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What are really the differences between amplifiers?

Razz

Well-Known Member
I myself don't buy into "$20,000" amps and CERTAINLY don't buy into even "$1,000" cables.

Marketing is BIG money... and ends up for nothing to the end user.

Put your money in speakers, and treating your room...

....best bang for your buck!

Then, when you get the "urge", start upgrading to components...
 

PaulyT

Behind the Curtain
Staff member
Administrator
Moderator
Superstar
DIY is a good way to go! The conventional wisdom around here is that yeah, separates can be beneficial, but speakers and room treatments make the larger difference. If you've fully optimized those two, then moving to separates may help you squeeze a few more percent of quality out of your system.
 

DIYer

Well-Known Member
Famous
CiscoKid said:
So basically all the guys on Stereophile are possibly insane because they're reviewing that amplifiers and speaker cables all have tremendous differences in quality?
Not insane but business minded. Their interest is to make money. It's not a non-profit organization. They make money by selling advertisement spots and the reviews of the products that promote selling of those spots. It's not a place to get intellectually honest reviews of stereo equipments. :snooty:
 

Yesfan70

I'm famous now bitches! vvvvv
Famous
CiscoKid said:
....I've had my eye on an Emotiva XPA-5 and UMC-1 for a while now, but since I'm not going to be pushing that hard, would a Onkyo TX-NR709 receiver be fine to use? I don't have an HDMI receiver. I heard somewhere that separates offer some benefit over receivers, but I'm going to throw in a guess that there isn't much of a difference. The Onkyo TX-NR709 comes with Audyssey MultEQ XT, too which is cool........



If it were me, I would pass on the Emotiva gear. Seems there's some quality issues and/or ship time screw ups from that company. For the price of their pre/pros and amps, I think I would rather have a matching priced receiver from some of the big names like Onkyo and others.
 

Rope

Well-Known Member
Famous
85 to 90% of what you're going to hear is sinewave reproduced by speakers, and their interaction with the environment they're in. Once you get that one figured out, then diddle around with the 10 to 15% that may make a very slight difference if any. Spend as much as possible on speakers, they're responsible for reproducing sound, and don't forget the space where they're setting, which has a tremendous impact on how they are going to sound.

Now to the amplifier question. If both amplifier A and B, who cares which name is on the "black box", both have flat frequency response, low noise floor, reasonably low distortion, high input impedance, low output impedance (stable at below 4-Ohms), and are not clipped, they'll be indistinguishable in sound at matched levels. This, however does not apply to tube gear.

Rope

*EDIT*

I forgot cables. Properly constructed cables with correct termination and guage, should be neutral in the audio chain, neither adding to, or detracting from the sonic value. If a cable does inpact the sound, it's faulty.
 

heeman

Well-Known Member
Famous
Rope said:
Now to the amplifier question. If both amplifier A and B, who cares which name is on the "black box", both have flat frequency response, low noise floor, reasonably low distortion, high input impedance, low output impedance (stable at below 4-Ohms), and are not clipped, they'll be indistinguishable in sound at matched levels. This, however does not apply to tube gear.

Here I go again............your amplifier must have the available dynamic head room, slew rate or current capability to drive your speakers during peak demand.

I am all for a good quality seperate Power Amp to drive speakers properly! I do not like the way that on board receiver amplifiers drive high quality speakers.

:happy-smileygiantred:
 

MatthewB

Grandmaster Pimp Daddy
Famous
heeman said:
Rope said:
Now to the amplifier question. If both amplifier A and B, who cares which name is on the "black box", both have flat frequency response, low noise floor, reasonably low distortion, high input impedance, low output impedance (stable at below 4-Ohms), and are not clipped, they'll be indistinguishable in sound at matched levels. This, however does not apply to tube gear.

Here I go again............your amplifier must have the available dynamic head room, slew rate or current capability to drive your speakers during peak demand.

I am all for a good quality seperate Power Amp to drive speakers properly! I do not like the way that on board receiver amplifiers drive high quality speakers.

:happy-smileygiantred:


Heeman what don't you like? I ask because I have tried my DefTechs with an outboard H/K citation amp, an adcom amp and my Onkyo 805. Not only did I not notice a difference, but now use the 805 to drive just my mains and drive my center and surrounds with outboard amps. According to testing the 805 driving just two speakers generates 180 watt per channel, although they would never ever use that much my breakdown is.

Mains 180 wpc (onkyo 805)
Center 200 watts (bridged H/K amp)
surrounds 105 (B&K stereo amp)
rears 60 watts (adcom stereo amp)

I did notice a slight clarity on the rears using the adcom as compared to the receiver, but it was slight and the speakers are right near my head, otherwise I can't tell much of a difference.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
Matt... In order to really appreciate any subtle change in sound, like an amplifier upgrade from a receiver, first the speakers need to be of sufficent quality (you know my opinion of deftech) and tge setup and room acoustics need to not significantly hinder the sound. You know you have massive and major room and setup issues. You should do amp audition in a perfect environment like my HT using incredible speakers like some Dynaudio C1 beauties. Remember auditioning those in my house? We were using a $200 Behringer amp which is still better than nearly every receicer out there. I would have loved it if we could have compared a higher end amp. I think everyone may have heard a difference, especially with the outrageously high SPLs you chose to listen at.
 

heeman

Well-Known Member
Famous
"Heeman what don't you like? I ask because I have tried my DefTechs with an outboard H/K citation amp, an adcom amp and my Onkyo 805. Not only did I not notice a difference, but now use the 805 to drive just my mains and drive my center and surrounds with outboard amps. According to testing the 805 driving just two speakers generates 180 watt per channel, although they would never ever use that much my breakdown is."

When switching from an older Yamaha Integrated amp AX-700; 110W/CH to a newer Yamaha receiver 110W/CH the dynamic response suffered greatly and so did the sound stage.

Then I purchased a B&K Components 125W/CH, High Current Power Amp and my Studio 60's were alive and sounding better than they ever did. I recently upgraded my system to 5.1 and purchased an Onkyo TX-NR706 and did not even consider using the onboard amps, didn't even try.

Just my experiance and to me the difference is night and day and black and white. :music-rockout: :music-rockout:
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
I don't believe a $10,000 amp will always outperform an equally spec'ed $800 amp, but I do believe a good $800 amp will often outperform a similar $200 amp in many cases. If the speaker load is extremely irratic with extreme and sharp phase shifts, a much higher end amp will usually perform audibly better than a good midrange amp. However, it has become rare for speakers to have such extreme phase responses these days. For most people, most of the time, a good $800 amp is as good as they will ever need in their lifetimes.

I don't think there is ever a justification for spending more than about $5,000 for a stereo amp.
 

Rope

Well-Known Member
Famous
CiscoKid said:
Flint - are you trying to say a higher end amp would make a difference over the $200 amp you were using? Do you not agree with the $10,000 amplifier challenge guy in saying all amplifiers are the same until clipping?

You won't find a $200.00 amp that's stable down to 2-Ohms, of course there may not be need for an amp geared to drive low impedance speakers if you chose an efficient speakers such as many of the Klipsch offerings.

Quite frankly, unless you're planning to spend $12,000.00 and up for a pair of speakers, a good price range would be $750.00 to $1,200.00 for an amp.

John Kurl, circuit designer extrodinare (Parasound and others), took part in an amp ABX program, and failed to identify one amplifier from another. The vast majority of audio enthusiasts would not be able to identify different makes of amplifiers under ABX conditions.

Rope
 

MatthewB

Grandmaster Pimp Daddy
Famous
Trust me Flint, I know, if only I had the money, and my GF would allow me to convert my second master bedroom into a kick ass HT (or better yet had the money to convert my garage into a sweet 9 seat HT with projector. Trust me acoustic panels all around, Dynaudio C1's all around and an IB system making use of that huge attic I have. (sigh wake up Matt, wake up)

Yeah I recall your setup in vivid detail and how great acoustics and properly set up speakers sound like. My fucked up awkward great room is a disaater in itself, but hey you make do with what you can.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
That's right, Matt. I was just pointing out your experience with amps might not reflect what most enthusiasts will experience. You stated you didn't hear any difference, but you probably shouldn't hear any difference given the limitations you have to deal with.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
In general, I nearly always prefer a Mono or Stereo amp to most multi-channel amps on the market. There are many reasons for this, the main reasons being:
1) most multichannel amps have one power supply for all of the amp channels which means that not all amp channels can generate their full rated output at the same time.
2) more active stuff in one chassis tends to lead to higher noise floor.
3) rear channels rarely need the same size of power amp as the front channels.
4) the amp must sit in one location and the speaker wires can get very, very long which is never a good thing.

Ideally an amp should be sized perfectly for the application which usually means the rear channel amps can be half the rated power as the front amps. This results in a noise floor and low level noise issues being more ideal for each channel.

Ideally an amp should be placed as close to the speaker as possible to allow for the shortest possible speaker wire run. Long line level runs are rarely an issue to performance while lone speaker wire runs are inherently a detriment to the sound.


Specifically about Outlaw...

Historically Outlaw has offered both amazing value and good performance intermixed with some models which are less than ideal, even for the price. There are some people on this forum who swear by Outlaw, some who are not fans, and others like me who are not sure which models are great deals and which should be avoided.

I do know for midrange somewhat affordable high fidelity amps I love Parasound / Halo, some AudioSource models, and others. I also think the Behringer A500 as an amazing value which I believe is worth twice the price even though it isn't in the same class as the other good sub-$1000 stereo amps out there.
 

Flint

Dog Faced Pony Soldier
Superstar
Why pay for a 300 watt amp if you never use more than 150 watts?

The biggest audible differences between most amps in high fidelity applications is how they sound in the primary operating range, from 0.01 to 5 watts. Most of the time, the higher the rated output capability of an amp, the higher the noise floor in the low levels you use most of the time when enjoying music. You need the 100 to 500 watts of power only for peak output levels which are transient in nature and often extremely short in duration. So, when it comes to mid-priced and lower amps, the trick is to find an amp which has a low noise floor, low THD+noise at very low output levels, and enough peak power capability to meet most, if not all, of the peak demands of your music with the type of speakers you are using.

This balancing is act is why I generally tell the forum they only need an amp with output levels in the 75 watts to 150 watts range. For most speakers in most rooms, that is enough and having a slightly lower peak output can significantly improve the low level performance when looking at midrange and lower end amps.
 

Yesfan70

I'm famous now bitches! vvvvv
Famous
I found this link about one of Emotiva's amps on S&V. (link)

The replies in that thread are not in the correct order, so you have to do a little bit of scroll play to keep the discussion in order (don't miss that glitch :roll: ).

For myself, if I had to choose between one of those two amps, I would go with the Outlaw. I have heard the Outlaws in two different setups. They seem to be established as a good brand. The Emotiva stuff looks good and all, but I can't find anything glowing or scolding on them. The link above seems to suggest the XPA amps are not good for cranking inefficient speakers and some of their pre/pros seem buggy, even after a few firmware updates.

It sounds like I'm knocking the Emotivas, but I'm not. For all I know, they may be a great bang for the buck option, as the stuff I mentioned and linked is from a year to two years ago. I myself would like to see if their products have improved any since then, but no one seems to know.

Personally for the new price of one of those two amps, I would rather spend that on a better performing used amp from brands like ATI, Parasound, B&K and others.
 

Randy

Well-Known Member
Famous
Well before I read Yesfans post I was going to suggest that you might look for something used. Then I read his post and I will echo his thoughts.

I bought a used ATI 1505 for $600.00 shipped. It is a beast and sounds great. If you think you need 200W than I would bet a 2005 would surely keep up with 5 of the monoblocks you are looking at and you hsould be able to find one cheaper. I know Flint prefers fewer channels per chassis over multi channel designs, and I happen to agree with his theory on shoving more stuff in the same box and using the same power supply, but they will fit the needs of most people just fine.

ATI, Parasound, B&K, and Bryston all make good stuff and you can find nice used stuff out there if you look.
 
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