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"Man, you must have a really great amp to drive those babies."

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#1
As I've mentioned in other threads, in order to promote my nascent loudspeaker business and find customers I've been joining, frequenting, and posting on various audio groups and forums all over the internet. I've posted about some of the crazy things I read in those exchanges, but one common assumption I am seeing in replies to photos of my loudspeaker systems is that a large and cool looking loudspeaker naturally must have a killer amplifier to drive them. It is typified in the subject line of this thread and below:
"Man, you must have a really great amp to drive those babies."

As most of you know, when we listen to music, even at relative loud levels, we rarely push our amps to generate more than a few watts to really enjoy the power of our speakers. Valve-heads know that their vacuum tube amps don't need to be more than 25 watts, or so, to be more than loud enough to enjoy their music. But for some reason the antiquated myth that large speakers inherently require large amps is still prevalent in the minds of serious and educated audio nuts around the world. Why is that?

It seems to me anyone who pays attention would think differently. Let's look at the facts:
  • Large speakers tend to be more efficient and converting electrical power into acoustic energy
  • Inversely, small speaker tend to require more power to play as loud as large speakers
  • Nearly all decent home speakers generate over 80dB SPL with 1W of power being fed into them
  • Thus, nearly all speakers generate at least a louder than reference level 90dB SPL with 10 Watts of power being fed to them
Every home audio enthusiast worth their salt should know those things by heart.

So why do we assume we cannot even own a set of larger speakers, such as my Rocketman speakers, unless we have a high end >200W amp to drive them?

I've told this story a million times... When I owned a recording studio I had a set of very large Tannoy Churchill speakers in the mixing room which were located near the storage location for the large touring PA amp rack. When having this discussion with people learning the tech of the trade, I would often put people in front of those speakers and blow their socks off. They would be amazed at the dynamics, bass, power, and sheer majesty of those large speakers (which were very much out of style at that time). Then I would show them that I was using a 5W Radio Shack integrated amplifier to blow their socks off, and they would have to deal with the fact that a $50 5W amp from Radio Shack was all it took to make an incredible amount of musical noise with a high sensitivity speaker.

Fast forward 30 years and I found that very same Radio Shack integrated amp in my collection and I connected it to my line array speakers. Sure enough, that small amp was plenty to blow the windows out of my house. I have better test gear now, so I learned that the amp is really only relatively clean to about 3 Watts and reached 10% THD at just over 5W. It isn't a very clean amp at any output level, though, so I switched back to a large Alesis amp for awhile. Recently I put a nicely built Class-T amp from Parts Express on those large line arrays, and with the rated 8W into 8 Ohms (the load my line array speaker present), I am able to get chest pounding acoustic output without any signs of stress or distortion as you'd expect from an underpowered amp.


So, what's the deal??? Why is the common held belief that one absolute cannot enjoy a large speaker unless they have a huge, high quality, dominating power amp? Why does that matter the most to enthusiasts when they look at a pair of speakers?

In another online discussion I posted a photo of my Rocketman speakers and one guy responded with this question:

"What’s the rms on those?"

When I read that, I couldn't imagine he meant what is the RMS Power Handling of those speakers, so I had to ask what he meant by "RMS." It turned out, indeed, he was asking what is the RMS power handing of those speakers. Huh?

When I see set of speakers I find interesting, one of the last thoughts to pop into my head is how many watts they can handle. I consider things like how loud do I think those drivers can generate sound based on my knowledge and experience with drivers. I consider how well blended the overall driver combinations might be. I considered room response (power response) based on the types of drivers, their alignment to each other, their placement on the baffle, and the shape of the baffle. I consider the types of drivers used and how I recall similar designs sounding. But power handling??? Unless I am looking at a $50 pair of speakers I may accidently blow by connecting them to a far too huge amp or driving them too loud in the wrong room, I never consider power handling of a finished speaker system.

Sure, when I look at small fullrange speakers I do wonder if they can play loud enough for the type of listening I like to do - because I tend to like higher SPLs for my serious listening experiences. But I don't jump straight to power handling until I've decided to really consider the possibility of owning said speakers.


So, how about you guys? Are you caught up in power amps being obviously necessary if you have a larger speaker? Do you assume a large speaker inherently must have a larger, high end amp? When you see a new interesting speaker, is one of the first questions in your head how many watts they can handle?
 

bmwuk

Well-Known Member
#2
Let me ask. The bookshelf speakers I'm going to get are 87db sensitivity. Recommended amp is 50 -150 watts. As we discussed I like the monolith 7x200 watt amp because it is a 7 channel amp and the right price. But is 200 w contingent on the volume you select?

Should I be concerned about blowing the surrounds? Problem is it is tough finding an affordable 7 channel amp or even 5.
 

heeman

Well-Known Member
Famous
#3
Years ago it was all about Power Handling, especially when we were buying amplifiers and PA Systems for our Rock Bands.

Now.........40 years later I have learned that the quality of components that are for HT or Hi Fi, those number actually mean nothing to me. High Quality amplifiers such as Parasound and ATI that have high current power supply sections give me confidence I am in the right arena.

@bmwuk - you have no worries at all with that speaker/amp combo.
 

Flint

"Do you know who I am?"
Superstar
#4
Let me ask. The bookshelf speakers I'm going to get are 87db sensitivity. Recommended amp is 50 -150 watts. As we discussed I like the monolith 7x200 watt amp because it is a 7 channel amp and the right price. But is 200 w contingent on the volume you select?

Should I be concerned about blowing the surrounds? Problem is it is tough finding an affordable 7 channel amp or even 5.
What @heeman said.

My point was that when it comes to great sounding gear, the first concern should not be how many watts you have or how "high end" your amplifier is. Amps are necessary, and a good amp is better to have than a crappy one. I just find it amusing that people cannot see a photo of what appear to be really great speakers without immediately pondering the amp driving them. When I see a pair of speakers which appear to be great, I ponder what they might sound like, not the amp the person is using on them.
 

bmwuk

Well-Known Member
#6
I honestly used to think this way. I'm just lucky I found this forum.
I've said this before but I wish I had the sense and knowledge then that I do now. I could've saved a good deal of money including the BS on interconnects and speaker wire along with other accessories. I don't regret some purchases
 

Deerhunter

Well-Known Member
#7
I just like power! I want more for the times I really want to crank it up.

However one of the best compliments I had was, "wow your speakers sound so good, and they are turned down so low."

Paradigm monitor 11s
with my Marantz receiver.

The wife and I were buying term life insurance. She just took a minute to tell me how impressed she was.
 

TitaniumTroy

Well-Known Member
#8
Well from personal experience, I would disagree concerning one brand of speaker. That would be Magnepan, those inefficient bastid's suck up energy like a black hole. When I moved from a small apartment to my current small duplex, 790sq ft including the attached garage.

My 75watt @ 8 ohms NAD Receiver, couldn't handle the extra space. It blew a True Ribbon Tweeter at a low level. So upgraded to a NAD 225watt amp @8 ohms, when playing loud I did pop a few fuses over the years but never blew a tweeter again.

Recently I was at a Maggie dealer in Chicago, they had the huge 4 panel 30.7 playing. The next night at the store I told the manufacture of the amplifiers sales rep. The Boulder amplifier 300watts @8 ohms and 600watts @4 ohms, I believe this was a class A amp, it had clipped playing the theme from Shaft. He asked me how I knew it had clipped, I said because the music muted momentarily and the red lights came on, he seemed rather shocked!

Otherwise big amplifiers are probably just an ego driven thing. Another reason could be some audio reviewer said the more powerful amp sounded better. Or the old adage better to have too much power than too little, plus big amps just look cool in general. Of course this can be taken to extreme's in size and money to the point where it get's weird and illogical.

I was recommended by Ramis to get a 250watt @8ohms amp, for my 93db JBL 4367's, so I bought a used Pass Labs 250X. I just assumed it was to control the woofers cone with lots of dampening. Whatever, this was an amp I been lusting after for a long time, for aesthetic reasons mostly. I'm very happy with this heavy beast, all 130 lbs of it.
 
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