"Official" All amps sound the same thread - Page 2 - AVS Forum
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post #31 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 07:33 AM
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I'd have to see some #'s for speakers back in the 70's.

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post #32 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 08:06 AM - Thread Starter
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Seems hard to believe speakers were more efficient back then. I think people are just power hungry Ever since tool time - more power.

Look at car audio - crazy. I think hearing aids are going to be big business in the future with how loud people are listening to music in their cars.

I figure, if you really want loud, go pro. Pro amps are affordable, and you can probably get used pro cabs for a decent price, and they often have nice sensitivity figures. Of course, they're futt buggly and may not sound as refined as better consumer audio speakers

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #33 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
* Receivers should be excluded from consideration when they are running in any proprietary processing modes and/or have room correction or other EQ active

Agreed.

Quote:
* 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.


Quote:
* 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.

Quote:
* 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.

Quote:
* 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.

Quote:
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.

Quote:
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.


Quote:
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.

OK.

Quote:
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.

OK

Quote:

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.
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post #34 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:23 AM
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Originally Posted by batpig View Post

there is no way amp is ahead of the room acoustics, that's just nutty.

Agreed. In fact rooms are more significant than most speakers.

Here's an experiment. Swap the speakers in 2 rooms. See whether the characteristic sound of a room stays with the room, or moves with the speaker.

IME, the sound of a room stays with the room unless the speakers are wildly different.
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post #35 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:26 AM
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I always thought an Amp is an Amp is an Amp under a level playing field. I'm helping do an install where the only thing that is changed is the receiver. The difference in overall SQ from one receiver to the next was very noticeable, to all, at normal settings in stereo and true multi-channel mode. Published power ratings were very close but the heft of the power supply section was very different from one receiver to the other. Hmmm.

Nice thread MJ!
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post #36 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:36 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

I'd have to see some #'s for speakers back in the 70's.

82-88 dB/watt for mainstream speakers.

If you want to go back to the days when speakers with > 90 dB/watt were common, you have to go back to the 50s and early 60s. The big Altecs, JBLs, EVs, and Jensens that were descended from theatres and recording studios were that way.

I'm thinking of the JBL 001, and larger systems, EV Patrician, Altec 604, etc. A 20 watt amp can be pretty loud with these.

Bookshelf speakers, the desire for at least modest bass response, and the laws of physics pretty much pushed speakers into the 82-88 dB range in the late 60s and 70s, which is also characteristic of most home audio speakers today.

I seem to recall that the original AR-3 had about 88 dB sensitivity. The AR3 was not a single speaker, but a family whose bass extension and efficiency wandered around a bit.

If you move into the 90s, speakers like those from NHT were mostly below 85 dB/W sensitivity.

The improved bass and dynamic range of digital players had as much to do with inflating amplifier power as anything.

Planar magnetic and electrostatic speakers may go below 83 dB/W.

Speakers with > 90, 95 dB sensitivity are still around. You just have to dip into the parts bin that the live sound people feed from. Think big boxes if you want deep bass. BTW, there are some very good-sounding parts in there.
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post #37 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:57 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slidell View Post

I always thought an Amp is an Amp is an Amp under a level playing field. I'm helping do an install where the only thing that is changed is the receiver. The difference in overall SQ from one receiver to the next was very noticeable, to all, at normal settings in stereo and true multi-channel mode. Published power ratings were very close but the heft of the power supply section was very different from one receiver to the other. Hmmm.

Nice thread MJ!

OOC, what were the brands/models?

I'm still not sure if I notice the difference or not - I moved from an old Yamaha receiver to the Panny x55 and thought I heard a difference, but obviously that could have been due to a lot of things - they certainly weren't level matched for A/B comparison, and they overall 'felt' different. For instance, the Panny seemed to get louder quicker - making the Yamaha feel 'mushy' which would seem like it was underpowered.
Then I went from the Panny to HK 635 and I noticed no difference at all.
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post #38 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 09:57 AM
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I've heard/noticed differences between amps. The main differences were ones of tonal color and/or frequency emphasis.
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post #39 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:03 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post

82-88 dB/watt for mainstream speakers.

If you want to go back to the days when speakers with > 90 dB/watt were common, you have to go back to the 50s and early 60s. The big Altecs, JBLs, EVs, and Jensens that were descended from theatres and recording studios were that way.

I'm thinking of the JBL 001, and larger systems, EV Patrician, Altec 604, etc. A 20 watt amp can be pretty loud with these.

Bookshelf speakers, the desire for at least modest bass response, and the laws of physics pretty much pushed speakers into the 82-88 dB range in the late 60s and 70s, which is also characteristic of most home audio speakers today.

I seem to recall that the original AR-3 had about 88 dB sensitivity. The AR3 was not a single speaker, but a family whose bass extension and efficiency wandered around a bit.

If you move into the 90s, speakers like those from NHT were mostly below 85 dB/W sensitivity.

The improved bass and dynamic range of digital players had as much to do with inflating amplifier power as anything.

Planar magnetic and electrostatic speakers may go below 83 dB/W.

Speakers with > 90, 95 dB sensitivity are still around. You just have to dip into the parts bin that the live sound people feed from. Think big boxes if you want deep bass. BTW, there are some very good-sounding parts in there.

Yeah when Chu mentioned in the old day I thought he was talking the 60s.
And then there was the popularity of horn designs as well back then.

But the interesting point you raise is how this started to change in 70s, if I remember the 70s were pretty well known for dubious amps that failed, sounded bad, or were unreliable.
One of the few speaker companies I think in the 70s considering speaker sensitivity was the Harbeth design meeting BBC criteria.
Anyway there were a few good makes but I still read articles bemoaning the mainstream quality and reliability for amps of the 1970s era.
Looks like the amps had to evolve.

Cheers
DT
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post #40 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:14 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slidell View Post

I always thought an Amp is an Amp is an Amp under a level playing field. I'm helping do an install where the only thing that is changed is the receiver. The difference in overall SQ from one receiver to the next was very noticeable

The problem with this is that you didn't just change amps, you changed RECEIVERS.

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post #41 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:23 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DulcetTones View Post

Yeah when Chu mentioned in the old day I thought he was talking the 60s.
And then there was the popularity of horn designs as well back then.

But the interesting point you raise is how this started to change in 70s, if I remember the 70s were pretty well known for dubious amps that failed, sounded bad, or were unreliable.
One of the few speaker companies I think in the 70s considering speaker sensitivity was the Harbeth design meeting BBC criteria.
Anyway there were a few good makes but I still read articles bemoaning the mainstream quality and reliability for amps of the 1970s era.
Looks like the amps had to evolve.

Cheers
DT

I kinda liked the Pioneer & Sansui offerings from back then. I recently found out my sister in law junked a very nice 2channel Yamaha receiver because it was old and she had no room for it. Had I known...

Funny now how the equipment seems to have gotten better only to be thwarted by the loudness wars.

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post #42 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:42 AM
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WOW....what a trip down memory lane.

First receiver I EVER bought was a Scott....followed closely by an upper end Sansui.

Those were mated to Advents, Ohms, and Klipsch Forte IIs (IIRC, something like 92db @ 8 Ohms).

Went the separates route after that (Conrad Johnson, Maggies and Throens)

Things have come full circle.....back to AVRs (current Pioneer Elite SC series).

Music so high you can't get over it....music so low you can't get under it!
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post #43 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batpig View Post

The problem with this is that you didn't just change amps, you changed RECEIVERS.

LOL, very true but they do use amps.. just not the same as comparing stand alone amps, eh?

BTW, I would have to list "room" at the top of the previous list posted..the WAF may need to be added in there as well

PlayDoh, just wanted to point out the SQ difference between so called similarly rated receivers, not sound like fan of one brand over another.
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post #44 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 10:54 AM
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The fact of the matter is, it is impossible to get a completely perfect linear response from 20 to 20k. And by perfect I mean ____________________.

Hell my hearing tapers off at 16K. So wouldn't that play a part. I mean for a person to truly judge if there is a difference, they would have to go to an audiologist and be tested to find out if, and in more cases than you think, where you hearing is deficient.

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My order of what makes a different sound.
1. Speakers
2. Amp/preamp
3. Room
4. Source
5. Cables (yup)

A preamp plays an important role as well.

And I do agree with #5. But your equipment plays a big part in how cables influence the sound. I'm sorry, but if you own equipment such as Denon/Yamaha/Pioneer/Onkyo in the under $1500 range (retail), expensive cables make no difference because your receiver has become the weakest link. But when you get to higher quality equipment, I have heard the difference between cables.

Working in a store with Bryston/NAD/Rotel/Anthem/Parasound, they all have their sonic signature. But I guess we are basing it all on the "perfect linear" response.

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post #45 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 12:15 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Slidell View Post

LOL, very true but they do use amps.. just not the same as comparing stand alone amps, eh?

BTW, I would have to list "room" at the top of the previous list posted..the WAF may need to be added in there as well

PlayDoh, just wanted to point out the SQ difference between so called similarly rated receivers, not sound like fan of one brand over another.

Gotcha, I was interested in the 'similarly rated' part - was just wondering if you were stepping up in quality/power/etc. But from your wording I get that they were comparable.
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post #46 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 12:35 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

I kinda liked the Pioneer & Sansui offerings from back then. I recently found out my sister in law junked a very nice 2channel Yamaha receiver because it was old and she had no room for it. Had I known...

Funny now how the equipment seems to have gotten better only to be thwarted by the loudness wars.

There were definitely gems even from mainstream in 70s and 80s, Sony had a cracking reference CD transport in 80s.

Cheers
DT
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post #47 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 12:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by batpig View Post

there is no way amp is ahead of the room acoustics, that's just nutty. unless by "amp" you are lumping in with the pre/pro and any EQ functions it may perform.

I think it depends upon the situation, but unless you have a dire sounding room then to me speaker-amp will always be above room acoustics.
Room acoustics from my experience can narrow or widen soundstage, improve the balance between low-mid-highs so you perceive sounds that were hidden before (I guess a bit similar to the "peer more into the detail" type description people give), able to play louder, and also work wonders with reverb that improves articulation/snap of instruments, and of course work out the kinks in truly bad rooms.

However, what room acoustics cannot do is resolve niggles in a system (speaker-amps together) that is exacerbated my some albums or tracks.
Two very clear and different examples for me; Goldfrapp Seventh Tree, and also Johny Cash American IV.
With the Goldfrapp the masking hiss when Alison sings is really unbearable for me on many systems (pre&power and even integrateds) to the extent I had to put this album to the side until I found my current pre&power amp, while my secondary setup that has a very good and excellent spec integrated amp it is still truly unplayable to my ears.
With the Johny Cash it is a matter that the combination of guitar/piano/his vocals when emphasised on a track annoyingly just breaks up and loses the clarity with harshness/ringing.

Room acoustics has never resolved this for me, while different amps have.
Of course I have to mention this as a system because with different speakers you get different niggles that are probably exacerbated by different albums/tracks and may require a different amp.

Now with talks that music changes dramatically between rooms, again just from my experience in the last two weeks this does not seem to happen (unless it is a dire room with a full length glass window,etc).
The WB Arc speaker sounded only slightly better (diminishing returns law) between a small untreated room that benefit from solid walls all round, and a medium-large room with good acoustic treatment and again solid walls all round.

I can see where acoustic treatments provide great or minor benefits, but I also can see that they do not resolve niggles that we hear in a complete system.
Remember when auditioning it is not just about what impresses, but what also we do not like about the sound reproduced (niggles).

Cheers
DT
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post #48 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 01:11 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan Peddle View Post

But your equipment plays a big part in how cables influence the sound. I'm sorry, but if you own equipment such as Denon/Yamaha/Pioneer/Onkyo in the under $1500 range (retail), expensive cables make no difference because your receiver has become the weakest link. But when you get to higher quality equipment, I have heard the difference between cables.

I don't think you realize how the level of perfection of ordinary good audio cables compares with that of equipment.

Cables perform exceedingly well. There is no audio gear that comes within a factor of 100 of how well even cheap cables perform. So, the idea that if your equipment is transparent enough it will allow you to hear through it and listen to differences between cables is pure urban legend.


Quote:


Working in a store with Bryston/NAD/Rotel/Anthem/Parasound, they all have their sonic signature. But I guess we are basing it all on the "perfect linear" response.

Many of us know how the audio business works these days. Often, the exhorbitant markup on cables is among the little profit that there is in a a big equipment deal for a dealer.

Furthermore, many of us know about the technical qualifications of audio dealer staff to set up good listening tests. It's virtually non-existent, and when it isn't, they usually don't have the time.
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post #49 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 01:45 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ryan Peddle View Post

The fact of the matter is, it is impossible to get a completely perfect linear response from 20 to 20k. And by perfect I mean ____________________.

Hell my hearing tapers off at 16K. So wouldn't that play a part. I mean for a person to truly judge if there is a difference, they would have to go to an audiologist and be tested to find out if, and in more cases than you think, where you hearing is deficient.



A preamp plays an important role as well.

And I do agree with #5. But your equipment plays a big part in how cables influence the sound. I'm sorry, but if you own equipment such as Denon/Yamaha/Pioneer/Onkyo in the under $1500 range (retail), expensive cables make no difference because your receiver has become the weakest link. But when you get to higher quality equipment, I have heard the difference between cables.

Working in a store with Bryston/NAD/Rotel/Anthem/Parasound, they all have their sonic signature. But I guess we are basing it all on the "perfect linear" response.

Darwin knew who the weakest link was.


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post #50 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 02:06 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PlayDoh View Post

Gotcha, I was interested in the 'similarly rated' part - was just wondering if you were stepping up in quality/power/etc. But from your wording I get that they were comparable.

Well, in retrospect, I do hear a close similarity between my three Japanese brand receivers, a low end Onkyo and middle of the road Yamaha and Denon. The power supplies and power ratings are close as well. I also found these more in line between your Pany and Yamaha experience.

I had an early system; a Crown D-150 driving Bozacks. I picked up another used D-150 and placed both in bridged mode. The increased headroom made a difference, smoother?, at all listening levels. In my first post I was comparing two receivers that have similar posted power specs but one sounded more like the bridged Crowns, more like a headroom increase.
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post #51 of 2642 Old 01-29-2009, 02:09 PM
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Position 3 - I've owned a dozen amps in past 3 years and some of them just didn't cut it for me and I had to get rid of them. The listening test wasn't much in the A-B comparisons, but rather in the long term listening over a few weeks.
With that being said, I've also found several cheaper used amps that give great sound.
Problem with demo's is you usually can't demo it in your own system for a period of time.
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post #52 of 2642 Old 01-30-2009, 11:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dakar80124 View Post

Position 3 - I've owned a dozen amps in past 3 years and some of them just didn't cut it for me and I had to get rid of them. The listening test wasn't much in the A-B comparisons, but rather in the long term listening over a few weeks.
With that being said, I've also found several cheaper used amps that give great sound.
Problem with demo's is you usually can't demo it in your own system for a period of time.

Interesting observation. Experience like yours are very compelling. Just curious whether you have also participate in any side by side long term comparison with some attempt to level match loudness and some method to maintain your impartiality.
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post #53 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 01:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

I thought I would try creating this thread to isolate this endless debate. Maybe we can even get it stickied.

The argument - All amps sound the same vs amps don't all sound the same

Some Key points -

* 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.
* 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.
* People clearly don't agree on the merits of blind testing and probably never will
* It's possible some amps do sound different because of their design. For example, supposedly SET amps have sufficient distortion to be audible. 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.

Position 1 -

All amps sound the same when they are not clipping and are designed for a flat response

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

Has anyone done any doubleblind, equalized and level controlled, etc testing of amps lately? The answer to this question can and should be determined based on the testing and data.
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post #54 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:12 AM
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Yes. Many have.
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post #55 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:29 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Siddhartha View Post

Has anyone done any doubleblind, equalized and level controlled, etc testing of amps lately? The answer to this question can and should be determined based on the testing and data.

As mentioned, there's a number of people who don't fell blind testing tells the whole story.

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #56 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:43 AM
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Do you think their reasons were justified?
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post #57 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:43 AM
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Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

As mentioned, there's a number of people who don't fell blind testing tells the whole story.

Blind testing should reduced the influence of bias in the results.....
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post #58 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:51 AM - Thread Starter
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It seems possible that subtle differences in amplifiers can't be detecting during blind testing, yet do have an effect on a listeners enjoyment level.

I can't prove that obviously, nor would I bother. I have just speculated that's it's a possible hypothesis.

I personally don't worry about such things - I bought my receiver for it's feature set

"But this one goes up to 11"
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post #59 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 02:51 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wolfganglui View Post

Do you think their reasons were justified?

Considering the one of the lowest budget model discontinued Yamaha 70watt for 2 channels into 8ohsms (Yamaha cannot provide even 6ohm figures for 2 channels driven) AVR in a medium room on floorstanders that average 4ohms and have an 87db spl sensitivity could not be differentiated from a good spec 300w ML in an ABX does make me question some of these level matched blind ABX tests.
Of course the music could had been so quiet the test became pointless, but then why bother saying how amazing the two could not be told apart.
But then the alternative view is that there really is very little difference in nearly most amps (within spec although this is a clear example of no difference out of spec and comparing a budget AVR to a well designed power amp).
Anyway it is definitely a food for thought concept that many of us are biased when we consider amps and hear more dynamics that possibly just are not there.
But I am sceptical because of this test where there was no difference to be heard, of course you may feel very different and explanations can be put forward to support the reasons why they did not hear differences, either way as usual it all comes down to assumptions though for all parties interested.

Michael, seems to me even greater aspects cannot be told apart in such blind testing.
Do the maths for a 12db dynamic music (from average to peak) and the watts will surprise you if your just averaging anywhere close to 5watts.
For good music it is 15db, and for excellent music around and possibly slightly over 20db.
3db is a doubling of watts each time.

And of course this ignores phase angles that for a lot of floorstanders still hit at times 30degree (25% increase in power requirement), while others also hit 45degree (50% increase in power requirement) at the trickier points.
Cheers
DT
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post #60 of 2642 Old 01-31-2009, 03:17 AM
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Michael,

Thanks for the reply but now it makes me wonder why did you start this thread then?
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