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Is Too Much Power Just Enough?

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  • Is Too Much Power Just Enough?

    Bear in mind this piece was literally penned 54 years ago.
    Considering the amount of careful research, cautious theorizing and wild speculation that have been lavished on the amplifier power question, we should expect to be considerably closer to the answer in 1962 than we were five years ago. This does not seem to be the case.
    Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
    Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
    ________________________________________

    -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
    -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
    -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
    -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
    -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
    -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
    -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
    -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
    -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
    -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

  • #2
    The most power hungry speakers I have owned and still own are the various Magnepan models and SoundLabs. The Maggie 20.1s can never have enough power - way more than the notorious MBL 101E MKIIs. For fun, I fed 3000W mono Crown pro amps (CTs 3000) recently. The Maggies' bass was the tightest and most seriously pant leg flapping type with every bass note thumping my chest as if I was getting a dose of CPR treatment but the rest of the sound sucked.

    Then at the other end, once I had a pair of Brentworth Sound Labs "standing up coffin" single driver speakers powered by a pair of mosquito powered tube amps. Even my wife complimented how good the sound was but the coffins had to go or I had to go with them.

    So the question of how much power is enough? - it depends on the speakers to me.
    Last edited by Ki Choi; 01-30-2016, 11:39 AM.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by Ki Choi View Post
      The most power hungry speakers I have owned and still own are the various Magnepan models and SoundLabs. The Maggie 20.1s can never have enough power - way more than the notorious MBL 101E MKIIs. For fun, I fed 3000W mono Crown pro amps (CTs 3000) recently. The Maggies' bass was the tightest and most seriously pant leg flapping type with every bass note thumping my chest as if I was getting a dose of CPR treatment but the rest of the sound sucked.

      Then at the other end, once I had a pair of Brentworth Sound Labs "standing up coffin" single driver speakers powered by a pair of mosquito powered tube amps. Even my wife complimented how good the sound was but the coffins had to go or I had to go with them.

      So the question of how much power is enough? - it depends on the speakers to me.
      Great point. Maggies and Soundlabs always like power. MBLs seem to be a special case of a speaker in search of the right amplifier.

      OTOH, Maggies sounded wonderful with cj tube amplifiers because of their easy 4 ohm load.

      Many of us old timers will remember the days when a manufacturers lower powered amplifiers sounded better than their bigger amps. Like the old Bedini 20/20 vs. 100/100.

      In my mind, the extra power, all things being equal, gives one a greater sense of ease on a given speaker. Well maybe horns excepted.

      Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
      Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
      ________________________________________

      -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
      -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
      -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
      -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
      -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
      -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
      -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
      -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
      -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
      -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

      Comment


      • #4
        As Jack always says, it's horses for courses. There is something to be said for having efficient speakers. My Ref 75 struts around like a weightlifter at Muscle Beach in Venice, CA in combo with the NOLA KOs. When amps are matched to the load and efficiency of the speakers they are driving, they sound like they are loafing instead of sounding like they are pushed to the rails. Sometimes I just shake my head when I think about the sound I am getting from a single matched pair of KT-150s per channel. Now I wish the Ref 75 had a switch for the power meters so you could flip from reading average power levels to peak power levels. I do believe it is misleading to watch the meters display average power levels.and it would be interesting to see how often the meters would peg out while playing material with really good dynamic range. My meters rarely show the Ref 75 putting out more than 5 watts of power.
        Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, 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, and Def Tech Ref subs.

        Comment


        • #5
          real life has infinite headroom. it just happens. there is nothing to restrict the actual immediacy and dynamics of real sound. and that is how I view this subject. too much power is the right amount.

          how close can a music reproduction system get to real life? one factor is headroom in amplification. and even your power grid. and especially how your speaker system deals with peaks especially in the mid bass. if your speaker cannot stay linear in the mid bass on peaks that is also part of it. the more powerful amplifier will reduce the issues with the speaker.

          so I agree that part of it is the sensitivity of the speaker combined with the power of the amplifier. but the speaker itself has to be able to stay linear for the power to matter.

          and until you hear the mid bass reproduced without distortion you won't know what you are missing.

          besides the mid bass on peaks the other area where you need that sense of power is in the first watt.....where much of the music lives. is the amplifier quick and agile at low volumes? does it have that authority? here is where the lack of power reserves can cripple the musical nuance and sense of ambience.
          https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/615

          Comment


          • #6
            To continue with what Mike just wrote, how compelling does your system sound even at low volumes? I am of the opinion that the more compelling your system sounds at low volumes, the better your system is overall. And that is the first watt. Some systems don't sound worth a damn until you turn them way up. I think really good systems come alive even at low volumes. And having said that, I do like to listen at levels that sound realistic for the music being played. However, I am amazed at how good they system sounds at low volume levels in terms of naturalness and realism that I wouldn't think possible at those low levels.
            Micro Seiki SX-8000 table with flywheel, SME 3012R arm, SME 312S arm, Lyra Etna SL and Dynavector XV-1S cartridges, 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, and Def Tech Ref subs.

            Comment


            • #7
              This is always a fascinating question and one I give considerable thought to quite often. The best way I can put it from my experience is that you need the right amount of power. It sounds like a "cop out" but this is how I see it. There is no doubt that too much power isn't unto itself a bad thing.

              There is a certain sonic signature associated with really powerful amplifiers that is very hard to describe other than effortless. In achieving the high amounts of power it has been my experience you lose a lot of nuance in the presentation yet gain a better sense of control. In a large listening room with particularly difficult loudspeakers the more power the better, especially if you listen at above average or even loud levels. In most situations, with todays more efficient loudspeakers, I don't see the advantage of high wattage amplifiers. Usually a current capable 150-200 Watt amplifier will cover the majority of the listening rooms I have come across and at fairly loud playback levels. For most of us 75-100 watts is more than adequate.

              Although I believe a system should sound equally good at low and high playback levels, I find this to be more of the function of the speaker effeciciency at low listening levels as opposed to the amplifiers performance. I also believe you need enough power to Rock - N -Roll if you want and have it not distort or lose the presentation. It is a question of balance...

              Comment


              • #8
                So far what has been amazing is how many different points of view people bring to the table.

                RE: low level resolution. That's why myself and many other so cherished the sound of electrostatics despite their apparent flaws.

                While it's slightly OT, low level resolution is in part a function of one's AC line and I wonder how much of the loss of resolution of high power amps is due to the electricity?
                Myles B. Astor, PhD, Administrator
                Senior Editor, Positive-Feedback.com
                ________________________________________

                -Magico S5 Mk.2 speakers with SPod feet
                -Goldmund Telos 280 stereo amp
                -Goldmund Mimesis 37S Nextgen preamplifier
                -Doshi V3.0 phonostage
                -VPI Vanquish direct-drive turntable
                -VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy dual pivot tonearm, VPI 12-inch 3D Fat Boy gimballed and SAT LM-12 arm
                -Lyra Atlas SL Lambda, Fuuga, vdh Colibri Master Signature, MutechHayabusa, MOFI Master Tracker, Sumiko Songbird cartridges
                -Technics RS1506 with Flux Magnetic heads, Doshi V3.0 tape stage (balanced)
                -Assorted cables including Transparent XL Gen. 5, Skogrand, Viero, Kubala-Sosna, Audience Au24SX, Genesis Advanced Technologies and Ensemble Power Cords
                -Accessories including Stillpoint Aperture panels, Cathedral Sound panels, Furutech NCF Nano AC receptacles; Silver Circle Tchaik 6 PLC, Symposium ISIS and SRA Craz racks, Audiodharma Cable Cooker, Symposium Ultra and assorted SRA platforms.

                Comment

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