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How pre-pros actually sound (1 Viewer)

BruceD

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Following is a list of some current prepros and specs from their owners manuals or websites (except where noted).
Do you think their S/N ratios, especially in stereo which indicates a great analog stage and power supply implementation, accurately represents their
"sound quality ranking" particularly for 2-channel music?
Sony TA-E9000ES . . . . . . S/N of 94Db analog, 100 dB digital**
B&K Ref-30 . . . . . . . . . S/N of 98dB
Rotel RSX-1066 . . . . . . S/N of 95dB*
Lexicon DC-1 . . . . . . . . S/N of 90dB
Lexicon MC-1 . . . . . . . . S/N of 105dB
Lexicon MC-12 . . . . . . . S/N of 111dB
Integra RDC-7 . . . . . . . . S/N of 100dB (stereo)
Bryston SP-1 . . . . . . . . . S/N of 110dB analog, 100dB DSP
Anthem AVM-20 . . . . . . . . S/N of 110dB analog, 102dB digital
_________________________________________________
*Legairre's response directly from Rotel
**provided by Andrew Pratt
 

Legairre

Supporting Actor
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Apr 4, 2000
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Bruce,

Nice research. The more you pay the higher the S/N. It looks like to get into the 100db or higher range you have to spend in the $3000 and higher range. I guess this is one reason higher end gear cost more.
 

brucek

Second Unit
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Dec 29, 1998
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335
BruceD

I think it does make a difference. I have an SP1, and when you switch to analog bypass you have to press your ear against the speaker to hear any noise floor. It makes the music seem so effortless. No detail is lost in the noise.

When everything is quiet in the house and you are listening to music - when the song ends you can hear the artist breathing................ it's an important spec.

brucek
 

Andrew Pratt

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Dec 8, 1998
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FYI another pre to add to the above list. Sony TA-E9000ES 94Db for analog inputs and 100 dB for digital inputs.
 

BruceD

Screenwriter
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Apr 12, 1999
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Andrew,

That's interesting, the Sony has a lower noise floor for digital than analog. All the other prepros with analog bypass have a lower noise floor for analog rather than digital.

My guess is the lower analog noise floor shows greater care spent on analog output and power supply design.

Doesn't the Sony digitize all analog inputs?
 

Michael Mohrmann

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Dec 30, 2001
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"I have a Cal ssp 2500 the analog sn is 123db..."
I still shake my head every time I read that! I have heard a Bryston SP-1 in a store and with its' 110dB S/N it is eerily quiet. I would imagine that the CAL 2500 must leave the room when you listen to it! LOL! :)
Michael
 

Graeme Shiomi

Stunt Coordinator
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Jan 7, 2001
Messages
70
I've posted this elsewhere, but I'll post it here too.

Let me give some 'real world' experience to respond to this question. A friend of mine has a Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS for 2-channel music, and the Anthem AVM-20 for HT. He has an Audio Note (I believe that's the name) DAC and a Conrad Johnson Premier 15 Phono Pre-amp. He much prefers the sound of the Conrad to the Anthem for 2-channel Analog Sources. That's despite the fact that the Conrad's S/N is 96, much lower than the 110 of the Anthem.

In other words, it's what you like. You could have a S/N of 130 dB, and hate the sound of the Pre. S/N is a consideration, but not the be-all-end-all spec.

Graeme
 

BruceD

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Hi Graeme,

While I understand your point, it's not quite the real-world example I would choose.

Your quote:

-------------------------------------------------------

Let me give some 'real world' experience to respond to this question. A friend of mine has a Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS for 2-channel music, and the Anthem AVM-20 for HT. He has an Audio Note (I believe that's the name) DAC and a Conrad Johnson Premier 15 Phono Pre-amp. He much prefers the sound of the Conrad to the Anthem for 2-channel Analog Sources. That's despite the fact that the Conrad's S/N is 96, much lower than the 110 of the Anthem.

-------------------------------------------------------

I wasn't trying to introduce someone's preference for the euphonic even order distortion of tube preamps, which the Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS is. That's a separate issue I won't go into here.

We are discussing comparsions and differences between the SNR of SS Prepros and their ability to reproduce music and HT.
 

BruceD

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Miles_W,

The specification listed by CAL Audio for SNR is rather unrealistic or actually theoretical.

Signal To Noise Ratio: 123 dB (ref. 6.5 VRMS)

Why you ask?

Because no-one will actually listen to output from this prepro at 6.5 VRMS.

A normal output measurement spec for SNR would be at ref 2.0 VRMS, as this more accurately represents what volume we listen at in our HT.
 

Kevin. W

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Oct 27, 1999
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It looks like to get into the 100db or higher range you have to spend in the $3000 and higher range. I guess this is one reason higher end gear cost more
I picked up a Marantz AV560 for $425US(New in box). Its S/N ratio is 102db. Though it doesn't have all the bells and whistles of the higher end gear.

Kevin
 

Saurav

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I wasn't trying to introduce someone's preference for the euphonic even order distortion of tube preamps, which the Conrad Johnson Premier 16LS is. That's a separate issue I won't go into here.
Nevertheless, he has a point. SNR is only one number, and it is entirely possible to find 2 solid state units with equal 2nd order distortion, where the listener ends up preferring the sound of the unit with the worse SNR spec. Dismissing tube gear with "2nd order harmonics" misses the point, IMO, which is that there are many more specs which go into deciding the sound of a unit, SNR being one of them.

So, while a certain tube preamp may have higher 2nd order harmonic distortion than another solid state preamp, it could at the same time have a flatter and more extended frequency response, better channel separation, better EMI/RFI shielding ... you get the idea. All of these would make it produce "higher quality" sound, at least in my books, regardless of the fact that the tube preamp has worse SNR and worse 2nd order harmonics.

There is also the question of where better SNR numbers start becoming relatively unimportant - for instance, if you have 2 preamps, both with > 100dB SNR, and with both of them you cannot hear any noise from your listening position, does it matter if one of them has a higher SNR than the other? You need to look at the dynamic range capabilities of your system, of your sources, and so on. Beyond a point, I don't think greater SNR buys you anything, because your SNR is already better than the dynamic range of your CD player.

I hope that makes sense.
 

BruceD

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Saurav,

Oh well I guess you missed my point. I'm not interested in tubes at all, don't want to compare them, don't want to buy them, you get the idea. You can't really buy a tube prepro anyway.

The discussion was simply focused on the perception or coincidence of sound quality with SNR. It was just an observation on my part not a mantra.

Yes, there are many parts that make up the whole, but I can't help but think that the lower the SNR the less potential the unit has to pull out all the detail.
 

Saurav

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Yes, there are many parts that make up the whole, but I can't help but think that the lower the SNR the less potential the unit has to pull out all the detail.
Correct, up to a point. The question is, how much detail is there to pull out? You're listening to music at a certain volume - let's say you're hitting X dB peaks. Your CD player/amp/speaker combination has a certain dynamic range - let's say Y dB. What this means is, the softest sound that your system (i.e., the rest of your components) can play will be Y db down from your peak value of X.
Now, what you need is for your preamp's noise floor to be quieter than that softest sound that your system can play. Once you've achieved that, the bottleneck for how much detail you can retrieve is no longer your preamp. Eventually, you'll hit the theoretical limit of the dynamic range of a CD - what does it gain to have a better SNR than the dynamic range of your source?
I don't know, maybe I'm missing something here, and my math is all off or incorrect.
The other thing I was trying to say was, there is a lot more to sound "quality" (to use the word you've been using) that just the SNR. For instance, if one preamp has better SNR than the other but doesn't have as flat a frequency response - which one has better sound quality? And like I said, this has nothing to do with whether the preamp is tubed or solid state.
 

Evan S

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Nov 21, 2001
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Saurav, haven't seen you posting lately. You go on vacation or something?

How'd that DIY Tube 2 channel preamp turn out you were working on a while back?
 

Saurav

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The Foreplay turned out awesome. I rebuilt it from scratch thrice, added a bunch of mods, and it sounds great - much better than the NAD C340 that I was using before. No, I haven't been on vacation, I'd been busy with my preamp, trying to understand its circuit and the mod circuits. It's been a great learning experience.
I went on to build a pair of speakers from a kit, and now have tube amps on order... my system's gone through some major changes recently :)
 

Kevin C Brown

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Bruce- 2 thoughts: the Sony TA-E9000ES pre/pro does digitize all of the analog inputs with a 48 kHz sampling rate. (No one's ever been able to confirm the bit length, but probably 24 bit.)
So, in this case S/N has nothing to do with the fact that the Sony will *always* impart some "digitalness" to its sound even with the best analog rig you could hook up to it.
The other part is: Shame on you! :)
I would never ever in a million years believe the specs that a manufacturer puts out. Only if it was actually run through tests (unfortunately) by the old Audio Magazine and Stereo Review folks. (OK, S&V is still OK.)
I would *bet* that a lot of those S/N numbers are theoretical numbers simply based on the internal DACs and ADCs performance.
Oh, and I remember seeing 86 dB for the B&K Ref 30 somewhere...
 

BruceD

Screenwriter
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Apr 12, 1999
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Kevin,
You and many others are right of course, :) this is only an attempt to roughly match what people say and feel about the sound quality of different prepros with vendor published SNR. Certainly not an exact science, just opinion.
I don't blindly believe any specs, but I do prefer if they are quantified similiar to this:
S/N Ratio (ref. 2.0 Vrms A-weighted)
All Direct Inputs . . . 106 dB
Analog-DSP Inputs . . . 98 dB
Digital Inputs . . . . 102 dB
Regarding the Ref-30 specs, their website says 89dB and the downloaded Ref-30 manual says 98dB, so my guess is the web content input specialist transposed the two numbers (8 and 9).
 

Tony Lai

Stunt Coordinator
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Mar 22, 2000
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244
Please do not use the word 'analog' and 'Sony TA-E9000es' in the same sentence. It upsets the owners.

Here is an excerpt from the TA-P9000es manual:

Freq. Resp.

115dB (20 khz LPF, A)

1.3v input level

This is a Stereophile Class A product btw.

T.
 

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