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Is there a sonic difference between the two? What are the plus and minuses of each?
I'm thinking of getting a 4-channel amp to power my whole system. I like it to sound as natural and musical as possible and be very efficient (easy on my altenator). I've somehow norrowed it down between Soundstream and Zapco. The Soundstream Rubicon amp has regulated power supply (I know JLAudio and others do as well). However, the Zapco Studio and others use unregulated power supplies (I think Soundstream did before as well). I'm not looking for mega SPL here, just enough to hear every detail loud and clear with robust clean bass. I figure betweem 50 - 80 watts per channel to good speakers (still undecided, maybe a/d/s/) will do. Any recommendations you have are appreciated. I mainly want to know the difference between these two technologies.
Well I can't tell you much, but there are some differences between the two. On amps with regulated power supplies, you'll have the same power no matter what the voltage output of your alternator is. This means that your music will play loud and clean all the time no matter what condition your electrical system is in. There have been reports, though, of popping noises when you first turn on the amp or when changing discs or radio stations. Unregulated amps don't have those issues, but you'll run into points where the amp doesn't sound as crisp due to the lack of power. My solution to this, however, is to use oversized power and ground wires and possibly a cap to regulate the voltage.
Regulated amps tend to perform much better if you are looking for sonic detail. The reason is actually kinda stupid simple, its simply that you are receiving a constant power level from your amp to your speakers. You have to figure that inside a car the voltage is not going to be a constant 14V. Generally cars tend to dip all the way down to 12V and then all the way up to about 16V. This means a 4V variance is possible on an unregulated power supply, which means an audible difference. Now unReg power supplies are also cheaper, so if you're looking for 90% quality, go with unReg. If you really want to get that last 10% of consistent sound quality, go with the SoundStream, or better yet JLAudio (their amps really do kick ***).
Also FYI regulated amps tend to apply a stronger draw of current off your alternator, so make sure you ground everything very well, otherwise you will torch your alternator within a year or two.
There's a fine line between rubbing lotion on yourself and rubbing yourself with lotion.
Thanks for the feedback. It's nice to know what it all means now. Given the price difference, I think Soundstream is a good solution for me over JL. I'll keep researching and see which brand/model will work best on my setup.