Amp power vs speaker performance - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 04-20-2013, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Does an amplifier's power output affect speaker performance ( not volume) ?

Will a amplifier rated at 200 wpc at 8 ohms make a speaker with recommended power input at 25-200 watts sound better than one rated at 100 wpc? And if so, in what way(s)?

On a related theme........

Does the average AV user need any more amplification for a 5.1/ 7.1 system than what is needed to drive the entire system to reference levels undistorted/ unclipped, or is it better to have a receiver that has more in reserve to "better" drive the system/ handle HT peaks?
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post #2 of 18 Old 04-20-2013, 01:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Does an amplifier's power output affect speaker performance ( not volume) ?

Will a amplifier rated at 200 wpc at 8 ohms make a speaker with recommended power input at 25-200 watts sound better than one rated at 100 wpc? And if so, in what way(s)?

On a related theme........

Does the average AV user need any more amplification for a 5.1/ 7.1 system than what is needed to drive the entire system to reference levels undistorted/ unclipped, or is it better to have a receiver that has more in reserve to "better" drive the system/ handle HT peaks?

It's better to have more power to drive your speakers. This has been talked about lots on AVS and other sites. Reference levels with no distortion require a pretty beefy amp - usually, separte amps have more robust bits than an average receiver...links:

http://www.axiomaudio.com/power

http://hometheater.about.com/cs/audiocomponents/a/aapowermada.htm
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post #3 of 18 Old 04-20-2013, 08:25 PM
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Providing you have sufficient power for the desired SPL, there's no advantage I can think of with a more powerful amplifier. Some people will mention the benefits of headroom. Unused headroom is...well, unused, right? And if you did not need the power, it's unused.

Also note that it's pretty easy to be in a situation where more power is like using an eye dropper to add water to the Pacific ocean. When you get up to 100 watts of power, you need 200 watts for a noticeable improvement.

Back in the old days, theaters used massive horns which were really efficient. They needed very little amp power, which was good, because I am not sure high power amps were common "back then." Seen one of those horns at the broadcasting museum in St. Louis Park. Heard it too, pretty cool. So if you have efficient speakers, you don't need 100 watts IMO.

With most speakers though, 100 watts is pretty good for home music and movies if you are not trying to hit "reference level" SPL. If you are, you are going to have to spend some pretty good money.

Another answer is buy all you can afford, and don't look back smile.gif That's kind of what I did, I have 2 external amps plus my Yamaha Z7. But it's a bit of overkill. I noticed that lower end receivers run out of power. But don't have the power supplies you see with Outlaw, Emotiva, etc. I would spend the $1500 or so, next time I bought an AVR, to ensure the power supply was good, and maybe sell the amps - they are not needed.

I think people worry about power too much. 100 honest watts is a LOT of power IMO.

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post #4 of 18 Old 04-20-2013, 09:05 PM
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That is a hard question on amp power. There are a lot of other factors to consider. First, a simple illustration:

Speaker A 90 db sensitivity with 1 watt
1 watt = 90 db
10 watts=100 db
100 watts=110 db

Some avr's rated output is not with all channels driven. So, the speaker sensitivity, avr, distance to the listening position, room and max spl are all things to consider in determining how much amp power is needed. I use external amps and like the look of separates. An amp and avr combination is a great way to go. Good preamps cost, and they only last until the next movies format changes or connectivity options change. An amp can last 20+ years.

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post #5 of 18 Old 04-21-2013, 10:29 AM - Thread Starter
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myoda - thanks for the reply and the links

derrick - good thoughts on other variables to consider, not just spl level

Here's more specifics.........

If I have a AV receiver that ~100wpc into 7 channels ( Denon), and my speakers are rated at 85db sensitivity at 8 ohms with recommended power input at 25-150 watts, and my listening position is 8-9 feet ( ~2.5 meters) AND I only want to listen at 85db levels normally , will my amp have enough power to (1) play Blu-ray movies at this level and handle the peak dynamics without significant distortion, ( 2) bring out the "best" in this speaker, or would an amp rated at ~150-200wpc be better?

Oh, yeah, no preouts in my Denon to hook up another amp.........
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post #6 of 18 Old 04-21-2013, 12:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Does an amplifier's power output affect speaker performance ( not volume) ?

"Performance" isn't distinct from "volume" here.
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Will a amplifier rated at 200 wpc at 8 ohms make a speaker with recommended power input at 25-200 watts sound better than one rated at 100 wpc? And if so, in what way(s)?

Depends on how loudly ones listens. The flip side of that is that sometimes higher-powered amps are noisier (and if they it has very high gain, even if the amp is a faultless performer on its own it will make the upstream noise louder).
Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

Does the average AV user need any more amplification for a 5.1/ 7.1 system than what is needed to drive the entire system to reference levels undistorted/ unclipped, or is it better to have a receiver that has more in reserve to "better" drive the system/ handle HT peaks?

No. The primary SPL limits for the "average AV user" are bass SPL, followed by mains that are too small and/or inefficient and therefore compress a fair bit when one turns up the wick.

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post #7 of 18 Old 04-21-2013, 02:55 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by padgman1 View Post

myoda - thanks for the reply and the links

derrick - good thoughts on other variables to consider, not just spl level

Here's more specifics.........

If I have a AV receiver that ~100wpc into 7 channels ( Denon), and my speakers are rated at 85db sensitivity at 8 ohms with recommended power input at 25-150 watts, and my listening position is 8-9 feet ( ~2.5 meters) AND I only want to listen at 85db levels normally , will my amp have enough power to (1) play Blu-ray movies at this level and handle the peak dynamics without significant distortion, ( 2) bring out the "best" in this speaker, or would an amp rated at ~150-200wpc be better?

Oh, yeah, no preouts in my Denon to hook up another amp.........

Listening at 85db - your ears will probably give out before your speakers do. Especially at your seating distance. You haven't mentioned what type of speakers you have, by the way. My receiver tells me that reference level is at 82db. A comfortable listening level to stereo audio in our room is 60db. Watching blu-ray content with all speakers active during Battleship at 32 minutes in with a DTS-HD Master audio track, bumping gain up to 70db is loud and clean - and about the limit for my ears. Check that section of the movie for peak dynamics. Your mileage may vary based on room treatments, size of room, type of speakers, number of subs, and other variables.

Even though your receiver is rated at 100wpc into 7 channels, the actual output is probably 60 to 70 wpc. But if you have efficient floorstanding speakers, you should be OK with your current setup - until upgradeitis strikes...
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post #8 of 18 Old 04-21-2013, 03:29 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoda View Post

Listening at 85db - your ears will probably give out before your speakers do. Especially at your seating distance. You haven't mentioned what type of speakers you have, by the way. My receiver tells me that reference level is at 82db. A comfortable listening level to stereo audio in our room is 60db. Watching blu-ray content with all speakers active during Battleship at 32 minutes in with a DTS-HD Master audio track, bumping gain up to 70db is loud and clean - and about the limit for my ears. Check that section of the movie for peak dynamics. Your mileage may vary based on room treatments, size of room, type of speakers, number of subs, and other variables.

Even though your receiver is rated at 100wpc into 7 channels, the actual output is probably 60 to 70 wpc. But if you have efficient floorstanding speakers, you should be OK with your current setup - until upgradeitis strikes...


I have Arx A1b speakers.........for now.

Good point about reference level vs actual listening tolerance level.......looks like it's time to get/borrow a sound meter to see what levels I'm listening to now..........
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post #9 of 18 Old 04-21-2013, 05:37 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

Providing you have sufficient power for the desired SPL, there's no advantage I can think of with a more powerful amplifier. Some people will mention the benefits of headroom. Unused headroom is...well, unused, right? And if you did not need the power, it's unused.

Also note that it's pretty easy to be in a situation where more power is like using an eye dropper to add water to the Pacific ocean. When you get up to 100 watts of power, you need 200 watts for a noticeable improvement.

Back in the old days, theaters used massive horns which were really efficient. They needed very little amp power, which was good, because I am not sure high power amps were common "back then." Seen one of those horns at the broadcasting museum in St. Louis Park. Heard it too, pretty cool. So if you have efficient speakers, you don't need 100 watts IMO.

With most speakers though, 100 watts is pretty good for home music and movies if you are not trying to hit "reference level" SPL. If you are, you are going to have to spend some pretty good money.

Another answer is buy all you can afford, and don't look back smile.gif That's kind of what I did, I have 2 external amps plus my Yamaha Z7. But it's a bit of overkill. I noticed that lower end receivers run out of power. But don't have the power supplies you see with Outlaw, Emotiva, etc. I would spend the $1500 or so, next time I bought an AVR, to ensure the power supply was good, and maybe sell the amps - they are not needed.

I think people worry about power too much. 100 honest watts is a LOT of power IMO.

I am in a situation now where I am mulling over the purchase of an external amp.
My receiver is a Yamaha RXV3900 and my speakers are all Paradigm: Signature v2 S4/C3 L/C/R, Atoms in the rear and a Studio Sub 12.
I have no complaints about the performance of the 3900 but wonder what improvement, if any, a NAD M25 would provide.
While watching movies, I perceive some strain. And while listening to 2 channel music at higher volumes, some high res classical again sounds amazing but there is some strain present.
When I bought the receiver I used the process Michael describes above where I looked for an AVR with a decent power supply - I now wonder what improvements an upgrade would bring.

My master plan, if I go with the NAD, is to eventually replace the Yamaha with a separate pre/pro.
But for now I'm just sitting on the fence.
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post #10 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 02:19 AM
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Also, do you run your speakers full range, or do you have a subwoofer? Makes a big difference in power output.

For example, a big 60lb $4,000 A/V receiver like the Marantz SR9600 measured at 133 watts per channel at 8 ohms when driving a 1KHz, but only 61 watts per channel when driving a 20Hz signal. The bass frequencies require a ton of amplifier power. Offload that to a sub and it gives your receiver a lot of breathing power.
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post #11 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 08:51 AM
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Having a system to be able to do 105 db for speakers and 115 db for the sub is a big task. These are the reference level standards and most HT users don't listen to movies that loud. The goal of a system is not to have anything under strain. This will lead to lower distortion and prevent equipment failure. Buy the best stuff you can afford. This hobby is notorious for wanting upgrades because of skimping on purchases. It end up costing you more in the long run. There are some BD that don't play loud and you may need the extra headroom of more amp power. The best bang for the buck is a good sub for HT.

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post #12 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 03:26 PM - Thread Starter
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THX reference levels are 85db with 20 db headroom..............http://www.thx.com/consumer/thx-technology/thx-reference-level/

So, this would mean that speakers would play at 105 db for very short bursts when called on.

Don't think I want to hear 105 db continuously..........may not hear at all very quickly...........


Derrick, your point of having one's sytem play to the volume level one desires WITHOUT STRAIN resonates well with me........

Ok, folks here's another related question...........what differences are there besides price and amp type ( Class A, A/B, D, other) between Emotiva and Outlaw, which seem to be the "bang for the buck" choices for power amps versus other higher end products ( starting costwise with companies like Parasound and Wyred for Sound and ending with heavyweights like Mark Levinson, Classe, Pass, Carver, Krell, Mcintosh, etc)...........are the heavyweights really 5 times better sonically than the others ( since they are AT LEAST 5 times more expensive)?.........
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post #13 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 03:26 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 519audiofan View Post

I am in a situation now where I am mulling over the purchase of an external amp.
My receiver is a Yamaha RXV3900 and my speakers are all Paradigm: Signature v2 S4/C3 L/C/R, Atoms in the rear and a Studio Sub 12.
I have no complaints about the performance of the 3900 but wonder what improvement, if any, a NAD M25 would provide.
While watching movies, I perceive some strain. And while listening to 2 channel music at higher volumes, some high res classical again sounds amazing but there is some strain present.
When I bought the receiver I used the process Michael describes above where I looked for an AVR with a decent power supply - I now wonder what improvements an upgrade would bring.

My master plan, if I go with the NAD, is to eventually replace the Yamaha with a separate pre/pro.
But for now I'm just sitting on the fence.

Those Paradigm speakers are sweet, but they probably would perform a shade better with the NAD with a true 160 wpc. The Yamaha is rated at 140wpc into 7 channels, but like most receivers, does not deliver what is advertised. See the results from Home Theater Mag. I'd imagine the measured output would actually be lower if they measured seven channels driven. Have you thought about using your Yamaha pre-outs with an external amp?

http://www.hometheater.com/content/yamaha-rx-v3900-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures

Yamaha RX-V3900 A/V Receiver HT Labs Measures
HT Labs Measures

Five channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 69.2 watts
1% distortion at 81.5 watts

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 62.9 watts
1% distortion at 68.9 watts
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post #14 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 06:39 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by myoda View Post

Those Paradigm speakers are sweet, but they probably would perform a shade better with the NAD with a true 160 wpc. The Yamaha is rated at 140wpc into 7 channels, but like most receivers, does not deliver what is advertised. See the results from Home Theater Mag. I'd imagine the measured output would actually be lower if they measured seven channels driven. Have you thought about using your Yamaha pre-outs with an external amp?

http://www.hometheater.com/content/yamaha-rx-v3900-av-receiver-ht-labs-measures

Yamaha RX-V3900 A/V Receiver HT Labs Measures
HT Labs Measures

Five channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 69.2 watts
1% distortion at 81.5 watts

Seven channels driven continuously into 8-ohm loads:
0.1% distortion at 62.9 watts
1% distortion at 68.9 watts

The plan is to use the 3900 as a pre/pro with an M25 until the need or technology forces an upgrade to a dedicated pre pro.
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post #15 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 07:19 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 519audiofan View Post

The plan is to use the 3900 as a pre/pro with an M25 until the need or technology forces an upgrade to a dedicated pre pro.

The M25 should hold you for a while...did you buy new or used?
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post #16 of 18 Old 04-22-2013, 08:13 PM
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The NAD M 25 looks like a great amp. There is more to owning a good amp and I think you will be happy for a long time. A Ford escort and a Mercedes will both get you across town, but which do you prefer?

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post #17 of 18 Old 04-23-2013, 05:48 AM
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3900 has a lot of power.

I can tell a bit of my own experience, if that helps, and for what it's worth smile.gif

I added external amplifiers to my setup. Forget if I had a 2700, 3900 or Z7 at the time. Anyway, they have comparable power/designs.

I never noticed a difference. I don't listen at reference level (105 dB peaks/115 subwoofer peaks.) I added some external amps as I was interested in learning, and knew of know way to learn without trying an amp out. I went with an XPA-3, because the price was right (on sale.)

Anyway, I felt external amps were not needed, for my purposes. But there's nothing wrong with going that route, if budget permits. Thankfully there are affordable options, such as pro amps (with limited/no fan noise,) and cheaper consumer options such as Emo and Outlaw.

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post #18 of 18 Old 04-23-2013, 05:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

3900 has a lot of power.

I can tell a bit of my own experience, if that helps, and for what it's worth smile.gif

I added external amplifiers to my setup. Forget if I had a 2700, 3900 or Z7 at the time. Anyway, they have comparable power/designs.

I never noticed a difference. I don't listen at reference level (105 dB peaks/115 subwoofer peaks.) I added some external amps as I was interested in learning, and knew of know way to learn without trying an amp out. I went with an XPA-3, because the price was right (on sale.)

Anyway, I felt external amps were not needed, for my purposes. But there's nothing wrong with going that route, if budget permits. Thankfully there are affordable options, such as pro amps (with limited/no fan noise,) and cheaper consumer options such as Emo and Outlaw.

This is why I am sitting on the fence.
At moderate volumes the 3900 is fabulous, it's just with blu rays and classical high res that I feel I am approaching the limits.

I auditioned a Bryston 4B SST2 playing with Paradigm S8s a few months back. After the demo I didn't leave the dealer with the "blown away" feeling I anticipated I would. The music, which was my own demo material, sounded very nice. There were some small differences I noticed but I attributed them to the S8s vs. my S4s - not the Bryston vs. the 3900.

I understand that there may not be an appreciable gain in sound quality by adding an amp.
But the purchase of an amp would put me on the upgrade path to separates. smile.gif
Once the Yamaha is obsolete, a pre/pro would be the next purchase.
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