$10,000 amp challenge query - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 08:21 PM - Thread Starter
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so, i did a search and after 5 or 6 pages of searching, i couldn't find a post on this, so forgive me if this has been posted before.

i'm shopping for an amp, and i came across this:
http://www.tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm
Quote:
"Richard Clark is an audio professional. Like many audiophiles, he originally believed the magazines and marketing materials that different amplifier topologies and components colored the sound in unique, clearly audible ways. He later did experiments to quantify and qualify these effects, and was surprised to find them inaudible when volume and other factors were matched.

His challenge is an offer of $10,000 of his own money to anyone who could identify which of two amplifiers was which, by listening only, under a set of rules that he conceived to make sure they both measure “good enough” and are set up the same. Reports are that thousands of people have taken the test, and none has passed the test. Nobody has been able to show an audible difference between two amps under the test rules."

so i'm thinking about plopping down $3K for a NAD amp, but this challenge makes me think i'm stupid for doing so.

can anyone give any insight to this?
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post #2 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 08:50 PM
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A more powerful amp will enable higher volume, within the limits of your speakers. Do you need that?

Really hard to give any more detailed answers without more info... current gear, room size, preferred listening levels, etc. Are you throwing block parties on your 10 acres outside? Or do you want to 'change' the sound you have now, at the same, normal in room listening levels?

It's for 'wall hung dude', and no, I don't need any help to 'hook-up'.... sheesh ... dirty minds around these parts....
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post #3 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:09 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlhungdude View Post

A more powerful amp will enable higher volume, within the limits of your speakers. Do you need that?
Really hard to give any more detailed answers without more info... current gear, room size, preferred listening levels, etc. Are you throwing block parties on your 10 acres outside? Or do you want to 'change' the sound you have now, at the same, normal in room listening levels?

sorry for not being more specific - i need about 60-80W per channel for my setup, but that's not really my point.

i'm interested in hearing if people think amps actually do sound different or not. the guy at the local hifi store laughed when i told him about the challenge and said "yeah, i used to think all amps sounded the same, but that was a long time ago and i was kind of dumb. i should take that challenge and make a quick $10K."

so question really is "why should i pay $3K instead of $300 if all amps sound the same?? or don't they all sound the same??"
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post #4 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:16 PM
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This test always brings out the crazies smile.gif It is like arguing about the existence of god, or is MacOS or Windows better, and people seem to not be able to reasonably discuss the possibility that they may have purchased something that wasn't actually worth the amount they spent on it.

But the bottom line is, if what you are buying satisfies the call, that is, what YOU NEED it to do, then everything beyond that is personal preference/pleasure. Buying a $3000 NAD amp, whether or not it sounds better than a $500 Yamaha amp, may satisfy the person who likes the looks, the reputation, the specs, and the idea of "getting what you pay for" that comes with doing that. If you are worried about it, listen to alternatives and see if YOU think the cost difference is justified.

No one here can tell you you are stupid for buying or not buying a $X audio component. Of course, they will tell you that, but that isn't my point...

That's my $0.02 and if you disagree you're wrong wink.gif

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post #5 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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Fully agree, and yes, by all means don't bring up that topic.

If it's in your price range, audition, bring home, set up, and enjoy.

If you're going to agonize over it, trade your separates in, buy a receiver, bring home, set up, and enjoy.

Either case you're happy - there's no reason to try to compare both cases here (as people have said - both sound the same).
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post #6 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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60 to 80 watts per channel. Does your current AVR not do at least that? Entry level models may not, but they also don't have the pre-outs necessary to use an external amp. Do you need an amp? Or do you want an amp?
I wanted an external amp, so I got one. Emotiva UPA-5, to be specific. I didn't need one. Still don't.
The guy at your local hi-fi store is full of sh!t, IMO. He's a salesman trying to separate you from your $$.
All amps should sound the same, as long as they're kept within their operating range, unless they're poorly designed or defective. They shouldn't 'change' the signal being fed into it, just amplify it, so the only thing that 'should' change is the amount of power being fed to your speakers. That can give you the ability to go louder, without distortion, than you could otherwise. Do you need louder?

It's for 'wall hung dude', and no, I don't need any help to 'hook-up'.... sheesh ... dirty minds around these parts....
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post #7 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:38 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prefetch View Post

sorry for not being more specific - i need about 60-80W per channel for my setup, but that's not really my point.
i'm interested in hearing if people think amps actually do sound different or not. the guy at the local hifi store laughed when i told him about the challenge and said "yeah, i used to think all amps sounded the same, but that was a long time ago and i was kind of dumb. i should take that challenge and make a quick $10K."
so question really is "why should i pay $3K instead of $300 if all amps sound the same?? or don't they all sound the same??"

Guy at the hifi store was trying to sell you a $3k amp.

I'm not sure all amps sound the same - but all good amps sound pretty darn similar.
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post #8 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:43 PM
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Originally Posted by lespurgeon View Post

I'm not sure all amps sound the same - but all good amps sound pretty darn similar.

I agree here, too - but as a "discussion" topic, cat's out of the bag. *Takes out a bag of popcorn* Here we go! biggrin.gif
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post #9 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 09:45 PM
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My main point is not really to argue whether 'all amps sound the same'. I'm questioning whether you NEED an external amp at all. Or if you just WANT an amp. That should be determined first.

It's for 'wall hung dude', and no, I don't need any help to 'hook-up'.... sheesh ... dirty minds around these parts....
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post #10 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 10:25 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlhungdude View Post

My main point is not really to argue whether 'all amps sound the same'. I'm questioning whether you NEED an external amp at all. Or if you just WANT an amp. That should be determined first.

i'm building an A/V room from scratch. i just bought a bunch of nice speakers.

the hifi sales guys doesnt actually sell NAD, but he sells plenty of other high end amps, and i know his job is to sell me expensive stuff!

but to get really specific - this is what i'm considering buying: http://www.crutchfield.com/p_745T777/NAD-T-777.html
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post #11 of 74 Old 09-19-2012, 11:00 PM
 
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Technically, what you are looking at is not an amp, but a receiver or AVR. None the less, you are looking at what would be a flagship model and a 3000 unit from any brand would be top notch and hard to find any weaknesses. NAD used to be known for more beefy amp sections in their receivers, but I don't know about currently.

What will shape the sound more than the amp section is the room correction software that each brand will have, and NAD has what both Onkyo and Denon have, Audyssey. But it is not the top of the line version of Audyssey, and Onkyo is giving that in their $900 model, so that's a strike against NAD. Denon's model with Audyssey XT32 is low $2000 range I think. I guess the question to find what AVR would be best for you is the speakers and the room. What ohm rating and sensitivity rating are the speakers? This will dictate how much power you will need. The cubic size of the room and how far away from the speakers you sit will also help greatly. Oh, and how many subs are you going to have?

But at first blush, I'd say that the NAD is overpriced.
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post #12 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 08:40 AM
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First of all EQing the amps automatically disqualifies this whole test, you can't throw in variables that dont let the amps being compared to perform in their truest form. To gain accurate empirical data variables must be reduced to a minimum, you can't "rig" the amps:rolleyes:

Amps most certainly can have different sonic signatures, however comparing or picking out different amps that may sound different may be almost impossible just as this guys test is trying to show. Walking in to a proper ABX test without knowledge of the amps, and source material being used to compare said amps, yes it would be extremely difficult to distiguish amps on any repeatable basis. I understand this, I'm not trying to disprove this guys point.

However, take those same amps and let someone spend some time with them, and with source material they are very familiar with and basically let them "train" their ears to find the different nuances and sonic siganatures of each amp. Now let that person take the ABX test and you will find that the success rate will increase quite a bit.

You don't need golden ears to hear a difference in amps you just need to spend time comparing them and use source material you like and are familiar with to pick out the amp you like best, and like someone above said "good" amps should and can sound pretty much the same, so you may have a toss up trying to decide. However in my experience sometimes even good amps will sound different too.

Amps most certainly can and do sound different, it's up to the end user to decide whether they want to put the work in and do some experimenting to find the difference. We must remember though sometimes those differences will most likely be small, but sometimes the difference is obvious and someone may prefer that "different" sound. It's personal preference in the end.

Woo Hoo
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post #13 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 08:42 AM
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post #14 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 09:00 AM
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Driving a loudspeaker is very different than a 4 Ohm load resistor..

Just check out the Power Out/THD and power band graphs; comparing 8 and 4 Ohms specs..
The amplifier's sonic signature can/will change, however if driving 8 Ohm high sensitivity loudspeaker this is far easier on the amplifier so audible byproducts are less detectable...

Just my $0.02... wink.gif
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Folks, the thread title is a little misleading. The thread starter is looking at a NAD AVR and wonders if he should get it for $3000. Should he buy the NAD or something else if all amps sound the same?

Would anyone agree with me that he should opt for an AVR that has Audyssey XT32, which this NAD model doesn't have(and they want 3 large for it!), and he would have to spend considerably less to get. Depending on the size of his room and his speaker specs, of course.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by prefetch View Post

i should take that challenge and make a quick $10K."
so question really is "why should i pay $3K instead of $300 if all amps sound the same?? or don't they all sound the same??"

To me, based on your above, the question morphs into, why not take the test and make an easy $10k unless his comment is bluster and bravado.

FWIW, my understanding, if distortion is below 0.1THD (all channels driven and the noise floor is +100dB, then the amplifier is considered neutral.
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post #17 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 09:59 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wlhungdude View Post

My main point is not really to argue whether 'all amps sound the same'. I'm questioning whether you NEED an external amp at all. Or if you just WANT an amp. That should be determined first.

I need an outboard amp because i want to be cool. tongue.gif
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post #18 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 10:05 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingshane View Post

First of all EQing the amps automatically disqualifies this whole test, you can't throw in variables that dont let the amps being compared to perform in their truest form. To gain accurate empirical data variables must be reduced to a minimum, you can't "rig" the amps:rolleyes:

All that's being matched in double-blind studies is the line level. Nothing is being EQ'd.

Just saying, not getting into an argument, if one takes the same Amp and jacks the sound level up 3dB, the jacked up signal, although the same Amp, will get better reviews if an A/B listener review is done. Again, in double-blind tests, only the volume is equaled, nothing else as amplifiers are designed to be neutral and not color the sound. If someone wants colored sound, that's fine, a simple EQ adjustment will give any user what they want.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runnin' View Post

Should he buy the NAD or something else if all amps sound the same?
Would anyone agree with me that he should opt for an AVR that has Audyssey XT32, which this NAD model doesn't have(and they want 3 large for it!), and he would have to spend considerably less to get. Depending on the size of his room and his speaker specs, of course.

Assuming affordability, the OP should buy that what makes him all warm and fuzzy inside and having never used XT32 (user of XT here), based on what everybody else who has used XT32 has had to say on the matter, buying an AVR with XT32, is a definite upgrade.

(I'll look to use the multiple post feature next time.)
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post #20 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 10:46 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingshane View Post

First of all EQing the amps automatically disqualifies this whole test, you can't throw in variables that dont let the amps being compared to perform in their truest form. To gain accurate empirical data variables must be reduced to a minimum, you can't "rig" the amps:rolleyes:
Amps most certainly can have different sonic signatures, however comparing or picking out different amps that may sound different may be almost impossible just as this guys test is trying to show. Walking in to a proper ABX test without knowledge of the amps, and source material being used to compare said amps, yes it would be extremely difficult to distiguish amps on any repeatable basis. I understand this, I'm not trying to disprove this guys point.
However, take those same amps and let someone spend some time with them, and with source material they are very familiar with and basically let them "train" their ears to find the different nuances and sonic siganatures of each amp. Now let that person take the ABX test and you will find that the success rate will increase quite a bit.
You don't need golden ears to hear a difference in amps you just need to spend time comparing them and use source material you like and are familiar with to pick out the amp you like best, and like someone above said "good" amps should and can sound pretty much the same, so you may have a toss up trying to decide. However in my experience sometimes even good amps will sound different too.
Amps most certainly can and do sound different, it's up to the end user to decide whether they want to put the work in and do some experimenting to find the difference. We must remember though sometimes those differences will most likely be small, but sometimes the difference is obvious and someone may prefer that "different" sound. It's personal preference in the end.

Well said.

I would like to add that in order to pass the challenge, you have to get the right answer 24 out of 24 times. The test wasn't designed to show all amps sound exactly the same. It's intention is to show the differences aren't obvious. They're subtle. I don't think any test have been done since the 1990's.

NAD make excellent amps. But for $3,000, I would look at getting one of the new Denon or Onkyo high end receivers like the 4520, 5010 or 3010.
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post #21 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 10:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeeMan458 View Post

All that's being matched in double-blind studies is the line level. Nothing is being EQ'd.
Just saying, not getting into an argument, if one takes the same Amp and jacks the sound level up 3dB, the jacked up signal, although the same Amp, will get better reviews if an A/B listener review is done. Again, in double-blind tests, only the volume is equaled, nothing else as amplifiers are designed to be neutral and not color the sound. If someone wants colored sound, that's fine, a simple EQ adjustment will give any user what they want.

I know this, level matching should be all that is being done for a proper test, but I was referring to the $10,000 amp challenge procedure. Mr. Richard Clark EQ's one of the amps in his ABX test, this totally nullifies any meaningful results. I think Dick might be light 10g's if he was wasn't doing this.

Woo Hoo
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post

Well said.
I would like to add that in order to pass the challenge, you have to get the right answer 24 out of 24 times.

Not true. There's no better than statistical chance, which is between 12-17%; guessing. To the best of my knowledge, that's where everybody ends up after a statistically sufficient number of tests are run. At to a degree of certainty, IIRC, one needs a 70% accuracy rate to be rated statistically significant.

(Anybody is welcome to tighten up my above recollections.)

Next, one needs to take into consideration, how they listen to subject content in real terms. Are they listening in an anechoic chamber or in their living room? Are they listening while alone, or are they listening while having a glass of wine, with loved ones, on the floor with a Yahtzee cup in hand; rattle, rattle, yeah baby, daddy needs those quintuplets. Yes, I remember listening to a $50k, stereo, vinyl system, all by myself, chair in the sweet spot, nobody to distract me while my eyes were closed. Oh, yes, it was gorgeous sound quality. But, our <$8k, 5.2 system sounds gorgeous also.

The funny thing about knowing one's gear, once the sheet goes over their gear, everything immediately disappears and their ability to hear a difference immediately goes South and then the excuses come out. My point, if one needs excuses to defend not telling a differences between a $3k Amp and a $900.00 Amp, then one is not hearing differences as differences are suppose to be easily noticeable as claimed when there's no sheet over the gear.

That's my $0.02 worth regarding personal observations vs personal education efforts on this matter.

-
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post #23 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 11:27 AM
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This challenge is discussed a lot (and I am not sure if he still offers it.)

There's been accusations against it.

I suggest, if you are curious to spend many hours googling this whole topic (I have.) You will learn that there's quite a few blind listening tests demonstrating the difficulty of telling amplifers apart from each other. That does not mean they sound the same.

I totally believe a properly designed and properly functioning amplifier operating within it's limits is VERY nuetral.

My own believe is there is bigger fish to fry, so to speak, for sound neutrality.

Speakers are very much not perfect and involve compromises. You have to sort of pick and choose the compromises you can live with.

Rooms have a strong effect on frequency response which is never debated. And few people seem to want to address that issue first - the instinct is to buy a new toy instead I think
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post #24 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 11:52 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeeMan458 View Post

Not true. There's no better than statistical chance, which is between 12-17%; guessing. To the best of my knowledge, that's where everybody ends up after a statistically sufficient number of tests are run. At to a degree of certainty, IIRC, one needs a 70% accuracy rate to be rated statistically significant.
(Anybody is welcome to tighten up my above recollections.)
-

http://www.tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

Passing the test requires two sets of 12 correct identifications, for a total of 24 correct identifications

To collect $10,000, you would have to have guessed 24 out of 24 correct. He was willing to lower the threshold if you were willing to put up some of your own money. As far as I know no one ever did that.
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Originally Posted by KidHorn View Post

http://www.tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm
Passing the test requires two sets of 12 correct identifications, for a total of 24 correct identifications
To collect $10,000, you would have to have guessed 24 out of 24 correct. He was willing to lower the threshold if you were willing to put up some of your own money. As far as I know no one ever did that.

Thanks for the link which corrects my ignorance. All the tests I've taken time to read up on, have expectations of ~70% accuracy threshold. And yes, despite it being his money, a 100% threshold is setting a standard designed to protect his money; introduced bias. Agreed with your point that the unrealistic standard is not designed to provide a valid sampling standard.
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I can understand why the OP hasn't bothered to come back to this thread. I don't feel like popcorn, so I'll bow out as well except to encourage him to get an AVR or a processor/amp that includes XT32.
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post #27 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 12:20 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BeeMan458 View Post

Thanks for the link which corrects my ignorance. All the tests I've taken time to read up on, have expectations of ~70% accuracy threshold. And yes, despite it being his money, a 100% threshold is setting a standard designed to protect his money; introduced bias. Agreed with your point that the unrealistic standard is not designed to provide a valid sampling standard.

He states that no one has gotten 22 out of 24 correct. And the average for a group has never been over 65%. He uses that as a threshold for what would be outside of statistical noise and hence statistically valid. Seems kind of an arbitrary threshold to me. It does show that he has never had a test where one was obviously superior to another.
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post #28 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 12:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by flyingshane View Post

I was referring to the $10,000 amp challenge procedure. Mr. Richard Clark EQ's one of the amps in his ABX test, this totally nullifies any meaningful results. I think Dick might be light 10g's if he was wasn't doing this.
\

that doesn't nullify the results -- if an amp is pre-built with a "house sound" that involves a non-linear frequency response, then the amp is intentionally colored and *of course* it will sound different.

the "believers" of amps sounding different argue that the difference is there even with identical frequency response. People argue about things like "cleaner" sound, more "spaciousness", "warm" vs. "bright" sound, better "soundstage", etc. These hypothetical differences, if true, should be independent of frequency response. Ensuring the frequency response is linear with both amps in the test doesn't nullify the result, it simply strips out a confounding variable, just like level matching.

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post #29 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 12:28 PM
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Originally Posted by runnin' View Post

I can understand why the OP hasn't bothered to come back to this thread.

the thread was started 16 hours ago, and he posted last 14 hours ago. Maybe he just has a LIFE and doesn't sit around refreshing this forum all day while sitting at his desk at work like some of us nutcases wink.gif

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post #30 of 74 Old 09-20-2012, 12:31 PM
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Originally Posted by flyingshane View Post

First of all EQing the amps automatically disqualifies this whole test, you can't throw in variables that dont let the amps being compared to perform in their truest form. To gain accurate empirical data variables must be reduced to a minimum, you can't "rig" the amps:rolleyes:
Amps most certainly can have different sonic signatures, however comparing or picking out different amps that may sound different may be almost impossible just as this guys test is trying to show. Walking in to a proper ABX test without knowledge of the amps, and source material being used to compare said amps, yes it would be extremely difficult to distiguish amps on any repeatable basis. I understand this, I'm not trying to disprove this guys point.
However, take those same amps and let someone spend some time with them, and with source material they are very familiar with and basically let them "train" their ears to find the different nuances and sonic siganatures of each amp. Now let that person take the ABX test and you will find that the success rate will increase quite a bit.
You don't need golden ears to hear a difference in amps you just need to spend time comparing them and use source material you like and are familiar with to pick out the amp you like best, and like someone above said "good" amps should and can sound pretty much the same, so you may have a toss up trying to decide. However in my experience sometimes even good amps will sound different too.
Amps most certainly can and do sound different, it's up to the end user to decide whether they want to put the work in and do some experimenting to find the difference. We must remember though sometimes those differences will most likely be small, but sometimes the difference is obvious and someone may prefer that "different" sound. It's personal preference in the end.

Actually, terribly said, sorry.

Since you won't find (virtually) a single solid state amplifer that is more than .5dbs away from linear anywhere in audible spectrum I seriously doubt EQ would ever be introduced, so, point, moot.

"amps most certainly can have"

jesus. Right, this test just proves (or tries to, anyway) that it's impossible to to discern. Go figure.

You can use your own source material. Go ahead and "train" your ears to discover the "nuances" ...no one is saying you cannot.

But yeah, sure.

whatever verbiage helps you sleep at night I guess.

Sounds like you're ready to make the easiest $10,000 of your life (until you blatantly contradict yourself), so grab a $500 plane ticket an be on your way.



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