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Best of 2015 Award Winner - HomeTheaterReview.com
"Super Stereo Integrated" Offers Flawless Reproduction of Analog and Digital Sources
We call the Parasound Halo Integrated the "Super Stereo Integrated," because it's the most feature-laden integrated amp we've ever seen. It includes a DAC, a premium phono stage, and even a subwoofer management feature.
When Parasound embarked on the Halo Integrated amplifier project in 2011, the designers had to re-think what a modern integrated amp should be. And so they have, guided by their 34-year reputation for delivering the most bang for the buck in high end audio.
Parasound chose the best-sounding parts and included the most current and useful features to bring you a superior integrated amp with the same performance as Halo separates. Parasound's acclaimed P 5 inspired its preamp stage and advanced feature set, while its power amp stage employs the same John Curl circuit topology found in the company's legendary Class A/AB A 21 and A 23. Its cutting-edge DAC decodes 384 kHz PCM and DSD using the latest ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC. Demo the new Halo Integrated and you'll see why it's your only choice.
"It Stuck Close to the Facts
"Throughout my listening for this review, the Halo Integrated played with generous measures of the aforementioned neutrality… which made it easy to hear the sonic qualities of every associated component I used with it," notes Herb Reichert in the November 2015 issue of Stereophile.
According to Herb Reichert, "The Halo played tunes and sang songs as if it mattered. It stuck close to the facts. It was never boring. It frequently enhanced my feelings of devotion and mindfulness."
"Pretty much anything you pump through the Halo Integrated's speaker outputs sounds downright sumptuous," raves HomeTheaterReview.com, which honored the Halo Integrated with a Best of 2015 Award.
"The Parasound Halo Integrated stands out for its impressive feature set," reports Kalman Rubinson in his Stereophile.com CES post on January 11, 2015. "The entire digital input module has been re-engineered for higher performance. Somehow, Parasound has also managed to include a John Curl-designed 160Wpc power amp with a 40,000µF power supply filter and offer the whole package for $2500."
"Full bass management is a rarely found feature in stereo integrated amps, but the Parasound Halo has it, along with superb sound," notes Steve Guttenberg, The Audiophiliac, CNET.com, June 13, 2015. "Really dynamic recordings, like Antonio Sanchez' drums solos on the 'Birdman' soundtrack amply demonstrated the Halo Integrated's muscle."
"At the Top of My List"
"If I were looking for an integrated amp to put together an ultimate budget system, the Parasound Halo Integrated would be at the top of my list," writes John Kanno in a SoundStage! CES post, January 9, 2015.p align= "justify">"What Parasound is offering on the digital front is very impressive and shows that Parasound is serious about making the Halo Integrated a force to be reckoned with when it comes to high resolution digital audio," reports Theo Nicolakis, Audioholics.com, April 2, 2015.
"Recommended! Superlative and affordable. In the price range… this is the amplifier that currently reigns, and I have difficulty seeing any other integrated amplifiers, or for that matter preamp and power amplifier combinations which can deliver the same capabilities and the same sound," notes Håvard Holmeval in Norway's Stereo magazine, February 2015
An Underpriced Masterpiece
"Creating the Halo Integrated amp required Parasound to virtually redefine what a modern integrated amp should be. It was a given that its sound quality had to match our acclaimed Halo separates. Thus, its 2.1 channel analog preamp stage with its unprecedented feature set is taken verbatim from our popular P 5," reports Richard Schram, founder and president of Parasound. "Its power amp stage employs the same John Curl circuit topology and high current design that has made our A 23 and A 21 power amps perennial favorites."
"We went to great lengths to eliminate power supply contamination that compromises audio purity in some of the most expensive high power integrated amps. Newly released parts enabled us to leap ahead with an all-new DAC to provide flawless reproduction of the highest resolution digital audio.
"We've streamlined our Halo design concept and you might have noticed the slimmer panel end caps. They are now milled solid aluminum. There's also a new die-cast metal nameplate and an illuminated position indicator in the volume knob."
"One more thing," adds Richard. "Our dealers tell me that I've underpriced the Halo Integrated and they're probably right. But I doubt if many Parasound customers have trust funds and I far prefer the challenge of creating audio products with a stunning value proposition. The Halo Integrated is the most recent example of a philosophy that hasn't wavered in over 30 years."
Powerful Amplifier Section Designed by John Curl
The powerful amplifier section of the Halo Integrated was designed by the legendary John Curl, who is responsible for the design of Parasound's award-winning flagship JC 1 monoblock amp and the JC 2 stereo preamp. Power delivery is 160 watts RMS at 8 ohms, both channels driven, and 240 watts RMS at 4 ohms, both channels driven.
The dual-mono power supply and power amplifier boasts a direct amplifier input to bypass the preamp section and high-bias class A/AB operation. It uses an oversized shielded toroid power transformer with 40,000uF power supply filter capacitance. The input stage uses matched JFETs, the driver stage uses matched MOSFETs and the amp stage employs 12 high voltage/high current bipolar output transistors.
Wide Range of Analog Connections
The Halo Integrated's analog audio inputs consist of a front panel Aux input with automatic +12 dB gain stage, five pairs of RCA line level analog inputs, one pair of XLR balanced analog inputs, and a phono input for MM and MC cartridges. It also provides balanced XLR and RCA left and right preamp outputs, one balanced XLR output, and two RCA subwoofer outputs. For your speakers, it provides heavy-duty 24k gold-plated five-way speaker binding posts.
The Halo Integrated's built in 32-bit DAC uses a very high resolution 384kHz ESS Sabre32 Reference DAC IC. Since the Halo Integrated's DAC is superior to the DACs in most source components, they will sound better if you connect one of their digital outputs to the Halo Integrated's DAC instead of connecting their analog output jacks. The Halo Integrated decodes DSD128 (1x) and DSD256 native (2x), plus DSD over PCM [PoP] at 384kHz (4x).
The optical input is a high speed Toslink receiver. It accepts PCM digital signals up to 192 kHz with 16 or 24 bit word lengths. The coax S/PDIF input connector is an RCA jack. It accepts PCM digital signals up to 192kHz with 16 or 24 bit word lengths.
The USB input is used to connect your Halo Integrated to your Windows PC or Mac computer. This allows high quality playback of any music files that are stored on your computer and streaming music services you access over the internet. The USB input connects your Halo Integrated to your Windows PC or Mac computer. This allows high quality playback of any music files that are stored on your computer and streaming music services you access over the internet. The USB input accepts PCM sampling rates up to 384 kHz with 16, 24 or 32-bit word lengths. The USB input also accepts native DSD and DoP (DSD over PCM). The Halo Integrated uses USB 2.0, which requires Windows® users to first download and install drivers on their computer, available for download on the Halo Integrated's web page.
Adjustable Low-pass and High-pass Crossovers
Among the Halo Integrated's many benchmark features is the ease with which it allows you to integrate audiophile stereo speakers with a home theater surround system. The Halo Integrated and the Halo P 5 are probably the only audio components currently on the market that includes switchable and adjustable low-pass and high-pass crossovers. Infinitely variable rear-panel controls let you set both crossover points exactly where you want them.
Home Theater Bypass / Amp Input
The Halo Integrated's Bypass/Amp input makes it suitable for both the highest quality stereo reproduction and for powering the L and R channels in a surround sound system.
This unique feature benefits your system in a number of ways. It will improve the performance of the front left and right speakers in your surround sound system because the power amp built into the Halo Integrated is superior to any receiver's amp. It will also relieve your receiver of the burden of driving the left and right speakers, so that more power is available to drive the center and surround channels. This feature also enables your subwoofers to operate with the sub channels in your surround sound system and your stereo sources.
The Halo Integrated Theater Bypass function routes the incoming L and R (front) channels from your surround receiver's (or processor's) L and R pre out jacks directly to the L and R inputs of its power amp stage, bypassing the preamp stage. When the Halo Integrated is connected this way it functions as a pure power amplifier.
The subwoofer outputs from your surround receiver are routed directly from the Integrated's Bypass Sub In jacks to its Sub Output jacks. When you select the Bypass input the Halo Integrated preamp circuits and controls are totally out of the signal path.
Phono Stage with Three Position Selector Switch
The Halo Integrated is equipped with a high quality phono stage. The Phono input has a three-position load/cartridge selector switch. MM is for moving magnet cartridges. It provides a 47k ohm load and the appropriate gain for all MM cartridges. This is the most common cartridge type.
MC 100 ohm is for most moving coil cartridges. It provides the higher gain required for even very low output MC cartridges and a 100 ohm load that is ideal for the majority of MC cartridges.
MC 47k ohm provides the appropriate gain for MC cartridges with an alternative 47k ohm load. You can try both the 100 ohm and 47k ohm settings to see which sounds best in your system. The MC 47 k ohm setting is also the load which Soundsmith and Grado recommend for their MI (moving iron) cartridges.
Audiophile Headphone Stage
The Halo Integrated is equipped with a dedicated high quality current-feedback headphone amplifier based on the top grade Texas Instruments TPA6120A. This superior design allows for an extremely high slew rate preventing odd order distortions which are responsible for listening fatigue. The virtually instantaneous response to musical dynamics doesn't raise the noise floor or degrade the s/n ratio like typical headphone amps. The headphone amp circuit was also designed with a low 10 ohms output impedance and high gain to drive headphones rated up to 600 ohms.
The headphone jack accepts a 1/8" (3.5mm) stereo mini plug. The Left and Right Speaker Outputs and the Preamp output jacks (RCA and XLR) are muted whenever a headphone plug is inserted into this jack. The L and R Record out jacks are not muted.
Front Panel Aux Input
For your convenience there is an input jack on the front panel for a portable MP3 player or mobile phone. Connect the included cable with 3.5mm stereo plugs between your portable player or phone's headphone jack and the Halo Integrated's Aux input jack. The Aux input has an additional gain stage that boosts the input signal by 12dB so that the volume level remains consistent when you select your other audio sources. For the best result, set your portable player or phone's volume to at least 75% of its maximum level.
Defeatable Tone Controls and Much, Much More
The front panel has a headphone jack, controls for source selection, level, bass, treble, tone defeat, balance, and subwoofer level. There is an auxiliary input with an additional 12-dB gain stage to compensate for typically low output of portable devices. An included remote control duplicates these functions. The IC volume control uses a premium Alps motorized potentiometer.
In addition to upgrades to the analog audio circuitry, the Halo Integrated features a 0.5 watts standby power consumption to meet the new Energy Star requirements. A 12-VDC trigger circuit and a IR connection and loop-out make it easy to interface with sophisticated AV systems.
"Throughout my listening for this review, the Halo Integrated played with generous measures of the aforementioned neutrality… which made it easy to hear the sonic qualities of every associated component I used with it,"
"The Halo played tunes and sang songs as if it mattered. It stuck close to the facts. It was never boring. It frequently enhanced my feelings of devotion and mindfulness."
"With either MM or MC phono cartridges, the Halo Integrated's overall sound was spirited, naturally detailed, and alluringly three-dimensional."
"I was stunned. The Halo's headphone amp delivered plenty of voltage, which let the high-impedance Beyerdynamics recover so much more microdetail, fine texture, and midrange color…"
- Herb Reichert, Stereophile , CES Report, November 2015
Best of 2015 Award Winner – HomeTheaterReview.com
"Pretty much anything you pump through the Halo Integrated's speaker outputs sounds downright sumptuous."
"The Parasound Halo Integrated stands out for its impressive feature set."
"The entire digital input module has been re-engineered for higher performance. Somehow, Parasound has also managed to include a John Curl-designed 160Wpc power amp with a 40,000µF power supply filter and offer the whole package for $2500."
- Kalman Rubinson, Stereophile.com, CES Report, January 11, 2015
"Full bass management is a rarely found feature in stereo integrated amps, but the Parasound Halo has it, along with superb sound."
"Really dynamic recordings, like Antonio Sanchez' drums solos on the 'Birdman' soundtrack amply demonstrated the Halo Integrated's muscle."
- Steve Guttenberg, The Audiophiliac, CNET.com, June 13, 2015
"If I were looking for an integrated amp to put together an ultimate budget system, the Parasound Halo Integrated would be at the top of my list."
- John Kanno, SoundStage!, CES Report, January 9, 2015
"What Parasound is offering on the digital front is very impressive and shows that Parasound is serious about making the Halo Integrated a force to be reckoned with when it comes to high resolution digital audio."
- Theo Nicolakis, Audioholics.com, April 2, 2015
"Recommended! Superlative and affordable. In the price range under kr. 30,000 this is the amplifier that currently reigns, and I have difficulty seeing any other integrated amplifiers, or for that matter preamp and power amplifier combinations which can deliver the same capabilities and the same sound."
- Håvard Holmeval, Norway's Stereo magazine, February 2015