Home Theater Forum and Systems banner
1 - 20 of 140 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
I know the "differences in amps" has been kicked around here until it is on its last leg, but what about pre-amps?

If amps that spec out the same all sound the same (for the record, I do not believe they do), shouldn't pre-amps that share the same numbers sound the same as well? Surely the switching aspect of a pre-amp does not create the flavor of the pre-amp.

All pre-amps are doing is amplifying the signal (to much less a degree) as well. Based on the assumption that all amps produce the same sound, it would seem logical that all pre-amps produce the same sound as well and only the source component is responsible for the flavor of the music.

Is that correct? If not, why?

So, what is the wisdom around these parts on pre-amps?

Thanks in advance for a civil discourse.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
2,539 Posts
Since you mentioned switching you opened the door to defining what a preamp is.
There is a difference between a simple preamp and a preamp with tone controls and even more difference with a full fledged processor.
Which one do you want to talk about.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,054 Posts
If your talking about a pre/pro (receiver without any amps). The only difference would be in the added room EQ software or processing modes. If running pure direct there should be no audible difference.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
For the sake of this discussion, lets assume that the pre-amp has multiple inputs, an analog rotary switch to select them, an analog volume control and no tone controls.

We are in the two channel area, so this is a 2 channel pre-amp, no digital processing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #5 ·
The reason I ask is because I have spent a good portion of the day reading the various threads here and it seems to me that there is a prevalent assumption among the membership here that...

A cheap CD player using the on-board DAC (all DACs sound the same) driving a
Cheap pre-amp (all pre-amps sound the same) and a
Pro/audio amp (all amps sound the same) with some
12g lamp cord (all wire sounds the same) will produce the same sonic bliss as...

A megabuck audio system...

as long as the same speakers are at the end of the chain and the amp is of sufficient wattage to drive the speakers without distortion.

I just want to know what the consensus is here. Every site has its own "flavor" and I certainly don't want to be the guy that is always spitting in the punchbowl at the party. There are plenty of things to discuss without trying to sway others to my way of thinking, and I am just looking to avoid any possible conflicts.

I have many years of experience and I love a spirited discussion, but I am not young and certainly not a fool and would not attempt to shout about the superiority of Star Trek at Star Wars convention. Swimming is hard enough without trying to swim against the current. :D

Thanks.

Mike
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
22,577 Posts
I would have to believe that there would be no differences in sound. However, I have never tested any to see for myself, so I obviously could not say with 100% certainty there are no differences. I suppose it is possible that a manufacturer could design a preamp to alter the response so that it does sound different, although I think the goal would be to NOT interfere with the signal in any way whatsoever. Let the user decide if they want to alter the signal with processing or tone controls.

It seems appropriate that a preamp should be completely neutral... transparent... simply there to allow source switching and provide volume control. If you get two that are indeed transparent and do nothing to the signal, then I am not sure how they cannot produce the same sound. If they do not produce the same sound, then one or both would not be transparent. In my opinion, transparent is inaudible, otherwise it is not transparent.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
15,054 Posts
Define cheap? a $30 CD player wont be as good as a $150 one or super low priced pre/pro however after that there would be very little if any audible difference its more a build quality and longevity thing after that.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
In my opinion, transparent is inaudible, otherwise it is not transparent.
I agree 100%.

I also believe there is absolutely no way to make any electronics completely transparent, and so the differences between pre-amps (and all other electronics) exist for me.

In fact, I believe that the manufacturers do not even attempt to produce neutrality, and rather produce a distinct "house sound" for their marque.

there would be very little if any audible difference
Tony, we will just need to agree to disagree on that point.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
22,577 Posts
The reason I ask is because I have spent a good portion of the day reading the various threads here and it seems to me that there is a prevalent assumption among the membership here that...

A cheap CD player using the on-board DAC (all DACs sound the same) driving a
Cheap pre-amp (all pre-amps sound the same) and a
Pro/audio amp (all amps sound the same) with some
12g lamp cord (all wire sounds the same) will produce the same sonic bliss as...

A megabuck audio system...

as long as the same speakers are at the end of the chain and the amp is of sufficient wattage to drive the speakers without distortion.

I just want to know what the consensus is here. Every site has its own "flavor" and I certainly don't want to be the guy that is always spitting in the punchbowl at the party. There are plenty of things to discuss without trying to sway others to my way of thinking, and I am just looking to avoid any possible conflicts.

I have many years of experience and I love a spirited discussion, but I am not young and certainly not a fool and would not attempt to shout about the superiority of Star Trek at Star Wars convention. Swimming is hard enough without trying to swim against the current. :D

Thanks.

Mike
I don't think it is the "prevalent" assumption among the members here. If you look at the "can we really hear a difference in amps" thread, it has been running about 50/50. So at least half of the members voting believe there is a difference.

The majority (not all) of either side seems to be merely "belief" without tested confirmation one way or another. I am personally still in the belief stage of no differences myself, although I have tested some amps and not heard any differences based on our prerequisites. The main driving force behind my beliefs is the numerous testing that has been done that proves there were no differences heard IN THOSE TESTS with people adamantly claiming they could hear difference... and the lack of any organized testing proving there are differences. I reserve the right to eventually hear a difference, it just hasn't happened thus far.

The biggest doubt I have is with those claiming "huge"... "night and day"... "if you can't hear a difference you have a hearing problem"... "sounds so much better", type differences. I agree that if someone is hearing that drastic of a difference between amps, everyone should be able to hear it... and you should well be able to describe it. I have read all kinds of terms and phrases describing differences that I have no idea what they mean and those claiming the differences can't describe the term or phrase themselves.

I would be much more likely to believe someone claiming to hear a subtle difference, but maybe they are not sure if it is for the better or worse, although they might like one over the other. HOWEVER... I refuse to pay thousands and thousands of dollars to only hear a subtle difference that may or may not be something I like. If I am going to buy an amp that cost $10,000 more... even $5,000 more... it HAD BETTER be a substantial IMPROVEMENT over what I replaced.

I would really like to test the differences between say a $1,500 system (CD, Receiver, Cables) vs a $20,000 system (CD, Preamp, Amp, Cables) with a really good efficient pair of $10,000 speakers. I have doubts that their would be an $18,500 improvement between the two systems, if any differences at all. Does it not make reasonable sense that there would need to be a significant improvement in sound to spend $18,500 more?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
People spend accordingly.

I agree that the differences are not "major" at all, but very subtle. How much one wishes to pay for that subtle difference varies from one individual to the next I suppose.

And since someone with a 1,500 dollar system would not be using 10K speakers, I dont think that test would offer much real world usefulness. It would be interesting however. :bigsmile:

Although my system is not modest, I would certainly not advocate someone buying 500 dollar interconnects to put into their 5K system. I think proportional spending is prudent. If you already have the gear you like, and spending an additional 150 bucks wont upgrade your equipment, the wires may be where that money is best spent...

Me, I would spend the money on music.
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
22,577 Posts
And since someone with a 1,500 dollar system would not be using 10K speakers, I dont think that test would offer much real world usefulness. It would be interesting however. :bigsmile:
I was mainly suggesting this in response to your comparison question. You stated "same speakers", so I was assuming the speakers in the megabuck system would be used in the cheap system, since no one would likely buy cheap speakers for megabuck electronics. :huh:

Ultimately neither scenario is likely... but a test would definitely have some real world usefulness... if in fact some people could get past the assumed proof that they only had to spend $1,500 to get the same sound out of their $10,000 speakers as they would if they spent $20,000.

If we did a poll on hearing improved differences between speakers we know it would be 100%. There is no doubt that most $10,000 speakers are going to sound better than most $1,000 speakers... and that speakers are where we are going to hear the most significant difference. Therefore, I think it is more likely that there will be inexpensive electronics spent on expensive speakers than the other way around.

Although my system is not modest, I would certainly not advocate someone buying 500 dollar interconnects to put into their 5K system. I think proportional spending is prudent. If you already have the gear you like, and spending an additional 150 bucks wont upgrade your equipment, the wires may be where that money is best spent...
I wouldn't advocate anyone spending $500 on interconnects period, but I know some people do. I don't have issues with anyone spending whatever they want to spend, I just have doubts that most of those spending the megabucks are hearing the differences so many of them are claiming to hear. I think a lot of them would cry if they had a spending conscience and heard their high dollar system in a blind test up against a reasonably inexpensive system.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
You may be correct.

But I do notice that most of the people here do not have inexpensive systems.

I suppose we could all cry together. :D

I buy moderately priced cables (probably 75 bucks for a pair of interconnects)) because I like the way they look as much as anything else. And the typical response I get is "you cant see those cables behind your rack". And that is true. However I cant see the premium plumbing beneath the sink, or the more expensive brakes on my car either, but I feel better knowing they are there.

I believe in reasonable expenditures. You wont see any really outrageously priced stuff in my rack. But there are places I will splurge for sure.

Moderation in all things...including moderation. Oscar Wilde :bigsmile:
 

·
Banned
Joined
·
22,577 Posts
Look at the Emotiva cables... I love they way they look.

I like the way the RAM speaker cables look with the ViaBlue jacket and the locking banana pin connectors, which we use for our speaker events. Although ultimately I purchased some Canare 4S11 speaker cable, heat-shrink and tech flex and built my own for my MartinLogans.

I spent quite a bit on the Emotiva XPR-5. Don't really need it and can't hear a difference between it and a Behringer EP2500 at 1/8 the price (I would have to buy 3 for five channels though)... however, I like owning the amp... for now anyway. That amp is pushing the limit with me... and I highly doubt I could get any better regardless of what I spent.

There is no doubt looks can play a part in how much we spend. Then again, a Behringer EP2500 hardly looks good with those rack ears.

I have cried out spending all I have on electronics chasing something better. Fortunately things are coming my way a little less these days... maybe I can eventually make it up on all that I wasted.
 

·
Super Moderator
Joined
·
1,674 Posts
Hi Mike,
'
Don't make me bring over lamp cord this weekend :D

If amps that spec out the same all sound the same (for the record, I do not believe they do)
Me neither.
Because the position that informed, rational people actually hold, is that all amplifiers that meet a set of specified criteria (FR, distortion, output impedance, etc, etc...which covers a large swath of SS and some tubes), when not driven into non-linearity (clipping, oscillation, etc, etc.), are sonically indistinguishable to human ears.
See the difference between "all amps sound the same"? (the position held by strawmen).

So, what is the wisdom around these parts on pre-amps?

Thanks in advance for a civil discourse.
No worries. A different set of parameters vs an amp hooked to a reactive load, but largely the same...caveats included.
Here's questions for you:
Would a system comprised of a "high end" preamp, say an Classe CAP-80, hooked to a YBA 2A amp, fed by a Wadia CD player, connected up with MIT cables....
....sound any different to your ears, than a $70 Sony DVD player feeding a Behringer A500 with the free cables that come with DVD players?
Lets say using ATC SCM 12 reference monitors.
Are you confident you could hear the difference using your ears only?

cheers,

AJ
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 · (Edited)
Sonnie,

I have not changed anything major in my systems for well over 5 years.

I know what you mean about "chasing" something. I have chosen not to chase anymore. Probably for the same reason you stopped chasing. I just dont think I can get much better, regardless how much more I spend.

Sometimes i miss the chase, but mostly I like buying music more than gear anyway. There was a time when I forgot it was all about the music/movies and my rack(s) looked like a revolving door.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #17 ·
Would a system comprised of a "high end" preamp, say an Classe CAP-80, hooked to a YBA 2A amp, fed by a Wadia CD player, connected up with MIT cables....
....sound any different to your ears, than a $70 Sony DVD player feeding a Behringer A500 with the free cables that come with DVD players?
Lets say using ATC SCM 12 reference monitors.
Are you confident you could hear the difference using your ears only?
I honestly believe they would sound different, and I also honestly believe I could tell them apart. The MIT cables have a Zobel network on them. I cracked open a pair some time back to see what was in the box.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #18 ·
Sonnie,

Those Emotiva cables are indeed nice looking, and fairly priced as well. Are they truly as flexible as they claim? If so, I may get a pair or two myself.

I use either Outlaw, Onix or Better Cables currently. I really like the looks of all three. The Outlaws are a nice white color, the Onix are red and the Better Cables are silver. This helps me trace the stuff when I need to.

And Emotiva really makes some nice looking gear.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,784 Posts
I remember an interview with Dave Wilson wherein he said that given a budget, the largest portion should go into the speakers. A good speaker with less than stellar electronics will almost always sound better than stellar electronics with less than stellar speakers. I agree whole heartedly and I would guess most folks here would.

As most know I am firmly on the side of electronics, be it amps, pre-amps, dac's can and oft times do sound different. It would be not possible to listen to every permutation of equipment out there, but having heard differences, yes even in Mikes system, I can never turn back.

There seems no obvious way to, at least today, entirely define the parameters of the human senses. Be it taste, smell, sight and hearing that cannot, again, today be pigeon holed into random numbers or graphs. To me, a straw man would be one the has all beliefs on this matter riding on measuring devices.

Maybe my way of looking at things is skewed a bit, but like most goods in out life, we can easily detect things that would go un detected by measurement gear. Why is it that I so dislike sour cream ? I have no clue really. Cannot be measured though. Everything makes a difference, some we can detect some we may not be able to, no argument there. If someone changes one of Mikes favorite golf clubs just a little bit, I would have no clue what it is, but I guarantee Mike would know at the first swing. The club may still, measurably be the same, but Mike is not fooled, he knows. The same thing happens with most anything that takes human senses to detect, Nascar, Indy, Drag racing, Archery, Cooking, using a Mac vs Pc. Changing a circuit in an amplifier by definition has to have an effect, although not everyone not having an intimate knowledge of what they are listening to may not know it. Ask the designer to listen and they would know. If however, we are going to put so many conditions in front of our expectation, all working into loads equally, same this, same that, etc etc. This is not the real world, in the real world we pick what we want because we like it, sound, image, held beliefs.

So, it seems that being able to hear the differences would require some education and practice. Not simple but most everyone can do it I think. Once the differences are known then it may be easier to repeat this knowledge elsewhere.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
107 Posts
Discussion Starter · #20 ·
The problem I have had in the past with the "prove it" tests is that the testers almost always want a 100% accuracy for the test to be valid.

Even as different as Pepsi and Coke taste, I think that after 20 taste tests, the person being tested would miss a few.

100% is unreasonable in my opinion.
 
1 - 20 of 140 Posts
Top