Everyday we are bombed with saddening and frightening news about the effects of Earth's global warming. Air pollution, caused by CO2 and PM10 emissions, is claimed to contribute to evidence-proven global warming of the planet where we live. I'm not here to discuss how much of these theories is science-based and how much is just media-hype-driven but one thing is for sure: our small world of audio is living a new Glacial Era!
HiFi components, especially of the high-end variety, tend to be massive, heavy and, quite often, they produce unreasonable amounts of heat. Perhaps this doesn't contribute to global warming but, for sure, not necessary power consumption should be avoided (see my previous editorial on Stand-by). Standard PSU's and Class A (or even A/B) amplifiers are quite inefficient. Especially Class A amplifiers transform into "Music" only 20-25% of the power they drain from the mains. Moreover, massive standard PSU's and amplifiers are heavy and obtrusive and this implies high shipping costs. Hence, this means more pollution, since shipping 100 amplifiers weighing in 50 kgs each equals shipping 1000 amplifiers of 5 kgs each. I won't even mention the amount of "extra" air conditioning you need to be able to listen to these components during Summer (ok, that's partially compensated by reduction of heating during Winter :-)).
Step by step, switching "cold" technology is becoming more and more popular among audiophiles. Three years ago (time flies!) we had the T-Amp, followed by its clones, then we've seen B&O IcePower technology-based amps, UcD modules, NuForce amplifiers...nowadays Class-D amplification and switching power supplies are easy to spot even on popular products made by Rotel, Onkyo, Yamaha...not to mention Jeff Rowland, Audio Research, Bel Canto. If that's not enough for you ...now there's more! The new top of the line Mark Levinson power amps (the N.53) will use class D technology too!!! The new monoblocks are claimed to use standard (I mean, linear, non-switching) power supplies matched to a kind of "proprietary" Class D amplification stage, which is claimed to be faster than any other Class D amp in the market (whatever that means). For a video interview about this new Mark Levinson amp follow this link: Cedia 2007 coverage at Cinenow.com.
While there have been HiFi reviewers who wrote many articles against Class D amplification (mainly on Italian mags, guess why) I'm pretty sure things will change quickly as soon as names such as Mark Levinson step into the world of switching technology. Suddenly, it will become the new credo. Prices will go up, of course (the new No. 53 will be around 20,000$) and all the benefits of this new technology will be minimized. In any case, we will have more and more "cold" amps to enjoy. Less power consumption, less weight, less pollution, less global warming :-)
In a world that tries to lower its polluting emissions it is natural that even audio components should be rated following their energetic efficiency. There are no excuses. No longer.
At the other end of the scale, though, there are Companies with a serious reputation on Class D designs which are trying to offer good sound to the masses. NuForce has just released a new integrated amp, the Icon 1, with 10 watts per channel, 1 RCA input, 1 3.5mm stereo input, 1 USB input and standard speaker outputs (bananas).
The list price should be $199.
This mini amp should also have a built-in crossover network that is only used (through a CAT-5 speaker wire) when connecting to the new NuForce S-1 single-driver speaker. This mini amp can be purchased separately but the S-1 can only be purchased with the amp at $399 per set. Yes, amp + speakers + cables in bundle at just 399$. For sure, the amp will be a serious contender for the Trends Audio TA 10.1!!! With its higher power output it should be easier to match it to standard speakers. These new items have been introduced at the recent CES 2008 Show. Of course, we will review the Icon-1 as soon as possible.
Finally, a new kid on the block is already warming-up at our test-benches: another TA2024-based integrated (!!!), extremely inexpensive with cool looks and several interesting features. I won't disclose any other detail by now, so stay tuned!
Glabal warming effects aside, this is the main reason why we love Class D amplifications: they brought high performances into the entry-level class. Sub-200$ integrated amplifiers, before the T-Amp and the Trends Audio TA 10.1, weren't anywhere close to serious HiFi.
(*) Pic taken from www.cleanmpg.com, an informative website on improving cars' mileage.
© Copyright 2008 Lucio Cadeddu - www.tnt-audio.com