Pros: Power, clarity, low end extension, price
Parasound has built a fine reputation for products which offer superb performance at a price most home audio enthusiasts can swing ( even on a tight budget ). Parasound has recently introduced their Halo product line which given its performance/price ratio is still quite a bargain, however it is aimed more at audiophiles with pricing that is considered more within the higher end market. The subject of this review, the HCA-1500A, is a THX Ultra certified two channel power amplifier which is part of Parasounds Classic line. The 1500A is rated at 205 watts per channel in stereo mode and at 630 watts in bridged mode, both into 8 ohm speaker loads. The 1500A features independent power supplies for both channels, a 1kVA toroid power transformer, Mosfet transistors, and high bias class A/AB operation.
Appearance wise the 1500A resembles the other models in Parasounds Classic line. The front panel is uncluttered with only a power switch and five LEDs. Its rear panel has gold plated binding posts, a 12 Vdc trigger, level controls for each channel, a mono bridged/stereo toggle switch, an AC receptacle ( with a grounded power cord ), and a set of looping output connectors which allow connection of multiple amplifiers from a single source.
I am familiar with Parasound amplifiers and in fact own the 1205A 5 channel amp. I found the 1205A to be warm sounding with excellent sound staging and very good low end impact ( see my review of the 1205A here at Epinions ). I was looking for more power to open up my Paradigm Reference main speakers for two channel music reproduction and the 1500As 205 watts per channel ( a conservative rating indeed ) was in the ball park. Upon unpacking the unit I was not surprised to see how efficient Parasound is when it comes to ensuring that their products reach you safely. The unit was double boxed and securely protected within with plenty of packaging. It weighs in at around 40 lbs or so and construction is solid. Like the 1205A the 1500A runs warm on its top directly above the heat sinks . I recommend giving the unit no less than 6 to 8 inches of clearance above it for proper ventilation. The supplied power cord is grounded, heavy duty and is about 6 feet long. It has been my experience that amplifiers like the Parasound need about 100 hours or so of break in time before any critical listening should be done. I conducted my evaluation of the 1500A after about 150 hours of normal use.
I started my evaluation of the 1500A with standard CD listening which included classical, jazz, new age, and pop recordings. The finale on the Telarc release of Stravinskys The Firebird played by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by David Zinman sounded explosive. The soundstage was broad with the instruments separated within it. There was plenty of punch with minor detail delineation. I then popped in one of my favorite Jazz CDs, Blue hats by the Yellow jackets. The third track Prayer for peace features Bob Mintzer on his Saxophone and is a slow number but with plenty of style. The 1500A breathed a little more air into this piece then I have heard before allowing Mintzers horn to sing very much like a vocalist would. Jimmy Haslips 7 string fretless bass sizzled with rich, textured bass, which made me double check to ensure that I had my pre/pro set to Direct mode without the subwoofer enabled. I then moved on to Boyz II Mens Revolution CD. This disc features beautiful harmonies, plenty of single vocals, and very good low end. The 1500A again sounded superb, bringing out excellent separation in the background harmony vocals while leaving the lead vocal locked dead center. Low end reproduction was excellent with plenty of deep bass, depth, and dynamic punch. Next up was some high resolution Super Audio CDs. I started out with Norah Jones Come away with me which I did not own until I bought the SACD. This is an excellent recording with plenty of detail, separation , clarity and depth. The 1500A allowed all of that to shine through, with every nuance of Norahs voice being appreciable. I found more of the same on Cheskys An introduction to SACD sampler which features various artists from Cheskys catalog. Rebecca Pidgeons rendition of Spanish Harlem is breath taking with her voice as the center piece along with an acoustic bass. Played through the Parasound it was incredibly airy with every breath being felt as if she were standing in the center of the room.
The 1500A is a perfect sonic match with the 1205A and together they both now make up my 7.1 channel home theater. Needless to say both Dolby Digital and DTS 5.1 channel movie soundtracks absolutely rock! DTS ES/Dolby Digital EX 5.1 and DTS ES 6.1 discrete soundtracks again sound simply stunning.
The Parasound 1500A is a great performer. I would describe its sound as warm, and detailed with a great low end. It fairs just as well for music and movies. With an MSRP of $1000 it is certainly a bargain and would make a fine addition to any two channel or home theater set up.
Note: The Parasound 1500A comes with a 10 year manufacturers warranty when purchased from an authorized Parasound dealer.