Friday, March 4, 2011

The New Old School- Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 Amplifier Review

Back in the day, my 1st car stereo was run entirely off of just a Rockford Fosgate Punch 75HD. It was a 2 channel amp that not only did I load it up with multiple coaxials, but I also had it bridged in tri-mode, running a 12" subwoofer. I really cranked up and abused that amp. And it took the punishment and ran all day long. It was a pretty bullet-proof amp, and had good sound quality. It was a stereo 2-ohm stable amp, but it could handle more then that.

Today, many mono sub amps will claim they are 1 ohm stable. I have used some however that have claimed to be 1 ohm stable, but either could not handle it for very long, or not even handle it at all. Back in the day, some of the old school amps were rated at 1 ohm, but could handle more, such as 1/2 ohm. These were from big name manufacturers like Rockford Fosgate, PPI, and Orion, to name a few. Some would say that they just don't make amps like they used to. Vibe Audio tends to think otherwise and appears to be bringing back some of that old school toughness. Up for review is the Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 amp.

The Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 amp is part of their top of the line BlackDeath series. It is the sub amp in that series, and it is a beast of an amp that will put out a max 5,000 watts. I have had the wonderful opportunity to work with Vibe Audio before. So at CES this past January, I had to see what other products they had. The BlackDeath Bass 1 grabbed my eye. So I started talking to a representative from Vibe Audio. I was highly interested in doing a review on it, and put it thru the paces. I inquired with the representative a bit about the amp. They claimed it was 1 ohm stable. So, I asked the questions. According to the rep, not only can it be pounded at 1 ohm all day long, it can even handle a 1/2 ohm load. So it sounded like I found what I was looking for - the new old school.

The Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 also has some great features and specs. They include:

BlackDeath Series Monoblock Class G/H Car Amplifier
RMS Power Rating:
4 ohms: 750 watts x 1 chan.
2 ohms: 1400 watts x 1 chan.
1 ohm: 2500 watts x 1 chan.
Max power output: 5000 watts
Class GH power supply provides superior sound quality of a class A/B with the efficiency of a class D
Designed without compromise for superior audiophile sound quality
Wired remote bass level control included
LED power (green) and protect (red) indicators
Variable Bass Boost (0 to +15 dB bass boost at 30-125 Hz)
Soft Start Turn-on
Auto sense circuit senses the IC of a factory headunit allowing the amplifier to turn off and on without a remote turn on wire
Remote turn on terminal, when not used becomes a switched 12V output for other devices
Mono channel operation
Speaker-level inputs with signal sensing for automatic turn-on
Preamp RCA outputs to daisy chain multiple amps
Microprocessor controlled protection circuitry
Internal convection cooling (ICC) technology mounts cooling fins inside the chassis for a more contemporary design
Heavy duty aluminum alloy piano black heatsink for extreme heat dissipation
Gold-plated RCA level inputs
Gold-plated screw terminals
Input impedance:
Level: 17K
Input sensitivity: 0.6-8V
Low level: 200mV-5V
Variable low-pass filter (40-250 Hz, 24 dB/octave Linkwitz-Riley)
Subsonic filter (24 dB at 16-60 Hz)
Frequency response: 10-500 Hz
Phase switch: 0-180 deg;
Dimensions: 20-1/2"L x 8-13/16"W x 2-3/4"H

I really like the features and design of the Vibe/Audio BlackDeath Bass 1. Thanks to the Class GH design, it has the best of both worlds. It has the efficiency of the class D so it is not taxing on your vehicles electrical system. Not only that, it also has the sound quality similar to the Class AB. All of this comes in a really small footprint when compared to the power it puts out. And if it isn't enough power for you, there is also the option of daisy chaining more of them together. The red LED that lights up behind the skull is a cool touch.

There are plenty of user adjustments available. With speaker level inputs, the BlackDeath Bass 1 can be used with a factory system. There are also adjustments for phase, gain, bass boost, bass boost frequency, subsonic frequency, and crossover frequency. You can boost the bass up to 15db at frequency of 30Hz up to 125Hz. The crossover frequency is adjustable from 40Hz to 250Hz. The subsonic frequency is also adjustable from 16Hz to 60Hz, so frequencies below what your subwoofer can handle will not damage your subwoofer. The included remote makes it easy to adjust the level of boost from your driver's seat.

The quality of the construction is also very good. The BlackDeath Bass 1 was packaged well. I really liked the packaging, with the black skulls embossed on the black box. It looks really cool, and helps carry the theme. The gloss black aluminum cover gives it an elegant look. All of the connections and controls have a solid feel. A black microfiber bag keeps the amp protected. And the guys at Vibe Audio even include rubber spacers to protect the finish from the mounting screws. They also included a certificate to show that it passed inspection and meets specs. The quality is top notch, and they seemed to have thought of everything. The only thing I would have liked to have seen is a certificate that also showed the consumer the actual output watts at the different loads. It is nice to see that it passed quality control, and meets the published specs for output. It just would have been a cool touch for consumers to see actual output.

All of the features and quality came together in a great sounding package. The BlackDeath Bass 1 performed amazingly well. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Having experienced Vibe Audio performance with previous product reviews, I have come to expect this quality and performance from Vibe Audio, but the BlackDeath Bass 1 exceeded my expectations. I anticipated a brute of an amp that also sounded good. What I heard was a true beast of an amp with the voice of an opera singer! The BlackDeath Bass 1 performance was nothing short of stellar. The subs powered by it played deep, loud, and were extremely responsive! The motor structure of the subs were well controlled, and quick bass beats were nailed right on with exactness! I threw an arsenal of music at it, and the BlackDeath Bass 1 played the subs loud, and when asked it played even louder without even a hiccup. Not only did the amp play with a lot of authority, it had a lot of reserves. I have heard amps play loud but also sound thin, like it was taping all it had and was maxed out. Maybe a good analogy would be a car engine with lots of horsepower, but little torque. Here the BlackDeath Bass 1 played like a race car engine with huge horsepower and massive amounts of torque. When I thought the amp should have been stressed, it's cooling worked well. I was expecting the amp to be getting hot. While it was warm, it was not hot. It was also performing highly efficiently. Thanks to the Class GH topology, the sound quality was excellent with great definition, and extension below 20Hz. And sparked with curiosity, I had to test if it really could handle a 1/2 ohm load. Folks, I would not try this at home. I'm sure running it at 1/2 ohm load would void your warranty. With that said, the BlackDeath Bass 1 that I was provided appeared to work well at 1/2 ohm, and did not miss a beat!

Vibe Audio makes a great product. As part of their top of the line BlackDeath series, the BlackDeath Bass 1 is their subwoofer amp of the BlackDeath series, and it does not disappoint. If you like a lot of bass, and overkill is not enough for you, the Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 is a must listen. You will be disappointed if you don't. It was named well! Back in my high school days with my Rockford Fosgate Punch 75HD, I would have given the BlackDeath Bass 1 my highest recommendation. Two thumbs up would not have been enough. I would have given it two thumbs up, and a toe! Today, based on it's stellar features, design, and performance, the Vibe Audio BlackDeath Bass 1 has earned our Editor's Choice Award. Reference gear used included Kenwood Excelon KDC-X991 receiver, Vibe Audio Space 6 3D 3-way components, Alpine Electronics SPX-13PRO 2-way components, two Diamond Audio D6 12" subwoofers, two Massive Audio TW-12 subwoofers, and Vibe Audio LiteBox Stereo 4 amplifier. For more info and complete specs, check out their website at