Do Amplifiers "color" sound? - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

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post #1 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 01:12 PM Thread Starter
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Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

I'm sure this is a question that a lot of us have asked... I believe that this was touched on in the top 10 myths link that was posted years ago.

Anyhow... this is an interesting read... the short end: in double-blind testing of several hundred people, the ability to hear a difference between amps (even discern between a $6000 amp and a $200 AVR) was essentially a coin flip. In other words, no better than a guess.

the article
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post #2 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 01:40 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

The only problem I have with their methodology was that the participants were "guessing" which amp was which. A better methodology would be for people to rate or describe the sound of each without knowing which was which.

Another area they did not test was how well the amps performed over a broad range of listening levels or dynamic range. Some amps can sound great but be forced into distortion quicker than you'd expect or don't quite "pop" when the source should be getting loud.

That all being said, I doubt the results would have been that different. Amps have come a long way since the 70's and 80's when the super high feedback designs (the Japanese amp sound) produced power and low THD numbers at the expense of a shrill sound. Most modern amps I would expect to have a pretty flat frequency response over the audible range. The main difference among them being build quality, possibly power supply noise (I've heard good cheap amps that had horrible capacitor hum that drove me nuts), and power handling, especially for difficult speakers (like 4 Ohm loads, capacitive loads, low efficiency, etc).

Of course my favorite study like that was one that had people drink the same glass of wine twice and were told one was cheap and the other expensive. Most reviewers noted how much better the expensive wine was. I don't remember if the researchers told them they were the same at the end
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post #3 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 01:43 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

This is something we have brought up many times and I have also linked to Richard Clark's $10,000 Amplifier Challenge as well. I am not familiar with the website you linked to and I am somewhat concerned about its design.

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post #4 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 01:46 PM
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When I swapped from a 2007 Onkyo to 2009 Denon, I noticed a slight difference.
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post #5 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 01:54 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

i know there have been several arguments about this over the years.julian hersch <(possibly misspelled)who wrote for the magazine stereo review.made a comment about amplifiers all sound the same.which stirred up much controversy.then folks of the other side say they do sound different.i can tell a difference in the 2 amps i currently own.1 is a home built t-amp,and the other is a nad c326bee.i think the nad has a bit better detail.its not by much mind you.
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post #6 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 02:07 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

The problem with the so called "Color of the sound" is more an issue of the implementation of the room correction and even the slight variances in positioning the mic.
If an amp is designed correctly there should be little to no difference in the sound.
Another factor is distortion, if your running an amp to its max output (and that is not necessarily what the level meters say) A power supply or even the power from the outlet can also be a contributing factor.

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post #7 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 02:14 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

Most amplifiers whether low cost or more expensive, have had flat frequency and phase responses for some years now. The only other thing which can color an amplifier's output is distortion (harmonic, intermodulation and transient-intermodulation - the latter having been addressed in most modern designs).

Harmonic distortion isn't as distasteful as intermodulation distortion, since we hear a lot of harmonic distortion in every day life. However, in most recent amplifier designs, both of those have been driven to very low levels so the main source of system distortion remains to be the microphone (little control over that), and speakers.

That being said, the distortion of the speakers is much greater than low cost or expensive amplifiers and hence, the amplifiers will sound very similar. Where higher cost amplifiers have the advantage is they are usually built to higher standards (physically and electronics-wise) and have better components which will fail less often, so they will endure much more usage and ultimately last longer (generally speaking). Sound-wise, it probably is a toss-up nowadays when many lower cost amplifiers are compared to their Hampton cousins. Coloration has all but disappeared (except when it's purposely introduced).
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post #8 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 02:39 PM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

A PDF file of the original amplifier listening test article can be found here.
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post #9 of 98 Old 08-28-12, 03:47 PM Thread Starter
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Interesting responses!

I don't have a horse in this game... Just thought it was interesting. I guess I tend to believe that the design is well thought-out, knowing how obsessive academic types/stats-geeks are about study designs. In many ways, the fact that telling a difference in a double fashion proved to be a toss-up is really interesting.

Of course, I don't think this down plays a well made product.

@RBTO: I enjoyed reading your take - thanks! ;-)
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post #10 of 98 Old 08-29-12, 08:00 AM
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Re: Do Amplifiers "color" sound?

My first stereo was my parents, a tube powered record player. Speakers were housed in solid wood frames and were built like cabinets 4' tall 24" W 24"D. Anyway, when I got older and bought my first reciever built with solid state components I could say there was a different "color" to the sound (ignoring room modes and difference in speakers)
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