If your only pair of high-performance headphones is a high-sensitivity in-ear monitor such as the Westone ES-5, you will find that the Halo’s headphone amp will produce some low-level hiss and 120Hz hum even with the volume controls turned all the way down. While that hum is not as loud with the ES-5 in-ears as I’ve heard from many fixed-gain headphone preamps, during quiet passages the base noise level was sufficient to affect low-level detail retrieval. With the Jerry Harvey Roxanne’s custom in-ear monitors there was no hiss, only a low-level 120/240Hz hum that was almost low enough to disappear when music was playing.
Late in the review period, I compared the Halo Integrated’s USB/DAC with that in the NuPrime DAC-10. Using Roon as a source, I could not reliably tell a difference between the DAC-10 and the Halo in matched-level comparisons. When I used my own DSD recordings I felt that the DAC-10 had a slight edge. It produced a larger soundstage with better-illuminated inner details and superior separation between instruments in the mix. The differences between the two units were subtle enough that even on hi-res commercial releases they were difficult to detect, and on several A/B tests I could not discern them at all.
I suspect that many audiophiles who never anticipated wanting or needing an integrated amplifier may find, someday, that they do need a compact yet powerful one. If that is the case, they may find that the Parasound Halo Integrated 2.1 amplifier is the high-value solution. For $2495 it includes a powerful basic amplifier coupled to an excellent preamplifier that includes a built-in analog crossover as well as a DAC that supports all modern formats.
Combine the Halo Integrated with a comparable set of speakers, such as the wonderful Audience 1+1, and a good subwoofer like the Velodyne DD10+, and you have the basic building blocks for a glorious-sounding small-room or nearfield system for around $7k. And while I wouldn’t call this an entry-level system, I’d hazard to guess that for many audiophiles, including myself, such a mid-priced system can deliver a high enough level of sonic excellence to make for a joyous listening experience for many years to come.
SPECS & PRICING
Power output: 160Wpc (8 ohms); 240Wpc (4 ohms)
Current capacity: 45 amps peak per channel
Frequency response: 10Hz–100kHz, +0/-3dB
THD: < 0.01%, average listening levels ; < 0.05% at 160W into 8 ohms
SNR (IHF A-weighted): - 103dB (input shorted), line-in; -106 dB, digital-in
Damping factor: > 800 at 20Hz
Max output unbalanced: 7V
Max output balanced: 9V
Phonostage gain/input impedance: 35dB /47k, mm; 52dB /100 or 47k, mc
Crossover slopes: 12dB per octave
Supported DAC sampling rates: USB, up to 384kHz/32-bit PCM, DSD 64, DSD 128, DSD 256, DSD over PCM (DoP) at 384kHz; coax/optical, up to 192kHz/24-bit PCM
DAC: ESS Sabre32 Reference ES9018K2M
Dimensions: 17 1/4" x 5 7/8" x 16 1/4"
Weight: 33 lbs.
PARASOUND PRODUCTS, INC.
2250 McKinnon Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94124