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"Official" All amps sound the same thread

post #1 of 2623
Thread Starter 
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.

Some Interesting Links

Here's a link to an article by Rodd Elliott about why amps could sound different. He's a circuit designer and seems to be a clear thinking objectivist, so I think his article has more merit than most I have read on this topic.

http://sound.westhost.com/amp-sound.htm

Here's are some links to Sterophile listening tests -

http://www.stereophile.com/features/587/index1.html
http://www.stereophile.com/features/113/

Here's a link to a Stereo Review listening test from 1988

http://bruce.coppola.name/audio/Amp_Sound.pdf

Here's a listening test comparing a low end to high end system (There's a whole thread discussing this one)

http://www.matrixhifi.com/ENG_marco.htm

Common Positions on the debate

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
post #2 of 2623
Thread Starter 
For the record, I think amps could sound different. After all, they are imperfect, thus must have distortion, thus could sound different.

However, most manufacturers seem to be trying to make amps with limited distortion. And they are pretty good at it with THD+N figures below %1. Some claim that's inaudible distortion.

I personally think that amps could have subtle differences due to their distortion, but they are insufficient to tell in AB testing. I base that on some listening tests done by supposedly 'golden eared' audiophiles who could not tell one amp from another.

Two amps should not sound dramatically different unless one of them was poorly designed because once again, the usual goal is to make amps that do nothing but increase the amplitude of the signal.
post #3 of 2623
Jury is still out for me but I am going to a headphone even that will have a number of headphones and amps available to try so I will make a decision at that point. I am probably in the boat that unless the maker is trying to give it a sonic signature they all sound about the same but I will report back in a few weeks with more insight.

Rahimlee54
post #4 of 2623
I take a stand for position 3. And yes there should be a sticky for amps as there is for the "future proof receiver".
post #5 of 2623
I think position 1 is mistated to be a little more extreme than is necessary. Perhaps a couple of extra caveats...

Position 2 seems like a very reasonable position -- sure, there may be differences, but it's likely the differences are so minute that it's probably not worth losing sleep over, as other things are likely to make a much bigger difference when trying to change the sound of your system. It still leaves room for people who have the time, resources, and desire to try things out for themselves and find a particular amp they may like better, and yet at the same time doesn't make anyone feel like an idiot if they'd rather just assume that most amps (given sufficient power) are effectively identical for the sake of expediency.
post #6 of 2623
Thread Starter 
Position 1 is almost an exact quotation from a number of regular posters.
post #7 of 2623
great thread
wairing for the regulars to weigh in
post #8 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by Denophile View Post

great thread
wairing for the regulars to weigh in

I think they are still in the CD equivalent of this one
Take a look in there as a few pages also cover amps and discusses (for and against) why a 70w budget discontinued Yamaha AVR could not be differentiated from a good spec 300w amp in a medium size room.
I gave up looking thank goodness, problems with these threads is that it is so hard not to post in response
BTW there is also an interesting discussion in speaker topic about 4ohms and also now just touching upon reactive nature of speakers and how phase angle is also a major consideration.

Cheers
DT
post #9 of 2623
I think I fall into the position 2 camp. That's assuming we're talking about Class AB amps only.
post #10 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by DulcetTones View Post

a 70w budget discontinued Yamaha AVR could not be differentiated from a good spec 300w amp in a medium size room.

Well if you turn it up loud enough then it wouldn't be true because the weaker amp would start clipping. I think the point was that if you are only drawing, say, 20W of power, the 70W amp and the 300W amp should sound the same because they are both in their non-clipping, normally operating range. If the 70W amp and the 300W amp are both designed for flat response, of similar design, and not exceeding their power load (like the example where each is only drawing 20W), why would they sound different?

I don't think anyone would argue that a 70W amp sounds exactly the same if you actually require the extra power. The comparisons are typically about amps with similar specs.
post #11 of 2623
All 4 points can have a argument depending on the situation, load , ability to play at what DB , headroom ,etc.

If everything is created equal and the amp is set for a total flat response, then all these amps should sound the same. Exactly the same without a question. But in the really real world, you can hear differences between different amps. I have been apart of many blind tests and I could hear as well as everyone else involved in the test differences with the same preamp, wires , sources and cd.

Some amps do sound almost if not exactly the same. However if you listen to one amp from a company like there entry level amp, then move up to there higher end offering with more power, they sound different.

This should not really be an argument, rather then a opinion about what you hear. If you can hear a difference, then pick the one that you like the best how it sounds, not the cool name or look. The smartest move with a power amp is to buy a amp that can power your speakers correctly at the levels you wanna listen to. Having a billion watts and current per channel and you don't use it is a waste of money to me.

I'm interested in this thread, it should be a pretty good one. I hope it can be talked about without people bashing.
post #12 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by batpig View Post

Well if you turn it up loud enough then it wouldn't be true because the weaker amp would start clipping. I think the point was that if you are only drawing, say, 20W of power, the 70W amp and the 300W amp should sound the same because they are both in their non-clipping, normally operating range. If the 70W amp and the 300W amp are both designed for flat response, of similar design, and not exceeding their power load (like the example where each is only drawing 20W), why would they sound different?

I don't think anyone would argue that a 70W amp sounds exactly the same if you actually require the extra power. The comparisons are typically about amps with similar specs.

If you listen to very good and excellent recordings, allow for 15db to 20db average to peaks.
Every 3db is a doubling of watts.
I doubt anyone drives their average loudness to the point of clipping (I would hope not), it is the dynamics that can be limited due to the voltage rail/current, and of course the ability of the amp to control/drive the speakers, while also being able to dissipate the additional energy generated within the amp.

You mention that is about amps with equal specs, I think this is where it becomes interesting when differences are not picked up on very different spec.
Otherwise the argument on the case where everything is comparable spec the logical response is; "hey it does not measure differently enough to be audible".
This then becomes a subjective discussion unless you really want to go into open loop designs, no negative feedback designs, little negative feedback, massive negative feedback theory, global feedback designs, wide bandwidth to 350khz (not at output but integral to amp design), etc and again this comes down to that some engineers feel we are not measuring where they feel there are differences.
Of course the other side of the argument would be; well what are those differences that should have noticable measurements.

Cheers
DT
post #13 of 2623
finally sone reasonable responses
glad were keeping it civil!
post #14 of 2623
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by DulcetTones View Post

If you listen to very good and excellent recordings, allow for 15db to 20db average to peaks.
Every 3db is a doubling of watts.
I doubt anyone drives their average loudness to the point of clipping (I would hope not), it is the dynamics that can be limited due to the voltage rail/current, and of course the ability of the amp to control/drive the speakers, while also being able to dissipate the additional energy generated within the amp.

Can the dynamics be limited when clipping is not occuring?
post #15 of 2623
So why does practically everyone think that an HK "sounds better" than most receivers in a said class?
What makes the HK have that distinctive difference from all the others?

Is it just the way they process the sound via HK "proprietary" DSP's?

If all the features of a receiver are removed from the equation and made to take a test "flat" then i can understand them sounding the same.
But....how many actually use the receiver like this?
I would say we HAVE to include the processing algorithms and features to make a real determination on weather one receiver sounds better than another.

No?

test,
post #16 of 2623
Thread Starter 
What I gather, from reading from some HK fans, is that they feel HK is better overall, but I am certainly making a guess as to what they mean.

As to why that would be, I could not say. Nor does it make sense to tell people they are wrong.

But it should be noted, that nn many cases people are doing sighted testing at separate moments in time. Many consider this unreliable.

Also, receivers have more circuitry than just the power amps. You have digital to analog conversion, volume control chips, and other misclleaneous circuits. Can those impact the sound? I don't know.
post #17 of 2623
i think I am confusing the terms Power Amp and Receiver.

I had assumed (wrongly I guess) that when you compare different brands of rec's we were comparing the whole unit, not just a power amp by itself.

I think this is what causes alot of confusion for some.

Now that i'm clear on it, I find it useless to compare power amps by itself, because no one listens to a power amp by itself without the proprietary processing that makes one brand stand out from another.

Its no wonder that people can clearly hear a difference between AVR's because they are listening through the avr's DSP and not just the power amp.

Am i wrong on this?

test,
post #18 of 2623
I love this thread.

Look, I am not Mr. Joe Amp Guy but I have completed two transitions with a third coming very soon.

1. Yamaha AVR2400 (yes AVR and I know not for this tread but it is where it all started).
2. NAD Masters M25
3. Coming next month is a Simaudio Titan.

1. The Yamaha drove Axiom Speakers. Hated it all so not much of a comment.
2. NAD Masters and Dynaudio Focus set-up replaced the above. Holly crap. Not even in the same league. Yes, the speakers made such a difference but those NAD's are great.
3. Dynaudio Confidence C1 and Confidence Center replaces the Focus but I continue to use NAD. Awesome but I really think the Confidence could use even more.
4. Dynaudio Confidence going no where for a very long time. I am ready to buy the Titan. I fullly expect the Titan to conquer the NAD. Class A to 5 watts. 200 watts into 8 and doubles down to 4. This may be one of the three or four best HT amps on the planet although its specs are not so far away from NAD.

I will have the NAD still when I receive the Sim. If I am full of crap I will be the first to let everyone know.

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

Looking forward to my own little compare here!

Rick
post #19 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by CETA1 View Post

I love this thread.

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


Rick

Agree with this. I have owned many different pieces of audio equipment and currently have 2 VERY different sounding systems right next to each other in my living room. Granted one is analog and one is SS, but I have swapped amps, speakers, sources, etc. between the 2 and there clearly is a difference to me and everyone who has listened.

Now, there are many very similar sounding amps, so I can see how similar circuitry and components used in many mainstream equipment can sound very similar.

Cool topic.

My systems:


-Mike
post #20 of 2623
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.
post #21 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by test4echo101 View Post

i think I am confusing the terms Power Amp and Receiver.

I had assumed (wrongly I guess) that when you compare different brands of rec's we were comparing the whole unit, not just a power amp by itself.

I think this is what causes alot of confusion for some.

Now that i'm clear on it, I find it useless to compare power amps by itself, because no one listens to a power amp by itself without the proprietary processing that makes one brand stand out from another.

Its no wonder that people can clearly hear a difference between AVR's because they are listening through the avr's DSP and not just the power amp.

Am i wrong on this?

test,

I think you've got a good handle on it. Some receivers have more than one bypass mode like a direct and a pure direct. Sometimes they're not so direct making comparisons difficult especially when extraordinary steps aren't taken to level match.
post #22 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by DulcetTones View Post

If you listen to very good and excellent recordings, allow for 15db to 20db average to peaks.
Every 3db is a doubling of watts.

That's a mighty big IF given the state of most recordings today.
post #23 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by CETA1 View Post

I love this thread.

Look, I am not Mr. Joe Amp Guy but I have completed two transitions with a third coming very soon.

1. Yamaha AVR2400 (yes AVR and I know not for this tread but it is where it all started).
2. NAD Masters M25
3. Coming next month is a Simaudio Titan.

1. The Yamaha drove Axiom Speakers. Hated it all so not much of a comment.
2. NAD Masters and Dynaudio Focus set-up replaced the above. Holly crap. Not even in the same league. Yes, the speakers made such a difference but those NAD's are great.
3. Dynaudio Confidence C1 and Confidence Center replaces the Focus but I continue to use NAD. Awesome but I really think the Confidence could use even more.
4. Dynaudio Confidence going no where for a very long time. I am ready to buy the Titan. I fullly expect the Titan to conquer the NAD. Class A to 5 watts. 200 watts into 8 and doubles down to 4. This may be one of the three or four best HT amps on the planet although its specs are not so far away from NAD.

I will have the NAD still when I receive the Sim. If I am full of crap I will be the first to let everyone know.

Love the thread and will post my opinion soon. I am not trying to be an ass but perhaps you need a choice 5 (perhaps my speakers are not up to the challenge)?

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

Looking forward to my own little compare here!

Rick

For me this is also pretty much spot on with regards to the NAD and order.
My room acoustics cost (my rooms needed this) is comparable to the CD player.

The interesting thing about NAD is that they have implemented a soft clipping solution, which seems to work incredibly well.
With this they also have an interesting dynamic power solution that does provide extra voltage/current for enough time (stability consideration before it falls back to a lower rating) to make a difference to dynamics.
Both of these together I feel help their popularity with listeners, and they do punch above their weight IMO.
I wonder if they have patented both of these solutions, probably as I do not see others using the same implementation.
So NAD do have a common sense implementation for listeners to enjoy dynamics, which it looks like those who audition this product do possibly notice.

I think you will find it tough to find a comparable product at similar or possibly more expensive price (my experience I had to go quite a lot higher unfortunately to find my preferance) that would replace your M25.

Cheers
DT
post #24 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

That's a mighty big IF given the state of most recordings today.

I agree that overall the recording situation is bad, but we cannot generalise this for all recordings and we can only assume how much is actually at each stage of dBFS (say 6,10,15,20).
In reality a fair proportion are around 8 to 12 for mainstream, with 15 still for a reasonable %, while 20 is where your looking for the excellent recordings found more in classical these days (but there are others).
You probably hate me repeating this, but the GnR album that did come out late last year has a figure of -16dBFS average loudness below the peak dynamics.
This is a rock band that is mainstream and that album went to no1 in the album charts, not a fringe sector of the music industry, so assumptions really cannot be made and it is possible to find great recordings in mainstream - along with the bad.
Good link on this subject if interested and did not see this in a different topic:
http://mastering-media.blogspot.com/...ud-is-too.html


I think this is one of the benefits of audio magazines these days, where they review the artist/band performance and critically the recording quality.
This really can help music fans to select albums on performance and also quality, and an area I do enjoy from publications here in the UK as they review all styles of music in this way.

Now if there was enough pressure from consumers, it would be interesting if a massive retailer like Amazon could be convinced to show dBFS figures for albums they sell.
They acknowledge the DRMS review rioting going on for some games that members of their site are giving 0 out of 5 to lower the games rating.

Only other choice is to enforce this with legislation, and politicians are too busy working out what they can buy as freebies on expenses
post #25 of 2623
You deserve hearing loss for listening to GnR at realistic (concert) levels. Me, I just wish they'd go away.
post #26 of 2623
You know, back in the day, if you had a 100 wpc anything, you were king. If you had 200 wpc, why you could be Hugo Chavez!

Politicians are too busy catering to their own self-interests.
post #27 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by MichaelJHuman View Post

Can the dynamics be limited when clipping is not occuring?

No.
But this does not mean we should all go out and buy uber powered amps.
It may be we can or cannot discern such dynamic peaks, but then we should also consider preferance listening where it is interesting NAD (have both a very good soft clipping and dynamic power design) is very popular compared to other equal amps.

Cheers
DT
post #28 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

You know, back in the day, if you had a 100 wpc anything, you were king. If you had 200 wpc, why you could be Hugo Chavez!

Politicians are too busy catering to their own self-interests.

There is more similarity between politicians than between amps.
post #29 of 2623
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chu Gai View Post

You know, back in the day, if you had a 100 wpc anything, you were king. If you had 200 wpc, why you could be Hugo Chavez!

Politicians are too busy catering to their own self-interests.

Back then speakers in general were considerably more sensitive, maybe it would be an interesting topic in the speaker thread understanding why speaker design has moved to much less sensitive speakers (ignoring good horns).

Cheers
DT
post #30 of 2623
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



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

IMO, the better your equipment, starting with a quality disc and player and ending with speakers, the easier it gets to hear amp differences.

Over a lot of years, Position 4 is my own experience. Most recently with use of *better* CD and SACD disc players.

Cheers
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