Class D amplifiers, first proposed in , have become increasingly popular in recent years. What are Class D amplifiers? How do they compare with other kinds of amplifiers? Why is Class D of interest for audio? Find the answers to all these questions in the following pages. The goal of audio amplifiers is to reproduce input audio signals at sound-producing output elements, with desired volume and power levels—faithfully, efficiently, and at low distortion.
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Amazingly, its clear, three-dimensional sound is comparable to many amplifiers made today. McIntosh MC While the MC put the signature big blue meters in the market, many people consider this the greatest amplifier ever made. Released in as the MI for commercial applications, it eclipsed any amplifier of the day with an extraordinary watts per channel.
The consumer version, MC established McIntosh as the premier audio company of the day. Phase Linear It was and Bob Carver saw the future and brought to market a product that would set the stage for a new audio segment—affordable, mass-market, high-performance audio.
Rock bands put dry ice on stacks of these legendary watt per channel amps to cool them down. The year was and who would know that the KSA , right out-of-the-box, would establish Krell as one of the greatest brands of all time. To this day, Krell sets the benchmark for military build-quality and outstanding sonics. In , Johnson designed his lifetime achievement product, the Reference Carver Silver Sevens Carver bought the output tranies in the s and schlepped them around for nearly twenty years before building his dream amplifier.
Its watts per channel, four gleaming chassis, and 15 KT88s per side 14 as outputs were mind blowing. BTW, I have the very first pair ever made in for audition! Audio Note Ongaku It shocked the audio world. This was the first production amplifier to use handmade silver electronic components transformers, caps, and wire. Cary CAD The poster child for single-ended triodes. Part of the trick was its use of an extra dose of Class A bias, lack of compression, and superb channel separation.
Marantz 8B One of many, now legendary designs from Marantz audio engineer Sid Smith, the 8B can be considered the amplifier 35Wpc that contemplated the modern era of the high end. Able to run as a W mono amp or as a 75Wpc stereo amp, it proved so popular that it returned for an encore years after ceased production. Huge meters on a massive chassis, high heat output from the s, and the kind of power that made them the amplifier of choice for the then speaker of choice, the Magneplanar Timpani 1D.
Rotel RB Blue plate manna from audio heaven, the RB was the go-to amp for low-sensitivity speakers that presented tractor-sized loads. NAD Integrated Born in the late s, it was the little integrated amp that could. By keeping it clean and minimalist, blessing it with a sweet midrange and dynamics out of proportion to its modest power, NAD kept buyers coming back for more.
And they still are. Unique for its time were the transformers and output transistors placed on the outside the chassis—an innovation that eased serviceability and reduced operating temperatures. Mark Levinson ML-2 Before Lexus and corporate branding, before Kim Cattrall, there was Mark Levinson, the man—an original who pioneered a second wave of high-status boutique amplifiers like the ML-2 that defied corporate culture.
The parts often changed and kits sometimes arrived incomplete but a generation of teenage hobbyists cut their teeth building these components and moving on to their own cutting-edge designs.
Along with the McIntosh M50W1, the beginning of modern high fidelity. Marantz, Harmon Kardon Citation, and McIntosh amplifiers may have been better, but the Stereo 70, with , unit sales, was 35Wpc of power to the people. Quad Not the first transistor amplifier, but arguably the first to show that transistor amplifiers could sound as good as, or indeed better than, tube amplifiers. Even today, it is startling how good the sounds, if played within its power limits.
Even in the late 60s, a transistor amplifier could, as the showed, sound really wonderful. After their and watts per channel, there was no going back to things like 25 watts—or there should not have been, anyway. But Hafler could prove by his differential input-output test that the XL was close to perfect and probably did not worry much that high end was largely preferring tubes, which were demonstrably less accurate by comparison.
The Sunfire Signature could produce watt pulses! And the Carver A Series, designed by Jim Croft, had the all but unique feature of no output network, for flat response into any load at all.
Capabilities beyond the wildest dreams of decades past. The Tact Millennium was the first digital amplifier to realize the full sonic promise of keeping the signal in digital form almost up to the last instant.
The future had arrived, or at least one version of the future. Sanders Magtech Not around long enough yet to have had much influence, but give it time. This amplifier offers a unique mode of operation and not just the promise but the reality of an all but unprecedented ability to drive difficult loads playing demanding music with uncompromised sound quality.
Analog amplification lives! Dynaco ST The David-Hafler-designed ST not only sold in huge numbers, it became the blueprint literally and figuratively for generations of mid-powered tubed amplifiers. Perhaps the best-selling high-performance amplifier of all time. The triple-series, triple-parallel output stage was also groundbreaking. I could have chosen several other Pass designs that would be worthy of this list. Although it followed in the footsteps of the groundbreaking 76A, the D took the idea of high resolution and high power in a tubed design to another level.
The D proved that transparency, resolution, and low coloration were not the exclusive province of solid-state amplifiers. The KSA was the antecedent of a long string of great power amplifiers from Krell, and the product that forced other manufacturers to step up their games with regard to bottom-end slam and bulletproof construction. Remember that when the Wpc Phase Linear was introduced in , 50Wpc was considered a powerhouse. This trend toward high-powered amplifiers gave loudspeaker designers more latitude in their designs, unleashing the wave of loudspeaker innovation that began a few years later.
The DH made a high-end powerhouse amplifier affordable to many. NAD This unassuming little integrated amplifier brought true high-end sound to a mass-market price, and in the process, exposed a whole generation of music lovers to high-end audio. There are many more audiophiles today because of the Completely devoid of grain and grit, the Reference was revelatory in its seductive liquidity.
The Reference combined this exquisite delicacy with iron-fisted dynamic authority. NAD M2 Although not the first amplifier to accept digital signals and directly convert PCM audio data to the pulse-width-modulated signal that drives a switching output stage that was the Tact Millennium , the M2 is more significant in many ways.
It sounds far better than any previous switching amplifier, accepts high-resolution digital audio, is affordable, fundamentally changes audio-system architecture, and is the forerunner of what is likely to be a long line of future NAD products based on the topology.
BAlabo BP-1 Mk. The BP-1 Mk. Futterman H3 OTL Julius Futterman was the first to realize the dream of a commercial output-transformerless tube amplifier, albeit for a brief period. Its life span was extended for a few more years by New York Audio Labs. Dynaco ST A simple, yet elegant 35Wpc Ultra-Linear design which turned out to be the perfect confluence of performance and value for the dollar.
Wildly popular; sales are estimated in excess of ,00 units. Harman Kardon Citation II Leave it to Stewart Hegeman to bring speed to tube power amplification; claimed by H-K to be the world's first ultra-wide bandwidth tube power amplifier. Still competitive today, this chocolate-colored beauty is seriously collectible.
It comprises a perfect setting for the McIntosh Unity-Coupled output stage. Vintage tube sound at its best. Audio Research 76A Featuring a complex, regulated power supply, and a pentode output stage, it coaxed 75Wpc from a pair of beam power tubes.
The start of modern tube sound and its emphasis on detail resolution. Threshold A A seminal design that nudged high-end forward and almost perfectly highlighted the virtues of Class A operation. Cary Audio Design This amp more than any other is responsible for the commercial success and revolution, if you will, wrought by single-ended triode designs in the early 90s.
Still in production today in its Mk IV version, this is an authentic classic. Marantz As there must be a Marantz manufactured by Saul on this list, the Model 8 or 9 are the logical choices. A real classic from how I wish I had bought one! I leave to others choice of model the D, maybe? It was an ambassador to high-end audio for literally hundreds of thousands of impecunious audiophiles all over the world. Mark Levinson I have no experience with Levinson products, but surely a list like this must include one—the 25 watt Class A ML2 perhaps?
Whatever, contemporary amplifier design is inconceivable without him. A 70W 40W in switchable triode mode monoblock, it set the standard for liquidity and gorgeousness of timbre in its day—and to some diehards still does.
Though dark and euphonious in tonal balance the 8B was arguably more neutral , the Model 9 was and is so beautiful that many listeners forgive it its colorations. Dynaco ST Sold as diy kits or factory-assembled, this very affordable, highly-tweakable, 35Wpc, ELbased stereo tube amp from David Hafler is the best-selling audio component of all time with over , manufactured. Perhaps the most prominent at the moment is the highly praised Van Alstine Ultrawave recently reviewed by Dick Olsher.
Dynaco also made several worthy solid-state amps, including the very popular 60Wpc Stereo and the Wpc Stereo Phase Linear Introduced in , this Wpc stereo amplifier from the redoubtable Bob Carver was perhaps the first big solid-state amps to offer high power without the usual price tag in grainness and odd-order harmonic roughness. An acknowledged classic from its debut in , the D set the standard for high-power tube amplification in the s and long after.
Mark Levinson ML-2 monoblocks The little-known and underrated Hadley Laboratories C aside, this was the first solid-state amp I heard to put the transistor on an equal footing with the tube. Introduced in , these 25W Class A monoblocks 50W into 4 ohms, W into 2 ohms from Mark Levinson set a new standard of clarity, liquidity, timbral beauty, and three-dimensional imaging and soundstaging for solid-state. The polar opposite of the grainy, piercing, high-in-odd-order-harmonics sound that many of us then associated with solid-state designs, the ML-2 proved that the transistor could make music as readily as it could generate power.
One of the truly great, pioneering solid-state designs, the KSA was perhaps the first solid-state amp that could be justly called unflappable. Anyway you slice it, a conrad-johnson Premier amp belongs on this list or, at least, my list.
Though it has recently been replaced by the ML Historically important. There are many worthies. The Two was a watt mono tube amplifier that came out in the days of high-fidelity as opposed to high-end sound. The got around the stranglehold McIntosh and Gow had on transformer designs—they patented their breakthroughs and used them to build their own amplifiers exclusively. What Hegeman did, after studying the transformer issue, was devise an alternate way to eliminate notch distortion and build a different transformer winding, thus allowing higher power output.
It also happens that as a very young man I tried to build one of these from its kit version, to drive my acoustic-suspension speakers. The amplifier was, to me, an astonishment in the form of sound. He later, under the Citation rubric, designed the first serious solid-state design, the Citation B.
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The DM gives installers a revolutionary user interface, greatly simplifying the process of optimizing system performance and delivering the finest automotive sound to consumers. The DM also incorporates a connectivity port that will allow users to program DSP features using Android or iOS devices, as well as stream media including high-quality audio via an optional AudioControl Bluetooth device. The DM has eight active high-level speaker inputs, six pre-amp inputs, and two digital inputs plus ten pre-amp outputs. The AudioControl DM also features a 5-year warranty.
Great Sounding Gear For Musicians And Audio Professionals
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An audio power amplifier or power amp is an electronic amplifier that amplifies low-power electronic audio signals such as the signal from radio receiver or electric guitar pickup to a level that is high enough for driving loudspeakers or headphones. Audio power amplifiers are found in all manner of sound systems including sound reinforcement , public address and home audio systems and musical instrument amplifiers like guitar amplifiers. It is the final electronic stage in a typical audio playback chain before the signal is sent to the loudspeakers. The preceding stages in such a chain are low power audio amplifiers which perform tasks like pre-amplification of the signal this is particularly associated with record turntable signals, microphone signals and electric instrument signals from pickups, such as the electric guitar and electric bass , equalization e. The inputs can also be any number of audio sources like record players , CD players , digital audio players and cassette players. Most audio power amplifiers require these low-level inputs, which are line level. While the input signal to an audio power amplifier, such as the signal from an electric guitar, may measure only a few hundred microwatts , its output may be a few watts for small consumer electronics devices, such as clock radios , tens or hundreds of watts for a home stereo system , several thousand watts for a nightclub 's sound system or tens of thousands of watts for a large rock concert sound reinforcement system. While power amplifiers are available in standalone units, typically aimed at the hi-fi audiophile market a niche market of audio enthusiasts and sound reinforcement system professionals, most consumer electronics sound products, such as clock radios , boom boxes and televisions have relatively small power amplifiers that are integrated inside the chassis of the main product.
A guitar amplifier or amp is an electronic device or system that strengthens the weak electrical signal from a pickup on an electric guitar , bass guitar , or acoustic guitar so that it can produce sound through one or more loudspeakers , which are typically housed in a wooden cabinet. A guitar amplifier may be a standalone wood or metal cabinet that contains only the power amplifier and preamplifier circuits, requiring the use of a separate speaker cabinet—or it may be a "combo" amplifier, which contains both the amplifier and one or more speakers in a wooden cabinet. Guitar amplifiers can also modify the instrument's tone by emphasizing or de-emphasizing certain frequencies, using equalizer controls, which function the same way as the bass and treble knobs on a home hi-fi stereo, and by adding electronic effects ; distortion also called "overdrive" and reverb are commonly available as built-in features.
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Audio power amplifier
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He is the author of seven popular textbooks related to the design, analysis, testing, and evaluation of sophisticated electronic equipment for reliable operation in severe vibration, shock, thermal, thermal cycling, acoustic, and pyrotechnic shock environments. His research interests include impact dynamics, plasticity, energy absorption, textile and cellular materials, and nano-composites.
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