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Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

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CnoEvil's picture
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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

MakkaPakka wrote:

As I said on my first post in the thread - I want to believe!  Someone please persuade me so I can go shopping guilt-free in the knowledge I'm actually going to be achieving an upgrade.

I have spent most of my posts in this thread explaining that imo nobody can do this.....but if you want someone to tell you it is worth upgrading, then "the right  choice of amp, that is suitable for your system, is worth upgrading to."  shifty

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

pauln wrote:

Just out of curiousity, how confident are you that you could "pass" a properly conducted abx test on two different amps? And how different would they have to be? Same conditions as the Harbeth challenge.

I can’t remember the terms of the Harbeth challenge, I’m afraid.

As for a properly conducted blind test, whilst I do profess (literally) to know quite a bit about some aspects of psychology, sensory evaluation testing is something I only know about in fairly general terms, so anything I said about the specifics of such a test would be misleading. Sorry if that sounds like a cop out, but it's important to be honest.

Having said that, I doubt very much whether I could reliably distinguish between a range of amps of the same design (e.g. Class A, Class A/B, valve …) at different price points. Based on my experience thus far, I think it’s more likely I could distinguish between amps of different design.

 

On an unrelated (or perhaps related?) subject, I can pretty reliably distinguish between different types of wine. I’ve done many blind tastings and have a fairly good hit rate at determining which grape variety a wine’s made from and where it’s made (though there are many, many people who are far better at it than I am). My point is: success is based on experience accumulated over years of tasting wine. The more blind tastings of wine you do, the better you get at it. You can learn and be taught to be a good blind taster. Differences that are invisible to a beginner are often glaringly obvious to someone with long experience. 

As far as hi-fi's concerned I'm not in that category.

Matt

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

MakkaPakka wrote:

It is illogical that if the differences are as big as some claim there's no actual evidence to back it up. 

 

It is easy to explain why a speaker or record player will sound different from another but there doesn't seem to be any explanation of how and why an (adequately powered) amp will sound different other than an assumption that better components are used so it must sound better.

 

'Well I heard it' is completely redundant because I could pull up 'evidence' of that kind about all sorts of snake oil products that cannot possibly work.

 

I have a completely open mind on the subject but not so open I'm willing to throw money around without some justification.

 

 

A SET valve amp uses different devices to a transistorised amp to actually amplify the signal. They will also have different circuits through which the signal travels.

 

Having said that, through high efficiency speakers, two well executed amps from each genre can sound more similar than dissimilar to each other. With inefficient, difficult to drive speakers at generous volumes, but still below clipping on the SET amp, you are likely to notice bigger differences between the amps, especially with bass transients.

 

SET vs transistorised is an extreme example of different circuits and amplification devices, but even amongst solid state amps you will still get circuit differences and differences in the transistors used.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

SETs are probably not the best examples to use in any amplifier comparison.

The biggest issue is the generally high output impedance that causes all but the simplest of loudspeakers to modify the amplifiers frequency response to degrees that would nomally be considered unacceptable in any other amplifier.

Probably more sensible to use push-pull, either triode or pentode. In the original quad challenge, Peter Walker set up the 8 watt II amplifier, the 30 watt 303 and the 100 watt 405, driving ELS57s at 'normal' levels and no one could tell the difference.

That is valve push-pull, class AB and the current dumper, all very different designs.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

CnoEvil wrote:

pauln wrote:

CnoEvil wrote:

Until you go out and listen to a whole variety of kit at different prices, the only opinion you can realistically give, is that of others.....it just depends on who you choose to believe.

As I've already said, I have done. Did you really think I've not listened to anything? Did you not read my post where I said why I'd changed my opinion about HiFi?

If you have heard  Valve, Hybrid, Class A , AB, B or D amps in a variety of price ranges, up to high end, then you are right; but the impression you give is that you have only heard a handful of amps.......which is btw, not meant to be in any way condescending, or indeed as any sort of criticism. 

It's just that I believe that meaningful statements are problematical unless they come from personal experience. 

My problem with this is that it assumes that personal subjective opinion actually has real value!  I doubt that anybody, and I mean anybody, has a good enough aural memory to allow meaningful subjective comparisons to be made.  Moreover other external factors affect subjective opinions very greatly.  For example my hifi sounds better (to me!) in the mornings than in the afternoons.  I don't know why this is but I am confident that it has nothing to do with the system and everything to do with me and my environment.

Chris

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

MakkaPakka wrote:

You've jumped ahead to the point where a difference has been established. I'm still stuck on the start line waiting for some evidence or a reasonably compelling argument of the difference.

As I said on my first post in the thread - I want to believe!  Someone please persuade me so I can go shopping guilt-free in the knowledge I'm actually going to be achieving an upgrade.

 

Armed with the knowledge that all amps either sound identical or near enough that ABX testing won't show any differences, I don't understand your dilemma. It's simple: you either believe that adequately conducted ABX testing methodology works or it doesn't - I'm not entirely convinced personally. That may mean that I'm merely trying to support my world view on the subject, of course. However, if it can be shown that ABX testing is foolproof, I can take SQ out of the equation & consider the manufacturer's repution, build quality versus cost, looks & specification without further ado. That leaves a great number of people duped by an entire industry aided & abetted by magazines & websites. One could use te same criteria to judge if God exists or not: belief versus evidence.

The reasons I'm not entirely convinced are twofold. Firstly, ABX relies on short-term memory that's pretty unreliable, near-instantaneous switching nonwithstanding. Secondly, the methodology doesn't seem to compensate for false negatives to the same degree it does for positive ones - any test should show up any participants with either poor or damaged hearing either temporary or permanent. If you countenance the idea that forewarned is forearmed, why not borrow a supposedly better amplifier for a week - at least you can then evaluate if you are personally prone to audio mythology or not.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

As for a wattt being a watt being a watt. It is true but.. a watt is a vector product of two other quantities equaling a third such as V x I, I squared x R etc so a very simple relationship (with DC but not so with AC such as audio waveforms). This gives a linear relationship until we hit the ceiling of maximum current. Some amps will notionally provide the same wattage until the dynamic load of a loudspeaker dips towards zero impedance at certain frequencies, where the current fails to follow that nice straight line!

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"The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds - the pessimist fears this is true."

James Branch Cabell

 

_________________________________________________________

MAIN: Apple TV2, Mac Mini (controlled from various iThings using Remote), CA Azur 751BD & Panasonic P42V20B into audiolab M-DAC, feeding a Primare A34.2 class D power amp via XLRs, 2x 5m of Atlas Ascent 2 firing up Totem Arros. DALI Kubik Free in my kitchen

ON THE HOOF: iPhone 5S/Sennheiser MM450.

Joined: 16 Aug 2008
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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

I had the chance to compare a few months ago a mid end 20 years old Yamaha amp to a Marantz PM6004 (or something approaching)... and the difference was extremely obvious, to the extend that the owner of the system (that includes an excellent pair of speakers) immediately heard the difference before knowing I had replace the amp.

It will show more or less depending on the quality of the material being played and of the other components in the set up though.

I have been improving my system over the last 10 years with a main focus on amplification. Going from a home teatre Denon integrated mid end, to a high end Rotel stero amp, separate Nuforce 9 Ref V3 and now D-Premier. And the differences are very clear with each evolution but they do not always manifest themselves on the same metric. Using the example of the D-Premier, it brought breakthough improvements in terms of clarity, transparency, fluidity and resolution. The Nuforce had delivered improvement in terms of bass power and fluidity,...

With the Devialet, my former pair of B&W 804s revealed its true potential with the speakers turning out to be an amazing performer while even the excellent Nuforce separates had never managed to make them sing convincingly. Those are not supposed to be such a challenging load.

Cheers,Bernard

 

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Covenanter wrote:

My problem with this is that it assumes that personal subjective opinion actually has real value! 

Chris

It only has real (meaningful) value to the person holding it, which is my point. If I gave you 6 sets of measurements from 6 different amps and told you to pick the one you would prefer, without listening....you would have a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right, as imo. you can't tell exactly how an amp will sound by looking at measurements.

You are a classical music lover, and I would be very surprised if you could measure the subtle things that cause you to like one performance over another....and it is these same things that I personally look to see if a system can convey..

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

busb wrote:

As for a wattt being a watt being a watt. It is true but.. a watt is a vector product of two other quantities equaling a third such as V x I, I squared x R etc so a very simple relationship (with DC but not so with AC such as audio waveforms). This gives a linear relationship until we hit the ceiling of maximum current. Some amps will notionally provide the same wattage until the dynamic load of a loudspeaker dips towards zero impedance at certain frequencies, where the current fails to follow that nice straight line!

Which is why hooking up a pair of Magneplanars to an entry-level integrated or, to take it to the extreme, the amp inside the Panasonic mini-compo I have on my desk at work is destined to be a waste of time.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Singslinger wrote:

busb wrote:

As for a wattt being a watt being a watt. It is true but.. a watt is a vector product of two other quantities equaling a third such as V x I, I squared x R etc so a very simple relationship (with DC but not so with AC such as audio waveforms). This gives a linear relationship until we hit the ceiling of maximum current. Some amps will notionally provide the same wattage until the dynamic load of a loudspeaker dips towards zero impedance at certain frequencies, where the current fails to follow that nice straight line!

Which is why hooking up a pair of Magneplanars to an entry-level integrated or, to take it to the extreme, the amp inside the Panasonic mini-compo I have on my desk at work is destined to be a waste of time.

 

It's a pity almost no proper technical tests are carried out by magazines these days. Nobody knows if a 50 watt per channel amp even meets its spec without proper testing. I don't trust subjectivist waffle that changes from one review to the next..

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

TrevC wrote:

It's a pity almost no proper technical tests are carried out by magazines these days. Nobody knows if a 50 watt per channel amp even meets its spec without proper testing. I don't trust subjectivist waffle that changes from one review to the next..

Stereophile still does tests, doesn't it? Also Hifi Choice: you can download the lab results if you register online.

Matt

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

CnoEvil wrote:

Covenanter wrote:

My problem with this is that it assumes that personal subjective opinion actually has real value! 

Chris

It only has real (meaningful) value to the person holding it, which is my point. If I gave you 6 sets of measurements from 6 different amps and told you to pick the one you would prefer, without listening....you would have a 1 in 6 chance of getting it right, as imo. you can't tell exactly how an amp will sound by looking at measurements.

You are a classical music lover, and I would be very surprised if you could measure the subtle things that cause you to like one performance over another....and it is these same things that I personally look to see if a system can convey.

Your first point is obviously correct.  This is the old marketing principle of "perception is reality" in another form.  But my point is that it doesn't have (or may not have) any objective reality and is rather useless as a means of comparison except to the person concerned.  To be fair to you, you always tell people to go and listen and I agree with that 100%.  My problem comes with people who believe that their perceptions prove something to be true.

In terms of technical measurements versus sound I guess the sound is in the technical measurements but it is very difficult to translate one into the other.  I would also always listen, not least because you are not going to find many pieces of equipment nowadays which are going to have poor technical performance.  What I do doubt are reviews where the reviewers open themselves up to their own prejudices.

Chris

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

Covenanter wrote:

Your first point is obviously correct.  This is the old marketing principle of "perception is reality" in another form.  But my point is that it doesn't have (or may not have) any objective reality and is rather useless as a means of comparison except to the person concerned.  To be fair to you, you always tell people to go and listen and I agree with that 100%.  My problem comes with people who believe that their perceptions prove something to be true.

Since the enjoyment of music is so personal, provided what comes out of the speakers gives pleasure, does objectivity really matter? The only person that needs proof (of satisfaction), is the one spending the money.

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RE: Do more expensive amplifiers make a difference?

its yes from me with my rogers ls3/5a speaker they just get better every time ive tried better amps with them,also my quad 11l bi amped sound a lot better as well so for me amps do make a differance.