• WANTED: Happy members who like to discuss audio and other topics related to our interest. Desire to learn and share knowledge of science required as is 20 years of participation in forums (not all true). Come here to have fun, be ready to be teased and not take online life too seriously. We now measure and review equipment for free! Click here for details.

How far have ss amps really come in the last twenty years??

  • Thread starter Deleted member 12
  • Start date

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
7,396
Likes
5,782
Location
Central Fl
#21
I also have a Pass First Watt M2 and a Pass Clone VFET DIY amp that I like a lot.
Amps admittedly designed by Nelson to have a particular sound and not necessarily transparent..
 

solderdude

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 21, 2018
Messages
5,279
Likes
9,616
Location
The Neverlands
#22
Would it be fair to say not all power amps sound the same, nor measure the same.
Arguably under certain load circumstances not all amps react the same and could very well show aspects that are well within detection (hearing limits).

It would be safer to say:
All competently designed amps that comply to some minimal standards will sound the same when they are equally capable of driving the load they are used with properly.
Not all amps fit that description for sure.
Most well designed power amplifiers do and exceed those of our hearing limits. Technically better thus will not be a

The hearing 'limits' using real music differs from those with test tones.

@daveyf may well be highly trained as a listener (so are some others) but don't believe for a second that his hearing abilities are many factors better than those of other audio aficionados.
It looks to me that his listening experiences are mostly based on sighted listening experiences.
To me, and quite a few others here, they are anecdotal only and not evidence.

SIY condensed the answer in a short and correct one in post 2 already.
 

svart-hvitt

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 31, 2017
Messages
2,375
Likes
1,173
#23
A look at the development of Genelec speakers over the past 30 years gives clues to the question «what’s happened on the SS amplifier front in the last decades?». Genelec has made active speakers from day one since the company was established over 40 years ago.

These are data of the largest Genelec amplifier in the big 1234 model and its predecessor (called 1034):

Genelec anno 1989
1034a amplifier weight: 71 kg
1034a amplifier SNR (b, m, t): 101 dB, 105 dB, 106 dB
1034a THD: <= 0,05%

Genelec anno 1998-2000
1034a amplifier weight: 30 kg
1034a amplifier SNR (b, m, t): >=100 dB, >=100 dB, >= 100 dB
1034a THD: <= 0,05%

Genelec anno 2015
1234 amplfier weight: 11 kg
1234 amplifier SNR (b, m, t): >116 dB, >119 dB, >115 dB
1234 THD: <0,003%

So it seems like lots and lots of weight has been «lost» and specifications are a bit better than they used to be 30 years ago.

 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
7,396
Likes
5,782
Location
Central Fl
#24
It looks to me that his listening experiences are mostly based on sighted listening experiences.
It has been discussed many times that musicians tend to not buy high end stereos, and it's been said they can replace the things that may be missing from cheap rigs with their built-in knowledge of how things should sound, etc. So how may this extend to musicians that do have great systems and what they are hearing, or not. That's all so confusing to me since I'm not a musician and and have a hard time playing the radio. o_O
 

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
4,418
Likes
4,275
#25
Genelec anno 1989
1034a amplifier weight: 71 kg
1034a amplifier SNR (b, m, t): 101 dB, 105 dB, 106 dB
1034a THD: <= 0,05%

Genelec anno 1998-2000
1034a amplifier weight: 30 kg
1034a amplifier SNR (b, m, t): >=100 dB, >=100 dB, >= 100 dB
1034a THD: <= 0,05%
These amps were quite far from SOTA even for their time, though.
 
Last edited:

Ron Texas

Major Contributor
Joined
Jun 10, 2018
Messages
2,904
Likes
2,982
Location
Surrounded
#26
I often wonder if the high pass filter in my Crown 1502 makes it sound better than another amplifier with a much better SINAD. After all, it reduces distortion in the small LF driver of my LS50's by reducing it's excursion. It allows the system to play louder, so if volume was matched in that marginally louder range the differences might be gross.
 

MattHooper

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
989
Likes
1,254
#27
Definitely although to me, it will always make it sound worse, not better than another in the way audiophiles perceive.
I don't mean to turn the conversation from SS to tube amps, but some of the conversation here has me thinking about something that has puzzled me.

I use some old Conrad Johnson tube amps and they have stayed in my system for decades because whenever I try to switch over to a solid state amp I just don't seem to enjoy the sound as much, so inevitably I go back to the tube amps.

The fact none of this was done level-matched and blinded (I often inserted a Bryston 4B ST) may render my question moot in the minds of many here. That's cool, I understand.

But given that even "hard nosed objectivists" have argued over the years that tube amps can audibly color the sound (if designed to), and given even in the notorious Carver challenge, Bob Carver had to fiddle around with the SS amp to get it doing what the CJ tube amp was doing...it at least seems plausible that my tube amp sounds different than the SS amps I've tried.

And IF it's the case this amp has a sonic signature, I'm still not sure how this works. I know that some tube designs are more reactive with certain types of speaker loads, so it's possible the tube amp will cause some variations in the frequency response - essentially acting as a form of EQ.
And also there is the overload/clipping factors, the idea that a tube amp when pushed to it's limits will start distorting in ways an SS amp won't, adding a certain character to the sound.

That stuff makes sense to me. The only thing is that it seems to me my amps have a very consistent character...no matter what speaker I put them on, and no matter what the volume. A thickening and rounding of tone, with a sort of slight "glow" to the sound, and a smoothing of high frequencies. I frankly can not recreate this with an EQ (I've tried, I had the Z-Systems RDP 1 digital EQ for many years - which I tried with a few different SS amps).

So if I heard this sonic character whether I put the amps on an easy load speaker, or a diabolically difficult load (I have had speakers across the range), and at any volume, I wonder what accounts for the consistent sense of ease, added roundness/softness/richness/glow to the sound that seems to carry through all those changes.

Again...until a good blind test I know "it's your imagination" can't be ruled out. But is there any plausible way a tube amp would maintain a different sonic character from an SS amp, even with different speaker loads and under the volume as which clipping occurs? I very, very rarely play my music loud - I'm probably barely getting out of the several watts range.

All the same also applies to my old Eico HF-81 14W integrated tube amp. It just seems to do the same thing to the sound no matter what speaker I put on it, and whatever the volume.

I've seen people allude to the transformers in tube amps as a source of coloration. Could that be it?
 

svart-hvitt

Major Contributor
Joined
Aug 31, 2017
Messages
2,375
Likes
1,173
#28
Here's an example of a 20+ year-old, not terribly expensive amp that


These amps were quite far from SOTA even for their time, though.
This discussion is not only about SOTA, is it? The point is, it makes sense to see how one producer has evolved over time because this producer has had the same restrictions over the entire period. This line of thinking is why statisticians use terms like «same store sales» and «year on year» etc. to control for non-organic growth and seasonalities.

So given certain restrictions (budget being the most important), it seems like amplifiers have shed over 80 percent of their weight while specifications have increased in the process. I guess the same picture would appear if you could hold SOTA products up against each other in the past 2-3 decades.
 

sergeauckland

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 16, 2016
Messages
1,364
Likes
2,955
Location
Suffolk UK
#29
So let's not let ourselfs get trapped in the box that subjectivists attempt to put us in, "All amps sound the same".
All amps do not sound the same, and how close they approach the level of technical excellence that they could be called "audibly transparent" has been improving over the years. How well they can handle difficult loads and all the rest is great today but there are still amps being made that will fail to be perfect with some speakers, and some designed to have a house sound on purpose. Many builders were passing the test in 1980-90s, but many still failing back then.
So yea, most amps have sounded the same for many years, if, if and if. ;)


That's probably pushing things a bit, if there were transparent amps in the 60s, they were very few indeed..
I was thinking of the Quad 303 when I wrote the above. It was launched in 1967. When used within it's capabilities, with loudspeakers of the era which were 8-15 ohms, it was, and still is, transparent.


S
 

cjfrbw

Senior Member
Joined
Mar 5, 2018
Messages
406
Likes
399
#30
Amps admittedly designed by Nelson to have a particular sound and not necessarily transparent..
Some admittedly so. The M2 has a 'third order harmonic' character. VFET's have a combination of second order dominant with some third.

Pass has a listening panel, and final decisions are made on listening quality according to the panel. That is after the engineering process is close to complete. I guess you could call him an end stage subjectivist malfeasor. He says he doesn't want amps that measure well but sound 'boring'.

Pass admits he wants his amplifiers to 'sound good', and in his boutique items he will purposely allow certain amounts of second and third order harmonics. He also makes a distinction between the types. Third order adds some energy and drive. Positive and negative second order harmonics sound a bit different, with negative second order harmonic character adding spaciousness.

However, I don't think this is true of all of his amplifiers. I think a lot of the main Pass brand are just 'plain' amplifiers with negligible distortion and built to a purpose for enormous power and performance.

I recently built his DIY preamp module made with Korg NuTube, and it's avowed purpose is to add up to 2 percent tubed second harmonic distortion at 1 volt output. It was designed this way. It sounds great to me. The Pass Korg NuTube is a tremendous hit and very popular with the DIY guys.

To my further ASR disgrace, I still utilize a 50 watt SET Wavac amplifier. This is one of those that don't meet their power spec at 8 ohms until they get to 10 percent harmonic distortion. I suppose it's the objectivist 'corndog of amplifiers', because all those coatings and distortions sound wonderful even if you don't want to believe they are good for you.

I suppose I need to be lashed now with zip cord and sent to do penance to WBF limbo until I atone for my sins and atrocities.
 
Joined
May 15, 2019
Messages
47
Likes
20
Location
Columbus, Ohio
#32
I don't mean to turn the conversation from SS to tube amps, but some of the conversation here has me thinking about something that has puzzled me.

I use some old Conrad Johnson tube amps and they have stayed in my system for decades because whenever I try to switch over to a solid state amp I just don't seem to enjoy the sound as much, so inevitably I go back to the tube amps.

The fact none of this was done level-matched and blinded (I often inserted a Bryston 4B ST) may render my question moot in the minds of many here. That's cool, I understand.

But given that even "hard nosed objectivists" have argued over the years that tube amps can audibly color the sound (if designed to), and given even in the notorious Carver challenge, Bob Carver had to fiddle around with the SS amp to get it doing what the CJ tube amp was doing...it at least seems plausible that my tube amp sounds different than the SS amps I've tried.

And IF it's the case this amp has a sonic signature, I'm still not sure how this works. I know that some tube designs are more reactive with certain types of speaker loads, so it's possible the tube amp will cause some variations in the frequency response - essentially acting as a form of EQ.
And also there is the overload/clipping factors, the idea that a tube amp when pushed to it's limits will start distorting in ways an SS amp won't, adding a certain character to the sound.

That stuff makes sense to me. The only thing is that it seems to me my amps have a very consistent character...no matter what speaker I put them on, and no matter what the volume. A thickening and rounding of tone, with a sort of slight "glow" to the sound, and a smoothing of high frequencies. I frankly can not recreate this with an EQ (I've tried, I had the Z-Systems RDP 1 digital EQ for many years - which I tried with a few different SS amps).

So if I heard this sonic character whether I put the amps on an easy load speaker, or a diabolically difficult load (I have had speakers across the range), and at any volume, I wonder what accounts for the consistent sense of ease, added roundness/softness/richness/glow to the sound that seems to carry through all those changes.

Again...until a good blind test I know "it's your imagination" can't be ruled out. But is there any plausible way a tube amp would maintain a different sonic character from an SS amp, even with different speaker loads and under the volume as which clipping occurs? I very, very rarely play my music loud - I'm probably barely getting out of the several watts range.

All the same also applies to my old Eico HF-81 14W integrated tube amp. It just seems to do the same thing to the sound no matter what speaker I put on it, and whatever the volume.

I've seen people allude to the transformers in tube amps as a source of coloration. Could that be it?
I don't know what CJ amp you have but here is a set of Stereophile measurements for a CJ Premier Eleven stereo tube amp from 1994. The low end roundness and warmth you speak of sounds a lot like the high harmonic distortion at LF.

cjp11fig5.jpg


SS amps won't have this, and frequency response EQ won't recreate it.
 
Last edited:

andreasmaaan

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 19, 2018
Messages
4,418
Likes
4,275
#33
I don't know what CJ amp you have but here is a set of Stereophile measurements for a CJ stereo tube amp from 1994. The low end roundness and warmth you speak of sounds a lot like the high harmonic distortion at LF.

View attachment 29063

SS amps won't have this, and frequency response EQ won't recreate it.
Do you have a link to the full measurements please? Got me interested...
 
Joined
May 21, 2019
Messages
50
Likes
62
Location
Columbus, Ohio
#35
I have a pair of Adcom GFA-2535 amps driving my Linkwitz LXmini system with Linkwitz Orion woofers set up as subwoofers. They were first obtained around 2003 used on eBay to drive the Orions. These must be close to 20+ years old now. They still do a good job today and their measured THD is below audible levels. However, the design of these amps as far as noise and 60 Hz hum components are it weak points.

Given that the electrolytic caps can't be in best of shape due to age, I am looking at a Nord NCore multichannel amp to replace the twin Adcoms. I don't know if there will be any audible improvement, but I will be much more confident of the Nord's longevity. They will also measure better in all areas then the Adcoms.
 
OP
D

Deleted member 12

Guest
Thread Starter #37
While I understand that to many here unless it can be proven objectively it isn’t a fact, or for that matter reality, unfortunately I think that there is still a great deal in audio and in music particularly that the current science misses. Ok, my flame suit is now on and at max protection level, lol.
Nonetheless, to get to MattHooper’s point about his older CJ amps, I think that the CJ is actually hiding detail and resolution...which is not audible unless one compares it with the same recording through a more resolving amplifier. Then, and only then, will the difference become apparent as to what the latest thinking in tube design is vs. his older CJ amp.
It really is very difficult to realize the deficiencies in amps and other pieces of gear, until such time as they are brought to the fore by other, more resolving pieces. All IMHO.
 

SIY

Technical Expert
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
4,424
Likes
8,674
Location
Phoenix, AZ
#38
While I understand that to many here unless it can be proven objectively it isn’t a fact, or for that matter reality, unfortunately I think that there is still a great deal in audio and in music particularly that the current science misses. Ok, my flame suit is now on and at max protection level, lol.
Nonetheless, to get to MattHooper’s point about his older CJ amps, I think that the CJ is actually hiding detail and resolution...which is not audible unless one compares it with the same recording through a more resolving amplifier. Then, and only then, will the difference become apparent as to what the latest thinking in tube design is vs. his older CJ amp.
It really is very difficult to realize the deficiencies in amps and other pieces of gear, until such time as they are brought to the fore by other, more resolving pieces. All IMHO.
If you want a summary of the hazards of sighted listening for evaluation, here it is.
 

Panelhead

Active Member
Forum Donor
Joined
Apr 3, 2018
Messages
211
Likes
79
#39
The tests Stereophile runs have progressed more than many of the products they test. I saw a 8500.00 all in one that was not impressive as a dac or as an amplifier. Very disappointing.
I read Stereophile just to see the technical reports. They do not have SINAD but do run a resolution test on dacs. Like to think every dac over 79.00 USD delivers 20 bit performance. They should.
 
OP
D

Deleted member 12

Guest
Thread Starter #40
If you want a summary of the hazards of sighted listening for evaluation, here it is.
Or blind assumptions attributed to beliefs....that primarily have nothing to do with the ability of one's hearing acumen...or belief of a lack thereof.:facepalm:
Personally, i hold very little faith in what is in front of me on a scope or other measuring device and a ton more in my hearing acumen and ability to discern musical differences.( But then I come from a musical/musicians background ( the audio part of the forum's heading, LOL)..and not a purely scientific background with limited musical experience)
If that doesn't sit well with you and others....well so be it.:p
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom