|Reviewer: Jeff Day
Analog Source: A work in progress - Garrard 301, Cain & Cain plinth, Denon 103 cartridge, Rega 250 tonearm modified by Origin Live, Monolithic Sound phono stage
Digital Sources: Meridian 508.20 CD player both in stand alone mode, and used as a transport with the Audio Logic 2400 vacuum tube DAC
Preamplifier: Tom Evans Audio Design Vibe
Integrated Amplifiers: Almarro A205A EL84 single-ended pentode; Sonic Impact Class T digital [in for review]
Amplifiers: Fi 2A3 single-ended triode monoblocks; Yamamoto A-08 45 stereo [in for review]
Speakers: Avantgarde Duo 2.0; Omega Super 3 [in for review]; Almarro M0A loudspeaker [in for review]
Cables: Nirvana S-X interconnects between DAC and preamplifier; Nirvana S-L interconnects between preamplifier and amplifiers; Nirvana S-L speaker cables between amplifiers and speakers; a custom Nirvana wiring harness to connect the Duos midrange and tweeter horns and woofer module; Cardas Neutral Reference digital cable; Nirvana digital cable [in for review]; Yamamoto prototype interconnect [in for evaluation]
Stands: Atlantis Video Reference equipment rack, Billy Bags 2 shelf rack
Power Line Conditioning: none
Room Size: 15' x 25' x 8', short-wall setup
Review Component Retail: $39 [that is thirty-nine!]
The 'In Crowd'
The Sonic Impact Technologies Class T is a 15wpc digital stereo integrated powered by eight AA batteries. It has set the underground high performance audio world abuzz. The reason? It allegedly sounds remarkably good, plays music well and, at $39 retail, is ridiculously cheap. Incredibly, it can be bought for as little as $30 on the Internet.
Intrigued by this buzz, I called Sonic Impact Technologies' big wig Big Rich about arranging for a review to check out the story for myself. Big Rich, a one-time Rock star body guard, is a big guy. That's where the 'Big' in his name comes from. Anyways, Big Rich told me that Sonic Impact's products have of late been riding a wave of popularity and received mentions [hereby linked to] in a number of print publications, including Penthouse, Playboy, Men's Fitness, Men's Health 18, Gear, I.D., Transworld Surf, Ebony, Stance and Stuff.
Sonic Impact (SI) offers innovative and affordable products that would normally not make an appearance in the high performance audio world. SI makes several models of portable flat panel loudspeakers and the portable T-amp that are all designed to take the music with you to wherever you go even if there's no source of AC - they all run on batteries. SI suggests that they can be used in garage work shops, by the pool or on the patio, at outdoor barbecues, at tailgate parties or picnics in the woods or as an inexpensive kid's stereo. All you need is an iPod, portable CD player, a tuner or a computer for a music source and you've got a complete HiFi rig.
Sonic Impact has gained access to the audio 'in crowd' with their innovative T-amp, including a few of the cool cats here at 6moons. Should I tell you that TASmeister Stephæn Harrell went out and bought two T-amps? Well he did. Did you know that the guys working with Terry Cain at Cain & Cain loudspeakers are having a ball hot-rodding T-amps? They are. What did Terry say about those hot-rodded amps? "They're loads of fun and sound great!" Who could possibly resist the temptation?
The Sonic Impact T-amp is also the first 6moons audio review component I'm aware of that has generated a letter to the publisher well before the review was ever published, just by having a photo of it posted in the upcoming review section. I have included reader David Dye's thoughtful dialogue with Srajan -- about getting the most from a T-amp -- as a postscript to this article and I'm chomping at the bit to try what David suggested - but that will have to wait for the upcoming Part 2 of this review. Many thanks to Big Rich for letting me keep the review amp to perform surgery on it in order to try out David's tips.
Technical Mumbo Jumbo (and other nerdy review stuff)
The Sonic Impact T-amp weighs little more than a pound and will fit in the palm of your hand. With a portable CD player, you can use it to power a HiFi rig anywhere. Like the Bel Canto Design's $3200 eVo 2i integrated amplifier that Srajan reviewed in August 2002, the $39 Sonic Impact has as its heart a Tripath chip -- in this case the TA2024 IC -- that according to Tripath
"... is a 15w, two channel, bridged amplifier which uses Tripath's' Digital Power Processing technology. Class-T is a proprietary technology that offers both the audio fidelity of Class-AB and the power efficiency of Class-D amplifiers." While the TA2024 is billed as a 15w amplifier chip, in practical terms it is a 5w amplifier into the usual 8-ohm loudspeakers used by most HiFi nuts, and a 9w amplifier into the somewhat less common 4-ohm loudspeakers. In the accompanying chart from Tripath's website, you can see that into 8 ohms, THD increases rapidly after reaching approximately 5.5w and increases similarly into 4 ohms at about 9.5w. Given that most audio loudspeakers are 8-ohm, what you are dealing with here is in reality a 5w amplifier, albeit a brilliantly simple and effective 5W amplifier.
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