Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Old School Monster Car Audio Amplifiers

Some Old School Monster Amps from the OldSchoolStereo Collection...no Class D here!

Anyone who was in the car audio scene during the 90's probably recognizes names like "The Beast" and "Power 1000c". Old school monster amps were unlike the big mono block amps of today...they were Class A/B, much less efficient and some would say, much better sounding than the amps of today. I'm not getting in a battle of what's better, just confirming there are two sides here. Since you are visiting OldSchoolStereo.com, you are more than likely a fan of the older amps. Many of the amps you see in the picture above are almost legendary in the history of car audio. Let's talk a little about each amp and it's impact on car audio.

First off, you'll notice a trio of Orion amps, all bearing the same heatsink design. The "big red" Orion 2100 HCCA is well known to be a monster cheater amp. The "Digital Reference" model displayed above was rated to handle 2 ohm mono or 1 ohm stereo loads and put out in excess of 800 watts loaded down. Efficiency? Well, not so much. All of these big Orion's require a 2nd battery and an electrical upgrade on most vehicles. Why, might you ask? Well, these amps can pull over 100A of current and most stock electrical systems would not be able to handle this massive load. Speaking of massive, the XTR-2250 was so well known as "The Beast", Orion even engraved this saying on the amp. It is rated at 250 watts per channel at 4 ohms stereo, 500 watts per channel at 2 ohms stereo or 1000 watts bridged at 4 ohms. What you say? No one ohm bridged like a Sundown? No sir, this amp would and will fry if pushed too hard.

Orion Monster Amp Art by BigDWiz

Speaking of being pushed too hard, the Orion Concept 97.3 is an amp of almost legendary status. A quick search on the Internet will give you dozens upon dozens of different pages attempting to explain this amp. Orion introduced the amp in 1997 as a bold statement to IASCA and dBDrag for the wattage classes. The 97.3 was rated at 0.5 watts per channel at 4 ohms...yes, I said 1/2 watt per channel! What's up with that? Well, Orion was trying to show the "cheater amp" had gone too far when companies such as US Amps and their VLX-25 had ratings of 12.5 watts per channel at 4 ohms but put out over 1000 watts loaded down to 1/2 ohm. Orion, an originator of cheater amps with the 225 HCCA back in the 1980's, decided it was time for this to stop. What did they accomplish in their effort to change the rules? Well, they ticked off many competitors who attempted to use these amps at low ohm loads (and fried the amps) and even got the amp banned by IASCA in 1998 (source - Orion dealer). Why would the amp cause this much controversy? Check out these ridiculous ratings, it may help (ratings pulled from the Concept 97.3 manual):

STEREO (watts @ ohm load)

0.5x2 @4
1x2 @2
2x2 @1
4x2 @0.5
8x2 @0.25
16x2 @0.125
32x2 @0.0625
64x2 @0.03125
128x2 @0.015625
256x2 @0.0078125
512x2 @0.00390625

 MONO (watts @ ohm load)

2Wx1 @4
4wx1 @2
8WX1 @1
16WX1 @0.5
32WX1 @.25
64WX1 @.125
128WX1 @.0625
256WX1 @.03125
512WX1 @.015625
1024WX1 @.0078125

Next we'll talk about the monster Rockford Fosgate amps, the Power 1000c Mosfet "Terminator Edition" and Power 650 Mosfet. Back in the early 90's the 1000c sold for $2650, while the 650 was around $1800. Again, these amps were WAY out of the reach of most car audio fanatics including me. These Power Series amps all had model numbers based on their output at 2 ohms stereo or 4 ohms bridged. For example, the 1000c was rated at 150x4 at 4 ohms, 250x4 at 2 ohms or 500x2 at 4 ohms. Similarly, the Power 650 Mosfet was rated at 125x2 at 4 ohms, 167.5x2 at 2 ohms or 325x2 at 4 ohms bridged. Unlike the Punch series amps at the time, these Power series are not known to be underrated more than 10-15%. Both amps have a temperature controlled cooling fan and the 1000c includes an ultra cool LED meter for each channel.

1991-1993 Rockford Fosgate Power 1000c Mosfet Amplifier

Next up, we'll discuss the Precision Power ProMOS 450. This amp preceded PPI's "Power Class" line and the models in the ProMOS family were made from the late 80's until the mid 90's. The 450 was the most expensive ProMOS amp and incorporated two separate ProMOS 50's into one chassis. When the first ProMOS amp, the PPI ProMOS 2050 hit the market in 1989, it went for around $800. By the early/mid 90's, the four channel 450 could be picked up for around $900 US. All of the ProMOS amps were rated to handle 1 ohm stereo or 2 ohm bridged loads. The 450 had the following ratings; 50x4 at 4 ohms, 100x4 at 2 ohms, 200x4 at 1 ohm, 200x2 at 4 ohms or 400x2 at 2 ohms. The heat sink used by these older PPI amps are in my opinion, some of the most classy designs of all time. Very simple, yet elegant and powerful. Too bad PPI used the hateful proprietary Molex plug for speaker connections and straight 8ga wiring for the positive and ground connections. As you can see from the picture below, the ProMOS 450 is even longer than the Orion 2100 HCCA!

PPI ProMOS 450 "Art Series" vs. Orion 2100 HCCA "Digital Reference"

The Earthquake PA-2300 is another very powerful Class A/B amp from the 90's. It is rated at 380x2 at 4 ohms, 575x2 at 2 ohms or 1150x1 at 4 ohms. Based on ratings alone, this is the most powerful old school amp in the bunch. The newer Dragster DH-1804 edges out the PA-2300 in power ratings, but just slightly. The Dragster is another four channel amp rated at 180x4 at 4 ohms, 300x4 at 2 ohms or 600x2 bridged at 4 ohms. Although I haven't confirmed by testing, I believe the Earthquake PA-2300 may be the most powerful amp in this group. What do you think?

See my video overview of each amp below.

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Watch the video on YouTube in 1080P or embedded below:


joel fennimore said...

I am looking to obtain more information or sell my infinityrsa 40.4 it is in perfect condition for its age few cosmetic blemishes someone please contact me it is stamped 1988 Harman Kardon are on the circuit board 321-557-2305

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