Friday, November 11, 2011

Can The Orion Take The Punch?

Rockford Fosgate Punch 45HD and Orion 222 SX

The Rockford Fosgate Punch 45HD and Orion 222 today's terms would be called "tweeter amps". Go back 20 years to 1991 and people were using these amps not only to power subwoofers, but in some cases entire systems! Since both amps were rated at 45 watts or less at 4 ohms (both channels), people either had really efficient speakers or didn't require high volumes, right?

Well, many people were told and believe the old school amps are always "very" or "highly" underrated. Read on to find out if this is the case with either or both of these mini powerhouses.

First up, the Orion 222 SX appears to have a heat sink surface area advantage at 8.5 x 8.5 x 2.25 inches. It carried an MSRP of $329 US back in 1991 (reference - Car Stereo Review, July/August 1991) and included the following specifications from Orion:

222 SX Ratings at 12 VDC (both channels driven):

4 ohms stereo - 22 watts RMS
2 ohms stereo - 44 watts RMS
4 ohms mono - 88 watts RMS
(not rated to handle 1 ohm stereo or 2 ohm mono loads)

More Specifications:

  • Requires external 15A Fuse, 20A provided by Orion (according to the manual)
  • Stereo, Mono or Mixed-Mono operation
  • Left and Right Peak Power LED's
  • 0.005% THD at rated power
  • Damping Factor - Greater than 500

On one side of the 222 SX are the power/ground wires (10 gauge), plus the 9-pin molex connector for speaker and turn on connections (See my Youtube Video on how to make these yourself!). The opposite end of the amp has input connections from both RCA and DIN connections. The DIN connection supports Orion EQ's and crossovers and provides phantom power for these devices as well. There are also two buttons, one for "EQ", providing a +15dB boost at 40Hz, -4dB at 200Hz and +6dB at 10kHz, in addition to a "Mono" button for bridging the amplifier. The 222 SX also has Peak/Power LED's and a single input gain control. See the connections below:

Orion 222 SX input connections, Peak/Power LED's, Gain control, EQ and Mono buttons

Next up may be Rockford Fosgate's most well known amp from the mid-80's to early 90's, the Punch 45. In 1991, Rockford updated their vulnerable Punch 45 to the Punch 45HD, aka "Hybrid Design". Again, many competitors in the late 80's/early 90's used a single Punch 45 to compete in the 50-watt and under class.

The 45HD required spade connectors for the power and ground inputs. The opposite side includes; speaker/remote connections via 6-pin Molex plug, Bass/Treble knobs, Left/Right RCA Inputs and gain controls for both channels.

(Top) Rockford Fosgate Punch 45HD's 6-pin molex connector, bass/treble controls, left and right RCA Inputs and Gains

The slightly smaller heat sink of the 45HD measures 6.6" long  x 8.6" wide x 2.2" high and carried an MSRP of $275 back in 1991 (reference - Car Stereo Review, July/August 1991).

Punch 45HD Ratings at 12.5 VDC (both channels driven):

4 ohms stereo - 22.5 watts RMS
2 ohms stereo - 35 watts RMS
4 ohms mono - 70 watts RMS
(not rated to handle 1 ohm stereo or 2 ohm mono loads)

More Specifications:

  • Requires external 15A Fuse, 20A can be substituted for "extreme" loads
  • Stereo, Mono or Mixed-Mono operation
  • 0-18dB Bass Boost at 45Hz, 0-12dB Treble Boost at 20kHz
  • 0.05% THD at rated power
  • Damping Factor - Greater than 200 at circuit board, greater than 50 at speaker leads


Now you've read about the ratings and specifications, do you have a choice between the two for powering a single 8" subwoofer? I realize these amps may not be well suited to drive subwoofers, but this is OldSchoolStereo and I'm taking the test back to the old school!! Luckily, I have an early 90's JL Audio 8W1 (4 ohm) which will be the perfect test sub for these amps. In addition to the subwoofer test, I'll also test resistive RMS wattage output from both amps at several ohm loads.

Now, the question I'm sure many of you are asking....did I have a favorite before the tests? Well, I must admit I've tested the Punch 45HD before and knew what to expect from this little "punch". That said, I had high hopes for the 222 SX based on how well the Orion 275 SX fared against the Punch 150HD and Phoenix Gold MS-275. This is a CLASSIC shootout as I expected the results to be very close. I can't go without saying I broke the rule of my YouTube channel saying I wouldn't do "woofer flex" tests. I just couldn't resist seeing how these baby amps pushed the JL 8W1. I also used my Zoom H4 audio recorder for GREAT quality bass without distortion. Just make sure you use your headphones while watching the YouTube video to get the best experience (well, unless you are watching this on your home theater with an 18" powered sub...)

I put the Orion 222 SX on the bench first and connected up the resistor bank, 1000Hz test tone and Velleman HPS50 oscilloscope/true RMS Volt meter. Results are:


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