Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lepai LP-168HA Mini Amp Tested and Reviewed

Lepai LP-168HA "Super Bass" 2.1 Mini Power Amplifier

The Chinese mini amp invasion continues! This time we will show off the Lepai LP-168HA, a 2.1 channel mini amp. It is called a 2.1 amp, because it offers 2 stereo channels as well as a single "bass" channel. Sounds very promising at the rated 40x2, plus 68x1 power output. Now, as we've seen before, the manufacturer's ratings for these amps means nothing...Actual RMS output means everything!

The Lepai LP-168HA offers 3 inputs, all in parallel (non switchable). On the front, there is a 3.5mm stereo input jack, while the back offers left and right RCA input jacks as well as a USB port. The USB port will play back MP3 files on a compatible thumb drive, MP3 player, cell phone, etc. This feature wasn't tested other than for charging and it failed on 2 out of 3 devices tested. The 1st generation iPod Nano was the only device accepting a charge from the LP-168HA...neither the iPhone 3G nor the iPhone 4 would receive charge from the USB port.

Lepai LP-168HA's Rear Connections

The LP-168HA also offers a separate volume (and TINY knob) for the bass channel as well as the stereo channels. Unlike most amps offering a bass channel, there is no "master" volume controlling all outputs. You must adjust the bass channel and stereo channels independently. What a horrible design! Furthermore, the bass channel reaches full power at just a slight turn of the bass volume adjustment. There is no input gain control for the channels, just the volume knobs.

Speaking of input gain, there is a VERY important note here...I was unable to drive the front channels to clipping with an iPod Nano 1st gen or iPhone 4. It appears the LP-168HA wants an input of around 2-3V to reach max volume, and most portable devices don't have enough juice! I had to use my Yamaha home theater receiver with approx. 3V pre-outs to drive the LP-168HA to it's maximum volume. I didn't mention this in the video review, but feel it is a BIG deal.

Another area of interest is the crossover for the bass channel. I just verified my tests in the video using a 2nd example of this LP-168HA and both exhibit the same issue. The bass channel's crossover is cutting out some of the highs, but not fully until 2kHz or higher. I tested using a 1kHz test tone and was still able to hear it quite clear, even setting the crossover at 50Hz! Needless to say, you'll want to add a passive choke to keep your "subwoofer" from getting frequencies too high. Speaking of this, I'm not sure which "subwoofer" you'd use with this amp, but it better be a small and efficient one!

Lepai LP-168HA Controls

Watch as I verify RMS power output using the Velleman HPS50 and SMD DD-1 Distortion Detector. How close can we get to the manufacturers claim of 40x2 and 68x1? Well, you're gonna have to watch and see....

If you haven't seen the intro article to the "Chinese Mini Amp Invasion" check it out now. Also, I've made a video playlist of all the mini amps I've tested, see it HERE.

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See the Lepai LP-168HA in HD on YouTube

or embedded below:


Stan said...

Very interesting reviews of the China amps. While anyone knows they can't measure up to the power claims, I thought they would do a little better. I may still buy one for a portable system that I am putting together for my son to use with his laptop and midi keyboard.

BTW, I'm the guy what provided the Polk Audio C4 info sheet.

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