As for sound staging, I’m not entirely sure what the connection is between the low-end performance of a system and the ability to produce three-dimensional images, but the presence of well-defined LF information helps delineate the boundaries of acoustic spaces and what is contained within them, and the Parasound certainly proved the point. Live recordings had a palpable sense of contained space, with individual performers projected well away from the speakers with a reassuringly solid presence that had good dimensionality and solidity to them.
A lot of the above observations would seem to relate to the JC1 power amps and their interaction with the loudspeakers, which begs the question as to just what the pre-amp was contributing to the whole? The pat answer is, “not very much at all” – but that seriously underestimates its quality. The JC2 left no noticeable imprint on the musical signal, but perhaps more importantly, didn’t seem to be holding anything back, a welcome realization in a world where so many line-stages act as serial stranglers. Compared to the Audio research SP10 that I sometimes use the JC2 had better resolution, a wider bandwidth and sounded more neutral, emphasising the slightly rich ‘spongy’ character of the aging valve design. The Goldmund Mimesis 28.3 could not have been more of a contrast, providing an exceptionally clean, etched and occasionally academic presentation against which the Parasound offered a slightly richer character, but gave little away in terms of resolution. But it was while I was using The Naim NAP300 power amplifier that I began to realise just how effective the JC2’s balance of virtues really is. Inherently quiet, it is capable of presenting detail with both texture and precision while simultaneously sounding open and airy, the combination of which offers a highly lucid and musically enthusiastic performance.
As a system, the JC1/2 pre-power combination works extremely well, and goes way beyond simply providing lots of amp for the money. Standing direct comparison with some seriously capable (and expensive) competition. What it actually provides is genuine high-end performance at a very reasonable price. If you need lots of drive, the JC1’s have it in spades, whilst avoiding most of the compromises that usually accompany really powerful amplifiers. As an alternative to spending more, invest the extra money on having a dedicated mains spur installed, and the Parasounds will reward you with even better performance.
Which brings us to the JC2 linestage. It’s becoming increasingly obvious how few pre-amps succeed in passing a musical signal without imposing crippling constriction in the process – and those that can are invariably expensive. Well, you can add the JC2 to that (very short) list of the great and the good.
At the asking price, that makes it a genuinely astonishing bargain – especially if you don’t need the awesome power delivery of the JC- 1s and team it with something more manageable and affordable from further down the Parasound range. As flagship products, this pre-amp and its matching mono-blocs succeed handsomely. They represent a really impressive accomplishment that John Curl and Parasound can be justifiably proud of – just as proud as those lucky enough to own a set. In an industry where the term “value” seems to have taken on an almost comical elasticity, the JC1 and JC2 are definitely the real deal – in every sense.