Hands On: Parasound Z Series Preamplifier and Amp
Setting up the equipment was pretty simple, and the image sounded full with a crisp attack that produced sharp and detailed midrange.
I’ve always viewed San Francisco-based Parasound as a company whose goal has been to deliver products that combine audiophile performance with price points that are much less than typical audiophile fare.
Parasound’s Z Series of products meets both criteria. The Z Series fits in somewhere between Parasound’s traditional audiophile products and its home theater line, and it can be used for whole-house audio or today’s new wave of compact, desktop audio systems.
The components paired together only take up 1U of space mounted within a rack, and if used as standalone devices they only require minimal area of a desk or table.
Parasound says the Series ZampV.3 two-channel zone amplifier is rated to deliver 45 watts per channel into an 8-ohm load when configured for stereo and 90 watts into an 8-ohm load if bridged for mono output.
The two-channel zone Zpre2 preamplifier offers four audio and four composite video inputs, as well as a 12-volt trigger in/outs and RS-232 options for control. For desktop use it also includes a front-panel headphone jack and manual controls that offer basic operational parameters.
I set up the amp and preamp with a pair of Atlantic Technology 1400 LR speakers, a Denon universal disc player and an iPhone cradle. Hooking this gear up was pretty simple: I used a couple of pairs of RCA cables to connect the preamp to the amp, and the disc player to the preamp. Next I ran a set of speaker cables to the speakers, which were set on 24-inch stands.
I finished by running an RCA-to-3.5mm mini-pin cable to my iPhone cradle and verified the connections, which included hook-ups to the variable inputs on the preamp, and the gain settings and stereo operation switch on the amp.
After a break-in period, I started to listen to a variety of CDs and was immediately impressed by how focused the system sounded.
The system produced a pretty neutral tone and a nice soundstage. Using my iPhone as my main source I listened to everything from AAC files of Pink and Kid Rock and AIFF files of Ozzy Osbourne. The image sounded full, with a crisp attack that produced sharp and detailed midrange.
On Guns n Roses’ Appetite for Destruction, for example, the midrange clarity allowed guitar chords to ring clearly with well-defined authority that complemented Axl Rose’s vocals nicely.
Being completely impressed hearing the Parasound gear through the Atlantic Tech speakers, I swapped in a pair of Monitor Audio Platinum Series PL 100 models. Both have an 88dB sensitivity rating, but the Monitor demands more current with its 4-ohm impedance.
Driving the Monitors, I never thought of the ZampV.3 as being small; it sounded right at home fueling a reference type of speaker like the PL100s. The amp never seemed to run out of juice and it maintained its composure throughout my test of the Monitor/Parasound configuration. The combination created much more space within the image than the Parasounds did with the more cost-friendly Atlantic Techs. The MSRP for the ZampV.3 is $300 while the MSRP for the Zpre2 is $350.
It was difficult having to return the Parasound review products. They sounded great, they’re space friendly and they can be used for just about anything other than a huge home theater.
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Bob is an audio enthusiast who has written about consumer electronics for various publications within Massachusetts before joining the staff of CE Pro in 2000. Bob is THX Level I certified, and he's also taken classes from the Imaging Science Foundation (ISF) and Home Acoustics Alliance (HAA). Bob also serves as the technology editor for CE Pro's sister publication Commercial Integrator. In addition, he's studied guitar and music theory at Sarrin Music Studios in Wakefield, Mass., and he also studies Kyokushin karate at 5 Dragons in Haverhill, Mass. Have a suggestion or a topic you want to read more about? Email Robert at firstname.lastname@example.org
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