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July 2024

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine


World Premiere Review!
Class D Audio Mini GaN 3 Amplifier Review
It is a great amplifier at an amazing price!
Review By Paul Schumann


Class D Audio Mini GaN 3 Amplifier Review


  I am a science teacher by vocation. One of the things I love teaching is the history of the periodic table. In 1871, Dmitri Mendeleev published his first version of his periodic table. One of the key features of his table was the blanks he left for elements that had yet to be discovered. Two of the elements he predicted were eka aluminum and eka silicon. They were in the spaces directly above Al and Si. In 1875, eka aluminum was discovered spectroscopically and isolated by the French chemist Paul-ÉmileLecoq de Boisbaudran. The fact that Mendeleev had predicted it grabbed the attention of chemists worldwide and paved the way for the acceptance of his table. Lecoq named the new element gallium.


My Discovery
Gallium is cool because it will melt in your hand. But an even cooler property of gallium is when it is chemically bonded to nitrogen to make gallium nitride, it can be used to make semiconductors well-suited for high-power transistors. The use of these GaN transistors in high-end audio has gained popularity in just the last few years. Rick Becker reviewed the AGD "The Audion" GaNTube Monoblocks early in 2020, which resulted in a Blue Note Award. Since then, their use has become more widespread. It wasn't until this year's Southwest Audio Fest that I could listen to some GaN amps myself.

One of the rooms I enjoyed visiting was by Van Zyl Audio. I was surprised to see the high-efficiency Van Zyl Alpine Mid-Horns powered by the solid-state Mini GaN 5 amp. I was even more impressed by how good the Mini GaN 5 amp sounded in such a pairing. When I've listened to semiconductor-based amps feeding sensitive speakers, the results have on the whole been disappointing. Most lack that magic first Watt. With the Mini GaN 5 amp, I was hearing something different. I then noticed the $735 price tag and felt a little lightheaded. I knew I had to listen to one of Class D Audio's amps in my living room.



Before I knew it, I was talking to Tom on the phone about his company and products. Class D Audio has been making amplifiers for 15 years. The mission of Class D Audio is to make great-sounding amplifiers that sell at a reasonable price. The great sound is the result of using high-quality parts and using them at their optimal operating points. They can keep prices low because they are a small company that sells directly to customers.

A few years ago, Class D Audio started incorporating the gallium-nitride transistors, and that change took their amps to the next level. It is one of the few companies that designs and manufactures its own amp modules. Almost all the other companies buy amp modules from the same companies and put them in their cases. When I was at SWAF 2024, I listened to the Mini GaN 5, which is a 400 Watt amplifier. It can drive 2 Ohm loads, so it is a good choice for those with hard-to-drive planar-type speakers. Since my system uses high-efficiency speakers, Tom and I decided the 250 Watt Mini GaN 3 would be sufficient.



Good Things Come In Small Packages
I love being a reviewer for Enjoy the Music.com, but there is one aspect I dread: the equipment delivery. Some of this stuff is heavy and comes in crates or big boxes strapped to pallets. Amplifiers can weigh 80 pounds and speakers over 100. As much as I hate to admit it, I'm not the young man I used to be, and wrestling with the hefty stuff has become challenging. So it was refreshing when the Mini GaN 3 arrived in a regular-sized USPS box that I could grab with one hand.

As it turned out, inside that box was a smaller USPS box, and inside that was the actual box for the amp. The Mini GaN 3 is the most diminutive amplifier I've ever had in my system. It measures 9.75" wide, 7.5" deep, 2" tall, and weighs only 5 lbs. Despite its small size, it delivers 150 Watts per channel (Wpc) into an 8 Ohm load and 225 Wpc into a 4 Ohm load.

It also has a bunch of nice features. It provides both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs. The loudspeaker terminals are five-way plated copper speaker binding posts. There is a 12-Volt trigger input to sync it with a preamp. There are even jumpers to adjust the gain: low (26 dB), medium (28 dB), and high (32 dB). The low-gain setting worked the best with the high-efficiency speakers in my system. There is an IEC connection and a provided power cord. A push button in front controls the power and blue ring lights around it when on. The amp is enclosed in a well-ventilated sturdy steel case with a powder-gray finish.

When you turn the Mini GaN 3 on, two red LEDs illuminate on the front panel. They stay on for about three seconds and keep the amp muted. After about three seconds, the red LEDs go off, the mute is disabled and the amp is running. Once stabilized, two blue LEDs come on for each channel. Every part of the Mini GaN 3 exudes quality.


How About Some Impressionism And Jazz?
I'm a big fan of Maurice Ravel's music. As an heir of Debussy, his post-romantic pieces have stood the test of time. Even though I have almost all of his orchestral and piano work on vinyl or CD, I still love to explore other performances on Qobuz. I recently stumbled on Pierre Boulez's album with the Cleveland Orchestra performing Ravel: Shéhérazade, Le Tombeau de Couperin / Debussy: Danses, 3 Ballades de Villon [Deutsche Grammophon – 471 614-2].



On this album, Boulez demonstrates his knack for teasing out the nuances of these great composers' music. The Mini GaN 3 let me hear some of these details for the first time. "Le Tombeau de Couperin" is a lamentation for the friends Ravel lost in the Great War. Listening to the "Prelude of Le Tombeau de Couperin", I felt the bounce that Boulez was going for. In the movement titled "Fourlane", the interaction between the woodwinds and strings seemed extra playful. Thai accentuated by the illusion that the Clevland Orchestra was spread out before me.

The "Menuet" is, in my opinion, one of the most sublime pieces of music ever written. This is from the tension between the carefree melody depicting the happy memories before the war and the death march of the war itself. The last section, Rigaudon, was written in memory of Pierre and Pascal Gaudin. They were brothers and childhood friends of Ravel. This piece bounces back and forth between two wildly different melodies, each representing one of the brothers.

Although melancholy in parts, Ravel finishes with the joy of a carefree boy. As I listened to this amazing performance of a great piece of music, I realized something. I wasn't concerned with the sound of the Mini GaN 3 at all. The Mini GaN 3 was doing such an amazing job, that I forgot it was there. The dynamics were fast and effortless. The tonality of the instruments was spot on. The music just flowed from my system. It was a stunning realization.



Keeping the Ravel mood going, I put on my Mercury Living Presence reissue of Paul Paray and Detroit Symphony performing Rapsodie Espagnole, La Valse, Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte, Alborada Del Gracioso and Escales (Ports Of Call) [Decca – 478 8317]. This album has amazing dynamics and hits you over the head with them on the first track, Rapsodie Espagnole. This piece demonstrated the quickness of the Mini GaN 3. Sometimes amps can harden in their sound when asked to convey such music. Even at higher volumes, the Mini GaN 3 stayed smooth and relaxed. Listening to the section titled Feria, I was impressed at the amount of inner detail the amp brought out even during the most complex passages.

The piece La Valse is driven by the percussion section. All of the instruments in that section, from the tambourine to the bass drum had visceral punch. Listening to the Tunis-Nefta portion of Ibert's Escales, the plucked strings had a heft and body. Listening to this album with the Mini GaN 3 was exhilarating.



To finish my serious listening, I put on Keith Jarret's Solo Concerts: Bremen / Lausanne [ECM-3-1035]. This live recording has a wonderful sound and captures Keith at the height of his powers. On the track "Bremen, Part 1", Keith's piano has the proper incisive tone without ever sounding clangy. The Mini GaN 3 allowed me to hear the variations of inflection as he repeated certain motifs. After a while, I just turned off the reviewer part of my brain and was swept away by the music.


It's Not The Size Of The Amp, But....
When I talked to Tom of Class D Audio, he told me of a prospective buyer who couldn't finalize the purchase because of the size of the amp. I guess he thought it would look better in his system with a bulkier case. Now, I'm not going to accuse someone of compensation issues, but it does seem a bit silly. As you can see in the image included in this review, the Mini GaN 3 is almost the same size as my diminutive Korg Nutube B1 preamplifier.



Despite that, I never stared at it and thought it would sound better if it was bigger. I thought it looked just fine sitting there in my stereo cabinet. Not only did I love the Mini GaN 3's compact nature, but I also appreciated how cool it ran. Even after several hours of operation, the amp was comfortably warm to the touch. The summers get hot here in Austin, so I don't need any extra heat in my living room.


Mendeleev Would Be Impressed
Before now, all of the amps I've reviewed for Enjoy the Music.com have been tube-based. I've listened to a couple of solid-state amps in my system but decided to pass on the reviews because I felt there was a clinicalness in their sound. Class D Audio's Mini GaN 3 amplifier is different. Though the time I had it in my system, I never yearned for something more. The Mini GaN 3 gets so many aspects of music reproduction correct. It's fast and quiet. It gets the tone right.



Furthermore, Class D Audio's Mini GaN 3 amplifier projects a nice soundscape with good imaging. It has a wonderful first Watt, but enough power to drive most speakers. Lastly, the price is right for someone who wants to begin their high-end audio journey. The Mini GaN 3 is an amplifier that delivers the music and is easy on the bank account.





Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)



Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth

Soundscape Extension Into Room


Fit And Finish

Self Noise
Emotionally Engaging

Value For The Money




Type: Solid-state stereo audio amplifier
Type: Two channel power amplifier
Frequency Response: 20 Hz to 20 kHz (+/-0.5dB)
Output Power: 125 Watts per channel @ 8 Ohms (200 Wpc @ 4 Ohms)
Power Supply: Bipolar LLC Resonant Converter
Input Sensitivity: 2 VRMS
Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.006% @ 8 Ohms, 1 kHz / 1 Watt Power
Input Impedance RCA / XLR: 100 kOhm
Voltage Gain: Adjustable – 26dB, 28dB, and 32dB
SNR/DNR: 108 dB (Unweighted), 110 dB (A-weighted)
Dimensions: 9.75″ X 7.5″ X 2″ (WxDxH)
Weight: 5 lbs.
Price: $735




Company Information
Class D Audio
California, USA

E-mail: sales@classdaudio.com 
Website: ClassDAudio.com















































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