In the pantheon of audiophile electronics, Parasound stands among those at the top with its storied history, vast product range and legendary performance. The Halo P3 stereo preamplifier is no exception, providing solid performance and features, coupled with tremendous value ($799 retail), which is what Parasound has been all about for years. The P3 is as attractive as they come, having a sleek aluminum fa�ade with pale blue glowing manual controls. The P3 is solidly built. Its ease of use and day-to-day livability is unique among audiophile components in that you actually want to interact with and use the P3. The front of the P3 features hard buttons for source, tone and balance, as well as volume. The P3 has a crystal clear fluorescent display that shows your source's volume in mono mode, i.e., right and left channels, and can be read easily from across a listening room.
The P3 features six gold-plated line inputs, one of which can serve as an MM Phono stage, which is quite a feat, considering its asking price. The P3 features both unbalanced and balanced outputs for use with an outboard amplifier, as well as a pair of balanced inputs for a high-end source component. The P3 has a high-resolution headphone section, as well as features not found on most audiophile products, for instance an RS-232 port, an IR input and output jacks. The P3 is clearly an audiophile product with home theaters and system integration in mind, making it a more modern and forward-thinking piece of kit than the competition.
The P3 features dual layer glass epoxy circuit boards, coupled with a toroid power transformer more suitable for a receiver or power amplifier than one normally found in a preamplifier. Beyond the P3's underpinnings, its rock-solid reliability, coupled with Parasound's unheard-of ten-year parts and five-year labor warranty, make it an investment that comes standard with piece of mind. Oh, and the P3's remote isn't too shabby either; while not as sexy as the P3 itself, it's supremely functional and bears no resemblance to some off-the-rack universal you'll get with other brands.Read about the high points and the low points of the Halo P3 on Page 2.
• The P3's sound is musical and involving, with just a touch of upper-end energy mixed with a midrange that is to die for in its price range. Female vocals and well-recorded trios and or/live mixes sound utterly fantastic through the P3.
• The P3's smooth demeanor makes it an ideal preamp for today's modern music and even sounds good when playing back iPod source material or lesser bit rate recordings.
• The soundstage depth is not quite as good as its width, but the P3's overall spatial separation and definition is far beyond what you'll get from any receiver and/or similarly-priced component. When you consider the fact that the P3 can be integrated easily into a home theater and its relatively low cost, it's a very attractive addition to beef up your two-channel performance in a home theater or similar set-up.
• One cannot deny the P3 is sexy beyond reproach and an audio component you're bound to show off rather than tuck away.
• The P3's built-in phono stage is a welcome addition and a nice touch, but it is far from the best there is and can be bested by a marginal investment in an outboard third-party stage.
• The P3's bass prowess is not as deep or defined as that of, say, NAD, but what it has and can offer mixes well with its midrange and upper-frequency performance.
• The lack of front panel inputs make hooking up sources such as an iPod a bit more of a chore.
• The volume control is smooth as silk. However, the increments of control may be a bit too large for late night listening. Also, the P3 likes to be turned up just a bit to sound its absolute best.