I heard them only once - the sound was fantastic. I was also impressed with how small they are and the efficiency figures are great. Here is the set-up I heard (the amps are the small blue boxes near the speakers. I do not remember what make and wattage they were but someting incredibly high - 500W each? ):
What's not to like? I also think class D will become more common.
As a side-though: the boxes are so small that is very natural to want to build them into the speaker box. and the next step from there is, naturally, an active crossover ;-)
System here http://www.whathifi.com/forum/your-system/my-dream-system-oh-maybe-one-day
Despite my reservations regarding my current amp, I've no doubt that class D will replace class AB amps in the next 10 years, perhaps sooner. Unless legislation intervenes, class D will be the most common, followed by class A & valve
"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds - the pessimist fears this is true."
James Branch Cabell
MAIN: Apple TV2 & iTunes Match, CA Azur 751BD or Panasonic P42V20B into audiolab M-DAC, feeding a Primare A34.2 via XLRs, 2x 5m of Atlas Ascent 2 firing up Totem Arros.
ON THE HOOF: iPhone 4GS/Sennheiser MM450.
Properly executed and implemented, I see no tecnical reason why a low distortion Class D design cannot be at least as good, if not better than other amplification designs, on sonic terms especially given the sheer minimum of devices in the signal path involved, compared to other amplfication technologies.
I've heard various so called high end amps; a Naim 552/500, Gryphon, Krell, McIntosh, Conrad-Johnson, Audio Research, Bryston, Quad et al, and would not swap out my Class D TA-DA9000ES Sony amp for any of them in the context of a passive separates system, and where sound quality overall was the final arbiter.
There are probably more class D amplifiers (in mobile phones) built in a year than any other type of amp, yet the high end hifi industy struggles to drag itself into the 21st century where class D is still perceived as a novel and scary amplifier topology.
Given that the input signal is (in most cases) a time series of samples, not an analogue waveform, it makes perfect sense to keep the signal digital until the final driver stage - if anything it is more bizzare to convert the signal to analogue halfway through the chain and use an analogue amplifier.
High quality, low cost, efficient class D allows multiple amps to be mounted within a speaker enclosure, with the all the benefits of active digital crossovers. My humble Squeezebox Boom has a DSP crossover, 6 channels of class D amplification with each speaker driver having a separate amp and the headphone output having two separate amps of its own. All of this, a display driver and streamer on a circuit board about 3 inches square.
Many (most?) subs are already class D with the amp in the enclosure. Pro monitors are well down this route. I look forward to the Focal / Naim partnership bringing out a range of active digital speakers to show how it can be done for domestic use at hopefully a reasonable price.
A clean and efficient solution. No need for DACs, speaker cables, amps - what will we talk about?
Er, hang on, . . . Class D amplifiers are analogue devices, not digital.
High quality, low cost, efficient class D allows multiple amps to be mounted within a speaker enclosure, with the all the benefits of active digital crossovers.
Sure, you can use both digital and analogue technologies in the same box if you wish, but you would have to provide multiple DACs as well, to convert the digital signal channels from the digital crossovers to feed the analogue Class D amplifiers. There is no correlation between DSP and Class D amps.
I look forward to the Focal / Naim partnership bringing out a range of active digital speakers to show how it can be done for domestic use at hopefully a reasonable price.
Loudspeakers must always contain an analogue tranducer, that's how they work, - your ears are analogue. If you provide a digital signal source, then you must use a DAC to drive the analogue transducer.
FWIW, and only sightly OT, I'm currently playing with some little Class T stereo power amps from Trends Audio, controlled by a valve hybrid preamp, and so far liking what I hear (as a desktop system, at least).
Will report more fully in some bloggage at a later date, when I have spent more time with them.
Consulting Editor, What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision/whathifi.com Audio Editor, Gramophone
I have Class D diving the woofers and cant say that they sound different to any other woofer i've heard.
Highly efficient with high power output, whats not to like? Partner with suitable speakers and/or pre and you have a nice system.
Not so. Class D amps switch their output drivers at high frequency, varying the on / off duty cycle. The binary waveform used to control these drivers can be derived from an analogue input signal as you suggest, or it can be derived directly from a digital source such as SPDIF using DSP techniques. So no DAC required, it is implicit in the output drive topology.
Check out 'class d' on Wikipedia.
I am fully familiar with the paragraph on Wikipedia to which you refer. It is simply a description of an input circuit which comprises an alternative form of a digital to analogue converter, - otherwise known as a DAC.
I suggest you study a rather more authoritative work on electronic theory, rather than Wikipedia.
I assure you that Class D amplifiers are, fundamentally, analogue devices,
If you include the Devialet, then I'd say I've never heard better. Different, maybe, but not better.
Interesting, you have heard the Devialet D Premier. Can you tell me where you heard it, and what it sounded like (plus describe the rest of the system etc). From what I have seen and read that looks like the perfect marriage of Class A and Class D and I would love one, or at least a cheaper version of one.
only six months later...
I heard it at Oxford Audio Consultants, where my Krell and Sfs came from. Have listened via Sonus fabers and KEF Blades. Hard to ascribe a character at all. To my ears it was simply wide-open and super clean, but without lacking "emotion". And it is slim, and has a great remote volume rotary control.
Hi-Fi: Krell KAV-300cd, Michell TecnoDec/RB250/Grado Prestige Black1, KAV-300i amp, Transparent balanced interconnects and bi-wire to Sonus faber Concerto grand piano speakers, Nakamichi ZX-7 cassette deck, Logitech Squeezebox Touch, Hitachi FT-5500 and Sony S570ES tuners, BCD Engineering stand, RA Powerlink, Chord powerchord, Grado SR60i cans.
AV: Sony Bravia KDL-32EX503 telly, BDP-S370 player with QED HDMI. Currently unused: Denon AVR-1705, DVD-1710, KEF KHT1005.2
OK, so which part of an amp that takes a PCM input, converts it to a modulated bitstream using DSP techniques, and then uses that bitstream to switch the output drivers on and off is fundamentally analogue?
Perhaps if you could post a link to the authoritative work on electronic theory you mention, that may help me understand.
In the meantime, have a look at NAD's white paper on their 'M2' direct digital drive class D amp.
Any good Degree level electronic theory textbook will explain the working conditions of Class D amplifiers, they're nothing new, - do your own homework.
Audio manufacturers' 'White Papers' are mostly a joke, they're mostly an extension of their advertising and promotions department, I don't suggest you take them very seriously.
Hmmn. Perhaps you will take semiconductor manufacturer data sheets seriously, or are they also an extension of the advertising department?
To save you doing any homework, the link below is to the DIodes Inc. Direct Digital Feedback Amplifier (DDFA) chipset used in the NAD amplifier, which goes to explain in some detail how the class D output drivers are driven direct from the digital input with no intermediate analogue steps.
Just to clarify an earlier point, a class D digital amp clearly acts as a DAC - it has a digital input, and drives an analogue tranducer, the point is the whole amp is the DAC, there is no internal DAC turning the digital input into an analogue signal to drive the output stages.
My feeling is that this technology needs to be perfected before it takes over from classical amplifiers. The fact that the final stage is the DAC is good in principle as the signal is not degraded in various anlaogue pre amplifier stages. However, we all know how DAC is critical for the sound quality. Doing the DAC stage at the output stage is certainly tricky and there should still be a lot of technical challanges to perfect this process to optimise sound quality. The other problem with this technology is that if is perfected it will not allow amplifier manufacturers to make the amplifier sound in certain way as all amplifiers will sound the same.
. . . the point is the whole amp is the DAC, there is no internal DAC turning the digital input into an analogue signal to drive the output stages.
Well this is where we'll have to disagree.
Fundamentally a Class D audio amplfier is simply a pulse-width modulated power amplifier with the pulse modulated by the audio signal.
You can fit a fancy front end to it which is simply a digital to analogue converter stage to achieve the audio modulation of the PWM output stage.
The whole point of a Class D amplifier is to operate the output transistors by turning them either fully on or fully off, with effectively no in-between state, so that no power is dissipated internally by the output devices. That is how the efficiency and low heat dissipation of Class D is acheived. This is accomplished by switching them at a high frequency (compared to audio) of something in the order of 250kHz. The width (in the time domain) of the hf pulses is modulated by the analogue audio waveform desired as the output signal, used to drive the analogue transducers in the loudspeakers.
You can't listen to digits, whether they be PCM or s/pdif, or any other digital stream, and expect to hear music. You have to use a converter stage to produce the required analogue signal which is the desired music. Some Class D designs incorporate this converter stage as you describe. It's still a form of DAC, the output of which is used to modulate the PWM output stage, which is the part that is operating in Class D.
A Class D amplifier is a bit like a powerful switch-mode power supply which is modulated by the analogue audio signal desired at the output, which is then used to energise the loudspeaker coil.
You can't listen to digits. If you've got no converter stage, you've got no music.
© 2013 Haymarket Publishing