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Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier by John Curl:  Premier Review

10-23-2017 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 94

Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

Having known the legendary John Curl's work since he did the JC2 Preamplifier for Levinson in 1972, a ground-breaking design for solid-state, and every bit as competitive as the tubed ARC SP-3a-1 of the era, I fearlessly replaced my current mega phono gear, both tube and solid-state, with the Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier, costing just $1495! I employed cartridges costing 4 to 8 times as much as the Junior, and interconnects that were over triple the cost per meter of the Junior. The BIG surprise came when I tee'd up my reference LPs!

But before the punch line, here are the specs and features:

Features: http://www.parasound.com/jc3jr.php  All selectible front or back of chassis! Nothing to select inside!

Specs: http://www.parasound.com/jc3jr.php

Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

Two features on the Junior that are only available on phono stages costing much more are the switchable gain stages of 40, 50, and 60dBs of gain in MM or MC mode, and a MC impedance adjustment of 50-550 ohms in a continuously variable control (no stepped detents). According to Editor-in-Chief Robinson, the new PASS Labs Xs Phono Stage at $45,000 has these features, completely stratospheric performance, and provides for three programmable inputs, as well, should you have the bucks and be looking for them. By the way, I tried the outstanding new Grado Epoch MI Phono Cartridge, priced at a retail of $12,000, and found that it sounded best at 47,000 ohms and 50dBs of gain into my E.A.R. 912 Preamplifier, as I dialed in the Junior. Also, with RCA/XLR outputs, I enjoyed running the Junior balanced in my system 2, and single-ended in my system 1. The Junior performed flawlessly in either configuration. As I wrote this paragraph, I was listening to the new Brubeck Time Out from QRP and heard satisfying sophisticated music, as if the Junior had secret tubes on board!

Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

Reminds me of a Harry Pearson story:  I was at Dan Meinwald's home, distributor of E.A.R. and other brands in the USA, when HP called him. Dan had sent him an E.A.R. 324 Phonostage to review. HP was enamored with it and was calling Dan with an important question. "What tubes are used in it so I can tube roll?" Dan laughed. He then gleefully informed HP that the 324, designed by tube king Tim de Paravicini, was solid-state! The 324 fooled HP! The Junior may fool you.

The Sound

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.  I have been unable to recommend an under-$2000 solid-state phono to anyone—until now. Using the Grado Epoch MI, the Stein Music Aventurin V6 Mk2 MC, and the London Reference MI, the Junior performed way beyond its price class. 

Parasound Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

It is dead silent. It is mellifluous. It is sophisticated. It is truly high definition. It yields rock solid imaging and great clarity. It is unflappable and other-worldly flexible. It has no pops or static, even switching every knob with gain up. The mono button on front even changes color when engaged. If the Junior is not trickle-down brilliance from JC's previous designs, then this baby is an accidental miracle. 

Parasound JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

Compared to my E.A.R. 324 and 88PB, costing 4.5 times more $$$ each, and both capable of two tonearms attached simultaneously, the Junior unsurprisingly yielded somewhat less slam, definition, and bass weight. The soundstage was a bit smaller as well. Even so, the Junior is superbly satisfying and smooth and warm. I do not know how John Curl did it, but the Junior clearly bridges the tube/solid-state divide. He endowed the Junior with much of the sophistication I hear from my references. I did not hear a single note that revealed this was a solid-state machine. Add the powerhouse flexibility, and it is out of this world!

The fit and finish is top notch. All of the gold-plated connectors are beefy and look expensive. I tried different bases under the Junior with little change. I did use a reference Kubala-Sosna Emotion Power Cord in one system, and a reference Dynamic Design Spirit Power cord in the other system, and got great results in both cases from the Junior. (Note that I ran the Junior with signal for 100 hours before making these evaluations.)


None. Available in silver and black. I reviewed the silver unit. I found the many controls easy to see and, therefore, suggest the silver chassis if you have old eyes like mine. No remote is available. 

If I were pricing the Junior, I would put it at $2500 in a heartbeat! Listening to the new album Chopin The Last Waltz from Ray Kimber and Kimber Kable, the Steinway is alive and expressive with gorgeous clarity. Ray is proud of his first of many LPs, I hope. You will love it on the Junior. 


The Parasound JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier, the Junior, is a fantastic boon to audiophiles everywhere who love getting the best out of their LPs, but do not have deep pockets. 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! If you were going to spend about $1500-$2500 on a solid-state phono stage, I’d say that the Junior is your entire short list. It has my full recommendation.

Halo JC 3 Jr. Phono Preamplifier

Retail: $1495

Parasound Products, Inc.

2250 McKinnon Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94124


[email protected]


All images courtesy of Parasound.