defined. It took the quality I had and stepped it up another notch.

To make sure the A 31 could keep up with whatever I gave it, I went back to “One”, from Metallica’s …and Justice for All album. The rapid-fire drums in the middle of the track have always proven to be a challenge at loud volumes, demanding a continuous attack and release by the amplifier to keep up with the accompanying guitar. With both pairs of speakers I had on hand, I didn’t hear the bass get muddy, or had a timing disconnect develop between the bass and the guitars.

Films proved to be no challenge for the A 31 either. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds sounded wonderful on stage, while the mid-air crash in Fight Club attacked me from the front speakers with reckless abandon.Even Nine Inch Nails didn’t cause the A 31 to blink as the industrial riffs from Trent Reznor blared from the speakers. With all material I pulled out, the A 31 performed wonderfully and didn’t leave me missing anything. I refrain from