Parasound P7 Review Beltsville MD
Annapolis Junction, MD
Parasound P7 Review
February 6, 2009 By Geoffrey Morrison
Who needs Digital?
How's this for old school: the new Parasound P 7 has a grand total of zero HDMI inputs. None. Know how many optical inputs? None. The same with coax. No digital decoding, no digital-to-analog converters. If you're looking for any of that, may I recommend a receiver, or one of Parasound's other preamps.
For the P 7, we're just talking analog, and proud of it.
Ostensibly, the P 7 is a stereo analog preamp, but with a 21st-century twist. Knowing that many hardcore stereo purists occasionally sully their ears with surround sound, the P 7 also has two 7.1-channel inputs.
The idea being that anyone looking to get an analog preamp probably already has a CD/SACD player that has high-end DACs on board, an external upsampler, or, gasp, a DVD player (just for DVD-Audio, of course).
But there is another twist: Volume Bypass Mode. With this, you can use your receiver or other preamp to decode DVD or BD, then use the preamp outputs to go into one of the P 7's multi-channel inputs.
This way you can have the best of both worlds—pure analog audio for your audiophile sources, and then digital decoding for movies and the like, without switching out gear.
In addition to a set of XLR (balanced) inputs, there are seven analog inputs, including a specific phono input (with switchable MM or MC impedance). Then there's a rainbow of colors for the two multi-channel inputs.
You can send all 7.1 channels out via XLR or RCA (unbalanced). For custom integration, you get an RS-232 port. There is even a mini-plug on the front to hook up a portable media player. If you desire, the P 7 can talk to Parasound's Zhd HDMI switcher so you can switch video along with your audio.
In the menu you can do a host of standard preamp functions, which you may not expect for such a proudly analog device. You can rename all the inputs, set volume offsets for said inputs, and adjust bass management for the main speakers (analog, of course).
The key is, of course, how it sounds. In a word, transparent. The tonal qualities of each amp I used while putting the P 7 through its paces came through unmolested.
Personally, I can't think of a stronger endorsement for a preamp than that it leaves everything alone. Its near silent operation should appease even the staunchest audiophile.
When you consider, at the opposite end of the spectrum, how noisy a receiver can potentially be, with the amp and massive power supply all tucked in next to the sensitive audio parts, a product like the P 7 starts making a lot of sense. Free the music from all of that electronic noise, and audiophiles can rest assured that all they're getting is what is in the source material, to the best ability that their player, amp, and speakers can muster.
A niche product to be sure, but a fantastically well built one for those that "get" what it's for.
CONTACT: 415.397.7100, parasound.com