Can we really hear a difference between amps? - Page 3 - Home Theater Forum and Systems -

View Poll Results: Is there a noticeably audible difference between two level matched solid state amps under controlled
Yes... I believe a notable difference can be heard. 135 48.39%
No... I do not believe there is any audibly significant difference. 144 51.61%
Voters: 279. You may not vote on this poll

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post #21 of 825 Old 10-13-10, 04:01 PM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

Excellent idea. I was going to scrap it, but makes a great deal more sense.

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post #22 of 825 Old 10-13-10, 05:40 PM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

Jim Holmes wrote: View Post
I therefore conclude that not amplifiers sound the same nor do they sound the same in the same brand.
I don't think the premise was that all amplifiers sound the same - rather, that any two amps that measure the same, under the same measurement conditions, should sound the same. I.e. there isn't some other ethereal / unmeasurable property that gives amps "character".

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post #23 of 825 Old 10-13-10, 07:23 PM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

Hey all - been awhile since I posted up. Been busy moving and changing jobs and whatnot.

I'm glad this question came up. In my opinion it's actually very interesting. Similar to the typical can you tell cable differences/equipment (physical) grounding, and all the other jazz.

I initially tried to write my dissertation on this same question although my methodology was actually going to be scientific rather than survey, listening tests, etc.. There are ways of measuring differences in the auditory system in the brain and are done very regularly using electrophysiologic tests. They can measure differences early on or late in the system depending on where you want to look in the process.

I think it'd be really cool for an equipment manufacturer or one of the stereo magazines to sponsor something like this. It would provide really interesting information and actually scientifically ground some of these often debated questions.

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post #24 of 825 Old 10-13-10, 10:28 PM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

This is very interesting topic and one that stirs a lot of debate. I have never attempted blind testing two amplifiers but I would find it really interesting to do a blind test between a valve and solid state amp.



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post #25 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 12:27 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

Yes, I can hear differences between amplifiers. I characterize those differences in clear terms like distortion or response time (i.e. not just warm or detailed). The simple set of measurements usually provided with audio gear is insufficient; a larger set of measurements is better but often not done or at least not published. The audible differences I have clearly identified in my own testing are differences that I believe can be measured, and I have some expectation of what those measurements would look like.

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post #26 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 12:40 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

I went from an Onkyo 905 AVR to a pre/pro set up and the amps inside the Onkyo were very good, it was only when playing at very loud levels that I could tell the difference, the Onkyo strained and the sound hardened and became a little too uncomfortable to listen where as the Rotel 1575 did not when pushed harder and was easier on the ear.
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post #27 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 01:16 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

This is an interesting discussion.

I do think it is very hard to tell a difference in amps unless you can do a comparison at home at the SAME TIME. I once did a comparison of 6 or more different amps I had in my rack at one time with the help of a friend. 3 of them sounded very similar and we had to nit pick which we liked better, 2 others had the same dry quality to the sound which made them sound dull to me and 1 was horrible compared to the others. These were all high end names from Classe, Aragon, Krell, EAD, ADA, Parasound and Sunfire. I had my list of favorites which differed from my friends list but the similar sounding ones were all in the top 3 on both our lists.

I think a great amp is just that, it should not add anything but what is on the recording. An amp can only damage the signal so the better ones just have less flaws IMO.

I have tried a lot of amps over the years and even some which are HIGHLY regarded which I hated. I am now back to the amp that does the least damage in my system which I regretfully sold but found again.

I am pretty much saying that in my system my amp does the least damage to the signal than all the others I have tried.
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post #28 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 02:02 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

I agree with draudio that we need to address the question scientifically. Now many on the purely objectivist side will say that this has been done. In my opinion it has not been done from a truly objective and scientific perspective. We know a lot about reproducing sound, a lot about how amps work, and a lot about the psychological and physiological aspects of perception. What we have not done is addressed in a systematic manner the reasons that people hear what they do. While the vast majority of differences of many types can be explained by placebo, expectation bias, and other "soft" variables, there are also some clear possibilities for differences to exist in the hardware.

The question that we need to address is why people hear what they do, searching for explanations systematically. This involves more than just showing no difference in ability to identify amps in ABX blind testing. There are so many variables that this does not explain that the results are simply not that interesting. For instance, a constant theme in many of the more reasonable comments here is that amps have to be operating within their nominal range to assume little or no difference. Many years of experience have demonstrated to me that this is often not the case when people do experience differences. What are the parameters that matter? How do we identify them in the field with such high variability in loads, source material, and system design? How should we test amps to reflect more closely how they will be used? What parameters matter most when dancing around this assumption that amps are operating within their range of ability? How do we identify differences that might exist? What is there that matters beyond obvious clipping, THD, IM, and noise? All of these are good questions that have only been barely touched as far as reasearch and reporting goes.

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post #29 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 03:13 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

key words...operated within limits, not clipping.

I'd bet almost any money people clip their amps far far more than they ever realise.

Then you can tell a difference between a valve and ss amp. but only because it is clipping.
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post #30 of 825 Old 10-14-10, 07:51 AM
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Re: Can we really hear a difference between amps?

Leonard, you bring up a good point about not knowing everything about the perception of sound.

Used to be that everyone said humans could only hear to 22kHz or so, so amps and speakers just cut off at that point (or thereabouts) without much worry. I read an article about harmonics a few years back that studied how we can hear detail up to 44kHz, even though we can't hear a pure sinewave tone at that frequency. It has to do with the transient response and how more transient (step function) waves are more like a summation of a fundamental + many harmonics. The more harmonics that are added in, the "crisper" the edge of the waveform. Mathematically, this is known as a Fourier series.

But if the amps and speakers can't reproduce those frequencies, the sharp edge of that square wave (or plucking guitar string, or drum hit) gets rounded and the transient response is altered somewhat.

So how we perceive this, how transient and high frequency response is affected by distortion, etc, etc, is still not fully characterized.

That all being said, if the amps measure EXACTLY the same, then you wouldn't be able to tell the difference -- I just don't think that's possible yet.
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