• 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

Floyd Toole

Active Member
Audio Luminary
Technical Expert
Industry Insider
Joined
Mar 12, 2018
Messages
204
Likes
1,392
Why go to extremes? That argument is regularly brought up but there are plenty of good sounding and measuring amplifiers between Mark Levinson (which is actually nowhere near the highest-priced gear these days) and a HTIB solution. I do not think anyone has ever said a $10 1 W amp is going to sound the same as a 1000 W monoblock, though at 0.1 W the little 1 W amp might actually sound better (less noise). And virtually nobody with knowledge of amplifier design and testing is saying "all" amplifiers sound the same driving any load under any conditions AFAIK.

Everybody exaggerates.
For me the routine "cringeworthy" comment about amplifiers I read has to do with tube amps. Please have a look at John Atkinson's frequency response measurements when the load (normally a non-inductive resistance) is replaced by a simulated loudspeaker load, which varies with frequency. It is common to see 1 to 2 dB variations in frequency response - and sometimes alarmingly more!. This is caused by the voltage-divider created by the internal impedance of the tube amp and the frequency dependent impedance of the loudspeaker. A few notable (and of course highly rated) tube amps have exhibited output impedances in multiple whole ohms. Incredible. These are audible differences - the loudspeaker has been "redesigned" by the power amp. This is not a good idea. Yet uninformed reviewers regularly attribute differences to the amplifier itself - or to the loudspeaker itself if that is the test object. Both are wrong: it is an interaction effect and this is why solid-state amplifiers are so much more appealing - through them you get to hear the loudspeakers as designed.

BTW, damping, per se, is a non-issue - it is dominated by the voice coil resistance.

EDIT: All of this is described in Chapter 16 of the 3rd edition.
 
Last edited:

ahofer

Addicted to Fun and Learning
Forum Donor
Joined
Jun 3, 2019
Messages
923
Likes
1,456
Location
New York City
I assume everyone here has seen the parallel thread on Audiogon?

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/how-far-have-ss-amps-really-come-in-the-last-twenty-years

A lot of the dialogue there reminds me of "Lifemanship"
http://www.heretical.com/potter/expert.html

What is Plonking?
If you have nothing to say, or, rather, something extremely stupid and obvious, say it, but in a ‘plonking’ tone of voice – i.e. roundly, but hollowly and dogmatically. It is possible, for instance, to take up and repeat with slight variation, in this tone of voice, the last phrase of the speaker. Thus:

TYPOGRAPHY EXPERT: ... and roman lower-case letters of Scotch and Baskerville have two or three thou. more breadth, which gives a more generous tone, an easier and more spacious colour, to the full page –
YOURSELF: The letters ‘have width.’
T.E.: Exactly, exactly, exactly – and then if –
YOURSELF: It is a widening.
T.E.: What? – Oh yes, yes.​
This is the lightest of trips, yet, if properly managed, the tone of voice, will suggest that you can afford to say the obvious thing, because you have approached your conclusion the hard way, through a long apprenticeship of study.

‘Plonking’ of a kind can be made by the right use of quotation or pretended quotation. (See under Conversationship, p.88.) Here is the rough format:

MILITARY EXPERT (Beginning to get into his stride, and talking now really well): There is, of course, no precise common denominator between the type of mind which, in matters of military science, thinks tactically, and the man who is just an ordinary pugnacious devil with a bit of battlefield instinct about him.
YOURSELF (Quietly plonking): Yes, ... ‘Where equal mind and contest equal go.’​
This is correct quotation plonking (a) because it is not a genuine quotation and (b) because it is meaningless. The Military Expert must either pass it over, smile vaguely, say ‘yes,’ or in the last resort, ‘I don’t quite get...’ In any case, it stops flow, and suggests that whatever he is saying, you got there first.

.....
You might also enjoy this thread I started:

https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/system-synergies-chaotic-or-predictable
 

RayDunzl

Major Contributor
Central Scrutinizer
Joined
Mar 9, 2016
Messages
10,855
Likes
10,370
Location
Riverview FL
It is questionable whether super bikes qualify as exclusively land vehicles :) too many of them fly off the road, sooner or later.
Or just fly...

 

digicidal

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
1,409
Likes
2,257
Location
Sin City, NV
Why go to extremes? That argument is regularly brought up but there are plenty of good sounding and measuring amplifiers between Mark Levinson (which is actually nowhere near the highest-priced gear these days) and a HTIB solution. I do not think anyone has ever said a $10 1 W amp is going to sound the same as a 1000 W monoblock, though at 0.1 W the little 1 W amp might actually sound better (less noise). And virtually nobody with knowledge of amplifier design and testing is saying "all" amplifiers sound the same driving any load under any conditions AFAIK.

Everybody exaggerates.
You missed the point of my post - it's my car that's changing. In my home I would never make the change. Although, to be fair, I also have opted for less 'premium' amplification than an ML component - Emotiva where passive (maybe nCore monos in the near future) and everywhere else I'm using powered monitors.
 

Blumlein 88

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Feb 23, 2016
Messages
10,822
Likes
15,457
It is questionable whether super bikes qualify as exclusively land vehicles :) too many of them fly off the road, sooner or later.
Maybe that is why fighter pilots like them.
 

anmpr1

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 11, 2018
Messages
2,132
Likes
3,276
Just noticed this in the latest Stereophile email newsletter. Old review but very interesting in light of this thread and today's adio world in general.

https://www.stereophile.com/content/dynaco-stereo-120-transistor-power-amplifier
Gordon Holt was the original subjectivist. Holt was generally more civil than guys like Harry Pearson, and certainly less goofy than folks like Enid Lumley. Gordon's review is generally quite favorable toward the product, but I am more interested in David Hafler's reply, which made me smile, and can be read as dismissive of the entire subjectivist enterprise:

...subjective impressions are influenced by listening environment and other variables, and rarely reflect reproducible concurrence by different listeners.

Of course, unlike many of today's boutique manufacturers that live and die over a tweako review, Dyna didn't need to bend over for the 'alternate' press. They sold a decent product for not too many dollars, and were selling them as fast as they could make them. At least that was the case as long as Dave was in charge. My guess, from what else I've read both from him and about him, is that he could not have cared much less about a Stereophile review.

Another Dyna take was in Peter Aczel's first issue (1977) of his Audio Critic. Scathing. It was the PAT-5 preamplifier. He later told me that those early issues were something of an embarrassment to him, i.e., once he learned the proper protocol to review--matched levels. He admitted that all those preamps (he lined up two dozen) probably all sounded the same, but that was 30 years past, and he couldn't go back and redo anything. I replied that given the 'resolving' reference system he was using at the time, perhaps there were real 'differences' in those old designs. He abruptly dismissed my challange, not unlike Hafler did Holt's, back in '66.
 

DonH56

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 15, 2016
Messages
4,667
Likes
7,588
Location
Monument, CO
For me the routine "cringeworthy" comment about amplifiers I read has to do with tube amps. Please have a look at John Atkinson's frequency response measurements when the load (normally a non-inductive resistance) is replaced by a simulated loudspeaker load, which varies with frequency. It is common to see 1 to 2 dB variations in frequency response - and sometimes alarmingly more!. This is caused by the voltage-divider created by the internal impedance of the tube amp and the frequency dependent impedance of the loudspeaker. A few notable (and of course highly rated) tube amps have exhibited output impedances in multiple whole ohms. Incredible. These are audible differences - the loudspeaker has been "redesigned" by the power amp. This is not a good idea. Yet uninformed reviewers regularly attribute differences to the amplifier itself - or to the loudspeaker itself if that is the test object. Both are wrong: it is an interaction effect and this is why solid-state amplifiers are so much more appealing - through them you get to hear the loudspeakers as designed.

BTW, damping, per se, is a non-issue - it is dominated by the voice coil resistance.

EDIT: All of this is described in Chapter 16 of the 3rd edition.
I have for many, many years said that output impedance is perhaps the largest variable in amplifier performance and thus speaker/amplifier interaction.

A look at some examples based upon real amplifier and speaker data in an article I wrote a few years ago: https://www.whatsbestforum.com/thre...esponses-into-speaker-loads.8103/#post-139289
 

Frank Dernie

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 24, 2016
Messages
4,441
Likes
9,414
Location
Oxfordshire
I hate to write "me too" but I also have seen the output impedance of amps and their interaction with speaker load as a reason people believe some amps sound different, and have probably banged on about it often enough here.
Part of the reason I bought a Devialet amp fwiw.
 

anmpr1

Major Contributor
Forum Donor
Joined
Oct 11, 2018
Messages
2,132
Likes
3,276
It is questionable whether super bikes qualify as exclusively land vehicles :) too many of them fly off the road, sooner or later.
Everyone's a bit different, but here's the thing. Let's say you have 15 large to spend, or thereabouts. For sheer immediate excitement and sonic thrills, for bone chilling in your face take it to the limit insanity, what's going to give you that? A Suzuki Hayabusa, or a Mark Levinson preamp? On the other hand, you probably can't kill yourself with a new preamp... there's always trade-offs. LOL
 

MattHooper

Major Contributor
Joined
Jan 27, 2019
Messages
1,467
Likes
2,051
Though I use tube amps at home, whenever I audition new potential speakers I insist when possible that they are driven by solid state amplification.
I want as neutral a starting point as possible in getting the gist of a speaker and don't want to attribute to it problems that could come from variations in tube amp designs. Then, if I want to screw up the sound with my tube amps, at least I know what I'm screwing up :)


Same thing for when I see vinyl used as a source at shows, or when auditioning speakers. Even though I love listening to vinyl, I want to hear a speaker driven by a more accurate digital source signal - especially as vinyl at best is less accurate and there are many ways to screw up the vinyl sound via set-up. Are those speakers a bit thin and bright? Or is it some variation in the vinyl chain, the cartridge, the VTF/VTA, impedance etc being off? Never know. So...digital source, please.
 

digicidal

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
1,409
Likes
2,257
Location
Sin City, NV
On the other hand, you probably can't kill yourself with a new preamp... there's always trade-offs. LOL
That depends on the power cord you use with it I'm sure. :p
 

Wombat

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 5, 2017
Messages
6,398
Likes
5,600
Location
Australia
Some audiophiles seem to be attached to this 'hobby' by an invisible, subjective, umbilical cord that needs cutting. o_O
 

digicidal

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
1,409
Likes
2,257
Location
Sin City, NV
An umbilical cord transports nutrients to empower growth and development... so I'm pretty sure it's something else.

One hemisphere of my brain agrees with you completely and says "there's entirely too much snake oil and magical thinking in the world".
The other half likes to remind me that the art, music, and literature that I enjoy so much was made by drug addicts, conspiracy theorists, and the clinically insane. Not all... but a lot of it.
 

Wombat

Major Contributor
Joined
Nov 5, 2017
Messages
6,398
Likes
5,600
Location
Australia
An umbilical cord transports nutrients to empower growth and development... so I'm pretty sure it's something else.

One hemisphere of my brain agrees with you completely and says "there's entirely too much snake oil and magical thinking in the world".
The other half likes to remind me that most of the art, music, and literature that I enjoy so much was made by drug addicts, conspiracy theorists, and the clinically insane. Not all... but a lot of it.

For growth the umbilical cord has to be cut at birth.
 

digicidal

Major Contributor
Joined
Jul 6, 2019
Messages
1,409
Likes
2,257
Location
Sin City, NV

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
8,203
Likes
7,164
Location
Central Fl
The other half likes to remind me that the art, music, and literature that I enjoy so much was made by drug addicts,
If ya can't beat em, join em. o_O:p
 

SIY

Major Contributor
Technical Expert
Joined
Apr 6, 2018
Messages
5,343
Likes
11,010
Location
Phoenix, AZ
What issues do you have with adequately-sized after market power cords, with twisted conductors and one or two layers of shielding? Do you see no benefits?
Compared to a stock cord supplied with the amp? Likely not unless some idiot undersized it (rather extremely unlikely).
 

Sal1950

Major Contributor
The Chicago Crusher
Forum Donor
Joined
Mar 1, 2016
Messages
8,203
Likes
7,164
Location
Central Fl
What issues do you have with adequately-sized after market power cords, with twisted conductors and one or two layers of shielding? Do you see no benefits?
No, none. Unless as SIY said it was accidentally undersized. What manufacturer in his right mind would compromise the sound of a expensive component with the use of a badly spec'd $2.00 part?
 
Top Bottom