E Is For The Environment: Lab.gruppen E Series

Lab.gruppen has made a name for itself in innovation and quality in the amplifier market. The FP, FP+, and PLM series amplifiers have helped to redefine the size-to-heat-to-power ratio of amplifiers for years now.

In that same vein, the E Series is built around Lab.gruppen’s new IDEEA amplifier platform: IntelliDrive Energy Efficient Amplifier. That pretty much sums up this slick and smart amplifier. All three E Series models (12:2, 8:2, and 4:2) manage to deliver substantial power out of an energy efficient and small package. All three models are only one rack space tall and weigh less than 10lbs each--impressive considering all that they do.

Each of the models correlates to its output power ratings (all listed for 4ohms here). The 4:2 can do 200W to two channels, the 8:2 can do 400W to two channels, and the 12:2 does 600W to two channels. IntelliDrive allows you to set each output to be either lo-Z (2-16 ohms) or hi-Z (70v distributed).

Everyone knows that, in any sound system, the amps are where you need the most power. Lab.gruppen looked to maximize dB SPL, while reducing the current draw from the A/C mains. They did this using a few new technologies in the IDEEA platform.

Two concepts are key here (both in life and in amplifiers): sharing and sensing. Most amplifiers don’t take well to driving different loads on their two (or more) channels and certainly don’t distribute power potential based on the need downstream. The E Series employs a Rail Sensing Limiter (RSL), a switch circuit that senses rail voltage and optimizes the output for instantaneous changes in the load conditions. This opens the door to take advantage of asymmetric loading (ie sharing) across your outputs. Different impedances can be connected to each side of the amplifier, and the amplifier will maximize the output power accordingly, leading to much great efficiency in your system.

For example, an E 12:2 amp is rated for 600W per channel at 4 ohms, but if you connected a 70v system to one side of the amp and a 4 ohm speaker to the other, the amp could comfortably deliver 1,100W to the 4 ohm speaker and 100W to the 70v system, all based on need. That kind of immediate flexibility and dynamic functioning is unheard of and really makes up the basis of how this amplifier saves on energy consumption. No power goes to waste; it goes where it’s needed.

Rounding out the power-saving features are the auto-power up/down and temperature-controlled fan. When auto-power down is enabled, after 20 minutes without a signal, the amplifier turns off. When signal is detected again, it turns back on--not something you’d want in a live performance but certainly a useful feature for certain installations where some amps stay on all night, waiting. This feature earned the series an Energy Star 2.1 certification, not a sticker you see on most amplifiers. With the same idea, the fan only kicks on when the unit gets hot and is then regulated by the thermostat, which will vary its speed and duration based on the temperature.

The unit is clearly geared towards the installation market. All connections are via Phoenix connectors, and all controls are on the back of the amplifier. And given the power ratings, this thing isn’t going to show up at a rock concert anytime soon.

I do applaud Lab.gruppen for taking a look at the power-draw of amplifiers and finding ways to increase performance and decrease the power consumption. The company points out that, while the initial purchase price of an E series amplifier may be higher than its competition, you will immediately start realizing savings in your power bill. And assuming the amplifier’s long life, one could see significant savings over the years. When you look at the ratio of peak output power to A/C mains current draw, the E series is a star. The models have a ratio of 400:1, or about 400W output power for every 1 amp of draw from a 115/120 V main. This means you save on your daily use. You also save on your installation power needs, being able to power four amps from one circuit.

The E series uses new technology to make a smart amplifier kinder to the environment. To me, this is a great place for our industry to be heading: smaller, dynamic, and green.

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