Parasound’s Halo Series JC 1 Power Amplifier and JC 2 Preamplifier Beltsville MD
Annapolis Junction, MD
Parasound’s Halo Series JC 1 Power Amplifier and JC 2 Preamplifier
June 12, 2008 By Steve Guttenberg
John Curl is a superstar high-end electronics designer. In the early 1970s, he worked his magic on the Grateful Dead’s concert and recording sound systems and later kept the Jefferson Airplane aloft, just before tackling film sound in Hollywood. All of that led to collaborations with high-end pioneer Mark Levinson; together they raised the stakes, considerably, with their legendary solid-state preamplifier, the JC 2, in 1974.
It didn’t matter that the product was two or three times more expensive than any other component in the nascent high-end market; a lot of folks who were lucky enough to hear it and afford it had to buy it. The JC 2 just had that effect on people.
Curl and Levinson were a volatile combination and soon parted ways. Over the next few years, Curl designed a long run of cutting-edge electronics. Then, in the late 1980s, he began what would become his longest working relationship with Parasound, where he’s had a hand in designing numerous preamps and power amplifiers. They’ve all been fine components; but, when I heard that Curl had finished work on an all-new Halo Series JC 2 stereo preamplifier for Parasound, I had to check it out. (It’s like hearing that Carroll Shelby built a new AC Cobra.) Parasound also sent along a pair of the matching Halo Series JC 1 400-watt mono power amplifiers. Even better.
With the JC 2 plugged in and warmed up, it’s immediately clear that Curl has learned more than a few tricks since the early days. The JC 1/JC 2 combo produces a remarkably detailed and shockingly realistic sound. I keep referring to Curl as the mastermind of these new designs, but he doesn’t work alone: Carl Thompson handles circuit board and layout design, and the late Bob Crump, an expert in electrical-component parts selection and implementation, also played an integral role on Curl’s design team.
The two JC components share the same industrial design, and there is no denying that their sculpted, brushed-metal faceplates, with swept-back curves and deeply channeled lines, are distinctive. The top panels, embossed with “Parasound,” are a nice touch, and build quality is rock solid. The front panels’ oval buttons are backlit in blue to create a halo effect. The JC 2’s remote control is a minimalist affair, although it does offer tuning buttons for Parasound’s Halo T 3 FM/AM tuner. The remote’s silver and grey plastic aesthetic does not match the components’ serious build quality, but it’s serviceable.
The JC 2 sports six line-level inputs, two of which are switchable for XLR balanced or RCA unbalanced connections. The main outputs are also available over balanced XLR connectors and unbalanced RCA connectors, and you get fixed-level RCA record output jacks for CD/tape recorder hookup. Conspicuous in its absence is a phono input for a turntable, but you can always connect an outboard phono preamp to the JC 2. In any case, Parasound’s parts quality is absolutel...