|Parasound A 52 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Andrew Robinson|
|Wednesday, 01 November 2006|
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Ahh, power amplifiers. Aside from loudspeakers, they are often the most touted products in the consumer electronics industry, and for good reason. Without them, there would be no music. They are charged with a great deal of responsibility and, while they may not look as sexy as some of their counterparts, they are without a doubt the backbone of every system. So, when a new amp is released, especially by a company as reputable as Parasound, one has reason to get excited.
Officially launched in 2003, Parasound’s Halo line of components were specifically designed to bridge, or at least blur, the gap between ultra-performance and budget-conscious components. Solid performance at a reasonable price has always been Parasound’s bread and butter, so it was a bit of a gamble when they set out to challenge some of the industry’s most notable, and expensive, players. With the exception of maybe a handful of other companies, like Outlaw Audio and NAD, most of these outright challenges to the status quo have been met with defeat. However, Parasound has had an ace up its sleeve for years in the form of legendary audio designer John Curl, who was more than instrumental in the design and development of the Halo line of components, more specifically, the famous JC1 mono blocks. Heritage and audio gurus are all well and good, but it’s the performance that matters most and, with stiff competition already established in the marketplace, it was time to see what the A 52 was really made of.
The A 52 retails for a manageable $2,000.00 and comes clad in a striking, beautiful aluminum silver finish with glowing blue lights that accent the A 52’s power switch and channel operations. In fact, the A 52 is better-looking than most components I’ve seen in a long time. However, its sleek industrial design was a bit of an attention grabber when surrounded by my more traditional-looking components. Good or bad, for the look of a specific component is purely subjective, you couldn’t miss the A 52 in my system. It measures in at 17-and-one-quarter inches wide by six inches tall and a hair under 20 inches deep, and weighs a hefty 50 pounds. Rated at 125 watts into eight ohms and 225 watts into four, the A 52 is THX Ultra 2-certified and should provide more than enough power to run all but the most demanding speakers available on the market today. If the A 52’s power output isn’t to your liking, there is always the larger, more powerful A 51 multi-channel amplifier waiting in the wings. Turning my attention to the rear of the A 52, I saw a very uncluttered yet comprehensive set of input/output options. The A 52 has five XLR (balanced) inputs, as well as matching RCA inputs, which are selectable via a simple switch at the end of the input row. Parasound’s decision to include XLR inputs was a nice little bonus, a true taste of the higher end that, when mated with the C 1 controller (via balanced connections), proved to be a step up sonically. Below the audio inputs are the A 52’s five standard five-way binding posts, which can accept all forms of speaker cable from bare wire to spade adapters. The A 52 also features a 12-volt trigger, as well as a ground loop switch and a detachable power cord.
I utilized the A 52 in a variety of systems in my home, ranging from the more exotic to super-budget. Ultimately, I ended up connecting the A 52 to the feature-laden C 1 controller that Parasound graciously loaned to me for my review period with the A 52.
The C 1 controller, like all Parasound Halo products, features the same silvery finish, which goes a long way in creating one hell of a classy-looking set-up in any rack system. Its new Zhd HDMI switcher (sold separately) adds yet another useful feature to the C 1’s already stellar rap sheet of bells and whistles, making it competitive if not one of the best surround sound controllers available on the market today. Together, the C 1 and the A 52 proved to be quite a pair, both sonically and visually.
I connected the A 52 to the C 1 using Monster M Series interconnects for the unbalanced connections and Transparent Reference interconnects for the balanced ones, since the C 1, like the A 52, is a fully balanced design. I once again turned to my JBL Studio L loudspeakers as my surround sound speakers of choice and connected them to the A 52 via Monster M series speaker cables. My finicky Toshiba XA-1 HD DVD player was my source for multi-channel music and movies, with my Denon 3910 universal player serving as my primary two-channel source. Once again, everything was connected via Monster M series interconnects, with all power filtration falling to my Monster HTPS 7000.
There isn’t much in terms of set-up when it comes to power amplifiers, other than making the proper connections and plugging the sucker in. However, I had to utilize the larger bottom shelf on my rack to give the A 52 a bit more breathing room, since it did create a fair amount of heat. Connected and ready to go in under 20 minutes, I was ready to enjoy the show. And what a show it was shaping up to be.