Do different amps sound different?

Discussion in 'AV Receivers' started by John Roger, Jun 9, 2004.

  1. John Roger

    John Roger Stunt Coordinator

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    As far as amps are concerned the power output is the key factor.Apart from speakers do amps have any role in sound quality?Are brands different in sound quality or is it just about the power and drive?
     
  2. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    Since you asked, ill ask you to find that out for yourself. this is one of the most debated issues (and spinoffs from this question) with any regards to steereo's, amps, music, etc...

    go buy a 200 watt plate power amp and hook it to one speaker while you have a krell 200 watt monoblock attatched to the other speaker.

    EDIT: then, since Philip has found a hole in my scientific experiment, put them all in an anechoic to remove room reflections/conditions from tghe equasion...Better philip? "I'll let others tackle that subject" well wHY are you disecting my post for?

    all else being exactly the same, which sounds better?
     
  3. BrianWoerndle

    BrianWoerndle Supporting Actor

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    Well the difference between the Denon's internal amps and my Marantz monoblocks is very noticable.
     
  4. RobWil

    RobWil Supporting Actor

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    Cool! A new subject that hasn't been discussed yet! Woo-hoo!
     
  5. Philip Hamm

    Philip Hamm Lead Actor

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    Since you've got two different speakers, "all else" will never be "exactly the same". You'll have two different room reactions to the speakers.

    Theoretically, if amplifiers are designed well, they all should sound the same since they all have the same mission, simply amplify an electrical signal. In practice do they sound the same? I'll let others tackle that subject.

    I just went from $2000+ MSRP separates to a 7 year old receiver which I bought refurbished for $160 about 3 years ago (that originally MSRPed $700). I kept my speakers the same.

    I'll never go back.

    You not only have to decide if the amps "sound the same", but also address the more important question is "is the percieved difference worth it to me?". I decided that it's not. Others are willing to pay for that difference. Used gear like my old stuff can be a real bargain.
     
  6. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    If you're talking about modern solid state amps, then if neither amp's power capability is exceeded, and neither amp is driven into a load it has a hard time with, then it's unlikely you'll hear a difference, the silly hyperbole of High End writers notwithstanding.
     
  7. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    phil, I edited above just for you.
     
  8. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    From my findings different amps do sound different...for example my HK amp sounds more "dull" then my Rotel and its not a subtle change at all (i.e. my wife notices the differences)
     
  9. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    The differences between amps is subtle but there nevertheless. Ideally amps should only amplify signals just like speakers should only convert electrical signals into sound waves, so ideally if an amp was well designed it shouldn't add to the orignal signal just like a speaker if was well designed shouldn't add to the orignal signal. But the world is not ideal and neither are amps and speakers. That being said differences between speakers are much more pronounced (because speakers are much more poorly designed in the 'ideal' sense) than amps which are quite well designed (at least these days) so unless you know what to hear for you won't hear much difference between two amps when playing with in their limits (as specified by Bob) and esp in HT. Again that being said for normal movie watching at reference or close to reference levels most receivers and even most separate amps will clip or at least go close to that point of non-linearity and so most often you will be able to hear a difference between them in terms of dynamic impact and compression. For example some time ago I was watching Monsters Inc. at a store with Monster power amps (what a coincidence) with digital power meters and during most of the movie the power consumption was in the range of 5-10 watts per channel, but when ever there was a moderately loud scene like choppers flying, thumps, thuds etc the power consumption would jump up in the 100W range and on the explosion scenes, like the sock detonation scene the power consumption jumped up to more than 500W!. Now during these scenes the speaker impedance probably drops into the 4ohm range and most receivers wont be able to deliver those kinds of power and will certainly clip and you will be able to hear that. So when ever someone says that their movie watching experience improved dramatically after adding separate amps, what they are hearing is these improvements in dynamic impact and headroom. So even though its true that most amps will sound the same in their linear range it is also true that most amps are often asked to deliver more than what they are capable of in their linear range. And certainly not all amps clip the same and certainly not all amps have similar power supply headroom to deliver the demanding scenes. So even though amps could sound the same in the first few watts its the last few watts that separate the boys from the men. So not all amps are the same when it comes to performance in real home theater environments. If you dont believe me take a $100 Sony (for example) receiver to any of the stores like Tweeter or GoodGuys and hook it up in their main theater room and try watching a high impact movie at moderate loud level (not reference level).

    Remember DD mandates 20db dynamic headroom for movies, so if your speakers are moderate sensitivity (86-89db) and you dont live in a shoe box you would be listening at 2-3 watts most of the time but you need 100 times more power (200-300W) for those high impact scenes without compression. Most receivers dont deliver those kinds of power even for fractions of second.
     
  10. Claude M

    Claude M Stunt Coordinator

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    speakers have alot to do with it too. I have a pair of Phase Linear P580 speakers http://www.phaselinearhistory.com/p_series_speakers.htm that no matter what I hook them up to they sound great. An old Technics 60W/channel receiver at normal volume (and not telac's1812) sounded much the same as an MCA 3 Anthem and an old Soundcraftsmen MA5002. The same tests with a pair of marble Norhs and each amp had its own distinct sound.
     
  11. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    "speakers have alot to do with it too"

    Claude, speakers are not apart of this equation. what is being discussed here is how much a power amp ALONE could create a different signal than other AMPS.

    "Apart from speakers do amps have any role in sound quality"
    that was the original ?

    understandibly the speakers will inevitably change the sound too, but lets give Mr. John Roger some benefit of doubt and assume he already knows this.
     
  12. John Roger

    John Roger Stunt Coordinator

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    I've heard some people saying this amp is brighter than the other etc.Maybe it has a better equalizer.
    I haven't compared amps on same speakers.Just wanna know if this quality stuff is to be considered when i upgrade.

    And of course speaker quality does affect sound quality.Question is do amps?
     
  13. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    John, let me reiterate,
    This is abaout THE most debated subject in audio circles.
    It deals in different material (paper or polypropelyne, etc) for resistors, capacitors... within the amp, differences in amp classes (a a/b b d g i....)
    Differences in amp design (push pull or not)
    and so on and so on and so on. People even spend over $1000
    on a power "cleaner" to make sure they have "clean power" going to the amps.

    What makes what sound differently, how much different and is it worth $XX? im sure Jim Lansing is still thinking about those questions.


    "I've heard some people saying this amp is brighter than the other etc.Maybe it has a better equalizer."

    {amps dont have eq's, thats the pre-amp stage.}

    warm sounding - highs have been rolled off (tube gear is said to be warm sounding)
    bright sounding - a more "in your face" type of sound, (typical of horn tweeters)

    as far as where the line of quality vs $ or how much is too much to spend, or will a $20000 system bring me 10 times as much musical/movie pleasure as a $2000 system, is, well thats totally up to you? sucks dont it [​IMG]
     
  14. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    Competently designed amps don't equalize anything. That is, they don't emphasize or deemphasize any part of the frequency spectrum to any significant degree. So there's no basis (other than a psychological one) for saying that one amp sounds brighter than another.

    An example would be listening to a black colored amp vs. a white colored one. People will say that the black colored one sounds "darker", even though the internal design is the same.
     
  15. Mike SJ

    Mike SJ Supporting Actor

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    "That is, they don't emphasize or deemphasize any part of the frequency spectrum to any significant degree. So there's no basis (other than a psychological one) for saying that one amp sounds brighter than another."

    some would disagree

    "People will say that the black colored one sounds "darker", even though the internal design is the same"

    RobertR, are you one of these people? I certainly am not.
     
  16. Chris Brock

    Chris Brock Second Unit

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    IMO the onyl reason I would decide to upgrade my amps, which I plan to do in the future, is to gain increased dynamic headroom and decreased distortion. in its purest form amps should not have any "sound" at all associted with them. they should simply reproduce the recorded material as it appears on the media.
     
  17. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    [​IMG]

    Who are these 'people'. I'd like to meet some of them. If you are talking about the folks at Stereophool then I hear ya.
     
  18. Yogi

    Yogi Screenwriter

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    Take a look at the power output curves of these two amps:

    [​IMG]


    and this one:


    [​IMG]

    Now consider them hooked to moderate sensitivity Maggies in a moderate sized room (22x18) and you are trying to watch a movie and trying to recreate the theater experience (frankly we all want to bring the theater home). Do you think these amps will sound different? You bet[​IMG]
     
  19. Claude M

    Claude M Stunt Coordinator

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    yes I know, but I was comparing amps at the time. to me not much difference between a receiver, the anthem and the old ma5002 on the P580s.
     
  20. RobertR

    RobertR Lead Actor

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    I'm certainly not someone who thinks the color of an amp affects its sound. My point was that the perception of the sound of an amp can be affected by psychological factors.
     

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