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Parasound Halo P7 Multi Channel Audio Preamp Preview

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Parasound P7 Pre/Pro

Parasound P7 Pre/Pro

Summary

  • Product Name: Halo P7 Processor
  • Manufacturer: Parasound
  • Review Date: August 19, 2008 21:25
  • MSRP: $2000
  • First Impression: Mildly Interesting
  • Buy Now
Input/Outputs:
  • 2 Multi channel (7.1) inputs for surround sound movies and music
  • 7 Stereo inputs (one balanced XLR input)
  • 1 MM or MC phono input
  • Front panel input for portable MP3 player
  • RCA and balanced XLR outputs
  • Subwoofer output with analog bass management
  • Serial port for RS232 control
  • Rear panel IR input jack
  • 3 different 12v trigger outputs
  • High Quality headphone output

Software Features:

  • Custom input naming for all inputs
  • Theater bypass mode for connecting a digital surround receiver
  • Input level matching
  • Headphones level offset
  • Analog bass management for stereo inputs
  • Links to Parasound Zhd HDMI selector (does not decode audio)

Other Features:

  • Relay switched inputs and tone control circuit
  • Full featured remote control
  • Bass and Treble controls by remote
  • Defeatable Tone controls by remote
  • Left/Right balance controls by remote
  • Front/Rear balance controls by remote
  • Subwoofer output level trim by remote
  • Partial and full mute options by remote
  • 5 brightness settings for front panel display
  • 12V trigger activated by remote control
  • Rack mount kit available
  • Parasound 5/10 year warranty
Specs:
  • Frequency Response: 5 Hz – 100 kHz +0/-3db
  • THD Distortion: less than 0.006% at 20 kHz
  • S/N Ratio: greater than 110 db, IHF A-Weighted
  • Crosstalk: 85db at 20 kHz
  • Weight: 13.5 lbs.

Executive Overview

Parasound has introduced a $2000 audio only preamp designed for sound purists seeking superior low-noise performance from classic stereo sources as well as multichannel music and movies from Blu-ray, DVD-Audio, and SACD players. It will be marketed in the company's high-end Halo product line. But where's the beef?  Considering its lack of video and HDMI support, one wonders if this is more or less a re-issued legacy product with minor upgrades or if it's a completely new design which just happens to lack several features commonly found on receivers starting at $249. The P7 throws around buzz words like Blu-ray, DVD-A/SACD but does not support those formats in the digital domain.

The Parasound Halo P7 is both a two-channel and 7.1-channel analog preamplifier that is said to be designed to combine outstanding audio performance while providing a flexible and easy-to-use interface. But for those DVD-A/SACD lovers, there is no way to send multi-channel PCM or a high resolution bitstream audio track to the processor. Instead you must rely on six old fashioned analog interconnects and have your Universal DVD player or Blu-ray Disc player handle the decoding. According to the feature sheet, the P7 boasts analog bass management for 2CH stereo inputs and while we'd normally assume it would do the same for multi-channel, it doesn't specify this functionality anywhere. If not, then you will need to have your DVD player handle the bass management for DVD-A/SACD.

Parasound P7 BackpanelParasound is deeming the Halo P7 as a “lower-cost alternative” to a surround processor if your TV can switch video inputs and you own multi-channel analog sources such as a DVD player, SACD player or Blu-ray player with multichannel analog outputs. Huh? Lower cost to what? A $300 A/V receiver that will handle all of these functions and more or a more expensive Halo product?

Critical Features - or Lack Thereof?

Parasound boasts that the analog bass management for stereo sources makes subwoofer and small speaker integration easy. The P7 also offers a volume control bypass mode for users who wish to use their home theater receiver to decode digital sources (sans Dolby TrueHD, DTS HD, DD+, MLP or DSD). The Halo P7 can also switch 1080p HDMI sources when it is linked to the optional Zhd HDMI switcher (a $600 option). If this weren't an installer-centric product we'd probably suggest using a comparable but MUCH lowered priced alternative from the likes of Monoprice, Belkin, or Impact Acoustics.  This is especially true if one desires component, composite and s-video support since this product offers absolutely no video swtiching at all.

"With stereo or surround sound, silence is golden," said Richard Schram, Parasound's president and founder. "With its exceptional parts quality, heavy duty construction, outboard HDMI switching option, and balanced XLR input and output connections, Halo P7's noise floor is a full 10 dB below that of a typical AV receiver, and you don't achieve performance like that with off-the-shelf parts. Our engineering team has worked miracles to keep this level of quality at an affordable price point." It's nice to see Parasound pushing the envelope, however in our measurements, SNR really hasn't been an issue for any of the moderately priced competently designed receivers we've recently tested.

The Halo P7 user can adjust left-right / front-rear balance, make custom input names and match the gain for all 10 inputs, including a front panel MP3 input. Versatility includes custom integrator-rich features like balanced XLR connections, a low-noise MM/MC phono input and remote tone control. It provides RS-232 control, discrete IR codes, IR repeater input/loop jacks and three DC triggers.

The Parasound Halo P7 is said to have a very simple and elegant front panel design with equally-simple operation. Just two buttons and one knob are used to control most of its functions. The controls are of extremely high quality, and the control knob has an unusually solid, silky smooth operation, comparable to the focus ring on a high quality camera.

The Parasound Halo P7 is currently available from Parasound Halo dealers at a suggested retail price of $2000.

With a lack of HDMI functionality and decoding of the new high resolution formats and even the old ones, consumers most certainly won't see this product as a cost effective “audiophile” solution.  However, custom installers will likely enjoy an opportunity to integrate the Parasound name into systems for less money - provided their clients don't require any advanced functionality. Even so, it's hard to imagine many integrators will drop $2000 of their clients' money on a product lacking even basic digital audio functionality.

Weighing in at under 13lbs, one has to wonder what is under the hood, or more importantly what is NOT under the hood. Considering one can purchase the hefty Integra DTC-9.8 A/V Pre/Pro (weighing in at nearly 3 times that of the Parasound P7) which sports balanced outputs, top of the line burr brown DAC’s, full HDMI 1.3a audio & video support, the latest HD audio decoding, video switching & upscaling, HQV processing and Audyssey XT room correction for roughly $1k less than the P7 (with the Zhd HDMI switcher), Parasound must be banking on customer loyalty or fellow owners of their fine amplifiers with a strong desire to keep a uniform look in their rack in order to make the sale of this product.

A Little Too Late

Had the P7 been put to market 4-5 years ago, it would seem to be a solid offering from a company who has made their mark in the industry of high end. Back then barely any universal DVD players had bass management facilities or the ability to output their high resolution audio digitally.  Today it’s a different story with the competition offering more functionality and more performance for a lot less money and virtually all universal DVD players passing multi-channel audio via HDMI. Parasound may need to get a new Sharpie and feed their new preamp some much needed component upgrades.

For more information, visit www.parasound.com or call 415-397-7100.

About Parasound: Founded in 1981, Parasound Products, Inc., is a privately owned U.S. company that specializes in providing affordable audio and home theater components to the critical listener. Parasound's products are available from quality audio/video retailers, and select custom installation specialists. 

About the author:
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Gene manages this organization, establishes relations with manufacturers and keeps Audioholics a well oiled machine. His goal is to educate about home theater and develop more standards in the industry to eliminate consumer confusion clouded by industry snake oil.

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Recent Forum Posts:

RichB posts on June 17, 2014 14:48
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1037128
If the player sounds better, then use it. If the AVR sounds better, then use it.

Whatever sounds better. But I think we can agree that it is different for everyone.

Absolutely

- Rich
AcuDefTechGuy posts on June 17, 2014 14:22
RichB, post: 1037127
'

They don't get any better do they.

The Power Curve was interesting, but as Gene pointed out, it does not include distortion measurements.
A bad power curve is bad, a good power curve might be good.


- Rich

I'm not talking about measurement and whether 1% THD is audible or 0.5% is audible.

I am talking about all those DBTs that show most people (although not 100% of people) could not tell a difference.

But no studies are perfect and 100% true. Not by Audioholics, not by anyone.

The fact is, some of us claim to hear no significant difference, while some of us claim to hear a significant day-and-night difference.

It's the same way with speaker drivers and everything else. Some can tell a significant difference between beryllium vs diamond vs titanium vs aluminum, while others cannot tell a significant day-and-night difference.

If the player sounds better, then use it. If the AVR sounds better, then use it.

Whatever sounds better. But I think we can agree that it is different for everyone.
RichB posts on June 17, 2014 14:15
AcuDefTechGuy, post: 1037095
Does that mean The Audio Critic publications are less valid ?

All those double-blinded studies lose their veracity because The Audio Critic no longer has new publications?
'

They don't get any better do they.

The Power Curve was interesting, but as Gene pointed out, it does not include distortion measurements.
A bad power curve is bad, a good power curve might be good.


- Rich
AcuDefTechGuy posts on June 17, 2014 12:55
RichB, post: 1037083
…that now defunct publication…

Does that mean The Audio Critic publications are less valid ?

All those double-blinded studies lose their veracity because The Audio Critic no longer has new publications?
AcuDefTechGuy posts on June 17, 2014 12:36
Irvrobinson, post: 1037085
Then the answer is really no, but those experiments should have been enough to demonstrate to you that the way human hearing and cognition works, making comparative listening tests ineffective for revealing subtle differences between any two sources. Our audio memory stinks. We naturally latch onto various clues to detect similarities and differences that aren't going to be revealed by two different audio systems. I've found many people, untrained, have trouble hearing the difference between two high quality speaker systems, no less pre-amps. Years ago, in a dealer-driven test, he whimsically tried to show us how difficult blind tests were by having a friend of his, who was a stand-up comic and impersonator, impersonate him during one phase of the test while we were blinded. None of us guessed the impersonation was occurring. Once the impersonator was revealed it was clear he was very good, but we could tell the difference between the two voices. We can be trained to detect differences, but untrained most of us have so much imprecision as to render the tests invalid, in my personal opinion, just based on my limited experience.

I agree. All I can say is what I perceive or think I perceive.

I should not debate what others perceive.

This is getting similar to the other thread regarding the veracity of the human senses.
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