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"I cannot recommend it more emphatically!" - Positive Feedback magazine
John Curl-Designed Phono Preamp Delivers Performance Approaching the JC 3+ for Half the Price
Parasound's brand new Halo JC 3 Jr. phono preamplifier is a simplified version of the company's award-winning flagship JC 3+ and they sound very similar. In most systems, the difference would be hard to distinguish. The JC 3+ sound is slightly more refined and dynamic, because its component parts and construction are more expensive.
According to Parasound's president and founder Richard Schram, "I'd have no hesitation comparing the JC 3 Jr. with the five-digit priced phono preamps from other manufacturers."
"Best Under-$2000 Solid-State Phono Stage I Have Ever Heard"
"The Parasound Junior is, without a doubt in my mind, the best under-$2000 solid-state phono stage I have ever heard, or even know about," raves Robert H. Levi in Issue 93 of Positive Feedback magazine. "Giving you 2 scoops of a 3 scoop banana split for the cost of a single scoop, you will luxuriate in top-shelf phono pleasure and have some money left over for LPs. I cannot recommend it more emphatically!"
Stunningly Close, But Half the Price
With the success of the John Curl-designed JC 3 and JC 3+ phono preamps, which surpassed Parasound's sales forecasts, Richard told Audio Advisor, "I started to wonder how good a phono stage we could develop with John to capture the essence of the JC 3+ for a lot less money?"
According to Richard, "My ambition was to build a John Curl-designed phono stage within reach of more vinyl lovers. Originally, I thought we might have to price it at $1,800 or possibly $2,000 – it's actually that good. But I've priced the JC 3 Jr. to be a real steal at only $1,495, half the price of a JC 3+."
Richard's team worked on this project with John and circuit board designer Carl Thompson for nearly two years. "We've nailed it!" said Richard. "Largely due to Parasound manufacturing efficiencies, we were able to bring our price down by half. The price of the JC 3 Jr. is a real testament to the skill and dedication of our entire team, including John and the factory."
At half the price of the JC 3+, how does the JC 3 Jr. sound?
"There's not a phono preamp anywhere near its price that even comes close," said Richard. "We've created a winner, and I expect we're going to sell a lot of them."
What Made It In, and What Got Left Out?
One thing Parasound refused to compromise is the amazing sonic character of the JC 3+, which is what everyone raves about. The Jr. preserves this sonic signature, yielding only the nth degree of finesse, pin-point imaging and dynamic range. Circuit topology is closely related, and circuit boards were designed by Carl Thompson, John's circuit board partner dating back to his legendary Vendetta phono stage. Both use premium parts such as REL caps, Vishay-Dale resistors, Neutrik and Vampire connectors, and relays for muting and mono select.
What's different is that both channels of the Jr.'s gain and EQ circuits are built on a single board, behind a single shield, rather than on separate boards with individual shielding in the JC 3+. The Jr.'s power supply is shared by both channels rather than dual-mono in the JC 3+. It still employs the same high-speed/soft-recovery bridge diodes and common mode inductor to banish background noise. These changes enabled Parasound to use a new low-profile Halo chassis that is less expensive to build. It's gorgeous and will no doubt show up future products.
Is the designer, John Curl, happy with the result?
"Happy is an understatement," said Richard. "John appreciates our collaborative design process and he continues to surprise us with ingenious ways to control costs while upholding his demanding standards. We've worked together like this since 1989, creating superior products whose performance and value are unmatched."
"The Parasound Junior is, without a doubt in my mind, the best under-$2000 solid-state phono stage I have ever heard, or even know about."
"It is dead silent. It is mellifluous. It is sophisticated. It is truly high definition. It yields rock solid imaging and great clarity. It is unflappable and other-worldly flexible. It has no pops or static, even switching every knob with gain up. The mono button on front even changes color when engaged. If the Junior is not trickle-down brilliance from JC's previous designs, then this baby is an accidental miracle."
"The Parasound JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier, the Junior, is a fantastic boon to audiophiles everywhere who love getting the best out of their LPs, but do not have deep pockets. Giving you 2 scoops of a 3 scoop banana split for the cost of a single scoop, you will luxuriate in top-shelf phono pleasure and have some money left over for LPs. I cannot recommend it more emphatically! If you were going to spend about $1500-$2500 on a solid-state phono stage, I’d say that the Junior is your entire short list. It has my full recommendation."
- Robert H. Levi, Positive Feedback magazine, Issue 93
"All of [the] features and the build quality are, to say the least, unusual at this price point where 'wal-warts' and dipswitches are far more common. Also unusual are the low noise specifications."
"The bottom end is solid and well-extended and the preamp’s overall tonal balance is refreshingly neutral and very similar to what I noted with the JC3+: 'The JC3+’s midrange neutrality and transient cleanliness and its lack of grit, hyper edge definition or on the other side of that divide, softness, challenge the performance of far more expensive preamplifiers.' I’ll stick with that here too as well as with my JC3+ conclusion:
"'It does everything well and its minor acts of omission will not be noticed or missed on the kinds of systems in which it’s likely to be used. In real world priced systems it’s likely to max-out vinyl performance and keep you locked in to listening for years to come.' Overall then, the JC 3 Jr. is not quite as good as the JC3+ but at half the price it comes surprisingly close."
- Michael Fremer, Analogplanet.com, February 26, 2018
"The JC 3 Jr. can best be described as a Goldilocks phono preamp – just right in about every dimension. All of the characteristics we look for in music reproduction come together in a convincing musical picture. The mono switch on the JC 3 Jr. is a great addition – worth its weight in gold."
- audioFi.net (Malaysia), April 2018
"If you're trying to eek every nuance out of your turntable, the Halo JC 3 Jr is perfect for you. I find the Halo JC 3 Jr outstanding for value and performance."
- Secrets of HT and High Fidelity, April 2018