Power Amplifiers

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multi-Channel Power Amplifier

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

Parasound builds many audio products such as amps, tuners, preamps, and products for custom installations. As well their products can be found in many movie studios, including Lucasfilm and Pixar, you can even see their name in the credits for Star Wars. As well they are known for their highly regarded stereo products designed by John Curl.

Their New Classic line has been around for many years and Parasound has released an updated five channel amplifier from this line, named the 5250v.2 which is a powerful and rugged THX Ultra-2 Five channel amplifier. Touted as an upgrade to your AVR (audio-video receiver) this 250 watt/channel amplifier is capable of taking your system to the next level.

Specifications

  • Design: Five-Channel Power Amplifier; THX Ultra2 Certified
  • Output: 250 Watts RMS x 5 into 8 Ohms, All Channels Driven, 385 Watts RMS x 5 into 4 Ohms
  • MFR: 20 Hz – 50 kHz ± 3 dB
  • THD+N: 0.025% at Full Rated Output
  • Input Impedance: 33 kOhms
  • Input Sensitivity: Variable from 500mV to 5v
  • Damping Factor: >150 @ 20 Hz
  • Dual Toroid Transformers
  • Dimensions: 7.6" H x 17.3" W x 19" D
  • Weigth: 69 Pounds
  • MSRP: $2,850 USA
  • Parasound

The original 5250 which was produced and sold from 2005 to 2011, also provided 250 watts into 8ohms, had 45amps of peak current and was a fully discrete design using dual toroid transformers. The new 5250v.2 takes all that, and adds gain controls, addition gain stages for each channel, and updated with more durable parts allowing the amp to handle more torturous conditions, such as equipment closets*. Visually it remains unchanged and the amp has an understated two-tone black/dark gray finish with 5 numbered leds indicating channel operation and status. Around back you find gain pots, single-ended RAC inputs only, and rugged binding posts. Both versions are THX Ultra 2 certified.

*To test this I ran the 5250v.2 in an enclosed cabinet with both my Denon AVR and a PS3 for an extended listening session, and at no times did it overheat and ran cooler than the Denon AVR.


Design and Setup

In my system the Parasound 5250v.2 was controlled by a Denon 4308 receiver, with sources from an Oppo 981-HD universal player sending SACD over HDMI to the Denon, an Onix XCD-88 HDCD player via co-axial digital connection for Rebook and HDCD playback and a PS3-slim used for Blu-ray playback.

This amplifier features three turn-on options, a front mounted power switch, a 12v trigger and an audio sensor. I first used the audio sensing turn on, (which is only on channels 1 and 2 so make sure those channels are hooked up to your Left/Right preamp outputs). While the amp turned on quickly, it would also turn off too soon for my liking. The manual states it takes 15min of quiet before it would turn itself off, in use I found it to be between 5 and 10 minutes. I changed to the 12v trigger option which turns the amp on whenever my Denon 4308 receiver is turned on.

Speakers used were MartinLogan Vista Electrostatics in the front with a MartinLogan Stage in center and a pair of Raw Acoustics OB2X in the rear. The Vista speakers are 4ohms which can drop to 1.2ohms, while the Stage is 8ohms, dropping to 2.1ohms the rears are 8ohms, dropping to 4.2ohms and all speakers are roughly 90dB efficient.

Bass for my theater room comes from a MartinLogan Descent i and a Velodyne IC600 12" ceiling mounted sub. The sub-woofers only handle frequencies from 50Hz and below, with equalization done for the subs with the Denon's auto-eq (no equalization is applied to the rest of the speakers). Calibration was done using the Denon's auto setup feature and speaker placement was unchanged from my previous amplifiers.

My listening room is medium to large, 18' x 15' with 8' ceilings. The room has large openings on three sides to adjacent rooms which increases the effective area considerably. My room currently has no room treatments, and careful positioning of the speakers have resulted in excellent imaging and depth, albeit with a narrow sweet spot. The front speakers are toed in slightly and their dipole design reduces side wall reflection issues which allows for more direct sound.


In Use

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

I set aside an afternoon for some serious music evaluation with this amplifier in my system. With multichannel amplifiers I like to use multichannel music and my favorite example is the 30th anniversary edition Dark Side of The Moon SACD. Here I am listening for dynamic range and clarity while playing loud. This album wants to be played loud and with its serious use of the surround channels really puts a strain on the amplifier section. Many amplifiers (especially those found inside AVR's) can output decent power into two channels, but when pressed to do all five at once they often cannot keep up. Such is the downside to the internal amplifiers in my Denon 4308 AVR. At very loud volumes with this disc there is a decrease in dynamic range (almost an audible squashing of the sound) when pressed hard. No such issue with the Parasound. I was able to get very loud with no clarity issues and no audible compression of dynamics.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

But that is with an superb audiophile-worthy SACD mix. How does it do with something grittier, such as the 2001 Tool release, Lateralus on HDCD? This disc has long been my go-to disc for testing a components ability to resolve fine detail buried with the mess of distorted guitars, heavy drum sequences and serious bass lines. The Parasound proved more than able to do this album justice. While there is not one bad track on the album, I choose to focus on the title track Lateralus. This song begins with a mellow guitar riff, the drums slowly building the intensity leading into the core of the song. Once Maynard begins his vocals everything but the drums disappear, slowly coming back to build up the tempo and emotion. I was able to increase the volume to a higher level than with my AVR without audible compression and the instruments kept the space, never becoming buried in the mix.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

New to my demo discs is the 2011 release from Devotchka, 100 Lovers. The latest album from the Denver based 4 piece multi-instrumental genre-defying band quickly became an addition to my usual test arsenal. This band's sound is romantic, exotic and captivating all at the same time. They fuse many different instruments together to create a sound that is unmatched in today's American folk/punk bands. After seeing them live in Vancouver this past March I was compelled to add them to my regular evaluation line-up.

The track Contrabanda starts with a trumpet panned hard right, moving into the center with the drums, stand-up bass and accordion following the lead. Nick Urata's hauntingly beautiful vocals come in dead center and drives the emotion of the song. As with the Tool album, I listened for the separation of instruments and detail, although this one is not burned with distortion and after effects. Instead there is a broad range of different instruments to reproduce and the Parasound did not disappoint. The resolving nature of this amp did this song justice and every level I played it back, including low listening levels, something that is sorely missing from my current AVR.

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

Now on to the crash and bang fun found within Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes adaption, and more specifically the shipyard fight scene. This scene really taxes the amplifier section as every channel gets a work-out. The dynamic range was slightly compressed at reference levels, with the speech sounding slightly boosted, yet not as noticeable and detrimental as with my Denon 4308 AVR. This issue was not prevalent with the previous amplifier I had (Bryston 9BSST).

Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 Multichannel Amplifier for the Home Theater

One of my wife's favorite movies is the visually engrossing Pans Labyrinth. While I have long enjoyed its DTS-HD audio, I never paid too much attention to the quality of the audio, so this time I really listened, and glad I did. Great use of surrounds there are lots of ambient noises, insects buzzing around, wind blowing, trees creaking all combined with a beautiful soundtrack. This disc provides plenty of dramatic impact and dynamic swings. With the Parasound powering my speakers I was engrossed in the world presented by Guillermo del Torro. The difference a power amplifier can make over your standard AVR was evident with this disc. And now this movie has been added to my reference list.

Comparison

The 5250v.2 is being marketed as an upgrade to your receivers amplifier section. So to compare I played back some samples of music and movie chapters, comparing the sound to the Denon's internal amps and the Parasound. It should be noted that the Denon is capable of handling the difficult load presented by my Electrostatic speakers and powers them to adequately loud levels, something that many receivers are not capable of. What the Parasound improved upon was in both low-volume listening and high-volume listening. The Denon sounds thin and light at low volumes, while at high volumes it gets a tad muddy and compressed. The Parasound was flawless throughout the volume band, with no audible compression or distortion at excessive volume levels. I did note the Parasound ran cooler than the Denon even with the Denon not powering any speakers.

Compared to the most recent amplifier in my system, a Bryston 9BSST2 (5 x 200w @ 4 0hms) the 5250v.2 was just as revealing and clean, with a slightly softer mid-range presentation. Overall the sound quality from both amps was fantastic, with no noticeable faults with either. I could easily live with either amp in my system. It should be noted that the Bryston retails for more than twice as much and is rated for less power per channel, however it comes with a 20 year transferable warranty, compared to the Parasound's 3 year non-transferable warranty.


Conclusions

I have a love-hate relationship with evaluating amplifiers. It's fun trying amps of different topologies, and power ratings, but it is also tedious to identify the sonic differences among well built designs. In the case of the Parasound New Classic 5250v.2 I looked at it as an upgrade to my AVR's amplifiers and under that light the differences were easier to distinguish. The Parasound proved to be an audible upgrade over my upper-level AVR in both power and finesse, nothing drastically significant, but the presentation was pleasantly refined. This amplifier has massive power and was able to drive my Electrostatics' to loud volumes without strain or overheating, exceeding my AVR's abilities. The added flexibility of variable gains allows this amp to be used with a wide variety of equipment which for my uses is ideal.