Music in the Round #47 Page 3

I'm left with a great appreciation of the Marantz AV7005. It did everything I needed of it with great distinction, and it sounded clean and balanced in ways I hadn't heard from a pre-pro or A/V receiver costing less than $2000. All that separated it from high-end pre-pros was a slight forwardness in the sound that was most noticeable with two-channel sources, whether analog or digital—and which some listeners may actually enjoy. It's hard to fault the Marantz AV7005 for sound, appearance, or ergonomics.

Parasound Halo JC 2 BP preamplifier with home-theater bypass
This is not a multichannel product per se. I want to tell you about it because it helps bridge the gap between the mostly digital world of multichannel listeners and the mostly analog world of two-channel listeners. Many of the latter reject the former because they believe that multichannel digital pre-pros and AVRs will compromise the purity of their beloved analog systems, and their budgets and/or living arrangements can't accommodate two entirely independent systems.

Such is the justification for what has become known as the home-theater bypass, which permits the hybridization of a traditional analog two-channel system with a modern digital multichannel system. It is predicated on the assumption that feeding the front L/R channels of your multichannel signal through the fixed-gain input/output of a stereo preamp and power amp is entirely, or at least subjectively, transparent. It demands a very high quality of preamplifier, but really, unless this were the case, you could simply let a decent pre-pro handle the stereo and multichannel duties.

Parasound's Halo JC 2 should be familiar to Stereophile readers. It was reviewed by John Atkinson in March 2008, when he reported that its performance with music and on the test bench were beyond reproach. It remains listed in Class A of "Recommended Components" to this day.

The Halo JC 2 BP ($4500) looks almost identical to the Halo JC 2, with only the Bypass LED on the front panel and the letters "BP" added to the labeling front and rear. In fact, the greatest visible change is the new remote control, on which the trigger and polarity buttons are moved to the bottom to replace the now-missing tuner controls, the channel-selection buttons are elevated to their proper place near the top, and two new buttons are added for the BP function. (Since JA's only cavil with the Halo JC 2 was with its remote, perhaps he should see about a swap.)

You might think that such a bypass requires only that you tap off a signal before it reaches the volume control and connect it to a rear-panel jack, much like a tape monitor output. But as Parasound's founder and CEO, Richard Schram, explained to me, it was necessary to do a fair bit of engineering to ensure that the bypass was indeed sonically transparent and glitchless in operation, and that the excellent performance of the original Halo JC 2 was preserved intact. So when I saw the photos of the JC 2 BP's insides on Parasound's website, I was surprised to find that they looked identical to the JC 2's—and that the images, in fact, had the same file names.

There are, of course, differences. Schram explained: "The visible change is the separate circuit board on which the volume-control pot and the L and R trim pots reside. The board was modified with four double-pole relays that short out the controls (which equals full gain), followed by resistors that pad the full output back to exactly unity gain. There are also B+ and control-circuit connections on this board that didn't exist before. The changes in the front-panel control board are many because there are more control lines and there is now a bypass LED. Since the bypass function is active, the JC 2 BP must be powered up for the bypass to work."

Any one of the Halo JC 2 BP's inputs can be assigned as a bypass, which means that the source connected is passed to the main output with unity gain. Appropriately, Parasound warns the user about the dangers of connecting a source that lacks its own volume control to such an input. Since the JC 2 BP offers both balanced RCA and unbalanced XLR inputs (along with both types of outputs), I chose XLR input 2 as the bypass, and inserted the JC 2 BP between the L/R outputs of the Classé CT-SSP pre-pro and the McIntosh MC-303 amplifier. When the JC 2 BP is set to Bypass, the volume control on the remote is inoperative, nor can you change the volume with the knob on the front panel. However, if you do turn that front-panel knob, while you'll hear no change in volume, you will indeed have changed the volume setting, and will definitely hear the new setting (and possibly damage your speakers) if you then switch to another source. Despite this useful caution, there is little chance of this happening: When the Halo JC 2 BP is set to bypass mode, the user should manipulate the system via the pre-pro.

After telling you all about how the Halo JC 2 BP does this, I have little to report about the results. I could hear no difference at all between a direct connection from pre-pro to power amp and a connection via the JC 2 BP's bypass function. Zilch. Nada. If you have a Halo JC 2, Parasound will upgrade it to BP status for $500. But don't take only my word for it—if you're not sufficiently convinced to buy a Halo JC 2 BP from this writeup, read JA's review and measurements of the Halo JC 2.

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Comments
Kal Rubinson's picture
Ooops.

It has been pointed out to me that I mentioned using the built in Audyssey MultEQ XT prior to using the Pro kit but failed to comment on the latter.

FWIW, MultEQ Pro didn't seem to make much difference over XT with the current setup. What was a more significant improvement was the addition of the Audyssey SubEQ for the two subs. I reported on that product earlier: http://forum.stereophile.com/content/music-round-40-page-2

Kal

Ashok's picture
Hi Kal, I have a very basic

Hi Kal,

I have a very basic question. Does this pre-pro (or any other) have an "Auto" setting for audio playback?

By "Auto" I mean:

- if presented with a 2-channel signal on an HDMI input, it does not apply any EQ or bass management, and simply sends the signal out on the Front L and R outputs.

- if presented with a multi-channel signal on the same HDMI input, it does apply EQ, and bass management, and sends output on all necessary channels.

I read through the user manual, and could not readily tell if such a mode exists. It seemed to me that if the Surround listening mode was employed, it would create surround channels even if the source was 2 channel.

I suppose I could manually switch to the Direct mode for 2 channel source material, but was hoping that the pre-pro could automatically do this.

Thanks for the review, this device seems like a reasonable entry point into multichannel audio.

Kal Rubinson's picture
Sorry.  There is no way to do

Sorry.  There is no way to do this as you would prefer.  Other prepros, like the Integras, permit one to set a decode preference for each input format for each input and would allow you to prescribe "Direct" for stereo PCM input while programming "Decode" or other options for other formats.

OTOH, the Marantz remote allows easy access to "Direct" as well as the Audyssey options, all of which you must do from the menus with the Integras.

Kal

Bob Jones's picture
OPPO BDP93 or 95 Through the AV7005

Kal,

 

First off, let me congratulate you on a great column.  I also love the "Music In The Round" music reviews at the end of each article.

 

I am leaning toward purchasing an AV7005 (upgrade from a receiver), and also looking at a new OPPO BD player.  I use my current 7.1 system for both movies and 2 channel music (about 50-50%), because of a single room limitation.  I have no SACDs or DVD-As, but would like to start getting more into multi-channel music (to complement my collection of Vinyl, CDs, BDs and various computer music files).  The back half of my system consists of NHT Classic VT-2s (FL & FR), NHT Classic 2C (Center), NHT Classic 2 (SSR, SSL, SRL & SRR), NHT Sub, Classe CA-150 Amp (2ch) and Emotiva XPA-5 Amp (5 channels).

 

So here are my questions:

 

1.  In your MITR article #44, you talk about digital connections from the player to the processor being preferred because of the requirements for level, delay & bass mgm't processing in the digital realm ... is this intended for both multichannel music and 2 channel music, or are the level, delay & bass mgm't functions not really needed for 2 channel music (I would think both would still have common need for room correction requirements?)?

 

2.  Based on my 50 / 50% split usage, do you recommend using HDMI digital from the player to the processor for multi-channel music and analog pass through for the 2 channel music, or digital for all?

 

3. The OPPO BDP-95 apparently has much better DACs and stereo analog outputs ... is it worth twice the price compared to the BDP-93 for my listening application? 

 

I intend to keep the new player and processor for awhile, so I would opt for better components now, rather than having to upgrade in the short term (3 years minimum) ... so if you have better recommendations that are worth the money for either the AV7005 or the OPPOs ... I could afford to spend a little more and therefore, I am all ears!

 

Appreciate your response and keep up the good work on MITR.

 

Thanks & Regards ... Bob

Kal Rubinson's picture
1.  Depends on your speakers,

1.  Depends on your speakers, of course, but my answer is, generally, yes.

2.  Both.

3.  I doubt it if you are using HDMI.

 

Kal

bwfrazer's picture
AV 7005 and OPPO BDP 95

Hi Kal,

 In # 47 you mention that the AV 7005 " can't accept DSD directly" . How can the AV 7005 accept DSD ? considering that the OPPO ( I believe) can send DSD via HDMI.

Can these two components "talk" DSD to one another?

If not, would the Integra DHC 80.2 / Onkyo PR-SC 5508 be a better match for the OPPO? I would prefer the Marantz but if the Integra has more function ability vis a vis DSD then that would be my choice.

 

Thank you for your time. your articles have definitely made my new equipment purchase  an easier task.

Best regards,

Bruce

bwfrazer's picture
Marantz AV7005 and RIAA

Hi Kal.

 

Forgot to ask, on the tape out of the AV7005 is there no RIAA equalisation added? I would like to use Channel D's Vinyl software, with all of its EQ curves, and I would need an out with no EQ added.

Thanks again,

 

Bruce

Kal Rubinson's picture
1.  The Oppo (and all other

1.  The Oppo (and all other HDMI-output players, afaik) will convert DSD to PCM from SACDs for HDMI output.  The Marantz is perfectly happy with this.

2.  The tape-out doesn't add any EQ, RIAA or otherwise.  However, I will bet that the phono input does. 

Kal

srydy's picture
Using a 2 channel amp with av7005

Hi,

I like the features of this pre-pro and would like to pair it with a 2 channel amp (like parasound 2125 or BK ST-140) do you see any challenges in doing this?

Thanks!

Kal Rubinson's picture
No.

No.

Cygnus72's picture
AV7005 analog inputs

   Hi Kal

  I just purchased a Cambridge Azur 751BD because of its excellent DACS. I am starting to wonder if this was a good idea because I need an LPCM input via HDMI to use most receivers built in room correction. So I have two questions on this topic

 1. if i am using LPCM through HDMI I will no longer be using the great DACS in the Cambridge but the so-so DAC in the av7005?

 2. Will the av7005 apply room corection to the analog inputs so I can use the 751s DACS and therefore the bass management on the 751 aswell

 

                                                       thanks

                                                                        Drew S

Kal Rubinson's picture
1. Yes. 2.  No

1. Yes.

2.  No

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