Parasound Halo user review

  • Parasound Halo Integrated (or how to upgrade an Audiolab 8000A)

    Parasound Halo Integrated (or how to upgrade an Audiolab 8000A)
    For many years (20+) I had an Audiolab 8000A . I had bought it from new as a present to myself after a break up. It was loud enough to blast away the hurt, especially when you turned up the bass ;-) and sounded sweet at low levels too, from both the Arcam Alpha Plus CD and Systemdek IIX turntable.

    As the years passed I had tried to replace the Audiolab 8000A, I wanted a remote control and surround sound. My first attempt was a Yamaha RX-V596RDS cinema amp, but playing stereo through this was like listening to a nasty hard sounding piece of electronics. The answer was a QED amplifier switching box so that the ProAc Tablets could be shared by both amps before the Yamaha was inevitably discarded.

    My next try was an Audiolab 8200A I bought from ebay. By now the ProAc Tablets had become Dali Zensor 7s and Arcam Alpha Plus an Arcam CDS27. Despite the allure of a remote control and the easy ability to split the pre and power parts of the amp the 8200A didn’t sound as good as the 8000A from the pre Tag/IAG ownership days. The of lack tone controls and a phono stage sealed its fate. When auditioning the Dali Zensor 7s I had heard them with the Roksan Caspian M2 integrated amplifier and although it was good there wasn’t much between it and the Audiolab 8000A.

    It was obvious that replacing the Audiolab 8000A was going to be expensive and I couldn’t see anything in the regular UK HiFi shops that I wanted. The replacement had to be sonically on at least a par with 8000A, but also have a remote, tone controls, pre-ins (to play nicely with a surround amp) and more power would be good.

    Somehow I ended up reading a review of the Parasound Halo Integrated and on paper it not only met but exceeded my requirements and if was good enough for George Lucas… Now the challenge was to audition it. On line I found Analogue Seduction in Whittlesey near Peterborough. It was an ok drive for me to do in a day and still have a few hours to do an audition, so I contacted them and requested to trial the Parasound Halo against Roksan Caspian M2 (I can’t remember what speakers they were going to use but they were good and comparable to the Dali’s). They also had an Arcam CDS50 to use, but I took my Arcam CDS27 and the venerable Audiolab 8000A together with the all-important CDs.

    His place is amazing, I want his listening room. Just as well it’s a detached house with really solid walls. He has a cornucopia of amps, speakers, cd players and turntables. He had nicely warmed up the amps prior to my arrival. We went with my Arcam CDS27 rather than the CDS50 and the Parasound as it was warmed up and ready to go.

    I always listen to Jamiroquai. It’s Dynamite, especially Seven Days in Sunny June. It was good, it was very good and I quickly ramped up the volume. To get a feel for setup I then tried some other CDs, Dua Lipa – Thinking ‘Bout You and New Rules, SBTRKT – Pharaohs, Satie (Pascal Roge) – Gymnopedie No 1, The Clash – Rock the Casbah and finally David Sylvian – Red Guitar.

    Before switching to the now warm Audiolab I replayed Jamiroquai’s Seven Days in Sunny June on the Parasound setup.

    On swapping to the Audiolab and playing Seven Days in Sunny June again. It’s difficult to know. Perhaps the Parasound had a more defined bass and improved stereo separation. I tried a few of the other tracks out. Without doing a blind A/B comparison it tough to tell how much is ‘real’ and how much is psychological. But I was in no doubt that I did like the sound of the Parasound and it had more power, a remote, pre-ins and even XLR inputs which I get idea of. After all wired stage microphones use XLR as its balanced and helps with keeping inference out.

    So I did buy it (it was cheaper than the newer model) and almost a year later I am getting more out of it that I did when I got it. I found that I preferred the DAC in Arcam CDS27 to one in the Parasound, but things got even better when I got a BK subwoofer from ebay and ditched the hapless Onkyo NR586 for a Denon 4500. The theatre bypass is on Parasound great, but using built-in sub crossover is even better. I’ve set the sub crossover to 80Hz on the Parasound and fed the front and sub pre outs from the Denon to Parasound. So the sub is used for both stereo and film sound. Nice.
    This item was purchased for 2850 from Analogue Seduction in 2019 . The reviewer still owns this product.

    Pros

    • sound quality
    • build quality
    • power output
    • tone controls
    • remote
    • sub output
    • theatre bypass
    • XLR connectivity

    Cons

    • on board DAC could sound a bit warmer

    Scores

    9
    10
    10
    10
    10
    9
    9

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Parasound Halo

Comments
0
Author
audiolab007
Review score
9 / 10
Average score
9.0 / 10
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