Parasound P7 7.1 Channel Analog Preamplifier Reviewed

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With everything going multi-channel and home theater these days, how's an audiophile company like Parasound to keep up? While Parasound makes some fantastic pre-amp processors, they've introduced a unique audiophile solution to the multi-channel problem: the P7 7.1 channel analog preamplifier reviewed here.

Additional Resources
Read top level AV preamp reviews from the likes of Anthem, Arcam, Krell, Sunfire, Meridian and many others here.

Retailing for $2,000, the P7 looks nearly identical to the P3 two-channel preamp, albeit with fewer front-mounted hard controls. Around back, however, the P7 is a whole different animal. The P7 has two complete sets of 7.1 analog inputs for use with today's multi-channel and home theater audio formats, though the P7 does not do any surround sound decoding; that must be handled at the source level. The P7 also has seven standard stereo inputs, as well as a selectable MM or MC phono input, which is a huge plus for vinyl enthusiasts of both camps. The P7 has both unbalanced and balanced inputs and outputs, as well as a subwoofer output with analog bass management. A front-mounted input for an iPod or MP3 player, an RS-232 port, IR jacks and three 12-volt triggers round out the P7's connection options.

Behind the scenes, the P7's various inputs can all be named by the user, which is a feature usually found on preamp processors and/or receivers. There is a volume bypass mode for integrating the P7 into a surround sound system featuring a preamp processor or receiver. The P7 has analog bass management for all stereo inputs and can be linked to Parasound's own Zhd HDMI switcher, though it still offers no digital audio decoding. Using the P7's remote, the user has complete control over tone, balance (left to right and front to back) and subwoofer output, as well as display brightness and volume. The P7 comes with Parasound's five-year labor and parts warranty and can be had via Parasound's vast dealer network, which includes traditional and online stores.

High Points
• The P7 has a full, rich, musically engaging sound that is natural and sweet through the midrange and upper frequencies and controlled in the bass.
• Soundstage width and depth is topnotch, giving the P7 a spatial presentation few all-in-one products can touch for the P7's asking price.
• The addition of an MP3 or iPod jack makes the P7 current in today's ever-changing audiophile landscape.
• The P7 represents a true audiophile solution for today's multi-channel and home theater enthusiast. Pairing the P7 with, say, a DVDO Edge or VP50Pro makes it a sort of a la carte preamp processor solution with a sonic performance that far exceeds that of a receiver and rivals costlier preamp processors.
• With video formats changing rapidly, the P7 bypasses half the problem by keeping with what Parasound does best: sound. The P7 remains current as technology progresses, keeping the decoding at the source(s) and leaving the video to your display and/or video processor.

HTR Product Rating for Parasound P7 7.1 Channel Analog Preamplifier

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• The selectable included phono stage is quite good and quite remarkable, considering that, with the flip of a switch, you can accommodate either an MM or MC cartridge. 
• The P7 is easier than anything to set up and far easier to live with day to day than any receiver or preamp processor.

Low Points
• Due to its all-analog design, the P7 is going to require far more cables to be introduced into your system and budget. 
• The remote, while functional, lacks some of the creature comforts of a home theater remote, such as back lighting when using the P7 in a home theater-like system. 
• With only two sets of 7.1 inputs, you're limited to the number of multi-channel sources you can use to their full potential, leaving a source or two to live in the realm of stereo listening. 
• With no decoding of its own, the P7 is essentially at the mercy of your source's surround sound decoding capabilities, which can be a good and a bad thing. Cheaper sources are going to sound, well, cheap, while better, more expensive sources are bound to make the P7 sing. Also, if you want to take full advantage of the latest surround sound formats, your source had better be up to the task in the analog realm.

With a relatively attractive asking price of $2,000, the Parasound P7 7.1 multi-channel preamp is an interesting product in today's overly complex and often HDMI-crazed marketplace. With rock-solid reliability and performance to match, the P7 takes a somewhat purist approach to multi-channel and home theater audio by sticking with its strength, which is sweet, glorious sound quality. While not quite as dynamic or resolute as some big-ticket players like Krell, the P7 is hugely seductive and a touch sweeter than the competition, which is great for all types of music, including downloaded audio from the likes of iTunes.

Use the P7 in conjunction with a video processor or HDMI switcher for movies and you're in for a real treat. Where other processors and/or receivers may wow you with sheer detail and a huge label screaming Dolby TrueHD, the P7 will seduce you with its ease, grace and sheer naturalness, which are everything but digital-sounding. The P7 is a unique product and one definitely worth checking out. 

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