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Is the Emporer wearing any clothes?

Hart

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I am really curious how the great amps of my time test out, like Krell, Mark Levinson etc. Were they really that great or were the magazine testers hearing the price tag? Or encouraging their ad revenue? I have owned very expensive AVP's in my time, I am disheartened to see a Denon receiver surpass some of the more exotic separate processors. How much of this hobby is based on label worship? Certainly speakers speak for themselves, we can directly hear the differences, but electronics?
 

voodooless

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I am really curious how the great amps of my time test out, like Krell, Mark Levinson etc. Were they really that great
Some probably were..
or were the magazine testers hearing the price tag? Or encouraging their ad revenue?
Absolutely!
I am disheartened to see a Denon receiver surpass some of the more exotic separate processors.
Don’t be. A single SINAD score is not everything. While I think those processors should do better on this, also acknowledge that they offer vastly more processing options than the Denon’s do. If that is relevant to you, profit from it. It probably brings you more subjective performance than distortion figures.
How much of this hobby is based on label worship?
That depends on you:cool:
 

Mart68

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I still use a Krell from 1994 as my daily driver. I compared it to a Neurochrome 686 and if there's any real difference it was too subtle for me to spot.

So I stick with it. I bought it second hand so it was not expensive. I estimate if they were still making them they would be at least ten grand retail, which is an amount I would not pay for an amplifier. I don't care about the badge or 'pride of ownership thing', I just want the sound.

if I was starting over I'd go for the Neurochrome, the Benchmark or some variety of Hypex. Might as well have the state of the art even if I can't hear the benefit.

On a wider scope I think badges still do matter to a lot of punters, not necessarily as a show-off thing but becuase a well known make is regarded as a guarantee that it will be 'good' and so worth buying or at least considering. IME most people don't take a pragmatic approach to audio.
 

BDWoody

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I am really curious how the great amps of my time test out, like Krell, Mark Levinson etc. Were they really that great or were the magazine testers hearing the price tag?

One of the things about those older amps is that they often had a much more complete spec sheet than what is typically provided today. You can look and see how they might stand up in a real room with real music.

I have older Krell and Bryston amps, and have never felt the need to find what I'm missing.
 

JoeBrooklyn

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The Emperor is buck naked and rolling piles of cash!

I think the great amplifiers of the 80s-'90s were very good compared to what came before and given the technology available to them at the time. They simply sounded better than the mass produced junk at the time or the older high end designs from the 60's and 70's. VTL, Audio Research, Mark Levinson, Krell, Bryston were all built by small engineering teams that put a lot of thought and care into they designs - and measured well at the time. Though I always felt Krell sounded harsh in the uppers. :)

Given the advances in solid state components and Class D designs, I think those older amps won't measure or sound as good as current designs. They will most likely have a high noise floor and other frequency response curve flaws. BUT if the same level of engineering from those days was coupled with new technology who knows what you'd get.

To do a fair comparison with the older designs, you'd also have to make sure the old amps had been re-capped. Might also need to replace some resistors and "humming" power transformers.
 

DVDdoug

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Were they really that great or were the magazine testers hearing the price tag?

...How much of this hobby is based on label worship?
There is a TON of nonsense in the "audiophile community". You'll read lots of flowery words that don't have any actual meaning... If somebody says the sound is "detailed", I at-least want an explanation in terms of distortion, frequency response, or noise. And it's even better if they can back it up with measurements.

You'll also rarely see blind listening tests. (I don't fault Amir for not doing blind listening... He's a one-man show, he always knows what he's evaluating, and proper-scientific blind listening tests can be very time consuming.)

A lot of audiophiles "don't believe in" blind listening tests... One minute they'll say some high-end cables make a night-and-day difference and then when they fail to reliably hear a difference in a blind test, they make excuses about why the test is invalid...

See Audiophoolery.
 

paulbottlehead

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Joe is really spot on, everything is relative to the decade. I remember being really excited to buy my first Kenwood home theater receiver that advertised 120W per channel, but it completely ran out of gas compared to a Denon DRA-400 that I also happened to own but was rated at 40W. After that I started paying a lot more attention to what things weighed!

For vintage amps, I like to post a before and after of a Pioneer 9500's frequency response into a test woofer before and after recapping:
amp output into test woofer.png

amp output into test woofer - new caps.png

It's important not to evaluate something that's more than 20 years old unless it has new power supply caps!
 

dadregga

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How much of this hobby is based on label worship? Certainly speakers speak for themselves, we can directly hear the differences, but electronics?

Who knows? Let's find out! For electronics, it certainly seems that these days it's quite easy and cheap to get something that's practically transparent - which is good news!
 

bkatbamna

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I remember Stereo Review blind testing a receiver and a bunch of amps including a Mark Levinson ML-2(I think). No one could reliably tell the difference between the Pioneer receiver and any of the amplifiers. All of their professional critics and record reviewers could not tell the difference with any statistical significance. Note, they were not able to tell which was better but not even which sounded different.
 

paulbottlehead

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When gainclone amps were really popular, I remember opening a really fancy $5000+ integrated amplifier (I decided not to name the company) and I found six LM3886 chips per channel. I also found a cheap pair of Jensen 1:1 input transformers for the "superior" balanced input, and a Crystal digital volume control integrated circuit. It wouldn't be hard to imagine that sounding a lot like a $700 home theater receiver using basically the same parts!
 

krabapple

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The Emperor is buck naked and rolling piles of cash!

I think the great amplifiers of the 80s-'90s were very good compared to what came before and given the technology available to them at the time. They simply sounded better than the mass produced junk at the time or the older high end designs from the 60's and 70's

That is common belief, but was never established in any rigorous way. Indeed there were some data points to the contrary (e.g. Tom Nousaine's blind tests)
 

anmpr1

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A lot of audiophiles tend to focus on an amplifier's 'sound' quality. In this regard, many claim that the Mark Levinson doesn't 'sound different' than your run of the mill Pioneer receiver. But, if you are in your living room, listening to your stereo, and your wife comes in from the kitchen asking you to help her weld two pieces of steel, you really need something like a Mark Levinson. The Pioneer just isn't going to cut it.

ml amp.jpg
 

restorer-john

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Joe is really spot on, everything is relative to the decade. I remember being really excited to buy my first Kenwood home theater receiver that advertised 120W per channel, but it completely ran out of gas compared to a Denon DRA-400 that I also happened to own but was rated at 40W. After that I started paying a lot more attention to what things weighed!

For vintage amps, I like to post a before and after of a Pioneer 9500's frequency response into a test woofer before and after recapping:
View attachment 177236
View attachment 177237
It's important not to evaluate something that's more than 20 years old unless it has new power supply caps!

Your amplifier (or your measurement) has bigger problems than 'power supply caps'...
 

restorer-john

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It's important not to evaluate something that's more than 20 years old unless it has new power supply caps!

You know I spend a lot of time cleaning up the disasters that capacitor jockeys create when they change out perfectly good components like PSU caps for whatever 'upgraded' parts they dredge-up and poorly install. Power supply capacitors can last 50 years and still be perfectly in spec.

A few weeks ago, I spent two days cleaning up the mess created by a so-called Marantz 'guru' who 'upgraded' a classic 2250B receiver and sold it to a guy I know for $1200. Someone who lied about the power output, distortion and work he did (or didn't do). I don't even know where to start with how poor the work was.

Same MO. Get a bag of capacitors, cheap-ass banana speaker sockets, some poorly chosen LED 'kit' and a speaker relay from a 're-cap/upgrade' list uploaded to AudioKarma by a well meaning person.
 

mhardy6647

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I remember Stereo Review blind testing a receiver and a bunch of amps including a Mark Levinson ML-2(I think). No one could reliably tell the difference between the Pioneer receiver and any of the amplifiers. All of their professional critics and record reviewers could not tell the difference with any statistical significance. Note, they were not able to tell which was better but not even which sounded different

Perhaps:
1641504721793.png


 

Larry B. Larabee

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Joe is really spot on, everything is relative to the decade. I remember being really excited to buy my first Kenwood home theater receiver that advertised 120W per channel, but it completely ran out of gas compared to a Denon DRA-400 that I also happened to own but was rated at 40W. After that I started paying a lot more attention to what things weighed!

For vintage amps, I like to post a before and after of a Pioneer 9500's frequency response into a test woofer before and after recapping:
View attachment 177236
View attachment 177237
It's important not to evaluate something that's more than 20 years old unless it has new power supply caps!
Can you clarify so that people don't confuse this with an actual frequency response output graph of the amplifier.
 

tvrgeek

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Joe is really spot on, everything is relative to the decade. I remember being really excited to buy my first Kenwood home theater receiver that advertised 120W per channel, but it completely ran out of gas compared to a Denon DRA-400 that I also happened to own but was rated at 40W. After that I started paying a lot more attention to what things weighed!

For vintage amps, I like to post a before and after of a Pioneer 9500's frequency response into a test woofer before and after recapping:
View attachment 177236
View attachment 177237
It's important not to evaluate something that's more than 20 years old unless it has new power supply caps!
Weight seems to be a reasonably valid spec for an AB amp. Probably more informative than some specs published.

But yea, some of them were and are still great. There is a reason an Aragon, Krell, Levenson, Nak P7, still go for big money. An Adcom POOGED? Hafler POOGED? My own amp flat blows the doors off quite a few current amps. I mean not even close. I can't say what sound it has except it does not accentuate over sibilant vocals, top-hats, or other sources of "digital glare" whatever that is. Smooth. Don't feel like it is missing anything. Would the best of today do that to mine? Half of me wants to know and if so I would buy it. The other half says mine is darn good and I am a cheap SOB.
BUT again, we have some newer amps that seem to "have no sound" so would I pay $3000 for a pair of vintage ML monoblocks when I can buy a Benchmark for same? Can they beat a C298? Readers would like to know.

I do know the only time I heard a "stereo" I could almost believe was live was years ago in Boulder Sound Gallery. It was a half-track tape played on an A-77, feeding ML pre and amps into the first generation B&W 801. Solo upright bass being bowed and I think it was direct mic into that deck. Almost real. Really that good. The best I have heard since has been nice, but not real. I would hope we have made progress in over 40 years.
 

sarumbear

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If only @amirm measures his monoblocks…
 

gene_stl

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When gainclone amps were really popular, I remember opening a really fancy $5000+ integrated amplifier (I decided not to name the company) and I found six LM3886 chips per channel. I also found a cheap pair of Jensen 1:1 input transformers for the "superior" balanced input, and a Crystal digital volume control integrated circuit. It wouldn't be hard to imagine that sounding a lot like a $700 home theater receiver using basically the same parts!
I would bet that was a Rowland

There have been numerous Pioneers that could weld as well as the Levinsons mentioned. The SX 1250 and 1280 come to mind and also the SPEC 2 and SPEC 4.
Welding with an audio amp is moronic and all it really looks at his how many watts and amps it can pour into what amounts to a short circuit. They had a series resistor so they proved nothing.

I have seen audio amps used in science labs (especially Dyna Mk IIIs which a physicist friend of mine had a pretty large collection of) for driving big coils. A use case where tubes with transformer coupling probably was usable until big power transistors and amps made from gangs of them became practical.
 
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