When Parasound announced it was releasing a line of products with legendary designer John Curl under the moniker Halo, the press release alone was spank material. At the top of the product line sat the JC1 monaural amplifier, named after the man responsible for bringing it into existence, John Curl. The JC1, when it was released, ranked among the most coveted pieces of audio gear in history and remains on that list to this day. However, unlike most coveted pieces of audiophilia, the JC1 was hugely affordable at $6,000 per pair, which meant that many audiophiles could actually own a piece of audio history, as opposed to just reading about it.
The JC 1 on looks alone was a showstopper. Until its release, nothing, and I mean nothing, looked as modern and relevant as the JC1 as the amp was simply stunning at first glance. Its slightly rounded silver faceplate, with pale blue glowing on/off switch, was as subtle as it was impactful. As soon as one got over the initial shock of the JC1's "face," one couldn't help but notice its massive heat sinks and how unthreatening they seemed, given what power was lurking just beneath the surface. And what power it is. The JC1 is a THX Ultra2-certified true monaural design, pumping out 400 watts into eight ohms, doubling down into four and maxing out at 1,200 watts into a two-ohm load. The JC1 runs in pure Class-A up to 25 watts at eight ohms, with its bias set to high and ten watts into eight ohms with the bias set to low. While 25 watts of Class-A power may seem like a miserly number, trust me, it is not, considering that even during loud passages most music won't tax your amp past 25 watts. The added power is there for dynamic swings and peaks and control for when the going gets rough. Regardless, because of its A/AB design, the JC1 runs warm, though not blistering hot, and will power any loudspeaker with ease.
Aside from the JC1's power output, it features both unbalanced and balanced connection options, as well as 24k gold-plated binding posts. Like other amps in the Halo line, the JC1 features a complimentary MOSFET driver stage and a JFET input stage. The JC1 features one of the largest power transformers I've seen in recent memory and is largely the reason for the JC1's 60-plus pounds of weight. The JC1 comes standard with rear-mounted rack handles, as well as a full rack-mounting kit, and features Parasound's ten-year parts and five-year labor warranty.Read about the high points and low points of the JC 1 on Page 2.
• The JC1 is one of the most musical and rhythmically "right" amplifiers I've ever had the pleasure of hearing. Unlike other amps in the Halo line, the JC1 is a flagship-like performer from top to bottom, with one of the most airy and detailed top ends I've heard, balanced beautifully with a rock-solid, deep and textured bass response that is unlike anything Parasound has managed to create before.
• The JC1's midrange is truly its warm spot, as it is so natural and non-fatiguing that you're bound to get lost in your listening room just basking in its glory.
• The JC1 is among the easiest mono amps to integrate and live with in your system for years on end without ever feeling the need to upgrade. You could spend more without question, but how much more could you ask for with your extra $20,000 in your amp budget?
• The JC1 sounds excellent with a wide variety of loudspeakers and electronics, making it an ideal amp or basis for a cost-no-object system that has yet to come to fruition.
• I'm not a big proponent of placing amps on the floor or on amp stands near your loudspeakers, but the JC1s are amps worth showing off.
• Because of the JC1's relative affordability, for perhaps the first time, a multi-channel or home theater enthusiast can reasonably consider the idea of buying five JC1s for a truly killer set-up.
• The JC1 oozes sophistication and class, yet the binding posts and inputs don't quite live up to the rest of the JC1's visual and performance statement. While designed as a cost-no-object piece of kit, clearly the designers had some budgetary constraints.
• The heat sinks are not razor-sharp the way they are on other amps. However, due to their thin size, they are a touch more prone to bending if mishandled.
• While Parasound claims that the JC1, like other amps in the Halo line, sound as good at power-up as it does with a few hours under its belt, this is simply not true. The JC1 benefits from having at least thirty minutes of warm-up before it really fires on all cylinders. However, from a cold start, the JC1 sounds noticeably better than the competition. Just keep in mind that, even at idle, the JC1 is going to draw a fair amount of current from your AC and, at full tilt, is going to impact your electric bill.
With a combined retail price of $6,000 ($3,000 each), Parasound JC1 monaural amplifiers are an absolute revelation. While every brand brings some performance and/or feature to the table that makes them unique, no amp is more well-rounded and complete than the JC1 for true audiophile performance. The JC1 sounds better with a wider variety of loudspeakers and/or source material than any amp I've encountered in recent memory. It gets my unabashed endorsement and is among one of the greatest amps ever produced. My only regret stemming from the JC1 is that I sold my personal pair a few years ago to offset the cost of a new car.