Power Amplifiers

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multi-Channel Power Amplifier

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Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

I set aside an afternoon for some serious music evaluation with this amplifier in my system. With multichannel amplifiers I like to use multichannel music and my favorite example is the 30th anniversary edition Dark Side of The Moon SACD. Here I am listening for dynamic range and clarity while playing loud. This album wants to be played loud and with its serious use of the surround channels really puts a strain on the amplifier section. Many amplifiers (especially those found inside AVR's) can output decent power into two channels, but when pressed to do all five at once they often cannot keep up. Such is the downside to the internal amplifiers in my Denon 4308 AVR. At very loud volumes with this disc there is a decrease in dynamic range (almost an audible squashing of the sound) when pressed hard. No such issue with the Parasound. I was able to get very loud with no clarity issues and no audible compression of dynamics.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

But that is with an superb audiophile-worthy SACD mix. How does it do with something grittier, such as the 2001 Tool release, Lateralus on HDCD? This disc has long been my go-to disc for testing a components ability to resolve fine detail buried with the mess of distorted guitars, heavy drum sequences and serious bass lines. The Parasound proved more than able to do this album justice. While there is not one bad track on the album, I choose to focus on the title track Lateralus. This song begins with a mellow guitar riff, the drums slowly building the intensity leading into the core of the song. Once Maynard begins his vocals everything but the drums disappear, slowly coming back to build up the tempo and emotion. I was able to increase the volume to a higher level than with my AVR without audible compression and the instruments kept the space, never becoming buried in the mix.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

New to my demo discs is the 2011 release from Devotchka, 100 Lovers. The latest album from the Denver based 4 piece multi-instrumental genre-defying band quickly became an addition to my usual test arsenal. This band's sound is romantic, exotic and captivating all at the same time. They fuse many different instruments together to create a sound that is unmatched in today's American folk/punk bands. After seeing them live in Vancouver this past March I was compelled to add them to my regular evaluation line-up.

The track Contrabanda starts with a trumpet panned hard right, moving into the center with the drums, stand-up bass and accordion following the lead. Nick Urata's hauntingly beautiful vocals come in dead center and drives the emotion of the song. As with the Tool album, I listened for the separation of instruments and detail, although this one is not burned with distortion and after effects. Instead there is a broad range of different instruments to reproduce and the Parasound did not disappoint. The resolving nature of this amp did this song justice and every level I played it back, including low listening levels, something that is sorely missing from my current AVR.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

Now on to the crash and bang fun found within Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes adaption, and more specifically the shipyard fight scene. This scene really taxes the amplifier section as every channel gets a work-out. The dynamic range was slightly compressed at reference levels, with the speech sounding slightly boosted, yet not as noticeable and detrimental as with my Denon 4308 AVR. This issue was not prevalent with the previous amplifier I had (Bryston 9BSST).

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

One of my wife's favorite movies is the visually engrossing Pans Labyrinth. While I have long enjoyed its DTS-HD audio, I never paid too much attention to the quality of the audio, so this time I really listened, and glad I did. Great use of surrounds there are lots of ambient noises, insects buzzing around, wind blowing, trees creaking all combined with a beautiful soundtrack. This disc provides plenty of dramatic impact and dynamic swings. With the Parasound powering my speakers I was engrossed in the world presented by Guillermo del Torro. The difference a power amplifier can make over your standard AVR was evident with this disc. And now this movie has been added to my reference list.

Comparison

The 5250v.2 is being marketed as an upgrade to your receivers amplifier section. So to compare I played back some samples of music and movie chapters, comparing the sound to the Denon's internal amps and the Parasound. It should be noted that the Denon is capable of handling the difficult load presented by my Electrostatic speakers and powers them to adequately loud levels, something that many receivers are not capable of. What the Parasound improved upon was in both low-volume listening and high-volume listening. The Denon sounds thin and light at low volumes, while at high volumes it gets a tad muddy and compressed. The Parasound was flawless throughout the volume band, with no audible compression or distortion at excessive volume levels. I did note the Parasound ran cooler than the Denon even with the Denon not powering any speakers.

Compared to the most recent amplifier in my system, a Bryston 9BSST2 (5 x 200w @ 4 0hms) the 5250v.2 was just as revealing and clean, with a slightly softer mid-range presentation. Overall the sound quality from both amps was fantastic, with no noticeable faults with either. I could easily live with either amp in my system. It should be noted that the Bryston retails for more than twice as much and is rated for less power per channel, however it comes with a 20 year transferable warranty, compared to the Parasound's 3 year non-transferable warranty.