- Written by Piero Gabucci
- Published on 21 July 2014
The Design of the Parasound Halo P 5 Preamplifier
I have been fortunate to have Parasound gear in my reference system for many years, including the Parasound P 3 and the Parasound Halo A21 Amplifier. In fact I was in the process of reviewing the Thiel CS2.7 Floor-standing Speakers when the P 5 arrived.
As I mentioned, the P 5 does replace the P 3, so expect some comparison as I go along, but for the most part, the P 5 is another animal altogether and more akin to the upscale Halo JC line-up. Solid and well built, let’s get out of the way that its appearance is classic Halo; brushed silver faceplate, (available in black for those that have all black components). Halo saves some money by using metallic plated plastic end caps that remarkably look and feels like metal. Slightly sculptured faceplate with a slope actually is very functional, unless you stand at eye-level with your rack it does make it slightly easier to read. The functional aesthetics continue: while on standby mode, the glowing logo center top not only gets brighter when turned on but a blue glow appears around the on/off button and the input selected glows, easily seen in a darker setting - all nicely placed in a groove along the front panel.
To a P 3 owner the immediate design change is the omitted display which is more than aesthetic or marketing; the LED readout could introduce audio noise and interference, although frankly in all my years with the P 3, I never experienced such noise. The other significant feature P 3 owners would realize is the new volume control. The P 3 has a stepped attenuation that I always felt needed a few more notches in-between. The P 5 has a smooth “motor-driven Alps potentiometer volume control”.
Parasound places tone controls on the front panel and are noticeably active when a blue glow appears around the tone button. A variable gain auxiliary input is also on the front serviced by a 3.5mm jack for portable players. The manual suggests the gain stage will boost the input by 12dB keeping the volume at levels consistent with other components.
Aside from a balance and mute button, on the faceplate is the subwoofer level adjustment knob. I’ll discuss the bass options a bit later but this control offers an adjustment between -10 dB and + 10 dB.
Spinning the unit around, the rear of the P 5 is a control and connection dream. The analog inputs on the P5 include four independent RCA line level jacks and a fifth jack that is shared with balanced XLR jacks, one or the other. It’s not uncommon for most people to separate their two-channel setup from the home theater processor so the P 5 like the P 7 (and optionally on the JC 2), offers a theater bypass. Using line level inputs (only), the P 5 can be placed in-line to act as the preamp for two-channel listening and therefore ignoring the a/v processor’s preamp section and vice versa while watching or listening to surround sound through the pre/pro. Just keeping the P 5 off will automatically engage the bypass mode.
Audio outputs include both balanced and unbalanced for both left/right and for a subwoofer.
The P 5’s phono stage offers two load settings of 47 and 100 ohms for moving-magnet cartridges (MM cartridges)and 47 ohm for moving-coil cartridges ( MC cartridges).
Worth mentioning are the record out jacks and an IR for remote inputs including a loop output daisy-chaining to other components.
Where the P 5 becomes exceptional for me is offering digital inputs integrating a high-resolution 192kHz Burr-Brown DAC. The P 5 has digital inputs for coaxial, Toslink optical with sampling rates to 192 kHz and a USB input with sampling rates up to 96 kHz. Both my desktop PC and my Mac laptop easily found the P 5 as a playback device.
Removing the cover I’m amazed at the air in the chassis, this is a large box for the circuit boards and although they aren’t physically separated, the space between reduces the possible crosstalk or audio noise. But I’m impressed with the neat, clean layout, analog to one side, and digital to the other with the bass management in the middle.
Remote Control (subtitle)
The included remote has been simplified from the one included with the P 3. It’s actually a bit more ergonomic in feel and touch as well. I actually appreciate the simplicity of the remote but rarely use it other than for volume (mute) control. I suppose the other need from your chair would be the tone controls which the P 5 remote allows you to activate. Also, the remote does allow you to select inputs and the bypass feature. I wouldn’t but some might argue the remote doesn’t match the weighty presentation of the P 5 chassis, I couldn’t care less, spend the money in the component.
Bass Management (subtitle)
Felt this deserved its own heading. Parasound refers to the Halo P5 as a 2.1 channel preamplifier meaning it has bass management for two subwoofers. Low pass for subwoofers and high pass for main speaker’s crossovers are provided with variable settings from 20-140 Hz. Turning off the crossover completely will feed your speakers the full frequency range. While integrated in a theater or multi-channel system, activating the Bypass mode turns off the crossovers settings allowing your processor to handle the bass management.
Although the crossover frequency controls are on the rear, the subwoofer level knob on the front can fine tune your output.