Brian Kahn is the longest tenured writer on staff at HomeTheaterReview.com. His specialties include everything from speakers to whole-home audio systems to high-end audiophile and home theater gear, as well as room acoustics. By day, Brian is a partner at a West Los Angeles law firm.
I have been looking for an amplifier with an audio signal trigger for use with my audio distribution system. The distribution system uses a hub that feeds four pairs of speakers, with each pair having its own auto-former wall-mounted volume control. The amplifier that I had would often go into protection mode, despite my troubleshooting the distribution system and ruling out any faulty components. The Parasound 275 v.2 caught my eye when I was visiting the Parasound room at one of the audio shows. The ever-affable Richard Schram from Parasound was confident that the 275 v.2 would be able to drive my audio distribution system. In my years of dealing with Richard, I have found him to be a straight shooter and very knowledgeable about his products.
The Parasound 275 v.2 retails for $595 and is rated at 90 watts per channel into eight ohms or 150 watts per channel into four or two ohms. If more power is needed, the amplifier can be bridged into a single 200-watt channel stable down to four ohms. More important to my needs was the fact that the 275 v.2 comes with both 12-volt and audio signal turn-on triggers, as well as a loop output for both the audio signal and 12-volt trigger, making it easier to integrate into a variety of system configurations. All of this comes in a unit that is only a single rack unit high--that is, 1.75 inches high (without feet). Despite the 275 v.2's small size, it weighs 20 pounds, due to a large toroidal transformer and extremely solid construction.
Using both the A and B speaker outputs, I connected the 275 v.2 to five pairs of speakers. Four pairs were connected through the speaker hub/auto-former volume control system on one output, and the second output drove the final pair of speakers. I turned on the high-pass filter to the 40-Hz setting, as this helps negate the impedance effects of the auto-former volume controls. I have been running the Parasound for about six months, and it has never gone into protection mode or become overly warm. The speakers being driven by the Parasound amplifier range from in-ceiling speakers to outdoor rock speakers.
Since the complement of speakers being driven was not conducive to critical listening, I briefly disconnected the Parasound from the audio distribution system to try it out with some of the speakers I use for review purposes: MartinLogan Summits and B&W 805 Diamonds. Neither of these speakers is known for being particularly easy to drive, so I thought they would give the Parasound a good workout. The Summits have a powered woofer, so I paid more attention to the mids and highs than the bass performance. Listening to Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill" from the album Shaking the Tree (Real World Productions, CD), there was a lot of detail and texture in the opening notes. When Peter Gabriel's voice came in, it sounded accurate and natural. As the track progressed, the Parasound remained able to drive the Summits at moderate listening volumes with no signs of strain or loss of detail. In comparison with my McIntosh mono blocks that normally drive these speakers, the Parasound gave up some control and tonal richness; it also was slightly forward in the treble, lacking the air and detail provided by the McIntosh amplifiers.
Listening to the Parasound drive the B&W 805 Diamonds confirmed my impressions. I listened to a couple of tracks that I used during my original review of the 805s, David Guetta's "Titanium" from the album Nothing But the Beat (Capitol Records, CD) and Nicki Minaj's "Super Bass" from the album Pink Friday (Universal, CD). The highs on "Titanium" were on the harsh side, which is consistent with my prior review--that means the Parasound is not rolled off on the upper end. The low-frequency performance on "Super Bass" was good, with tight and defined bass notes. In comparison to the McIntosh and Halcro amplifiers, the Parasound gave up some control and pitch definition in the bass notes.
• The wide array of connection and control options allows the 275 v.2 to be integrated into a wide variety of system types.
• The Parasound 275 v.2 was able to drive difficult loads without strain. The sonic character of the amplifier remained stable regardless of the amount of speakers it was driving.
• The Parasound provides more than a taste of audiophile sound quality with a small package and small price.
• It was hard to think of any downsides to the Parasound 275 v.2. As noted above, the amplifier is feature-rich and well built, and the sound quality is quite good. However, in my perfect world, there would be a bit more warmth in the upper midrange and treble and more detail and control in the bass.
Comparison and Competition
Two other amplifiers I looked at when searching for an amplifier for my system were the Niles SI-2100 ($525) and the Russound R290DS ($499). These amplifiers are rated at 100 and 90 watts per channel, respectively, and they have a variety of connection and control options; however, I have not had an opportunity to listen to either of them.
The Parasound surprised and impressed me, in a good way. When I went to remove the relatively small amplifier from its box, the 275 v.2's weight and solidity caught me by surprise, due to its incongruity with its size. The connection and control options make it an excellent choice for custom installation and distribution systems. The Parasound 275 v.2's solid audio performance also makes it a good option for standalone stereo systems. All in all, the Parasound 275 v.2 is a versatile amplifier that would be equally at home in either a standalone stereo system or as part of a complex audio distribution system.
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