Class D Amplifiers Gain Popularity With Retailers, Consumers

By Amy Gilroy On Feb 26 2001 - 8:00am

The subwoofer's growing popularity is continuing to drive amplifier sales, with mono amplifiers now the fastest growing amplifier segment. As a result, suppliers are greatly expanding their Class D selections, as Class D amplifiers are particularly suited to low frequencies.

Close to a dozen suppliers are debuting new Class D amplifiers this year, including JL Audio, MA Audio, Memphis, MTX, Rockford Fosgate and Sony.

According to NPD Intelect, Port Washington, N.Y., mono amplifier sales were up 110 percent in 2000, compared with amplifiers in general, which were up 14 percent. Mono amplifiers, however, still only represent 6 percent of the total amplifier market, NPD noted.

"What retailers and customers are looking for is more power for less money, and in a smaller package," said Chris Parvin, Rockford Fosgate director of marketing. "The way you get there is going after the digital amplifier, which gives you greater efficiency and therefore smaller heat sinks."

Several suppliers showed extreme high-power Class D mono amplifiers this year at 1,000 watts or above.

Rockford Fosgate extended this year its Class bd amplifier lineup from one to three models. The top-of-the-line Class bd model in the Power Series is the bd1500.1, rated at a power output of 1,500 watts total at a suggested retail price of less than $1,000. The amplifier uses the company's patented STARDUST technology that is claimed to improve the power output stage of a Class D amplifier.

Also new are the Power bd500.1, which delivers 600 watts at 2 ohms or 300 watts at 4 ohms, and a redesigned bd1000.1 at 1,000 watts at 2 ohms. Suggested retail prices for these two amplifiers are $559.95 and $699.95, respectively.

JL Audio will ship in June the 1000/1 Class D model that delivers 1,000 watts. The unit has a remote bass control that mounts at the front of the car so users can increase or decrease the amount of bass in the system. The 1000/1 also has a 12 or 24dB adjustable-slope crossover at a suggested retail price in the $899 range.

MA Audio is showing four Class D mono block models, ranging from 400 watts RMS to 1,200 watts RMS.

The amps have a smoked Plexiglas top panel with blue backlighting, a chrome top piece, and a polished-aluminum heat sink. The amplifiers come with VU meters and feature voice coils within 1 percent tolerance. Suggested retail prices for the new models range from $699 to $1,299.

Memphis Car Audio will deliver this year a redesigned flagship Memphis Belle, which is a hybrid Class AB and Class D amplifier. It includes a 1,000-watt Class D amplifier for a subwoofer and a 75-watt x four-channel AB amplifier for additional speakers.

The Class D segment has an 18dB per octave low-pass crossover, and the AB section has full MOSFET circuitry, as well as an 18dB per octave high- and low-pass crossover. Suggested retail price for the Memphis Belle is $1,100.

Also in amplifiers, Soundstream is planning for the second half a new Plasma line that represents a complete redesign for the company. The amplifiers, shown as prototypes at CES, are aimed at achieving lower prices and higher profit margins.

With a current low price of $159, Soundstream hopes to bring all amplifier prices down by $50 while maintaining high-end quality. Product manager Joe Klusnick said the new amplifiers will include "entirely new board layouts, different location of the power supply, different connectors, and a different output device section."

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