Halo C2 Automatic Setup
The Halos came equipped with a microphone ("Cal Mic") and built-in firmware to measure the actual acoustic distance. Parasound President, Richard Schram tells us that this approach is incredibly accurate and that the volume levels could be automatically set to within +/- 0.2 dB and the distance to within +/- ½ foot. All it took to run this automatic calibration was positioning the Halos "Cal Mic" in the optimum listening location and patience to allow the Halo to cycle through the built in tones. The auto-calibration process took about two minutes while the Halo played repeated burst tones or pink tones through each channel.
When completed, the C1 and C2 were able to accurately configure the distances and volumes of each channel, and stored them as global settings. One word of caution however is that you should remove the AA battery from this microphone when not in use, as discussed in Parasound's user manual. I can attest that after three months of having the "Cal Mic" sitting around in the "off" position, the battery was completely drained down to 0-volts. When I went to do another auto-calibration, there was a red warning menu which popped up on the Halo and indicated that the "mic was not ready." Another note about the mic is that there was a dot in the up position, which equated to on. Due to my short attention span (common among Americans), I didn't read the helpful manual and with a 50/50 shot and Murphy's law, I selected the wrong position the first time through.
Auto-Calibration Speaker Volume Verification
After auto-calibrating I verified the accuracy of the results from the automatic volume level in two ways. First, we used a Radio Shack Sound Pressure Level Meter and the built in test tones from the C1 and C2. We quickly measured that all channels were indeed accurately set to at least within the accuracy of the SPL meter (+/- ½ db). We then used the Avia Pro DVD test tones and cycled through all channels once again measuring the volume with our SPL meter. When doing so, we found that both the C 1 and C 2 proved to accurately set their own volume levels. Furthermore the built-in Halo test tones were right on the money when compared to the external tones found on the Avia DVD's.
Auto-Calibration Speaker Distance Verification
We then verified the accuracy the automatic distance setup with the sophisticated measurement tool known as a tape measure . The C 1 and C 2 were again accurate this time in their auto-calibration of speaker distances which proved to be within at least +/- 1 foot. Richard Schram informed us that even though the display menu showed 1-foot increments, the auto-calibration distance was actually accurate to within +/- ½ foot. Setting these distances manually however could only be done to within the 1-foot, so it was best to use the automatic calibration feature. What's interesting was that when we manually changed these distances to a delay that exceeded 2 m-seconds, there was a red warning which popped up on the OSM. We also learned that any speaker set to an unrealistic distance, such as greater than 22-feet, would be highlighted in the On-Screen Menu with a different color. We did not necessitate taking advantage of these features, but I'm sure there could be situations in other setups where these warnings may indeed become helpful in identifying possible problems. This was especially true if you're a custom installer and a customer who doesn't quite understand calibration and inadvertently changes a setting. When doing so they should be able to quickly identify these warnings and hopefully realize their error. Dare I say that this feature made configuring the Halos almost fool-proof?
We did encounter a slight problem when calibrating the subwoofer which we later discussed with Richard. Given the Theater Room size for Reference 2 , we were unable to get the subwoofer far enough away (greater than 11-feet) for accurate automatic group delay calibration (distance) and level adjustments, at least on the C 2. But we were able to manually set the level using our trusty Radio Shack SPL meter and the distance using our handy calibrated tape measure. However, when we did the subwoofer calibration on the C 1 we did not experience this configuration hiccup thereby making the auto-calibration on the C 1 flawless.
The Audio Setup Menu was pretty straight forward, but did include a few notable features such as reverb for Club and Concert Modes, and Dolby/DTS setup along with a few other nice parameters. The Dolby/DTS setup included the following adjustments:
- PLII Panorama, which sent some of the front channel sound to the surrounds for a wraparound effect;
- PLII Center Width, which spread the center channel to the left and right channels;
- PLII Dimension which adjusted the front and rear positioning of the surround field in PLII Music Mode and finally;
- Neo:6 Center Image which also created a wraparound effect by sending some of the front channel to the surrounds. These effects could either be defeated by entering 0, or maximized to a higher value all of which is a matter of personal preference and Home Theater room size/setup.
The Preset Setup was a welcomed feature on the Halo C1 and C2. In this menu, there were five storage bins for presets which included adjustments for tone controls (bass, treble) and volume controls for the center, surround and subwoofer channels. These presets could be assigned to one or more specified input in the "Source" setup menu. These settings came in quite handy when listening to vintage two-channel CD's for example, where the bass needed just a bit more oomph to be appreciable. The other notable comment about these presets was the fact that they did not alter the auto-calibration volumes. They were independent and could be used simply to boost or decrease the volumes of a specified channel. The Presets were run through the digital circuitry and were defeated when using 7-channel analog inputs. Using these presets required some additional setup as they were only accessible via the On-Screen Menu however they could be conveniently assigned to each input. In fact, these parameters were also adjustable via the external downloadable software which could be done on your PC and then downloaded to the Halo.
It was apparent that Parasound thought about a global market for the Halos, not only based on the automatic input voltage adjustment, but also with the "Display" setup. In the Display setting we were able to select the TV system for either NTSC (the standard in the Western Hemisphere ) or PAL (the standard for Europe ). But for the custom installer, it's another potential hazard that could be inadvertently incorrectly implemented by a customer, which can then result in a problem, resulting in a phone call from your customer. When switched to PAL on a US TV, the OSD will blink and roll frantically. Knowing this ahead of time may save you the service call if your too busy to charge $$ for something this simple to fix.
Global Speaker Settings
The Halo C 1 and C 2 provided just one set global speaker settings. This became problematic when switching between SACD and DVD-Audio as the subwoofer output levels can be drastically different on many, if not all universal DVD players. Combine this issue with the fact that many universal DVD players still did not offer bass management or digital delay compensation for SACD or DVD-Audio. It makes you wonder when we will see the day of an all in one inclusion proprietary cable design with all manufacturers.
On The Fly Speaker Level Control
If you've experienced movie sound tracks where the voices from the
center channel were difficult to hear, or if the surrounds just didn't have enough finesse to impress
your friends, fear not because the Halos had the solution. When it came to adjusting speaker level
volumes, the C 1 and C 2 offered more than their share of methods. Independent yet again of the
auto-calibration and global volumes, and independent of the five Preset volumes (for center, surrounds
and subwoofer), the Halos provided speaker level channel trims on-the-fly. These settings were easily
accessible on the remote control in the same section as the adjustments for treble and bass settings,
which by the way could also be altered on-the-fly. To me, this indicated that the Halos could be
adjusted and configured for any situation, environment or source. It was unfortunate however that the
speaker level control could not be stored for each input.