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Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier and DAC Preview



  • Product Name: Halo Integrated Amplifier
  • Manufacturer: Parasound
  • Review Date: April 02, 2015 09:00
  • MSRP: $2,495
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC (ES9018K2M)
  • Asynchronous USB 2.0 supports PCM up to 384kHz/32-bit
  • Native and DoP DSD decoding
  • Coax and optical accept PCM up to 192kHz/24-bit
  • Analog bass management with high & low pass crossovers
  • Home theater bypass input for surround sound integration
  • Front panel subwoofer level control
  • Dedicated high current headphone amplifier (TI TPA6120)
  • Phono input for MM & MC with 100 ohm or 47kohm load
  • Front panel Aux input with automatic +12 dB gain stage
  • Bass & treble tone controls with relay bypass
  • Back-lit remote control with discrete buttons
  • 160 Watts x 2 @ 8 Ohms (RMS, both channels driven)
  • 240 Watts x 2 @ 4 Ohms (RMS, both channels driven)
  • Power amp circuit topology designed by legendary John Curl
  • Direct amplifier input to bypass preamp section
  • High bias class A/AB operation
  • Oversized shielded toroid power transformer
  • Dual-mono power supply and power amplifier
  • 40,000µF power supply filter capacitance
  • Matched JFET input stages and MOSFET driver stages
  • 12 high voltage/high current bipolar output transistors
  • Heavy-duty 24k gold-plated 5-way speaker binding posts
  • Over temp and short circuit relay protection
  • Power Output - Both channels driven 
    (0.05% THD, RMS, 20Hz - 20kHz)
       160 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms
       240 watts x 2 @ 4 ohms 
  • Power Output - Both channels driven
  • (0.9% THD, RMS, 20Hz - 20kHz)
       180 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms
       270 watts x 2 @ 4 ohms 
  • Current Capacity
       45 amps peak per channel 
  • Frequency Response
       10Hz - 100kHz, +0/-3dB 
  • Total Harmonic Distortion (THD)
       < 0.01 %, average listening levels
       < 0.05 %, 160 watts x 2 @ 8 ohms 
  • Interchannel Crosstalk
        > 50dB at 20kHz
        > 70dB at 1kHz 
  • Signal to Noise Ratio - IHF A-weighted
       Line in: - 103dB (input shorted)
       Digital in: - 106dB 
  • Amplifier Damping Factor
        > 800 at 20Hz 
  • Preamp Stage Input Sensitivity
       300mV in for 1V at Pre Out jacks 
  • Total Preamp Stage Gain: 10dB 
  • Max Output Unbalanced: 7 V 
  • Max Output Balanced: 9 V 
  • Power Amplifier Stage Sensitivity
       1V at Bypass/Amp In for 28 V at Speaker Out 
  • Total Amp Stage Gain: 28dB 
  • Phono Stage Sensitivity / Input Impedance
       MM: 35dB / 47kohms
       MC: 52dB / 47kohms or 100 ohms 
  • High & Low Pass Crossover Slopes
       Â 12dB per octave
  • Supported DAC Sampling Rates
       USB: up to 384kHz / 32-bit PCM
       DSD Native: DSD64, DSD128, DSD256
       DSD over PCM (DoP) at 384kHz
       Coax/Opt: up to 192 kHz / 24-bit PCM 
  • Digital to Analog Converter
       ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M
       384kHz / 32-bit 
  • USB 2.0 Controller
       VIA VT1731, 384kHz / 32-bit 
  • Headphone Amplifier
       Texas Instruments TPA6120A 
  • Output Impedance 10 ohms 
  • XLR Pin Identification
       1 = Ground (Shield)
       2 = Positive
       3 = Negative (Return) 
  • Input Impedance
       Unbalanced: 24kohms 
       Balanced: 100kohms per leg 
  • Output Impedance
       Unbalanced: 100 ohms
       Balanced: 470 ohms per leg 
  • Dimensions
       Width: 17-1/4" (437mm)
       Depth: 16-1/4" (413mm)
       Depth, with cables 17-1/4" (437mm)
       Height, with feet: 5-7/8" (150mm)
       Height, without feet: 5-1/4" (133mm), 3U 
  • Net Weight
       33 lb. (15kg) 
  • Shipping Weight
       45 lb. (20.4kg) 
  • Power Requirement
        Standby: 0.5 watts
       Idling power: 70 watts
        Maximum: 750 watts 
  • 110-125 VAC 60Hz or 220-250 VAC 50Hz 
  • AC mains voltage is set on rear panel

With all the talk over the past year about immersive audio and more speaker channels, one would think that good old stereo was dead.  Well, according to the folks at Parasound, two-channel stereo is alive and kicking.  But this Parasound isn’t your traditional integrated amplifier.  Whether it’s vinyl or the latest and greatest in digital audio, the Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier looks like it’s equipped to handle just about anything you can throw at it.  

As you might expect from Parasound, the Halo Integrated uses the same John Curl circuit topology and high current design in the A 23 and A 21 power amps. The Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier uses the company's classic Class A/AB, DC-coupled topology with a J-FET input stage, MOSFET driver stage and high-current output stage with 12 rugged Sanken bipolar output transistors. The Halo Integrated Amp features an oversized shielded toroid power transformer and 40,000 µF filter capacity and enormous heat sinks. Because it features the same Class A/AB circuitry as in its dedicated power amplifiers, Parasound says that the Halo Integrated can drive high-end loudspeakers with ease. It can put out 160wpc into 8 ohms (RMS, both channels driven at 0.9% distortion) and 240wpc into 4 ohms (RMS both channels driven at 0.9% distortion).  Parasound says that the current capacity of the amplification section is 45 amps peak per channel.  Take this peak amp rating with a grain of salt as we've found this to be a nebulous rating manufacturers like to tout: The High Instantaneous Current Amp Spec.

Parasound Halo Top View

Top view of the  Parasound Halo Integrated Power Supply and electronics.

But, we said before that this wasn’t your traditional integrated amplifier.  For starters, the analog preamp stage was taken verbatim from the company’s P5 stereo preamplifier.  That means that the Halo Integrated is subwoofer friendly.  The Halo Integrated Amplifier includes adjustable low pass and high pass crossovers and front panel subwoofer level control for seamless subwoofer integration.  

It’s also home theater friendly.  Its home-theater bypass input circuitry enables a surround sound receiver or processor to utilize the Halo Integrated's power amp to drive the left and right loudspeakers during surround sound listening while its subwoofer bypass inputs make it possible for subwoofer(s) to operate with surround sound and stereo listening. 

What Parasound is offering on the digital front is very impressive and shows that Parasound is serious about making the Halo Integrated a force to be reckoned with when it comes to high resolution digital audio.  For starters, the Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier uses the latest ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC to decode a wide range of digital music files through its optical, coaxial, and USB inputs. The asynchronous USB 2.0 input really sets a new standard with support for PCM audio up to 384 kHz/32-bit, native DSD256 and DoP DSD bit streams. The coax and optical inputs accept PCM up to 192 kHz/24-bit.

Parasound Halo Integrated Rear View

Rear View of the Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier

There’s also no shortage of input and output options.  The Halo Integrated has a balanced XLR input and XLR L, R and Sub preamp outputs. There are five line-level inputs, record/fixed level output, and a low noise MM/MC phono input with three loading options.  

The Parasound Halo Integrated Amplifier is currently available in black or silver finish with a suggested USA retail price of $2,495.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Theo Nicolakis has been reviewing high end audio, video, home theater, headphone, and portable music products for the past 14 years. His reviews have appeared here on Audioholics as well as Techhive.com, PCWorld.com, MacWorld.com, and more. His reviews span high end two-channel and home theater systems, AVRs and immersive audio processors, headphones, DACs, DAPs, music servers, sound bars, and display technologies.

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