THX AAA is one of the most highly touted, yet simultaneously most mysterious technologies out there. So…what is it exactly?
Despite all those confusing letters, THX AAA simply stands for Achromatic Audio Amplifier, which is a product developed by the company THX.
THX is an iconic audiovisual company that got its start ensuring high fidelity reproduction for Star Wars Return of the Jedi. They do not make direct to consumer products, but are rather a business to business company that does research and development and certifies third-party amps. Their AAA technology is an in house developed solution to the problem of low-efficiency audio signal boosting.
Achromatic is a word that means “without color,” and this tells you most of what you need to know about the technology. The goal of THX AAA is to provide an amp system that boosts signal and loudness with maximum transparency – that is without adding any kind of extra tuning frequency sweetening.
The development of this stemmed from THX searching for a way to improve upon the many benefits of what are known as Class A amplifiers, while doing away with some of the drawbacks. Class A amplifiers provide an excellent combination of high-quality sound with low amounts of distortion, but they require a ton of power and generate high heat. The required power transformers and heat dissipaters mean that these units are often very big and impractical.
To solve this, THX took the counterintuitive step of instead looking toward the technology utilized in less pristine Class B type amplifiers. While Class A amplifiers are capable of processing a signal’s entire waveform, Class B amplifiers essentially split the signal into two pieces in order to process them separately and then stitch them back together. This imperfect reconstruction process leads to small amounts of distortion. Despite this shortcoming, however, the process is more efficient, which allows for using up less power and generating less heat.
THX sought to combine the best of both worlds by marrying the technological efficiency of Class B amplifiers to the immaculate quality of Class A amps. This is accomplished through something called Feed Forward technology.
Essentially, this technology takes the distortion created by the more efficient type B process and inverts it, which thus cancels out and eliminates the distortion. As a result, you get a much louder and more powerful audio signal that retains its clarity and integrity.
Amps that utilize this technology – such as the Benchmark AHB2 – will stay within a fraction of their low-level distortion within up to 1db of their maximum output. THX claims distortion is about 100 times lower than that of comparable units that do not use the AAA process, leading to a much larger and more favorable sound to noise ratio. THX even claims they had to restructure their measurement protocol due to how low the amounts of distortion were in their trials.
The aim according to THX is to provide a clear and transparent window to the music, allowing for amps that don’t draw attention to themselves – only to the sound.
While the technology is not as yet extremely widespread, it provides an exciting frontier of extremely innovative and high performance that can be sold and bought at a relatively low and affordable price. Audiophiles – keep your eyes peeled.