HiFi Bargains: Parasound Zphono Phono Preamplifier

Parasound goes about the business of making some great hifi products for great prices kinda on the quiet side, don’t you think?

I was recently at a friend’s place, a very rare and much welcome event these days, and we were listening to some fabulous Japanese 78s. The music contained therein was performed by Japanese musicians and could be broken down into two categories — traditional Japanese and Western. I’d describe the experience of listening to either type as being fascinating, captivating, and fun. What more can we ask for?

The relevance here is that while there were a number of lust-worthy tube amplifiers sitting at-the-ready, it turned out we were listening through a John Curl-designed Parasound HALO A 21+ Amplifier. I sometimes, OK most times, cringe when solid state amplifiers are said to sound “tube-like” and less commonly when the claim is made the other way ’round because, more often than not, this is just expectations and generalizations doing the talking. The music we listened to that fine and fun day had the sonic imprint of what was captured on those 10-inch discs oh so many years ago (with some of the loveliest sleeve art I’ve ever seen).

When I went in search of a wallet-friendly phono stage, Parasound did not immediately come to mind (even though it really should have). It took a recommendation from another friend and when he spoke the words Parasound Zphono it was as if he’d read my mind and my order was placed that same day.

The Parasound Zphono Phono Preamplifier ($199) takes in the delicate signal from our turntable with Moving Magnet (MM) or Moving Coil (MC) cartridge, which in my case are the Bargain Rega P3 (2000) wearing the Bargain Nagaoka MP-110 MM Cartridge, and amps it up to line-level to send to our phono-preamplifier-less preamplifier’s or integrated amplifier’s line-level RCA input. The Zphono does so quietly, without drawing undue attention to itself.

What I can tell you, without a doubt, is that in my system, which consists of the DeVore Fidelity O/93 speakers paired with either an Ayre EX-8 Integrated Hub / Amplifier or the soon-to-be-reviewed Hegel H95,  the Parasound Zphono fits right in and helps to deliver some damn-fine vinyl playback, without qualification. I don’t know about you, but I find the fact that I can get damn-fine vinyl playback without qualification from a relatively modestly-priced analog rig to be damn-fine news.

All to say, the $199 Parasound Zphono is one damn-fine HiFi Bargain.

Parasound Zphono Specifications

Gain at 1 kHz: MM, 46dB | MC, 61 dB

Input Sensitivity at 1 kHz: MM, 5 mV in for 1.1 V output | MC, .9 mV in for 1.1 V output

Input Impedance: MM, 47 k Ω | MC, 100 Ω

Input overload: MM, 200 mV | MC, 36 mV

Input Capacitance: 150 pF

RIAA accuracy: 0.25 dB, 20 Hz – 20 kHz

S/N ratio: MM, 84 dB | MC, 58 dB

Power requirement: 115 V – 230 V, 60/50 Hz, 5 W

Dimensions: 8-1/2 w x 1-3/4 h x 10 d, 2 h with feet

Net weight: 4 lbs.

Parasound Website