Although John Curl is also touted for his Parasound amplifiers, his efforts with the original Halo JC 3 phono preamplifier were extraordinarily well-received and reviewed. In and around 2013, Parasound made some adjustments to the JC 3 with the JC 3+, adding MC cartridge, adjusting the circuit boards and power supply. Secrets crowned his revised Halo Preamp, the Halo JC 3+ Phono Preamplifier with a Best Of award.
Completely aware of the large market for more affordable turntable phono preamplifiers, Parasound developed for half the cost, the JC 3 Jr. Once again with John Curl designing the circuitry, the new compact Jr. may become legendary on its own – I placed it in my setup along with my Halo P5 preamplifier and A21, both mainstays in my reference system for a while now. It looked good, sounded even better!
20-20Khz, +/- 0.2dB
Total Harmonic Distortion:
< 0.02% at 1 kHz
Signal to Noise Ratio, 40 dB Setting:
>85dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted
>80dB, input shorted, unweighted
Signal to Noise Ratio, 50 dB Setting:
>89dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted
>84dB, input shorted unweighted
> 94dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted
> 91dB, input shorted, unweighted
MM or MI: 47k Ω
MC Variable: 50- 550 Ω
Unbalanced: < 100 Ω
Balanced: < 100 Ω per leg
40 dB / 50 dB / 60 dB (unbalanced output)
46 dB / 56 dB / 66 dB (balanced output)
Width: 17-1/4” (437mm)
Depth: 14-3/4” (375mm)
Net: 13 lbs. (5.9 Kg)
Shipping: 19 lbs. (8.6 kg)
Parasound, Parasound Product, Products reviews, Parasound Review 2018
It would be natural to compare the Halo Jr. to the original JC 3 and more recently the updated Halo JC 3+. The immediate and obvious visual difference is the size, about 2” shorter. This is accomplished by replacing the large gain modules used for each channel, with a single board combining the channels. The board designed by Carl Thompson handles both the left and right channels, unlike the independent boards on the JC 3. The power supply is partitioned between the two, and the combination thereby reducing the chassis size. Gone is also the AC line conditioner. Additionally, the dual-mono power supply was replaced by one with a single shielded toroid power transformer.
That was perhaps the bad news, the good news is what still exists and what the Halo JC3 Jr offers: high quality resistors and capacitors keep the RIAA tracking to within 0.2dB, 24k gold-plated RCA jacks, balanced and unbalanced outputs, variable MC impedance from 50 – 550 ohms, a switch for three gain settings, 40, 50, and 60dB. And like every other Parasound product, they always include 12v trigger turn-on options.
Lastly, the only other button on the face of the unit is a mono switch, for playing older recordings, or re-releases of mono recorded music.
The gear I’m using is probably right in line with the value and affordability of the Halo JC 3 Jr preamplifier: A Marantz Reference TT-15S1 turntable with a Clearaudio Virtuosso wood ebony MM cartridge (47k Ohm loading with an output voltage of 3.6 mV). As such, the settings on the JC 3 Jr are limited to the gain selection only, for me I was happy at 50dB. More settings as I mentioned above are afforded to an MC cartridge. The beauty here with the Halo JC 3 Jr is that you do not have to remove the cover to make the adjustments, typical of other phono preamplifiers.
Having the Parasound Halo P5 preamplifier, I did use the balanced outputs from the JC 3 Jr. After trying both unbalanced and balanced, I found the latter more open, slightly richer sounding.
I had no expectations, owning several Halo pieces including both amplifiers and preamplifiers, I immediately found that the JC 3 Jr sounded solidly neutral, in control. I didn’t hear the JC 3 Jr adding a sonic signature, the essence of getting out of the way is what I did hear. The new Halo Jr had a nice balance across the spectrum – the mid-range especially taut.
I was struck by the very quiet nature of the JC 3 Jr without a record playing, turning up the preamplifier to ungodly volumes is the only way to get any hiss out of the Halo JC 3 Jr, and ultimately my system.
Secondly, I didn’t get an edginess to the music – some might prefer that illusion of detail, I heard it to sound natural. The Halo JC 3 Jr will not cut edges like a figure skater, (Olympics just ending, easy analogy) through the music, around voices and instruments. But it does articulate.
John Coltrane’s Blue Train record is a good example of The Halo JC 3 Jr’s ability to articulate instruments, not only Coltrane’s tenor sax but the brassy and airy trumpet, the full trombone and the warmth of the piano. Although the upright base could have been a bit deeper and punchier, it nonetheless was ample to compliment the trio of horns.
Thirdly, the Halo JC 3 Jr is solid state, I would almost expect besides a lower noise floor, less distortion and more control. Any fear I had that it would sound sterile, or clinical was out the window, evident playing women’s voices, especially.
Diana Krall’s, Quiet Nights is her bossa nova and jazz standards cover album that shows a softness to her voice, or maybe she was just in love with hubby Elvis Costello when she recorded it. Either way, the Halo JC 3 Jr was expressively warm and delicate. Her breathing, her sultriness matched the dreamy character of the instruments as well. The piano in “So Nice” is so sexy and fun, flirty. But just so, I would have expected a tiny bit more sparkle at the top. Yet the timbre for the piano was excellent.
David Gilmour’s lovely mellow and melodic album On an Island, features more than just his legendary guitar playing but some interesting sound effects that can be lost on an inferior phono preamplifier, not so with the Halo JC 3 Jr. Not only does the JC 3 grip the music, it pushes it forward, resolute and once again, articulate.
My mother used to say, don’t set your goals compared to underachievers but rather to those that you aspire to. THE HALO JC 3 JR aspires to perform like a phono preamplifier priced much higher. What would I compare it to? Probably the Rogue Audio RP-1 at about $1,800 but you would give up balanced outputs and on-the-fly adjustments for loading.
I’m not sure anymore if a phono preamplifier that sells for just under $1,500 would be considered affordable – are you likely to be using a similarly priced turntable package? What’s my point? If you’re trying to eek every nuance out of your turntable with a modest setup, the Halo JC 3 Jr is perfect for you. In fact, it would take a significant upgrade in equipment to feel that perhaps the Jr is doing your system a disservice. In that case, the JC 3+ now available to you makes more sense. I for one find the Halo JC 3 Jr outstanding for value and performance.
Sure, there are preamplifiers costing just several hundred dollars but not with these features and this pedigree. If you’re even considering spending more, still, give the Jr a try.
- Adjustments easily accessed
- Balanced output