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How much amplifier power do we really need? (Read 627 times)
beowulf
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How much amplifier power do we really need?
10/25/17 at 20:50:53
 
Just caught this on YouTube and was wondering what you guys thought about it?  I realize the Harbeth's are not that efficient at 86db @ 6-8 ohms, but how would this relate to even higher efficient models?

It seems like they hovered around 500 watts throughout most of the demo, but went up to as high as 750 watts during a few demanding passages.

https://youtu.be/bRMR9JZ1m0s

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« Last Edit: 10/25/17 at 20:51:27 by beowulf »  
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busterfree
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #1 - 10/25/17 at 23:22:22
 
It is an interesting argument for sure for a variety of reasons. Everyone has an agenda, a marketing strategy, personal experience, etc.

2 watts works for me with my speakers in my rooms. Maybe I just like to listen to distortion. I don’t know.
Roll Eyes
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« Last Edit: 10/25/17 at 23:23:06 by busterfree »  

Decware ZTPRE, ZBIT, CSP3, SE84UFO, & SE84UFO2
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #2 - 10/26/17 at 01:40:22
 
I did not have a chance to look at the YouTube video, but with that kind of power, they must be either deaf or must be broadcasting at a large hall...

In my living room system, I can turn my 50w/ch KT120-based push-pull amp barely up to 20% feeding 88.5dB-efficient ProAc’s.  In my bedroom, my SE84UFO can be too loud half way through feeding 91dB B&W’s.

I need volume (in listening to music) either to dance or to hear details of the music.  If a 2-watt amp is detailed enough for me to hear everything, more volume just tires me, unless I like to shake my booty!!!  :)
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JOMAN
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #3 - 10/26/17 at 02:38:14
 
I feel that the conclusions reached were extremely misleading and detrimental for anyone trying balance all the variables in putting together a satisfying system as it only deals with one variable.  

I’m not saying that this was the intent.

This reminded me of the “three blind men” describing what an elephant looks like.  One touches the tails and says “an elephant is like a rope”.  Another touches the body and says “NO! An elephant is like a wall” and the third touching the nose says “you two must be idiots, can’t you tell that an elephant is like a hose?”.

That situation is understandable for individuals are handicapped by circumstance.  We make allowance for and respect such individuals.

However, when people who have no handicap, are educated, then blind themselves by choice and then use their credentials to validate their narrow minded conclusions, well I have hard time maintaining respect for them as they do more harm than good.

Enough said by me...
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beowulf
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #4 - 10/26/17 at 09:21:00
 
alper_yilmaz wrote on 10/26/17 at 01:40:22:
I did not have a chance to look at the YouTube video, but with that kind of power, they must be either deaf or must be broadcasting at a large hall...

In my living room system, I can turn my 50w/ch KT120-based push-pull amp barely up to 20% feeding 88.5dB-efficient ProAc’s.  In my bedroom, my SE84UFO can be too loud half way through feeding 91dB B&W’s.

I need volume (in listening to music) either to dance or to hear details of the music.  If a 2-watt amp is detailed enough for me to hear everything, more volume just tires me, unless I like to shake my booty!!!  :)


The room was medium to big and the music was fairly loud (not sure how loud, but louder than I normally listen at).  You bring up a good point though.  At what volume level do our low powered amps run out of steam and start to distort?  What if you have higher efficiency speakers?  Obviously the amp would go further before distorting, but even with speakers as efficient as 95db are 2 or 6 watts really enough to cover all the peaks in dynamic recorded music?
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JOMAN
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #5 - 10/26/17 at 12:14:54
 
I believe that theoretically it has been stated that to cover the peaks in an orchestral presentation one would need an amplifier of 2,000 watts!

However, this is not about theory.  It’s about reality.  Reality is about variables and many factors.

If we were to approach this from that perspective then the question would be:  How many watts is needed to satisfactorily reproduce music in my environment?

So to be sure that we are covering all the peaks suppose we get a 2,000 watt amplifier and put it in an untreated room would the result be satisfactory?

If the answer is no then what’s the point of getting a 2,000 watt amplifier?

What if the source we use is MP3 and we put it and the 2,000 watt amplifier in concert hall?  

Would we use MP3 as a source?  Is our space a concert hall?  If the answer is NO, then what’s the point of all this???

If it’s to muse for the purpose of entertainment then I’d rather be listening to music as presented by my 2.3 watt ZEN.  It’s more then satisfactory for me and has been the most satisfactory of any amplifier I have owned regardless of power output.  But then I have and am continuing to address as many variables as I can - Reality.

I’ve got to admit that I have developed a bias and may not be completely objective: IF THE FIRST WATT SUCKS WHY CONTINUE?  
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JD
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #6 - 10/26/17 at 15:29:20
 
I just put in an order for a se84ufo2 and cannot wait to be able to compare similarities and differences between this and my Torii III.  Had a great talk with Steve as usual and had fun discussing similar vs. same sound etc. vs. set vs. push/pull. Might even have the new amp by Christmas. Hopefully I will have some insight into this topic.
Since adding my Super Alnico floor standers I'm amazed at how "much" I am able to hear in my recordings etc.

JD
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #7 - 10/26/17 at 16:21:13
 
All good points...

The interesting thing for me is it is really difficult to deal with a 2-watt amp; I admit.  You need to match it with high-efficiency speakers, might have to go into some room treatment, might have to enhance the low end with some sub- or mid-woofers, etc. and still not be happy with it; as it is really in the extreme and difficult-to-deal-with end of the spectrum in terms of power.  Therefore, it is not for everyone, and I understand that.

At the other end of the spectrum are these massive systems with almost unlimited power which claim to represent/replicate, almost one on one, a symphony orchestra.  I wonder how many symphony concerts the proponents of these systems have been to in their lifetimes.

One of the loudest classical concert halls I have been to so far is that of Berlin Philharmonic's, as the orchestra is very big in size (to support the typical German string arrangements in a sense) and people sit around the orchestra, not in front of it.  Therefore, the longest distance from the orchestra is not that much.  Even then, the triple forte orchestral passages with all the brass section and the percussions fully blowing are not ear-piercing!  So, we are talking about kilowatts of power?  

OK, we need some headroom, and sometimes, lots of headroom but as Joman posed in his message, are we in a concert hall really?

Coming back to where I live, New York...  The Philharmonic plays at a rectangular concert hall.  Unless you have a seat in the very front (which is far from ideal listening conditions, by the way, as it is not an equilateral triangle anymore), the orchestra does not sound very loud!  At the very back of the concert hall, actually, the double basses are not heard as punchy and prominent as they should be.  And we are talking about one of the top orchestras in the world...

Anyway, most audiophiles claim to replicate a live performance in their systems.  I do not know what concerts they go to, but having been on stage since age 10 (I am 48 now), having recorded a numerous album at some high-end studios, and having played to crowds of 10,000 people or crowds that we as musicians outnumbered at times, I really do not know what the ideal sound is.  

What I look for in a system, though, is detail (not at an overbearing level), some 3D feel, and reality.  Sometimes, what we ask for is more than what actually exists in music, live or studio recorded.  Not that there is anything wrong with that, but trying to impose some specs with such claims is preposterous.

Unfortunately, this hobby is a continuum of trial and error (I believe most of the R&D in the industry is in the form of trial and error), and a bit of investment of funds and time.  I am sure it will keep on changing for me as well, but I am happy with both of my systems, be it 2 watts per channel, or 50 watts per channel.  Anyone who looks for more power is more than welcome to check out my systems before investing in power!  :)

Best,

Alper
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DBC
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #8 - 10/26/17 at 18:06:09
 
Quote:
JD wrote:

Since adding my Super Alnico floor standers I'm amazed at how "much" I am able to hear in my recordings etc.


I had the same reaction 3 years ago when I received my Alnico Monitors (single driver no crossover). A great match with my Decware UFO.

Quote:
Alper_yilmaz wrote:

The interesting thing for me is it is really difficult to deal with a 2-watt amp; I admit.  You need to match it with high-efficiency speakers, might have to go into some room treatment, might have to enhance the low end with some sub- or mid-woofers, etc. and still not be happy with it; as it is really in the extreme and difficult-to-deal-with end of the spectrum in terms of power.  Therefore, it is not for everyone, and I understand that.


I have said this before, IMO the UFO has tremendous detail and transparency but can lack the power for a huge low end, It's one weakness.

In order to address the low end I've been working on Low Frequency Open Baffle's (Also Know As  SLAB's) for the last two years adding meat to the bone on the low end. SLAB's are unique in that they are crossover free and are connected in parallel to your existing amp & speakers.

I started the page below over a year ago to more or less chronicle my thoughts and the development process. I have a full time job so I tend to update this page in spirts but some of you might find it useful if you have the two watt Decware amp.

https://sites.google.com/view/slab-loudspeaker/home?authuser=0
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Main System: Oppo BDP-105D, SE84UFO amp, Omega Super Alnico Monitors, Twin Custom SLAB 15's (Low Frequency Open Baffle).
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JOMAN
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #9 - 10/27/17 at 01:16:54
 
Alper, couldn’t agree more!

The interesting thing for me is that I did go the route of high power amps and found it more difficult to get a satisfying result. The more I tried the farther from my goal I got.  My goal is similar to yours if not identical.

I have found that I get closer to my objective with low power systems and the more I work with such systems the closer to my goal I get.  Which ultimately is to enjoy music, the skill and talent of the musicians some being very gifted.

So when I read some of these unqualified comments and the resulting conclusions which are taken completely out of context, I guess I get a little irked because they do more harm than good IMO.
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NormD
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #10 - 10/27/17 at 13:48:39
 
I had a 2x300W Solid State Power amp driving my Focal 1038’s (93db sensitively) and ran it at 1/2 volume for normal listening. I now have a 2x40w ZMA tube amp pushing those same speakers at 1/2 volume using the 4ohm taps and there is plenty of headroom and the sound is superior to the SS amp. So it is a matter of technology and efficiency. If the speakers they were driving were very inefficient, they likely needed a monster solid state amp.
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beowulf
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #11 - 10/27/17 at 21:55:49
 
Yes, Harbeths aren't known for their efficiency, though they have a smooth impedance and I've heard they are an easy load for most amps.

I enjoy my Decware amps and Omega speakers more than any other combo I've owned and don't feel I'm lacking anything, so it's not a question of sounding good. Just a curiosity of how many watts are needed for a 94db speaker to cover all the peaks of a dynamic:demanding track at moderate volumes?  Since I've heard tube watts are different than solid state watts I wonder how that would apply as well?

If someone had high efficiency horns @ 101db maybe 2 watts would really be all you need, but what about 94-96db speakers?
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« Last Edit: 10/27/17 at 21:59:00 by beowulf »  
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Archie
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #12 - 10/27/17 at 23:06:57
 
Quote:
...Just a curiosity of how many watts are needed for a 94db speaker to cover all the peaks of a dynamic:demanding track at moderate volumes?...


I've been lurking on this thread and I don't know if this is relevant but Steve posted a video of the ZMA output and while he rates it at 38 watts, I think it was showing an output of more like 140 watts.  So, isn't "peak" a lot different than what's rated?  I don't know what kind of wattage it takes to make the meters on the ZMA "dance" let alone clip but I know it gets pretty loud for the meters to move and I don't hear distortion.
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alper_yilmaz
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Re: How much amplifier power do we really need?
Reply #13 - 10/28/17 at 17:18:41
 
The tube watts versus solid-state watts is something discussed and fought on quite often on various Forums, particularly the ones on guitar and/or bass!  :)

Well, a watt is a watt is a watt!  I am sure there are much better technical explanations out there, but in simple terms, tube amps sound still pleasant when running out of steam, whereas solid-states do not sound that musical (whatever that means) when pushed into distortion.  My understanding is, after their distortion point, tube amps are pushed into "soft clipping" and even though it might be a bit distorted, it can sound fine, and definitely much better than a distorted SS amp.  As a result, a tube bass amp with 300 watts can sound a big as a 1,000 watt SS amp.  It is not that the watt coming out of the tube amp is different than the SS amp...

That is why, on some solid state bass amps they use a limiter that would stop the amp being pushed into clipping.  Otherwise, they sound really horrible!  :)

Maybe Steve would jump in and provide a more technical explanation...  Also please correct me if my explanation is not correct...
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