Pros: Great looks, great power, great versatility
A Little Background
This amplifier is installed in a 1995 Nissan Pathfinder. It receives it signals from a Sony CDX-MP80 and drives two Rockford Fosgate Punch Z subs in a sealed enclosure. Originally, the sub was patched to the head unit via some who-knows-where-they-were-made cables. In the past couple of days I switched those out with Rockford Riot Geometry cabling, which has improved sound somewhat, but at a rather irritating cost which I will discuss later. This amp work in tandem with an Alpine MRV-F540 mounted right next to it that runs the four primary speakers in the vehicle, also Alpine, to my chagrin. I'm not a fan of Alpine speaks, but thats another review.
Features and Install
This amplifier has a lot going for it. If you are familiar with Alpine, you already know this, but let me tell ya anyway. There are two lines popularly available in Alpine amps, this one is part of the V-12 series, the lower line being V-Power. Right off the bat the first thing you will notice is that this amp is relatively compact, without huge side plates, or covers that extend the full length of the unit. Instead this unit has a small flip piece at the front that is neither obtrusive or hard to get off. Rather than the whole outer edge or the sides of the unit being the heat sink (useless if you take the caps off a Fosgate) the majority of the top of the amp is extruded aluminum. It has a rippled/folded effect that not only looks good, but increases surface area to aid in cooling. All amps get hot, some more than others, but this one is about in the middle of the road in my experience, even after punishing bass intensive tracks, whether rap, drum and bass, or raw metal.
This amp features full MOSFET supply and output stages. It is not unusual to see MOSFET on one side or the other, but the cleanest sound will come when it is full circle. MOSFET is not proprietary, however, STAR topology is to Alpine. There is little this amplifier will not do. Even without an Alpine head unit and its corrospondant MediaXpander. From just the control center one has the ability to use and adjust a digital parametric EQ, the standard low pass X-over, as well as a variable subsonic filter to further enhance sound and response. There is a feature called Bass Compensator to aid in the fidelity of highly compressed audio when played back on an Alpine head unit. As the signal management in this install was handled by a Sony, this was not usable. There is a phase adjustment feature as well as digital time correction with 22 points of adjustment, though as much as I fiddled with this I heard virtually no change in the perceived source location, time, or impact. Dunno, maybe you will.
The top of the unit features a deep blue colored digital display that will give voltage, amperage, as well as temp info in F and C in that order. One might see this as a bell and whistle type thing, but it can be amazingly useful, especially when tuning the system. Plus in combination with the digital readouts on the two caps in this install, my client will always acurately know his system status and real-time usage. On a side note, when the whole system cranking crazy it really is pretty cool to look at all the displays doing their things in relation to the music; the caps discharging massive power, the amps display constantly changing temps and voltage. *Giggle*, I'm such a techno geek.
Just so you folks know exactly what we're talking about here, this is a class D amplifier, meaning it is fully digital. This has advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are that the power is discharged very quickly and there is less heat integral to whole operation. The disadvantages are that there is significantly more distortion with digital amps. However, with the very low frequencies, generally under 200Hz, not only can the listener not discern the location of the sound, because the frequencies are so low, distortion is much harder to detect, if at all, for most listeners. Other classes of amps include A, B, A/B, bd, and the newer class T, though these last two are seen really only in car audio right now.
The install was pretty easy. All one is really talking about is drilling the unit to whatever mounting surface is available. I like to raise the unit slightly off of whatever I am affixing it to for the purpose of cooling. I have found this little step to be very effective for the cooling of the amp, regardless of size. Wiring the front of the unit is pretty easy, though space is a little limited. Once it is installed however, it all looks very clean and the subtle blue glow of the display only adds to this.
Rock solid. That is really the best to describe this amplifiers performance. It produces tremendous amounts of power with no fade at all. When you think you can't push it any harder, you crank it some more and realize you haven't even scratched the surface as it were. Don't get me wrong, most people can be very impressed with just 200 watts and a an Infinity Perfect, but when you are peaking at 500 watts or better through two properly tuned 12's, whoa, that a lot of air being moved, and you really do feel it. The hairs on your neck stand up, and your coif feels like it will be torn from your scalp. Ah yes, it's a beautiful thing. Because of all the controls discussed earlier, tuning is a snap and actually only took me a few minutes for this vehicle and that includes the primary amp as well. The cut offs and levels were a breeze and combined with the head unit's ample tuning ability.
The Brass Tacks
These numbers are per the certification sheet that came with the amp.
500 watts x 1 @ 2ohms @ 14.4v (as installed)
250 watts x 1 @ 4ohms @ 14.4v
400 watts x 1 @ 2ohms @ 12v
200 watts x 1 @ 4ohms @ 12v
THD at rated power - 1%
S/N ratio 90dB
Frequency response 20Hz - 200Hz
Alpine has long been known for excellent car audio equipment and this sub is no exception. It features excellent build, options, control, and power. Even in a 4ohm configuration @ 12 volts, this amps still hits hard, though not to as great a degree as it is installed here, but everything is relative, in a CRX, that may be enough. If you are thinking about building a system from the ground up it would be worthwhile for you took seriously looking at an Alpine head unit as well. There is a lot of synergy between their heads and amps that is lost when using a seperate brand for the head unit. It is not so much that the amps become useless as I think my review has pointed out, but it doers allow in cockpit tuning that is not possible, with for example, the Sony used in this vehicle. Overall, the V-12 line of amps is highly able, attractive and priced right when you do the footwork. Try Alpine, you won't be disappointed.