Best power amplifiers for low volume dynamics

B

Boomzilla

Audioholic Intern
I no longer have the shift work situation. I can play music at any time in my own living room. I DO still choose to listen at very low volumes compared to the preferences of ALL of my audio amigos. My wife also prefers lower volumes. It's fair to say that the Fletcher-Munson curve IS a factor at the volumes I prefer, but I can combat that with tone controls.

The two issues that I find consistently interfere with my music appreciation are specifically:

1. Many (most?) speakers seem to have a "loudness threshold" that must be exceeded before the speaker comes "on voice." If you're playing at volumes below that threshold (as I usually am) the speaker fails to sound dynamic. At the opposite end of the loudness spectrum, if you play any speaker too loudly, the driver compression makes the music sound like an undifferentiated "loud roar." The latter isn't a consideration for me, and although some speakers have a wide window between the two extremes, it is impossible to predict from the driver technology which will sound best at very low volumes. The exception to this seems to be the horn-loaded Klipsch speakers (and some JBLs that I've heard).

2. Some amplifiers also seem to have a "loudness threshold" above which they sound far more dynamic than in their first watt. For me, the first watt is where I do almost ALL of my listening, and performance there is almost impossible to predict. I currently have three solid-state amplifiers all of which can sound pretty dynamic in their first watt. Could I find amplifiers that do even better? I suspect that I could, but there is no published spec (that I know of) that closely correlates with low-output dynamics.

Oh well...
 
AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
Some amplifiers also seem to have a "loudness threshold" above which they sound far more dynamic than in their first watt. For me, the first watt is where I do almost ALL of my listening, and performance there is almost impossible to predict.
1. So you believe that all amps sound differently? If so, I bet most audiophiles would believe that high-end amps like Bryston, McIntosh and Mark Levinson amps sound much better at 1-watt.

2. Considering the fact that many speakers have a sensitivity of about 88-90dB per 1-watt per Meter and many people listen at about 80-85dB, I think it’s safe to say that many people do most of their listening around 1-watt.

If this is another one of those “all amps sound differently“ threads, it’s a lot more fun to talk about shiny high-end amps that we cannot afford like Bryston, Mark Levinson, McIntosh, PassLab, Krell, etc., than cheap cheese amps. :D
 
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Trell

Trell

Audioholic Ninja
If this is another one of those “all amps sound differently“ threads, it’s a lot more fun to talk about shiny high-end amps that we cannot afford like Bryston, Mark Levinson, McIntosh, PassLab, Krell, etc., than cheap cheese amps. :D
There is also the cable thread that has a couple old dudes with magical hearing believing in magic cables. :D
 
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AcuDefTechGuy

AcuDefTechGuy

Audioholic Jedi
There is also the cable thread. :D
Cables are so boring to me, though, kind of like talking about clothes, shoes, purses, watches, etc. :D

If I were a billionaire, I would want Gucci or Rolex to make me some cables. :D

My point was (I think :D) that cheap imitation cheese amps aren’t going to sound any better than any amps at any watt. :D
 
mtrycrafts

mtrycrafts

Seriously, I have no life.
Cables are so boring to me, though, kind of like talking about clothes, shoes, purses, watches, etc. :D

If I were a billionaire, I would want Gucci or Rolex to make me some cables. :D

My point was (I think :D) that cheap imitation cheese amps aren’t going to sound any better than any amps at any watt. :D
Are you into purses? :D
 
lovinthehd

lovinthehd

Audioholic Jedi
Hard to imagine the amp making much difference in a very low volume setting. High volume, sure. Some speakers not sounding well at low volume hasn't been my particular experience, they're just at low volumes. I've never been restricted to low volume particularly otoh, but have needed it now and then, but it didn't have me wondering about the amp,. but rather the noise levels and effect of the room itself, or my distance from the speakers, or what amount of eq to make it more pleasureable (to offset the way we hear recordings at low volumes as mentioned)...was a fan of loudness contours on old 2ch gear and the more advanced dynamic eq on newer gear. I'd just eq whatever amp/speaker combo to taste.....you have plenty of gear now.
 
P

PENG

Audioholic Slumlord
Hard to imagine the amp making much difference in a very low volume setting. High volume, sure. Some speakers not sounding well at low volume hasn't been my particular experience, they're just at low volumes. I've never been restricted to low volume particularly otoh, but have needed it now and then, but it didn't have me wondering about the amp,. but rather the noise levels and effect of the room itself, or my distance from the speakers, or what amount of eq to make it more pleasureable (to offset the way we hear recordings at low volumes as mentioned)...was a fan of loudness contours on old 2ch gear and the more advanced dynamic eq on newer gear. I'd just eq whatever amp/speaker combo to taste.....you have plenty of gear now.
I have to agree with you that it could happen for sure at high volume when the amp is operating well pass it's clipping point. At low volume, if the amp is truly transparent/accurate, it shouldn't become less dynamic. It would seem like that only because of the Fletcher Munson effect, that loudness contours and different forms of DEQ can be use to compensate the apparent loss in the low and high frequencies. Finding an amp to act like loudness contour/DEQ is not a good way but if the OP prefers that then all is good for him. He seems to like tube gear too after all..:)
 
witchdoctor

witchdoctor

Full Audioholic
I no longer have the shift work situation. I can play music at any time in my own living room. I DO still choose to listen at very low volumes compared to the preferences of ALL of my audio amigos. My wife also prefers lower volumes. It's fair to say that the Fletcher-Munson curve IS a factor at the volumes I prefer, but I can combat that with tone controls.

The two issues that I find consistently interfere with my music appreciation are specifically:

1. Many (most?) speakers seem to have a "loudness threshold" that must be exceeded before the speaker comes "on voice." If you're playing at volumes below that threshold (as I usually am) the speaker fails to sound dynamic. At the opposite end of the loudness spectrum, if you play any speaker too loudly, the driver compression makes the music sound like an undifferentiated "loud roar." The latter isn't a consideration for me, and although some speakers have a wide window between the two extremes, it is impossible to predict from the driver technology which will sound best at very low volumes. The exception to this seems to be the horn-loaded Klipsch speakers (and some JBLs that I've heard).

2. Some amplifiers also seem to have a "loudness threshold" above which they sound far more dynamic than in their first watt. For me, the first watt is where I do almost ALL of my listening, and performance there is almost impossible to predict. I currently have three solid-state amplifiers all of which can sound pretty dynamic in their first watt. Could I find amplifiers that do even better? I suspect that I could, but there is no published spec (that I know of) that closely correlates with low-output dynamics.

Oh well...
Boomzilla, how do you know its the amp that is the roadblock? What if you had a preamp that uses room correction (like ARC or DIRAC) that would tailor the sound to your listening position?
 
F

fah

Audiophyte
using all dht tube in preamp amplifier can make low level detail being heard easily,,if you want more and budget permitted, use dht in all amplification
 
D

dlaloum

Audioholic Intern
An observation from another audiophile who enjoys listening at mostly lower levels ....

I had the same observation, about some speakers only "coming alive" at certain volume levels, or when driven a certain way...

My experience with Electrostatic speakers, showed them to be excellent at retrieving details at low volume levels - champions of micro-dynamics.

I owned Quad electrostatics for many years - from the ESL63 onwards they are relatively easy to drive (huge amps are not a requirement) but they will show up any flaws in the signal chain quite ruthlessly (as is to be expected from a very low distortion speaker, which excels in micro dynamics) - the earlier Quad ESL's are a different beast, delicate, fragile, and with a sweetness of tone and purity of midrange that is unsurpassed... the later Quads are easier to live with, wider sweet spot, more bass, etc... but lose some of the ESL57 sweetness.

They are however maximum SPL limited - they won't go as loud as many "dynamic" speakers.

I know you are focusing on amps - but perhaps you should see if you can find a set of ESL's to listen to?

Note: some ESL's are difficult to drive (Some Martin Logans drop down to 1 ohm) - but not the Quads
 
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