My traditional Hi-Fi amplifier drains a lot of power and heats up my room when I’m not using it. The summer heat prompted me to look into Class-D amplifiers as they’re highly energy efficient.
I bought a Lepy LP-2024A+, a Class-T amplifier (It’s Tripath’s improvement over Class-D amplfiers) for $22 shipped. It sounded good over a narrow range of volume, as I can hear the background sound details on my ADS 200 speakers.
Unfortunately, strong bass components in certain music gets distorted, a sign that the amplifier cannot deliver fast energy impulses. To put it simply, I enjoyed the treble but not the bass with this amplifier.
I saw some mods reports on the older TA-2020A+ based units (like LP-2020A+), but as of now, only one Japanese blog site talk about switching out input stage op-amps without other changes. So I decided to do my own mod and post the results here.
First, the unit came with a dinky 2200uF capacitor for power smoothing. I upgraded it to 6800uF. I happen to have a 12uH inductor with thick wires, so I replaced the toroid inductor (as in the LC power smoothing pair) with it while I’m at it.
Then I replaced all the remaining white-label capacitors with decent brands (Wruth, Nichicon, Panasonic, CDE), all rated at 105 degC, sometimes with higher voltage ratings depends on which brand-name parts Newark has on sale when I order it.
Then I upgraded the 4 output stage inductors with Wruth 7447452100 rated 10uH 4.5A. Tripath’s datasheet says 2A, so I supposed the one populated on board would be less than that.
I also replaced the SMD (1206) ceramic capacitors at the output stage (very close to the speaker wire terminals) with Polyester Film (for the taller 0.47uF ceramic chips) and NP0/C0G (the thinner 0.1uF ceramic) to improve linearity. I suspect this change helped to reduce the listening fatigue for treble components of the music I’m listening to. Now I don’t have to tone down the treble gain (knob) that aggressively.
As prompted by the Japanese blog site, I ordered some LT1364, but the improvement isn’t that big since the NE5532 wasn’t bad in the first place:
The bass and drums are much more enjoyable after the mod, since the improved power handling reduced the bass distortion on bass impulses. The amplifier is still 15W (7.5W+7.5W) dictated by TA-2024A+, but I rarely want to crank the music up louder than that anyway.
As a bonus, I took a thermal image with my Seek Thermal Imager:
The input stage ICs LT1634 are 118 deg F:
Update [02/06/2018] I did some experiments with external capacitors and realized that the real problem is the crappy 13.5V@3A power supply that came with it. Yes, I tested it with a DC load and it can really do 3A, but it has a weird behavior: when there’s a huge power draw (like from a bass drum) that drops the voltage level below 11.5V, the power supply starts oscillating from 10V to 11.5V (never gets above that even when I stopped the music) with a regular hissing noise of around 1Hz physically from the power supply itself. I had to turn the unit off for it to ramp back to 13.5V.
Then I used my HP 6033A systems power supply (can do 30A, relatively clean power with fast transient recovery) and observed the rail voltage and compared it to when I power the LP-2024A+ with a big capacitor + original power supply. It’s clear that no capacitor is big enough to cover the flaw of that crappy power supply that came with the amp.
After the power supply issue is resolved, even loud music sounds smooth, expressing the 3D acoustic image crisply through my ADS 200 speakers: I felt like a person is talking/singing right in front of me than some loudspeaker generated sound. It’s so crisp that I can hear each individual string pluck. Bass is deep too after I added a ADS sub 6 subwoofer. I’ve been listening to “the Phantom Of the Opera” CDs ever since high school and I’m still rediscovering new musical details with this amplifier + ADS speakers!
Before the mod, I would hesitate to make it my main amplifier and might want to go back to my Denon AVR-988 for serious listening. It took me quite a while to tune my Denon to sound good, but it works right out of the box on my modified Lepy LP-2024A+!
Update [08/21/2017]: Based on people’s comment (in audiokarma) on TA-2020A+ vs TPA3116, I decided to give it a shot and ordered Nobsound’s 50W model.
Actually before this LP-2024A+, I modded a Pyle TA-2020A and was disappointed at the clarity is totally lacking compared to the lower powered LP-2024A+. I thought it could be Pyle’s terrible implementation of TA-2020A+, but after hearing TPA3316, I observed these:
- TPA3116 has less distortion than TA-2020A+ and it sounded slightly tighter at all frequencies, especially the low ones
- Both TA-2020A+ and TPA3116 lack the clarity at vocal frequencies and above. TA-2024A+ beat them both hands down.
- TA-2024A+ draws 0.15A when no music is played while TPA3116 draws 0.03A. The reading is from my HP 6032A (60V, 50A) power supply.
TPA3316 might have a tighter bass than TA-2024A+, but I wouldn’t trade the vocal and up for that. TA-2024A+ might be marginally OK for N.W.A., but certainly not for parties. It’s an amp for music, not for acting cool.
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