We report on improvement from 50% to 70% power conversion efficiency on a 5-bar stack with 500 W of CW power at 25C coolant temperature resulting from a multi-pronged optimization approach. We also report on wavelength stabilization (0.07 nm/C) and emission bandwidth narrowing (0.3 nm at FWHM) of diode laser pump sources for precision pumping the upper transition levels of lasers that require narrow and stable pump sources such as Er/Yb co-doped or Yb:YAG lasers. These results have been achieved by integration of a Bragg grating inside a semiconductor laser cavity forming a low-loss, weak distributed feedback (DFB) laser, which results in record 53% wall-plug efficiency at 3 W CW operation and 25°C heatsink temperature from a 100-μm aperture diode laser and 45 W of wavelength-locked CW power from a 20% fill factor bar. This technique can be readily applied to diode laser structures for other strategic pump wavelengths.© (2006) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.