• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

So, what are recommendable amps below 200$?

Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
26
Likes
11
#1
Hi everyone,

unfortunately Amir hasn't found a budget stereo speaker amp yet that really measures that well. Until he does, what are currently recommended options below 200$? Nevermind the features and available power for now. I'd simply like to know what amp(s) in that pricerange give power without distorting or coloring the signal in an audible way.

I've seen that the Klipsch Powergate got Amir's recommendation, at least for discounted the price of 150$. Anything else that I have missed? Or is that the only option currently where we can be sure that it performs well? I have read good things about the Allo Volt+:

https://www.allo.com/sparky/volt-plus-stepped-attenuator.html

and the t.amp E400 (a PA amp though, so fan noise could be a problem) :

https://www.thomann.de/de/the_tamp_e400.htm?offid=1&affid=42&subid=-pa-text-240-634-1-0-ev1--

So, which are the amps that get a recommendation sub 200$?
 

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
3,284
Likes
2,397
#6
Do you know how much power you need? That should be quite a decisive factor.

The Klipsch Power Gate that Amir measured recently has a power amp section that performs very well and seems to be available for $150 atm.
 
Joined
Apr 26, 2019
Messages
82
Likes
71
Location
Indiana
#7
I just started a thread about the Niles SI-275. It can be found second hand for $100-150 regularly on eBay. I have one and it appears to be a great performer. If there's enough interest for that amplifier perhaps Amir would be convinced to test and measure one if I sent it to him.
 

gvl

Major Contributor
Joined
Mar 16, 2018
Messages
1,041
Likes
594
Location
SoCal
#8
I have a feeling that all inexpensive class-D amps will be middle of the road performance at best. If a small form factor isn't a requirement a used 90s vintage hi-fi class A/B unit, say from Yamaha or Denon, is a much better bet to get good performance for your money imo.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
26
Likes
11
#9
No volume control needed. 50 Watt is enough. You all are probably right, a used unit of a well-known brand might be better value than the cheaper class d amps.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
29
Likes
8
#10
if you want a quality class D get the allo volt+double.

it is basically 2 volt+ boards bridged in a dual mono configuration, all already assembled and ready to use. it is rated at 60Wpc with the recommended voltage of 19V but it accepts up to 24V for more power.

it has a few downsides: no power supply included, no on/off switch, the attenuator knob is quite cheap and sometimes the binding posts have channels reversed...but all of these can be fixed. For the power supply you can buy one for real cheap, i got my 19V 5A unit for under 20€ on amazon. For the on/off you can just use the mute switch or buy a wall plug with a switch, like before go on amazon and get one for less than 5€. with the channels you just swap the cable order and everything will be fine. the knob works fine but being a stepped attenuator and not a simple potentiometer makes it quite stiff, so better find a bigger one for an easier operation. the type is the same as ordinary potentiometers, got mine for few bucks and now it feels much better, plus it's looking real good.

putting these imperfections aside the amp is a real deal. you can get it for 129$ and for me it is a game changer. i previously had a smsl sa-50 and a topping pa3 (which costs almost the same as the volt+d) and this baby outclasses them.
first of all it's bigger than most budget amplifers, the build is far from being cramped and mounts quality components. the plexiglass chassis is a solid enough but really stylish. below the pcb there's a gain switch with 3 settings, then there's the stepped attenuator. this one alone makes almost 1/4 of the value.

the sound is great! first time i heard the detail of my headphones in my speakers and it is dead silent too with nothing playing on it. runs a little hotter sometimes but you will notice it only put the hand close to the pcb.
if you are a diy guy you can go for the cheaper volt+ which basically has the same qualities as this unit, just less power
 

BillG

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
354
Likes
255
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
#11
Amp is enough, but if there is a good integrated amp in this pricerange that's fine too. And one RCA Line in or XLR is all I need.
This is popular in the DIY Audio community - there's a WiFi/DLNA version as well:

https://www.aliexpress.com/item/325...c0b5-4a8f-8b14-6dc73a1d0416&priceBeautifyAB=0

I own one as well, and was quite satisfied with it prior to purchasing a PowerGate.

The following is the chatter about it:

https://www.diyaudio.com/forums/class-d/280228-am-v200-fx-audio-d802-optimisation-tpa3116.html
 
Last edited:

GGroch

Senior Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Apr 7, 2018
Messages
350
Likes
422
Location
Denver, Colorado
#12
This is popular in the DIY Audio community - there's a WiFi/DLNA version as well:
I am irrationally a fan of little Chinese Class D amps, and most of the ones I have used have sounded very good to me....but I doubt that the vast majority of them will fit the OP's "really measures well" requirement.

Reasons for this include:
- The advertised power ratings are almost always the chip mfg max rating at 1% (or sometimes 10%) distortion. Amir measures max power at .03%
- The advertised power ratings are based on the highest mfg. rated power supply voltage. The power drops a lot below that, and most cheap Asian amps ship with much lower than max rated supplies. I see the above amps chip (TAS5614LA) rated to handle up to 36v and the supplied PS is 24v, which Texas Instruments says will get you about 45 WPC into 8 Ohms at 1%THD.

This does not mean it will sound bad, just that the measurements will not meet the advertised spec.

The assembled mini class D amp I own that I like best is the Indeed TDA7498E MK II at $150. It will certainly not produce the advertised 160 wpc, BUT, it comes with the highest mfg rated (36v) power supply that is well shielded, it has 16,400 mf of capacitance (for good peak power performance, this is 3 to5 times what most cheap class D amps have) as well as air core coils (with anti resonant glue). Functionally, it works great, no turn on pops, I hear no hiss. But, it will probably not measure well. Whether it measures better than the Allo+ Double I have no idea.
 
Last edited:

BillG

Senior Member
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
354
Likes
255
Location
Auckland, New Zealand
#13
I see the above amps chip (TAS5614LA) rated to handle up to 36v and the supplied PS is 24v, which Texas Instruments says will get you about 45 WPC into 8 Ohms at 1%THD.
No one in the DIY Audio community takes the advertised power specs as "law" :facepalm:; we all look at the chipset manufacturer's specifications for that data. Also, this particular amp can be ordered without the unit manufacturer's power supply, thus allowing one to substitute it for another; I personally ran mine with a 32v 5a one.

By the way, here are some independent performance measurements from the unit. The exact testing parameters of the analysis, I can't say, though:
 

Attachments

Last edited:

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Patreon Donor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
3,284
Likes
2,397
#14
I am irrationally a fan of little Chinese Class D amps, and most of the ones I have used have sounded very good to me....but I doubt that the vast majority of them will fit the OP's "really measures well" requirement.

Reasons for this include:
- The advertised power ratings are almost always the chip mfg max rating at 1% (or sometimes 10%) distortion. Amir measures max power at .03%
- The advertised power ratings are based on the highest mfg. rated power supply voltage. The power drops a lot below that, and most cheap Asian amps ship with much lower than max rated supplies. I see the above amps chip (TAS5614LA) rated to handle up to 36v and the supplied PS is 24v, which Texas Instruments says will get you about 45 WPC into 8 Ohms at 1%THD.

This does not mean it will sound bad, just that the measurements will not meet the advertised spec.

The assembled mini class D amp I own that I like best is the Indeed TDA7498E MK II at $150. It will certainly not produce the advertised 160 wpc, BUT, it comes with the highest mfg rated (36v) power supply that is well shielded, it has 16,400 mf of capacitance (for good peak power performance, this is 3 to5 times what most cheap class D amps have) as well as air core coils (with anti resonant glue). Functionally, it works great, no turn on pops, I hear no hiss. But, it will probably not measure well. Whether it measures better than the Allo+ Double I have no idea.
The datasheet for the chip used in that amp contains some measurements.
 
Last edited:

GGroch

Senior Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Apr 7, 2018
Messages
350
Likes
422
Location
Denver, Colorado
#15
No one in the DIY Audio community takes the advertised power specs as "law" :facepalm:;....
Absolutely right. But in Amir's previous tests of CCA (cheap chinese amps) he has expressed surprise that they did not come close to their advertised specs when rated by his standards. I like CCA's, but they are not likely to measure well here.

The datasheet for the chip used in that amp contains some measurements.
I get an "about: blank#blocked" on your link, which also describes much of my life as a whole.

If I wanted a new amp that probably measures well I might look at the Emotiva BasX A-100. The published specs are very good, but I can find no actual measurements, and at the recently raised price of $250 it is higher than the OP's specified budget.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
26
Likes
11
#17
Thank you all, very helpful discussion. What I would need are about 50 Watt at 0.1% or 0.3% (or thereabout) distortion. As long as it is inaudible I am fine. Durability is a concern, and next to masurements that's another factor where you can not be sure with CCAs. In that regard the Powergate should be a relatively safe bet.
 
Joined
Dec 17, 2018
Messages
29
Likes
8
#18
i had the topping pa3 which mounts the tda7498e and it is rated [email protected] with 0,03% THD+N. given that most of the 160W advertised units use 10% thd+n i'll take topping power ratings as the closest to reality with a reasonable distortion.
To be honest the pa3 is a good amp, the sound is fine but i don't like the high gain which gives a loud hiss.

for the allo volt+double you can find some measurements on the allo site but they're related to the "plus" version and not the "double", they just say that are really close but with a little less distortion.
on the other hand we have a different amplifier chip. the volt uses the tpa3118 which surely has less power than the 7498e but comparing those 2 on the sound the volt+double is the winner without doubt
 

GGroch

Senior Member
Patreon Donor
Joined
Apr 7, 2018
Messages
350
Likes
422
Location
Denver, Colorado
#19
......What I would need are about 50 Watt at 0.1% or 0.3% (or thereabout) distortion. As long as it is inaudible I am fine. Durability is a concern,.....that's another factor where you can not be sure with CCAs. In that regard the Powergate should be a relatively safe bet.
I am not convinced the Powergate is likely more reliable than CCAs. If you look at owner reviews of the Powergate around the web, a higher number of them than I would expect for a power amp had reliability problems. As I mentioned in the Powergate thread, this is really Klipsch's 1st amp....and there are a lot of very sophisticated digital parts in there for all of its extra features.

Note, I am not really criticizing it. I have one and really like it. Another amp that should meet your criteria (and I think will be reviewed soon) is the Paradigm PW-Amp. Its like the Powergate a Play-Fi amp by a major manufacturer....but the one I got stopped turning on after 10 days and had to be replaced. The good news with both the Klipech & Paradigm is that they a whole lot easier to get warranty repairs done than with CCAs, which are always a hassle to fix unless you do it yourself.

How about the Amir Tested Dayton APA150. It's specs and price are very similar to the Powergate, its also from a major brand, and its traditional class A/B big iron....so it should be quite reliable. This amp has been around for years under different brands including Emotiva, Lynn of New Hamphire, and a half dozen more.
 
Joined
Apr 8, 2019
Messages
26
Likes
11
#20
So far I hadn't given much thought about warranty and repair. I probably should. Having a 200$-unit ship to Europe, only to ship it back due to failure ten days later would really hurt. That makes the Powergate less attractive instantly. Unless the warranty covers repairs worldwide. Will have to check.

As for Chinese amps, I'd take the risk if they are cheap enough. Yet another option would be to look out for a serviced Quad 303. I don't know how they measure, but they should be good enough and very durable.
 
Top Bottom