So, for the special rare applications where a customer might want to play sound very loud into low impedance loudspeaker loads, trying to get more than 200 watts per channel out of this amplifier, Fosgate Audionics has come up with a clever though obtuse solution. By simply setting that little switch to a lower setting than 8, you will lower the rails voltage on the output devices. This in turn will lower the maximum power output capability of this amplifier, into any given loudspeaker load. More to the point, lowering the rails voltage, by setting this little switch to a lower position (6 or even 4 instead of 8), will lower the point at which you will encounter and hear voltage clipping if you try to play this amplifier too loud. Thus, this is a backhanded way of allowing you to insure, if you wish, that you will encounter voltage clipping before you encounter protection circuit cutoff, even into low impedance loudspeaker loads.
The owner's manual is correct in this narrow regard. It advises you to play sound as loud as you would ever want to play it, into the loudspeaker impedance load that you have chosen. Then it advises you to listen for the nasty popping sound of the protection circuits being triggered. If you don't hear that nasty popping sound, everything is OK for your chosen loudspeaker load, and you can leave this little switch at its highest setting of 8 for maximum power capability (though of course we have advised you to set it down to the middle position of 6, in order to hear the best sound quality from this amplifier). If on the other hand you do hear that nasty popping sound, then, for your desired loud level and for your chosen low impedance loudspeaker load, this amplifier is encountering protection circuit cutoff before it is encountering voltage clipping. The solution is to set that little switch to a lower position. This lowers the rails voltage, and also thereby lowers the maximum power capability of this amplifier. But it provides the benefit, by lowering the rails voltage, that you will encounter the less obnoxious and less dangerous sound of voltage clipping, before you encounter the sound of protection circuit activation, as a warning that you are playing this amplifier too loudly and should back off a bit.
Thus, that little switch does serve a useful function that does relate, albeit indirectly, to loudspeaker load impedance. But this functionality of this switch should only be relevant to those of you who play at very loud levels into low impedance loudspeaker loads. Note that, even though setting this little switch to a lower position does lower the rails voltage and does thereby lower the maximum available power, you should still be able to get a full 200 watts per channel into any loudspeaker load, even low impedance loudspeaker loads. If you do employ a low impedance loudspeaker and do have cause to set this little switch to a lower position to prevent protection circuit activation before you hear the warning sound of voltage clipping, rest assured that you are still getting at least the full advertised 200 watts per channel capability out of this amplifier. All a lower switch setting does is to prevent you from getting that doubling of power, say to 400 watts per channel into a 4 ohm loudspeaker, that you might have hoped for. And this limitation in turn is a wise tactic to assure that the internal parts of this amplifier don't get overheated by too high temperature or overstressed by too high a current demand.
Now that we have explained the function of this little switch as intended by the manufacturer, we want to stress again that this little switch serves another, entirely different, and in our view far more important function. It literally changes the sound of this amplifier, and in our judgment provides by far the best sound when set to the middle 6 position, regardless of your loudspeaker load. Note that this middle 6 position already allows for somewhat lower impedance loudspeaker loads than the 8 position would, so this 6 position that we recommend for the best sound quality should also suffice well for 4 ohm loudspeaker loads. In other words, you can, as we said before, ignore what the owner's manual says about this switch, and don't worry at all about what it's supposed to do. Simply set this little switch to 6 and forget it. And enjoy listening to the best sound this amplifier can produce.
The Sound, Chapter 3: That Power Cord
Don't say we didn't warn you. We told you that the sonic evaluation of this amplifier would take some curious twists and turns.
Most consumer electronics are supplied with an inexpensive, generic power cord, made somewhere in the Far East. So also is the Fosgate Audionics FAA 1000.5. We asked the manufacturer whether he had specially selected this power cord, and he said no. Thus, its identity is not confidential nor proprietary (in any case, all of you could discover and instantly share this information, simply by looking at this cordset). This factory supplied cordset is an Apollo 14-3, type SJT (which is the common type, with three stranded conductors surrounded by a round protective jacket).
When evaluating any piece of electronics, it is a normal part of our thorough test procedure to try various power cords, in addition to the inexpensive generic one supplied with the unit by the manufacturer. We know that virtually all electronics can exhibit striking changes in audio (and doubtless also video) performance, when fed from different power cords, and we have explained the reasons why to you in previous reviews. We expect electronics to change their performance with different power cords, so that change in itself, that vulnerability to power cord choice, does not count against the product. Rather, we want to make sure that we are evaluating the product at its best potential performance, and we would not be doing so if the inexpensive generic cord supplied with the unit were handicapping its performance. If another power cord does provide better performance, then of course we are obliged to report our performance evaluation to you in two chapters, first telling you what performance the vast majority of you (who simply use the supplied power cord) can expect, and second telling you what better performance you can expect by upgrading to a better power cord.
So, as part of our normal test procedure, we evaluated this Fosgate Audionics amplifier with its factory supplied inexpensive generic power cord, and then with alternative power cords. In this case, we were expecting to hear minimal differences. That's because the featured special design of this amplifier's regulated switching power supply should provide excellent immunity to powerline vagaries, including factors such as the inductance of the power cord that feeds the powerline energy to the regulated switching power supply.
But we were greatly surprised to discover that this Fosgate Audionics amplifier is still very sensitive to different power cords. Its sound changes dramatically with different power cords, just as dramatically as with other amplifiers we have evaluated. That's surprise twist number one.
As it turns out, this Fosgate Audionics amplifier sounds best with its inexpensive factory supplied power cord. So you can rest easy, and simply use the supplied power cord, without worrying about looking for an upgrade. The amplifier's sonic performance described above is, as noted, with this factory supplied power cord, which allows one to hear this amplifier sounding its best.
Now for surprise twist number two. When we tried various other power cords with this Fosgate Audionics amplifier, not only did its sound change, but it changed in a very specific and surprising way. The sound of this uniquely designed amplifier, featuring many technical innovations and very different kind of circuitry and devices, became very similar to other solid state amplifiers. It lost its special JFET sound, its magical musicality and wonderful liquidity, and instead picked up some degree of typical solid state sterility and hard glare (somewhat like we reported hearing from the 8 position of that little switch). We purposely even tried the generic power cords that came with other power amplifiers, cords that had made those other amplifiers sound their musical best at the time we evaluated and reviewed them. They too left this Fosgate Audionics amplifier sounding good, but more like a typical solid state amplifier, lacking that special musical liquidity described above. This experiment strongly suggested that the Apollo generic power cord supplied with this Fosgate Audionics amplifier was at least causally important to this amplifier's sonic strengths, and was perhaps even responsible for it.
To confirm this, we carried our experiment to the next logical step of research inquiry. If this Apollo power cord were indeed responsible for the musical liquidity, warmth, etc. heard from the Fosgate Audionics amplifier, then it might also have the same effect upon other power amplifiers. So we deliberately tried this Apollo power cord on another power amplifier that is as different from the Fosgate Audionics circuitry as night is from day. The McCormack HT5 (previously reviewed) employs bipolar transistor output devices instead of MOSFETs, and employs a conventional power supply instead of a regulated switching power supply. It sounds very good with its own factory supplied generic power cord (as previously reported). What would it sound like with the Apollo power cord?
We were shocked to hear that the Apollo power cord transformed the sound of the McCormack HT5, into a near clone of the Fosgate Audionics amplifier. Surprise twist number three!
This meant that we had established causality going both ways. Power cords from other amplifiers (including the good one from the McCormack HT5) made the Fosgate Audionics amplifier sound much like other solid state amplifiers. And, conversely, the Apollo power cord from the Fosgate Audionics amplifier made other solid state amplifiers, even ones with a very different internal design, sound much like the Fosgate Audionics amplifier, with wonderful liquidity, rich warmth, and sweet, delicate highs instead of their usual upper frequency glare. This Apollo power cord even bettered the McCormack generic power cord that we had praised in our review of the HT5, eliciting even more musical beauty from the HT5. That Apollo generic power cord is obviously a wonderfully musical power cord, capable of bringing magic to many solid state power amplifiers that offer at least good sound as a foundation. Incidentally, some of this Apollo cordset's musicality might be due to the simple fact that it employs heavy duty 14 gauge conductors, instead of the 16 gauge conductors common in the cordsets supplied with other amplifiers. Fatter gauge conductors usually have richer warmth and softer, sweeter trebles, and in cordsets with fatter conductors the insulation is often thicker, placing the conductors farther apart, which increases the series inductance of the power cord, and this higher inductance in turn contributes further to making the trebles softer and sweeter.
The clear implications of our research experiments are shocking. The sound of the Fosgate Audionics FAA 1000.5 is the sound of its factory supplied power cord. Let's repeat that, so you can grasp the full, radical, crazy import of this statement. The sound of this amplifier is the sound of its power cord. In other words, all the technical innovations in the Fosgate Audionics FAA 1000.5, as unique and valuable as they surely are, still do not count for as much sonically as the chance random selection by Fosgate Audionics of this particular Apollo power cord.
To complete our research experiment, we compared the sound of the Fosgate Audionics amplifier with that of the McCormack HT5 previously reviewed. We wanted to compare the intrinsic sound of these two amplifiers themselves, just as any competent reviewer would want to do. Thus, it was imperative that we employ the same power cord on both amplifiers. Only in this way would we be comparing apples to apples. If we used different power cords for the two amplifiers, then the different sounds of the two power cords would factor into the mix, thereby preventing us from being able to compare the intrinsic sound of the two amplifiers themselves.
Using the Apollo generic power cord on both amplifiers, both amplifiers exhibited similar sound, much like that reported above for the Fosgate Audionics amplifier. Both amplifiers evinced wonderful musical naturalness, beautiful liquidity, rich warmth, and sweet, silvery, delicate trebles. The McCormack HT5 sonically edged out the Fosgate Audionics in three specific aspects. Its overall transparency was better throughout the spectrum, revealing more true musical and soundtrack information. Its upper midrange was tonally more neutral, not being as recessed as the Fosgate Audionics, thus giving music and soundtrack effects better dynamic immediacy and clarity in this region. And its low bass impact was much better, in spite of its much lower power rating (125 watts per channel instead of 200). Remember too that the HT5 is based on McCormack's least expensive, entry level amplifier, so this is very impressive performance for the HT5. On the other hand, the McCormack HT5 costs about 1/3 more than the Fosgate Audionics, and has only about half the power, so it cannot play as loud as the Fosgate Audionics for most of the spectrum (above the low bass). Thus, the Fosgate Audionics still offers excellent value in high power and musical sound for less money, for which we must still give thanks to its many technical innovations, as discussed above. And of course the Fosgate Audionics also gives you that wonderful Apollo power cord for free, whereas with other amplifiers you would have to go out and search for this Apollo cordset to obtain similar musical beauty.
The bottom line for the Fosgate Audionics FAA 1000.5 is simple. As noted above, provided you employ powered subwoofers (so you don't care about the bass quality), this Fosgate Audionics amplifier offers outstanding value in high power for a modest price, in a convenient package that's easy to handle. And, thanks in part to its wonderful Apollo cordset, this Fosgate Audionics amplifier offers beautifully natural musicality that makes it a relaxing pleasure to enjoy music or film soundtracks for hours on end. The manufacturer's website is at www.fosgateaudionics.com.
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