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All amplifiers sound alike.........


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255 replies to this topic

#1 of 256 RobWil

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Posted April 11 2003 - 11:58 AM

Many of you have probably seen this already, but maybe you haven't. This guy says there's no difference. Comments???
http://www.masterson...io/20020901.htm

I'm new to separates but there are different types of amp designs as well as quality of components. How can they make such a blanket statement?
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#2 of 256 Brett DiMichele

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Posted April 11 2003 - 01:33 PM

If you can not hear the difference between Tube and SS.
there has to be something wrong with your hearing. I am
one of the biggest NaySayers when it comes to exotic
cabling but with amps there are NUMEROUS measureable reasons
that one amp would perform better and sound better than
another amp.

If it's backed up by science I believe it.. What this guy
says IMHO is hogwash.
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#3 of 256 BrianJ>Y

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Posted April 11 2003 - 01:54 PM

I've always wondered why there haven't been real test measurements to see if amps sound different...The way I see it, just switch some amps around with everything else in place and measure the sound levels for a bunch of frequencies? Or am I stupid to think this?

-Brian

#4 of 256 Kevin Alexander

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Posted April 11 2003 - 02:18 PM

It's been my experience that all amps sound the same at low to medium levels, but once you start cranking them to loud, earsplitting levels, the different sound characteristics start to manifest themselves.
"What does God want with a Starship?" - Captain Kirk from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier.

"For the first few minutes of the film, I had accidently listened to the Dolby Digital track." - Ron Epstein (HTF)

#5 of 256 RobWil

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Posted April 11 2003 - 02:41 PM

What he failed to mention is which amp was paired with what other amp...did everyone get a chance to listen to all 6 amps?....was the $200 "cheapo" ever paired with the $12000 pair of monoblocks? What type of music and at what volume and what type of speakers?
He admitted that half the listeners were "skeptics". It seems neutral listeners would have made a better test.
This guy left out way to many details to make such ridiculous claims and expect people to buy it.
that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

#6 of 256 Kevin C Brown

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Posted April 11 2003 - 05:28 PM

I kind of agree with Kevin (!).

I don't think amps really differentiate themselves unless you're at loud volumes, big rooms, and/or with difficult to drive loads (low impedance, inefficient speakers).

Crappy amps are crappy amps, but above a certain threshold in quality/price, I don't think there are a lot of differences, except when it comes to the above.

But there are other intangibles too: reliability, build quality, what it looks like, (thermal) protection, etc.
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#7 of 256 Brett DiMichele

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Posted April 12 2003 - 02:42 AM

Listen to this quote from Mr.Masters..

"By the same token, video purists are adamant that movies should always be watched in their widescreen versions because that's the way the director framed his shots, and he has a right to have you see them that way. No matter that the images are often much easier to see in the conventional 4:3 aspect ratio of most television sets; the artistic intent is what matters.

Fortunately, we don't have to agree. Most movies look just fine in their pan-and-scan versions, and any good speaker should be able to handle both good music reproduction and the soundtracks of movies without doing violence to a director's artistic integrity."

Hmm.. Pan&Scan.... Oooookay!
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#8 of 256 Jack Briggs

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Posted April 12 2003 - 05:38 AM

Regardless of the linked site and its author's claims, for tests to be valid different amplifiers need to be matched in terms of power output and distortion and listening levels. Of course a more powerful amplifier will "sound" different from a less powerful one due to the ease with which it can handle difficult loads (in terms of signal sources as well as speaker type).

That's objective, measurement-oriented testing.

What is disputed, however, are the alleged sonic "qualities" of various amplifiers and preamplifiers, as often expressed in the pseudo-mystical terms and phrases popularized by the "high-end" audio press ("liquid midranges," "front-to-back depth," "imaging," "graininess," etc., etc.).

Those types of claims have never been proven beyond the level of sheer chance. If someone wants to hear certain sonic characteristics, he or she can convince him or herself such things are being "heard."

This issue has been debated for decades.

One of the more interesting changes in philosophy in the audio press has been The Audio Critic's editor, Peter Aczel. When his magazine first appeared in the spring of 1977, Aczel was as golden ear-oriented as Harry Pearson. Somewhere along the way, however, Aczel got honest with himself. Now he is as measurements-oriented as Stereo Review (now Sound & Vision) ever was.

#9 of 256 Jerry Parker

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Posted April 12 2003 - 06:00 AM

I for the most part agree with that article. I have never in my experience been able to distinguish two properly designed amplifiers working in their linear ranges.

What does become the problem is when you push the amp, and turn it up, then there can start to be differences.

But why more people don't buy huge prosound amplifiers like the Crown K2 beats me. I mean with over 700 watts per channel, you will probably never run into clipping! Posted Image

#10 of 256 RichardHOS

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Posted April 12 2003 - 06:08 AM

Stereophile, who is well known for supporting the "everything sounds different" ideology, set up a test a decade or more ago in which listeners in an audience were asked to try and identify two rather different amplifiers.

Even with Stereophile going out of their way to bias the test results in their favor, they only found something like a 3% difference from random guessing. This coming from a group that would have liked nothing better than for every person in the audience to "get it right."

I don't think the test was set up well, or the results interpreted properly, but it's still very powerful evidence that, if amplifiers do sound different, those differences are not nearly as obvious as many audiophiles claim.

#11 of 256 Mark Davenport

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Posted April 12 2003 - 06:11 AM

There is a certain segment of the audio population that literally believes there is no differences in "any" audio component and that perceived differences all exist because of the visual bias of each unit.

Like a more expensive shiny product will always sound better then a cheaper product because you think it's better. These people base their claims on ABX testing which is a cult onto itself. I'd stay far away from them if you ever want to enjoy audio in your life.

#12 of 256 Michael R Price

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Posted April 12 2003 - 06:40 AM

If I get a new amplifier and it sounds better to me, isn't it then worth the cost, even if the difference is *entirely* fabricated in my mind?

BTW, the distortion of an electronic component is not just from its THD and frequency response...

#13 of 256 Chu Gai

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Posted April 12 2003 - 09:57 AM

I don't see it as you do Mark as the postion you're taking is largely an appeal to emotion and not to critical reasoning or analysis. That most certainly doesn't work to advance the hobby or to advance knowledge and understanding. When you state
Quote:
There is a certain segment of the audio population that literally believes there is no differences in "any" audio component and that perceived differences all exist because of the visual bias of each unit.
you are generalizing certainly beyond the scope of this particular topic. Moreover, my interpretation of the above statement is that you're treating it as a belief. Beliefs are grounded in hope, trust, and wishful thinking. It's not. It's a conclusion that's based upon careful and numerous studies, a summation that was presented in part by the Masters on Audio in the intial post.
Those who have experienced or participated in such blind level matched evaluations generally fall into three camps.
1) They come to understand and after some period of time accept the results.
2) They accept the results, but time passes and they go gradually relapse into the subjective camp.
3) They outright deny the results of the tests.

ABX is not a cult. It allows you, the listener to choose when to switch between components at the time of your choosing. It allows you the ability to do what audiophiles typically state...let your ears decide.

An understanding of what's going on with respect to the 'amps sound the same' allows you to make better informed purchacing decisions. It allows those of us with budgets to apportion expenditures more intelligently. If you've a budget of say $5000 for a pair of speakers and an amp, you can direct a greater percentage of your monies towards speakers, perhaps getting the ones you really want. It doesn't mean that you'll always buy the least expensive. You may well have certain preferences...perhaps for a design topology, appearance, size, flexibility, reputation, warranty, etc. At least you don't have to get snowed.

I take it that it's understood that does not mean that all amps work equally well in all circumstances. After all, planars and electrostatics have a pronounced drop in impedance at higher frequencies often going sub-2 ohms. One would direct their search then to amps with performance specifications that addressed this. This may direct you to amps you might not have considered...QSC for example. However if you've got a thing against them, there's other choices.

Constantly chasing illusions, moving from one 300 w/channel amp to another is not my idea of enjoying audio. That rather rings of constantly second-guessing oneself and one's choices.

As to Mr. Price's opening comment...
Quote:
If I get a new amplifier and it sounds better to me, isn't it then worth the cost, even if the difference is *entirely* fabricated in my mind?
all I can say is that fabrication will be short lived. Why not just simply choose an amp that actually meets what you're trying to achieve? Or perhaps your attentions need to be directed elsewhere. Some amps do have subtle frequency response variations, sometimes in the critical 1-5 kHz region. This can result in a minor audible difference but likely moving around your furniture will have a far greater effect on the FR to your ears. I wouldn't call that distortion...a slight inaccuracy sounds more appropriate. If you've got other distortions that you feel deserve attention, then they need to be correlated to whether they're audible.

As Brett, who has recently purchased his ASL's tubes noted, they sound different from whatever he's presently using. Two reasons come to mind....3% distortion @ 20 watts (even ordered primarily) and the tendency of the amp to follow the impedance curves of his speakers.

Times coming and digital type amp are making inroads. As their switching frequencies become higher, they'll behave better and better and it won't surprise me in the least if you'll be buying a 5.1 or better soundcard that can put out 200 watts/channel for peanuts. It may well also be indistiguishable audibly from some other amp. After all, in one instance, the owner of a Pass was unable to distinguish it from a Yamaha integrated. That was in his system with his music at his house. Chilling isn't it.

#14 of 256 RobWil

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Posted April 12 2003 - 07:09 PM

OK... so if all amps sound the same it must be the preamps that make receivers sound so different and there must be a huge difference in preamps from receiver to receiver because , even though I'm not into separates I HAVE auditioned many receivers and they definitely don't all sound alike. In fact they sound vastly different.
that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!

#15 of 256 Brett DiMichele

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Posted April 12 2003 - 08:45 PM

Chu,

To even go further with the sounds different idea and tubes
vs. solid state as far as sound goes. We already know that
most tube amps impart far more even ordered distorsion even
when in pure class A (my ASL's are 0.7% at 1 watt and 3% at
20 watts) some may be lower ($2500.00 + units) but there
are as you mentioned other factors also like impedance
riding and even microphonics can play a part in the sound
output of a tube amp.

I believe that to really and honestly test 2 or 3 or 6 or
whatever number of solid state amps head to head they
should be:

#1: All the same topologies
#2: Same Power Output
#3: Level Matched

I think once those 3 criteria are met, then yes it does
become hard if no impossible to hear any difference because
in effect they are 3 of the same amps and it doubtful that
better "brand" caps will make a difference or something
along those lines.
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#16 of 256 Kevin C Brown

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Posted April 12 2003 - 10:31 PM

Rob- If you look around for measurements, most receivers are underpowered. Sony and Yamaha come specifically to mind, so you might be in the non-linear region of output when you notice large differences between them. Plus, DPS processing plays a role as well, depending on the mode you're in...
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#17 of 256 Chu Gai

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Posted April 13 2003 - 12:17 AM

Well let's say Brett, that we're going to look at most typical solid state amps or receivers that meet at least what I consider criteria for reproduction: flat FR, inaudible noise levels, stable into the loads they're driving. What's really being said is that it doesn't matter what the topology is. Mosfet, toroidal, AB, '0' negative feedback...you can't audibly hear a difference once the output levels are matched and you close your eyes. Even if the power outputs are widely different, what we're doing is choosing the less capable one if you will and having the high power one brought down to it's level. What's being tested is not the inability of the lower powered one to drive a set of large inefficient speakers in a cavernous room. What's being tested are those various things that Mr. Briggs so eloquently wrote about.
Kevin is quite correct when he mentions processing as leading to audible differences between amps but that's an issue apart from the claims that are being made either by the manufacturers of higher end products and apart from the claims the reviewers are making.
There are some amps who espouse stuff like we have absolutely no negative feedback and charge a pretty high price and get spectacular reviews. Now it just happens that for some of them, their distortions, which they poo poo, are around 1% or so and magically just happen to be even ordered. I certainly can envision that they're sounding ever so slightly different but it's not because of some spectacular construction and design technique...they've just allowed a wee bit of ever so slightly audible distortion creep in.
RobWil: I've no idea what it was or how it was that you were auditioning receivers or what your criteria were. If you're looking at specific feature sets, decoding abilities, then that's something else. Most of us who purchase a receiver are looking to meet a variety of needs all wrapped up into one unit. Receivers vary as far as their outputs, inputs, switching capabilites, remote friendliness, power capabilities, stability into low impedance sources, etc. Hey you wind up buying speakers that're 4 ohms and you examine their curves and find that they've got some impedance drops hovering around 2 ohm and to top it off their somewhat inefficient and you've stuck them in a large room and want encompassing sound volumes, all I can say is wtf did you choose a a 65 watt/channel one that doesn't have performance criteria specified into the load you're driving. All one's done is bought a porche and expected it to pull a 5000 lb boat. Shoulda gotten a Cummins turbo diesel with some torque behind it, huh?
Lastly, when audible differences are likely to be of a subtle nature at best, then long term listening is totally useless as an approach to discern those differences. Bias and the simple fact that human hearing is lossy are two factors among several that render that approach not a good one to take.

#18 of 256 CurtisC

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Posted April 13 2003 - 01:27 AM

I agree with most of that article but,more watts do make a big difference.I play guitar and I can tell you there is a difference in ss and tube amps as far as guitar goes.The hotter you get the tubes(cranked up)the better they sound,tubes respond to load different than ss.

#19 of 256 Chu Gai

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Posted April 13 2003 - 05:51 AM

sure they do but it's not a mystery and these days with the sophisticated electronic processors that are out there in the pro audio field you can just about model any guitar/amp/processed sound you happen to like. my kid's got this Behringer box for his electric guitar and i tell you, he comes damn close to getting that sound that David Gilmour gets on 'Shine on You Crazy Diamond'...not bad for something under $200.
when in doubt, get more clean watts makes a hell of a lot more sense than going from 50-80 watts. push the envelope because if anything, that amp will play even cleaner if that's possible when only pushing a few. take the money you save and toss it into getting better speakers, working on your room, then start listening to the music instead of trying to listen to nuances that 'might' only show up using test tones and headphones.

#20 of 256 RobWil

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Posted April 13 2003 - 06:24 AM

Since listening to music in stereo is my first priority the receivers that I've auditioned were compared in this area using the same cdplayer , sub and speakers (96db sensitivity so easy to drive). I'm not in the high-price segment BTW :b although my listening tastes certainly are. I do not listen to processed modes unless the recording sucks.
Recently I had in my home, all at the same time, (sorry Circuit City!)the following:
Kenwood 6050 100x5 into 8ohms, 20Hz-20kHz, .09%THD
HK AVR320 55x5 8ohms, 20-20000, .07% THD
HK AVR520 75x5 8ohms, 20-20000, .07% THD
Onkyo TX-DS797 100x6 8ohms, 20-20000, .08 THD
HK AVR25 (the one I'm replacing) 75x2, etc,etc, .09% THD

The Kenwood lacked any kind of detail or imaging whatsover...the sound was very directional...lots of midrange, muddled bass, no distinguishable highs and seemed very underpowered considering it's rating.
The HK AVR320 and 520 had very bright and distinguishable highs, very good imaging, and tighter bass. Powerwise both seemed to be about equal to the Kenwood.
The Onkyo was very similar to the HK's and had equal imaging and detail, tight bass, but less harsh sounding highs. Definitely more power. I liked it the best, by far, and kept it.
I had always thought I liked the sound of my old HK AVR25 but it sounded terrible in comparison to the newer HK's and the Onkyo..kind of "scratchy" and irritating, not clean or smooth at all, but certainly more detailed than the Kenwood.
Before I purchased the old HK AVR25 I had compared it to Yamaha and Denon. At the time I had a little 50wpc Yamaha, which was pretty decent for movies, but sucked for music. Great imaging and detailed highs but no bass or punch even in the mids. A very 'soft' sound. I figured it was the power so I brought home a 100wpc Yamaha with similar results. The Denon was nice but it was around $900 and I really could not justify it at that time. Lots of punch, nice and smooth, but detailed highs...similar to my new Onkyo.
You would have thought that the three HK's would sound pratically identical.
Why did the Kenwood sound so radically different?
How come the Yamaha's have no low end punch and sound so 'airy'?
I realize I ended up picking the one with the most power so that's what some will attribute it to, but the Kenwood and the Yamaha also had 100wpc and there's only 25wpc difference between the HK 520/AVR 25 and the Onkyo. And yes, I know about the 'high-current' designs, etc. Plus I compensated for this by adjusting the volume levels.
I switched these machines out many times to the point of mental exhaustion and I went in with no preconceived notions. Actually I had really wanted to like the Kenwood because of it's $250 price (and to please the wife!) and I actually did get one (open-box $209!) for my 2nd movie-only system. So if it isn't the amps that create the difference it must be the way the signal is 'processed' through the pre-amp section. Isn't that all that's left?
that's my story and I'm stickin' to it!





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