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Watt should I believe? (Read 1256 times)
Filamentally
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Watt should I believe?
10/05/17 at 21:40:40
 
I have a concern about low wattage amplifer solutions based on 'so called' solid evidence that in fact very powerful SS amps are a potentially better solution for hi-fidelity.

Valves usually sound best because they clip gracefully compared to transistors, when trannies clip they clip hard and therefore sound bad. But if you had a transistor amp powerful enough (and we are talking a good 500 Watts for example) clipping never occurs on musical passages and therefore the weakness of transistors is all but eliminated.

But at the same time - Decware do flea / low powered amps that somehow sound wonderful. So do we conclude that if you want to own a regular amp below, say 200 Watts, tubes sound better because the clipping is far less harsh (but nevertheless they 'do' clip) - but above 200 Watts (or even more) transistors are a better choice as they don't have a chance to clip at all?

I am no expert but I would love to hear a little bit of an explanation from a designer of fantastic low powered amps.
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stone_of_tone
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #1 - 10/05/17 at 22:29:30
 
Believe? You need to experience it.

Plus, besides Mr. Deckert, you could learn/hear from Mr. Pass on the Transistor side. .......First Watt, XA-(Class A), X-..... .

ARC too, in Class A. I'm in the camp of arguably the best Line Stage they ever made .....my LS-2B MkII.
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« Last Edit: 10/05/17 at 22:30:39 by stone_of_tone »  

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Archie
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #2 - 10/06/17 at 01:02:28
 
There are other differences besides just power. †Check out some of Steve's "White Papers" and his non-use of negative feedback plus the preservation of Even Order Harmonics. †There is a good explanation of the latter here: †http://www.decware.com/newsite/TORII.htm

BTW, I decided to "believe" Steve and his many satisfied customers and jumped in with both feet several years ago.  No regrets!   Cool
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« Last Edit: 10/06/17 at 01:04:50 by Archie »  
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Tripwr1964
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #3 - 10/06/17 at 03:02:28
 
another read for you...
http://www.decware.com/paper43.htm

i personally like like tubes (i have a ufo2 and a cary 120watt amp) love them both. †i love the sound in general and the flexibility of tube rolling to fine tune the voicing.

i've also had several pass and sumo class a designs that i've loved as well.
sumo 9+ and first watt are excellent.

you can pick up a ufo for $1000 and a nice set of high eff speakers for about the same. †its a real nice "low" price tag to get into great sounding hifi.

live in the peoria area? †decfest this weekend! †you wont leave without buying something! †haha

cheers
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« Last Edit: 10/06/17 at 03:03:57 by Tripwr1964 »  

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JOMAN
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #4 - 10/06/17 at 03:48:21
 
You can read and theorize all day long but the only way you'll believe is to jump in.  I went through that process.  Had a h**l of a time getting to the point of deciding to try, coming from high power ideology.  

Eventually I decided that the only way to know or believe was to jump in.  My system now is all Decware the amp being the SE84UFO2.  If you read some of my posts you'll see that after jumping in I still had a problem with believing... believing my ears and senses.

Eventually I just settled back, started to enjoy and finally stopped fighting it.  It's now fun which it should have been from the beginning.
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Syd
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #5 - 10/06/17 at 12:10:58
 
Why drive amps until they clip ? I've got 12 watts tube power driving 97 db speakers and the pre never gets anywhere near half way.
Clipping amps for pleasure is where you hit the distortion figures, SS or valve.
Guitars through valves, ok max out you want distortion, overload, feedback but when you replay that through vinyl ......
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Acetone
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #6 - 10/06/17 at 16:11:23
 
Hey Trip....Yup! that paper sums up my experience. I don't ever need to turn my Zen up past 9PM. And, in the evening, if I do,  the wife usually asks me to turn it down so she can watch T.V. And she's downstairs. I can't imagine all the time, money and frustration I've saved by going the SET route and following the advice given in the Decware forums.
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Filamentally
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #7 - 10/06/17 at 23:30:59
 
OK thank you all for your advice. This is only my second post and I'm really impressed by how quickly you have come back to me.

The reason I have ended up here is my recent experience with panel speakers - more precisely some 1976 Magneplanar MG-1's - there's some magic in them panels but, here's my dillema and it's a real dillema...

Maggies need POWER - therefore lovely amps like Decware are unlikely to kick a panel into life. My current favourite amp at home is a Croft 7 pre/power valve amp (I've never heard a Decware) and I'm afraid my Croft could end up being neglected because there's not enough horsepower under the hood to drive these hungry maggies.

So it's either panels or valves - one or the other - and I really like the sound of panels! However valves will deprive me of panels like the Maggies. Valves, Maggies, Valves, Maggies - what do I do ?????
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Archie
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #8 - 10/06/17 at 23:57:48
 
I think I read that Steve used the ZMA with panel speakers.  Can anyone confirm this?  (ZMA is rated 38 watts but goes much higher.)
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JOMAN
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #9 - 10/07/17 at 10:39:18
 
Filamentally,
I can tell you for a certainty that Maggie's and valves do work.  I have owned two pair of Maggie's and what started me on this journey were a pair of Maggie Tympany, Arc Amp, Arc Pre and an LP12.

Recently I heard a pair of Maggie's powered by a Naim integrated and the result was very good.  Naim have never been known as mega watt amps, in fact, Naim's premise always was that one does not need those type of amps.

In the past I have been told by some that you need at least 100 watts to make Maggie's come to life - NOT TRUE!  You need the right combination and being set on a power house amp can prevent you from finding that combination.

I have an affinity for Maggie's and Quads, first hand experience and can tell you that the best results I've had is with Maggie's and valves.  The question as far as I am concerned is what power of valve amp?  Not SS or Valves?

When it comes to Decware amps talk to Steve but whatever you do do not rule out valve amps with Maggie's.
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JOMAN
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #10 - 10/07/17 at 13:35:50
 
I had to follow up on this and look into my ďarchivesĒ.  Just so happens that the first Maggieís I owned were MG-1ís.  I was cash strapped at the time and ran these with an NAD amp, canít remember the power output but it wasnít 100 watts for sure.  The second were 1.6ís.  At the time I was experimenting with a Chinese made amp.  Canít remember the brand but I do recall that these were mono blocks using an 805 output tube at 50 watts ea.  Although that amp wasnít the last word in fitness it drove those 1.6ís no problem at all.

My favorite speaker was the Quad Electrostatic.  Couldnít afford those so I bought the Maggieís.  There is a certain quality to planar speakers that I am drawn to but then there are certain qualities of dynamic speakers that I like and that planars of the day didnít have.

I now own the UFO Select with Omega S3HOXRS and these have a blend of the two, planar/electrostatic and dynamic, that far surpass any of the above mentioned combos.  

Iím not saying that is the way you should go.  The MG-1ís are nice, and Iíll bet that any of the Tori amps could run these easily.  Talk to Steve.
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Filamentally
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #11 - 10/07/17 at 16:23:24
 
Thanks JOMAN, your experience is valuable to me of course. The problem with maggies I think is being able to drive well enough to cater for dips below 2 Ohms. Please tell me a Decware can because I have been scanning the Decware pages and it all looks enticing - are there dealers in the UK? And I would really need to try before I buy - and try with the Magnepan MG-1's.

In addition - Quad Electrostatics are a very capacitive load so again, a certain type of amp is needed to drive these well too.
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Filamentally
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #12 - 10/07/17 at 16:31:02
 
Actually while I am on this 'Watt should I believe' frame of mind - can I direct you to Sanders white papers that 'seem' to clearly indicate why a powerful amplifier is necessary: http://sanderssoundsystems.com/technical-white-papers/172-tubes-vs-transistors.

If you read that paper all the way through it clearly makes sense. Sanders also invites you to hook up a scope (which is easy to do) and find out for your self. Clipping is a common problem with amps that do not have the power reserves needed for the dynamics of music from a hi-fi system.

So 500 Watts - or 25 Watts - that is the question?
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« Last Edit: 10/07/17 at 16:33:31 by Filamentally »  
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JOMAN
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #13 - 10/07/17 at 17:49:01
 
I would talk to Steve for the info regarding specific Decware amps.  

As far as reading papers... Iíve been in this ďhobbyĒ since 1974 with considerable enthusiasm.  Read many papers, put theories and assertions to the test, spend many thousands of $$$.  There are a number of posts regarding theory and reality in the forums so thereís no need for me to add to them.

Just wanted to let you know what I experienced with Maggies.  Nice speakers.  

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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #14 - 10/09/17 at 00:02:00
 
My first question would be how you enjoy your music. Are you high level blast it out or you more "audiophile" oriented. High level blast out I can see the megawatt need. I was like you when my Krell 550 wpc crapped out. All I ever owned was SS amplifiers. In the need for a replacement I started looking around and reading. I found the ZMA which unlike others had nice sized capacitors which I preferred for my type of listening. So 40 watts vs 550....what to do. I jumped in on the ZMA since there was a return policy.

So far this is my comparison. I use my source at variable output so no preamp. My volume goes from -70 to 0. 0 being full volume. With the SS as soon as I went above 20 the music started to have a distinct "amplified" sound. The ZMA however at similar levels is realistic. Even at higher levels which I do not prefer it is still real. I dont have a db meter but i am not at concert level but comfortable that sustained listening can be done without fatigue and loss of musicality and detail.

Thats my experience so if it helps you great if not no harm done keep up the search as only you know what you like and that is the way to be.
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Lonely Raven
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #15 - 10/09/17 at 16:22:47
 

Agreed with above - you need to define your listening I think. I have a friend that can't use anything under 200 watts because his goal is to have RUSH sound like he's seeing them in concert. I can't stand it, but it's what he likes. I wouldn't even bother trying to talk him into a tube amp - he's dead set in his ways - even after listening to my all tube system he's just like "it sounds great, but I wanna rock!" (shrug).

Now the flipside of that is that I want to hear every detail, I want to get emotionally involved in the subtleties and feel what the artist was pouring into the music; not just the feeling of being there in concert.  I can do beautiful, detailed, subtle, and get ear ringing volume in a small room with 2-3 watts, and light, fast, efficient speakers - or I can do that in a larger room with 20-30 watts and 91+db efficiency speakers. And these days, there are a lot of those to go around!

If you have a smart phone, you can easily measure you typical listening volume with an app - just search for DB Meter or Volume Meter and there are plenty of free ones.  And here is this chart for some perspective.




Also, I wouldn't get hung up on this clipping thing. Yes, tubes clip more smoothly - but if you have the right speakers mated up with the right amp, clipping shouldn't even be part of the equation. Now, if you're pushing low efficiency speakers with only 3 watts - well, you've set yourself up to fail right from the start.

A couple personal thoughts - I happened into a pair of mint MG-IIa last year, I was able to drive them with my Decware ZMA (Zen Mystery Amp), but I couldn't get them to thump like I could with a vintage 200 watt transistor amp that actually sounded really good to me. However, even though I couldn't thump with the ZMA, it sounded sweeter and more enjoyable than the big transistor amp. And just for fun, I hooked up a bit 2000 watt A/B amp from Ashley that I happened to have around - and while it drove the panels just fine, it sounded very sterile. I wound up selling the panels just because as nice as they sounded, they weren't a good match for my best sounding amp. The panels also weren't earth shattering enough for me to explore an amp that has good synergy with it. I got far more enjoyment from my high efficiency speakers on my tube amps - though the panel did have a speed thing going on that I really enjoyed.

Lastly - there is a reason the best transistor amps are said to be "tube like". It's not just because they *might* clip more smoothly or whatever - it's because they aren't sterile. Those Pass amps mentioned above are a great example. They are Class A, very consistent, and do sound great...but most big power transistor amps (in my opinion) are built to be clean, sterile, and look good on paper and in a meter. But I don't listen to meters, I listen to music.  

So there is a lot more than wattage and distortion ratings to what makes an amp sound good, and breath life into music. Don't get hung up on specs, give everything a listen and see what your gut says about what sounds good.
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #16 - 10/09/17 at 18:23:38
 
I agree with all the previous comments.  And here is my two cents into the discussion...

Tube clipping vs. SS clipping can be important in guitar/bass amplification, but should not be a part of the discussion when it comes to home audio, IMO.  To me, a decent home audio system should aim at replicating what was recorded in the studio or live environment as realistically as possible.  If the tone and timbre of the recorded instrument was a result of some sort of clipping or overdriving the amp used in the recording, I would like to hear that, but not any additional effect (including clipping) coming from the home audio system.  

In live amplification, it is common among tube-amp lovers to drive their amps to clipping for the tonal spectrum and in some cases to sit in the mix (for bass).  Actually, mixing engineers tend to add a tad of overdrive to bass for a more growling sound and having the bass sit in the mix more easily.  Because of this pleasant clipping aspect of tube amps, there is always the never-ending discussion on tube watts vs SS watts (well, a watt is a watt is a watt).

Now, coming back to the home audio system...  Even though I do not use tube amps in my bass amplification for some reasons, including but not limited to practicality, I made a switch to tubes back in 2003 after my apartment was broken into and my SS Classe Audio amp was stolen along with many other pieces of gear.  One of my friends introduced me to some designs by late Don Farber, and searching for affordable tube amps I came across Decware.  So I got my first SE84, doubled by another one later on for more volume, but there was always the clipping issue, particularly with piano and opera vocals that my wife and I loved to listen to.  The speakers that I was stubborn to use in this system were not cooperating/collaborating with the low-power SETs and we were not in love with potential single ended drives within our budget because of some shout effect as well as lack of bass in most of them.  So, we changed the system into a push/pull by Decware (TORII mkII) which we used happily for quite some years.  Now that system is gone and I have a totally different system as my main listening system.

However, having this affection for the SE84, I wanted to give it one more shot with the most recent model, still using the very first pair of speakers which were difficult to drive.  With the new output transformers, SE84UFO sounds like a 20w amp and I cannot tell how dynamic, detailed, realistic it is.  And did I mention I can turn it on only half way?

Now, there is no morale in this story.  There are more horrible tube designs, IMO, than good ones, and there are more horrible SS designs than good ones.  The point is to find the one you feel comfortable with.  The challenge is, though, this is not only about one of the components in your signal chain, but the totality of them; i.e., the synergy among all the components.  So rather than relying mostly on published specs (most of which are flawed or insufficient to explain the sonority of a system anyway), it includes a lot of trial and error.  

By reading a list of material on the basics, you can save quite some time and funds, but at the end of the day, you would like to see/hear for yourself.  To me, as long as the gear is out of the way of music, it is a fine piece of gear...

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Lon
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #17 - 10/09/17 at 19:01:43
 
There are many ways to get to great sound. I started out on the tube path via my Dad's customized (by a friend of his) Dynaco, AR and Electrovoice system that I grew up with and the instrument amps I learned to love. But I've heard solid state amplification that was amazing. Could I afford it? No, the wonderful Decware amps are so much more affordable and give incredible value for the money.

In both the solid state and tube systems I've heard and had I think that simplicity is the key. The Zen amps I started with . . . show the immediacy and transparency that this simplicity brings. I also find the more complex Torii Mk III amp to still have a simple heartbeat and core and to be the most flexible and involving amp I've heard in my home and it has me locked in, I don't want another amp for my main system.

Distortion, tube or solid state, is the enemy of stereo playback in my estimation. I don't want it (it has its uses in instrument playing as Alper notes, even though I tend to play "clean" myself). So even though tubes may distort "better" (more pleasantly) I try to avoid any distortion, and it's easy to do with the right amp/speaker coupling.

As I age. . .well I won't say that I get "wiser" but I do realize that I am less and less "certain" about things I might have been certain about in the past. I would have been vehement that tube tech is the only way for me and probably for everyone. . . twenty years ago. These days I just say that it's what works for me, what I like, and let others decide for themselves. In this current age where I find many of my ideas and ideals to be very different from many others around me, "live and let live" is the way I try to place myself in the melee. And if you let me live with tubes, I'm happy.
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« Last Edit: 10/09/17 at 19:02:15 by Lon »  

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alper_yilmaz
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #18 - 10/09/17 at 20:57:17
 
Lon, I have not met you in person, but from what you write I can always rely on your "wise" comments!  I do not know if it came with age, but it is definitely there!  :)

Best,

Alper
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Lon
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #19 - 10/09/17 at 21:10:09
 
Thanks Alper! I know we have a lot of musical taste in common, feel a kindred spirit, for sure.
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #20 - 10/10/17 at 13:20:48
 
"In both the solid state and tube systems I've heard and had I think that simplicity is the key."

Nelson Pass would agree. I recently had the opportunity to listen to the First Watt J2 amp (a Stereophile amp-of-the-year). Very nice, and Pass says it has the lowest part count of all of his amps.
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #21 - 10/10/17 at 15:09:10
 
I've heard good things about Pass' amps, and know he's an accomplished designer. I'd probably check one out if I were in the market for a solid state amp.
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Tripwr1964
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Re: Watt should I believe?
Reply #22 - 10/10/17 at 17:07:22
 
filliment,

i currently run mg1.6's with a 120watt cary cad 120s (tube amp), using csp3 as a pre. its magical!

i am positive a zma (class a) would drive these as well with no problem.  that is the next amp i am saving up for!

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