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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I very often heard people mention when some one ask about certain amp with certain speakers... You need more power to make the speakers shine, or more power to make the low end tight..

So what does watts do to the sound? For example many people are starting to buy external amps for the headphones but I was under impression more watts means louder??

So what people really mean that to make a speaker "shine" or the bass "tighter" is that you need more amp and to play the speakers louder?
 

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More watts are indeed louder. Every doubling of power increases SPL by 3 dB, until the speakers start compressing. With typical speakers in typical house sized rooms, average power levels are around a watt or so (to hit somewhere between 75 and 80 dB at the listening position - a fair bit more than twice as loud as normal conversation). More power would be louder, so at any given SPL into a particular speaker, the power has to be exactly, precisely, unmistakably the same. Ohm's law is, like, an actual physical law of our four dimensions of the multiverse, so a more powerful amp cannot, cannot, will never deliver a "different kind of" 2 watts than a less powerful amp. Of course once you push the amp into distortion, to the extent you can hear it over the speakers' distortion, which likely started 10 dB earlier, differing distortion patterns can indeed make things sound different.

And if you listen really loud, pushing your speakers into compression and distortion, a more powerful amp will indeed make that push harder and louder, and it's lack of distortion might very well be a boon. It's not what anybody would call high fidelity, but I'm pretty sure it's why some folks say you need more power for some speakers (like my former Magnepans).

You will of course hear folks say that more powerful amps sound different at low power. Not possible, just based on power. You also can find, with little effort, the audiophiles who believe that since average levels don't use more than a watt or two, lower powered (and usually class A topography) amps simply must sound better than high powered amps. Click your heels together three times and choose your preferred dementia.

Now, there actually are differences between amps that might make them sound different, especially when pushed hard, especially into difficult speakers. Output impedance could be high enough to change the frequency response of the amp into low speaker impedances. No self respecting audio idiot talks about output impedance, because they all have pulled their power ratings out of their flys and are shaking them at each other. And some amps measurably depart from accuracy (typically with a high frequency rolloff) and they may well be audibly different. But not because of their power. If it's what you like (personally, I am always seduced by a FR dip in the 2 to 4 KHz range, which is more likely to come from a speaker than an amp) it's fine to like it. I prefer, in part because it's what I grew up with, the grind of a mid-60s Fender guitar amp to that of a Marshall, even though many of my favorite guitar tones (Hendrix, Allman, Clapton, etc.) are Marshall sounds rather than Fender. (SRV is mostly that 60s Fender sound, though). One nice-ish thing about getting older is I am slightly more capable of listening past my biases and enjoying great non-Fender amps like an AC 15 or the handwired Marshall 1974. Gorgeous, really. But in a guitar amp, we are talking about preamps, power amps and speakers that are nowhere near flat (accurate) and are all typically driven into at least a little distortion (I've read that guitar players will identify an amp at 10 percent distortion as "clean" - that's way past horribly distorting levels for stereo or AVR reproduction . . . .)

Now, being loud or bossy or repetitive doesn't make either the power aficionados, or me, right. Reality is what it is. You can endeavor to understand both, and the net is your friend, ultimately. just expect to get dragged through a lot of horse apples on your way to actual understanding.
 

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There are so many schools of thought about power amps. How much power/which speakers/budget vs. high end. It can be never ending about what to believe. The there is the cables that you use with them. Oh boy! Basically you do research and decide what it is you want to believe about what is best for YOUR system. For me I am using external amps off of a AVR. I like it but many would laugh at my choice of amps and speakers. So what is my attitude. It works, I like what I hear, I could afford them and I am moving on. What I have learned is that low power amps did blow my speakers tweeter due to being pushed so hard into distortion. That was a 20 watt amp being used to push a speaker speced 40 watts. Now I am pushing the same speakers with 120 watts and I have NO problems even when turned up. I figure I am pushing about 10 watts tops into the speakers for my listening pleasure at freq above 70 hz. Below 70 hz goes to my IB subs and they are being pushed a lot harder. It all works out for me very nicely. :)
 
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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thanks. I get all that but I forgot to mention my question is because on headphones forums people talk about amp will make the headphone sound better.

So I'm wondering how is that possible getting a bigger amp to the same headphone seem like it will just damage your ears.

If 3 watts for a headphone were loud to you I don't see how a 6 watt will make the headphone "shine"
 

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Thanks. I get all that but I forgot to mention my question is because on headphones forums people talk about amp will make the headphone sound better.

So I'm wondering how is that possible getting a bigger amp to the same headphone seem like it will just damage your ears.

If 3 watts for a headphone were loud to you I don't see how a 6 watt will make the headphone "shine"
It's all about the output impedance of the amplifier. This effects the Damping factor.

More wattage only means louder.
 

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They are not talking louder, they are talking reserved power so sound can change rapidly by demand.

Is like a car, you can go over 100 mph with a 4-cylinder but it takes it like 20 seconds to get there, with a HP engine, one can get 100 mph in say 4 seconds instead. With sounds, fast attack passages needs the amp able to deliver that high energy quickly, otherwise the passage will sound "lazy."
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
So if for example a heavy bass beat hits. It will not deplete the amp power away from the high frequencies?

But if you never get to the max volume on the amp. Will it still make a difference?
 

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They are not talking louder, they are talking reserved power so sound can change rapidly by demand.

Is like a car, you can go over 100 mph with a 4-cylinder but it takes it like 20 seconds to get there, with a HP engine, one can get 100 mph in say 4 seconds instead. With sounds, fast attack passages needs the amp able to deliver that high energy quickly, otherwise the passage will sound "lazy."
An amplifier does not have torque... a more powerful amp does not get from 2W to 4W faster. As long as the power supply or capacitors have enough capacity to drive it's rated power it will do it.

Now if you are trying to get 4W out of a 3W amplifier it will clip the amp and compress the sound but that has nothing to do with acceleration.
 

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So if for example a heavy bass beat hits. It will not deplete the amp power away from the high frequencies?

But if you never get to the max volume on the amp. Will it still make a difference?


If you are someone who will always listen to music at conversation levels, you will probably see very little, if any benefit in going with an amp which pushes a lot of current. If, however, you like to crank your speakers on occasion it can make a HUGE difference. The biggest advantage to running a strong amp is that you can drive big (or less sensitive) speakers to loud levels without losing dynamics. It does make a noticeable difference, but mainly at levels which can challenge your relationship with neighbors.


The only other thing I'd like to add is that I can hear a bigger difference between class A/AB and class D amps than I can hear between two amps of the same class. Tube amps also have their own character, but also come with a unique set of challenges.
 
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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Thanks. That makes sense and that is what I was wondering. I don't really listen to music that loud, well I rise the volume where you have to talk louder but nothing that will make it to my neighbors. That's probably why I won't notice.
 

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Thanks. That makes sense and that is what I was wondering. I don't really listen to music that loud, well I rise the volume where you have to talk louder but nothing that will make it to my neighbors. That's probably why I won't notice.
I didn't notice either with my home stereo, because I too am very considered of my neighbors. But once I had a good car stereo, boy did I notice.

Am going to guess folks into classical notice this more even at reduced listening levels.
 
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