Parasound Debuts John Curl-designed Preamp
While John Atkinson awaits a review sample of Parasound's just-released JC 2 two-channel analog preamp ($4000), photographed here (second from top) with Parasound president Richard Schram by Kalman Rubinson, I took the opportunity to discuss its genesis with Richard.
Believing that the best preamp ever manufactured was John Curl's no longer available $20,000 Blowtorch, which first came out in 1997, Richard set out to create the world's second-best preamp. In part, he did so simply because he believed he could. Taking as his starting point the Blowtorch's circuit topology, Richard determined to create a new preamp that would incorporate a new level of visual aesthetics and 21st-Century lifestyle demands (eg, remote control).
First he engaged the entire CTC design team: audiophile genius John Curl; circuit board designer John Thompson; and parts specialist Bob Crump. Crump has since died of a stroke, but not before he managed to apply his expertise to choosing parts based on an intimate knowledge of their sound. Richard also considers John Curl one of the few engineers who understands the relationship between how electrons move through parts and the sound of the music they create. "I can show you six areas in the JC 2 where I can change parts that will change the sound but not change the measurements," Richard told me. Sound, rather than measurements, was thus considered as the ultimate test of the design’s success.
"The topology is almost identical to the Blowtorch's," he told me, "but there is an extra degree of refinement." On the driver board, for example, Parasound has spaced parts even more closely together than before to reduce vibration. John Thompson’s circuit board also mimics the topology of the actual circuit, and looks very much like a schematic of the unit.
One of the reasons for the Blowtorch's high price was that its chassis, machined out of a solid aluminum ingot, cost $2000 to make. Richard instead chose mass production on the smallest-possible scale, lowering the unit price by means of a big upfront investment, and using, whenever possible, the same kinds of parts used throughout Parasound's highly regarded JC line of electronics.