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Is desire for more powerful amps overrated?

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  • Is desire for more powerful amps overrated?

    How do you determine the power is necessary to effectively drive your speakers? Do you judge by your speaker sensitivity or impedance?

    Are we too concerned with watts and power with our amps? Are more watts necessarily better in most cases, given a relatively inefficient speaker or are any out there using relatively low wattage amps with inefficient speakers?

    This topic is definitely pertinent when budgeting for a system as well - as one looks for a particular model within most of the high end audio companies, more watts equals a lot more money - McIntosh, Audio Research, Pass Labs, etc, and that is not even getting into mono blocks, which takes it to the next level. For example, If you can get tremendous sound out the Audio Research REF75se, may not be worth the money to go the 150se. But how do you decide without having the option of a home demo?

  • #2
    Dissenting (accepted?) POV:



    I know, answering a video with another video is the definition of sloth, im just not in the writing frame of mind.
    Linn Kilmax LP12 | Channel D Lino C | innous ZENMini | Kii Three

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    • #3
      Arrgh. That's not a discussion of the required power, it's a discussion of method of measurement. Steve is definitely using the wrong measurement technique, he'll never arrive a peak power that way. The second video, from the description, makes it impossible to determine what measurement method is being used. The simple question of "Peak or average or...." was not properly answered by " they measure at certain intervals, they will give you instantaneous reading of the maximum power that is given at any moment". That doesn't define anything, though it makes it sound like peak, but could just as easily be maximum RMS (not the same at all!). And nobody mentions an actual power measurement, which requires a voltage, current, and power factor. Unlikely anybody's measuring true power, peak, RMS or average.

      The need for power is highly spectral based on music content, highly temporal based on music content, and no speaker presents a flat load over the spectrum. So-called "power meters" on amplifiers are typically just volt meters with a power scale based on a flat, fixed load, and without conditioning circuits, a meter will ready average power at best, rarely if ever RMS or peak. The test would be, if the amplifier is playing along indicating power, then the speakers are disconnected, the meters should drop to zero if they are actually reading power (and that doesn't verify they are taking power factor into account). I'll bet they don't in either case.

      To calculate the required amp power for a speaker in a room you have to start with speaker efficiency, then listening distance, speaker position in room, room acoustics, target SPL, speaker load curve, amplifier power vs load vs frequency, then bingo, you get maximum required amp power for a signal with equal amplitude vs frequency. But that's not what music is...

      So to simplify, based only on speaker efficiency, listening distance, nominal load impedance, and amp power into that load, we can approximate the necessary power expecting a certain amount of error.

      And that, friends, is why we buy over-powered amps. And also why low power amps still work well. It's too hard to calculate!

      But generally, higher efficiency speakers require much less power for equivalent SPL, because 3dB change is doubling or halving. So if we start with a speaker efficiency of 85dB/w/m and used a 100W amp that was barely adequate, then moved to speakers with 95dBSPL/w/m, then a 10W amp would achieve similar results, all else being equal, which it won't be. The point is, speaker efficiency is the big factor, speaker impedance vs frequency is the next, then you can back into amp power.

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    • #4
      <the post this is in response to was deleted for some reason, so this may not make any sense>

      Missing info:
      target SPL - must have
      For higher accuracy:
      speaker distance to wall
      room acoustic data
      apeaker polar data

      i.e., if your target is 98dB SPL, 50wpc into 4 ohms is close.

      At 300wpc you’ll be maxed at 106dB SPL.

      These are maximums and very approximate.

      The example shows that high SPL is about speaker efficiency and distance, with amp power a distant 3rd.
      Last edited by Tech7738; 03-29-2019, 08:14 AM.

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      • #5
        The state of high-end audio today ... the OP talks of desire and lust, respondents of SPL and graphs. heh...

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        • #6
          Why so loud. You could end up a flash in the pan audiophile, deaf by 60. It's far more than an amp and speaker that are going to get you 96db of pleasant, enjoyable music. You will need an excelent pre as well as source and all your cabling will matter, as well as the power from the wall.
          PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
          Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
          Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

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          • #7
            I used to use a 20 watt per channel mini amp to drive my home theater polk front channel speakers
            and there was more than enough power to play loud.
            Magnepan 1.6 QR Loudspeakers, Amherst A-2000 MOSFET 150 WPC Amp, Conrad Johnson PV-10A Modded Tube Line & Phono Stage, Electrocompaniet MC II Class A Head Amp, Shelter 501 Mark II Cart (St) , Graham Engineering 2.2 Tonearm (St) , VPI Aries-1 Turntable (St) , VPI Clamp, Denon DL-102 Cart, (M) , Luxman Tonearm (M) , Kenwood KD-500 Turntable (M) , Michell Clamp, Marantz 20B Analog FM Tuner, Pioneer SACD, Onkyo DX-6800 CD Transport, DIY 24B/192K DAC, Sony MDR-F1 Phones, Headroom Max balanced Headphone Amp, DIY Silver Interconnects

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            • #8
              Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
              Why so loud. You could end up a flash in the pan audiophile, deaf by 60.
              The examples I used are maximum levels. You can't play music at maximum levels, only clean and undistorted peaks. Average levels are at least 10dB below those figures, and most listening is done with average levels around 70-80dB SPL.
              Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
              It's far more than an amp and speaker that are going to get you 96db of pleasant, enjoyable music.
              Those are subjective terms. The OP didn't ask about either.
              Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
              You will need an excelent pre as well as source and all your cabling will matter, as well as the power from the wall.
              Three large rabbit holes. Take your pick.

              Comment


              • #9
                Originally posted by JCOConnell View Post
                I used to use a 20 watt per channel mini amp to drive my home theater polk front channel speakers
                and there was more than enough power to play loud.
                Apparently, "loud" is also subjective.

                But there's no actual information here on which to quantify anything, so you're assessment is completely valid and equally subjective.

                Comment


                • #10
                  Tech, IMOm your too cerebral. Good playback from your gear is an art. Not only a blend and ballance of the amp speaker, but everything else is needed for full, complete high sound pressure level platback. Above I forgot to mention the room. A low power amp/speaker placed well in a room will perform better than high power placed wrong, The high power might spit your eardrums and leave you running. The low power might run out of steam, lack a little air and ease, maybe compress dynamics on intense passages, but in the end it might just sound beautiful. It has a better chance of sounding far better than some high power amp set up all wrong.

                  It's correct to use some science as a user to attempt matching speaker to amp. That is an excellent starting point. In my experience, there is a lot more to it than that. Getting good playback is an art few people really know.
                  PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
                  Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
                  Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

                  Comment


                  • mep
                    mep commented
                    Editing a comment
                    You are into a different discussion than the OP started. These are the original questions posed:

                    "How do you determine the power is necessary to effectively drive your speakers? Do you judge by your speaker sensitivity or impedance?"

                    The answer to those questions are not based on art, the answers are based on science.

                • #11
                  For every speaker there are a few amps that are perfect match. There are also some that will work well but are either underpowered or overpowered. Then there are some that just won't work well at all. I would also surmise there's some that look to be a perfect match on paper but don't voice well together for whatever reason. IMO, science gets you close, but it doesn't get you there.

                  I'm only trying to make the point you can grind all the numbers you want but it won't necessarily get you anywhere near a good sounding system. If loud is all you want then may you get what you desire.
                  PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
                  Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
                  Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

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                  • #12
                    Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                    For every speaker there are a few amps that are perfect match. There are also some that will work well but are either underpowered or overpowered. Then there are some that just won't work well at all. I would also surmise there's some that look to be a perfect match on paper but don't voice well together for whatever reason. IMO, science gets you close, but it doesn't get you there.

                    I'm only trying to make the point you can grind all the numbers you want but it won't necessarily get you anywhere near a good sounding system. If loud is all you want then may you get what you desire.
                    Again, you are missing the point with regards to the original questions posed. You have some valid points, they just don't have anything to do with the OP. You can start your own thread on what constitutes "a good sounding system" because that is a different conversation.
                    SP-10 MKII table with custom power supply designed and built by Peter Noerbaek with an SME 3012R with Dyna XV-1S cartridge, VPI Avenger table with rim drive and JMW -12-3D arrm with Lyra Etna SL cartridge, ARC Ref 3 phono stage, Otari MX-55 tape deck, Ampex 350 repros, Roon Nucleus Plus server, PS Audio DSJ DAC, ARC Ref 6 pre, ARC Ref 75 amp, JBL 4345 speakers with a pair of Def Tech Ref subs.

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                    • #13
                      Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                      Tech, IMOm your too cerebral. Good playback from your gear is an art. Not only a blend and ballance of the amp speaker, but everything else is needed for full, complete high sound pressure level platback. Above I forgot to mention the room. A low power amp/speaker placed well in a room will perform better than high power placed wrong, The high power might spit your eardrums and leave you running. The low power might run out of steam, lack a little air and ease, maybe compress dynamics on intense passages, but in the end it might just sound beautiful. It has a better chance of sounding far better than some high power amp set up all wrong.
                      This is not a discussion about if/why some speaker/amp combinations sound differently.
                      Originally posted by Kingrex View Post

                      It's correct to use some science as a user to attempt matching speaker to amp. That is an excellent starting point. In my experience, there is a lot more to it than that. Getting good playback is an art few people really know.
                      Science can’t answer any questions if they aren’t asked, much less asked correctly. When we say only some science is good, or only a good starting point, then the only things that work are art/magic, we’ve clearly stopped asking science any questions, and then science most certainly can provide no answers.

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Tech, my point is, in the end you have to use your ears. Every equipment manufacturer has a test room where they listen to what the science told them to build. Then they make changes. Haven't we all heard the saying, speakers that spec well on paper don't always sound very good. I'm pretty confident the same can be said for amps, preamps, DAC, servers, TT etc. Science only gets you so far. The rest may it be subjective/vodo or magic is still necessary to make a musical instrument sound musical and not just produce sound.
                        PAP Trio 10/Voxativ & PAP Trio 15 Horn speakers, Ampsandsound Casablanca monoblocks, First Sound Audio Mark 3SI preamp,
                        Mojo Audio Deja Vu server, Mojo Audio Mystique V3 DAC, The Linear Solution Ethernet Switch, Blue Jeans Ethernet cablling,
                        Akiko Corelli, Custom power strip direct wired to panel with OFC copper wire. Inakustik Ref Air 2404 Speaker cable. Genesis and Inakustik NF2404 Air Interconnects.

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                          Tech, my point is, in the end you have to use your ears. Every equipment manufacturer has a test room where they listen to what the science told them to build. Then they make changes.
                          Of course. But they do not abandon science in the process.
                          Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                          Haven't we all heard the saying, speakers that spec well on paper don't always sound very good.
                          Again, true, but I've also never yet seen speaker specs that indicate how they will sound either, and rarely complete enough to tell how they will perform.
                          Originally posted by Kingrex View Post
                          I'm pretty confident the same can be said for amps, preamps, DAC, servers, TT etc. Science only gets you so far. The rest may it be subjective/vodo or magic is still necessary to make a musical instrument sound musical and not just produce sound.
                          You know, I find it disappointing, and even disturbing, that within a particular technology that would not exist at all were it not for some really good science, research and development, that participants would abandon science in favor of voodo or magic, when neither has made one single contribution to the beloved technology other than to sell products to the believing participants that provide no verifiable benefit other than to offer a rapid drain to their finances. Instead, the participants readily and willingly abandon science in favor of some black art shrouded in mystery, attributing unexplained phenomenon to the mystical, accusing science as inept, rather than allowing it to identify the underlying issue and produce actual answers.

                          Don't get me wrong, I'm all for subjective evaluation, in fact, I use it a lot, just so long as those evaluations are done with certain controls in place such that they can produce statistically significant, repeatable, and verifiable results apart from human bias. When results are repeatable and verifiable, then science can be applied to reveal the cause, develop and improve solutions, and advance the technology. Otherwise we get enmired in mythology, and technology doesn't advance. And that doesn't serve anyone. It's very sad that in this year there remain those who will abandon science and technology the moment an explanation is not immediately forthcoming. Everything we know now about electronics and acoustics was, at one time, unknown or at least not fully understood. If everyone along the way had attributed those phenomena to works of the spirit realm, we wouldn't be listening to the superb sound we are today.

                          I'm afraid you would not like what you'd be listening to today if science hadn't explained what it has already so that designs could progress forward. Really, science has a darned good track record. But just because the race isn't over, there's no reason to get off the winning horse and mount the flying cow.

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                          • Rob
                            Rob commented
                            Editing a comment
                            this is a lucid and well informed post, thank you. There's a segment of audiophiles that don't believe in measured anything, or empirical data to support their findings. I was that way very early on in my audio journey. I know better now when to express an informed opinion based on considerable experience vs one that is 'just an opinion' subjugated by what the web, audio press, influencers or certain principles fellow 'philes want you believe is incontrovertibly true. Kingrex is relatively new to this game from what I can tell your posts dismantled some tenets he held as sacred. Its one thing to acknowledge it and another to be intellectually honest enough to know when you turn onto a cul de sac as it were.
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