Can you hear a difference in Sound between Audio Amplifiers?

Discussion in 'Amps, Pre-Pros & Receivers' started by admin, Mar 4, 2013.

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Do Amplifiers Sound Different?

  1. Yes

    56 vote(s)
    55.4%
  2. No

    36 vote(s)
    35.6%
  3. crikets crickets....What?

    9 vote(s)
    8.9%
  1. admin Audioholics Robot Staff Member

    admin
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    Audio Amplifier performance varies all over the map depending on design topology, power capability, cost, etc. All of these parameters affect the end result. Some debate that all amplifiers sound the same provided they aren't driven into clipping, while others argue that measurements don't tell all. This article explores the technical reasons why amplifiers can sound different, even when not being driven to their design limits. The question is, can and have you heard differences in audio amplifiers. Please share your experiences here. Don't forget to vote in our Poll!

    [​IMG]

    Discuss "The Sound of Audio Amplifiers: Can you hear a difference between Amps?" here. Read the article.
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 4, 2013
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  2. AcuDefTechGuy Audioholic Slumlord

    AcuDefTechGuy
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    I can't hear any difference among amps when they are level matched and driven within spec. :D
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2013
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  3. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    The poll would be more useful if it is a little more specific. As it is, anyone could potentially feel like answering yes or no as it depends..
    PENG,
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  4. jinjuku Moderator

    jinjuku
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    So Clint could hear the difference between a "I’ve never measured such lousy performance in an amplifier before " Panasonic receiver and a Denon Amp?

    Am I missing something here? Is the Panasonic supposed to be an example of a properly designed amp? I'm also not surprised there where audible issues with Pioneers ICE module based amps nor Axioms multi-channel Class D offering. Now there may be some people that liked the Panasonics sound. Kudo's to them. You can't prove subjective preference wrong. I hate beef liver. My brother loves it.

    Same goes for the early SM Carver (400/M400) amps. Before I could stop and think in 93' (I was tired of hauling around a 65lb Crown DC 300A) about how great it was to have a light 200WPC Carver (M400). Well it didn't stay around long.

    Amps can sound different. Engineers can tweak an amp for a difference and then market that difference.

    With that said there are absolute tons of very robust amps out there at affordable prices. What I would like to see is the Crown XLS 2000 Drive Core on those RBH's :)
  5. Irvrobinson Audioholic Ninja

    Irvrobinson
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    I'm not going to answer the poll, because it's not that black and white. Some amps can sound different, most don't. Yes or no doesn't do it for me. I need another choice - sometimes, or rarely, perhaps.
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  6. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    I've answered the poll based on the premise that the load applied to the different amps are the same and well within the designed parameters of the "weakest's amp, that levels are matched and that output levels are also well within the weakest amp's power delivery. Yes they will sound the same. However, if one of those variables change, then I expect to hear differences.
    3db,
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  7. Steve81 Audioholics 5-O

    Steve81
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    I answered yes, as amplifiers can undoubtedly sound different depending on the circumstances involved.

    Of course, I haven't heard any particular differences in sonic character among my various amplifiers/receivers which include Onkyo, HK, and Emotiva.
  8. cpp Audioholic Field Marshall

    cpp
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    Yepper, My tubes do have a different sound as compared to my SS amps when using the same source, same pre or receiver, same cables, same speakers and the same music and in the same room with no booze involved and at night. Now, if I compare my SS amps to each other, I can't hear any real difference. With the tubes, if I roll tubes, sure I can hear a difference but I assume this poll is all about SS amps. But I did not respond to the poll since it is in-complete and to open-ended.
    cpp,
  9. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    The poll is very opened, hence everyone specifying parameters around their choice. Its a "fun" poll but I don't expect to walk away learning anything new here.
    3db,
  10. Cos Audioholic Chief

    Cos
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    I would have said in the past NO you can't hear a difference in sound between amps, but when I was troubleshooting I would said I 100% heard a difference between the Halo and the Anthem on the low end. I say this because I was trying to troubleshoot the MCA 50 with my Integra because I was having issues and my dealer loaned me a Halo A52. I was testing it with Skyfall on bluray and I absolutely noticed a difference in sound quality on the explosions etc. It's possible I am mistaken, but I really don't think so.
    Cos,
  11. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    Was room correction engaged?
    3db,
  12. Speedskater Audioholic

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    Well, reasonable amps playing into reasonable speakers under reasonable conditions will sound the same. But you didn't offer that choice.
  13. gene Audioholics Master Chief Administrator

    gene
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    Wow the poll results are interesting so far. It tells me you guys need to do a little more listening and not so much overthinking :eek:

    As someone who has over 10 years of audio design experience and about 15 years measuring and analyzing and most importantly LISTENING, I can tell you my experience even in controlled listening tests is amps can and do sound different even if they measure well and aren't driven beyond their means. The degree of audibility differences depend on a lot of factors, including loudspeaker load, quality of the loudspeakers, room acoustics, source material, etc. I think I may need to host a little amp face-off at my place between the Pass Labs, Classe and Emotiva amps. Could be fun (especially if there is ample supply of alcohol involved),despite the amount of work involved.
    gene,
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  14. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    I am sure you are right but whatever that minute hardly audible differences there are I do not find it worth worrying about it, let alone overthinking. To me, it is far more important to focus on speakers, room acoustics and source material. Amps just amp, as long as they measure well in all known methods and have ample power reserve they don't matter to me as much as my other components and source material do.
    PENG,
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  15. Alex2507 Audioholic Overlord

    Alex2507
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    I can be there in 24 hours. Are we doing this at your place or Clint's?
  16. GO-NAD! Audioholic Ninja

    GO-NAD!
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    That would be very interesting. Is it safe to assume that such a comparison would be conducted with as much objectivity as previous AH face-offs? I'm thinking DBTs, followed by FR measurements of the speakers to explain any audible differences, followed by measurements of the amps to explain any differences in the speaker measurements? Does that make sense?

    This is what I suspect as well, but it would be nice to have that question answered in scientific manner.
  17. PENG Audioholic Warlord

    PENG
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    Agree, it is also not to say there are no scientific ways to explain the differences (or lack of, audibly speaking). We do have all sorts of measurements available, and modern spectrum analyzers are accurate enough for all sorts of important applications in the scientic and engineering world. The problem is, how do you convince people those measurements are sufficient proof that any difference between a Classe, Bryston, ATI amps sound the same to us human when all operating well within their limits?

    All I can say is that I can tell the differences between well recorded and poor recorded source material, speakers, MP3 and CD quality etc., yet have hard time telling the difference between amps. I won't say I cannot absolutely tell any difference but I just cannot say I can ID them in a blind comparison listening session or say for sure which one sounds better to me. Again, no such problem with speakers, so I am no longer going to waste my time in finding out the "truth" about amps sounding same or not. If Gene is going to host that faceoff he mentioned, I sure hope to be invited though.:D
    PENG,
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  18. Rickster71 Audioholic Spartan

    Rickster71
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    I agree and would add one more to your list if I may. That would be the circuit board layout.
    As components and pathwork are moved they may not be placed optimally. Noise considerations may take a backseat to the schedule.
    So much depends on where the designer is in the layout cycle, with regards to the build deadline and the seemingly endless changes coming down from Engineering.
    That, and as options and features are added. There may not be enough time for the boards to be put through a circuit pack testing.

    With that being said.
    Any small differences in sound would be accommodated by our ears as the 'New Normal.'

    I always was of the mind that Noise Floor was the more noticeable flaw to me.
    Dead silence between tracks and quite passages, was always part of the criteria I used to judge a system.

    Great thread by the way!
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  19. 3db Audioholic Overlord

    3db
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    I agree with you. If it sounds different, then there is a scientific reason behind that is measureable or a person's hearing is falls out of the normal curve. I have listened to a number of amps in the past and if there were differences, they were so minute as to be "imagineable". I would certainly fail a DBT test as would most I'm sure. I'm not going to follow the audiosheeple crowd despite their best efforts to lead us to "greener" pastures. The next thing this site is going to propose is that different cables and interconnects affect sound differently. :rolleyes:
    3db,
  20. KEW Audioholic Ninja

    KEW
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    Can you set up instant level-matched switching between amps using the same speakers?
    I'm a little skeptical of listening for 15 minutes to one amp, reconfigure, then listening to the second amp. For me, that allows too much room for the imagination to run wild.
    I compared two amps in an A/B configuration and heard a difference, only to realize after investigation that speaker location was the source of the dominate difference in sound. I was using two pair of identical speakers located 8 to 10" apart.
    I think everyone here agrees that the difference between competent amps is very small compared to speakers. Unfortunately, that means the method for comparison must be at a equally higher level of rigor, IMHO.
    KEW,

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