The Phoenix Gold brand of car audio was founded in 1988 as a maker of audio cables and accessories for home and car audio. In 1990, the brand expanded to include amplifiers and speakers. Over the following decade or so, Phoenix Gold established an excellent reputation based on the quality and performance of its products, as well as its exclusive limited-edition car amplifiers.
In late 2009, the brand was acquired by AAMP of America, who have tasked themselves with returning the brand to its proud heritage, by producing high quality, good sounding equipment with modern technology. One of the products lines offered by the “new” Phoenix Gold is the Ti series of amplifiers. Designed with the brand’s heritage in mind, and with striking new cosmetics, I had the chance to take a close look at the Ti1500.1 subwoofer amplifier.
The Phoenix Gold Ti1500.1 is a rather large amplifier, measuring about 17” long, almost 10” wide, and 2.5” tall. The size of the chassis is quite appropriate however, because the Ti1500.1 is also a powerhouse. Rated at 1250 watts into 1 ohm, and priced around 750 bucks (US), the Class D amplifier looks classy and well made. All of the connections and controls are laid out along one long edge of the amplifier and are easy to adjust. I did find the grayish-silver silk screening a bit tough to read, and perhaps pure white would have been a better choice for readability, but at the expense of aesthetics.
The extruded aluminum heatsink is finished in a brushed black anodized treatment with a classy looking Plexiglas trim panel, with die-cast aluminum end caps with built in venting. The effect reminds me of an expensive piece of home audio gear. The heatsink design allows heat to be dissipated over its entire area, to maximize cooling. Connections and controls are first class too, the power terminals will accept 1/0 gauge cables, and the speaker terminals can handle 12 gauge wire. RCA’s are nickel plated panel mounts, and the control pots are smooth and finely detented for accuracy in the adjustment. A table in the owner’s manual indicates the amount of “clicks” needed for any desired adjustment, which takes the guesswork out of the tuning. Three blue LED’s flushed into the top of the heatsink tell you the amp is turned on and LED’s in the plexi trim panel warn of peak output levels and protection issues.
The amplifier uses a 30-300Hz, -24dB/Oct low pass filter, and there is also a -24dB Subsonic filter that can be set from 10-55Hz, perfect for vented enclosure applications. Bass boost is available as well with maximum boost reaching +18dB at 45Hz. Pass through RCA’s allow the input signal to be fed to additional amplifiers, and in case 1250 watts isn’t enough, the Ti1500.1 is strappable to a second one, for 2500 watts! Optional features include a remote level control for up to 20dB of level adjustment, and a remote monitoring display, to keep track of the amplifiers operational condition. The Ti Series amplifiers are manufactured in Korea, and come with a one, two, or three-year warranty.\
After I unpacked the Ti1500.1 and took it out of the very nice soft zippered bag it came in, I flipped through the owner’s manual to make sure I understood what was what. Then I hooked the amp up in my reference system, and connected it to a sealed woofer system composed of a pair of high quality 4 ohm 12” woofers, wired in parallel for a 2 ohm load. (SIDENOTE: I generally prefer not to use loads below 2 ohms, in systems for general listening use… although many amplifiers including this one are quite capable of driving them, in my opinion 1 ohm and lower loads present excessive current demands, raise amplifier temps, and lose overall power efficiency. And, if you do the math, you’ll realize there is less than 2dB of difference between 800 watts and 1250 watts.)
I selected a crossover setting of 100Hz, and left the subsonic filter at 10Hz, and the bass boost off. Beginning with some bass tracks to evaluate the amps dynamic power and general power output, I soon realized the Ti1500.1 was a serious performer. Power output was prodigious and seemed quite effortless. Even at high volume levels, I never had a sense of reaching the amps limits or making it really work hard. Bass output was well controlled and articulated, and always provided a sense of authority. Switching to some very well recorded tracks from Spies and other Sheffield Lab recordings, the Ti1500.1 proved it could reproduce the detail and articulation captured in live to two track recordings. I listened to it for a couple of hours and even though I was giving my woofers quite a workout, the amplifier barely got more than warm to the touch. After all my listening, the only thing I could find to gripe about was a very slight thump when I turned the amp off. Other than that, it was a gem.
Read on for Full Results
Regular readers will recall a very common problem technicians have when measuring the power of many Class D amplifiers. All Class D amplifiers have “carrier noise” in their output signal, which is caused by the high frequency, square “carrier” waveforms used to generate the audio output. While this noise is well above any audible frequencies, (typically 50-80kHz) it is measured by test equipment, and is easily seen on an oscilloscope.
In the case of the Ti1500.1, the amplifier had quite a bit of this high frequency noise on its outputs, which did show up in my measurements. But, fear not, because this noise is well above the audible spectrum, and most certainly higher than any subwoofer could ever reproduce, for daily use it’s simply not a problem. That is, until you attempt to measure power using a standard distortion/noise specification as a limit. The industry standard is 1.0%, but this limit is difficult for many Class D amplifiers to stay below, because of the high frequency noise they generate.
As a result, I chose not to use the usual 1.0% THD limit, instead selecting the point at which the amplifier begins to clip, which is a more realistic real world indication of the power limits of the amp in the normal application.
With that said, the Ti1500.1 is a very good performing amplifier, and makes gobs of power. The controls and filters worked precisely as advertised, and because of the excellent efficiency in the design, even after repeated power tests at high current levels, the amplifier did not overheat. The over and under voltage protection worked perfectly, and so did the short circuit protection when I shorted the outputs at over 500 watts of power. I put the Ti1500.1 through its paces and actually tried to break it, but it handled everything I threw at it in stride, so all indications are it will be dead reliable in your car.
If the Ti1500.1 is any indication, the Phoenix Gold brand is ready for a rebirth and is doing the legacy of 20 years ago proud. Just like the old M series of the 1990’s, the performance is strong, and the fit and finish is excellent.
And don’t think for a minute the new owners of the brand are only paying lip service to those legacy products. When I was poking around inside the Ti1500.1, I found a little text that reads; “I love the smell of burnt voice coils in the morning.” Rumor has it that similar scripts will be found in other models as well.
For more visit www.phoenixgold.com