Do all Class D amps lack soundstage depth?


Hello!
Recently I bought a class D amp for my friend from Audiogon - PS Audio Trio A-100. In general, I liked it sound very much. Compared to the power section of my much cheaper integrated amp (NAD C320BEE), Trio A-100 sounded fresher, more transparent, richer and juicier. NAD was obviously duller and more reserved. Trio A-100 seemed to energize the air with a sort of vibrancy, while NAD seemed more lifeless. (Of course, I am exaggerating the difference between the amps a bit to make it more clear how they differ from each other.) However, Trio A-100 lacked one parameter, which is very essential for me and without which I cannot truly get lost in the music – namely, the soundstage was flat. It wasn’t absolutely flat, no – but NAD did so much better in this department. When NAD was playing, I heard which instruments and singers were farther from me and which were closer to me. When Trio was playing, everything seemed to be on the same line, equidistant from me.

The previous owner of PS Audio Trio A-100 had told to me about its sound before I bought the amp from him, and he frankly admitted that the soundstage was kind of flat. Before this purchase, I nearly bought another Class D amp – namely, Bel Canto S300. Eventually, this amp went to another buyer, but the owner shared with me his impressions about this amp and, among other things, he wrote: “There might be less depth with some recordings”.

So, at least two owners of Class D amps confessed that their amps lacked soundstage depth.

I wonder – are all Class D amps like that? Is the lack of depth something which is intrinsically inherent in Class D?

My second question is – what if I buy TWO Class D amps and use them as monoblocks – will it solve the problem with the flatness of the soundstage?

Any advice based on personal experience will be much appreciated.
ironmine
Just like there are a wide variety of SS and tube amps with various strenghts and weaknessness, so too does this apply to Class D amps.

The amps you listened to are realtively inexpensive. If you had listend to say a Spectron Audio MK2 or a Bel Canto REF1000II, you would indeed have found tremendous soundstage among the amps just plain sounding good,imo.

All this comes at a price, again, as it does with SS and tube amps.
The other components in your system affects the class D amps
more then you would think. Matching them with the proper preamp, power cord, and by all means use balanced interconnects.

06-12-09: Tan43
The other components in your system affects the class D amps
more then you would think.

I echo this sentiment 100%, though disagree with balanced interconnects. You don't need these for soundstaging (!)

I have Nuforce amps paired with a tubed pre, all copper and single-ended cabling, and have truly dimensional imaging.
I've listened to all the current Jeff Rowland Design Group amps and none of them have this issue. Given the right material, my Continuum 500 will throw and image that'll expand to 180-degree to the outsides and front of the speakers and deep beyond the wall in back of the speakers. Think Radiohead or "I Robot". With Mahler and such I get an image to the outer edges of the speakers with layers of instruments going from the speaker to my wall and beyond, with placements of instruments a various front-to-back depths.

Dave
My NuForces throw whatever soundstage my preamp generates... which lately is massive! :)
Tan43 and Nick778 are right. I have found, with my gear, almost all cables sound bad, as well as almost all CD players. This is a fact. I have not heard the amps named here, but I think I can assume my findings would apply to class D amps in general. My super charged Audio Note DAC works wonders, mining CDs for all they are worth. The amps lets it all through untouched.

And now a word from Audiogon's dealers.....
Sounds like a speaker placement issue to me. Proper speaker setup will really make big differences in soundstage (especially depth). How far away from the back, front and side walls are the speakers placed; is there gear between the speakers; how large is the room...etc...??
06-12-09: Muralman1 said:
"Tan43 and Nick778 are right. I have found, with my gear, almost all cables sound bad, as well as almost all CD players. This is a fact. I have not heard the amps named here, but I think I can assume my findings would apply to class D amps in general. My super charged Audio Note DAC works wonders, mining CDs for all they are worth. The amps lets it all through untouched."

I'm wondering what amp you're using. Seems to me like your trying to say that your amp is transparent and accurate, revealing any weaknesses in you system, but I don't know what amp that you use. Sorry...

Dave
Both those models you mentioned use the same ICEpower 200ASC module. I find this module to be wonderful except it does lack sound field depth. The width is there but front-to-back layering of sound is lacking (it's more 2D in that regard).

With that said, I must point out that not all Class D amps have this trait. In fact in the same ICEpower family the 500ASP and 1000ASP units have excellent soundstage depth/layering.

You'll find that HYPEX, ICEpower ASP modules, nuforce and others have wonderful depth.

As others have said, your associated equipment can make up for this to a degree and it is worth considering.
The ICE 500A module, given an expert's power supply has the sweetest highs.
That all depends on just what you feed it. I found that all oversampling players,
including SACD players have a flat sound stage, unnatural highs, and just are
devoid of life. They give class D a bad rap.
Looking into purchasing a Class D amp.
Is the input device of choice paramount to a deep soundstage or do some brands portray a more realistic soundstage than other brands?
It's probably not the amp, per se. It's more likely to be the match between your amp and your speakers. Have you checked the power ratings, efficiency and impedence between your amp and speakers?

My experience is that soundstage is affected mostly by speakers (almost entirely), and then by the front (analog and/or digital), and next by your preamp. YMMV
The OP states that he had better soundstaging with the NAD, and previous owners of the class d amps he's heard/owned both have commented on a lack of dimensionality in the soundstage, i would agree with Br3098 re amp>speaker matching, and also speaker placement. If you can move your speakers into the room more I wager soundstaging would increase regardless of amp.

As has been stated, many owners of class d amps don't have imaging issues.
What goes between the amp and the speakers are the speaker cables, and that is a whole other story.

My preamp was designed, because there were virtually no preamps good enough. You would have had to dig real deep in your pockets.

Class D will spotlight any defect in the chain, and amplify that to annoyance as if to meat punishment.
Muralman1,
Do you have a class D amp?
He seems to be on another planet today. Direct questions don't phase him.

Dave
On his "System" description Muralman1 shows H2O Class-D monoblocks driving Apogee Scintillas. That system will certainly be revealing of any weakness in the front end.

Dave
Some guys commented that "the other components in your system affect the class D amps more then you would think" (Tan43) and that it "sounds like a speaker placement issue" (2chnlben).

I would like to emphasize that when me and my friend compared my NAD and his Trio A-100, we used the same room, same speakers, same cables, same preamp, same DAC, same songs, etc. We just changed the power amps - that’s all. So, it is hard for me to believe that I have an issue with speaker placement or other components.

I would think that Heavystarch is right – the culprit must be the same ICEpower 200ASC module used in both PS Audio Trio A-100 and Bel Canto S300.

What about PS Audio HCA-2? Does it use the same module as these two amps?

In general, I am looking for a class D amp, which I want to buy used at around $1000 and which can give to me a good feeling of depth in the soundstage. You know that feeling which you get when you close your eyes and the walls in your room simply disappear (especially the wall behind the speakers), because the sound comes at you from places which are much further then the wall behind the speakers. When I open my eyes again I am always surprised to see the wall only 3 m away from me – because, I swear that just one second ago I heard sounds which were coming at me from 10 or 15 meters away from me… I wonder if such kind of magic is attainable from class D amps within my budget...
My preamp, the class A Fire by the same builder as my amps, is of utmost importance in my system's success. With the power part taken care of, and the cabling simplified to an onlooker's idea of absurdity, I only needed to perfect my source. I spent only $1600 on an Audio Note DAC kit. After putting it together, I sent it to the builder of my amps and preamp. He supercharged that DAC. If you don't think an Audio Note can rock, they can, you just have to think outside their box.
Ironmine, I think that we all understood what you were asking. My point was that I can't recommend a specific amp that will substantially alter your soundstage. As I said and in my opinion, that is speaker issue. If you had poor results with the Trio A-100, then possibly it is a poor match for your speakers (although the admission of the previous owner should have been a clue).

You will need to try some other amps to find one that you like. You haven't mentioned what speakers you are attemptng to drive, nor anything about placement or your room or... get my drift?

I like Channel Islands Audio's offerings for Class-D and other SS products. Dusty is a great guy, he has been around a long time, and his ideas about good sound mimic mine (somewhat). But I can't and won't guess if CIA D-100 or D-200 monoblocks will work well in your system. Order a set for evaluation and you tell us.
Br3098, you wrote: "As I said and in my opinion, that is speaker issue."

Then, how come NAD creates a deep soundstage through the same speakers?

I have AE speakers, they are 8 ohm and 150 W maximum power handling capacity. So, from the technical point of view, PS-Audio (100W) is better suited for my speakers than NAD (50W). And I could hear it, the sound improved overall in all aspects except soundstage depth.
Is there a reason why you're so caught up in class D?

I've read many things about class D, esp before I bought mine, and there was never a mention of flat dimensionality. What are your speakers? Have you determined that specs/wattage of the class D's you've looked at and/or interested and your speaks match up well on paper?
whoops, we must have posted at the same time. How about contacting your speaker manufacturer and asking about recommended amps?
The biggest criticism of class D has been that the regulating of power via switching modes results in greater distortion than what is typically present in good A, A/B designs; and that the necessary filtering processes utilized in class D aren’t entirely effective in resolving the issue of distortion. I have heard a lot of criticisms of the supposedly inherent problems with class D switching designs, but never relating to soundstage (inherent). I’m running a PS Audio GCC-250; I’m not sure what ICE module it utilizes, but I have always appreciated the wide and deep soundstage that my system produces. I did purchase a stage II mod on my amp, but I’m not sure if that resulted in an ICE module change. If you want to be certain that you don’t have “class D issues” you may want to stay with A/B, as there are some fine A/B amps for sale on the used market.

For what it’s worth, once I removed my component rack from between my speakers, I heard a real improvement in the overall soundstage.
Does anyone know what module the Halcro MC50 uses? That's one heck of a good amp.
change amps....move speakers
You guys aren't listening. He's happy with the imaging when using the NAB. It's not a speaker placement issue, it's an amp issue.

Dave
Look guys, it's easy: not every amp mates well to every speaker. A typical audiophile setup is a hodge-podge collection of semi-compatible parts.

Try a different amp. What works for me or another guy on this thread may not work for you. Try a different amp. You have audiophile friends? Do you have local dealers? Many audio manufacturers have return or try and buy programs. Keep trying amps until you find one that works for you, with your gear, in your room, with your ears.
To answer the OP's question -- no, not all class D amps lack depth. I believe it's a compatibility issue he's experiencing with his gear.

To answer his second question -- if there is a gear incompatibility, then 2 of the same incompatible amps will not solve the problem of imaging, though may sound better in other areas.
I have had a Nuforece 9SE and a Rowland 312. They did not portray soundstage depth as well as top tubes amps or pure class A amps. Width is just fine. Speaker placement matters a lot in this and the observation made was with the speakers in the same locations. I also noticed a less than airy treble with may be the related to soundstage depth. I would suspect that the filtering may get rid of some useful treble info. I am not that technical and may be totally wrong in this one.
Tholt, when I said "try another amp" I meant to say try another brand/vendor of amp. I did not mean to suggest that you keep trying the same model/vendor over and over again. There will be a "right" combination, but it may take a while to find it. That's the problem with our hobby (my wife says addiction) - so many choices and so little money.
Two things about switching amps: 1: the quality of the power cord is critical. 2: You must give turn the amp on and give it about 12 hours to stabilize. Then you need to leave it on all the time or start over each day.

If you insert a switching amp cold right after an listening to an A/AB amp, it will seem to have some shortcomings. Many of these go away with a better power cord and plenty of warmup.
You almost invariably get what you pay for, and this is true in Class D. I have owned many amps in my 62 years. Tubes, all kinds. SS class A/AB, Crown Parasound, Pass. Built several kits of different types.

I have never enjoyed an amp so much as I do my Spectron Musician III mk2 se.

But to each their own in this hobby. I just moved and remounted my speakers in my living room. Inches and angles make big differences. A speaker will sound different with placement, amps, and a host of other variables. When you find something you like, appreciate it.
Depth depends of the bass most of the time.
Class D amps are know to have tight and fast bass, ry adding a subwoofer or moving your speakers and/or listening position to get more bass and you will get the depth back.
I have owned 3 class D amps. The Bel Canto S-300 and eVo2i and the PS Audio Trio C-100. The C-100 and eVo2i are both integrated amps. And to through one more bit of info the eVo series use the Tripath module instead of the ICE module.
As for sound, I much preferred the eVo2i over the either of the ICE based amps. It's been a while so I can't say with any certainty what the problem was but lack of soundstage depth may have been one of the issues.
For soundstage improvement I recently went to a bi-amp set up. Wow, what an improvement.
I am running a Trio A100 with the matching Preamp P200 and I think it depends where you have your speakers. If I pull my speakers out from the wall about 3FT I get better depth ,but that is not convenient for the family so I am stuck with them about 18 inches out. I have had the same problem with other amps so I do not think the PS Audio is to blame. Great amp and preamp very warm and neutral. I do not think this amp gets the high remarks it deserves. And also I believe it is supposed to be better than the hca 2
In my case absolutely not. When i first started using my Nuforce amps the stage was not as large or deep as i have worked to have now. After going through 2 upgrades with my amps and various power cords along with internal damping, emf rf control, isolation and now a power re generator. This has moved my stage to spread across and behind the 20 foot wide room my speakers are in front of.

I really dont believe this question is just for class d amps. If you experiment with different accessories and speaker set up you can increase soundstage with any amp you use.

The key is you have to take the time and effort to find out what is good or bad in the quest of taking your system to a place where you are happy and enjoy the sound it delivers.
Mike
I really dont believe this question is just for class d amps. If you experiment with different accessories and speaker set up you can increase soundstage with any amp you use.
.

I agree with this comment. I had a class D Jeff Rowland C500 on audition about seven months back my review HERE and i found it to have an impressive soundstage depth. While i ultimately purchased a much better amp see HERE i found that soundstage depth varied according to speaker placement, room treatment and associated products.
06-13-09: Br3098
Tholt, when I said "try another amp" I meant to say try another brand/vendor of amp. I did not mean to suggest that you keep trying the same model/vendor over and over again. There will be a "right" combination, but it may take a while to find it. That's the problem with our hobby (my wife says addiction) - so many choices and so little money.
Br3098 (Answers)

I know this is what you meant. My comment was directly toward the OP's second question
My second question is – what if I buy TWO Class D amps and use them as monoblocks – will it solve the problem with the flatness of the soundstage?

to which I said no, I don't believe it will "solve the problem", at least to the degree he may be looking for since essentially he'd be going with the 'two wrongs make a right' theory, but 2 class d's may improve other areas of sound. Again, I believe it may be a compatibility issue with class d amps and something else in his chain since he got much better imaging from his NAD.
When you find something you like, appreciate it.
Oofer (Threads | Answers)

thanks for the reality check. it's hard to leave well enough alone
If he is planning on running 2 A100 amps it will not work. They are not bridgeable and they are already a Dual Mono design.
Do the Spectron amps portray a large soundstage?
I really don't think that amps have anything to do with sound stage width. That is a speaker's attribute, like mine, and their placement.
Jim Swantko nailed this one as far as I'm concerned. The NuForce amps are very neutral and reflect whatever is upstream. Get everything else right , and Class D amps will astound you.
Tholt: "Is there a reason why you're so caught up in class D?"

Because it's easier for me to purchase Class D amps internationally - their are light in terms of weight and they often accept 220V. And because I liked, in general, the fresh and open sound of PS Audio Trio A-100. (I just wonder now - did the sound became more transparent because of Class D design or because this amp was 2 times more powerful than my own?)

2chnlben: "once I removed my component rack from between my speakers, I heard a real improvement in the overall soundstage".

I had the same experience as you! 2 months ago, when I removed a computer desk from between the speakers and replaced it with a much smaller cabinet, I had a substantial improvement in the soundstage stability and depth.

Dcstep: "You guys aren't listening. He's happy with the imaging when using the NAB. It's not a speaker placement issue, it's an amp issue."

Thanks, Dcstep! :) I tried already every trick in the book with speaker placement in my room and their current positioning is optimal. My room is 3 m x 6 m and this is what I have to deal with for the next 20-30 years :)

Muralman1: "I really don't think that amps have anything to do with sound stage width."

We are talking about depth, not width.
Good luck
I had an OCM 200 (build by D.Belles) driving my speakers, one day I got Rowland 's monos 501 (class D) ... the depth of the soundstage increased so much that I bought them
I also have a Trio A100 and I don't have any problems with depth, especially, when using my tube preamp. In fact, I had chosen the Trio A100 over the Musical Fidelity X-P200 amp because the Trio provided more depth.
For digital, I auditioned the PS Audio HCA2 and bought and used the BC Ref 1K for over 6months. Both of these amps were good and offered smooth, clean & clear sound but the soundstage were very shallow and does not give good spacial/locational information.

Then I got a Nuforce amp and after letting it burn in 24/7 non stop for over a month, I got the biggest, widest and deepest soundstage I have heard in my set up. If anything, I noticed soundstage deficiency in other set ups compared to mine. Like anything, any generalization will meet its exceptions and the Nuforce is definitely one of them.

Kenobi
Thanks, Kenk168! Looks like Nuforce is among the favorites, when it comes to digital amps...