For me an amp can only be 'satisfactory' if it's able to do it's job properly without any kind of audible distortion whatsoever.
This means that all 'satisfactory' amplifiers sound identical to each other because there is no audible distortion. Anything less than audibly perfect is 'unsatisfactory' IMO and is not true hifi.
It looks like satisfactory is as subjective as everything else.
To me it means acceptable, though not outstanding / perfect....just like my academic years.
"Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again." André Gide
As far as amplifiers are concerned they should have extremely low levels of distortion (when not clipping). In fact they should have low enough levels of distortion for them to sound 'audibly perfect' to the human ear and therefore they should sound identical to each other (when not clipping).
As it is possible to produce an 'audibly perfect' amplifier then anything less than this is unsatisfactory IMO.
PC > AVI Neutron Five 2.1
Sony NWZ-A847 64GB Walkman > Westone UM3x
I never realized that audibly perfect was even possible.....surely they all have distortion of one sort or another.
Amplifiers, digital sources and cables can all be 'audibly perfect' to the human ear.
But 'audibly perfect' doesn't mean that there isn't any distortion there at all. It just means that the levels of distortion are so low that it is impossible to hear them.
As far as I understand there are only two reasons why some amplifiers sound different to each other.
1. Because they have high enough levels of distortion for it to be audible.
2. Because they are being overdriven into clipping (which often happens at a lower volume level than many people realise).
Speakers on the other hand all have relatively high levels of distortion and don't even get close to being 'audibly perfect'.
This is why they all sound so different to one another.
If that's the case, then it's back to being subjective.
Eg. All AB amps suffer crossover distortion, but how do you know how much of what you hear is down to that.
Amplifiers sound different for many reasons, including the robustness and design of the power supply, or whether they use valves, or how well they implement Class D or Class B.
2. Because they are being overdriven and are clipping (which often happens at a lower volume levels than many people realise).
There are other reasons......
3. Amplifiers deliberately 'voiced' to sound different to the competition or conform to a house sound.
4. Amplifiers with poor transfer characteristics, such as output impedence, so that their amplitude and phase response reflects that of the speaker.
There are probably more but I have been celebrating the footy results, bit off the pace.
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.
IMO. Distortion is only one of the many reasons why speakers sound different eg. (to name but a few)
- Overall design (ported, sealed etc)
- Rigidity / inertness of cabinet
- Isolation of sensitive components
- Handling of sound reflections inside cabinet
- Type of tweeter (metal, ribbon, silk dome)
- Quality / size of woofer
- Arrangement of transducers
- Type of crossover
- Whether a dipole design
If recording engineers always got it right, there would be no bad recordings, and no "loudness war".....certain labels and certain recording engineers do much better than others eg. I like Chesky, Telarc, Twisted records and Harmonia Mundi
FWIW I use un-miked stuff as my real world reference, especially piano, violin, trumpet and soprano....and if you go to enough concerts, you get a personal benchmark on how it should sound. It helped that I played in a school orchestra and my mother was a classically trained singer.
IMO. It's easy to over-analyze the whole thing...and even harder to explain to someone who comes at this from a completely different perspective.
Loudness wars is down to post production/mastering and nothing to do with the recording.
I agree that there are good and not so good recording engineers. The not so good ones get less work, charge less and therefore work on lower budget productions. I'm talking here about recording live gigs rather than recording in a studio which is a whole different thing and something I don't have any first hand experience of.
It's also important to realise (as I'm sure most do) that any live gig where the sound goes out over a PA system is essentially recorded, amplified, then broadcast through speakers. Generally in the region of 10 tonnes of speaker at your average rock gig.
No. Accurately reproducing what is on the recording is not the same as accurately reproducing the live event. The two CAN produce the same results ONLY if the recording correctly captures the live event.
A simple example is:
Accurate reproduction of the recording means that if the recording is bright, then the sound coming from the HiFi system should be equally bright.
Accurate reproduction of the live even means that if the recording is brighter than the live event, then the HiFi will have to be warmer to compensate for the failure in the recording.
So what do you do if the recording isn't bright? - change your "warm" hifi? Why not just have a neutral, accurate amplifier with tone controls?
Amplifiers that sound different only do so because they have high enough levels of distortion for it to be audible.
There are many reasons for why they can have high enough levels of distortion for it to be audible. Some of these reason have already been suggested by yourselves such as the design of the power supply, or whether they use valves, or how well they implement Class D or Class B, or they can be deliberately 'voiced' to sound different etc etc.
I totally agree with you both that all of those things you listed can effect the way an amplifier sounds. But they only effect the way an amplifier sounds by introducing distortion to the amplified signal.
By keeping the levels of distortion low enough for them not to be audible an amplifier can be 'audiably perfect' (maybe I should have used the phrase 'audibly transparent' instead).
All of those things that you have listed here introduce various different types of distortion. That's what makes them sound different.
Accuphase E350 amp, Electrocompaniet EMC1UP CDP, Siltech 25th Classic anniversary 330I XLR Harbeth Super HL5 on Sound Anchor Quod ELS63 stands, Chord Odessey2 speaker cable. Grado SR60 headphones.
Cno. Being able to hear real instruments, up close and personal, is a huge advantage in evaluating the sound of hifi systems, being able to hear them in your own environment is even better. Walking around the studio, miking up, screening and the rest is always pretty instructive, particularly when you move from the studio floor to the control room. Just listening to the piano tuner doing his job is pretty educational.
Pauln. Recording a live gig invariably involves miking the performers and their instruments on stage, well before these signals get anywhere near the PA system. If the band are disciplined and do not insist on outrageous levels on stage it is much the same as a 'one take' recording in a studio, just a little more 'bleed'.
© 2014 Haymarket Publishing