Class D for Disruption
An interesting disruption has been taking place in the world of hi-fi audio for the last few years. An amplifier technology is responsible for reducing amplifier size and weight, the heat they generate, the energy they consume, and most importantly, their prices. This technology is known by many names (Class D, Class T, IcePower, digital amplification) but technically they are all Switching Amplifiers. Hailed as a giant killer, the Sonic Impact T-amp, a $30 Class-T amplifier made by a kitschy computer accessory company, was discovered by some audio fanatic Italians. Their glowing review sparked a revolution; people started replacing their big, heavy, hot amplifiers with small, light, cool ones.
Google News is turning up some interesting results for for “class d” amplifier from computer speakers, to subwoofers to even cell phones. Danish audio design king B&O has their own ICEpower technology which they incorporate into a 2500 W powered speaker but which is also used in another Danish firm’s really cool Firewire-compatible amp.
Probably the two biggest budget contenders are the Texas Instruments powered Panasonic XR series home theatre receiver and the very tiny Trends Audio 10.1 giant kill stereo amp. The Trends won a digital amp shootout besting amps costing twenty times the price. And in a more recent shootout, the $150 Trends amp was bested by a $450 unit.
Here’s the biggest list of switching amplifier makers I have come across. It will be interesting to see if this technology can be applied in other areas to improve quality and reduce costs.