Correlation between volume and power

Ricky***C

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Aug 25, 2002
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All things being equal, does more wpc result in better or clearer sound at low volumes (i.e., you can still carry on a conversation). In other words, at the same low volume level, will a 120 wpc receiver sound better than say a 80 or 60 wpc receiver.
 

Eujin

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i.e., you can still carry on a conversation
That's a very interesting question and there was a great little piece in the latest issue of a British magazine called Hi-Fi+ that discussed this. In the piece, the writer said that his personal, subjective and non-scientifically verifiable yardstick for quick evaluations of sound systems was the ability to carry on a normal conversation while music was playing--without losing detail, clarity, etc. in the music. He was speaking very much in generalities, but I don't believe he cited wpc as a factor. If you can find a copy of this mag, I think it's worth a read. Here's their site: http://www.hifiplus.com/
 

Yogi

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Usually with more power comes better current reserves and better control. So if one unit is more powerful then the other then all things cannot be equal. So saying that 'all things being equal will a 120W receiver sound better than an 80W receiver', is an oxymoron. So with all things not being equal, that is one unit having more power output than the other, it will infact sound better than the less powerful unit, even at low volumes.

Hope that answers your question.
 

Bob McElfresh

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I had an old Technics 120 wpc stereo receiver. I hooked it up to my VCR and the results WERE better than the stock TV speakers.

For Christmass, my wife gave me a modern Yamaha receiver. The salesman sold her a RXV-793 with 80 wpc. Bravely, I opened the box being careful to retain the packing so I could return it in a few days for something better. I hooked the unit up, fired up a tape and my jaw dropped. That lowly 80 wpc unit made a huge difference with my old, power-hungry speakers. It started my love of HT and I now own two 793's and a DSP-A1. (And the 793 receivers sound nearly as good as the flagship A1 for movies.)

So trying to compare receivers based on a single number is not a good way to judge.

The more experience members have figured out the mystery. The old 120 wpc receiver had a gross capacity of 2 x 120 = 240 watts. But the new Yamaha was designed with a gross capacity of 5 x 80 = 400 watts. Even though each channel was limited to about 80 watts, the device had power to spare.

So, watts is important, but so is the frequency range, stereo vs 5 channel mode, and very important: what resistance is used to measure that power.

Ex) My 80 wpc receiver should really be defined as: "80 wpc, 20-20,000 hz, all 5 channels driven into 8 ohm, non-inductive loads"


If they used 4 ohm speakers, the power rating would be honestly reported nearer 160 watts per channel. Some manufacturers use 6 or 4 ohm speakers to make the numbers look bigger.
 

MikeBisch

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Sep 19, 2002
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I will share my experience. I brought home a Yamaha RX-V1 for a few weeks with the thought that I would downsize my separates based Hi-Fi system for the new apartment. I have B&W Matrix 803sII speakers and am using a 30 wpc Pass Aleph 3 amp to drive them. To put it bluntly, the Pass SMOKED the Yamaha. There was not one thing I can say the Yamaha did even as good as the Pass. The Yamaha's 110 wpc didn't even seem to be any more powerful than my Pass's 30 wpc. So much for more watts being better! Needless to say that the Yamaha went back to the store! So much for clearing the living room of a stereo rack.
 

jeff lam

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And when you bring Tube amps into the mix with only 7 watts per channel, it's a whole new ballgame. The tube amp will burry nearly any normal 100W/ch receiver.

For the most part, usually a higher end unit will carry more power therefore with built quality and added power should sound better.
 

Yogi

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When I say all things not being equal I dont mean the brands and design and implementation and all of that good stuff is different too. All that has to be equal to make a fair comparison. So if you are comparing a PASS aleph 30 with a Yamaha then the PASS would sound better even at low volumes because it is a better design, better implemented with better build quality components and not because of it being lower power than the Yamaha. Now if you were to compare a Pass Aleph 30 with a Pass Aleph 50 then I would think (because I didnt actually hear it) the Aleph 50 would sound better than the Aleph 30 even at low volumes.

So to be a fair, compare the Aleph 30 with the Aleph 50 and compare a Yamaha 793 with a DSP-A1.

Hope that makes my point clearer.
 

Saurav

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And when you bring Tube amps into the mix with only 7 watts per channel, it's a whole new ballgame. The tube amp will burry nearly any normal 100W/ch receiver.
Only when driving the right kind of speakers. Try driving a B&W 803 to realistic volumes with any 7W amp, tube or SS - the results will not be pretty.

With reasonably sensitive speakers, I agree with you, I prefer the sound of tube amps to SS amps. However, readers shouldn't get the idea that a 7W tube amp can drive every speaker out there, because it cannot.
 

Yogi

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The tube amp will burry nearly any normal 100W/ch receiver.
Thats because it has loads of second order distortion riding the fundamental, and because tubes sound pleasant when driven to distortion and transistors sound horrendous when driven to distortion. Thats why tube audio sounds twice as loud as comparable SS audio. The popular saying, '1 watt of tube sound equals 2 watts of SS sound' is nothing more than this phenomenon. Having said that, I myself am a big fan of tube sound so no arguments from me on the above statement.
 

jeff lam

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This was just an expression to illistrate that you can't measure sound quality in terms of measured power in Watts.
 

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