Review: Parasound Halo JC-1 Mono-Blocks Amplifier

Category: Amplifiers

My system isn't exactly state-of-the-art, but it suits my tastes to a tee! I listen mainly to pop, r&b, country, alternative, and some jazz and rock.I listen to the best recordings I have to evaluate components.I want sound that is accurate, smooth, dynamic, open, fast, clean, and like an open, extended top-end, and bass that is tight, fast, and extended. I want good imaging and soundstaging with a slightly forward perspective.I don't really care a whole lot for excessive warmth or a laid-back sound. I don't like slow, boomy, or under-damped bass at all. I hate too forward, aggressive, thin, and bright sound also.
The JC-1's deliver everything I like in spades!! And does not do any of the things that I don't like.They are the most awesome amplifiers that I have ever heard or owned, bar none! It is though they are voiced to suit my particular tastes!
I normally do not write reviews, but my enthusiasm for these amps is so great, that I cannot contain my enthusiasm for them! CTC and Parasound must be praised and recognized for bringing such a product of excellence to the audio marketplace! Thanks guys!
I did own the Parasound HCA-3500 and Adcom GFA-5802 amplifiers, and I extensively listened to a friends Pass X-350 amp.The Parasound JC-1's are in a different league than the 3500 or 5802! The Pass is an exceptional amplifer, but I prefer the JC-1's.It is slightly warmer and has better bass extension and control than the Pass.Imaging, focus, and transparency is very similar.The JC-1's also sound more effortless and at ease than the Pass.It just sounds more neutral and natural to my ears! The Pass may have a tad more top-end extension, but this is irrelevant to me.Keep in mind also that my JC-1's have only about 100 hours on them, so they are no where near broken-in. This will require about 1,300 more hours.
The Parasound HCA-3500, Adcom GFA-5802, and McCormack DNA-225, are great amplifiers, but the JC-1's are in a different league! The HCA-3500 is more opaque sounding, and is harsher and grainier in the mids and highs compared to the JC-1's.The HCA-3500 does not have the bass extension, control, and tightness that the JC-1's have.The JC-1's sound smoother, cleaner, more natural, and faster than the 3500, Adcom 5802 or the DNA-225.
The Adcom is warmer and more laid-back, with a slight roll-off of the top-end, but a little more forward in the "presence" region, compared to the JC-1's.The Adcoms bass is slower, less extended, less powerful, and less controlled also. The Adcom is less transparent, open, airy, and detailed than the JC-1.
The DNA-225 is a great amp that is fast,detailed, dynamic, images great, and has great bass, but compared to the JC-1, it isn't as transparent, neutral, fast, or as open.
The JC-1's have a slightly warmer sound, faster, slightly more detailed, and have better image width and depth than the DNA-225. The JC-1's bass is also better contolled, and extended. The top-end is comparable, except that the DNA-225 is a tad grainier and a alittle courser. The DNA 225 also sounds alittle leaner and more "thread-bare" in the mids than the JC-1's.
I can really find no weaknesses with the JC-1's, except maybe the heat they can produce when used in the HIGH-BIAS mode, and they take up more room than a single chassis amp.
Sonically though, they are exceptional! Some people might find them alittle forward, maybe a little warm, or polite, but not me! Some tube lovers also might not be 100% happy with these amps, but, I am enthusiastically 100% pleased and satisfied with these amps. They suit me and my system to a tee!
Michael Fremer and Sam Tellig hit the nail-on-the-head with these amps! Everything they wrote about them is 100% accurate!
Even if I were wealthy, I think I would still choose these amplifiers! THEY ARE THAT GOOD, and I give them my HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION! Check 'em out!

Associated gear
Sony CD/SACD Player.
Modded Pioneer DV-47Ai Universal DVD Player.
Adcom GFP-750 preamp.
LAT Internationals best interconnects and speaker cables-Externally Bi-wired.
Paradigm Reference Studio/100 version 2 loudspeakers.

Similar products
Parasound HCA-3500, Adcom GFA-5802, McCormack DNA-225, Carver A-760x, Pass Labs X-350.
Nice review, DaltonLanny. 1300 hours for break-in? I hope that's in dog hours.

Congratulations on a fine purchase. The consensus seems to be that the JC-1 is an excellent amp. I'm of the camp that the key to any good system starts and ends with the amplifier. Do you have any thoughts on that?

BTW, if you're up for experiments, I'd like to recommend that you audition the Audience Au24 speaker cables and ics. At least one or more dealers will give you a 30 to 60 day audition period. I don't think you'll be disappointed in the least with the Au24's and the JC-1s.

Stehno, Timchen, and Tireguy:
Thanks for your replies! I appreciate all of them.
It takes about 2 months of 24/7 signal to fully break-in the JC-1's, just ask Bob Crump.
Yes, the amplifier does make a huge difference in the sound of a system! I agree with you, Stehno, on that totally.
Yes, I would love to try the Audience Au24 ic's and speaker cables. I have heard alot of good things about them and the JC-1's together!
I would like to add that my Adcom GFP-750 preamp matches up EXTREMELY WELL with the JC-1's, believe it or not! I use the balanced XLR outputs on it. Alot of people don't like this preamp, but I beg to differ! I love how it matches up in my system! It is a bargain!
Finally, I would like to add that the JC-1's throw a huge 3-dimensional soundstage, lack any transistory hardness, grain, or etchiness, have pristine, smooth, and crystal clear highs, exceptional midrange palpability, and detail, and have exceptionally tight, powerful bass, and ultra-extended low bass! Even if I would have had to pay the full retail price for them, I would still call them bargains because of what they bring to the table, sonically. They are also built like tanks and look gorgeous! Solid state amplification has come a LONG,LONG WAY!
I have my Purist Audio Break-in disc running 24/7 since I got my JC-1's a couple of weeks ago. Can't wait for them to finally snap in shape.
I have the Purist Venustas cabling through out and am extremely happy with the results. Wonder how they would compare to the Audience line?
One thing for sure, these amps put out more heat than any amp I have owned! Should help on my heating bills in the winter months to come.
I am still amazed about the price of these gems. I have had everthing from Krell 650M's to Rowland 9Ti's(which I sold to buy a Land Rover!). These amps have no problems keeping up to the level of performance I am accustomed to!
Congrats Dalton..., glad to see you finally took the leap. Gota love your enthusiasm. They are fine amps and can't be beat for the price. I've owned some fine amps in the past, including a Classe Omega Omicron, and while I haven't directly compared them, I feel very satisfied with the performance of the JC-1s. The break in is for real, although they certainly don't sound shabby from the get go as you already know. They start snapping into shape at about the one month point and continue to get more dynamic, transparent, and slightly less forward. Its a much more subtle break in process than I am accustomed to with other amps, but they will sound dramatically better in a month and a half from now. I would highly recommend the TG Audio SLVR powercords with the JC-1s. If I'm not mistaken, I believe Bob Crump voiced the JC-1s with these pcs.
Gfroman,Tom munro, and Mdomnick:
Thanks for your replies to my JC-1 review. I appreciate your replies and feed-back very much!
I will post the results after my JC-1's are fully broken-in.
Unfortunately, I will probably wait till Fall when the weather cools down to break them in. Can't wait!
Thanks again you all.
Hi all,

Just added a Pass Labs X-1 preamp to my system.
Boy oh boy, what a combination!
My JC-1's still only have about 250 hours max. on them, so they are no where near broken-in yet. Can't wait! I am going to begin the 24/7, 60 day low-level signal break-in at the end of this month, or in early October.
Admittingly, I was beginning to have reservations about the sound of the JC-1's. They seemed to have a cloudiness or haziness in the mids and highs, lacked any depth or real dimensionality, seemed a little rolled off and/or undynamic on top, and sounded alittle lean.
After I added the Pass, all these perceived weaknesses went POOF and seemed to totally disappear! Preamp choice is absolutely critical with these amps!
Again, I must say, these are the best overall awesome sounding amps I have heard in my home or anywhere else, and they are no where near broken-in yet. I don't regret buying them one bit!
Oh, also read my Pass Labs X-1 preamplifier review that I posted last night.
My one experience with Halo Amps is entirely consistent with this review, except, that I am a tube lover, yet I found this sound to be very enticing. It does not have tube palpability but it was (in my one audition of them) extraordinarily precise and lifelike. No transistor artifacts yet not boring like some transistor amps that avoid those artificacts.
I am in the process of fully breaking in my JC-1's. I currently have about 600 hours on them. I am about half-way there!
I will write an update once they are fully broken-in.
Thanks for all the responses!
I'm eagerly awaiting tomorrow's arrival of my pair of JC-1's. Any comments on the power demands of these brutes? My apartment's panel has 20amp breakers and I use a Monster AVS2000 & HTPS7000 (no guffawing, please - they happen to work quite well in my application). I'm concerned as to whether or not I need to dedicate a line/breaker for these amps. What about quality control? I've read some threads in other fora where these amps have been compared to very stylish albeit equally lethal Claymore mines. Having lived with a quad of Halos (2xA23's, T3, P3) I'm very satisfied with everything about these products. Thanks.
Thats all I can say!
After 2 agonizing months of 24/7 music signal through my JC-1's, they are now fully broken-in!
The changes to the sound since I originally bought them is truly dramatic.
The top-end has openned up, and seems to have no limitations or boundaries, the mids are much more open and detailed, the image depth and width is amazing, and the bass is simply awesome!
For the first 30 days or so, the sound was slightly rolled off on top, alittle muddy in the mids and highs, and the sound lacked any kind of depth. The bass became alittle mushy. They sounded overly smooth, polite, and laid-back and lacked drama.
After 45 days they became thin, lean, bright, too forward.
At approximately 60 days of 24/7 playing a low level musical signal [AM/FM tuner], they transformed!
They are now the most detailed, transparent, and neutral amps I have ever heard. The sheer speed of these amps is amazing! The bass is simply the most extended, powerful, and tight bass I have ever heard. The image depth and width is world class.
I have no regrets at all buying these amps. They are the best audio purchase I have ever made.
I must admit from about day 10 to day 59 of playing time I had regrets about buying them. They were sort of disappointing and seemed lacking in several key areas, especially in top-end extension and dynamics, mids were too laid-back and lacked transparency, and the image had practically no depth or width.
All that has now changed for the better, or may I say BEST!
If you buy these amps, it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL that you give them their full 60 day break-in with a music signal, or you will never hear them in their full glory, and believe me, it is glorious!
Simply leaving them powered on for 60 straight days will NOT break them in. They must have a music signal going through them during that period.
If I had to sell every one of my stereo components, the JC-1's would be the LAST that I would sell.
I love these amps!
Another thing:
These amps need to be powered on for at least 6 to 8 hours to sound their best.
They do not sound impressive from a cold start!
Great review, I must agree with you on all aspects of the character they possess through break in. I've owned mine for about a year and have mated them with a VTL 7.5 preamp. My only critisism would be the audible hiss from 10' through JM Lab Utopia be Diva speakers. Are you experiencing the same level of hiss?
No hiss at all. Mine are dead silent using my Parasound P/LD-2000 preamp.
Are your sure that its not your preamp or source?
Thanks for your reply. I'll swap out some gear for process of elimination. More later, Thanks.