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Smurf gets to hear the Parasound Halo C2 + A51 power amp.... mammia mia!

Discussion in 'AV Pre-Amp/Processors & Power Amps' started by Smurfin, Jan 25, 2004.

  1. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    Over the last couple of weeks I've had the pleasure of meeting a few forum members. Aside from the fact that you're all *cough* an ugly bunch and I've met most of you in car parks around the country :)grin:), I've been fortunate to have an extended audition of Rag's system in his home.

    I'm sure he won't mind me putting a few thoughts down, but I feel I must as there is very little on here about the newer Parasound kit.

    First of all, that power amp....:eek: :eek: :eek: . It really is huge. As well is being incredibly solid in terms of build, it is one deep mother...you can just tell from looking at it that there's oodles of power on tap. The matching processor looks the business too; it looks very well finished, and perhaps the only thing that might put some people off is the blue backlighting of all the buttons.

    In a darkened room with the separates at the front I guess it would be quite off-putting, but otherwise the build and look of the things can't be faulted.

    As for how it sounded...

    WOW. It's been a while since I've really been wowed in AV terms, but the sound from this combination - driving M&K 850's for LCR, and M&K column surrounds for rears - really grabbed me by the throat. We played a number of different DVDs - mostly stuff that I was familiar with, including the following:

    Star Wars Episode I: The pod race
    Jurassic Park: The Lost World dts: "mumma's very angry" and where the guy wanders off and gets killed by the little dinos
    Jurassic Park III dts: Opening titles, plane crash and dino stand-off.
    Monsters Inc.: on the conveyor belt of doors

    I'm used to listening to movies on a Lexicon MC-1, Rotel power amps with Celestion A series all round (and before that M&K), with twin servo 15 subs BFD'd, in a small room which is partially treated to dampen the room acoustics.

    Rag's main listening room is by contrast much larger - I'd guess 16' x 20', and very lively with wooden floors and little in the way of soft furnishings.

    Anyway, back to the DVDs...

    I mentioned that the Parasound/M&K combo grabbed me by the throat, and indeed it did. The first thing that struck me was the level of detail present. It was astonishing. The whole room was alive with a crystal clarity, imaging and steering were utterly superb, and everything sounded incredibly poised. Nothing felt forced, and it may be pyschological (probably was!) but you could tell there really was raw power in the room. The dynamics were excellent also, although I felt the bass was a little too tight (B+W 750 sub, which was new and still running in).

    Another highlight for me was the surround channels, and particularly the M&K column surrounds. Having never seen or heard them before, I thought they did a marvellous job of creating an all-enveloping surround field that was wonderfully detailed - and certainly they put my old SS-150THX tripoles in the shade (that's subjective though).

    I'm running out of adjectives here, overall this was as close to a truly theatrical sound that I've heard outside of a good cinema, though you must remember I'm used to watching movies in a small room and this has a huge bearing on the "feel" of the sound.

    There was one drawback to Rag's system, and that wasn't so much to do with the equipment itself but rather the room. Higher frequencies at -05db became quite painful on the ears (soundtrack dependant), and I noticed this particularly with The Lost World. THX processing helped a little, but the combination of an extremely reflective room and M&K speakers made the sound quite fatiguing at high volumes. It reminded me of my AV room before I treated it (but worse probably), and it's likely I noticed it more because I really have tamed the sound in my room by comparison, so that is what I'm used to. Because of the WAF factor, I know Rags is limited to what he can do, but he has a plan for a few things to help :)

    We discussed the room acoustics and the brightness problems, and as an impromptu experiment, we replaced the front L and R M&ks with the Celestion A1s. Playing back Jurassic Park: The Lost world, there was an immediate and striking difference. The sound completely changed and the top end brightness disappeared when sound was in one of the left/right channels, growing immediately the moment that sounds moved into the centre channel. To me it made a huge difference, and again I noticed the power amp as the A1s sounded much better driven by the parasound than it ever did from my humble Rotel 1075.

    Overall I was struck with the clarity, poise and sheer detail that the Parasound combo pulled out of the soundtracks; I'd go as far to say "stunning", and superior to my MC-1 in every way. By way of disclaimer, I would add again that I'm not used to listening in a large reflective room which without a doubt makes it all very subjective, and also that I've not heard much of the higher end gear about. But without a doubt, I'd be pleased as punch to have the C2 and A51 power amp in my setup (though with the stack of separates behind me to block out those blue lights!).

    Now, back to my downgrading;)
     
  2. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Thanks for the info Matt. Is parasound equipment available through dealers in the UK or do you have to import? A guide on price would also be useful.
     
  3. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    I think rags is probably best placed to answer that...

    You can get the kit in the UK, but I think the C2 and A51 cost in the region of £7000 if bought here.
     
  4. Daneel

    Daneel
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    I just had a look at the website, very nice looking equipment with a spec to match. I am left wondering what the LCD is used for though, do you get a preview of whatever source you are using?
     
  5. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    I think the display is only on the C1 pre/pro....Rags has the C2, which doesn't have the colour display.
     
  6. Daneel

    Daneel
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    Doh, I miss-read.
     
  7. rags

    rags
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    Dont mind at all Matt - good write up !

    Daneel - they A51 and C2 retail for £3,500 each here. The C1 with the screen costs £5,000. Apart from the screen the C1 is virtually identical to the C2 and hence the C1 does not represent good value for money. I keep on harping on about them as I think they are great (even against most of the competition although at this kind of price point it all boils down to personal preference - certainly nothing is crap)

    Matt's right in that the room is very bare in terms of soft furnishings and it can produce quite a bright sound on certain DVD's at very high volumes. My wife takes a minimalist approach to home furnishing and it reflects in the decor. Regardless the M&K's are bright speakers but you get used to them after a while - with Matt getting used to the Celestion's and Lex combo the M&K sound can hit you in the face especially in a cold room such as mine. I am trying to nudge the wife into getting some thick curtains but she wants roman blinds !!! I feel I need to strike a balance between taming the brightness without losing the excitement.

    As Matt mentions the column surrounds are truly wonderful speakers and if you speak to M&K they will themselves tell you that they are better than the SS150's (although with lots of caveats attached). Everyone who hears them thinks they are worth the money (well as far as M&K prices go)
     
  8. Daneel

    Daneel
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    I just had a look at the M&K website, those speakers are $999 a pair? That seems pretty cheap given the electronics you have matched them to. What attracted you to them?

    I've pretty much got my heart set on B&W 703s for my next upgrade but that is a big chunk of cash for me and the more options I explore before parting with my money the better as far as I am concerned.

    I've found some of the articles on this site very interesting:

    http://www.newformresearch.com/
     
  9. rags

    rags
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    Yup but they are 1000 pounds a pair here. I bought them before I got the Parasound when they were matched with a large rotel amp. I have no doubt the 850's are very good speakers for HC and they sound great in my room too. I have demod the B&W 700 series as I seriously considered buying them (standmounts only not the floorstanders you have mentioned) and for home cinema they produce a duller HC experience as compared to the 850's. Having said all of that - I may be upgrading (still sticking with M&K though).

    I think the only other member who has 850's is Gonzo (who I recall from my visit has carpet in his room with some good thick curtains) and he hopefully will come up with some comments when he sees this thread.
     
  10. dts_boy

    dts_boy
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    i am glad to see parasound is finally getting the feedback it deserves! i have recently had a home demo of the lexicon mc8 and i have to say that it ddn't really sound that much better than the c2 i already own. the dealer tried to make excuses for it but ultimatley he agreed that it wasn't worth the upgrade. got to agree about column surrounds: having upgraded from ss150s to the cs29s, with my couch up against the back wall the cs29 sound sooo much better it really makes sense to do so! rags - do you know artcoustic do some wife friendly acoustic treatments, i have the same trouble with my missus but she like the idea of choosing a design for the fabric (that covers the panel)herself:clap:
     
  11. Daneel

    Daneel
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    rags, interesting. One thing I would not call my current 2011 / B&W 600 series system is dull. Also my main concern is music not HT which to be honest is fine as it is. My listening is split about 65% stereo music, 15% multi-channel music, 20% films.

    I also consider asthetics and while I'm sure you have a good ear and the 850s sound very nice, I just can't see them in my living room.

    There was another manufacturer of power and pre/pro solutions that looked amazing. I remember a very high resolution pic, at least 2000x2000, very clean lines, all silver and blue LEDs. There might have been a V shape them in on both units. Anyone remember what make that was?

    [Edit - found it, Aragon, they seem to have a link to Klipsch, anyone know much about them?]

    This is the picture I was refering to, albeit a much smaller version:

    [​IMG]
     
  12. CYRUStheVIRUS

    CYRUStheVIRUS
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    Just to follow on from SMURFIN'S review, i also got to hear RAGS HC set up and agree with most of his comments.

    The amp is huge and only 5 channels and the build quality was superb, i also don't mind the blue L.E.D'S not sure if they can be switched off.

    SOUND: The detail and clarity is probably the best i have heard in a home setup and the M&k's sounded superb, i actually like a bright sound for HC and have given up trying to find a set of speakers that can do both music and HC. When SMURFIN said they could sound a little tedious at high levels i think this means they do not lose their clarity and he was more sensitive to the bright sound at higher levels, THX processing is supposed to help but i liked the sound how it was.

    DVD's: I heard M.INC, Star Wars, JP 1,2 and Black Hawk Down
    Monsters inc was my favourite the surround soundstage was awesome and i told RAGS that after hearing that you would think that there were 7 speakers in the room and to save his money and not bother with 7.1, this brings me to my favourite part of his system, although the Parasound is superb with as much power as you need on tap, the star of the show was the M&K collumn surrounds these made my ss150's sound boxy, (although i have an alcove problem) and have something like 6 drivers in them, they can be fixed to your skirting board or pushed up against the sofa and i could not place them in any of the demo dvd's, they just become lost in the sound.

    The B&W sub also sounded very good, i think it has a 1200w rms amp powering a 12 " cone and considering his room has wooden floors and not much soft furnishing there was no boom and it had a powerful and tight punch, SMURFIN said it was too tight which i thought was the idea, especially as i thought the room would be a nightmare with low frequencies.
    It would be great to compare this against the servo 15 which i own and have to arrange with RAGS to bring it round, although i have a funny feeling the servo might lose out:eek: :eek: .

    Overall i am very impressed and when he wheeled out the Celestions i use to own (small world) and played a music cd, the Celestions really sang, the sort of sound you could listen to with a headache and would never get irritating which is something most people would not say about the M&K's.

    Conclusion:
    I am very jealous of his setup it was how i want mine to sound, Its funny when you hear someones expensive system and it does not blow you away, you feel immediately proud of your own but when you hear someones that does you start evaluating your own system.
    I always said i would never spend more than a few hundred pounds on rear speakers and then bought the ss150's which retail for £1300 and now i want the collumns:rolleyes: . think i will refuse to listen to anybody else's system.:D

    As for upgrades for RAGS the Parasound could be balanced and maybe the front three could be improved, but then you would have to think about changing the rears (LMK pls:laugh: ) unless you stuck with M&k, i think you mentioned the B&W 700 series which i have not heard but knowing the B&W sound you will probably find them not as exciting but maybe easier on the ear.
    The celestions which we did not try with a dvd, did you prefer them to the M&K's? this will give you an idea if you want more to stick with M&k range or go for something more mellow.

    I would stick with M&K maybe try their higher models (probably ruin look of living room though.
    my non technical two penny's worth.
    ps. buy his vid camera and go and have a listen.
     
  13. Andywilliams

    Andywilliams
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    Hi Rags
    Since setting everything up last week i changed my interconnects to van den hul the bay c5 also changed the coax to one of mark grants cables.The sound with movies is excellent and is very detailed and clear they do harden up slightly at ref level with some dvds but the thx proccessing does help,Most of my listening isnt done at this level so it isnt a problem.With music again the sound is very clear and detailed but i do miss the warmth of my old monitor audio speakers.So to sum things up the 850s are ace with movies but can sound a bit clinical with music,problem is if i change the m&ks for more musical speakers i then lose the clarity and detail of the m&ks with movies which is what they were really intended for and excell at.
    Cheers Gonzo.:)
     
  14. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    No I didn't mean they didn't lose their clarity...@ -05db it was piercing! At lower levels though, it did sound utterly sublime and I'd agree with amongst the "best" home sound I've ever heard.

    Maybe I didn't quite phrase it properly, as bass should - to a degree - sound "tight"; but it was clear the sub needed running in, which would give a slightly smoother edge to it. Would be good to hear the B+W next to the Servo-15: up until recently Bass-life for me began and ended with the mighty Paradigm, but I was shocked at just how good the B+W sounded. Twice the price though...

    Top setup though, I think Rags is changing his speakers in the near future which will be interesting - now that will be a system to aspire to:D
     
  15. CYRUStheVIRUS

    CYRUStheVIRUS
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    quote:Originally posted by CYRUStheVIRUS
    When SMURFIN said they could sound a little tedious at high levels i think this means they do not lose their clarity and he was more sensitive to the bright sound at higher levels


    No I didn't mean they didn't lose their clarity...@ -05db it was piercing! At lower levels though, it did sound utterly sublime and I'd agree with amongst the "best" home sound I've ever hear.

    Sorry Smurfin did not mean to misinterpret you :nono: , yes at high levels they can sound sharp, but they would at the level you listened:D

    The sub still sounded amazing to me, if you think it will sound better when run in then i would be impressed, still we agree on the collumns:D
     
  16. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    I think we agree overall;) Couldn't believe the sound from the columns, wonderful...
     
  17. rags

    rags
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    Well I have ordered my new set of speakers - so lets see how they sound. Still sticking with M&K though as I dont want to lose the clarity and detail in my soundstage. I find it difficult to adapt to other brand speakers. I will know this Saturday, courtesy of Smurfin whether I made the right upgrade choice !

    Anyone disheartened about the 850's based on the views of Cyrus and Smurfin - dont be. Their reviews are fair and correct but it's mainly a room problem. The 850's are top top speakers and the brightness we are talking about kicks in a ridiculouly high volume levels which are unsustainable for long durations unless you want to go deaf (also note that my kit is calibrated to about 80db through the autocalibration routine - a software bug apparently and Parasound have mailed me the latest version which I havent got round to installing yet).

    IMO any film at -7 to -14db sounds sublime and M&K speakers together with the Parasound kit is a good match. I am not ugrading because of the brightness - I really want to get an even better front soundstage and Daneel is right in that the price points of the Parasound kit and the M&K 850's dont match. When I demod the Parasound stuff it was churning to B&W Nautilus 803's at the front and the sound was beautiful. At the moment however the Nautilus range is unaffordable for me and the 700 series doesnt quite pluck my strings (although I have not heard the 703's that everyone is raving about).

    The Column surrounds and the Parasound kit will stay for quite a long time ;). I think Parasound may also release a DVD player which I will be keen on demoing. Anyone interested in getting an Arcam AV8, Bryston, Lexicon etc combo should definately have the Parasound on their shortlist - it's worth auditioning.
     
  18. CYRUStheVIRUS

    CYRUStheVIRUS
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    What are you buying then?
     
  19. rags

    rags
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    M&K S150's - hopefully in a light wood finish (my dealers trying to talk with M&K into doing a special finish but dont know what the cost will be) otherwise in black.

    Do you all think im nuts ???:D
     
  20. CYRUStheVIRUS

    CYRUStheVIRUS
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    im not surprised to be honest but thought you would last more than a day after we reviewed your system.:D
    staying ahead of the competition eh?
     
  21. rags

    rags
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    Cyrus - yeah you lot are complete wallet nightmares :D. Seriously though, I ordered the S150's last week before the review was posted (my post above is incorrect). I have thinking about changing the speakers for a while and had been toying with various options.

    The other thing I may do is order another ASW750 (was thinking about the SVS subs but there is no where for me to site two of those leviathans and you cannot remove the baseplates to have them firing sideways and still sound as good).

    Smurfin - by the way you hardly seem to be downgrading from your old set up if your going down the active route. Also I am confused now - have you sold your second Servo 15 ? If so what are you replacing it with ?
     
  22. CYRUStheVIRUS

    CYRUStheVIRUS
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    i would not bother with two subs, they are harder to integrate and if you feel you want more power then demo some big single subs like hgs18, also two subs would really dominate your room.
    I would buy a plasma that alcove is crying out for one, the speakers are wall mounted and your Arcam has progressive scan.
    ( do you need more bass :eek: :eek: :devil: )
     
  23. rags

    rags
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    I have a big concern about plasma.

    My Kids + Cartoon network + Sky + Plasma = Screen burn.
     
  24. Smurfin

    Smurfin
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    I know, good isn't it?;)

    Although a step down in processing/front-to-rear tonality, I'm still going to have an excellent system but with all my sales and including by 3 brand new actives for the front....I'll still have saved approx £3000.

    By my reckoning, THX pm3 actives across the front will still enable me to drive @ high outputs in my current room with little distortion and no harshness, and I'll have all the latest processing including THX processing, video switching and (admittedly basic) auto-setup features to take advantage of; plus, I'll still be able to run 7.1, and the integrated receiver (probably a Pioneer VSX-D2011 if I can bloody find one:rolleyes:) won't struggle running just the sides and rears. I am going a little blind here, but theoretically I think I've cut a number of corners (cost wise!) but should retain a superb system. And by changing my DVD player, perhaps I'll sacrifice a slight amount of picture quality, but frankly I don't think it will be entirely noticeable and finally I'll get to sample the delights of SACD.

    So far it's working out well, and I've achieved all my cost savings based on successful sales (there hasn't been one sale to date where I didn't get what I was looking for), though I'm not looking forward to this weekend. God knows how I'm going to get 5 M&Ks, a pair of A1s and that huge Celestion centre speaker in my car! - should have picked a bigger one:rolleyes: :D .

    The last thing to sort is the bass department; the trouble is there's nothing to sort. I've put my sale of the Servo 15 on hold, though Dimmy has first refusal if I sell one. The reason for that is because I've made my "funds" target by trading/selling my Arcam DV88+ (got £400 plus the PAL progressive Philips). I'm very tempted to just order an SVS PB2 Plus; @ around £900 it's the same price as selling both my servos, so if I love it, it still won't cost me any money. However even if it doesn't work great in my room, I'm sure I can sell it on these forums and not lose a penny either. Oh decisions....:devil:
     
  25. Nic Rhodes

    Nic Rhodes
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    Great looking and sounding kit, I particularly like the amps but they have always made great amps.
     
  26. rags

    rags
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    Yes they have. The older 2205 is a stonker and even when it was a current model it represented good value for money at full retail. Second hand recently, I have seen these go for as little as 1250 which to me is simply unbelievable value. People buying rotel 1095's (which is also a good amp for the money) should think again and consider picking up a 2205(AT) which offers a significant improvement.
     

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