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All Amplifiers Equal?

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matthewpiano

Well-known member
Nov 23, 2007
299
95
18,970
I've seen this discussion so many times, and it will always end up with the same two schools of thought.

Thanks to my Pioneer A400 showing it's age again this afternoon (not remotely in sound but in operation), I ended up once again listening to my other amps to see which was best. I spent quite a long time listening to each - Yamaha A-S501, NAD C316BEE, and Rega Brio-R. After the A400 the Yamaha and NAD were both disappointing, sounding much flatter and losing the depth and width of soundstaging offered by the Pioneer. Less detailed too and with less dynamic ability with transients. The Yamaha was the least good - surprising given its higher power rating.

Switching to the Brio-R was like taking away a curtain and bringing the musicians into the room. Involving, dynamic, and detailed at a range of volumes, and suddenly you stop thinking about the equipment and focus much more on the music. Is it better than the A-400? No, but once again it has proven that it is substantially more capable than the cheaper Yamaha and NAD.

Some say CD players all sound the same too, but with the Rotel also showing its age again, I tried both the NAD C516BEE and Denon DCD720ae with the Rega amp. The NAD sounded thick and lacking in finesse, but the Denon brought back much of the musicality that makes the Rotel so appealing.

So yes, in my experience there are very real differences between different amps and between different CD players. Ultimately it shows how important it is to find a good dealer and audition properly when choosing hi-fi. It remains the only way to be sure you are getting the best outcome for your tastes and needs.
 

radiorog

Well-known member
Jan 1, 2013
54
0
10,540
Vladimir said:
David@FrankHarvey said:
bigfish786 said:
i honestly believe if you go out into the real world and listen/demo products, you will hear the differences, and make your own mind up whether any product is worth spending your cash on.
Has to be ultra controlled conditions though, and product swaps within 3-4 seconds due to not being able to remember anything 5 seconds ago, otherwise it won't count :)
Ridiculing the science that creates the products you sell and buy is literally sawing the tree branch you sit on. *nea*
I'm lost oh these comments. Was David being sarcastic? I'm wandering why you are disagreeing here Vlad, I thought you agreed that auditory memory was about 5 seconds?
 

Vladimir

New member
Dec 26, 2013
220
4
0
radiorog said:
Vladimir said:
David@FrankHarvey said:
bigfish786 said:
i honestly believe if you go out into the real world and listen/demo products, you will hear the differences, and make your own mind up whether any product is worth spending your cash on.
Has to be ultra controlled conditions though, and product swaps within 3-4 seconds due to not being able to remember anything 5 seconds ago, otherwise it won't count :)
Ridiculing the science that creates the products you sell and buy is literally sawing the tree branch you sit on. *nea*
I'm lost oh these comments. Was David being sarcastic? I'm wandering why you are disagreeing here Vlad, I thought you agreed that auditory memory was about 5 seconds?
He was being sarcastic. ;)
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
207
0
0
Didn't we just do this one recently? Let's have a rip snorter of a cable thread again instead :p

I'm a bit amped out at the moment.
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
SemiChronic said:
This might be a rubbish idea, but ill throw it out there anyway. Thinking about how much gear there must be belonging to members, different amps speakers etc.

Would it be interesting and maybe helpful to members if we were to identify some tracks with tricky music that trips up some systems and report our findings?

We may find that certain amp/speaker combos perform better with certain tracks or show no difference whatsover . .  it could be fun and we may learn something.

I would start a thread, but it would be sure to go down in flames if i did, so if somebody else would care to take it on, be my guest.

Id like comparisons from members with same amps/speakers playing same tracks but running different cables . . :)

?

Ok, nuff said . . . I'll reach for the fire extinguisher . . 
very good idea..start a thread..of course everyone will start banging on about the field being uneven..different amps, speakers, source etc..who cares! It would be interesting to see what others kit brings to the same track?
 

Thompsonuxb

New member
Feb 19, 2012
129
0
0
Amps are not equal.

To anyone saying they are and who say they all sound the same, frankly you need to ask yourself what are you doing here on this or any other hifi forum?

To those talking about 'level matching' or 'controlled conditions' I say stop being silly. To those talking about the science I say aaaahhshaaddap!

I listened to 3amps on Friday with distinct differences within the same price range-ish. The threads still on the front page.

For argument sake if say I had requested they be level matched 2 of these amps would have to be seriously compromised to accommodate the 3rd.

To the OP if you really want to know if amps are 'equal' go and listen to a few at your local hifi dealer and decide. It's the only way.
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
207
0
0
Thompsonuxb said:
Amps are not equal.

To anyone saying they are and who say they all sound the same, frankly you need to ask yourself what are you doing here on this or any other hifi forum?

To those talking about 'level matching' or 'controlled conditions' I say stop being silly. To those talking about the science I say aaaahhshaaddap!

I listened to 3amps on Friday with distinct differences within the same price range-ish. The threads still on the front page.

For argument sake if say I had requested they be level matched 2 of these amps would have to be seriously compromised to accommodate the 3rd.

To the OP if you really want to know if amps are 'equal' go and listen to a few at your local hifi dealer and decide. It's the only way.
Really? Was the third amp rated at a fraction of a watt or a few milliwats? Considering the fact that most amps only operate withing their first few watts most of the time and that it takes a hell of a lot more watts to achieve significantly more volume, it's probably pretty easy to level match amps that are withing a few dozen watts of one another while still having them playing at a decent volume? Or do you only test amps by seeing how loudly they can play? I always get this funny image of Thompson setting up what he thinks volume matching is. You seem to think it's a matter of turning the volume down so low that everything is barely audible, while in fact it's just having the amps operating within a comfortable range and adjusting the volume a decibel or two. They are still required to play plenty loud enough to enjoy the music.

In terms of a blind test, the speakers you tested have a pretty tricky impedence curve which might throw a number of amps off and separate the men from the boys (the sheep from the goats?), perhaps even to the extent that it could be picked up in a blind test. But once again, the issue isn't about volume, but having a power supply that can provide enough current to handle the bass on the B&Ws.
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
Thompsonuxb said:
Amps are not equal.

To anyone saying they are and who say they all sound the same, frankly you need to ask yourself what are you doing here on this or any other hifi forum?

To those talking about 'level matching' or 'controlled conditions' I say stop being silly. To those talking about the science I say aaaahhshaaddap!

I listened to 3amps on Friday with distinct differences within the same price range-ish. The threads still on the front page.

For argument sake if say I had requested they be level matched 2 of these amps would have to be seriously compromised to accommodate the 3rd.

To the OP if you really want to know if amps are 'equal' go and listen to a few at your local hifi dealer and decide. It's the only way.
+1
 

Frank Harvey

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2008
567
0
18,890
radiorog said:
I'm lost oh these comments. Was David being sarcastic? I'm wandering why you are disagreeing here Vlad, I thought you agreed that auditory memory was about 5 seconds?
Yes, I was, for the most part, being a little sarcastic last night. I was doing it to show we can all be sarcastic when we want to be, and if we all did, this wouldn't be a very nice place to spend our free time. Healthy, polite discussion is all that is needed round here for it to flourish, rather than travel the well worn route 'down the pan' like some other forums.

I'm just off to listen to my system now as I've completely forgotten what it sounds like :)
 

Frank Harvey

Well-known member
Jun 27, 2008
567
0
18,890
ID. said:
Really? Was the third amp rated at a fraction of a watt or a few milliwats? Considering the fact that most amps only operate withing their first few watts most of the time and that it takes a hell of a lot more watts to achieve significantly more volume...
But then if they're playing anything over a few watts, the opposition chimes in with the amp clipping excuse, and that is the difference you're hearing. There is no way to win.

I understand the need for blind tests, but you don't need them to find out if you enjoy listening to a product/system.
 

Thompsonuxb

New member
Feb 19, 2012
129
0
0
ID. said:
Thompsonuxb said:
Amps are not equal.

To anyone saying they are and who say they all sound the same, frankly you need to ask yourself what are you doing here on this or any other hifi forum?

To those talking about 'level matching' or 'controlled conditions' I say stop being silly. To those talking about the science I say aaaahhshaaddap!

I listened to 3amps on Friday with distinct differences within the same price range-ish. The threads still on the front page.

For argument sake if say I had requested they be level matched 2 of these amps would have to be seriously compromised to accommodate the 3rd.

To the OP if you really want to know if amps are 'equal' go and listen to a few at your local hifi dealer and decide. It's the only way.
Really? Was the third amp rated at a fraction of a watt or a few milliwats? Considering the fact that most amps only operate withing their first few watts most of the time and that it takes a hell of a lot more watts to achieve significantly more volume, it's probably pretty easy to level match amps that are withing a few dozen watts of one another while still having them playing at a decent volume? Or do you only test amps by seeing how loudly they can play? I always get this funny image of Thompson setting up what he thinks volume matching is. You seem to think it's a matter of turning the volume down so low that everything is barely audible, while in fact it's just having the amps operating within a comfortable range and adjusting the volume a decibel or two. They are still required to play plenty loud enough to enjoy the music.

In terms of a blind test, the speakers you tested have a pretty tricky impedence curve which might throw a number of amps off and separate the men from the boys (the sheep from the goats?), perhaps even to the extent that it could be picked up in a blind test. But once again, the issue isn't about volume, but having a power supply that can provide enough current to handle the bass on the B&Ws.
You'd have to hear them for yourself but in a nutshell your argument is silly.
 

davedotco

New member
Apr 24, 2013
20
0
0
David@FrankHarvey said:
ID. said:
Really? Was the third amp rated at a fraction of a watt or a few milliwats? Considering the fact that most amps only operate withing their first few watts most of the time and that it takes a hell of a lot more watts to achieve significantly more volume...
But then if they're playing anything over a few watts, the opposition chimes in with the amp clipping excuse, and that is the difference you're hearing. There is no way to win.

I understand the need for blind tests, but you don't need them to find out if you enjoy listening to a product/system.
Now all you need to do is apply a little common sense and logical thought.

The differences that you hear when auditioning in the normal way are a consequence of the system and the way the components integrate into that system. Volume settings (some amplifiers 'encourage' higher settings than others), input sensitivity and load 'tolerance' all make a difference and these are real differences that show up consistently in demonstrations.

However you can not take that to mean that one amplifier is 'better' than another, just that they better suit the system and the user in this instance.
 

chebby

Well-known member
Jun 2, 2008
1,232
4
19,195
It would be nice to have some technical experts on the staff who can explain aspects of this hobby with some authority. (Or some technical experts from amongst the manufacturers to give regular insights into the problems and solutions and compromises they have to juggle.)

However, our hosts are experts in journalism, marketing, politics, modern languages etc. and affirmed subjectivists. I would just like to see some technical/objectivist input - for balance - whether from the editorial staff or invited in from outside on a regular basis.

I've had to go back as far as the early 1950s and 1960s in my audio reading matter to try and understand how it all works. (Especially loudspeakers.)

When I - eventually - get my finger out and get that electronic subscription to HFN&RR, then I will have access to their whole archive including all those articles by Barry Fox amongst others.
 

nopiano

Well-known member
Feb 15, 2009
278
162
19,070
That's a good point, Chebby, and that other journal does still provide a helpful mix of technical tests with their listening results. There often is a correlation, and sometimes an outcome 'despite' a certain measurement.

I've tended to most enjoy products that seem to measure well and have a good engineering basis, and sound fine too. I've always been nervous of weak measurements that apparently sound good, which may explain why I've always shied away from valve amps. I'd love to try one though!
 

TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
322
134
19,070
drummerman said:
TrevC will be along shortly underlining all amplifiers sound the same, all cables are the same, all cd players/Dac's sound the same ... did I forget anything?

The usual caveat is ... 'all else being equal' ... and therein lies the issue. Rarely is all else equal.
Along comes Drummerman with his strawman version of what I actually said.
 

Thompsonuxb

New member
Feb 19, 2012
129
0
0
@Chebby

There are mags and sites out there that do technical.

There really is nothing you can learn from them - when you think about it.

Like I've said all the science the r&d is done long before we as consumers get to hear the kit.

We just plug in and play,
 

TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
322
134
19,070
nopiano said:
That's a good point, Chebby, and that other journal does still provide a helpful mix of technical tests with their listening results. There often is a correlation, and sometimes an outcome 'despite' a certain measurement.

I've tended to most enjoy products that seem to measure well and have a good engineering basis, and sound fine too. I've always been nervous of weak measurements that apparently sound good, which may explain why I've always shied away from valve amps. I'd love to try one though!
Those that like valve amplifiers, particularly the SET brigade, must yearn for the sound of a 50s radiogram.
 
K

keeper of the quays

Guest
Amplifiers aren't equal..if the people on here believe this twaddle..why haven't they got the cheapest amp in their kit?
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
207
0
0
Thompsonuxb said:
ID. said:
Thompsonuxb said:
Amps are not equal.

To anyone saying they are and who say they all sound the same, frankly you need to ask yourself what are you doing here on this or any other hifi forum?

To those talking about 'level matching' or 'controlled conditions' I say stop being silly. To those talking about the science I say aaaahhshaaddap!

I listened to 3amps on Friday with distinct differences within the same price range-ish. The threads still on the front page.

For argument sake if say I had requested they be level matched 2 of these amps would have to be seriously compromised to accommodate the 3rd.

To the OP if you really want to know if amps are 'equal' go and listen to a few at your local hifi dealer and decide. It's the only way.
Really? Was the third amp rated at a fraction of a watt or a few milliwats? Considering the fact that most amps only operate withing their first few watts most of the time and that it takes a hell of a lot more watts to achieve significantly more volume, it's probably pretty easy to level match amps that are withing a few dozen watts of one another while still having them playing at a decent volume? Or do you only test amps by seeing how loudly they can play? I always get this funny image of Thompson setting up what he thinks volume matching is. You seem to think it's a matter of turning the volume down so low that everything is barely audible, while in fact it's just having the amps operating within a comfortable range and adjusting the volume a decibel or two. They are still required to play plenty loud enough to enjoy the music.

In terms of a blind test, the speakers you tested have a pretty tricky impedence curve which might throw a number of amps off and separate the men from the boys (the sheep from the goats?), perhaps even to the extent that it could be picked up in a blind test. But once again, the issue isn't about volume, but having a power supply that can provide enough current to handle the bass on the B&Ws.
You'd have to hear them for yourself but in a nutshell your argument is silly.
No, don't have to hear those specific amps with those speakers. I've done plenty of demos where I've heard differences between amps, CD players, DACs, digital cables, analogue cables, etc.
 

TrevC

Well-known member
Jun 12, 2013
322
134
19,070
keeper of the quays said:
Amplifiers aren't equal..if the people on here believe this twaddle..why haven't they got the cheapest amp in their kit?
I am currently using a Sony budget amp. £120. 70 watts per channel into 4 ohms, so quite powerful. The equal of every other 70 watt per channel amplifier on the market.
 

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