Are Class-D Amps Ready For Prime Time? - AVS Forum
View Poll Results: Are Class-D Amps Ready For Prime Time?
Yes 179 74.90%
No 22 9.21%
Don't know 38 15.90%
Voters: 239. You may not vote on this poll

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post #1 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 01:24 PM - Thread Starter
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Are Class-D Amps Ready For Prime Time?



Class-D amplifiers have gotten little respect in the audiophile community; can they ever hope to win over the golden-eared critics?

Despite their high efficiency and low power consumption and heat generation, class-D amplifiers have long been relegated to second-class status by much of the audio community, appearing mostly in low-cost, low-performance audio products. (One notable exception is powered subwoofers, which require amplification only in a limited frequency range.) Lately, however, full-range class-D amps have gained more respect—for example, Pioneer has been using this technology in several generations of its Elite AVRs.

Analog maven and long-time class-D detractor Michael Fremer was finally won over by the Class D3 amp used in the Pioneer Elite SC-57 a few years ago, but some audiophiles still scoff at this technology, preferring the sound of purely analog designs. What's your take? Have class-D amps finally achieved a performance level commensurate with class-AB and the like?

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post #2 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 01:26 PM
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it's not a question if they are ready... THEY ARE READY and delivering the goods!

even in High Efficiency situations.

Bel Canto.

VPI Classic 2/Soundsmith Aida-Rega P5/Groovetracer/Denon DL-103R
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post #3 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 01:46 PM
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For HT use yes. For the close to live acoustic musc in audiophile systems no way unless the Class AB amp being compared to has minimal bias current and operates with little Class A because it goes quickly into switching. Love that output inducter to prevent oscillation and the amp going into smoke. Its very much a question of the harmonic structure, even vs odd. Try using a class D on an electrostatic and see if you are fooled when listening to acoustis, choral etc. Not a chance. Let the flame war begin and keep up the hits.
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post #4 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 01:56 PM
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Since I'm seriously thinking of switching over to a pair of Lab Gruppen C 20:8X amps to power 16 speakers, do I really have a choice? Giving up on audiophile A/B amps due to size, heat etc.
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post #5 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 02:27 PM
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I can't vote in this poll because my answer is not there.

The issue is not whether class-D is good enough or whatever.

The problem is the entire paradigm of speaker and amplifier. That approach is what is broken.

We have 100+ years of technology built up around a design that was dreamed up long ago when it was the only approach possible - amplify the heck out of an audio signal so that it is strong enough to drive a piston motor directly. Then we go to amazing ends to build "speakers" that take the mechanical impulse from a piston motor, driven by a high-current amplifier to transfer it to the air with something we feel is fidelity.

The right answer is to re-think the whole approach so that we have devices which are designed together to convert information representing an audio program, into audible motion in the air.

We should not be building "speakers" and driving them with "amplifiers". We should be building devices which integrate these functions so that the most correct mechanical operations happen which then result in the most correct motion induced into the air.

It is silly to continue this methodology of yesteryear.

There should be no amplifiers of audio, no heavy gauge speaker wiring and whatever electronics that are required to cause the mechanism to function, should be tightly integrated with the mechanism. Nothing other than data and a power source should flow to the transducer assembly. Whatever happens inside this assemblage should be a black box and its character judged by its ability to faithfully impart the air with motion based upon the datastream it receives. There should be no talk of watts per channel or ohms or any of that.
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post #6 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 03:20 PM
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Owned a Spectron Musician II and it was stunning! Had several long conversations with John Ulrick about his designs and IMO he was just way ahead of his time. At the time Halcro was all the rage at many, many thousands of dollars, and they are now doorstops. I agree they are probably more suited for HT (which was my use).
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post #7 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
What's your take? Have class-D amps finally achieved a performance level commensurate with class-AB and the like?

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Class D passed Class A/B years ago in overall performance. The analogy to Transistors vs Tubes is apt. The first transistor designs, like the first class D designs, were pretty bad. Then component technology and circuit designs advanced to where the Tube/Class A/B was overtaken. Now Class D meets or beats Class A/B in every specification. If heat, weight, space and cost are given their proper weighting in overall performance then it isn't even close.
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post #8 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 04:29 PM
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I once used 6 Carver Cube AMPs (400 series?) in a tri-amped AR9 system with a few out board subs sharing the low end load. And it was the finest stereo system I've ever owned or heard. Ever! And I've often wondered why speaker manufacturers themselves didn't widely adopt their unique properties and configurability right into speaker design itself. From that standpoint I think it could have high end appeal. But not as a standalone competitor to class A or A/B. AVR's? Definitely on the higher end ones.
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post #9 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 05:28 PM
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Like anything it depends on the amp. I've auditioned a Class D amp and it sounded different than the Class AB. The Class AB sounded warmer.
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post #10 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 06:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nuke View Post
I can't vote in this poll because my answer is not there.

The issue is not whether class-D is good enough or whatever.

The problem is the entire paradigm of speaker and amplifier. That approach is what is broken.

We have 100+ years of technology built up around a design that was dreamed up long ago when it was the only approach possible - amplify the heck out of an audio signal so that it is strong enough to drive a piston motor directly. Then we go to amazing ends to build "speakers" that take the mechanical impulse from a piston motor, driven by a high-current amplifier to transfer it to the air with something we feel is fidelity.

The right answer is to re-think the whole approach so that we have devices which are designed together to convert information representing an audio program, into audible motion in the air.

We should not be building "speakers" and driving them with "amplifiers". We should be building devices which integrate these functions so that the most correct mechanical operations happen which then result in the most correct motion induced into the air.

It is silly to continue this methodology of yesteryear.

There should be no amplifiers of audio, no heavy gauge speaker wiring and whatever electronics that are required to cause the mechanism to function, should be tightly integrated with the mechanism. Nothing other than data and a power source should flow to the transducer assembly. Whatever happens inside this assemblage should be a black box and its character judged by its ability to faithfully impart the air with motion based upon the datastream it receives. There should be no talk of watts per channel or ohms or any of that.
Should I even ask...what physical form would this new paradigm take? Specifically, not conceptually please. Don't worry, I have no interest in submitting a patent or turning someone else's idea into a business.

.
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post #11 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 07:41 PM
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Should I even ask...what physical form would this new paradigm take? Specifically, not conceptually please. Don't worry, I have no interest in submitting a patent or turning someone else's idea into a business.
He's talking about the ESS Heil Air Motion Transformer from the 1970's -1990's/
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post #12 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 07:44 PM
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When the time comes, my next amp will be Class D. Dramatically lower heat emission that is the killer of electronics. In a home theater that is mostly speaker powered by an AVR,a Class D amp is the way to go to drive an additional pair of speakers, when required. One of the last Panasonic AVR's utilized Class D amp's to power speakers and the AVR didn't even get warm to the touch. No need to convince me of its efficacy.
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post #13 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 08:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpeakerPower View Post
Class D passed Class A/B years ago in overall performance. The analogy to Transistors vs Tubes is apt. The first transistor designs, like the first class D designs, were pretty bad. Then component technology and circuit designs advanced to where the Tube/Class A/B was overtaken. Now Class D meets or beats Class A/B in every specification. If heat, weight, space and cost are given their proper weighting in overall performance then it isn't even close.
Agree 100%. It's pretty funny, you rarely see any older guys embrace any kind of change, they will hang on to their 90lb amps and call them the best forever. I have to laugh when I people claiming how A/B is so superior, like technology hasn't evolved enough in the last 20 years to make an amp sound good..... and even at that, if guys are hearing vast differences between classes, their amps are broken.
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post #14 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 09:05 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DavidK442 View Post
Should I even ask...what physical form would this new paradigm take? Specifically, not conceptually please. Don't worry, I have no interest in submitting a patent or turning someone else's idea into a business.
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Originally Posted by barrelbelly View Post
He's talking about the ESS Heil Air Motion Transformer from the 1970's -1990's/
You're kind of missing the big picture.

The Heil driver was a transducer design, but it is designed to be driven like an other conventional loudspeaker. It is limited by this design aspect.

Clean sheet the whole idea, start from scratch.

To make sound in the air, you need some sort of mechanism to impart motion.

Why limit this to devices which can only be driven by an analog, linear, audio signal?

Why not combine the mechanism and the electronics together as a tightly coupled system? Perhaps enabling technology that requires a completely non-linear electronic system to drive it? Or maybe a servo drive with direct feedback from the electro-mechanical system to arrive at linearity?

Perhaps something driven by multiple linear motors with each driven by a highly efficient servo H-bridge in the digital realm. The electronic drive designed to move the mechanical system of the transducer, without ever creating a recognizable audio waveform. Rather, it would generate the required signals to cause the transducer to produce the desired sound.

The whole idea of loudspeaker driven directly with an amplified, linear audio signal is very limiting and inefficient.

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post #15 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 09:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SpeakerPower View Post
Class D passed Class A/B years ago in overall performance. The analogy to Transistors vs Tubes is apt. The first transistor designs, like the first class D designs, were pretty bad. Then component technology and circuit designs advanced to where the Tube/Class A/B was overtaken. Now Class D meets or beats Class A/B in every specification. If heat, weight, space and cost are given their proper weighting in overall performance then it isn't even close.
Well designed tube amplifiers are audibly indistinguishable from well designed solid-state amplifiers. The mode of implementation is not as important as the quality of the design and engineering.

In reality, human hearing is not exceedingly accurate to begin with. Really good quality tube amps from the 1960's are just as good sounding as anything built since. Every approach has a set of tradeoffs and challenges to the engineer who is designing it. Designing a power amp is not difficult. But designing a really good one takes work, no matter what parts you want to build it from.

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post #16 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 11:08 PM
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@nuke:
I don't think so. Heil was driving toward a similar theoretical construct you are hypothesizing. They in fact solved it for ultra high to mid frequencies. Very low frequencies were a bear for them to solve. Hence their reliance on traditional transducers. Had the technology endured, who knows how far they could have taken it with modern computer technology and micro circuit designs. If I understand you correctly, essentially you are proposing the digital equivalent of the old self playing piano with the hole punched spinets & discs . But in this case it is digital o's and 1's, exciting some kind of electromagnetic string field. Or some other kind of substrate that moves air powered by effecient "H" powered amplification. But potential harmful byproducts could emerge from unaccounted places such as unregulated spurious noise from a lot of sources and directions in the design & signal chain...unanticipated internal and external voltage swings...hum fields...or even radiation depending on what kind of electromagnetic or field generation employed in the design. Major cost could impose another major constraint.

IMO the simpler critical path would be to just computerize and amplify internal components of the speaker/crossover path with efficient H type circuitry coupled with exotic matched speaker materials & approaches (like ESS) and signal stages. Traditional speakers push, and pull air. Heil squeezed air in a very revolutionary design approach. You are literally talking about creating a chimera signal that displaces the wave form if I understand your idea correctly. Either way...something will be excited. It will hopefully make a usable sound. Create zero to little extraneous noise or sound artifacts. And it won't "Nuke" us. As Captain Picard would say..."Make it so". Go for it. I don't want to hi-jack this thread anymore with an abstract. So I think a well designed H class 7.2 or 11.2 AVR is my Huckleberry.
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post #17 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 11:46 PM
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Anyone care to offer up some suggestions for class D amps
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post #18 of 115 Old 08-14-2014, 11:53 PM
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I'm running the Rotel 1565. I like how it sounds with my b&w 685. I'm using the oppo 103 as a pre-amp though.
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post #19 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 01:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Class-D amplifiers have gotten little respect in the audiophile community; can they ever hope to win over the golden-eared critics?
Yes, but not D3. Not Denon/Marantz Class-D designs and not even designs from a lot of big names such as Mark Levinson... Honestly speaking, some of the AB designs present in modern AV receivers (and sometimes even in separates) are far from perfect and could sound worse than the above mentioned D3...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Analog maven and long-time class-D detractor Michael Fremer was finally won over by the Class D3 amp used in the Pioneer Elite SC-57 a few years ago, but some audiophiles still scoff at this technology, preferring the sound of purely analog designs.
A classical Class D, including the D3 are purely analog designs. A lot, if not absolutely most of the Class-D designs, have a lot of distortion as the frequency approaches the top of audible range. This is sad fact of today's reality, but this is not the inherent to Class-D design as shown by the Hypex and their frequency-independent-distortion designs. As the result their NCore amps sound absolutely life-like without showing themselves on any type of audio content.
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post #20 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 01:19 AM
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Surely Hypex Ncore must be up there as one of the best Class D amps?
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post #21 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 01:27 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post
Analog maven and long-time class-D detractor Michael Fremer was finally won over by the Class D3 amp used in the Pioneer Elite SC-57 a few years ago, but some audiophiles still scoff at this technology, preferring the sound of purely analog designs. What's your take? Have class-D amps finally achieved a performance level commensurate with class-AB and the like?
Scott,

You are making La Fawnduh blush. She's been pushing my 5 channel Klipsch Reference surround system since 2012. I've taken the time to compare La Fawnduh (my SC-57) to my Lab Grupen FP10000Q clone amp using a very cleaver speaker switcher, constructed by AVS member @NathanJ , which allowed me to switch from AVR to amp instantly.

Setting La Fawnduh in 2 channel stereo, here is a direct comparison between the claimed 140 watts per channel AVR and the claimed 2,100 watts per channel amplifier:



Note that I'm hitting 115db @ 30Hz at my MLP ~12ft away. The tiny differences in the graphs can be attributed to me shifting my body in between taking the measurements.

Bottomline: Even pushing my speakers hard, I was unable to distinguish an audible difference between my AVR or a very powerful amplifier. This was consistent not only while running sweeps, but also demoing music & movie content for several hours and randomly switching back and forth in realtime.

Quote:
Originally Posted by N8DOGG View Post
Agree 100%. It's pretty funny, you rarely see any older guys embrace any kind of change, they will hang on to their 90lb amps and call them the best forever. I have to laugh when I people claiming how A/B is so superior, like technology hasn't evolved enough in the last 20 years to make an amp sound good..... and even at that, if guys are hearing vast differences between classes, their amps are broken.
Agreed. Broken and/or designed to add distortion (color) to the source material. I found this great presentation by our very own @Ethan Winer that gives a bit more in depth context to the concept of "transparent power" and how your signal chain should remain as "transparent" and true to source as possible. Fast forward to 21:34 in reference to my specific point, but I've found the video very informative (even somewhat entertaining) and would encourage anyone to check out the entire video:

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post #22 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 07:52 AM
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Surely Hypex Ncore must be up there as one of the best Class D amps?
I would totally agree. I am running a pair of NCore monos and they sound simply superb. Very detailed without being harsh (as some of the ICE power amps can be) and an incredibly life like presentation and very deep image.

I've have also recently tried the Class H Audiocontrol Pantages G3 -also superb sounding but I preferred the NCore.
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post #23 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 09:10 AM
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Originally Posted by seanoo View Post
I would totally agree. I am running a pair of NCore monos and they sound simply superb. Very detailed without being harsh (as some of the ICE power amps can be) and an incredibly life like presentation and very deep image.

I've have also recently tried the Class H Audiocontrol Pantages G3 -also superb sounding but I preferred the NCore.
Did the NCore have a warm and creamy sound?
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post #24 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 10:50 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Wilkinson View Post

Analog maven and long-time class-D detractor Michael Fremer was finally won over by the Class D3 amp used in the Pioneer Elite SC-57 a few years ago, but some audiophiles still scoff at this technology, preferring the sound of purely analog designs. What's your take? Have class-D amps finally achieved a performance level commensurate with class-AB and the like?
Wow, really? Fremer himself? Amazing. I've been jonesing for a class D setup (Pioneer Elite) since I read Mark Fleischmann's comments about the SC-62:

"When Class D sounds this good, why would anyone stick with Class AB? Sentimentality, perhaps, coupled with a fear of change. The fear of change extends to a reviewer like me, and I also have to be concerned with what other people—specifically speaker manufacturers—would think of using Class D in a reference system. They might wonder whether the top end of their products is getting the best possible belt-and-suspenders demo. So the Pioneer Elite VSX-53, with Class AB, will continue to serve as my reference receiver indefinitely. However, if I were just a civilian designing a system for my own satisfaction, I might reach a different decision."


Good poll; I think "it has been for some time" should have been an option.
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post #25 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 02:09 PM
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Did the NCore have a warm and creamy sound?
BLECK....

I was around at the start of this fight with car audio and got into it too much. The Dsonic I currently run is fantastic, cool, and packs a mean punch. I love it.
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post #26 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 02:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nuke View Post
I can't vote in this poll because my answer is not there.

The issue is not whether class-D is good enough or whatever.

The problem is the entire paradigm of speaker and amplifier. That approach is what is broken.

We have 100+ years of technology built up around a design that was dreamed up long ago when it was the only approach possible - amplify the heck out of an audio signal so that it is strong enough to drive a piston motor directly. Then we go to amazing ends to build "speakers" that take the mechanical impulse from a piston motor, driven by a high-current amplifier to transfer it to the air with something we feel is fidelity.

The right answer is to re-think the whole approach so that we have devices which are designed together to convert information representing an audio program, into audible motion in the air.

We should not be building "speakers" and driving them with "amplifiers". We should be building devices which integrate these functions so that the most correct mechanical operations happen which then result in the most correct motion induced into the air.

It is silly to continue this methodology of yesteryear.

There should be no amplifiers of audio, no heavy gauge speaker wiring and whatever electronics that are required to cause the mechanism to function, should be tightly integrated with the mechanism. Nothing other than data and a power source should flow to the transducer assembly. Whatever happens inside this assemblage should be a black box and its character judged by its ability to faithfully impart the air with motion based upon the datastream it receives. There should be no talk of watts per channel or ohms or any of that.

I believe it may have been Hume who pondered how the many can be governed by the few and concluded the answer is opinion.

I think yours expressed here qualifies as the best I've come across in recent memory on this forum. Food for thought indeed.

Too bad the intellectual snobs of the audiophile world (a redundant comment if there ever was one since being a snob and an audiophile seem quite synonymous) won't deign to consider such notions, wonderful as they are.

Good on you.
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post #27 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 02:59 PM
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Originally Posted by realmensrea View Post
I believe it may have been Hume who pondered how the many can be governed by the few and concluded the answer is opinion.

I think yours expressed here qualifies as the best I've come across in recent memory on this forum. Food for thought indeed.

Too bad the intellectual snobs of the audiophile world (a redundant comment if there ever was one since being a snob and an audiophile seem quite synonymous) won't deign to consider such notions, wonderful as they are.

Good on you.
Ah, yes, the audiofools at their best... I can understand the rationale behind certain aspects of the audio world, but when you look at some of these companies that are out there literally JUST to take advantage of those that are under the mentality that price is of no importance...Well, they should just be shut down by order of misinformation....

Case and point: http://www.noiseaddicts.com/2008/11/...st-audiophile/

Those people should be lined up and publicly ridiculed for the robbery they commit. I'll stick with my good ole 12/2 from the lowes rack that is about .50c per foot.... Cheers!
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post #28 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by nuke View Post
You're kind of missing the big picture.

The Heil driver was a transducer design, but it is designed to be driven like an other conventional loudspeaker. It is limited by this design aspect.

Clean sheet the whole idea, start from scratch.

To make sound in the air, you need some sort of mechanism to impart motion.

Why limit this to devices which can only be driven by an analog, linear, audio signal?

Why not combine the mechanism and the electronics together as a tightly coupled system? Perhaps enabling technology that requires a completely non-linear electronic system to drive it? Or maybe a servo drive with direct feedback from the electro-mechanical system to arrive at linearity?

Perhaps something driven by multiple linear motors with each driven by a highly efficient servo H-bridge in the digital realm. The electronic drive designed to move the mechanical system of the transducer, without ever creating a recognizable audio waveform. Rather, it would generate the required signals to cause the transducer to produce the desired sound.

The whole idea of loudspeaker driven directly with an amplified, linear audio signal is very limiting and inefficient.
Your first post actually got me thinking even more outside the box. I was thinking more along the lines of an aural or neural implant that accepted digital signals and triggered the nervous system directly, mimicking the effect of having heard the content. This would eliminate all of the inefficiencies of electro-mechanical production of sound waves, which then relies on the imperfections inherent in room correction, ambient noise control, and the hearing capabilities of the listener in order to achieve its intended result. Imagine if a completely deaf person could experience the joy of music just the same as anyone else.
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post #29 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 04:06 PM
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Class D when done correctly as in Hypex Ncore is in many way superior to anything else. This is not just in terms of efficiency. I know a few mastering studios that where built by Northwood Acoustics that ended up going with the Hypex solutions for the simple reason nothing else sounded more neutral or better. I assure you no one has rooms even close to the quality of these guys, or experience.

I am also going with the Hypex for my next solution after I tested them out against many big time multi thousand dollar Class A, AB designs.

Classic Jaguar might be faster than a Honda but not seem as pretty, but a modern Porsche Hybrid simply trounces the performance.
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post #30 of 115 Old 08-15-2014, 04:27 PM
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Originally Posted by HockeyoAJB View Post
Your first post actually got me thinking even more outside the box. I was thinking more along the lines of an aural or neural implant that accepted digital signals and triggered the nervous system directly, mimicking the effect of having heard the content. This would eliminate all of the inefficiencies of electro-mechanical production of sound waves, which then relies on the imperfections inherent in room correction, ambient noise control, and the hearing capabilities of the listener in order to achieve its intended result. Imagine if a completely deaf person could experience the joy of music just the same as anyone else.
Next level things right there for sure! "All inside your head" could be the next dolby opening sequence eh? Lol

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