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How much do HiFi amps really differ?

Discussion in 'Electronic Design' started by CC, Nov 25, 2006.

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  1. CC

    CC Guest


    Reading some amplifier reviews here:

    "The NAD is warm but not nearly as open."

    Really funny. I know just what the guy means. Then a ton of additional
    reviewers spew paragraph after paragraph of the same silliness.

    What do engineers with experience in audio amps think of this stuff? Is
    there much difference in the sound of a $250 vs. $2500 amp with the same

    I suppose there might be, if there are differences in numbers not
    specified. I recall a long time ago when I bought my Kyocera A-710
    integrated amp, a 100W/ch 45 lbs. whopper with 60A peak current
    capability (that really impressed me) that it simply mopped the floor
    with a Denon component in the shop of similar power level. So naturally
    I walked out with the Kyocera. Of course it listed for $1000 vs. the
    $600 Denon, and I only bought it because it was a display for $600. The
    difference in sound quality seemed apparent when listening, and before I
    was even told anything about it's parameters. Perhaps just the
    salesman's "you will find this model over here to be far superior to the
    Denon" suggestion conditioned me to perceive things differently? I dunno.

    Unfortunately, it now has problems and I'd like to replace it with
    something smaller, but with respectable quality and capacity for my
    impoverished apartment lifestyle. I've narrowed down to:

    NAD C325BEE 50W/ch $399 (would really be right for the wallet if it's
    decent enough)
    NAD C352 80W/ch $599
    Rotel RA-1062 60W/ch $699 (folks just gleem over this one)
    Arcam A65+ 40W/ch $699 (I just discovered this today)

    Nothing is nearly half as heavily built as my Kyocera. It's really
    crazy reading folks' reviews, with all the "color, warmth, openness,
    etc." Are these guys tripping or what?

    Good day!
  2. Phil Allison

    Phil Allison Guest

  3. Boris Mohar

    Boris Mohar Guest

  4. No, different bunch of snobs.
  5. Forget it. Get a free one on or and buy good speakers. They are way more
    important than any amplifier. And don't waste any money on BS 'super'
    cables. Cheap speaker wire is fine.

    If you can't buy good speakers buy OK ones and a good woofer. might be a good
  6. Most (not all) of the folks buying this stuff can't hear the
    difference. Many years ago I worked in a stereo shop in a college town
    - there's a self important group. My favorite demo was to switch
    between the cheapest 20 watt amp and the most expensive 500 watt
    system. As long as the cheapy wasn't clipping and the levels matched,
    nearly nobody could tell. I don't dispute that there are definite
    differences between amps. It's just that the 'numbers' don't often
    reflect this. My opinion is that the measurements aren't nearly good
    enough. BTW my favorite amp was a Marantz model 15 from way back when.
    If you read enough of the reviews, you'll find folks parroting what
    they've read without having a clue. It's OK as long as they're happy -
    and even if they aren't.

    My general rule is - bring along what YOU think is the best recording
    you've heard and ask them to play what THEY think is the best. Find
    something in your price range you like and never mind the numbers.
    There is ALWAYS something 'better'.

    Personally, I love the bottom octave from 16-32Hz and I hate tweeters
    that have an identifiable pitch when playing pink noise (it whistles).
    If I can't convince myself it's at least a little 'real', turn it off
    and read a book.
    Same to you

  7. Genome

    Genome Guest

    SuSE should not be an excuse for not building one yourself. You have
    published piccies of PCB's so you must be good to go.....

  8. ehsjr

    ehsjr Guest

    Sometimes these write-ups are so full of bafflegab
    and technotripe that it is impossible to figure out
    just whatinthehell they are trying to say, other
    than "buy this product". Maybe the writers are
    breathing oxygen-free air.

  9. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    It depends how competently they're designed and made.

    Assuming said competency, for good examples in the price range you're discussing the answer is likely to be
    very tiny indeed.

    The differences between speakers totally dwarfs any other components in the audio chain.

    Most hi-fi rags don't do properly controlled tests / comparisons so their reviews are simply there to fill
    the pages for the most part.

    Adjectives like 'warmth' and openness' are very misleading. Some foolish ppl have come to believe that
    certain *components* now have these attributes which is the biggest con-trick ever but great for the
    purveyors of high-priced audio snake oil.

  10. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Perhaps. Either way it hardly matters.

  11. west

    west Guest

    Would you consider selling me your Kyocera A-710? Thanks.

  12. Eeyore

    Eeyore Guest

    Perhaps, but at least you *can* tell different wines apart !

  13. YD

    YD Guest

    Same snob mentality.

    - YD.
  14. Guest

    Yes. There is an upper limit on the price it is worth paying for an
    amplifier - probably around $500.

    Anything selling at a higher price probably sells in too small a volume
    to cover the cost of getting a good designer to design it right in the
    first place, let alone to cover the rather higher cost of testing it
    for the various forms of distortion once it has been built.

    The only electronic engineer I ever knew who ever looked at a
    significant series of high priced amplifiers - he wanted something to
    drive his Quad electrostatic speakers, and the local dealers lent him a
    lot of gear over the years - found most of them full of trivial
    electronic errors.

    When I last looked, Ralph was a technical director at FEI, and I've no
    more reason to doubt his competence now than I had when I was working
    for him back in 1984.
  15. Complete bullocks (nonsense, madness, crap, silly talk, a-tech blabber etc.
    Not really.
    Then yo uknow mere then he does :)
    snif snif.
    Numbers? Wha tnumbers? 'warm' temperature in degrees C?

    What ever you buy, make sure it is not simply gold plated but solid gold.
    At least you will be able to sell it and get something for it.
    Before you buy look up the price of the gold, and make sure you buy low
    and sell high.
  16. Kryten

    Kryten Guest

    I've got an Arcam A65 and CD72 with Acoustic Energy AE1 speakers.
    £1000 the lot, c. 2002.
    I've no complaints about any item, don't feel the need to 'upgrade'.

    When I worked at Arcam, I liked their attitude.
    In essence they assumed their market was a keen music lover who was prepared
    to pay a good price for good kit, and had a realistic salary. Then they work
    hard to squeeze the best quality sound for that price.

    It is certainly possible to make kit with better specifications if money is
    no object and/or the buyer has more money than sense, but you get
    diminishing returns for your money. A lot of the time people buy expensive
    kit as a status symbols, to say "I can afford to pay huge prices that make
    lesser earners wince".
  17. CC

    CC Guest

    Yes, this is what I expect. Here is a funny story that tells it all,
    yet the writer doesn't seem to fully put 2+2 together and reach the
    obvious conclusion about his own overpriced mediocre exotic amplifiers:

    crobinson9512: "One fun demonstration of this fact is to go grab one of
    the inexpensive TriPath digital amps (Sonic Impact, Teac, etc.) that
    sell on Amazon for $25 to $95) and run a good source into it (a nice CDP
    will do very well). These digital amps are very clean, distortion-wise,
    up to about 5W before they start to get noisy. The sound will blow you
    away and wonder why loons like me have five grand invested in beautiful
    tube gear."

    Earlier he states:

    "having a clean "first watt" from your amplifier is crucial. Solid state
    amps with high power and low THD figures may not do well, because these
    amps THD figures are measured at the RATED OUTPUT."

    I am rather skeptical of this. Makes me curious to see how my own amp
    looks putting out a low signal level. Though I'm not sure I could see
    anything but gross several % distortion if it existed, on my noisy
    digital scope. Unless I hash up something I suppose.

    Interesting way to judge if a tweater is worth anything.

    Thanks for the input.
  18. CC

    CC Guest

    I run Eagle on Suse.

    Time is of the essence. I have many projects in the works already, and
    I'm not a discrete designer.

    Thanks for the input!
  19. CC

    CC Guest

    That's the view that I've always held. Though I was a softy for the
    idea that the amps reserve power mattered when pushed hard. At present
    I'm not planning on listening to loud music, so a modest amp will do.
    Well the link provided by the uncivilized and vulgar "Phil Allison":

    Is a good take on the present state of affairs in audio
    reviewing/judging. I had run into this article in the past but didn't
    book it until now. Quite bizarre that things wound up in this sorry
    state actually.
    Yes, they don't mean much to me. Hence my sarcastic take on what I have
    been reading.

    Thanks for the input.
  20. CC

    CC Guest

    Any yet it would be dramatically more difficult to quantify why.
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