Parasound P/HP-850 Preamplifiers

P/HP-850

A uniquely cost-effective preamplifier that doesn't compromise your music. A massive power supply for deeper, cleaner bass and better dynamics. The fact that it's direct coupled for the cleanest possible signal and has five inputs-including a clean RIAA phono stage for your turntable-makes this a value that's hard to beat

User Reviews (42)

Showing 1-10 of 42  
josephjohn   AudioPhile [May 20, 2005]
Strength:

Speed, tight bass, musicality, stereo imaging, warmness, natural open sound,going deep, quality components inside,phono stage, good simple loking, precise, tuneful, can compete with Krells and Levinsons with no problems. Price.

Weakness:

Maybe harsh if badly matched with other components, build quality, lots of plastics, but thats why is cheap! No remote.

It is so good, you can not imagine! Fast, snappy, natural, dynamics, warm, musical, excellent bass, sound sounds louder like you have added to your system a poweramp. It is as not as good as Krell or Levinson, but very close considering price paid. Get one if you can, you will not be dissapointed. If you do not like it, sell it to me, if my breaks down because I am not switching it off! And yes.......I am only interested in 2channel stereo sound and with this Preamp I haven't got 5 speakers in my room, but like 105 speakers.......sound is everywhere.......I could write a Bible about this Preamp because it is Godlike! Thank you Parasound

Similar Products Used: Cambridge audio, Classe, Rotel, some other Preamps.
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
sheldaze   AudioPhile [Jan 15, 2005]
Strength:

- inexpensive phenomenal sound

Weakness:

- amplifier must have gain control turned down to allow pre-amplifier to "flow" enough current for good sound - limited useful volume range - no remote

I am horrible at following instructions, yet the user manual instructions are essential to good sound from this pre-amplifier. I broke in my pre-amplifier for a week, and I ignored the remainder of the 3rd page of the manual. Under volume control, the 3rd page clearly states the amplifier should be adjusted such that the pre-amplifier volume control is turned to the noon (vertical) position at normal listening volume. Having just read all 40 reviews, I found no mention of this -- Rick of Boise, Idaho came closest by stating "volume gain seems to be weighted towards the lower end of the dial". I agree that the low end of the volume produces the greatest delta in audio output, and I add that this pre-amplifier sounds horrible at low volume. I can understand why people gave this pre-amplifier single-star ratings. If you own a Parasound or other amplifier with an adjustable gain, this pre-amplifier is a very good value that can provide the listener hours of unfatiguing, crystal clear, detailed sound. I lowered the gain on my Parasound HCA-1205A, and changed what would have been a 1-star rating into a 5-star rating. My system is as follows: Definitive Technology BP 2002TL Denon DVD-5900 Kimber Kable Power Cord Parasound HCA-1205A Parasound P/HP-850 Parasound TDQ-1600 Toshiba SD9200 Tributaries Cable

OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
rocket scientist   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 27, 2004]
Strength:

Good line level input section. Excellent sound very crisp and clean. Absolutely zero hum or noise - dead quiet. Built-in headphone amp is a nice touch. Great if you want to use it for headphone listening.

Weakness:

Poor phono section. Hissy above 1/2 volume control level setting. Very grating sound on phono, both lows and highs seem to be rolled off. Teensy-tiny rotary base, treble and balance controls on front panel hard to get a grip on.

Has what sounds like a poor phono section but otherwise good. I still play vinyl records so a good phono preamp is important to me. I already own a Parasound P/FET-900 preamp and the phono preamp section in that one sounds gorgeous to me so I was really looking forward to trying out the newer P/HP-850 with my turntable and records. Well when I first turned on the P/HP-850 and switched to phono there was a very noticeable background hiss at about half-volume. I always thought one of the hallmarks of a good phono preamp was quietness, but this thing really hisses. The P/FET-900 has just a trace of background hiss at full volume setting. I plugged in my turntable using a Shure V15VxMR moving magnet cartridge and was very disappointed with the sound. The sound was very grating to my ears as if there is some kind of distortion I can't put my finger on. The lows are rolled off as well as the highs. I really tried to like it but I just couldn't listen to it for more than about 10 minutes without turning it off. I don't know what Parasound did but they must have really cheapened the phono section on this one. I think it is supposed to be higher gain to accomodate both moving magnet and some higher-output moving coil cartridges. A bad compromise. Most high-quality phono preamps have a switchable input for either moving magnet or moving coil type cartridges to accomodate the different input levels with lowest background noise. I don't think they could have made the phono section sound worse on this one if they tried. Now if I ran the turntable into the Parasound P/FET-900 first and used it as a phono preamp and ran the line-level output to the P/HP-850 it sounded fine. The line-level inputs on the P/HP-850 sounded first class and would be fine for anyone needing a good clean preamp for a line-level source like a CD player. The sound was very crisp and clean and excellent. So if you are not using a turntable don't worry about it, the P/HP-850 should be a fine choice. But if you are buying one to use as a phono preamp I would not recommend it. You will still need to use or buy an external phono preamp for the best sound. It is as if they added the phono preamp section as an afterthought. Also I cannot understand why they used such teensy-tiny rotary controls on the front panel for base, treble and balance - really hard to get a decent grip on, plus they did away with a stepped volume control. All in all I think this is a cheapened preamp. If they were going to compromise the phono section so badly they should have just left it out. It is possible I may have gotten a unit with problems so if anyone else has auditioned the phono preamp section in the P/HP-850 I would like to hear from them.

Similar Products Used: Parasound P/FET-900 preamp
OVERALL
RATING
3
VALUE
RATING
3
deviant03   Audio Enthusiast [Nov 07, 2004]
Strength:

Build Price/Performance ratio

Spectacular sounding preamp for the price. I have it matched with a Parasound HCA-1000A amp. I found it just a tad foward initially but the more you listen and get used to the sound (burn in?) the smoother it gets - dynamic and fluid is how I would describe the P/HP-850. Price/performance is hard to beat.

Similar Products Used: B&K, Rotel and Marantz
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Tom   AudioPhile [Aug 15, 2003]
Strength:

takes very little away from the music. Good phono section.

Weakness:

no remote, at this price I can't believe anyone is complaining

This is a very good pre-amp, for the price new or used it is a steal. Can you find a pre-amp for $250. new that could compete? I don't think so. May not work well in every system but what component does?

Similar Products Used: B+K, Kenwood L-O7C, Luxman, Bryston
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Richard Widner   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 30, 2003]
Strength:

Seems to be built quit good.And of course the price.

Weakness:

None I have found.

Simply put I don't know of anything within it's price that can touch this pre.It does'nt seem to do anything to blur or color the music on my system.

Similar Products Used: Replaced Kenwood pre.Also tried Audiosource Pre-one
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Mike   Audio Enthusiast [Jun 30, 2003]
Strength:

Good build quality. Directly coupled. Tone control bypass switch. Keeps circuitry warm even when unit is off. Quality capacitors. Decent Sound.

Weakness:

laid back presentation, which may be good for some and not for others. It was not as fast or as transparent as I would have liked.

I have to admit that for the sticker price this is a very reasonable preamplifier. The engineers in designing this unit went overboard to cram as many features as possible into this unit that money would allow. However, upon trying the preamp with my HCA-750 power amp and my B&W speakers I found that the attacks and other transients in the music were somewhat smeared out. This gives an overall laid back presentation in the sound, but it goes to show that this preamplifier is far from beining "transparent." I would highly encourage anyone thinking about this preamp to audition it in your own system with the types of music that you usually listen to before buying it. It is probably the perfect preamp for some but not for others. The Parasound preamplifier uses Analog Devices opamps in the main signal path, which are very good audio grade, but probably not audiophile, opamps. The tone control bypass switch is a great feature to have as the tone control stage can further slow down the music, but at the same time the control stage can also add warmth to certain tracks. The power supply is relatively stiff, and more importantly audio grade capacitors are used on the power pins of the opamps. These do make a significant difference, and this is a common configuration used by Mark Levinson among others. Again, the overall sound of the preamp is very good, especially for its price. However, I did not find it to be as transparent as some people on this site made it out to be.

Similar Products Used: Adcom GTP 450,Advent 300, Mcintosh MX-110, Parasound HCA 750A, Adcom GDA 700
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
Tang   AudioPhile [Mar 12, 2003]
Strength:

Well built. Good sound. Great price.

Weakness:

Nothing serious. Just slightly harsher than my passive preamp

The 850 replaced a home made passive preamp that has served me well for 8 years. My system consists of a Pioneer Elite CD player (don't remember model number), AA DTI+ (battery powered), Theta ProPrime II, Hafler Transnova 9505 and Apogee Centaur Minors. The passive preamp gave a really clean, clear, transparent stage - the best I was able to find and afford. I need more inputs and so I look for something new. This 850 achieves 90% of the passive preamp. It essentially preserves the tonal characterisitics of my system. The sound is indeed slightly more harsh that the passive preamp but not too much, I can live with it. What I found most interesting was that it made the internal DAC of my $50 DVD player sounded almost the same as my external DAC. However, the same cannot be said about the internal DAC of the Pioneer Elite CD player. May be DAC technology has improved so much over the years that it becomes trivial.

Similar Products Used: Home made passive preamp
OVERALL
RATING
4
VALUE
RATING
5
nico321   AudioPhile [Mar 09, 2003]
Strength:

VERY musical. True to the source. Detailed yet smooth. Excellent control at any frequency. If the output is the "direct" one offers a real extra bonus in much more of all the goods it gives you. Simple yet elegant look.

Weakness:

I'm thinking hard, very hard...but found nothing. Or maybe is too unexpenssive for the "real audiophiles??"

I bougth this amp as a gift to my brother. Reason? Specs were quite tempting, had a phono section that my brother needed, & price was a steal. No, no, but sorry for the people with damaged ears cause is not bright nor harsh. Right out of the box smooth yet detailed. Neutral & very musical. Fist control of the amp maneging transients like a happy camper. Goes up & down at ease in any frequency. It's paired up with a S-300 Threshold Stasis amp, & I marvel in how much better it does compared with the very original Threshold h-10 preamp I had. I also had the John Curl designed P/L1500, but the 850 is by far superior. One of the unspoken gems in audio. I'm baffle at the price for what it does offer.....& my brother tells me, "I wish you could hear this NOW".

Similar Products Used: P/L 1500, Threshold h-10, Preeminence Technology A Series II
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
footdocrrm   Audio Enthusiast [Jan 20, 2003]
Strength:

Price, appearance, sound

Weakness:

Power cord comes loose easily if unit is moved; bass, treble, and balance controls are very small; no remote control but who needs it

This is my first pre-amp (separate system) - I had always used a home theater receiver. I was never satisfied with the sound of 2 channel stereo music when listening to cd's. The price for this unit seemed right. I have been extremely pleased with the sound to date. There have been absolutely no problems with the unit. I have never had another pre-amp in the house, but cannot imagine being happier (especially with units that are 5-10X more expensive). 2 channel stereo with this pre-amp (B&K ST-140 2 channel amp, Sony CA-70ES CD player, and JBL S38 speakers) completely destroys the sound of any HT receiver that I have had in the house (compared to Onkyo TX-DS 797, Denon 3802, HK 520, 320, and 225, Yamaha RXV-2200, and Sony STR 945). Bass response sounds more natural and full compared to HT receivers with subwoofer. For several years I blamed my speakers for a poor sound reproduction - at this point I could not be happier with the JBL's. Although I am a novice to the audiophile separates world, I can only recommend this unit.

Similar Products Used: None - only comparison is the miserable 2 channel stereo sound produced by HT receivers
OVERALL
RATING
5
VALUE
RATING
5
Showing 1-10 of 42  

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