24 April 2013
With a rich heritage of proven technologies and innovation, the new KX series of amplifiers from Kicker represents forty years of performance and quality. Through the use of modern Class D technology and a few special innovations of their own, the new KX amps sport a compact chassis with high power density. This time we’re looking at the new five-channel powerhouse, the KX800.5 (in stores now), rated at 100x4 + 400x1 into two ohms, with an MSRP of $549.95 (USD).
The KX series amps are a departure from the typical black amps we have seen from Kicker for years. The KX series are finished in bright, brushed aluminum, with black end caps. The amps have an exceptionally smooth, finished appearance, because the controls are hidden behind a fold-down panel, held in place with hidden magnetic latches. When turned on, a red light pipe illuminates across the top of the amp and it looks great.
All of the hidden controls are found along the length of the front panel, with the wiring connections occupying the space on the rear panel. The amp is mounted with screws at each corner, countersunk into the glass fiber composite end panels.
To tune and adjust the amp output, the controls are divided into three sections: Amp 1 includes gain and a crossover that can be set for either high-pass or low-pass, adjustable from 10 Hz to 5 kHz thanks to a x10 range switch. The Amp 2 section has the same features, but adds separate pots for high-pass and low-pass frequencies, as well as a band pass position on the crossover switch. The high-pass section is adjustable from 10 Hz to 500 Hz, while the low pass section can be set to any frequency between 40 Hz and 5 kHz with another x10 range switch. The subwoofer channel controls include gain, a 10 Hz to 80Hz subsonic filter, a 40 to 160Hz low pass filter and a Kick EQ™ pot for up to 18 dB of boost at 40 Hz. A remote level control is also included to provide level control of the sub channel from the driver seat.
The KX800.5 is a great amp for upgrading your OEM system. Thanks to Kicker’s innovative FIT (Fail-safe Integration Technology) the KX800.5 can be driven by the speaker outputs from your factory system, or regular RCA cables. Additionally, for vehicles without remote-on-wire capability, the KX800.5 can be turned on any one of three ways: the traditional 12 V trigger wire, by sensing DC offset on the speaker outputs of your OEM radio, or by simply sensing musical signal at the inputs. Configuring these convenient features is explained thoroughly in the owner’s manual, which is included with the amp.
The KX800.5 uses top shelf parts and materials throughout, including a double-sided FR4 PCB, OptiMOS™ output devices, NXP TDA8954 amplifiers and fast, high-temperature capacitors.
I connected the amp in my sound room reference system, using a twelve-inch, two ohm woofer in a sealed enclosure and two pairs of four ohm component speakers.
After setting the subwoofer crossover to 80 Hz and leaving the full range channels in all-pass mode, I was ready for some listening. Sitting down to audition the KX800.5 proved a very pleasant experience. With my wide-ranging musical tastes, I could go from 50 Cent to Bach to ZZ Top without any issues or adjustments. Low bass was loud, clean and exhibited great definition, while the amp still maintained smooth and detailed high frequencies, with no harshness or edginess. Female vocals were smooth and harmonies were well defined, with no smearing of the soundstage evident.
The amp had gobs of headroom. At high volumes and when it was pushed hard, the KX800.5 showed no sign of stress or harshness. During several hours of focused listening, the amp sounded very natural and uncolored, regardless of the musical selection. It handled the dynamics, my reference woofer and full range speakers with ease, barely getting warm. This amplifier is exceptionally efficient, not just at high power levels. I noticed the current draw was quite low, even when playing music at fairly loud levels. Throughout several hours of listening, the KX800.5 proved to be a very natural sounding, powerful amplifier. My only complaint is very minor – the red LED light pipe is really bright!
The bench measurements with my trusty Audio Precision backed up what I experienced in my listening session. The five-channel amp tested very well and exceeded all of the specs printed in the owner’s manual. There are certain tests that some multichannel amps struggle with, like efficiency, signal-to-noise and crosstalk – not the Kicker. It not only exceeded the specs, but on these difficult tests, it actually outperformed some two-channel amps I’ve seen.
I mentioned power efficiency earlier, which is simply a measurement of how many watts the amp consumes versus how many it delivers to your speakers. At full power, most Class D amps are in the 80 percent range. The Kicker was too, with a full power efficiency at four ohms of 86.3 percent. But where it shines brightest is at about one-third power, where most of our listening is done. This amp is still almost 70 percent efficient at one-third power!
The design is solid, the layout and build quality is very good, and the amp should be a reliable, good-sounding performer for many years.
It’s probably obvious by now that I really like the Kicker KX800.5. In fact, this amp was impressive enough that it has found its way into one of my own vehicles for a while, and I’ll update you with a long term report later down the road.
It’s very flexible when it comes to installation and system design and it sounds great for a moderately priced amp. If you are looking for a small footprint, high-power, efficient amp, I think you will like it too. Check one out at a Kicker dealer near you.
The following power measurements were obtained using industry standard methods. (1 kHZ @ 1.0% THD+N - Battery voltages shown +/- 0.2 V)
Measured Performance Specifications
Manufacturers Rated Power Actual Measured Power
@ 1.0% THD+N @ 12.6 V Battery Actual Measured Power
@ 1.0% THD+N @ 14.4 V Battery
50x4 + 200x1 @ 4 ohms 57x4 + 186x1 @ 4 ohms 66x4 + 247x1 @ 4 ohms
100x4 + 400x1 @ 2 ohms 92x4 + 338x1 @ 2 ohms 119x4 + 446x1 @ 2 ohms
Signal-to-Noise Ratio referenced to 2 V output
(CEA-2006A) (1 watt @ 4 ohms) -80.6 dBA
Signal-to-Noise Ratio referenced to full output -98.8 dBA
THD+N at rated 4 ohms power Main Sub 0.005%
Maximum Efficiency at full 4 ohms power per ch. 86.3%
Maximum Efficiency at full 2 ohms power per ch. 81.8%
Idle Current 2.2 A
Input Sensitivity 158 mV - 9.6 V
Maximum Current @ full power, lowest rated impedance 78.3 A
Frequency Response (-3 dB) <10 Hz – 23.8 kHz
High Pass Crossover 10 Hz – 5 kHz
Low Pass Crossover 40 Hz – 5 kHz
Subsonic Filter 10 Hz – 80 Hz
Bass EQ boost 0 to +18 dB