Phono Preamplifier by John Curl
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Editors’ Choice Award 2019 – The Absolute Sound
“One Feisty Chip Off the Old Block” – The Absolute Sound magazine
“I cannot recommend it more emphatically!” – Positive Feedback magazine
John Curl-Designed Phono Preamp Delivers Performance Approaching the JC 3+ for Half the Price
Parasound’s brand new Halo JC 3 Jr. phono preamplifier is a simplified version of the company’s award-winning flagship JC 3+ and they sound very similar. In most systems, the difference would be hard to distinguish. The JC 3+ sound is slightly more refined and dynamic, because its component parts and construction are more expensive.
“Will Stand the Test of Time”
The JC 3 Jr. won an Editors’ Choice Award 2019 from The Absolute Sound magazine, which noted, “Junior conveys a warm ambient flavor, openness rather than a constriction within the hall. Wind and string transients are smooth and naturalistic. A phono preamp that will stand the test of time.”
“The JC 3 Jr. was one feisty chip off the old block,” reports Neil Gader in the July/August 2018 issue of The Absolute Sound magazine. “With high levels of the 3+’s character coursing through its circuitry, Jr. established a sonic kinship that imparted a wide soundstage with noiseless, black-velvet backgrounds – a prologue for the level of resolving power I later observed.”
Gader concludes, “Truthfully the JC 3 Jr. is not a 3+. But it comes uncomfortably close to the original JC 3, the phono pre that would later evolve into the 3+. For the vast majority of vinyl owners, Parasound’s JC 3 Jr. will stand the test of time and be a willing partner to cartridge or turntable upgrades that might accrue along the way.”
That’s an amazing statement from Michael Fremer about one of the most exciting preamps that we’ve carried in a long, long time.
According to Parasound’s president and founder Richard Schram, “I’d have no hesitation comparing the JC 3 Jr. with the five-digit priced phono preamps from other manufacturers.”
“Best Under-$2000 Solid-State Phono Stage I Have Ever Heard”
“The bottom end is solid and well-extended and the preamp’s overall tonal balance is refreshingly neutral and very similar to what I noted with the JC3+,” reports Stereophile’s Michael Fremer in his review for analogplanet.com. “Overall then, the JC 3 Jr. is not quite as good as the JC3+ but at half the price it comes surprisingly close.”
“The Parasound Junior is, without a doubt in my mind, the best under-$2000 solid-state phono stage I have ever heard, or even know about,” raves Robert H. Levi in Issue 93 of Positive Feedback magazine. “Giving you 2 scoops of a 3 scoop banana split for the cost of a single scoop, you will luxuriate in top-shelf phono pleasure and have some money left over for LPs. I cannot recommend it more emphatically!”
Stunningly Close, But Half the Price
With the success of the John Curl-designed JC 3 and JC 3+ phono preamps, which surpassed Parasound’s sales forecasts, Richard told Audio Advisor, “I started to wonder how good a phono stage we could develop with John to capture the essence of the JC 3+ for a lot less money?”
According to Richard, “My ambition was to build a John Curl-designed phono stage within reach of more vinyl lovers. Originally, I thought we might have to price it at $1,800 or possibly $2,000 – it’s actually that good. But I’ve priced the JC 3 Jr. to be a real steal at only $1,495, half the price of a JC 3+.”
Richard’s team worked on this project with John and circuit board designer Carl Thompson for nearly two years. “We’ve nailed it!” said Richard. “Largely due to Parasound manufacturing efficiencies, we were able to bring our price down by half. The price of the JC 3 Jr. is a real testament to the skill and dedication of our entire team, including John and the factory.”
At half the price of the JC 3+, how does the JC 3 Jr. sound?
“There’s not a phono preamp anywhere near its price that even comes close,” said Richard. “We’ve created a winner, and I expect we’re going to sell a lot of them.”
What Made It In, and What Got Left Out?
One thing Parasound refused to compromise is the amazing sonic character of the JC 3+, which is what everyone raves about. The Jr. preserves this sonic signature, yielding only the nth degree of finesse, pin-point imaging and dynamic range. Circuit topology is closely related, and circuit boards were designed by Carl Thompson, John’s circuit board partner dating back to his legendary Vendetta phono stage. Both use premium parts such as REL caps, Vishay-Dale resistors, Neutrik and Vampire connectors, and relays for muting and mono select.
What’s different is that both channels of the Jr.’s gain and EQ circuits are built on a single board, behind a single shield, rather than on separate boards with individual shielding in the JC 3+. The Jr.’s power supply is shared by both channels rather than dual-mono in the JC 3+. It still employs the same high-speed/soft-recovery bridge diodes and common mode inductor to banish background noise. These changes enabled Parasound to use a new low-profile Halo chassis that is less expensive to build. It’s gorgeous and will no doubt show up future products.
Is the designer, John Curl, happy with the result?
“Happy is an understatement,” said Richard. “John appreciates our collaborative design process and he continues to surprise us with ingenious ways to control costs while upholding his demanding standards. We’ve worked together like this since 1989, creating superior products whose performance and value are unmatched.”