Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman
I thought I would try creating this thread to isolate this endless debate. Maybe we can even get it stickied.
Good idea as far as it goes.
The argument - All amps sound the same vs amps don't all sound the same
As stated, a straw man argument. Nobody knowlegeable thinks that all amps sound the same or that they all sound different.
* Receivers should be excluded from consideration when they are running in any proprietary processing modes and/or have room correction or other EQ active
* Clearly amps are imperfect so they ALL have distortion. And clearly this distortion does not have to be identical. The question is whether this distortion is audible or not.
Thing is, there are a number of different forms of distortion, some reasonbly subtle in their manifestations. Ironically, you'll shortly discount about half of them.
* People don't define 'sound the same' in the same way so be aware of that when debating this topic. To some people 'sound the same' mean two amps cannot be differentiated in controlled and blind testing; to others, it means they listened to the two amps knowing which was which and could hear the difference.
This again ignores a number of other common situations.
(1) Listening while not level-matched - very common as probably more than 90% of all people with first hand opinions in this matter lack the ability to properly level match, even though it costs less than $40 to properly equip ones self.
(2) Listening while broken. A ton of people compare their old amp to their new amp and attribute whatever difference they perceive to claimed enhancments in the new amp. In fact the old amp may just need maintenance. It may not be economical to perform that mainentance, but that's another issue. IME broken equipment often doesn't sound so hot.
(3) Listening while something else in the system is broken. In the wire game, it is well known that any number of people rip out their old wires, and put in new wires and again perceive a wonderful improvement. In reality, simply removing and replacing the old wires would provide the same benefit, because the problem was corrosion build up that would be wiped away by a remove and replace cycle.
* People clearly don't agree on the merits of blind testing and probably never will
Yes, the world is full of people who have no clue about what the experimental psychologistshave known for over 40 years.
* It's possible some amps do sound different because of their design. For example, supposedly SET amps have sufficient distortion to be audible.
Actually, the first most audible problem of SET amps and other tubed amps is that they have high output impedances. They will have a new and definately audible frequency response characteristic with every different set of speakers that are attached to them.
Or some manufacturers could have decided to roll off their high response for some reason etc. Obviously if a manufacturer was not making every effort to create an amplifier with a linear response, there's no guarantee it sounds like an amp which was.
One important point being that traditional amp measurements based on driving a bank of resistors are blind to any number of audible problems that an amp can have. Furthermore, the same resistive load testing will make most amps look like they are not as good as they are when driving speakers. It's a lose-lose for consumers as they are presented with these specs that cause amps to be overbuilt in some ways, and can be blind to amps that are underbuilt in others.
Position 1 -
All amps sound the same when they are not clipping and are designed for a flat response
Completely ignores serious issues like nonlinear distoriton other than clipping, and bad behavior into speaker loads.
Position 2 -
Amps don't all sound the identical, but they are so similar in sound, even listeners who claim to have "golden ears" struggle to be able to compare two amps in controlled and blind testing. They are sufficiently close in sound that there's little reason to choose one amp over another based on sonic character.
Position 3 -
Amps may sound very similar, but there are important differences. They sound different enough that it's worth one's time to demo amps, read reviews or otherwise attempt to make their buying decision based on amp sound.
Position 4 -
Amps can sound obviously different, and if you can't tell the difference, your equipment is lacking or your ears are lacking
Haven't I heard that a lot? Of course if you get most people who talk this way to actually do a proper listening test, they quickly start singing a different tune.