I've found the sonic differences between power amps on highly efficient and easy to drive speakers to be relatively small. Smaller than the differences between vinyl sources. Smaller than the differences between speakers.
So that a £40 new T-amp with good, highly efficient, easy to drive speakers will sound more enjoyable than £30,000+ new amplification with mediocre speakers.
However, swap the T-amp for a good solid state amp or a good SET amp with the easy to drive speakers and you will hear an icing on the cake diffference between them.
Most hugely expensive amplifiers sound fine. There are plenty of highly affordable 2nd hand amps that sound fine too.
Phono amps can have significant sonic differences between them, to the extent that they can spoil an otherwise good system.
If you can hear a difference and have the money then it's simply a matter of whether the difference is worth the money.
What can you hear that can't be measured?
Cohesion, emotion, sterility, authenticity, believeability, musicality, insight, refinement, authority and communication.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
I missed that one.
Mellifluousness. Don't forget the mellifluousness.
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An emotional amplifier?
....and euphoniousness, but certainly melliflousness.
Interesting debate, all.
There are definately at least two camps here.
It's hard to demo all options, but would love to hear some extreme comparisons with Harbeth, such as a 'basic' Yamaha A-S500 or NAD 365 vs a 'luxurious' Luxman 505u or something like a Naim Supernait. All not a million miles away in terms power output.
Same source, same volume of course
Ahhh....... this old chestnut.
No one who has a clue about hi-fi will say that all amplifiers sound the same, they clearly do not, though the differences are often much smaller than people think.
The big differences that people so often remark on are, in the main, the way an amplifier interacts with the system and the way they are voiced.
The first of these has been touched on in this thread, amplifiers being stable enough and powerful enough to drive the (difficult) speakers in the system being one obvious interaction, output impedence, phase response and simple frequency response being others
There are more complex ways that amplifiers interact with systems and I feel that these interactions are what causes many of the differences that people hear.
Voicing is a different issue altogether, some products are deliberately designed to conform to a house sound, others to what the market wants at a particular moment in time and the real killers are the ones that, somehow, are voiced to sound more real than real.
This is a really good trick that some designers have, somehow they manage to add something to the amplifier that somehow manages to reveal more of the music, you know that anything added is, by definition, distortion yet the amplifier somehow sounds more transparent and more involving.
The amplifier that i have heard recently that does this the best is the D-Premier, which is easily the best amplifier I have heard in a long time, if I had the money I would audition the new cheaper models but I don't so I am staying well clear...
We do so many shows in a row,
And these towns all look the same,
We just pass the time in our hotel room
And wander 'round backstage,
Till the lights come up, and we hear that crowd,
And we remember why we came.
Dave, the Dev 170 is as good as the D-Premier. Your life would be enriched by hearing it, and in your heart of hearts you know that.
But I'm a bit surprised you think the Devs achieve transparency by means of distortion. Putting to one side the counterintuitive nature of the idea that distortion improves transparency, the Devs have vanishingly low levels of measured distortion.
EDIT: Damn! Just realized this is one of your jokes ...
What classical music are you listening to?
Back to the original question.
Having spent a day and a bit with my old £300 Arcam, this is the main difference FWIW.
Initially I was pleasantly surprised. All sound rosey. However, after about 5 minutes of listening to a very familiar CD (compilation of 70s stuff) it demonstrated deficiences the longer I listened.
Surpringly the treble seems too prominent, almost to the point of being very harsh. Likewise the bass: It sounds "flumpy" and boxy. The overall sonic picture is practically one dimensional.
It's fine for a budget amp, but yes, theres a distinct difference between a good budget and a good midrange amp.
Amp: Leema Pulse; Source: Naim CD5i-2, Denon 260MKII, Pro-ject XP I; Speakers: PMC TB2i
Formerly known as plastic penguin
Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?
Not necessarily. But better quality ones do
This. The "all amplifiers sound the same" theory is always a qualified statement and it assumes level matching and that the amplifiers are working within certain limits, which I don't think necessarily applies to most real world applications.
Observe the signature in its natural habitat.
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