If you’ve been watching their product lately, you’ve already seen some of the vastly improved gear the folks at Clarion have in their current product lineup. It’s been a while since I got to play with a Clarion subwoofer amplifier, so when the XH7110 showed up here at the lab for testing, I was looking forward to putting it through its paces and sharing the results with our faithful readers.
The Clarion XH7110 is a bit different by design. Instead of going the commonplace Class D route, the XH7110 is a Class GH amplifier. These designs are characterized by improved power efficiency compared to a Class AB amp, and less noise than a typical Class D subwoofer amplifier. The platform has also proved to be good sounding in many full-range designs I’ve heard.
The first thing I noticed about the XH7110 was its size. With a power rating of 460 watts at 4 ohms and 850 watts at 2 ohms, you expect it to be a good size, but sort of like a linebacker that uses size to his advantage, the Clarion bucks the current small amp trend and almost seems to celebrate the fact that the amp is a bit over 16” long, 9” wide, and 2.625” tall. It’s a good looking amp, with a gloss black Plexiglas top cover highlighted by an offset brushed aluminum panel. The edges are smooth powdercoated sheetmetal covering an internal heatsink. Blue LED lighting in the center of the top cover provides a soft glow, indicating a “power on” condition.
Injection molded ABS plastic end caps snap into place on each end of the amp and provide concealment for the connections, and trim out the amplifier nicely. These trim caps fit snugly and are also held in place by the amplifier mounting screws, so there’s no chance of one falling off or rattling.
Power and ground connectors accept 4 gauge cables and the speaker connections found on the same end of the amp will handle 10 gauge cables. The XH7110 does not use on-board fusing, but an external 90A fuse is recommended.
The opposite end of the amp is all about signal control. There are RCA inputs for Main or Slave input signals as well as speaker level input connections. An RJ-45 jack is there to connect the optional remote level control, and the input gain controls have 3 separate voltage ranges to handle pretty much any type of input signal source you want to hook up.
Additional signal control and shaping features include an adjustable bass boost with up to 15dB of boost and adjustable in frequency between 30-125Hz. An adjustable subsonic filter (10-80Hz) and a 30-230Hz, -24dB/Oct always-on low pass crossover rounds out the complement of adjustments. Because this is a Class GH amp and fully capable of operating full range, I found it a bit disappointing that the low pass filter was permanently on and I could not use the amp in a full range application. Can you imagine how much fun it would be to use one of these on each channel driving some good components? Inside the Clarion XH7110 I found a nicely made, modern amplifier. The PCB is double sided, with heavy gauge copper traces. Very low tolerance surface mount parts are used extensively, and a large fan draws in cooling air from above and exhausts it out both lower ends of the amplifier. The power supply uses 27,200µF of capacitance, and the output section employs 24,000µF of capacitance to provide energy to the output devices under any condition. If you want to build a more powerful system, the XH7110 is strappable to a second one for twice the power.
Read on for Full Results
In the listening room the Clarion proved to be a solid performer. The amplifier had no problem at driving a 2 ohm subwoofer load, and it was able to drive the subwoofers to loud levels without breaking a sweat. The bass produced was clean, tight and had excellent definition. Bass drum beats sounded real and natural with the right amount of attack and decay, just like a real drumhead sounds. Plucked bass down low also proved to be very well defined and details like augmented chords could be heard plainly. The amplifiers fan was not audible when listening to music, and throughout my testing the amp barely got warm, which is a good indicator of high efficiency at fractional power levels, a characteristic of Class GH (and some of the better Class D) amps. The Clarion amplifier also turned on and off silently, without the annoying pops of some other subwoofer amps.
On the deadly accurate Cogent test bench the XH7110 met or exceeded all of its published power specifications. Power output at 4 ohms was over 460 watts, even with a battery voltage of 12.6 volts. Signal to noise was exemplary as was output impedance. The filter frequency limits were a bit off the advertised numbers, but nothing to cause any real concern. The lower limit was 13Hz instead of 10Hz, and on the other end of the range was an upper frequency -3dB point of 190Hz rather than the advertised 230Hz. Efficiency at full power wasn’t as good as some competitive Class D amplifiers, but fractional power efficiency (where we do the vast majority of our listening) was very competitive. The bench testing went off without a hitch. I did the usual tortuous things like shorting the outputs at high power and trying to overheat it, but it simply protected itself when I did something stupid, and kept playing when I fixed the cause of the problem.
At $599 the Clarion XH7110 is a good performing subwoofer amplifier. As it is, the amp sounds great on a good subwoofer system, has plenty of power and with the very effective fan cooling system coupled with the large heatsink, the Clarion amp doesn’t have to resort to power reduction or shutting off to keep cool. I still wish I could use it in a full range application, but until someone comes up with some truly high power handling components, I suppose almost 500 watts per channel is too much power for the average enthusiast to use with responsibility and decorum.
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