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High End D-Class. Live or let die?

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DejanM
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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 20 Apr 2012, 08:07

Gerner wrote:Still I think it's about old fashioned vanity. D-Class when best does not come cheap either. So paying that money and not being able to show 2 x 80 kgs of massive iron and aluminum is maybe a reason?
I do not believe much in that. Maybe there are some guys who are mostly paying attention to the weight of the unit but I do not think that JR is one of them. Neither I believe that the market puts necessarily the price of the unit in context of its weight.

Who knows what the reason for this switch might be - but it would be interesting to know it ... One reason might be that the Hi End community still didn't really accept class D as equal concept to the classes AB or A. And although there are some good class D amps out there, 90% of all Hi End amps are still not class D ...


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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by nuforce » 17 May 2012, 09:25

Nuforce is probably one of the few class-D manufacturer with its own patent (US patent granted in 2007) and R&D. And we uses not only our own class-d design but also other chips on the market. Since we started selling our first product in 2005, we have expanded into many categories and performance level, so I can say that our experience and road map reflects where class-D is going.

As many of you have recognized, with advance in technology, each generation of class-d gets better. When we started to win over many audiophiles with our power amp in 2005, after more than 8 years, with thousands of high-end customers worldwide, there is no question that the best class-d implementation can match the best solid state or tube amp. On the other hand, commercial reality (pricing pressure) and market requirement also resulted in many class-d power amp (mostly chips) being designed for low cost, low power requirement.

Nuforce vision is to design the best sounding audio for a consumer lifestyle, whether it is for portable, entry level home use, or high-end audio. So how do we decide what goes into high-end audio and how far can we push the performance limit for a $299 (Dia) or $549 all digital power amp (DDA-100, to be released in late June) ?

To be honest, the performance difference between high-end audio and entry level priced audio is getting smaller. For example, the soon to be released DDA-100, at $549 (USD or Euro), offers 4 digital inputs (1 USB, 1 coaxial, 2 optical) and 50W@8ohm x 2 speaker outputs with high-end audiophile-grade sound quality. On the other extreme end, our Ref 18 cost more than 15X. In any industry, extreme performance and limited market demand resulted in high price (Ferrari cost 20X the price of entry level car). I will use these two products to illustrate where we see class-d going in the coming years.

Why does Ref 18 or 20 cost so much more? These are the factors:
1. R&D time. A new generation of high-end class-d amp takes years to develop, not months. A typical "analog" class-D design converts input audio signal into small pulses with varying width, amplifies the pulses, then convert them into audio. A good class-D design implements the conversion at very high frequency (Nuforce is perhaps the only implementation running at 400kHz) with real time feedback and error correction, utilizing high quality parts. At low power, it is possible to implement the entire design in a chip, therefore reducing cost and optimizing performance. At high power (> 100W) things started to get costly and complicated. Therefore it is exponentially more difficult to make a high-end audiophile-grade class-D amp to sound as good as a solid state amp. There are many things to optimize. The bottom line is class-d implementation is a lot more complex than solid state or tube.
To increase the power of Ref 18 (Ref 20 is not going to sound much better than Ref 18), we originally thought that adding a bigger power supply with some minor adjustment on the amp would be enough, after some initial prototyping. We were wrong. Because this new amp has to be just as perfect as the Ref 18. So round after round of optimization and reliability testing. And the schedule keep slipping. Ref 20 is simply designed for people who really need more power than Ref 18.
2. Performance requirement - audiophiles pick on everything. High-end class-D such as Ref 18 is becoming near flawless (on our website review section, you can read 3 generations of reviews from V1 to V3). Therefore to develop V4, we can not do any incremental improvement on the same architecture. We have every intention to keep advancing high-end class D, but V4 is going to be a multi-year effort. Even if we think it is possible, there is no point in redesigning a good architecture just to end up with incremental sound improvement. With our Ref 18 near flawless using V3 technology, V4 has to do more than just sounding better. So we will make an attempt with V4 not only sounding better than current V3, but also more reliable and with adjustable sound characteristic.
We plan to go where no class-D has gone before :)
3. Build quality - lower price product such as DDA-100 have to cut cost whereas Ref 18 uses big and heavier chassis, with lots of shielding inside.

We have to amortize the R&D cost over a smaller number of units, that added to the cost of high-end products as well.

How can we offer a high-end integrated amp such as DDA-100 for so little money and how far have we pushed the performance?
I would dare to say that DDA-100 sounded better than our V1 generation power amp which retails for more than $2000 8 years ago. Today, we can achieve the same performance at about 1/4 the price 8 years ago. DDA-100 uses an all digital chip so that brings the cost down significantly. Surprisingly, the performance is incredibly good after we did some optimization to the system design. The limitation with such a design is that we don't have much room to modify it or increase the power. We have to start from the ground up again if we are going to offer a higher power DDA-100.

The bottom line for high-end Class D is that it has to keep pushing the limit, and fewer and fewer high-end companies are able to do so (either because they lack the R&D capability or are dependent on module supplier such as icepower).

Jason

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by sn » 17 May 2012, 12:25

Thank you for this information and the membership in the forum, Mr.Jason Lim.

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by zika » 23 May 2012, 20:28

Javite kada se DDA-100 pojavi u našim krajevima. Hvala...

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 23 May 2012, 21:12

Slusao ove nove NF mono blokove i to je sviralo zbilja dobro. Ali ono sto je izazvalo podizanje obrva kod mene jesu novi Jeff Rowlands monos u AB klasi. To radi izgleda fantasticno. To isto bih mogao da kazem i za Plinius pojacala (slusao dva komada) i to svira zbilja odlicno (A klasa).

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 23 May 2012, 21:13

Ali kad smo vec kod D klase - procitah i poslednjem Stereophile ko je prvi konstruisao pojacalo u D klasi ... Nikada ne bih ni u ludom besu popgodio ... :D

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 24 May 2012, 09:56

Gerner wrote:
DejanM wrote:Slusao ove nove NF mono blokove i to je sviralo zbilja dobro. Ali ono sto je izazvalo podizanje obrva kod mene jesu novi Jeff Rowlands monos u AB klasi. To radi izgleda fantasticno. To isto bih mogao da kazem i za Plinius pojacala (slusao dva komada) i to svira zbilja odlicno (A klasa).
Dejan... you have any idea where the price tag ranges for the JF stereo power amp ?

It would be a good alternative the high power ref 20's, should it sound better of course.
I do not but they played extraordinary well with Avalons. Saying that, I must emphasise that in past ten years I have heard Avalons playing with lot of amps and I heard them doing that really well only in two cases: once with Hovland monos and now with these new JFs. The sound is in a way similar to the sound of class A Plinius monos - and for me saying that means a compliment.

NFs Ref monos are really good but I have a feeling (nothing more than that because it is not possible to make a definitive statement without much more listening) that JFs are playing in a completely different league.

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 27 May 2012, 23:01

JF also in these amps uses Lundahl transformers ...

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 27 May 2012, 23:50

I am sure that you should give these new JR's a try. If you decide to do this audition in Austria, the official dealer for JR is:

http://www.lifelike.at/

The guy has a shop in center of Vienna and I would be delighted to join you. You can contact him directly and ask him when he is going to have the unit and when it will be possible to audit it. If for some reason it is not convinient for you, I can organise it, but I have to know when are you going to come here.

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 28 May 2012, 08:05

No problem Gerner. Just let me know ...

I was mighty impressed with these JR's so I would like to give it a second shot to see whether that was "impression on the first ball" or is it really a very good amp ...

If you are looking for replacement for your amp I would also look in direction of Plinius. Plinius SR Reference plays really wonderfully. I heard it in stereo (300 W class A) and in mono modus (where it can give 1 KW at 8 Ohm !!!) and I was really impressed. It was playing with Usher's and the sound was very open, detailed a bit forward .... Very much different than Pass Labs class A amps, especially in a high region. Controll of Usher's was flawless - it is actually a biest that can drive everything I guess ... The auditioning of Plinius is a bit more difficult matter, though ... I have contact data of Plinius EU Sales Manager so I believe that something can be arranged ...

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 28 May 2012, 09:18

Yes Plinius gets hot - I touched it but not for long :D

The JR class AB amp is really lookie but it sounds also very good. Having in mind how hungry your speakers are, it may just hit the spot ...

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 28 May 2012, 20:49

Gerner,

If I remember correctly you have Luxman preamp. They are fine but they have not very low output impedances - normally about 1 KOhm on balanced outputs (depending on the model). JR 625 has only balanced inputs and an input impedance of only 10 KOhm. Therefore I suggest you bring your preamp as well, to try it with JR. It will work, but you may loose some transparency there ...


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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by NeatGuy » 28 May 2012, 22:18

Lux CF-600 output impedance is 600 Ohms on balanced outputs and 564 Ohms on unbalanced. As general rule of thumb says that output impedance of the preamp should be not more than 1/10th of the input impedance of the power amp, I think it should be ok, especially if cables are not longer then usual. However, it should be noted that JR's matching preamp has only 60 Ohms on its output...


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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by NeatGuy » 29 May 2012, 16:48

Gerner wrote:It is of course a minor issue, but not of a worse one. I use 0,5 Duelund Grade 2 unbalanced interconnects. I have though plenty of *loose* Duelund cable laying around and can easily make a balanced pair.
Bringing the Luxman Pre packed in the original box will be a bit too much, even for a Goldwing :wink:

The only issue comparing is that the JR combi used in the AVGuide test (link) as well as many Luxman pre/power combi tests, often is valuated as a set and claimed to dress each other very well compared to mixed brand combos. Boiled down to the main interest = the power amp, I think a direct comparo will tell most of what's worth to learn. I will for sure also have to live with that both rear- and front end will be very different from mine.
I will gladly accept any surplus of those Duelund cable in order to save you from the potential tripping and injury. :wink:

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Re: High End D-Class. Live or let die?

Post by DejanM » 02 Jun 2012, 08:13

Interesting ... For 325 € for NC 400 and 150 € for SMPS1200 you can get an mono amp for a 500 € plus enclosure and connectors. And then multiplied with two which gives us some 1000 € + for two monos.

Lot of raves but I would wait a bit to see some other experiences ...

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