John Curl is an absolute legend among audio amplifier designers, and his longstanding partnership with Parasound has helped build that brand to where it is today--which is stronger than ever before. To get a small taste of how important he is to the Parasound brand, consider this: how many other amplifier designers can you think of who get to brand their creations with their initials? The fact that the first offering bearing such a designation--the original JC 1 monoblock amplifier, now 15 years old--is still selling strong and considered one of the best sounding amplifiers out there should tell you something.
When it launched in 2003, the JC 1 sold at retail for $3,000 each and was considered one of the best values among the elite of high-end mono amplifiers in its day. The retail price ($4,500 today) has basically kept up with inflation, meaning it's the same great value for consumers. Fast forward to 2018 and Parasound sought to build on that success with the JC 5 stereo amplifier. The idea was simple: utilize many of the design aspects of the original JC 1, add in any improvements made possible by 15 years of technological advancement, and adapt the JC 1 circuit path into a new chassis with new circuit boards, fewer output transistors, different transformer, and many other subtle but important improvements.
Retailing for $6,000, the JC 5 stereo amplifier weighs in at a hefty 90 pounds boxed and 73 pounds unboxed. My poor back felt every pound as I hoisted it using the two sturdy handles built into the back of the amplifier in a half sumo squat/half deadlift/farmer's carry up the stairs to my listening room. I'm sure a Strongman competitor could probably just grab that with one hand no problem, but I was huffing and puffing.
The JC 5 boasts the same 400 watts of power output with both channels driven into eight ohms as the original JC 1, and even touts slightly lower total harmonic distortion than its older brother. In my listening room, it is driven by the JC 2 BP stereo preamp with digital media running through an Oppo BDP-105. While my review sample came in a super sleek and modern metallic black finish, it's also available in an updated version of the classic silver/gold look that would match my JC 2 BP beautifully. The JC 5 features the same balanced input design as the JC 1, and it was simple to use my Wireworld Silver Eclipse 8 balanced XLR interconnects to hook up all the components. Listening tests were mainly performed using the Salk Signature Soundscape 10 speakers.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...