In our testing laboratory we got familiarized with the American amplifier from the record breaker category of the year 2007 in the dBDrag class, the top representative of the M Series — DigitalDesigns M3. Frankly speaking we had put high hopes on this amplifier after reading the cheerful reviews at the overseas websites. So heavily equipped we took on the task.
First about the specifications presented by the manufacturer at the ddaudio.com
Now about the package contents — black box with red inscription 'DigitalDesigns' on it. Inside the first there was one more box. That was good, taking in consideration the long transportation. Besides the amplifier itself the box contained the remote control unit with clipping display and a cable, along with user manual and couple of hex-nut wrenches. Everything was rather usual and unpretentious. The same can be said about the amplifier itself, which turned out to be anything but big or heavy, and at first that was a disappointment.
By the appearance it reminded me my favorite Armada from Oris Electronics — completely identical layout of the elements and indicators, which, in its turn, already became the standard. On the one side there are power connectors for 0 AWG and connectors for subwoofers (2 for each plus and minus), for 8 AWG conductor and for the remote. On the other side there is audio output for two RCA cables, level control device, low-pass filter, adjustable subsonic, the "master/slave" switch with RCA jack and the jack for the remote bass control, which will be discussed later. The device exemplar we had received was produced in Korea.
So, on the outside everything is standard and perfectly clear. Taking off the bottom cover fixed with 8 screws, we see: on the first glance noticeable two 8 AWG cables that are strung from the output stage to the jacks. Length of the cables is adequate, without stinginess. Talking about the hardware components - everything is also in good order: both condensers and transistors are not of the low-priced, coils are carefully coiled and varnished, transistors attached to the heatsink using plenty of thermal gel. Well-soldered jumpers in the power module had satisfied me as well. In all, the quality of soldering of the hardware components is decent. There's no doubt about it, expected result when you pay 1400$ for the amplifier.
Passing from words to deeds. Fingers itch to test the device in a good load. The testing method: failing the adequate test bench we decided to test the amplifier in its natural conditions - at the trunk of a car. We powered the amplifier from the Mazda 3 car accumulator through two 4 AWG cables separately for plus and minus. We had decided to support the amplifier by the generator of the started car, while measuring. Alongside with the amplifier two 12 inch Vibe subwoofers closed in the bass-reflex enclosure were connected through 8 AWG wires to the 2 Ohm and 0.5 Ohm. As the signal source we used the Pioneer AVH-P6800DVD car audio, which reproduced the dB Drug Jams CD, with recorded sinusoidal signals from 20 to 80Hz. The measuring instruments used were the clamp meter and voltmeter. Clamp meter was fastened on one of the wires, connected to the woofer, and the voltmeter took the readings from the clamps at the Vibe sockets. Below the results of the measurings of the amplifier output power are presented. (Numbers are rounded-off).
Let us recall, that according to DigitalDesigns the nominal output power for 4 Ohm load is 600W. We had 1000W - not bad! But when the total resistance goes down, we can see that the results falls, at that, below the declared value. Matter is that, the voltage of the car embedded network fell down to 9V during measuring, but the amplifier continued operating, without changes. For measuring the low values of total resistance the amplifier had the load of 0.5 Ohm, but the music remain clear and qualitative, without flooding. Only now and then the automatic power connection with nominal 150A switched on, but that could be expected. Certainly, at the stabilized power (even if it is not 14V, but 12V) and with low-resistance load the amplifier will deliver the result declared by manufacturer and even go beyond it. I wonder, how would perform two DigitalDesigns M3 amplifiers, connected into the bridge. I reckon, the result would be even more interesting. And now about the sound. The power of the monoblock was surprising, but what about the quality of the output signal? Frankly speaking, we were thrilled by the work of the engineers of DigitalDesigns - irrespective of the load of the amplifier the sound preserved its lucidity, energy and even some kind of sharpness. There were no noises or overloads detected. Having tested it for about a week, I had appreciated according to merit the high power and good sound quality. The useful gadget from DD also should be mentioned - the remote bass control with clip indication. Though it may be too sensitive, because it lights up even with the small signal distortion. But if speaking of setting powerful and qualitative bass channel, current device definitely will be very useful. And indeed, it is always interesting to know at what level the bash about the loudspeakers begins.
Undoubtedly, current amplifier showed outstanding ability for the device of its class. Altogether the impression was positive. All packaging arrangement, quality of assemblage, hardware components and power characteristics were equal to the occasion. But it has to be mentioned, that this device is meant not for the ordinary systems but for systems with low load, exactly in such modes the DigitalDesign M3 performs hundred-per-cent. So if you are not maniac SPL-lover owning the subwoofer with four 4 Ohm resistors and if you don't have a perfectly planned power supply system with high-precision AGM accumulators, then you'd better to draw your attention to the models of the other manufacturers in the lower price range, because in the case with DigitalDesigns price leaves much to be desired.