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Class AB vs Class D Amplifiers (The Truth)

Class AB vs Class D Amplifiers (The Truth)
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If you’ve ever glanced at the specification sheet for amplifiers, you know that the amplifier classes are denoted by one or two letters like A, AB, D, H, etc. Class D and Class AB are the most common ones in the consumer home audio industry currently. So, you might need to understand the differences between them. This article provides details that’ll help you discover the differences that matter most to you.

Class AB amplifier designs are powerful, efficient and offer good sound quality. On the other hand, class D amplifiers are even more efficient than class AB but have lower fidelity (how accurately a copy reproduces its source) than class AB.

Read on to learn more.
FeatureClass ABClass D
GainMedium - HighHigh
Power CapacityHighHigh
Power EfficiencyVery GoodFair

What Are Class AB and D Amplifiers Used For?

Class AB amplifiers are designed to achieve an advanced level of efficiency with incredibly lower distortion.

class ab power amplifier

As you might have noted, it combines the best features of Class A and B to come up with a device without most of the drawbacks of these earlier amp versions. Due to the value that this amplifier offers, Class AB has become the most common home theater and stereo amp.

Class AB is 60% more efficient than Class A. However, Class A remains the winner for accuracy. Until recently, AB was the only realistic way of achieving high-fidelity, full-range sound amplification.

Class D amplifiers have emerged as the most famous kings of efficiency. So, they represent the zenith of amp efficiency.

class d amplifier

Due to the efficiency of these amps, they are also ideal for home use. You’ll also find others in cars.

Has Class D Become the Go-to Choice?

Class D amplifiers are highly efficient and make signals rapidly by switching transistors both on and off. This process resembles digital processing. However, these devices are not digital amps. Some of these amps may have digital control circuits, but their circuits are strictly analog.

Many audiophiles say they need to filter out the generated distortion to get value out of these amplifiers.

Do you see why the Class D amplifiers are the go-to choice? Class D amplifiers might not serve you well if perfect fidelity is crucial for you. The distortion issue is real.

However, if you’re looking for smaller and lighter amps that run cooler than other options with an equal amount of power, then they are the absolute go-to choice.

Is a Class AB Amp Better than a Class D?

None of these amps is necessarily better than the other. It all depends on what you what to get from your amplifier. You might have heard that Class B is a little more efficient than Class A amps. However, it’s full of distortions. Class A offers a greater degree of accuracy. Class AB is much better than the two combined. It provides an excellent sound response as well as exceptional power efficiency.

On the other hand, the Class D amplifier has the highest efficiency. However, it doesn’t guarantee you the best fidelity. So, you can see that the ultimate decision is yours.

Read on for a summary of the pros and cons of Class AB and Class D that will help you see the significant differences.

Class AB    

Class AB amplifiers’ efficiency range between 50% and 70%.


  • More efficient than Class A.
  • Users can render the crossover distortion moot.
  • Relatively inexpensive.


  • Efficiency is good but not exceptional.

Class D

The efficiency is typically greater than 90%.


  • Lightweight
  • Small
  • Best possible efficiency


  • Pulse width modulators work at low frequencies.
  • It can easily compromise high frequencies.
  • Some designs depend on the speaker load to determine the sound quality.

Do Class AB and D Amps Run Hot?

Yes, this is a major concern. Class AB does get hotter since they are less efficient than class D amplifiers. So, this is another reason class D remains a better option if you don’t consider perfect fidelity an essential feature of a great amp but are looking for amps that run cooler.

For this reason, class AB amplifiers do tend to go into protect mode when under too much pressure. 

How Do Class AB and D Amplifiers Get Hot?

When you turn down Class A amps’ volume, they get hotter. This happens since these amps consume the same amount of power irrespective of their power output. For that matter, when you set the gain to a low value, the amp converts the excess power that has not been sent to the speakers into heat energy.

It’s important to note that Class AB amplifiers use the class A section up to a particular level. So, once it crosses the threshold of output power, the heat begins to reduce slightly.

Since Class D amps don’t convert the excess power into heat energy, you won’t experience the same heating pattern. When the amount of power that your audio system demands from your Class D amp increases, the device gets hotter. This should let you see why these single-letter amps often tend to produce a punchier, deeper sound than Class AB amps.

Do Class D Amps Use Less Power than AB?

In a way, we can say that Class D amplifiers use less power. They are highly efficient at turning raw AC power into watts. Other than that, they don’t waste unused energy.

That only means they are more energy-efficient than Class A and Class AB amplifiers. So, these amps don’t use power sparingly but are better than the other alternatives that are best known for wasting large amounts of energy when converting unused energy into heat.

How Hot is Too Hot For an Amplifier?

We’ve seen that Class D and Class AB amplifiers can get hot. One thing you need to note is that none of them should get too hot. You should consider your amp too hot if its temperature hits above 160F (or 71.111°C). In most cases, your amp may shut off to prevent further damage at this point. 

If the surface temperature of your Class AB exceeds exceed 65° C (149° F), confirm whether the room temperature exceeds the standard, 40° C (104° F) and the room is not adequately ventilated. If that’s the case, you can fix this issue by ensuring adequate space around the amp’s cooling. That alone is enough to prevent excessive heat buildup. You might also need to create enough space to allow air to circulate freely in the room.

What Is The Difference Between Class AB And Class D Amplifiers?

In reality, Class AB amplifiers will be heavier than Class D amplifiers, and they typically run warmer and aren’t as efficient as such. On the other hand, Class D amplifiers are super-efficient. They pull less current, and they run much more relaxed than Class AB amplifiers. It is worth mentioning also that they are typically much smaller.

What Class Amp Is Best For Mids And Highs?

Going by the reviews and performance, an excellent choice for mids and highs, the P400X4 is a perfect choice for your money. It’s a CEA-2006 compliant rated amp leaving you with certainty concerning the honest specs and that the amp will deliver as promised. The signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) at the rated power output is fantastic, at 105 dB. 

Summing Up

You have all the details you need to prevent the differences between Class AB and Class D amplifiers from hindering you from making informed entertainment decisions. As we’ve seen, Class D guarantees you the best possible efficiency and is lightweight but comes with a few cons. AB is relatively efficient and is affordable but might not serve some audiophiles. We trust you are ready to use these details to choose the best amplifier and transform your listening and watching experience.