Parasound’s Halo P 3 stereo preamplifier has been lauded by reviewers over the years for its beautiful build quality and impressive feature set, not to mention its sound quality. With a reputation like that, Parasound probably could have tweaked its chassis, maybe added a USB input, and had a very successful modern stereo preamp on its hands. Instead, Parasound’s designers went all-in, crafting an even more beautiful, even more feature-packed stereo preamp that goes above and beyond in most respects. I say “in most respects,” because the the Parasound Halo P 5 Stereo Preamplifier does have a few quirky omissions, but before we get to those, let’s dig into the good stuff.
Firstly, the P 5 isn’t just a stereo preamp. It’s actually a 2.1 preamp, with subwoofer outputs and analog bass management controls, including individual crossovers for the subwoofer and main stereo ouputs. It also adds a DAC, with coax, optical, and USB inputs. Its phono input has been upgraded to include moving-coil capabilities (with selections for both 47Ω and 100Ω loads), and it also features home theater bypass capabilities, so you don’t have to have separate surround sound and hi-fi setups.
The P 5′s inputs include a pair of balanced XLR ins, phono in, five line-level RCA inputs, and a front panel 3.5mm mini jack; and you have your choice of balanced or unbalanced outputs, even for the subwoofer. Also on the front panel is a headphone jack, as well as source selection, level, bass, treble, tone defeat, balance, and subwoofer level controls, as well as a premium Alps motorized potentiometer for volume adjustments.
Now for the stuff I don’t love as much: the P 3′s RS-232 control port is AWOL on the P 5, leaving back panel IR ports and 12V triggers as the sole means of advanced control. The press release also mentions that the USB input is only capable of accepting signals “up to 96 kHz.” Which says to me that it’s USB Audio profile 1.0 only. Given the nightmare of getting USB Audio 2.0 to work with later Windows operating systems, it’s a forgivable decision, but an odd one, nonetheless. At any rate, you can easily add your own USB DAC and use one of the available analog inputs if you have higher-resolution digital music in your collection.
The Parasound Halo P 5 audio preamplifier comes in your choice of black or Halo silver finishes, and will ship in September for a $950 MSRP. To find your local (or preferred online) authorized dealer, see Parasound’s Where to Buy page.