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July 2012 editorial

Class D strikes again...

Author: Lucio Cadeddu - TNT Italy

[Pioneer new amplifiers]
Pioneer, new A30 amplifier

Audiophiles are a bunch of skeptic guys. Before understanding and then accepting something NEW they might need decades. That's exactly what happened to Class D amplification. When we reviewed the original T-Amp, the little jewel that shook the world back in 2005, many audiophiles whined, complained and generally declared themselves against this "new" technology. It was just good for computers or for cheap entry-level systems. And, prophetically, some member of the traditional HiFi press pompously declared "Class D isn't here to stay".

Despite this ridiculous against reactions, after the T-Amp many other amplifiers hit the market and even traditional HiFi Companies started to design new amplifiers which made use of this kind of technology and its many variations on a theme: Tripath, ICEPower, Hypex modules or even proprietary solutions like NuForce and many others became available...and even the most skeptic audiophiles had to admit something new and pretty interesting was happening.
The most traditionalists, anyway, continued to complain because this was a technology which wasn't accepted and widely applied by the big guys (NAD, Rotel etc.). Well, actually, Rotel has already released several Class D power amplifiers and so did Onkyo, just to name two big guys. What would the traditionalists say now that even Pioneer is planning to come back into high quality audio with, hear hear, new Class D amplifiers "developed in the pursuit of masterful sound quality" as the official Pioneer website claims...

Announced to be available in September, the A50 and the top-of-the-line A70 are two new integrated amplifiers which employ MOS-FET Class D power stages, besides using high quality ESS 192 Khz / 32 bit SABRE32 DACs for liquid music playback directly from a PC or any other digital source (A70 only).
As Philippe Coppens, Technology and Product Information Manager at Pioneer Europe, says

"The top-of-the-line A-70 amplifier will be tuned according to exacting professional standards by the internationally respected AIR Studios in London. The AIR Studios quality seal is proof not only of the extraordinary engineering that has gone into these audio units, but also of the exceptionally high quality of their craftsmanship and carefully selected electronic components.".
Hence Pioneer seems serious about sound quality! The lower A30, A20 and A10 models, instead, use a traditional Class AB scheme and are already available. No pics of the A50 and A70 have been released yet but I expect they to be pretty close to the sober looks of the A30 you can see at the top of this page. Silver and black finishes will be available.

[New Pioneer amplifiers tech specs]

The flagship model, the A70, which recycles the name of a glorious Pioneer model of the Eighties, uses a chassis designed to fight vibration propagation, two separate and shielded power transformers (one for the preamp section and one for the 90 + 90 watt/4 Ohm power amp section) and audiophile grade caps. It will also offer a phono MM/MC input and should be priced below 1000€. The A50 model will be similar but will not offer the USB input. Technical data (see chart above) are subject to change, of course, but I'm a bit surprised the two Class D amps are claimed to have the very same power output. Even the absence of the RMS power on 8 Ohm is a bit strange. We'll wait and see. And, of course, we will try to put our hands on one of these two new amps!

This is not the first time Pioneer uses Class D technology: their car stereo amplifiers and A/V receivers have been exploiting the benefits of Class D operation mode for years. Certainly it is the first time such a technology is employed by Pioneer on two-channel traditional amplifiers and, what's even more surprising, it will be used for their top-of-the-line models, while Class AB will be employed for the other entry-level models. Wasn't Class D good for cheap components only? ;-)

© Copyright 2012 Lucio Cadeddu - editor@tnt-audio.com - www.tnt-audio.com

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