I can hear the following differences b/w amplifiers - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 10:19 AM - Thread Starter
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much debate swirls around the audibility of differences b/w amplifiers; some believe in them, others don't. Personally, when listening to music, I don't believe I can hear a difference. Still, when I do the following, I have found there to be audible differences which may be indicative of how well the amp is engineered.
  • a) With music paused, and volume all the way up, from how close to your speaker do you hear hum/hiss?
  • b) Play music on one input, then switch to an unused input and turn volume all the way up. Can you still hear the music from the other input?
  • c) As you turn volume down, does one speaker mute before the other, or play less loudly?

Of my four amps: Bryston 3Bsst/BP25 (amp/pre combo); Peachtree Nova Integrated; NAD C375Bee Integrated, and McIntosh MA6600 Integrated, the best performer was the McIntosh, then the NAD. ..Both the Peachtree and Bryston combo exhibit quite a bit of a,b, and c.

How does your amp perform?
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post #2 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 11:38 AM
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Between my McIntosh MC402 vs. Marantz MA9S2 mono blocks-the Marantz wins out big time--------on my current speakers-JBL 1400 Array. Perhaps it would be different with different speakers.
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post #3 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 12:47 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

much debate swirls around the audibility of differences b/w amplifiers; some believe in them, others don't. Personally, when listening to music, I don't believe I can hear a difference. Still, when I do the following, I have found there to be audible differences which may be indicative of how well the amp is engineered.
  • a) With music paused, and volume all the way up, from how close to your speaker do you hear hum/hiss?
  • b) Play music on one input, then switch to an unused input and turn volume all the way up. Can you still hear the music from the other input?
  • c) As you turn volume down, does one speaker mute before the other, or play less loudly?

Of my four amps: Bryston 3Bsst/BP25 (amp/pre combo); Peachtree Nova Integrated; NAD C375Bee Integrated, and McIntosh MA6600 Integrated, the best performer was the McIntosh, then the NAD. ..Both the Peachtree and Bryston combo exhibit quite a bit of a,b, and c.

How does your amp perform?

I've never been inclined to perform such tests.
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post #4 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 03:59 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

much debate swirls around the audibility of differences b/w amplifiers; some believe in them, others don't. Personally, when listening to music, I don't believe I can hear a difference. Still, when I do the following, I have found there to be audible differences which may be indicative of how well the amp is engineered.
  • a) With music paused, and volume all the way up, from how close to your speaker do you hear hum/hiss?
  • b) Play music on one input, then switch to an unused input and turn volume all the way up. Can you still hear the music from the other input?
  • c) As you turn volume down, does one speaker mute before the other, or play less loudly?

Of my four amps: Bryston 3Bsst/BP25 (amp/pre combo); Peachtree Nova Integrated; NAD C375Bee Integrated, and McIntosh MA6600 Integrated, the best performer was the McIntosh, then the NAD. ..Both the Peachtree and Bryston combo exhibit quite a bit of a,b, and c.

How does your amp perform?

Irrelevant.

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post #5 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 04:21 PM
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At the amp's limits is where you will hear the difference between amps. I have a playmaster discrete power amplifier and it is miles ahead of the Onkyo TX-NR5007 I use as my receiver.
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post #6 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 04:32 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

much debate swirls around the audibility of differences b/w amplifiers; some believe in them, others don't. Personally, when listening to music, I don't believe I can hear a difference. Still, when I do the following, I have found there to be audible differences which may be indicative of how well the amp is engineered.
  • a) With music paused, and volume all the way up, from how close to your speaker do you hear hum/hiss?
  • b) Play music on one input, then switch to an unused input and turn volume all the way up. Can you still hear the music from the other input?
  • c) As you turn volume down, does one speaker mute before the other, or play less loudly?

Of my four amps: Bryston 3Bsst/BP25 (amp/pre combo); Peachtree Nova Integrated; NAD C375Bee Integrated, and McIntosh MA6600 Integrated, the best performer was the McIntosh, then the NAD. ..Both the Peachtree and Bryston combo exhibit quite a bit of a,b, and c.

How does your amp perform?

Mostly what you're getting at relates to the preamplifier section - item A relates to noise floor (and this isn't dictated just by the amplifier; the overall system plays here), item B relates to source selection/rejection, and item C relates to channel imbalance (which most pots are susceptible to).

Many modern AVRs and SSPs feature auto-mute circuitry that effectively shorts the amplifier input, making A irrelevant. They also have digital or relay switching between inputs, which makes B irrelevant. And they generally use digital volume controls, which makes C irrelevant.

On old (as in 1970s and 1980s) stereo receivers, items B and C are fairly common. They don't relate to the amplifier performance, they just exist. Item A exists for every amplifier I've ever encountered, at any price point, assuming the inputs aren't shorted or the relays aren't open.

You're not really comparing amplifiers here - you're comparing preamplifiers. And you're not really getting at any sort of objective performance differences. Channel imbalance usually doesn't carry over at higher levels (if the pot is really bad it could), and the bleed-through and hiss generally don't carry over at higher levels either, as they're masked by the audio signal.

Try your tests on something that relies on digital volume control and input selection, like a modern SSP, I doubt any of your test items are displayed (especially if the device lacks an internal AM/FM tuner). Should be dead quiet until you put a signal into it. This doesn't mean your equipment is malfunctioning or inferior, it's just a difference in implementation.


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post #7 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 06:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by walbert View Post

Mostly what you're getting at relates to the preamplifier section - item A relates to noise floor (and this isn't dictated just by the amplifier; the overall system plays here), item B relates to source selection/rejection, and item C relates to channel imbalance (which most pots are susceptible to).

Agreed. ..I should have clarified this by stating "..Integrated amplifiers" Other points well taken and appreciated.
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post #8 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 06:37 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

Irrelevant.

I agree with respect to a) and b), but not so with c). ..With the Peachtree, which lacked a balance control, I could not listen to the amp at low-volume level; one channel would completely attenuate while the other was still a bit too loud for background music. ..Very annoying. ..The Bryston does have a balance control, so proper balance can be restored, but this is annoying for such an expensive piece of gear. ..Neither the NAD nor the McIntosh exhibit any of this.
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post #9 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 07:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

I agree with respect to a) and b), but not so with c). ..With the Peachtree, which lacked a balance control, I could not listen to the amp at low-volume level; one channel would completely attenuate while the other was still a bit too loud for background music. ..Very annoying. ..The Bryston does have a balance control, so proper balance can be restored, but this is annoying for such an expensive piece of gear. ..Neither the NAD nor the McIntosh exhibit any of this.

And this is simply the reality of cheap pots - again, try something with digital controls; mainstream isn't always a bad thing.


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post #10 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 07:28 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

I agree with respect to a) and b), but not so with c). ..With the Peachtree, which lacked a balance control, I could not listen to the amp at low-volume level; one channel would completely attenuate while the other was still a bit too loud for background music. ..Very annoying. ..The Bryston does have a balance control, so proper balance can be restored, but this is annoying for such an expensive piece of gear. ..Neither the NAD nor the McIntosh exhibit any of this.

But no one listens at such settings. How the pots track in the usable range is relevant but only to a degree since uncorrected room acoustics can have a greater effect on balance.
Quote:
Originally Posted by walbert View Post

And this is simply the reality of cheap pots - again, try something with digital controls; mainstream isn't always a bad thing.

Especially if you are dealing with the extremes of the cheap pot.

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post #11 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 07:54 PM
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Most of the time, on much music, I don't hear a lot of difference, I'm just not aware it of because I don't listen too critically. But then there is a part of my listening that is ruined if the system is not making the music sound like it should. I do have pretty high quality equipment which I worked my way into gradually over 30 years of auditioning gear to find the best-sounding I could afford, and assume high quality sound is there, but sometimes I don't notice it for a while if things are not quite up to par.

Let me just tell you some of my recent experiences though, and see if any of it resonates with anyone.

One system, at one house, started to sound "not Right" to me...wasn't sure why, but things were sounding dull and not up to par.

That system uses an Audio Research LS-26 preamp and Bryston 3BSST amplifier and Vandersteen 3A speakers.

One disc I use as a test when I think things are sounding grungy is "jazz" by Ry Cooder, and another one is the Balalaika orchestra album on Mercury from 1962. Another is the OPUS3 disc "Lars Erstrand's Blue 5" , and there are some classical orchestra and vocal things. There are some others, but you get the idea; all over the place.

Sure enough, when I listened closely to several discs I know really well, the bass was undefined and weak and the crisp clear plucked notes and bass strings on the russian recording and some others were dull and cruddy-sounding. I finally decided it must be the tubes in the preamp, which had 1000 hours on them, when I checked ( the LS26 has a built-in hours meter).

Sure enough, new tubes made everything sound wonderful again; the bass was powerful and well-defined and every pluck of every string was clear as a bell. I suddenly realized how much the sound quality had deteriorated; man did things sound wonderful again.

I have had the LS-26 for 5 years, and before that an LS-16 for a couple, and before that an LS-2B for over 5 years. They all seem to go in the tank after 1000 hours or so and need new tubes to sound good again. AR says their tubes are supposed to go 4000 hours or something and that is a bunch of crap.

One other thing. The LS-26 uses what are called "Dynamicaps' to couple the signal at the output; very expensive. Before I knew that AR was using them I had installed them as input coupling caps on my old Audire amplifier and that was a HUGE improvement in sound quality. Then I installed them as output coupling caps on my old LS2B; also a big improvement. AR has to spend a lot of money for those, and if they are doing that I think that they apparently found out what I had already found out by trial and error; those caps seem to make make a big difference.

Another whole different thing was my new system at my new city house. I started with a Cambridge 40W amp and it was OK, but just not real able to bring out things I knew were there from my familiar system. I went to a NAD 356BEE, which was better except the bass was very poor, wooden-sounding and just mostly not there. Then I bought a Musical Fidelity M3I amplifier and things were suddenly sounding very good; almost as good as the AR/Bryston combo at the other house. Big big improvement.

Last, I decided to see if my speakers were that much different, so I brought my AR/Bryston amp/pre to the new system. OK, the PSB Image T6 speakers at the new house sounded about the same as the Vandersteen 3A speakers at the old house; not too big a difference. The big differences in sound quality that I heard seemed to definitely be due to the differences in the amplifiers.

Even though the Vandersteens were a lot more expensive, the PSB Image T6 speakers were so close in sound quality that I heard little difference.

What does all this prove? I don't know what it proves to anyone else, but if anyone says to ME that amps and preamps (and the quality of the critical coupling capacitors in the signal path) don't make huge differences in the clarity and realistic reproduction of the sound, I would have to say that this is 100% different than my experience. I would say that my experiences over many years of listening prove to me without a doubt that the amplifier (and preamp) is one of the biggest determinants of a system's sound quality, and that the differences between them are often HUGE.


************************************************************ *************
Of my four amps: Bryston 3Bsst/BP25 (amp/pre combo); Peachtree Nova Integrated; NAD C375Bee Integrated, and McIntosh MA6600 Integrated, the best performer was the McIntosh, then the NAD. ..Both the Peachtree and Bryston combo exhibit quite a bit of a,b, and c.

How does your amp perform?[/quote]
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post #12 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 08:29 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

What does all this prove? I don't know,

Then why should anyone read any further?:

Quote:


but ...
...
...
...
... quality.

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post #13 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 08:55 PM
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Please quote the entire paragraph, not just tiny fragments which you apparently chose specifically to distort my meaning completely.

Cheap shots and intentional distortions do not lead to intelligent discussion of anything.


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Originally Posted by diomania View Post

Then why should anyone read any further?:

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post #14 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 09:06 PM
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My AR LS-26 does not seem to have this problem; it has a 102-step volume control, in addition to 3 selectable overall gain settings for each input, and tracks perfectly at all settings.

I never noticed any difference between channels with the LS-2B or LS-16 either, but I never did a rigorous test.



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Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

But no one listens at such settings. How the pots track in the usable range is relevant but only to a degree since uncorrected room acoustics can have a greater effect on balance.
Especially if you are dealing with the extremes of the cheap pot.

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post #15 of 46 Old 01-05-2012, 09:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Please quote the entire paragraph, not just tiny fragments which you apparently chose specifically to distort my meaning completely.

Cheap shots and intentional distortions do not lead to intelligent discussion of anything.

You missed the point. You are obviously not confident ("I don't know") about the claims you posted. Got any claims on preamps and amps that you are confident about?
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post #16 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

But no one listens at such settings. How the pots track in the usable range is relevant but only to a degree since uncorrected room acoustics can have a greater effect on balance.
Especially if you are dealing with the extremes of the cheap pot.

Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

My AR LS-26 does not seem to have this problem; it has a 102-step volume control, in addition to 3 selectable overall gain settings for each input, and tracks perfectly at all settings.

I never noticed any difference between channels with the LS-2B or LS-16 either, but I never did a rigorous test.

I added the bold emphasis for you since I do not consider the VC on the LS-26 to be a "cheap pot." Do you?

Still, tracking at the extreme settings is not relevant to normal listening.

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post #17 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:11 AM
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Kal is right, as he usually is ..

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post #18 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:38 AM
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as you note, he's right, as usual...

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post #19 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

I added the bold emphasis for you since I do not consider the VC on the LS-26 to be a "cheap pot." Do you?

Still, tracking at the extreme settings is not relevant to normal listening.

I was sort of following up on what you said re the Bryston, which is anything but a cheap preamp; I obviously confused the issue.

Sorry.
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post #20 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 07:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by diomania View Post

You missed the point. You are obviously not confident ("I don't know") about the claims you posted. Got any claims on preamps and amps that you are confident about?

PLEASE quit misrepresenting me!!! YOU are totally missing the point, not me! The allegation you base your question on is factually incorrect, which makes your question absolute nonsense!

I "posted" no "claims" and I will make none. I am quite confident about what I believe and what I hear and stand by my opinions absolutely. Please quit insisting that I made any "claim" of any kind. An opinion is NOT a "claim", and your repeated TOTALLY INCORRECT insistence that I made "claims" forces me to question your intelligence.

You either did not read my post carefully, or you are unable to comprehend what I said. Kindly quit misrepresenting what I said; KNOCK IT OFF!

I was describing my recent experiences, for the benefit of anyone who was interested, and my reactions to them. I was NOT making any "claims", as you would know if you had actually read my post carefully, but stating personal experiences and my reaction to them. There is a big difference between the two things which seems to escape you.

As the last paragraph very clearly states, I have a strong personal belief, based on many years of careful listening regarding the considerable differences in the sound of a system that the amplifier seems to make. I am certainly quite confident about what I hear and what I believe about it. That is not a claim; it is a statement of what I believe, period.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

PLEASE quit misrepresenting me!!! YOU are totally missing the point, not me!

I "posted" no "claims" and I will make none. I am quite confident about what I believe and what I hear and stand by my opinions absolutely. Please quit insisting that I made any "claim" of any kind. An opinion is NOT a "claim", and your repeated INCORRECT insistence that I made "claims" leads me to question your intelligence.

You either did not read my post carefully, or you are unable to comprehend what I said. Kindly quit misrepresenting what I said; KNOCK IT OFF!

I was describing my recent experiences, for the benefit of anyone who was interested, and my reactions to them. I was NOT making any "claims", as you would know if you had actually read my post carefully, but stating personal experiences and my reaction to them. There is a big difference between the two things which seems to escape you.

As the last paragraph very clearly states, I have a strong personal belief, based on many years of careful listening regarding the considerable importance in the sound of a system that

Post #11 made: "Yesterday, 10:54 PM"
At the bottom of post #11: "Last edited by commsysman; Today at 10:55 AM.."

It seems that you need to proofread what you type before clicking on "Submit Reply". You know, so that you can be confident about what you post.

Quote:


the amplifier seems to make. I am certainly quite confident about what I ...

Seems to make? In other words, you don't know for sure. Ok, people can be confident about what they are not sure about.
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post #22 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:37 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kal Rubinson View Post

But no one listens at such settings. How the pots track in the usable range is relevant but only to a degree since uncorrected room acoustics can have a greater effect on balance.
Especially if you are dealing with the extremes of the cheap pot.

I respectfully disagree Kal. ..Why is it irrelevant that I could not listen to the Peachtree at a low level b/c of channel imbalance? As I said, one channel would be completely silent while the other played at the desired level. Granted, I don't often listen to music this way, but I will on occasion while working up in my listening room.

I understand that many (most) feel there is little value in considering these things as they go out and test gear they're considering buying, but to me they kinda matter. I'm a fanatic for fit/finish, and for items performing to spec. And I feel like any company purporting to build gear for the very discriminating audiophile should make it a first priority to make sure their volume control tracks properly, eliminate signal bleed b/w channels, and minimize hiss/hum. Things like "bass slam" and "prat" and "imaging", etc. are all nebulous and impossible to measure for.. Yet, these are things that are immediately identifiable and may give some hint as to how well something is built. ..IMHO.
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post #23 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:37 AM
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@dio...

ugh...

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post #24 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:41 AM
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Now that you have wasted 3 posts misinterpreting and twisting what I said, would you like to take a stab at making some useful contribution to this forum, or is your only purpose to try to annoy those those who do?

Some people take their turn at bat, and then there sore some who will only stand on the sidelines and throw rocks. So far, that appears to be all you are doing..

Seems to make? In other words, you don't know for sure. [/quote]
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post #25 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:43 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

As I said, one channel would be completely silent while the other played at the desired level. Granted, I don't often listen to music this way, but I will on occasion while working up in my listening room.

Are you sure that your Perchtree is not broken? Usually volume control should not have that much of influence on balance.
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post #26 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:46 AM
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Now you have it; the latest update from the waste dumps of New Jersey, lol. :-)



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Originally Posted by ccotenj View Post


@dio.......ugh


he went on ignore long ago for some of us... be kind to those of us who have him there and don't quote him...

Good idea.
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post #27 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 08:53 AM
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Your comments persuade me that your values are the same as mine. I learned by personal experience years ago that Audio Research makes products that deliver both exceptional attention to these details, and incredible build quality, sound quality, and reliability. I have had their preamps for 30 years and never had the smallest quality or reliability issue with any of them.

You sound like you and AR are made for each other.


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Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

I respectfully disagree Kal. ..Why is it irrelevant that I could not listen to the Peachtree at a low level b/c of channel imbalance? As I said, one channel would be completely silent while the other played at the desired level. Granted, I don't often listen to music this way, but I will on occasion while working up in my listening room.

I understand that many (most) feel there is little value in considering these things as they go out and test gear they're considering buying, but to me they kinda matter. I'm a fanatic for fit/finish, and for items performing to spec. And I feel like any company purporting to build gear for the very discriminating audiophile should make it a first priority to make sure their volume control tracks properly, eliminate signal bleed b/w channels, and minimize hiss/hum. Things like "bass slam" and "prat" and "imaging", etc. are all nebulous and impossible to measure for.. Yet, these are things that are immediately identifiable and may give some hint as to how well something is built. ..IMHO.

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post #28 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 09:05 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by commsysman View Post

Your comments persuade me that your values are the same as mine. I learned by personal experience years ago that Audio Research makes products that deliver both exceptional attention to these details, and incredible build quality, sound quality, and reliability. I have had their preamps for 30 years and never had the smallest quality or reliability issue with any of them.

You sound like you and AR are made for each other.

commsysman, you have mentioned the same thing about amps sounding different in several threads. Can you share with us the method you use in order to do these amp comparisons?
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post #29 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 09:05 AM
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Originally Posted by syd123 View Post

Granted, I don't often listen to music this way, but I will on occasion while working up in my listening room.

Yup. I never listen at such low levels.

Kal Rubinson

"Music in the Round"
Senior Contributing Editor, Stereophile

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post #30 of 46 Old 01-06-2012, 09:06 AM
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Actually, if i had that problem he describes, I would see if I could apply some control cleaner spray to the control pot, and then possibly try replacing it.




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Originally Posted by ap1 View Post

Are you sure that your Perchtree is not broken? Usually volume control should not have that much of influence on balance.

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