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As far as I can hear, proper decay is the only issue that class d has. Every other box is ticked, and then some. I'm not shilling for anyone, just hoping I can get a power amp for $600 that is orders of magnitude cheaper than a PassLabs and 90% of its excellence. In my experience power amps are significantly less important to the sound than speakers, preamps and cartridges, yet are insanely expensive.
Uberdine, I'm currently using a CDA 254 Class D Audio amp with an additional amp module, which provides 500 Wpc into 8 ohms, with the modules in bridged mono mode. I find the sound to be enjoyable, it ticks all the right boxes for me, and save hours on the EML 300B XLS tubes in my SET 300B amp.
I'm also using a Class D Audio kit amp, again with two CDA 254 modules, and converted it to three channel, with 125 Wpc driving surround speakers, and 500 Watts for the center channel, with that module in bridged mono.
Judging sound quality is such a subjective thing, what works for me may not work for you. However, I find the amps are very satisfying, driving my custom Tannoy HPD 315's, and sound fairly comparable to the SET 300B, but with a great deal more power. I know you are in NZ, so you are going out on a limb just to try them. You might see if Tom would consider a bit longer trial period, to allow time for shipping back in case you're not satisfied.
I am using the Hypex NCore NC400 Bridged Mono Block class D Power Amplifiers (4 NC400 amplifiers, 2 on each side) purchased from James Romeyn Music and Audio, LLC (James). He was very helpful answering my many questions and I suggest you contact him for more information on his assembled Hypex amplifiers (he offers 3 class D models). The cost for the bridged unit is $2,980 (plus shipping) and his contact # is 435.213.3953.
This is my first class D power amplifier and, based on my results, sounds terrific. Of course, everyone has a different opinion on this subject. You never know “how it really sounds”, until you listen in your room and system.
In summary, I am thrilled with how good my system sounds. I am hearing details, imaging and bass that I have not heard before. My system now offers breathtaking detail, transparency, lack of noise, and excellent dynamics and sounds much better than my Luxman L-590ax Class A integrated amplifier. My DAC is going direct (balanced XLR connection) into my power amplifier with no pre-amplifier. This change feels like another layer of sound is presented WITHOUT THE pre-amplifier in the system. The volume is controlled by the volume control on my DAC.
Class D typically has very high damping factor. That might play into things like like how decay of notes sound in some cases compared say to a tube amp.
I love my Class D amps. They sound fantastic with every speaker I've run by them. They deliver music effortlessly and never "break a sweat". That matters.
In my experience power amps are significantly less important to the sound than speakers, preamps and cartridges,
that is sooooo wrong!! The power amp-speaker interface is perhaps the most important aspect in the music signal chain,
Every component & every connection is important in audio if you want realistic playback. Trivializing the power amp-speaker connection will lead to only trouble for you. Neglect it at your peril.....
SCM, do you know what the difference between the CDA amps and the SAD amps are? When I bought mine, Tom recommended I use the CDA 254, so that's what I have. Just wondering in which way the sound differentiates between them.
By the way, I'm very happy with my CDA's, but my curiosity drove me to ask the question.
DanMan...I don`t know what the difference is, sorry.
As a back story...
I had a very nice Rogue tube amp that sounded really nice but I needed more power for my speakers so I got the SDS 470 as a stop-gap till I could find a tube amp/amps that would do the job.
I was so impressed from the very start with the Class D Audio that I`ve put a hold on the amp end and am looking in other areas to improve on.
I know I didn`t answer your question, just trying to help in some way :)
Thanks for your replies everyone. On reflection I think my decay observation was probably wrong judging by reviews I've subsequently read, but there was something weird about my tripath amp that I couldn't put my finger on. Buggered if I know what it was. I'm just hoping the classDAudio amps don't have this quality, since they seem like a good solution for my budget.
I have one of the small class D amps based on the TPA3116D2 board and I bought it as an experiment. This is a very inexpensive amp so I hardly expect it to be state-of-the-art like some of the larger more expensive class D amps out there. It is my first class D amp and I am certain that class D amps (just like solid state and tubes) have different sonic characteristics based on the manufacturer and the technology used, so I would not attempt to lump them together. So I can only speak for the TPA3116D2 (common and inexpensive) and say the highs sound rolled-off and the timbre/decay of the instruments do not sound realistic. This is when played through high sensitivity horn speakers and comparing it to other much more expensive gear. It sounds polite and pleasing to the ear, but it is not convincing with regards to the instruments. Again this is just an opinion of this one amp and I'm sure there are much better sounding class D out there, you just have to spend more $$ like anything else in this hobby.
Every component & every connection is important in audio if you want realistic playback. Trivializing the power amp-speaker connection will lead to only trouble for you. Neglect it at your peril.....+1!
Low level detail (which includes decay) is a common problem!
My recommendation is to avoid difficult loads for the amp- with any amplifier including class D, you can see the distortion climb in the specs when you drive lower impedances and you can hear it as a loss of detail and increased harshness. Put another way, if you can reduce distortion in the amp, it will sound smoother and more detailed. Good Luck!
Dont rule out the importance of the amplifier as well as associated componemts as others have mentioned. I have been using Class D amps for.some.time now as the heart of our hybrid amps. In a system, everything matters. I prefer tubes in front of them. If not a preamp then a good tube buffer makes a big difference. Just be careful of the type of load you put on the ClassDaudio amps and stay away from plannars.
Other than that, i am very happy with Class D which is why i chose to use them in some of our products. The Class D Audio products are exceptional for the money.
Thanks for your input gentlemen, sorry I haven't replied for so long, I haven't been on this site. Just to clarify, I absolutely don't discount that the power amp is crucial to the sound. My throwaway comment was more to do with how insanely expensive they are compared to other components when you're on a budget, and don't alter the sound as much as a line stage or cartridge. But yeah, crucial.
Atmasphere, my speakers are an easy 8 ohm load @ 90db. They sound great with my current 3.5w tube power amp, but I listen to so much alt rock that I miss the filled out bass I had with my previous solid state monster, which I only got rid of because it went out to 200khz and I had oscillation problems with my preamp. The ClassDAudio goes out to 35khz, do you think this is far enough to avoid the ringing issues that switching amps have? I haven't read a bad word about ClassDAudio amps (other than that you can do better if you spend $5000 etc) so I'm guessing the guy has nailed it, although some people thought the top end was recessed, but who knows. The only other thing I'm worried about is the gain at 30db might be overkill for my speakers. My preamp only puts out 0.775 though. Mmm. Thoughts welcome.
Class A to Class D and back again.
I have owned a variety of Class A and AB solid state amps and after a couple of auditions I thought I could improve on my situation with Ncore, NC1200 Class D monos. After a year, I found the Class D amps simply did not sound as natural to me as my former Class A and AB amps.
Some might describe what I hear as a deficiency with "decay" but I usually describe it as a deficiency in micro-dynamics and, a flattening of the soundstage, or lack of depth/dimensionality, compared to better amps. They also seem to lag behind in the high frequencies and how those can create a sense of space, venue and infill between performers. The end result could be described as the sound of individual musicians cutting tracks in a recording booth that are then put together to make music, instead of a band playing together and the music being recorded at one time. To me the Class D amps were just not as real sounding, which is similar to the opinion of the reviewer at Mono and Stereo in his review of the Mola Mola Kalugas, that you can find on-line.
End result, I am back to a pair of 300 wpc Class A monoblocks and find that they sound much more natural and enjoyable in my system....although they are not quite as cool looking, cool running, or as quiet.
The ClassDAudio goes out to 35khz, do you think this is far enough to avoid the ringing issues that switching amps have?Its generally agreed that you need more bandwidth than that. Even the AES which tends to be overly conservative recommends 2 octaves above 20KHz (80KHz).
I can't comment about ringing- that seems to have more to do with the individual design rather than an overall characteristic.
The trouble with Class D is the frequency of the switching noise, (the saw tooth you seen on the top of this bandwith limited 10khz square wave)
In the future when the components are faster and the switching noise is much much higher then this noise can then be filtered out effectively and then not effect the audio band.
At the moment it will always influence the sound quality of Class D as it’s too close to the audio band not to effect it after being filtered out.
Manufacturers either filter it out low so it’s not there but the trouble with that is it’s filtering way down to 5-10khz, into the audio band, which ruins any decay/harmonics of the music signal.
Or they filter it up high,, and let through the switch noise to the speakers, this then sound hard and etched, some go for the middle ground with a bit of both.
BTW: that "future" much higher switching frequency I talked about above, is closer than we think.
Technics with their SE-R1 are showing vision by developing their own much fast switching frequency transistors, double the norm that’s around now. It would still be better if it were 5 to 10 times faster, but it’s small steps to a good end for Class D. Then you’ll see me sell my big hot power hungry boat anchors.
But the amp is expensive at around $22,000.00usd I believe.
And you can bet they’re not going to sell those transistors to just anybody.
Just one reviewers words of what he heard:
"Listening to tracks that we’ve heard 100s of times — and on excellent systems at that — is now a revelation of once hidden nuance and detail. Not only are we hearing things we’d never heard before, we’re hearing it in a way we’ve never heard it before. A music system that sounds like a live performance is a tough goal to attain, but Technics’ flagship nails it."
Class D has evolved into many different iterations. Since my first switching amplifier, the PS Audio HCA-2, I've owned four other brands and auditioned in house six others. During this time I had an Ayre V-1xe, MFA D75, and Carver VTA 180s on hand.
Nothing personal but I guess I'm just skeptical when I read about generalizations regarding switching amplifiers. While I've seen graphs that dramatize a digital waveform I honestly can't hear anything that would suggest a stair stepped waveform or "digital noise" from any of the switching amplifiers I've listened to. Early on I would admit to there being a difference in presentation but I've been fooled by the NuForce SE's and the nCores in short term listening in my own system. The only commonality that I've found in most class D designs is their sensitivity to the quality of AC power and poor synergy with silver cabling. If memory serves me the Hypex nCore kits were $1300 direct.
The nCores are in my studio system driving a pair of Avalon Acoustics Monitors. The combination is stunningly transparent which is amazing for monitoring my recording but not exactly ideal for casual listening. Over the long term I prefer my VTA 180s driving the Eidolons in the main system, but thats me.
Yes as Ralph has corrected about class D classification not being digital.
Also the "digital noise" I believe is an analog switching noise and is around 600-800khz, too low to be effectively completely filtered out of the audio band without effecting it with early hf roll off.
The new Technics SE-R1 with their new proprietary transistors takes this switching noise up to 1.5mhz which is a step in the right direction.
But from those in the know the switching noise needs to be up around 3-5mhz to make the filtering completely effective, and not to intrude into the >audio band at all, then it will take Class D into proper hi-end amplification.
That’s when I’ll sell my hot inefficient heavy boat anchors and also go Class D, and the smart linear amp manufactures will have their fingers on the "sell my business button" before this this technology comes along for anyone to source these new super fast transistors, or compete with the Chinese.
["Just so we are clear here, class D is not digital. Its an analog process."]
I believe there was one self described "Digital" amplifier but I can't recall the brand. I didn't refer to any class D amplifier as digital. Some reviewers have used examples of stepped digital waveforms to describe or imply what the typical, or some, switching amplifiers using pules width modulators are outputting.
My QSC PLX 2400 Bass rig amplifier has a switching power supply that makes a hell of a mechanical noise but it can't be heard in the output. I may be getting too old but unless we're talking about substantial difference in the amplifiers basic presentation I have yet to hear any class D amplifier produce switching noise.
Just to throw out a thought -- shouldn't whatever "decay" a musical sound possesses be solely on the recording? And isn't it the job of the equipment in the playback chain to simply reflect, as accurately as possible, what's on the recording?
Decay is the remainder of a note as it fades away. For an amp to mess that up, it means the amp is either non-linear in some fashion, or has distortion that masks lower level sounds, or noise (another form of distortion) that is masking the signal as it decreases in volume.
You'd think those deficiencies would show up in more areas of playback than just decay quality.
I've got a Bel Canto C5i and I find it wonderfully neutral.