Friday, December 31, 2010

Old School Cheater Amps from the Early 90's

I recently did a video review comparing 4 Old School "cheater" amps. This is not designed cover ALL old school cheater amps, but the ones I happen to own.

Here are the amps in my overview:

1) Rockford Fosgate Punch 45HD - I consider this amp a "cheater" because it was underrated and would handle 1ohm loads even though it was not rated to do so. My Punch 45HD was birthed at 91.1 watts/ch into 2 ohm loads, although it was rated at 35 watts/ch into 2 ohms.

I purchased this amp in December 1991 and used it for years in 2 ohm mono configuration powering (2) 10" MTX Blue Thunder 4 ohm subs wired in parallel. No, I wasn't winning many SPL competitions with this setup, but it sounded surprisingly clean. I had a friend who used one of these amps powering all Rockford Series 1 speakers including; (2) 10's, (2) 6.5's, (2) 4's and (2) tweeters using a passive crossover network. Again, no SPL records broken here, but a clean and plenty loud setup with a "45 watt" amp.

Original retail price of the Punch 45HD was $279 USD, although shops in my area were known to push this price up to $299 or more as these amps were in high demand and relatively low supply in the early 90's.

2) Orion 225 HCCA (Digital Reference) - One of the most feared cheater amps of the early 90's. It was rated to handle loads as low as 1/2 ohm in stereo and 1 ohm mono. It was rated to output 200x2 or 400x1 into these loads. However, for competition's sake, it was rated at 25 watts x 2 into 4 ohms.

There were several versions of the 225 HCCA in the 1990's:

  • 1st Generation would come to be known as the "Moon and Stars" version. This version required a separate bridging module from Orion to run it in mono.
  • 2nd Generation (shown here) was the "Digital Reference" series. These amps, like the first Gen models, had a wiring harness for the speaker outputs and 8 gauge extended power and ground wires for power connection. This model had built-in bridging capability and an EQ button for boosting lows and highs while reducing mid-bass. See the video for the specifics.
  • 3rd Generation "Competition Amp / X-over" model, A.K.A. "Pop Top" version has some notable differences from earlier models. For example, a built-in crossover via SLF-1 modules and speaker/power terminal plugs for easy wiring connections. The "Pop Top" name came from the top panel which could be removed to reveal the SLF-1 and/or by-pass modules.
  • 4th Generation and later - known as the 225R, 225G4 and 225G5. I don't have many details about these amps other than I believe the 225R was the last model to be built in the USA. I'm also a little confused why the 225G4 was called the G4, when it was actually the 5th gen?
The Orion 225 HCCA originally retailed for around $600 USD. Yep, you could by 2 Punch 45HD's and still have some left over for wiring or other equipment...

3) Precision Power Pro Mos 25 - PPI's cheater amp rated at 25x2 into 4 ohms and designed to handle loads down to 1 ohm stereo or 2 ohms mono. The one I display in the video is an Art Series (white with silk-screened graphic), there were also versions in black.

The Pro Mos series was replaced in the mid 90's with the Pro Art series. Like the early Gen Orion HCCA models, the Pro Mos versions had wiring harness with plug and extended power and ground wires. My Pro Mos 25 didn't come with a wiring harness, so I had to source a re-manufactured one. Many people would just solder wires directly to the board, but I wanted to keep the amp in stock condition, especially due to the warranty seal being in tact and not wanting to break it!

I'm not certain of the original MSRP, but believe it was around $500 USD.

4) Phoenix Gold MPS-2240 - from PG's "Mobile Professional Series" line, the MPS-2240 was Phoenix Gold's least expensive MPS series amp. It was rated at 24x2 into 4 ohms and designed to handle 1/2 ohm stereo or 1 ohm mono loads where it was rated to put out 288 watts total. I don't have numbers to back it up, but this rating appears to be very conservative. I believe it was closer to 400 actual watts, maybe a little more.

As with the other cheater amps I've mentioned above, the MPS-2240 did not have any active crossover built-in. It did have nice terminal connections for speakers and power. Not to mention, the real beauty of this amp was the "guts". If you've never seen an MS or MPS series Phoenix Gold upside down and open, you've missed out! Watch the video to see what I mean!

According to the April 2006 version of Car Audio and Electronics "Directory", the MPS-2240 originally retailed for $529 USD. I recall these amps being difficult to find as Phoenix Gold had few if any authorized dealers in my area.

Again, this video is only an overview of each amp, not designed to be an extensive review. I may put each amp head to head in tests in the near stay tuned!

Click the link if you prefer to see the video in HD (720 or 1080p):



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