Parasound Halo

Posted by: chesseroo

Parasound Halo - 12/19/03 12:34 PM

Well, i haven't seen Semi around in awhile but...here it is.
I'm going to pick up the Parasound Halo A23 either tonight or tomorrow. It is being sold at a local western Canadian box store (A&B Sound) if you can believe that.
After tax the unit is about $1800cdn although i've seen prices for it at audiogon for about $800-1000usd which works out to less than $1400cdn.

In any event, they have a 30d return policy so if the audition does not go favourably, at least i won't have lost $1800 in hard earned cash. Thanks to our friends over at Hometheatrespot, i'm come across some possible issues to watch/listen for.

Posted by: x94blair3

Re: Parasound Halo - 12/19/03 10:27 PM

Good luck with the new equipment. That sort of thing is obviously way over my head. By the way, thanks for the link to that forum. It'll be another asset to my research.

-Nick
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo - 12/19/03 11:48 PM

I will post some pics and thoughts tomorrow on the new amp.
I will cross post them at the Hometheatrespot under the Parasound forum for anyone that is interested.

Nick, i can't believe after all the kerfuffle on the 'Spot' that you didn't know about the site.
Paul runs a pretty good forum over there. I found some excellent info that helped me solve a huge problem when we first got our new Toshiba RPTV. The tweaks i've picked up from the 'Spot' have been excellent as well.
I really love looking at some of the DIY HT rooms and ideas.
Posted by: x94blair3

Re: Parasound Halo - 12/20/03 01:11 AM

I must have missed the contreversy. Perhaps it was before my time.

-Nick
Posted by: curtis

Re: Parasound Halo - 12/20/03 02:52 AM

if anyone cares, I have a pair of ACI Sapphires on loan to me, and when communicating with the president of ACI about amps, he wrote very highly of the Halo line.
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 01:22 PM

Well i've been running the A23 all morning.
The sound is solid, although the Coda amp that i had heard before seemed to be more robust.
HOWEVER, i am not using the same preamp this time (i think the Phillips took a turn for the worse) so it could just be a change in the preamp signal since the preamp now is a very tiny intergrated Denon unit.
The plus about the Halo is that it has a signal gain switch on the back for both L/R channels such that even with the tiny Denon preamp section, i can up the gain so it performs more up to spec.
I really like the Halo features. Gain controls, ground loop lift switch, balanced or unbalanced connections, 3 auto on controls (relay switch, manual or auto signal detect).
Just great.
The aesthetics are awesome and the amp feels pretty beefy for its small size (i would post pics but my cam is temporarily out of commission).

But so far the negatives are a big drawback. This unit gets pretty hot (cannot keep my hand on top for more than 3 or 4 seconds) and the local price is just ridiculous. At the present time i could buy one new, direct from the States and save about $400 on it.
Secondly, the Halo Hum exists. It is hard to discern during playback since i cannot A/B the unit with another amp but the hum is easily evident at 3 feet or less from the speaker when the preamp is turned off. I personally feel for nearly 2 grand an amp should NOT have any background noise.
Posted by: mwc

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 03:18 PM

In reply to:

I personally feel for nearly 2 grand an amp should NOT have any background noise.



Absoultly! Is it the amp itself that hums or do you hear it through the speakers?

Any thoughts on why it gets so hot? I wonder what the difference (heat wise) is relative to the Odyssey which literally never gets hot no matter how hard and long it's pushed. Is it heat sink design?
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 04:16 PM

The hum is audible through the speakers and as i previously mentioned, it kind of sounds like electrical current through overhead lighting, but not that loud.
The noise floor from the preamp 'drowns' out the hum once it is turned on but that doesn't mean the hum isn't there.

As for the heat, i'm sure the difference is in the weight/size of the heatsinks. The A23 is 28lbs, the Stratos is over 50.

I really like the Halo features though which the Stratos does not have.
Deciding between what makes a difference and what really won't is killing me.
There is still one unit left on my short list though, the Anthem MCA20.
The price for it locally is $1500cdn plus 14% tax. I can get it from the States for $750usd (add shipping, customs, exchange and tax) and the equivalent Cdn is under $1300.
Goes to show how much the audio vendors really jack up the prices.

Posted by: mwc

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:03 PM

Lots of good reviews on the Anthem. But then again, have we ever seen a negative review (from the "pro" writers) of a high end product with a big ad budget? I mean a good old fashion ass whoopin' of a product where they say "don't buy this product because.....". (excuse the mini rant please )

Yes, these choices can be nerve racking but, in the end, only you can decide.
Posted by: Zarak

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:07 PM

Most of them seem to go by the, "If you don't have anything nice to say..." philosophy.
Posted by: mwc

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:19 PM

Yes they do that and I think they expect us to do a little "reading between the lines" as well.
Posted by: Ken.C

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:23 PM

You guys are just quoting from that Bose article I posted...
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:30 PM

Yes the decision does come down to me and i'm waffling, i'm waffling!!
Posted by: mwc

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:34 PM

GET A GRIP MAN! Take a deep breath and try to stay focused.
Posted by: Ken.C

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/20/03 05:37 PM

You know, if it doesn't make you happy, perhaps you should return it. Is the issue that there is nothing else out there with the feature set that you want for a comparable price? I tend to be leery of products like that. Except, wait, isn't Axiom like that? Ooh, my brain hurts.
Posted by: Saturn

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 12:14 AM

Hey chess;

Try and see if you can borrow a passive preamp. That will definitely show if the issue is with your Denon or the amp itself.
I have tried an Anthem MCA20. I know the Bryston 4B outperforms the Anthem. Brystons has a nice warm sound. It has no hum and it runs only warm after 6 hours of running hard. It has lots of headroom as all Bryston's are known for.
I got a passive pre I can possibly part with for a short period of time if you wanna try. Leave me a pm if your interested.

Saturn
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 12:40 AM

You know how i am with comparisons of quality solid state amps...

The hum is definitely not due to the Denon as i had another preamp (the Phillips) in place the first time around.
The Parasound A23 is definitely causing the low hum.

I sent you a PM.
Posted by: spiffnme

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 01:37 PM

The humming and the heat sound like deal killers to me. (Especially the humming.) My Rotel 1070 never gets hot. (and it's not a huge 50lb beast.)
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 02:18 PM

In reply to:

The humming and the heat sound like deal killers to me.



This is why i'm waffling on the decision.
The heat may not be a big deal since you normally do not sit touching the amp while listening to music. Perhaps in a small room it would add some temperature but otherwise, who would really care if it ran a bit warmer than some other amps?
It is Class A into the first 5W which i'm sure is part of the issue.

The hum, as far as i can tell, does not affect the sound quality any. The noise floor from recordings is greater than the hum but the mere fact i know it is there is bothersome.

But i love everything else about the Halo.

More waffling...
Posted by: Zarak

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 05:42 PM

It sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into something that you may not be happy with in the long run.
Posted by: Saturn

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 07:01 PM

Great point Zarak.

Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 09:46 PM

In reply to:

It sounds like you are trying to talk yourself into something that you may not be happy with in the long run.



A very astute point Zarak.
But we all do it.
We all try to talk ourselves into what we think we need at some point. Then it simply becomes a matter of want and desire such that our wills collapse into submission. I have friends that change their components more often than i do socks.

I really do like the Halo amp. Don't get me wrong.
If i could find one for about $1200 Cdn instead of $1800, i would easily overlook its shortcomings.
Each piece of equipment may have its faults or tradeoffs. I'm trying to decide if this Halo has tradeoffs worth its price compared to some other units, which again have their own positive and negatives.
That's where the waffling comes in.

I'm really not in a rush. I can wait for next year's products to come out or last years' products to have new iterations with improvements and refinements. I would be surprised if this Halo line was not going to be tweaked this year. The Halo lineup is after all still quite new.
Posted by: mwc

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/21/03 10:28 PM

In reply to:

But we all do it.
We all try to talk ourselves into what we think we need at some point. Then it simply becomes a matter of want and desire such that our wills collapse into submission




I'm guilty.
Posted by: tinfoilhat

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 01:30 AM

Is there any reason why you are not looking at Bryston?
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 09:57 AM

In reply to:

Is there any reason why you are not looking at Bryston?



Just too high a price. Used would be the only option and even then, several years old units are just coming into my price range.
Posted by: sidvicious02

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 04:12 PM

Chess,
I know you and I discussed the McCulloughs before in a pm and they've got Sherbourn. Most consider it the poor-mans Bryston, but talking to Bill, he said many of his customers preferred the Sherbourn to the Bryston. You should be able to get a decent deal on one of those if it interests you (but still going to be more $$$ than the Parasound)
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 05:02 PM

Yes...Bill M.
I've dealt with Bill before. He can really get some good deals in.

My problem remains cost.
I was really looking at the $1400 max point for a stereo amp which is why i have been scouring audiogon for used stuff.
Ultimately i may just have to wait for another year until more becomes available on the used market and things age.

I do however have the opportunity to demo an Anthem MCA30 from Creative Audio in town. I'm looking into that now.
Posted by: sidvicious02

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 05:19 PM

I wasn't overly impressed by the guys at Creative. They just seemed to have a bit of that 'air' to them - a little audio snobbery. It's too bad they're the only ones with Anthem in town, I'd have probably bought a MCA-50 when I was shopping for an amp if they hadn't ticked me off.

What really turned me off from them was when I started mentioning that I'd bought/was planning to buy my speakers from an internet only company called Axiom. They kind of turned up their nose. They were also pretty down on internet Audio forums - apparently they didn't think I was intelligent enough to wade through the crap to find the good honest info.

It's just funny/strange (it's something anyways) to see people who are so into tech gear on one hand, and then be scared s@*tless by the internet.
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 05:24 PM

In reply to:

I wasn't overly impressed by.....



See PM.

In reply to:

It's just funny/strange (it's something anyways) to see people who are so into tech gear on one hand, and then be scared s@*tless by the internet



I agree, 100% wholeheartedly!!
I've seen it several times now and i find it amazing.
Maybe it cuts into their bottom lines in ways they had not imagined.
Did you know that Advance in town has yet to put up a website with any of their floor products listed?

Posted by: sidvicious02

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 05:29 PM

that does kill me about Advance because they have some great products there. What all dealers should have is a spot on their website, like Creative Audio, where they sell demo/obsolete products. I like a bargain as much as the next guy, and it would be nice to see what they have on their clearance table without having to physically visit the store.
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 05:48 PM

In reply to:

that does kill me about Advance because they have some great products there


Yes, yes they do.
Salesmen are pretty good too. If you ever have a problem, get pushed too much, whatever, go see the manager.
Just awesome customer service response.
In reply to:

What all dealers should have is a spot on their website, like Creative Audio, where they sell demo/obsolete products. I like a bargain as much as the next guy, and it would be nice to see what they have on their clearance table without having to physically visit the store.



Yes. I kind of like these guys at Canadian Hifi
The guy i bought our Tannoys from down in Calif. was also just EXCELLENT to deal with and he apparently does alot of business with Canadian Hifi. He said to mention his name (that he referred you to them) if you approach them for a deal. Their prices are still a bit elevated for my pocketbook.
Posted by: sidvicious02

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 06:45 PM

that's funny Chess, Canadian Hi-Fi was actually where I bought my M60s and my Sherbourn amp. I was very impressed with them and I love their website setup!
Posted by: slownlo

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 09:48 PM

<<>>

Kinda like the Axiom message board? (lol)
Posted by: spiffnme

Re: Parasound Halo (short review) - 12/22/03 11:07 PM

Are you suggesting we never have a bad thing to say about Axiom products?

I beg to differ.

I've never suggested anyone purchaes Axiom speaker cables.
I've ALWAYS suggested that people purchase a Hsu subwoofer over an Axiom sub.
And as far as M22's, M60's, and QS8's are concerned. I've honestly never heard anything as good as them for near the price.

Over reactive, defensive rant over.


Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 12/29/03 04:05 PM

I thought i would post my final thoughts on the Parasound.
I had a chance to take one home along with the Anthem MCA20 for Christmas. Both are now heading back to the store before the return policy expires.

The Coles notes version of my demo on these amps ( it's real easy).
THERE WAS NO DIFFERENCE IN SOUND.
....[sentences of edited comments removed].....
I actually had setup a proper A/B test for these 2 units (mono setup, 2 speakers, one amp powers each speaker so the balance knob on the preamp could be used as the 'switcher').
You know what i found out?
That my left ear hears differently than my right (not an odd thing though) and when i switched amps:speakers to L&R or when i turned my head 90 degrees to switch and listen with only my left ear pointing towards the speakers, all the perceived differences between the amps went away or were reversed!!
....[further edited comments removed]....
Secondly, the 2 amps had to be calibrated for the A/B test such that the volume output was identical. The volume on the preamp produced a louder volume through the Parasound than through the Anthem amp. If it were not for the gain selectivity feature on the Parasound amp, lowering the gain to match the volume of the Anthem would not have been possible. In my first run around, i actually thought there was a sound difference but realized that one amp just sounded louder than the other. After calibrating the decibels, this was no longer apparent. (I can only speculate how many ppl have auditoned amps in their home and not accounted for such a variable but then reported one amp is "more robust" or "more punchy/powerful" etc. than another.)

On the other side of things, i did do my best to find any type of flaws in either unit such that i could try to rank them in my short selection list.
Here is that list of things i found:

Parasound Halo A23
Positives
    powers well
    gorgeous case and lights, nice design
    great features (just loaded -balanced or unbalanced connections, loop out connections, 3 methods for turning it on/off, carry handles, gain selectivity knobs to adjust for preamp signal strengths and a ground loop switch)

Negatives
    runs pretty hot when pushed
    more pricey than Anthem
    auto signal detect on feature really needs a strong signal to get it to work, below volume 7 on my preamp (scale of 0-35) would actually cause the amp to shut off thinking there is no signal. This was kind of annoying when playing music relatively low but at least the alternative was to use the trigger switch method or find a preamp that puts out a stronger overall signal .

Anthem MCA20
Positives
    larger build, very solid and huge internal parts compared to the Halo
    good heat dissipation
    powers well
    cheaper than Parasound ($1500 for the MCA20, $1600 for the Parasound but i could have haggled a bit for the Anthem dropping the price)
    auto signal detect feature worked better than Parasound
    Canadian company (i prefer to support national economy if the item is of good quality rather than buying something built overseas)

Negatives
    real boring look and case, not all silver (silver face, black case compared to the Halo which was all done in aluminum finish)
    power plug does not have a ground plug (kind of surprising)
    not as many features as the Parasound ( it had balanced and unbalanced connections and the 3 method on/off switching and that's it)


Side note
The Halo Hum as previously referred to was still evident, however the Anthem unit produced a similar sound although a bit different. In previous tests with a Coda amp, no hum was really evident. Upon changing the preamp (Denon) for my a/v receiver (Onkyo) the hum was nearly non-existant for both the Anthem and the Parasound.
It is very possible that the Denon is responsible for introducing a background noise into the signal although it was not at all noticeable once music was playing. The noise floor of the recording is easily more than double the sound of any background hum. The use of the Onkyo clarified my concern about the alleged Halo Hum. There really is none.


All in all i would probably buy either unit but my wife preferred the Halo over the Anthem based solely on aesthetics and its smaller size. I would have preferred a larger sized Halo unit as the A23 model runs a bit hot for my liking but the features it has are darn nice. However, b/c the Halo is priced so high and the auto detect feature is a little weak, i would buy the Halo unit over the Anthem ONLY if i can get it for a good price used, perhaps in the $1200-1400 range, but not at $1600 plus taxes (all Cdn values).
If i can get a good silver Anthem for about $900-1200, i would buy it instead. It is NOT worth the $1500 considering the $100 extra for the extra features of the Parasound Halo (using the retail prices i was quoted before taxes or haggling).

Conclusion
Both units sound excellent and powered my Tannoy Definition D700s with ease. There was never any clipping or overheating issues as indicated in sound or by the unit diagnostics even after an hour of 105dB playback (2.4 metres, approx. 8 foot measured distance).

If you want a no frills, heavy built, cheaper unit but also with more simple aesthetics (blander look), the Anthem was great.

For a bit more class, several more features and a slight step up in price, i would take the Halo, but NOT unless its price was very less than retail due to the auto detect issue and smaller heatsink/internals.

Their price compared to many amps in this power range is extremely good. I certainly would recommend either one.
Posted by: spiffnme

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 12/29/03 04:24 PM

Thanks for the final review Chess. It's always good to hear real world feedback on audio products.


Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 01/08/04 05:05 PM

{sigh}

I miss my Halo.
Actually, i think i just miss having my lovely new speakers playing sweet sound.
Now i have to go all the way downstairs into the basement and sit with the cat to hear my Axioms in a hard configured room.

Oh the audio woe of it all.

On the plus side, i'm going to do some more auditioning tomorrow aft. A friend who was interested in the Tannoy Saturns awhile back is still looking around at options. I think the Energy Veritas is on the lineup along with Totem and i believe some DefTech.
Posted by: spiffnme

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 01/08/04 05:09 PM

I really enjoyed the Veritas, though they're dang costly. If I had tons of cash and were ever to get board of my Axiom setup, I'd consider them seriously.

Hmm...perhaps some day in a separate two channel only setup....
Posted by: curtis

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 01/08/04 05:17 PM

I heard the Totem Dreamcatcher and Model One yesterday, with a tube amp, tube preamp, and tube CD player.

They were much smaller than I thought they would be...and sounded like it. I was not impressed. Would have liked to hear the bigger Totems.
Posted by: pmbuko

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 01/08/04 05:25 PM

Since tubes "do stuff" to the sound, I wonder if some speakers are better suited to them than others?

Those Totems sure look nice, but boy are they pricey.
Posted by: chesseroo

Now a Totem thread - 01/08/04 05:58 PM

I've also heard the Totem floorstanders previously, the Arrow, Staff, Hawk and the Wind.
I thought they were nicely detailed but the small footprint took alot away from them sounding stellar. They would be great considerations for a smaller room or condo assuming you don't mind paying the extra cash for such a smallish item.
I didn't like the Wind at all. That big bass driver was way too boomy which really killed the otherwise nice detail of the smaller drivers and tweeter.
I shocked the salesguy when i told him i preferred the Staff over the Wind (a $2000/pair vs. $8000 per pair for the Wind).
As usual, they had the Staff hooked up to a SS amp while the Wind was connected to a slew of tubed items. Of course all the Totems had the "properly placed beaks" on top.
Who is to say what really was going on with the sound from what source but to date, i'm sticking with that general review.
Posted by: curtis

Re: Parasound Halo- Final review - 01/08/04 06:07 PM

Yes...it is my understanding the tubes do different things to different speakers.

Yeah.....they were pricey.
Posted by: Semi_On

Re: Parasound Halo - 01/22/04 09:57 PM

This must be what called me back to the site. I hate you Chess.
Posted by: chesseroo

Re: Parasound Halo - 01/22/04 10:05 PM

You know, i never did post any pictures of it.
I must have been so darn excited at the time.