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Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

audiokid wrote:

a 'luxurious' Luxman 505u

I always regarded the 505uX as entry level for luxman. About right for a 1300 pound amp (Japan prices). I suppose you get a 1000 pound markup in the UK.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

matt49 wrote:

pauln wrote:

So why can't people tell them apart in blind testing?

I'm not aware of any blind tests comparing Class A against Class A/B amps. But then having read through the blind tests given in MakkaPakka's e-mail, I wouldn't give any creedence to that kind of blind testing. They all seem to have been done by enthusiasts or engineers. It's a bit like asking a psychologist to measure the performance of an amp.

pauln wrote:

How does voltage affect things, since Watts = volts x amps?

You tell me, since you know all about engineering measurements.

What has knowing the one thing got to do with knowing the other?

 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Having heard the Devialet D-Premier in my system a few weeks back, and against some interesting competition I would say its possibly the 'Best' amp I have heard in the way that you dont hear it. I would agree with the owner its possibly the best 'straight wire with gain' amplifier.

This was up against my ~2.3wpc Decware Zen SET, two Fet amps (Sony V-Fet and DIY SIT) on that particular day.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/hoopsontoast/sets/72157634269369862/

 

Now, in my system I have a TA2020 T-Amp and the Decware as main residents (with the Doge 8 Pre Amplfiier), the T-Amp plays music for £30, and on relative cost, is the Decware 10x Better, or the Devialet over 300x Better? Who knows. Personally I dont think it would be worth it to me.

The main difference was aparent at higher volumes, as to be expected with the the Decware being ~2.3wpc. DIY SIT ~8wpc, Sony V-Fet having ~55wpc and the D-Premier being 500w (IIRC).

Now all of this was rather subjective and not level matched so take that as valid as you like, but IMO and IME there is a difference between amplifiers outputing the same sort of power into the same speakers.

I have measured the Decware, and it aint pretty, we are talking ~2% 2nd Harmonic Distortion minimum @1w/4ohms but you know what, at the normal volumes I listen, it sounded better than the T-Amp, and as good as the D-Premier which has NO audible distortion.

I wont give you a flowery discription of the relative sounds, and I know, if going by measurements then a lot of the amplifiers I have had should not sound good. Me, I have probably reached my pinicle with the Decware/Doge combo, I dont need any more, and dont really want to spend any more, although I have heard subjectively better, I really am not interested in pursuing that goal.

Best thing to do is try some amplifiers, in your system and see if you hear a difference. If you don't hear any better, then bonus, more money to spend on music party time!

 

P.S. IME you can get larger changes in pre-amplifier stages (Phono/SUT and Line Stage) as long as your power amp meets your power output/current/impedance matching needs.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

I believe a good quality amp (not necessarily very expensive, mind you) can make all the difference. Careful matching is key, even with Harbeths. In my experience, Harbeths work best with class A amps like those from Accuphase or Sugden. I once tried driving a pair of P3ESRs with a Naim Supernait but was not impressed with the outcome - functionally OK but somehow not musical or involving enough for me. I currently pair my Monitor 30.1s with a Sugden Masterclass Integrated. This is the sound that grabs me and enables me to listen for hours without fatigue.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

matt49 wrote:

davedotco wrote:

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... talk to the hand

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.   twisted

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.

Matt

EDIT: Damn! Just realized this is one of your jokes ...

Actually it is not, I am usually far more convincing when I am taking the pith.

Over the years I have always found a few components that 'break the rules' simply by producing more music than anything else, I am thinking late 70's ARC, early Electro pre-powers (the ones that kept blowing up), Koetsu cartridges, 90's Sonus Faber and probably a few others, as Ricardo famously put it (talking about the Koetsu), "it has 'armony".

Now I know that amplifiers can be made measurably and audibly transparant (I've done the dems) for a cost that is a fraction of that of any Devialet amplifier so what is going on? I do not think that it is greater transparancy, if it was we would have other amplifiers that are almost as good as the Devialet but not quite, but to my mind we don't.

Components in this class either have 'it' or they don't, whatever 'it' is. An obvious example, Koetsu cartridges most definitely have it, apart from the sub-contracted Black which didn't, obvious to all back in the day.

I have mentioned this before but my primary system has 'it', though in conventional hi-fi terms it is severely limited in several areas, but it cost more than I could reasonably afford if I had to pay for it. I am pretty sure that the Devialet would be an improvement on that amplifier as it would do away with the power and bandwidth constraints but I don't have the money to spend at the moment so I am not tempting myself.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Fantastic debate and one thats been going on for meny years,a watt is a watt much the same as digital is 0s and 1s but our dacs do seem to sound diffrent,but i have to agree stripped back to basics a watt is and always will be a watt then comes every thing els,distortion,impedance,damping factor,i could go on and on but for me as with digital jitter is our enemy here and with lower jitter comes better sound but there are other factors to much like amplifiers,so for me the design is very importent and i suspect a well designed amp with cheaper parts will sound much better than one made with expensive parts but poor design,so for me both camps are correct,amps do sound very diffrent i cant see how anyone could argue with that but a watt is and always will be a watt,take away distortion,clipping,impedance,damping factors and everything els thats in the mix that determines the sound we hear and were back with our watt but for me the story does not end there,our hearing is very complex and some hear diffrent things than others and prefer diffrent styles,so i think my perception of my music and sound is a personal matter influenced by meny things price encluded,if i spend a few thousand on an amp i want it to sound special and i suppose its a placebo effect thats influencing me,telling me A is better than B as it costs 3 times as much,i want to believe this,for me its a hobby so that justifies the outlay and gives me happiness money cant give so its win win

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

stevienut wrote:

Fantastic debate and one thats been going on for meny years,a watt is a watt much the same as digital is 0s and 1s but our dacs do seem to sound diffrent,but i have to agree stripped back to basics a watt is and always will be a watt then comes every thing els,distortion,impedance,damping factor,i could go on and on but for me as with digital jitter is our enemy here and with lower jitter comes better sound but there are other factors to much like amplifiers,so for me the design is very importent and i suspect a well designed amp with cheaper parts will sound much better than one made with expensive parts but poor design,so for me both camps are correct,amps do sound very diffrent i cant see how anyone could argue with that but a watt is and always will be a watt,take away distortion,clipping,impedance,damping factors and everything els thats in the mix that determines the sound we hear and were back with our watt but for me the story does not end there,our hearing is very complex and some hear diffrent things than others and prefer diffrent styles,so i think my perception of my music and sound is a personal matter influenced by meny things price encluded,if i spend a few thousand on an amp i want it to sound special and i suppose its a placebo effect thats influencing me,telling me A is better than B as it costs 3 times as much,i want to believe this,for me its a hobby so that justifies the outlay and gives me happiness money cant give so its win win

Thanks for the very honest answer.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

matt49 wrote:

pauln wrote:

So why can't people tell them apart in blind testing?

I'm not aware of any blind tests comparing Class A against Class A/B amps. But then having read through the blind tests given in MakkaPakka's e-mail, I wouldn't give any creedence to that kind of blind testing. They all seem to have been done by enthusiasts or engineers. It's a bit like asking a psychologist to measure the performance of an amp.

I'm not sure why you think a psychologist would be needed in order to conduct blind testing - what psychology is involved?

An engineer or technician would be needed to set up the test and to ensure it was carried out under controlled conditions. A mathematician would be needed to work out the statistical significance of the results. A psychologist? Please enlighten me.

I suggest that you will give no credence to those tests referred to by MakkaPakka because you don't like the results.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

CnoEvil wrote:

MakkaPakka wrote:

What can you hear that can't be measured?

Cohesion, emotion, sterility, authenticity, believeability, musicality, insight, refinement, authority and communication.

Have you ever looked at the evidence against what you believe in?

Do you have an open mind?

We have measuring instruments that can detect sounds way below and way above the frequency range that humans can hear. Sound, as I'm sure you know, is just the movement of air detected by our relatively inefficient ears. That movement of air is ultimately caused by fluctuating voltage levels. Both the electricity and the pressure can be accurately measured.

What you are "hearing" is your brains perception of all your sensory inputs at that point in time; modified by your mood, what drugs you're taking, whether you've got a cold, the room acoustics and probably more things as well. Our brains can fill in missing detail that we expect to be there, it can mask things that we think shouldn't be there. What we "hear" is hugely influenced by what our eyes tell us we should be hearing.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that our ears lie to us. Will you even take any of it into consideration or will you dismiss it all out of hand? 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Alears wrote:

pauln wrote:

floyd droid wrote:

pauln wrote:

You're obviously a fan.

Obviously. And as I said ,obviously you have no idea what a modern day valve amp sounds like. 

Stick to what you know ,not what you have read.  Smile

I'll stick to believing measurements thanks.

You cannot hear measurements. Smile

You can measure accuracy - and then you can hear music. Played accurately.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

pauln wrote:
  Will you even take any of it into consideration or will you dismiss it all out of hand?&nbsp;</p>

But aren’t you dismissing other people’s opinions / knowledge out of hand? After all you do admit that...

pauln wrote:
  I know little about electronics&nbsp;</p>

There is no shame in this, I do not either.

But while I do not sit in a camp, a few things seem to stand out:

·         Harberth’s test only for amps that have the same frequency response.

o   To me this indicates an acknowledgement that not all amplifiers with the same wattage have the same response and therefore the same tonal character.  We all have different tastes so this is a good thing. 

·         Watts are watts.

o   Whilst true companies can tell porkies when it comes to watt measurements (just ask Yamaha and Onkyo who measure 5.1 amplifiers wattage by driving one speaker).  So if what you say is true, it would be very difficult to find two amps which you know are rated exactly the same.

·         Interference.

o   Amplifiers can be effected by interference.  Depending on your environment this can be audible in a real world setting, especially to the noise floor of an amplifier. Some amplifiers deal with this better than others.

I’m sure there are many other factors that I have not mentioned, however I do know that I have had several different amplifiers and I have demoed many many others and they have all had their own sonic traits.

Now it could be, that I am wrong (I’d be pleasantly surprised as I’ll save money), but regardless of whether differences are caused exclusively by wattage (oh and frequency response?!?) or by other factors, the fact to me remains that I have heard differences in every amplifier I have heard.

 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

pauln wrote:

Have you ever looked at the evidence against what you believe in?

Do you have an open mind?

We have measuring instruments that can detect sounds way below and way above the frequency range that humans can hear. Sound, as I'm sure you know, is just the movement of air detected by our relatively inefficient ears. That movement of air is ultimately caused by fluctuating voltage levels. Both the electricity and the pressure can be accurately measured.

What you are "hearing" is your brains perception of all your sensory inputs at that point in time; modified by your mood, what drugs you're taking, whether you've got a cold, the room acoustics and probably more things as well. Our brains can fill in missing detail that we expect to be there, it can mask things that we think shouldn't be there. What we "hear" is hugely influenced by what our eyes tell us we should be hearing.

There is an overwhelming amount of evidence pointing to the conclusion that our ears lie to us. Will you even take any of it into consideration or will you dismiss it all out of hand? 

IME. In general, Subjectivists worry about the music; Objectivists worry about the measurements.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I give equal credance to both sides of these arguments, until I try for myself. What I don't do is read what other people think, and then pedal it as fact.

Just because our ears "can" lie to us, doesn't mean that they "always" lie to us.....and one of the consistent themes running throughout this thread, is that there is a commonality of experience from people who have actually heard different types of amps, at varying prices.

I am well aware that our ears can lie to us, but that shouldn't be used by people as a "catch all" foil against anyone who disagrees with their POV. Over nearly 40 years of listening to a huge variety of different kit, I have gained a small modicum of knowledge / experience, which people can either listen to, or ignore...either way, it's OK with me, provided it is always done with respect

 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

pauln wrote:

I'm not sure why you think a psychologist would be needed in order to conduct blind testing - what psychology is involved?

An engineer or technician would be needed to set up the test and to ensure it was carried out under controlled conditions. A mathematician would be needed to work out the statistical significance of the results. A psychologist? Please enlighten me.

I suggest that you will give no credence to those tests referred to by MakkaPakka because you don't like the results.

If you want to find out by means of blind testing whether people prefer amp A to amp B, you are, in effect, assessing people’s responses to a range of auditory stimuli. Testing of this kind is called sensory evaluation testing. It’s widely used in the food and cosmetics industries. Its scientific underpinning comes from a sub-discipline of psychology called psychophysics, i.e. the study of the relation between sensory stimuli and psychological responses. (Psychophysics was founded by the great German psychologist Gustav Theodor Fechner in the mid-19th century.)

Sensory evaluation testing involves a number of non-straightforward issues, including: how do you select participants? How do you prepare them for the tests? What questions do you ask them? How do you present the stimuli, e.g. in what context and for how long? How do you evaluate the results? A lot of thought goes into achieving a maximum of neutrality and catering for people's cognitive biases. (For instance, people will tend to react more strongly to the first of a pair of stimuli.)

So this is why psychology isn’t only relevant to blind testing of hi-fi; it’s the discipline that underpins any robust and successful testing.

 

You wouldn’t need a mathematician by the way, as any respectable undergrad degree in experimental psychology includes the study of statistics. I grant you would want an electrical engineer though, to ensure the equipment was working properly, levels were matched etc.

Matt

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Sliced Bread wrote:

pauln wrote:
  Will you even take any of it into consideration or will you dismiss it all out of hand?&nbsp;</p>

But aren’t you dismissing other people’s opinions / knowledge out of hand? After all you do admit that...

pauln wrote:
  I know little about electronics&nbsp;</p>

Not at all. If you look at the post I made a few minutes ago, I'm offering up a reason as to why people hear what they hear. That's based on my reading around the subject. I'm a convert - I bought Cyrus, Rega, Linn gear and aspired to upgrade because I believed all  that I read in the magazines. When I found out that I couldn't really hear any differences I looked more into the objective side of audio and as an engineer and an objective thinking type of person I thought that it made sense. This was reinforced when I found out more about the whole Naim/Linn thing going on in the 70's and 80's. I can't help but think that the high end audio market is a con.

Agreed that some more expensive amps are worth it because they have lots of power, huge power supplies and can cope with anything. What I don't agree with is paying several thousand quid for an amp that can only produce 50W per channel (or less) when you could get much more accurate sound from something like a yamaha AS-2000.

The whole business of "house sound" and voicing an amp is, to me, a nonsense because all amps should, if they are any good, sound the same. It's obvious because there was only one recording and all amps should faithfully reproduce that recording without f+cking with it!

 

Sliced Bread wrote:
Harberth’s test only for amps that have the same frequency response.

To me this indicates an acknowledgement that not all amplifiers with the same wattage have the same response and therefore the same tonal character.  We all have different tastes so this is a good thing. 

Exactly - they have different responses because they have been messed with. They are no longer a "straight wire with gain"; someone has tweaked the frequency response to give a sound they like. It should be up to the listener to do that with tone controls. An amp should add nothing to the source material.

You know, I didn't make any of this up - it's all paraphrased from either Alan Shaw or NwAvGuy. It would be much easier for everyone if they just read it for themselves. I know many people still won't change their minds, why should they if they're happy? I just believe that some people might jump off the treadmill, stop fretting about how much they're missing out by not having a better amp, chill a bit and save the money for something more worthwhile.

 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

matt49 wrote:

pauln wrote:

I'm not sure why you think a psychologist would be needed in order to conduct blind testing - what psychology is involved?

An engineer or technician would be needed to set up the test and to ensure it was carried out under controlled conditions. A mathematician would be needed to work out the statistical significance of the results. A psychologist? Please enlighten me.

I suggest that you will give no credence to those tests referred to by MakkaPakka because you don't like the results.

If you want to find out by means of blind testing whether people prefer amp A to amp B, you are, in effect, assessing people’s responses to a range of auditory stimuli. Testing of this kind is called sensory evaluation testing. It’s widely used in the food and cosmetics industries. Its scientific underpinning comes from a sub-discipline of psychology called psychophysics, i.e. the study of the relation between sensory stimuli and psychological responses. (Psychophysics was founded by the great German psychologist Gustav Theodor Fechner in the mid-19th century.)

Sensory evaluation testing involves a number of non-straightforward issues, including: how do you select participants? How do you prepare them for the tests? What questions do you ask them? How do you present the stimuli, e.g. in what context and for how long? How do you evaluate the results? A lot of thought goes into achieving a maximum of neutrality and catering for people's cognitive biases. (For instance, people will tend to react more strongly to the first of a pair of stimuli.)

So this is why psychology isn’t only relevant to blind testing of hi-fi; it’s the discipline that underpins any robust and successful testing.

 

You wouldn’t need a mathematician by the way, as any respectable undergrad degree in experimental psychology includes the study of statistics. I grant you would want an electrical engineer though, to ensure the equipment was working properly, levels were matched etc.

Matt

That's interesting and makes sense. I thought that it would be straightforward in that you would sit someone in a chair and ask them which was which - if the differences are so apparent (or night and day). Would that not count as a valid test then?

 

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