Greetings bass head and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…
What is THX AAA Technology In Audio and Video?
THX AAA is a patented amplifier technology designed to deliver high-fidelity audio with low distortion and noise, enhancing the overall sound performance of headphones and audio equipment.
Think of it as a mark or stamp of approval, indicating that the piece of gear in question is certified to perform at a high level.
When audiophiles describe an Amp/DAC or headphone as likely sounding “exactly as the artist intended” they’re sort of indirectly referring to the concept of THX without realizing it.
THX was founded by George Lucas in 1983.
I’ve always seen the “THX” logo at the beginning of various films, but only recently became interested as I sat down to watch Return of the Jedi again.
Lucas wanted to ensure that the soundtrack for Jedi could be reproduced at the highest quality for screening venues, so he asked Tomlison Holman (with whom he was working) to develop a method that would achieve it.
THX is just that, a method of quality assurance, nothing more.
Quality assurance is defined as a method of preventing mistakes and defects in manufactured products and avoiding problems when delivering those products to consumers.
Nowadays, THX encompasses quite a lot more in terms of its reach: Movie theaters, screening rooms, home theaters, computer speakers, gaming consoles, car audio systems, video games, and even headphone amplifiers!
This is in part why I became so curious.
There are quite a number of amps that contain the THX stamp, and because I demo a lot of amps in general, naturally I became curious.
The “TH” represents Tomlinson Holman’s initials, followed by “X” for the eXperiment.
But what about the AAA part?
The Triple-A that you see on Amplifiers stands for Achromatic Audio Amplifier, with Achromatic simply meaning “without color.”
In other words, it’s meant to be as neutral as possible, at the loudest levels possible, without distortion.
To be clear, THX isn’t an audio company producing software or hardware.
It’s not a type of recording technology either.
It’s simply a business-to-business company that certifies amplifiers containing AAA technology.
Any Amp AAA certified must pass strict guidelines before it’s ready for consumption:
- Evaluation and licensing
- Construction and renovation
Interestingly enough, the development of THX AAA stemmed from a desire to improve upon the shortcomings of Class A amplifiers; that is, their propensity to run extremely hot as well as requiring quite a bit of power to function.
The Chord Mojo is a perfect example of a Class A amp that stands out from the rest in terms of its superior sound and low distortion; something I’ve always harped on in articles and videos.
I truly believe it’s just about the best sound you’re going to get out of an Amp/DAC combo at its price point or otherwise, and it being Class A is a huge reason why.
THX also sought to improve Class B amplifiers; that is, their inability to replicate an entire waveform at once without splitting the signal and processing each part separately.
The solution was to combine the best of both worlds – Class A’s superior sound and Class B’s excellent efficiency, into THX via Feed Forward Technology.
So what does this all mean, basil?
A Headphone Amp that utilizes THX technology is going to perform at a high level, with less distortion and a cleaner overall sound; that is something that can’t really be disputed.
- Recommended: How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Definitive Guide]
The question becomes then, is it enough of a difference for you to actually hear in real-time?
As in, if I’m going back and forth between one Amp that utilizes THX vs. one that doesn’t, can I tell?
I personally believe most people won’t be able to tell, no. We’re talking about fractions of a percentage here.
If you believe you can discern those differences, more power to you.
Most of them have extremely low distortion.
Can I tell the difference between a dead neutral Solid State amplifier (i.e. one with extremely low output impedance) that doesn’t have the THX stamp vs. one that does?
No, probably not, and this is another issue I have with Amps & DACS in general.
Few people would try to say they could hear that difference; if there was even one at all.
My advice is that if you do want to run balanced XLR, a THX amp can be a great option.
But you can run balanced 4.4mm with most iFi products as well. It really just depends on what your goals are.
The point is that you don’t necessarily need a THX amp to garner an amazing listening experience. A regular Solid State amp with very low output impedance like the JDS ATOM will do the job just fine.
FiiO’s K7 contains the THX stamp, but is it worth the money?
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this discussion on What is THX AAA? and came away with some valuable insight.
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Is THX technology important to YOU? Have I described it well? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…
All the best and God bless,