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Club Parasound F.A.Q. (Last Updated 21 Jan 2012)

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  • Club Parasound F.A.Q. (Last Updated 21 Jan 2012)

    Club Parasound F.A.Q.

    (New information will be italicized to be easily identified)

    1. Introduction

    This is our FAQ for Club Parasound. We intend to add more as it becomes available or when we have time to update it.

    Please feel free to contact the moderator(s) if you have any good additions. (click on Chris D's name in any of the posts here, and select "send a private message") We will periodically update and expand this FAQ, so check back from time to time!

    1.1 Club Parasound?

    Yes, Club Parasound. A place within HTGuide, to discuss anything related to Parasound. You can discuss general things about Parasound, as well as their current equipment in Classic, Halo, Zcustom, and structural lines. Discontinued Parasound products are still VERY highly regarded and widely used in the A/V world as well, so we absolutely encourage interaction regarding historical Parasound products, too.

    Anything not related to Parasound should not go in the club and will be moved to more appropriate places in the Guide. On a related note, there is a dedicated "Pawn Shop" sub-forum here on HTGuide for selling or asking for gear. So please place Parasound buying/selling discussions there, and follow stated guidelines.

    We are in no way related to the official company of Parasound, so all information and opinions here are those of public people and not those of Parasound itself.

    Please do not dash off and pester Parasound about all of the discussions we have here, unless you need official information to operate or upgrade your equipment. This is all info gathered from various unofficial sources (except for info that's available on their website) as well as some "inside information" that some of us come across.

    Please also read the following topic about contacting the Parasound company: Parasound contact information

    1.2 Moderators

    Chris D currently is the moderator for Club Parasound. Scarp, the original author of this thread, is no longer with us, but may come back. Chris has experience with Parasound equipment, owns current and past Parasound models, and stays in contact with key Parasound personnel to stay on top of the latest news and model releases!

    As a basis for background information, Chris currently owns the following models:
    In the Halo line, a C1 processor, A21 and A51 amplifiers, a T3 radio tuner, and D3 disc player.
    In the new classic line, 5250 and 2250 amps.
    In the Zcustom line, a Zpre2 preamplifier, Ztuner v.2 radio tuner, Zamp v.3 amplifiers, Zbreeze cooling fans, Zhd HDMI switchers, and a ZCube rack.
    Chris also lusts after other models like the JC 2 stereo preamp, JC 1 amps, the new Zcd, and especially the upcoming Halo CD 1. Hopefully someday!

    1.3 Club Participation

    This Club is open to anyone at all that would like to talk about Parasound products. Welcome! (no "membership" required!!! Register on the forum, post, and you'll get a banana) This club is all about member participation. We'll post a bit of news here every once in a while, but won't force any conversations for you. If you want to talk, talk! If not, lurking is allowed, but the club is only going to be what you make it, and will only be here to suit your needs if you contribute by posting a few thoughts every now and then!

    2. Parasound Equipment

    Note: check The Parasound Website for more in-depth information.

    2.0.1 Where can I buy Parasound equipment?

    Again, check the Parasound website for more infomation. We've also put more information in THIS POSTING THREAD HERE

    2.1 What products does Parasound offer?

    Parasound currently specifies four product lines: New Classic A/V equipment, Halo A/V equipment, Z-Custom half-rack equipment, and "Architectural Speakers". Older "classic" models stopped being manufactured by Parasound in 2003.

    The classic models are still being offered on some websites and stores, but in Europe it's nearly impossible to buy any of this new. The Halo series took over as their current series in 2002. The biggest differences are looks and specs. Most of the new Halo units are a more natural continuation of the classic series. E.g. the A51 follows the HCA2205, the C1/C2 follow the AVC2500, etc.

    The "New Classic" line was debuted in 2004. They are named that because they are brand new models with the latest technology, but instead of having the silver appearance of the Halo line, they have the classic black look that Parasound has used with their products for years.

    Parasound also has other current and classic products, such as architectural and outdoor speakers, D/A converters, CD players, tuners, etc. Parasound's full lineup is shown throughout their company website. We wholeheartedly would like to hear from ALL Parasound owners here in Club Parasound, regardless of what type of product you own or how old it is!

    2.2 What amplifiers are in the Halo series?

    Currently there are 6 Halo amps:
    1) Halo A23, a 2 channel, 2 x 125 watts amp
    2) Halo A21, a 2 channel, 2 x 250 watts amp
    3) Halo A31, a 3 channel, 3 x 250 watts amp
    4) Halo A52, a 5 channel, 5 x 125 watts amp.
    5) Halo A51, a 5 channel, 5 x 250 watts amp.
    6) Halo JC1, a high-end 1 channel (monoblock), 1 x 400 watt amp.

    (all ratings @ 8 Ohms)

    This gives a good range of stereo, multichannel, and powerful monoblocks. All units have very good power/performance ratios, and are THX Ultra2 certified with precise specifications.

    The A51 is perfectly matched to the A21, for those who have a 7.1 setup and wish to use both amplifiers. (Chris does this) Similarly, the A23 is perfectly matched to the A52. With CES 2012, Parasound introduced the A31, a 3-channel amp that matches the Halo "1" amps. Its construction is more like the A21 than the A51, so a better five or seven channel setup might use an A31 and one or more A21's instead of an A51.

    2.2.1 What amplifiers are in the New Classic series?

    Currently there are 5 amps:
    1) Model 2125, a 2 channel, 2 x 125 watts amp
    2) Model 2250, a 2 channel, 2 x 250 watts amp
    3) Model 5125, a 5 channel, 5 x 125 watts amp.
    4) Model 5250, a 5 channel, 5 x 250 watts amp.
    5) Model 275, a unique 2 channel, 2 x 75 watts amp.

    (all ratings @ 8 Ohms)

    Hmmm.... notice a similarity? We had 5 halo amps, 5 classic amps? (now 6 Halo amps with the A31--no news on a planned addition to the classic line) Similar ratings. One big difference is the JC1 in the Halo line, a truly unique and high-end amplifier, whereas in the New Classic line you have the Model 275, a lower-powered slim amplifier for home theater solutions.

    2.2.2 Okay, so if four New Classic amplifiers exactly match Halo amps in power specs and number of channels, what's the difference between the two series?

    Alright. Let's see if I can give you a "no-bull" answer. Obviously, the first difference that's apparent is the exterior casing and appearance. Some people do actually feel that the exterior casing is one of the most important things of a unit, so if they don't like the modern silver look of Halo equipment, they'll buy a New Classic or vice-versa. It goes beyond that, though. If you were to open up a Halo and corresponding New Classic unit, you'd see that there are more robust innards to the Halo. The Halo is going to be the unit with a more hearty design and power supply. Halo amplifiers also add the capability of balanced XLR connections. Of course, the Halo unit is going to carry the higher price tag, too.

    To answer the question that you're really asking, YES, the more robust Halo design will give you a performance gain over the corresponding New Classic model of the same power rating. However, New Classic models perform superbly, so don't feel like you're getting a "step-down, cheap model" by choosing it over the Halo line.

    2.3 What amp should I get for my speakers? (surround setup)

    Obviously this is a very difficult question to answer. It all depends on what money you have and what speakers you have.

    In general, I would take this approach:
    - If you're not really someone that demands very detailed sound at high volumes, are on a very limited budget, or have very efficient speakers like horn-based Klipsch models, the 125W models will work just fine for you. Let's face it--if you're looking at Parasound, you have an appreciation for fine audio, especially if you're considering Halo models. If you choose the 125W models, you're not settling at all, it's just that it only gets better from there with Parasound.
    - If you've got the budget, the 250W models are highly recommended. They'll give you a cleaner, more detailed sound at all volumes, but will especially shine at higher volumes.
    - If you have very INEFFICIENT speakers like electrostats, the 250W models are required as an absolute minimum. If you can afford it, I'd highly recommend stepping up to the JC1 monoblocks. If you're a high-end audio freak, the JC1's are going to shine on ANY speaker you throw at it. Several high-end A/V companies still use Parasound amps in their demo setups at stores and electronics conventions, especially the JC1's.

    Don't forget, that a certain amp may have enough power for your current equipment and room. However, people upgrade equipment and move houses, so unless you buy with future-proofing in mind, next year you may need to buy new amplifiers all over again because you didn't get something powerful enough the first time.

    Scarp's previous comments were:
    (my reference is B&W Nautilus speakers, please try to make some sort of comparison to your speakers):
    • 1) For difficult speakers like B&W Nautilus 801 or 800 (i.e., quite high end), the JC1 mono blocks are definitely recommended if a budget allows.
    • 2) For a great speaker like B&W Nautilus 802, I would suggest either JC1 mono blocks or a stereo A21. Also the A51 will be more than capable of handling these speakers. The others I don't recommend, since 802's require a good amount of power to give optimum result.
    • 3) For speakers like the B&W N804 and N803, I recommend the A21 or A51. The amps will provide you with detail and power in the lower regions.
    • 4) For speakers from the B&W 700 series, the A23 and A52 will be more than sufficient. Obviously the higher amps won't do any harm, but already with the 125 watts, you will get a kick out of those speakers. A JC1 would definitly be overkill for those speakers.

    I used the Halo line as an example. However the Classic or New Classic lines will suit perfectly too. So instead of a A51 you can also use a HCA2205 or Model 5250, etc.

    When getting a 7.1 system setup, my suggestion would be to take matched amplifiers, since this will give the most uniform result. So e.g. A21 for your fronts and A51 for the center/surrounds. Or A23 fronts and A52 center/surrounds.

    However, it all depends on your specific system. In general take the most powerful amp for the most difficult or demanding speakers. Take less powerful amps for less difficult/demanding speakers.

    2.4. What is a Controller or Home Theater Processor?

    A controller is also more generally called a surround processor or pre/pro (pre-amp/processor). This is the brain, or central control of your ENTIRE setup, so you can understand its criticality. It controls your home theatre system, both sound and picture. You can route your video cables through the Controller, which automatically make you watch the picture that goes with the sound. If properly connected, just one selection for a source switches both sound and picture.

    Many videophiles choose to run their video cables directly from source equipment to the video display, (i.e. connect your DVD player directly to your TV) in order to prevent any signal loss or distortion by having another connection and going through the controller. However, Parasound has made painstaking efforts to keep video paths clean through the C1, C2, and 7100 controllers with no signal degradation. So taking advantage of the video switching features of the C1/C2/7100 will just make your setup that much simpler and easier to control. As an example, compare the 300MHz bandwith of the high-definition component video paths on the C1/C2 with other manufacturers, which bring down the bandwith as far as 50MHz or so. 300MHz is FAR more bandwith than you'll ever need to pass true high-definition video, even up to 1080p!

    Besides that it will decode nearly any digital input from Dolby Digital, to DTS, to PCM (cd), etc, including newer 7.1 digital formats like THX EX and DTS ES.

    One important function is to do bass management on the multichannel (and also stereo) inputs. This will take the setting you give it and makes sure the bass is managed as it should be. The biggest advantage of doing that inside the Controller is that you can connect several pieces of equipment digitally and only have to arrange the speaker setup once.

    See below in section 2.5.6 for information on using Parasound processors with decoded new lossless high definition audio formats like Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TruHD, DTS-HD, DTS-MA

    2.5. What controllers does Parasound have?

    There are no Parasound controllers in production at present.

    The most recent controllers offered by Parasound were the C1 and C2 in the Halo line, and the 7100 in the New Classic line. Parasound discontinued the C1 and C2 in 2008, and stopped the 7100 in 2009. Parasound was planning on releasing three all-new controllers: The Halo C3 and New Classic HDP70 high definition surround processors, and the HDR77 high definition surround sound 7-channel receiver with on-board amplifiers. However, for multiple reasons, Parasound canceled production of these new models, and as of 2012 does not have any plans to produce another surround sound processor. Instead, Parasound is focused on the things that they are most interested to make, largely 2-channel equipment.

    Prior to these models, Parasound had several other pre/pro models dating back to 1995, but these other models are not found very much today.

    2.5.1. Now, what about the Halo P3, Halo P7, New Classic 2100, Zpre2, and new Halo JC 2? Aren't they controllers too?

    Well, no, all of those models listed are considered to be pre-amplifiers. In the Halo line, two major differences between the Halo P3, P7, and the controllers--the P3 and P7 don't handle any video signals, just audio. (Note that you can add the Zhd to the P7 to switch HDMI video externally, but there is no onboard P7 video capability, nor HDMI audio processing) And the P3 is a 2-channel stereo audio units, not multichannel like the C1, C2, and 7100 for surround sound movies and such. The P7 is multichannel, but analog audio only.

    Parasound has a third Halo pre-amp currently on the market, the JC 2 (available with and without a "bypass" feature), which is a 2-channel pre-amp that is reference quality, and reported by some professionals to be one of the best in the world. (Hence the "JC" designation as the top-of-the-line, to match the JC 1 amplifier) The Zpre2 is a pre-amp in the "Z Custom" product line of half-rack components. The Zpre2 is also a 2-channel pre-amp, but it adds the capability of switching composite video. The New Classic line has also added a 2-channel preamplifier, the 2100.

    To summarize, current Parasound pre-amp models WITHOUT video capability are:

    Halo: two-channel P3, two-channel JC2, and multichannel P7
    New Classic: 2100
    Zcustom: Zpre2 And the new Halo JC 3? What is that?

    The JC 3 is actually a phono pre-amp for those audiophiles that like to play vinyl records. Like the JC 2, it is reference quality and is already regarded as one of the finest models on the market. For audiophiles, one of THE greatest setups you could have, at ANY price from the market, would be a JC 3 phono pre-amp, JC 2 stereo pre-amp, and a pair of JC 1 amplifiers. Add a Halo CD 1 disc player, (see paragraph 2.7 below) and you'd have pure 2-channel perfection.

    2.5.2. What's the difference between the three surround controllers that Parasound offered?

    The C1 has an extra component input for three component video inputs versus the C2's two inputs, and a different power supply. The biggest visible difference of the Halo units is that the C1 has a TFT video screen on the front of the unit, which also makes the case larger than the C2. The screen can be used for many different functions, such as previewing video sources, (even one different than the source currently being sent to your screen), as well as navigating through various menus both in the controller and your source equipment. This can remove the need to use the On-Screen Display (OSD) of the C1 settings on your TV or projector, where every time you change or view a parameter it pops up on the screen over your video.

    Besides the above mentioned differences, both Halo controllers give the same performance of audio and video. Also no other different internal components. Another big difference in the controllers, though, is the significantly lower price of the C2.

    The 7100 provides many of the same features and capabilities of the C1 and C2. However, like the amplifiers, it is not as robust in construction and design as the Halo units, which still are the premier units for Parasound. Take a look at the back panel of the 7100, and you'll see many of the same connectors, but not necessarily the same quality such as the BNC connectors of the Halo. The 7100 still is an incredible performer with all the latest technologies, whereas the Halos have had to have upgrades to have the latest. The 7100 does also have an upgrade port like the C1 and C2, although no more upgrades are likely to come for any of those three controllers. If you're looking for Parasound processor performance and quality on a budget, the 7100 may still be for you.

    2.5.3. Will there be hardware upgrades to the C1/C2/7100?

    In 2008 and 2009, since Parasound discontinued the C1, C2, and 7100, there will most likely be no more updates or upgrades to these models. Through the life of those models, we saw several firmware revisions, fixing minor bugs, with one major update that added Dolby Pro Logic IIx, lip sync, and other features. (see next questions)

    Parasound chose not to add HDMI switching directly to the C1/C2/7100. They instead added the capability of HDMI switching via an external unit, the "Zhd" which actually falls in design and style with the Z Custom series. The Zhd is connected to the C1/C2/7100 via RS-232 cables for seamless control and switching, so it's like sticking the switcher right inside the controller itself! No audio or video goes into the C1/C2/7100 itself though, it is only switched in the external unit.

    2.5.4. What about firmware of the Controllers? And how can I tell what firmware version I have?

    Please take a look at this discussion thread here. In this thread, we track the current firmware version, and provide the latest information.

    You can check which version you have by pressing and holding the front panel power button during power-on. This will show the current firmware version you have on your system.

    2.5.5. Will there be more firmware upgrades?

    On 28 Feb 2005, Parasound released an official firmware update for the Halo C1 and C2 controllers. There's lots of goodies, including Dolby Pro Logic IIx, lip sync delay capability, tonal controls, discrete zone 2 remote control codes, etc. Information and instructions for the update can be found in this thread HERE. If you still own a C1, C2, or 7100, you should check to make sure it has the latest firmware. At the least, it should have the 2005 DPL IIx update.

    As mentioned above, as of September 2008, there will most likely be no more firmware updates to the C1, C2, and 7100.

    2.5.6. So, wait a minute... does that mean that my "old" C1, C2, or 7100 is outdated now and not any good for my modern home theater? I want all the good stuff like lossless high definition audio and video, but I paid a fortune for my Parasound processor, and it gives me great sound!

    Your beloved C1, C2, or 7100 most certainly does NOT need to be replaced! Yes, you could go out and buy a new receiver or processor with all the latest gadgets and capabilities. But I'll point out that either (1) you'll get a cheaper unit that has new capabilities but doesn't give you as good quality of performance as your Parasound unit, or (2) you're going to pay another fortune for everything that your current Parasound unit can already do, but only add a few capabilities. Since you can add a Zhd HDMI switcher to any of these three units, you could also add an "outboard high def audio decoder" to get all the current audio and video capabilities available today. Read this thread HERE for information on how Chris has added all the new "goodies" to his C1. He still uses his C1 in 2012, has cutting-edge performance and capabilites, and is still going strong!

    2.6. How does this doohickey or that whatcha-ma-call-it function on my Parasound unit?

    I suggest you go to the Parasound website and download the manual. These are very good publications and very readable. (you'll even find some humor embedded in select places) Most of your questions should be answered in the manual.

    If you got any questions after that, don't hesitate to post them on the forum -- we're all here to help each other out!

    2.7. What DVD/disc players does Parasound have?

    Currently, Parasound has one disc player, a newly released CD player in the Zcustom half-rack line. This may be in no small part to the wish list here in HT Guide, where Chris and members here have asked for a Zcd player for years! Parasound has also announced the CD 1, a high-end reference CD player in the Halo JC line that would complete and perfect a JC two-channel system. This should be released any time now.

    In 2007, Parasound released two universal disc players, the Halo D3 and New Classic D200, which could play all formats of that time--CD, DVD, SACD, DVD-A, and mp3. These have since been discontinued. However, many Parasound owners still own these units, as they were specifically exceptional audio disc players. (Chris still uses the Halo D3 as his top choice for CD, DVD-A, and SACD playback) You will STILL today see top A/V companies use a high-end Halo audio setup for their demo systems in stores and electronics conventions, still today including the D3 player, even after discontinuation!

    Prior to these models, Parasound had several other CD players, dating back to 1996. However, these are not found very often today.

    2.8. What about a Blu-Ray player?

    Parasound has mentioned for years that this is being considered for future production. However, this is increasingly unlikely, as Parasound has been focusing more on 2-channel equipment

    Stay tuned, and we'll keep you up to date here in Club Parasound!

    2.9. What's up with the Z-series half-rack units? Those things are freakin' tiny!

    Well, yes, they're designed to be. The Z series currently has available a:
    • phono pre-amp (with and without USB function)
    • radio tuner
    • 5-speaker selector
    • pre-amplifier
    • HDMI switcher
    • rack cooling fan
    • 2-channel power amplifier
    • CD player.

    These models are specifically designed small for custom installations and places where space is at a premium. They can be mounted two units side-by-side in a standard rackmount, and also make excellent desktop mini-systems.

    These units are very versatile, given their size, rackmounting capability, modular design, and strong performance. Z Custom units best fit needs for:

    - Small spaces like office systems
    - Rack mounted equipment stacks with little space available
    - Multi-zone audio systems

    The Zhd HDMI switcher can be connected to the C1, C2, P7, and 7100 pre-amp/processors to externally switch HDMI audio/video. It will automatically switch inputs as the controller switches, if connected via RS-232 cable. There is no HDMI audio processing capability with these, however. No audio or video actually enters the processor from the Zhd. It's HDMI A/V switching only.

    Parasound continues to use and expand the Zcustom line with refinements, updates, and new models. We may see a 4-channel digital Zamp in the future, or other models.

    3. Use and Operation of Parasound Equipment

    3.1. Should I use balanced or unbalanced cables to connect my amplifiers to my controller or pre-amp?

    This is a bit tricky to answer. First off all it depends on your cables. Using a better quality unbalanced cable is preferred over an inferior balanced cable.

    Although every Halo model offers balanced connections with XLR plugs, they are not FULLY differential and balanced. This means that they are not true balanced machines. This can be quite confusing to people who are unfamiliar with balanced connections, their design, concept, and operations. To learn more about balanced connections, flip through the Halo C1 or C2 manuals. Parasound actually gives a good basic discussion of balanced connections and to what extent they are included on Halo equipment.

    General balanced concept: The design of balanced cables and jacks allows for noise rejection over long cable runs. A good summary is that Parasound partially balanced connectors keep the signal balanced from the external jack all the way through an XLR cable to the other end, providing noise rejection in those components. But because the design doesn't keep it balanced after it ENTERS the Parasound unit, it is not fully balanced. Bottom line, you'll get good noise rejection capability, but not as much as you would if it were fully balanced the last little bit.

    This said there are benefits to balanced cables, even if they are not FULLY balanced, such as the case with Halo equipment:
    • Better and firmer connections. The connectors used by balanced cables give a firm connection and can't easily be removed from the back panel. On some high-end Halo models like the JC 1, the XLR plugs are even locking.
    • Better shielding for crowded racks. Because of the build of balanced cables they offer better shielding possibilities from electromagnetic interference and the possibility of this creating "noise" or static in your cables. Especially when you have a lot of cables running behind your equipment, this might offer better protection against outside influences.
    • Balanced cables can be longer in length without introducing noise. This is obviously the biggest reason why studios always use balanced cables. They can run long cables without much problems. Most ideally for systems that use monoblocks, you can put the amp near the speaker, needing only a very short speaker cable and using a longer interlink from pre/pro to power amp.

    The XLR connections on Parasound pre-amps also have a small gain increase over the corresponding RCA connections. For this reason, when Chris was originally using highly efficient horn-based Klipsch speakers, he purposefully avoided the XLR connectors and used the RCAs. Now that he uses M&K speakers, he is considering switching to XLR.

    Bottom line, if you have the ability to utilize the XLR connections on various Parasound equipment (which are increasingly on more and more Halo models!), you should probably do so. However, be informed, and don't decide blindly.

    3.2. Do Parasound amplifiers require a break-in period?

    This is a common question. Short answer--yes, MANY Parasound users and professional reviewers have reported a noticeable increase in sonic performance and clarity after a break-in period of maybe 20 hours. So don't make a snap decision of Parasound equipment without giving them a chance. More than likely you'll be like me and have a great big smile on your face from the beginning anyway, and it will only get better as the amps break in.

    3.3. There's a lot of confusing information out there about HDMI. What is HDMI, how do I use it, and does Parasound equipment support it?

    HDMI is a type of audio/video cable that has the capability of carrying high-definition video, data, AND multichannel high-resolution audio, all in one digital cable. The industry is moving in the direction that, in the future, you will only need to connect ONE cable between each of your components to carry ALL audio, data, control, and video information. Imagine!

    Parasound has added HDMI capability to its line of products through the Zhd, a unit that does HDMI A/V switching from 5 distinct audio/video sources. The Zhd also connects directly to Parasound 7.1 surround controllers (Halo C1, C2, and New Classic 7100) through a RS-232 cable for seamless connection. If you select a video source on your controller, the Zhd will automatically switch HDMI inputs as well. For consumers that do not own these controllers or even any Parasound equipment at all, the Zhd can still be used as a completely separate unit as well, with infrared remote control and such.

    Parasound has created a FAQ on the Zhd and HDMI that may answer your specific questions. See and click on "FAQ".

    More to come!
    Last edited by Chris D; 23 January 2012, 08:24 Monday.