Link: reviewed by James Hale on SoundStage! Xperience on January 1, 2023
All measurements taken using an Audio Precision APx555 B Series analyzer.
The Helm Audio DB12 AAAMP was conditioned for 30 minutes at 2Vrms at the output into 300 ohms before any measurements were taken. All measurements were taken with both channels driven.
The DB12 AAAMP offers one unbalanced input (1/8″ male TRS) and one unbalanced output (1/8″ female TRS). There is a volume control, but it does not control the amplifier gain or provide onboard attenuation; rather, it sends volume control signals to the source device (e.g., smartphone). There is also a Bass+ (Bass Boost) switch. Unless otherwise stated, measurements were made with the Bass+ switch disabled, the DB12 fully charged but unplugged from the USB charging port, with a 2Vrms output into a 300-ohm load.
One noteworthy attribute of the DB12 AAAMP is that if the unit is off (or the battery were to die), signals are passed through at unity gain.
Published specifications vs. our primary measurements
The table below summarizes the measurements published by Helm Audio for the DB12 AAAMP compared directly against our own. The published specifications are sourced from Helm Audio’s website, either directly or from the manual available for download, or a combination thereof. With the exception of frequency response, where the Audio Precision bandwidth is set at its maximum (DC to 1MHz), assume, unless otherwise stated, a 1kHz sine wave, 0.5Vrms input, and 2Vrms output into a 300-ohm load, 10Hz to 90kHz bandwidth, and the worst-case measured result between the left and right channels.
|Bass+||+6dB (60-100Hz)||+6dB (60-100Hz)|
|Frequency response (32 ohms, 20Hz-20kHz)||+0.01/-0.2dB||+0.03/-0.22dB|
|Output power (32 ohms, 0.1% THD)||111mW||153mW|
|Output impedance||<0.4 ohm||0.9 ohm|
|Crosstalk (1kHz, 10k ohms)||-91dB||-95dB|
|Signal-to-noise ratio (300 ohm, A-weighted, 1% THD)||114dB||117.7dB|
|THD (32 ohms, 5 mW)||0.0008%||0.0008%|
|IMD (SMPTE 70Hz+7kHz, 32 ohms)||-80dB||-86dB|
Our primary measurements revealed the following using the balanced line-level inputs (unless otherwise specified, assume a 1kHz sine wave, 0.5Vrms input and 2Vrms output into a 300-ohm load, 10Hz to 90kHz bandwidth):
|Parameter||Left channel||Right channel|
|Crosstalk, one channel driven (10kHz)||-67.8dB||-67.9dB|
|IMD ratio (CCIF, 18kHz + 19kHz stimulus tones, 1:1)||<-111dB||<-111dB|
|IMD ratio (SMPTE, 60Hz + 7kHz stimulus tones, 4:1 )||<-96dB||<-96dB|
|Input impedance||5.3k ohms||5.3k ohms|
|Maximum output voltage (1% THD, 100k ohm load)||2.87Vrms||2.87Vrms|
|Maximum output power into 600 ohms (1% THD)||13.6mW||13.6mW|
|Maximum output power into 300 ohms (1% THD)||27.0mW||27.0mW|
|Maximum output power into 32 ohms (1% THD)||164mW||164mW|
|Noise level (A-weighted)||<4uVrms||<4uVrms|
|Noise level (unweighted)||<13uVrms||<29uVrms|
|Output impedance||0.8 ohm||0.9 ohm|
|Signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted, 1% THD)||117.8dB||117.7dB|
|Signal-to-noise ratio (unweighted, 1% THD)||107.1dB||103.4dB|
In our measured frequency-response plots above, the blue/red traces are with the Bass+ (Bass Boost) function disengaged, while the purple and green represent the responses with the bass-boost engaged. The DB12 is essentially perfectly flat within the audioband, into a 300-ohm load. Worst-case deviations are +/- 0.03dB. The DB12 also appears to be DC coupled, as it is ruler flat down to 5Hz. The DB12 also offers an extended bandwidth, only down about 0.4dB at 80kHz. With Bass Boost engaged, there’s a +5.5 to 6dB bump in the response between 5Hz and 100Hz. In the graph above and most of the graphs below, only a single trace may be visible. This is because the left channel (blue, purple or pink trace) is performing identically to the right channel (red, green or orange trace), and so they perfectly overlap, indicating that the two channels are ideally matched.
Frequency response vs. load
In the frequency-response plots above, the blue/red traces are into a 600-ohm load, purple/green into 300 ohms, and pink/orange into 32 ohms. The 600- and 300-ohm data are essentially identical, but into a 32-ohm load, there is a roll-off a high frequencies: -0.2dB at 20kHz, and nearly -2.5dB at 80kHz. This corroborates Helm Audio’s claim of +0.01/-0.2dB from 20Hz to 20kHz into 32 ohms.
Above is the phase response plot from 20Hz to 20kHz. The DB12 AAAMP does not invert polarity, and yielded a worst-case 40 degrees or so of phase shift at 20kHz.
THD ratio (unweighted) vs. frequency vs. load
The plot above shows THD ratios at the output as a function of frequency (20Hz to 20kHz) for a sine-wave input stimulus and 2Vrms at the output. The blue and red plots are for left and right channels into 600 ohms, purple/green (L/R) are into 300 ohms, and pink/orange (L/R) are into 32 ohms. THD values are very low and almost identical into 600 and 300 ohm loads. These ranged from 0.0003% from 20Hz to 5kHz, them up to 0.0005% at 20kHz. The 32-ohm data yielded higher THD ratios, from 0.0004% from 20Hz to 200Hz, then a steady rise to 0.003% at 10kHz to 20kHz.
THD ratio (unweighted) vs. output power vs. load
The plots above show THD ratios measured at the output of the DB12 as a function of output power for a 1kHz input sine wave. The blue and red plots are for left and right channels into 600 ohms, purple/green (L/R) are into 300 ohms, and pink/orange (L/R) are into 32 ohms. The 600-ohm data yielded THD ratios from 0.0002% at 0.2mW, down to as low as 0.0001% at 1 to 2mW, then up to 0.0005% at the “knee” at about 12mW, then up to the 1% THD mark at 13.6mW. The 300-ohm data yielded THD ratios from 0.0003% at 0.2mW, down to as low as 0.0001% at 2 to 3mW, then up to 0.0005% at the “knee” at about 22mW, then up to the 1% THD mark at 27mW. The 32-ohm data yielded higher and relatively flat THD ratios of about 0.001% from 0.2mW through to the “knee” at about 120mW, then up to the 1% THD mark at 164mW.
THD+N ratio (A-weighted) vs. output power vs. load
The plots above show THD+N ratios (A-weighted), measured at the output of the DB12 as a function of output power for a 1kHz input sine wave. The blue and red plots are for left and right channels into 600 ohms, purple/green (L/R) are into 300 ohms, and pink/orange (L/R) are into 32 ohms. The 600-ohm data yielded THD+N ratios from 0.001% at 0.2mW, down to as low as 0.0003% at 3 to 5mW, then up to 0.0005% at the “knee.” The 300-ohm data yielded THD+N ratios from 0.0015% at 0.2mW, down to as low as 0.0003% at 5 to 10mW, then up to 0.0005% at the “knee.” The 32-ohm data yielded higher THD+N ratios of about 0.005% at 0.2mW, down to as low as 0.001% from 10mW to the “knee.”
FFT spectrum – 1kHz
Shown above is the fast Fourier transform (FFT) for a 1kHz input sine-wave stimulus, measured at the output into a 300-ohm load at 2Vrms (0dBrA). We see that the signal’s second harmonic, at 2kHz, is at around -120dBrA, or 0.0001%, while the third harmonic, at 3 kHz, is higher at -110dBrA, or 0.0003%. Higher-order even harmonics (4/6/8/10kHz) can be seen below the -130dBrA, or 0.00003%, level. On the right side of the signal peak, only a very small peak at the power-supply fundamental (60Hz) can be seen at a vanishingly low -140dBrA, or 0.00001%.
FFT spectrum – 50Hz
Shown above is the FFT for a 50Hz input sine-wave stimulus measured at the output into a 300-ohm load. The X axis is zoomed in from 40Hz to 1kHz, so that peaks from noise artifacts can be directly compared against peaks from the harmonics of the signal. The most predominant non-signal peak is from the signal’s third harmonic (3kHz) at -110dBrA, or 0.0003%. The second signal harmonic (100Hz) is at -130dBrA, or 0.00003%. There are no visible power-supply-related noise peaks.
Intermodulation distortion FFT (18kHz + 19kHz summed stimulus)
Shown above is an FFT of the intermodulation distortion (IMD) products for an 18kHz + 19kHz summed sine-wave stimulus tone measured at the output into a 300-ohm load. The input RMS values are set at -6.02dBrA so that, if summed for a mean frequency of 18.5kHz, would yield 2Vrms (0dBrA) at the output. We find that the second-order-modulation product (i.e., the difference signal of 1kHz) is at -125/-130dBrA (left/right), or 0.00006/0.00003%, while the third-order modulation products, at 17kHz and 20kHz, are just above -120dBrA, or 0.0001%.
Squarewave response (10kHz)
Above is the 10kHz squarewave response at the output into 300 ohms. Due to limitations inherent to the Audio Precision APx555 B Series analyzer, this graph should not be used to infer or extrapolate the DB12’s slew-rate performance. Rather, it should be seen as a qualitative representation of its relatively high bandwidth. An ideal squarewave can be represented as the sum of a sine wave and an infinite series of its odd-order harmonics (e.g., 10kHz + 30kHz + 50kHz + 70kHz . . .). A limited bandwidth will show only the sum of the lower-order harmonics, which may result in noticeable undershoot and/or overshoot, and softening of the edges. The DB12’s reproduction of the 10kHz squarewave is clean, with only mild ringing in the corners.
Electronics Measurement Specialist