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What Hi-Fi's Amp Reviews: A Basket of Unmeasurables?

DSJR

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(Hilariously, I replaced my Io with a Topping PA5 ... with what we now know was a manifestly flawed design :) Mine survives, and works well though)

Scotland isn't as hot as many areas in the US, especially at present, so maybe the thermal issues don't occur with you?
 
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GGroch

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Most people can understand word salads, after a fashion. Most people, perhaps even here, wouldn't be able to pick the *best* (whatever we take it to mean) speaker from a selection of spin charts .........There is a huge gap in the market for someone who can translate the science into something the layman can understand.....
I think What Hi-Fi will always get more traffic purely on the basis that, whether what they say is correct or not, it is easier for 98% of people to comprehend than charts and such.
Excellent points I think. What Hi-Fi's list of "Verdicts" describe the experience high end customers want when listening to music.
Nearly all of the characteristics described make a lot of sense if they were reviewing a classical music performance, and the conductor's interpretation, rather than an amp.

- Sonic Composure and Organization
- Agile and Articulate Presentation
-Immaculate with Rhythms
-Wonderfully Musical Insight and Uncluttered
-Expressive Dynamics

We want to experience these things. What Hi-Fi suggests a Naim amp can get you there, and do it with class and style for a few thousand dollars.
 

fpitas

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Let's remember that the Brits invented the term "PRaT" :oops: :rolleyes:
Likely they did (Martin Colloms?). Yet, idiots all over the world swooned and started repeating it.
 

Killingbeans

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My question: do these amplifier characteristics actually exist?

Most of them belong in the realm of speakers and rooms. Some of them are just a result of power headroom or a lack thereof. And a few of them are pure make believe.

LOL whathifi as a serious source....who does that?

Roughly ten years ago, after I had just moved, I noticed that my old speaker cables had severe oxidation throughout, and a quick online search gave me a What Hi-Fi review that told me to get some QED "air core" cable as a good bang-for-the-buck, and so I did.

Back then I still had the delusion that faulty test methods become less faulty if you just pile them up, not understanding that the self-reinforcement of bias actually makes sure the opposite is happening. Later I came across ASR, and it gave me the push I needed to put magical thinking on a shelf in times when it isn't helping the situation.

I still have the QEDs, but their permanent home is now in my "dad box" full of assorted you-never-know cables.

It gets very weird when conclusions and commentaries on measurements state that the issue being analysed is not in the audible domain (!?).

Not weird at all.

You simply take the measurement results and put them in the light of a centuries' worth of research into the limitations of human hearing.

If the comparison tells you that the chance of audiblity is extremely close to zero, then it's safe to assume that any audibility being reported to dispute this conclusion, is at an equally extreme risk of being fabricated by the listeners mind.

Ok, so what do we do as CONSUMMERS? We buy things, listen to them, then we read/ trust ASR that it measures bad. Say we listen again, preferably some blind testing, though many many CONSUMMERS have some diverse experience anyway. Still, difference is minor or we perceive no difference. What is the meaning to US, then?

Trust the people who point it out when things aren't physically possible. Use it as a guideline in times when you have the need to support the 'what' with some 'why'.

Other than that, just do whatever makes you happy.

The audio hobby is not designed to avoid bias, so why fight it? If the look of your gear, the feel when you push its buttons and the narrative about its manufacturer and its legacy makes it sound better to you, then why not just enjoy it?

Even the die-hard "pragmatic" audiophiles can't escape it.

Huge unpainted DIY horn speakers with a stack of utilitarian PA gear powering it might give the impression that the setup has somehow circumvented the influence of aesthetics, but in actuality the "statement" of the setup will color the perception of its output just as much as any fancy high-end counterpart.

But don't confuse it with physics. A deeply personal experience is absolutely "real" to you, and you can possibly even pass on the bias through a recommendation, and make it "real" for others, but it's still not a remotely trustworthy depiction of reality.

Testing is easier and, if we choose by testing, then why do we need measurements?

A healty reality check, when needed.

Also, if you consistently choose gear by "testing" that show the same abnormalities in measurements, it might give you a helpful indication of the mechanisms behind your personal taste. You can then use measurements to weed out the gear that is highly likely to be a waste of time in your "testing".

I see here people that also do not understand measurements or acoustics, but they buy things as 'Amir says'. Not that far from the other bunch.

Trust me, I facepalm hard every time someone reports how an ultra high SINAD product takes clarity and resolution to new heights when compared only slightly less "competent" gear. And I guarantee you that most users in here feel the same.

A keystone of what makes ASR great, is the realization that no one is immune to bias. Awareness and acceptance of those shortcomings is important.

People who point at ASR as nothing but a different flavor of denial, have more or less inadvertently failed to understand what the place is trying to offer them.
 
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Gregm

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Back to the original question, here's another take on how these descriptives may correlate to a measured result, assuming the reviewer actually hears something and proceeds to describe it, albeit, poetically:

- Musically Cohesive and Dynamically Capable -- sufficient power output?
- Excellent Detail Resolution -- Slight boost around 4.5 - 6 kHz?
- Impressive Punch -- emphasis around 100Hz ????
- Sonic Composure and Organization -- no idea
- Sonic Clarity and Control -- slight emphasis around 2kHz??
- Dynamic Contrasts could be stronger, as could Rhythmic Drive -- lack of power to drive the speakers used
- Agile and Articulate Presentation -- emphasis 6-8kHz???
-Immaculate with Rhythms -- maybe a bump around 80-100Hz. Otherwise: ???
-Wonderfully Musical Insight and Uncluttered -- no idea
-Expressive Dynamics -- sufficient power to drive speakers in use?
- Needs Careful Partnering -- high Z out (OR recessed upper treble)
- Astonishingly Revealing -- strong boost between 4-10kHz?
- Terrific Timing and Agility -- no idea
- Some might want a more muscular sound -- lacks power to drive the speakers being used
 

Galliardist

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Martin Colloms (one time tech reviewer, consultant and audio guru in certain quarters) coined that phrase...

PLEASE don't tar the rest of us with that accusation - thank you!



As for WTF (what we oldies know it as), this rag has been derided for decades by more experienced audio people, the tech-ignorant staff at one time apparently drafted in as an 'apprenticeship' on their way to What Car and higher flying rags under the publishing banner and their 'dem room' was as dead as a doornail apparently (several different people told me this, all unrelated), so brighter, harsher and more 'impressive' products were rated higher than more honest sounding ones (I remember a trend of several amps and CD players in 'special' versions which almost had 'ringing' engineered in to sound 'fast' and 'lively' and one had a figurehead 'Signature' monika on it with added copper screws to separate it from the 'normal' range). I personally saw in the past at least one example of a reviewed speaker product shipped to another reviewer-friend in unopened boxes, but admit it was a while ago now

Anyway, so many issues today have TV's all over the cover, so not sure where the 'HiFi (audio' part lies these days.

The AUSTRALIAN version is a take-over of a different mag and they do actually post tech measurements and details there, at least currently.
It may pay you to check those Australian measurements against a few others.

@restorer-john
 
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GGroch

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.........Yes and no. There is no standardization to claims like musicality, but there is a reason why a smiley face EQ is a classic EQ option as opposed to a mustache. As has been stated elsewhere, 99% is sighted bias, but it’s reasonable to assume that when differences are heard, and the differences stand up to blind testing, that musicality can represent coloration that is favorable for the particular song on test. In general, musicality is used as a contrast to transparent or accurate… so if it’s real, and it’s usually not, it will be measurable.

Slam is easier to objectively assess since more often than not, people talk about slam when it comes to bass and usually when it comes to a subjective feeling of bass.


View attachment 299655


.......
You have two identically measuring speakers to be put in a common living area. One is painted in a garish nauseating color and then scratched up with a key/razor blade. The other is done with an artisan-level luxury furniture finish that matches your home’s decor and has the quality that could have come out of a Roche Bobois or Hermes furniture catalog.

..........What is important is separating the snake oil from the luxury. It’s a luxury to pay extra for a given level of electrical or acoustic performance for better “feeling” either through physical appearance, materials of construction, or brand heritage. It is snake oil when false claims are made.

Science helps us sort this out.
All very well said. Thank you.
 

SimpleTheater

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The same folks that believe everything Zeos says ? :p

Given the traffic there are more people believing in audio magic then there are believing it is based on practical science.
I think the issue is that measurements take time. Company X has a new product and starts marketing, non-measurement reviewers can pop out a BS review in a day or two. There is no list of future reviews coming from Audioholics/ASR/Scientific Audiophile/Erin’s Corner, so the void is filled by the Zeos’, and they get views.
 

Gorgonzola

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Likely they did (Martin Colloms?). Yet, idiots all over the world swooned and started repeating it.
"PRaT" = pace, rythme, and timing. Yes, attributed to Martin Colloms.

Pace, rythme, and timing are attributes of musical performance, not sound reproduction; it's silly to used the term to describe the latter. Nevertheless I suspect Colloms was referring to an attribute of actual amplifier performance. I'm pretty sure he meant to describe fine dynamic detail, or what I personally prefer to call microdynamics.

Some have said that apparent dynamic detail can be simulated by introducing types distortion. A manufacturer of high-quality tube equipment recently stated that 3rd order harmonics can have the effect.

Maybe so, but as far as I'm concerned all you need to get this lively sparkle is a modern, ultra-low distortion amp the is capable of producing superior detail resolution in general. My current Purifi Eigentakt amp does it better than any amp I've had heretofore.
 

fpitas

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"PRaT" = pace, rythme, and timing. Yes, attributed to Martin Colloms.

Pace, rythme, and timing are attributes of musical performance, not sound reproduction; it's silly to used the term to describe the latter. Nevertheless I suspect Colloms was referring to an attribute of actual amplifier performance. I'm pretty sure he meant to describe fine dynamic detail, or what I personally prefer to call microdynamics.

Some have said that apparent dynamic detail can be simulated by introducing types distortion. A manufacturer of high-quality tube equipment recently stated that 3rd order harmonics can have the effect.

Maybe so, but as far as I'm concerned all you need to get this lively sparkle is a modern, ultra-low distortion amp the is capable of producing superior detail resolution in general. My current Purifi Eigentakt amp does it better than any amp I've had heretofore.
I tried my best to untangle it at the time. It definitely was some woo-woo having to do with equipment.
 

antcollinet

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Let's remember that the Brits invented the term "PRaT" :oops: :rolleyes:
Are you sure - since prat as an insult long predates the audio acronym. Not sure we'd have come up with the acronym on that basis.
 
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Multicore

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The British Audio Magazine What Hi-Fi has published since 1976 and has a loyal following.
I grew up in the UK and remember What Hi-Fi from the golden age of hobbyist print magazines. Like all the pubs of that type the ads they took from manufacturers made it hard to take their equipment reviews seriously. Reader's letters could be good. And the small ads in the back were often very interesting. I recently looked back at some hobby/home computer mags from the early 80s and loved the indi ads.

But I really wonder what exactly today constitutes this loyal following you mention.

Since What Hi-Fi became a web site I have sometimes visited, let's assume because I was hasty in clicking web search results, and I always enjoy their arcane poetry. I've said here before that contemporary audiophillia is deliberately esoteric and I believe that aspect must be appealing to many of its practitioners. The list you compiled is prima facie esoterica. I think it's cute. Thank you for that.
 

Galliardist

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Part of the reason What HiFi does so well is that it has goodwill among older audiophiles. This is because, back in the 1980s, it printed the manufacturer's specs for almost every product on the UK market, the closest thing we had to a comprehensive list of equipment to choose from in pre-Internet days.

Now? It's trading on its name.
 
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GGroch

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Part of the reason What HiFi does so well is that it has goodwill among older audiophiles. This is because, back in the 1980s, it printed the manufacturer's specs for almost every product on the UK .......
Audio Magazine used to do that in the U.S. The last 150 pages of their October Guide was all specs. WorldRadioHistory has posted all of those issues here if you need them.
Absolutely essential in the days when if you wanted to know even just the dimensions of a product you had to visit a stereo store.

What Hi-Fi's audience today is IMHO the opposite of that. Their viewers do not want to learn specs or what they mean. Hi-Fi tech talk is no longer interesting to many even high end audio buyers. WTF today avoids measurement. As Amir's post proves, that approach is pretty popular.
 
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Killingbeans

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continue tutorials from simple to complex - yes, I got Umik 1 and I made some measurements

Agreed. The more encouragement to do the 20% that makes 80% of the difference, the better.

teach me about simply volume level matching, starting with phone apps, not only using mega technical tools (and stop telling me I need NASA accuracy to get it right)

Sorry, but no! Phone app matching simply has a too large margin of error and a way to big risk of giving false results.

If a cheap mutimeter and a software tone generator is seen as a "mega technical tool", then better just avoid testing completely and trust the people who tell you the odds.

post the novelties, measured or NOT (many of us are here to read OTHER user posts, go figure !!!)

If by "novelties" you mean sighted impressions, then please no.. There are already tons and tons of other sites where you can have that in buckets.

One of the most refreshing things about ASR is the relatively low SNR of the information provided by the threads*. Muddling that would be murder.

*Except the threads that get padded with a torrent of off-topic talk.

DO yourself bloody blind tests, as forum reps - don't just keep bashing us with this argument to shut our mouth

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and all that. But yeah, doesn't hurt to put your money where your mouth is.

Although, when you've been presented with a "Don't tell me what I'm hearing!"kind of situation for the umpteenth time, it's extraordinarily tempting to just go "Blind test, or it didn't happen".

gimme an idea of 'cost plus' evaluation of prices for devices

Not sure I know what you mean by 'cost plus'? Do you mean whether aspects of the product besides sound justifies its price tag?
 

DSJR

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"PRaT" = pace, rythme, and timing. Yes, attributed to Martin Colloms.

Pace, rythme, and timing are attributes of musical performance, not sound reproduction; it's silly to used the term to describe the latter. Nevertheless I suspect Colloms was referring to an attribute of actual amplifier performance. I'm pretty sure he meant to describe fine dynamic detail, or what I personally prefer to call microdynamics.
Nah, it's all about mid-bass kicking you in the chest, mids forward and yet flat in perspective and rhythmic 'snappy' sounding highs. I suspect the once universal Yamaha NS10's were a template for that kind of presentation, as their clarity and ability to unravel a mix was legendary! Whether you'd want to listen at home to a pair is moot though (they just about worked on a shelf tight to the wall behind but never in free space unless as a magnifying tool!)

Mr Colloms once designed a speaker called 'The Rhythm King' I remember. I was put off his designs when he brought in an old large speaker he'd designed (late 70's this was) with a midrange colouration issue. rather than research and fix the audible problem at source, he lifted the tweeter in level to try to mask the issue...
 
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GGroch

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"PRaT" = pace, rhythm, and timing. Yes, attributed to Martin Colloms.

Pace, rhythm, and timing are attributes of musical performance, not sound reproduction; it's silly to used the term to describe the latter......
Right. Nearly all of the terms What Hi-Fi uses in rating audio gear refer to the experience users want when listening to their systems. They are promised a good part of that can be delivered by the amp, not just the performers.

PS, I had to google Prat, which came up "A Stupid Foolish Person". I feel prattly for not knowing what it meant v. audio.

And: I double dog dare Amir to insert any of What Hi-Fis descriptive phrases into the subjective end of a gear review. It would be fun to see if anyone calls him on it.
 
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Overseas

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So Amir will keep wondering about the audience and rating...

Anyway, doesn't matter that What Hifi is talking bullshit about devices, some good stuff makes its way in their reviews anyway. So, some people will buy the good stuff,
no matter the unprofessional language.
 
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