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Parasound Model 5250 v.2 Multi-channel Amplifier Reviewed

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HTR Product Rating

Performance
4 Stars
Value
4 Stars
Overall
4 Stars

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Parasound_5250v2_multichannel_amp_review_front.gifBefore becoming a professional writer and later the Managing Editor of not one but two popular AV industry publications, I was an enthusiast like many of you. And while I constantly read about products such as Wilson Audio's latest WATT/Puppy or Mark Levinson's next mega-Watt amp, the simple fact remained that I did most of my audiophile shopping on Audiogon, for virtually everything was priced just out of reach at my local dealers. Then one day I walked in to one such dealer - you know, to loiter - and spotted a silver amp with matching silver preamp and thought my God, what is that? It was Parasound's then, all new, Halo amp and preamp. The Halo products were gorgeous and they were made to look even better when my local dealer told me they cost around $1,500 for the pair. While this wasn't that long ago, it was still before Internet commerce had really taken off and given us companies such as Outlaw Audio or Aperion Audio so one has to appreciate the value the Halo line represented in its day and arguably still does today. I bought the combo on the spot and thus my relationship with Parasound was born.

Additional Resources
• Read more multi-channel amplifier reviews by HomeTheaterReview.com's staff.
• Find a pair of Floorstanding Speakers for the 5250 v.2 to drive.
• Explore AV receiver options in our AV Receiver Review section.

Fast-forward ten or so years to today and to the Parasound Model 5250 v.2 multi-channel amplifier before me. It's been about seven years since I've had a Parasound product in my home and while the 5250 v.2 doesn't look as remarkable as the now aging Halo line of products, it's clear that it still means business. The 5250 v.2 is an update of the well-received 5250 multi-channel amplifier that has been with us for some time under Parasound's Classic line of products, which aren't as flashy as the Halo branded products but still provide the same performance and value all Parasound products are known for.

On the outside the 5250 v.2 is a pretty Spartan design, clad in all black with subtle design cues, mostly in the strategic use of bevels and rounded corners that give the otherwise black box a decidedly tailored appearance. The 5250 v.2's faceplate features a single power button as well as a large window that houses the numbers one through five that illuminate green when the amp is turned on indicating that all five channels of amplification are working. Personally, I can tell when the amp is on because it'll be playing music, so the illuminated numbers aren't my cup of tea, but to each his own I guess. The 5250 v.2 itself measures in at 17 and a quarter inches wide by 19 inches deep and nearly eight inches tall. As for weight the 5250 v.2 isn't as heavy as heavy as some but still heavy enough to mean business at 69 pounds.

Around back you'll find a pair of rack handles to aide in custom installation setups or mounting inside a rack such as one from Middle Atlantic. Along the bottom of the 5250 v.2 itself are five pairs of gold plated, five-way binding posts, which can accept everything from spade lugs to bare wire. Above the binding posts though off to the left (looking at the back panel) rest the 5250 v.2's unbalanced inputs and input level controls, which I'll talk about in a minute. To the right of the inputs rests the 5250 v.2's new 12-Volt trigger system complete with selector switch for "audio," "manual" and "12V." A detachable power cord rounds out the 5250 v.2's list of external features.

Under the hood the 5250 v.2 boasts 250 Watts per channel into eight Ohms and 385 Watts per into four Ohms courtesy of its dual transformers. I should note that the 5250 v.2's power ratings are based on all channels being driven continuously instead of via a single channel the way some amplifiers are measured. The 5250 v.2 is THX Ultra2 certified. Speaking of THX certification, the 5250 v.2 has independent gain controls for each of its five channels which allow you to adjust the output plus or minus 10dB from THX's stated reference level for better matching with AV preamps, receivers and/or stereo preamplifiers - not to mention efficient or less efficient loudspeakers as I found out. The 5250 v.2's new gain control is just one of the more than 60 updates Parasound claims has been made to the 5250 v.2's design - though with the exception of its slightly modified faceplate, new 12-Volt trigger and ground-lift circuitry the remaining 56 updates are more or less a mystery. The original 5250 retailed for $2,500 when it was released some years ago. The new 5250 v.2 retails for $2,850 or $350 more than its predecessor, which isn't too bad if you are already in the market for a two to three thousand dollar multi-channel amplifier.

The Hookup
The 5250 v.2 arrived on the heels of Krell's latest multi-channel effort, the 3250e, which is a tough act to follow, especially considering I was replacing a $10,000 amp with a sub $3,000 one in the 5250 v.2. Still, if there was ever an amp that could give a high-end juggernaut like Krell a run for its money, it had to be Parasound.

The 5250 v.2 went onto the bottom shelf of my Omni+ Vent rack and was easy enough to position without the need for additional assistance - a first among the latest crop of amplifiers I'd been sent for review. Making the requisite connections was a snap, though I found the 5250 v.2's unbalanced inputs to be a little cramped when using my reference Transparent MusicLink interconnects. When I switched my cables to the more svelte Mapleshade Clearview interconnects, things seemed a little less crowded.

I left the 5250 v2's level controls at their THX reference setting at first but did adjust them, at least the left and right mains, when using my Decware tubed preamp for it helped cut down on some noise when using super efficient loudspeakers such as Zu Audio's OMEN DEF loudspeakers. For the bulk of my review I used the 5250 v.2 to power my reference Bowers & Wilkins 800 Series Diamond loudspeakers and Noble Fidelity L-85 LCRS surrounds. I primarily used my Integra DHC 80.2 AV preamp with the 5250 v.2 though I did sub in my Decware preamp on occasion. The rest of my system was comprised of the usual suspects: a Sony universal Blu-ray player, Apple TV and Dish Network HD DVR. All components, including my speakers, were connected using Transparent cable.

Performance
I began my evaluation of the 5250 v.2 with the track "Edge of Glory" from Lady Gaga's latest album Born This Way (Interscope Records). Right off the bat the 5250 v.2 showcased its way with vocals, presenting them in a natural well-defined manner that was forward and energetic without sacrificing weight and authority. The midrange was smooth and grain free with the slightest emphasis resting on the lower midrange, which no doubt aided in the 5250 v.2's presence, though it didn't distract from the experience by sounding artificial. The 5250 v.2's high frequency performance was again, like the midrange, smooth and largely grain free though a bit rolled off at the extremes. Bass was taut with solid extension and texture though wasn't as deep as some like, say for instance the Krell 3250e that came before it. Still I wouldn't classify the 5250 v.2's bass performance as anemic. There was an excellent sense of space throughout and the soundstage was appropriately proportioned along the front wall of my room with good depth front to back. What struck me most was just how involving and rhythmically sound the 5250 v.2 was, conveying all the energy, soulfulness and spark of the music without editorializing. Now I know I'm about to personify an inanimate object but it felt as if the Parasound was actually having a bit fun with the Gaga track versus taking it all too seriously.

Read more about the Parasound Model 5250 v.2 amplifier's performance on Page 2.
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