So, you’re set to upgrade your car sound and start looking for amplifiers online and suddenly you are confused on what class you’re getting. “Class?” Is there such thing? Apparently yes, and to make easy for you to choose the appropriate amp for your setup, we’ll try to explain common amplifier classes as simple as possible.
This is the simplest form of amplifier. When you drive input signal from your source (stereo), the exact amount of output is reproduced therefore there is no clipping or distortion on the output (sound). In many ways, this class of amplifier produces the best sound but due to the transistors being always “on” and current continuously running, this creates extreme heat which is not ideal for car audio.
This class of amplifiers are slightly different. There are two devices that are built-in and conducts alternating current to amplify both sides (half of each) of the wave cycle. This dramatically increases efficiency of theoretically about 80% compared with Class A. The only disadvantage of this is that since the transistors only amplifies half of each side of the waveform, it tends to produce distortion and results in low audio fidelity.
These amps are a combination of both the Class A and B amplifiers. The transistors are continuously flowing current through but utilize a circuitry that reduces the flow of current when there is no signal present. As a result, there is a higher degree of efficiency compared to a Class A, and less distortion as to a Class B. With this system, the Class A/B amplifiers are the most common form of full range car audio amplifiers.
Among the amplifier classes, Class D is the only “switched” amp commonly used in car audio systems. It is different because unlike Class A, B and A/B; which are analog, Class D operate by quickly switching the current through the transistor on and off. By utilizing this, it creates a pulse-like input signal. Although The Class D amplifiers are indeed more efficient that the three classes, the pulsated signal somewhat creates a small amount of distortion particularly in the higher frequencies. To minimize this, you often use a low-pass filter. Various manufacturers already adapted in using the class D for mono subwoofer amplifiers, but many others are also picking up the benefits of power and size and implementing it on full range speakers as well.
So, now that you are equipped with some basic knowledge of amplifiers, the question now is what class suits your taste. The basic rule of thumb is that Class A/B amplifiers are best for full range and mostly component speakers, while Class D amps are better suited for subwoofer drivers. You can experiment with different brands and classes to really find the sound you are looking for but with this basic template, you’ll be on the right track.
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