New Device Said To Enable True End-To-End Digital Products

The Comdex trade show, taking place this week in Las Vegas, is flushing out scores of convergence consumer electronics products, in addition to the more traditional computer fare. Apogee Technology, formerly Apogee Acoustics, a name familiar to many Stereophile readers, is among the dozens of companies announcing technology for the modern consumer electronics marketplace.

Most audiophiles will remember the company for its exotic-looking ribbon loudspeakers, which held listeners' attention for roughly ten years, until the company folded the line in 1995. Recently, fans of the company's products have formed user groups for those interested in learning more about and maintaining Apogee loudspeakers.

Since 1995, the company says, it has focused exclusively on digital amplifier technology, initially developing a "high-efficiency amplifier architecture using an analog architecture." Apogee then developed, and patented in 1997, a completely digital amplifier design, which the company trademarked as Direct Digital Amplification (DDX) and presented at last year's Comdex.

For this year's Comdex, Apogee is announcing the availability of the DDX-2000 Controller device, which the company says enables audio manufacturers to produce all-digital amplifier products using Apogee's DDX approach. This device, which Apogee says eliminates the need for a DAC, will be beneficial for many products, including A/V amplifiers, digital powered speakers, and MP3 playback systems.

Apogee explains that "existing digital audio products use analog amplifiers to amplify analog signals produced by a digital audio converter, or a DAC. The problem with this approach is that the digital signals require conversion and analog amplifiers waste most of their power as heat. This lack of efficiency translates to higher power supply costs and increased product size, due to the need for large heatsinks to dissipate the amplifiers' wasted power." The company claims that DDX eliminates the DAC by integrating its function, along with that of the power amplifier control, into a fully digital process, or "Controller." Apogee says the Controller converts audio data into digital signals that directly control high-efficiency power transistors. "This approach eliminates analog noise problems and increases power efficiency by a factor of three compared with traditional analog audio designs," claims the company.

Apogee's David Meyers says that "with the development of multi-channel home theater audio and the proliferation of digital audio recording and transmission standards, electronics manufacturers are driven towards all-digital high-efficiency amplifier designs. The DDX-2000 meets this technical and marketing challenge by enabling 100% digital sound reproduction while at the same time reducing amplifier size and power supply cost."

According to the company, the DDX-2000 is the first in a series of DDX semiconductor products. It includes two channels of DDX processing, digital volume/gain control, automatic mute, and specialized processing to reduce distortion associated with signal clipping. Apogee says that the device can be combined with discrete power circuitry to produce an all-digital amplifier that can provide over 100 watts of audio power at very high efficiency. For lower power applications, Apogee plans to offer a companion 30Wpc integrated power device. The company claims it has completed engineering samples of the DDX-2000 and plans to ship production quantities in December.