STILL CONFUSED ABOUT WATTS?
Tom' letter should help...
Now, once again, on
to the issue of watts. (You remind me of a dog thatís biting my ankle
and wonít let go.)
Even though Iíve covered
this on our site, this is a good opportunity to explain Ė and hopefully
you will better understand.
First of all, we are
not engaged in "truth bending marketing to engender significance to those
who do not know the difference", as you put it. If we were, I donít think
you would have ever questioned it.
- When the SE84 was
first released it was both a pentode and a triode amplifier, adjustable
by the switch on the front. It used EL84 tubes and produced 5.7 watts
RMS into 6 ohms in pentode mode, and 1.8 watts RMS into 6 ohms in triode
mode. After 75 units, no one was using the amp in pentode mode because
triode mode had more body and weight. We listed it as such.
- With revision A,
we abandoned the pentode/triode option, and optimized the amp for triode
only. At the same time we went with the more powerful SV83 output tube
to replace the EL84ís. We DROPPED the RMS tag and listed the power as
around 5 watts. The reasons for this were; 74 out of 75 zen owners with
the original amp felt that the 1.8 watts RMS in triode mode had more
power than the 5.7 watts RMS in pentode. With the unique way our Zen
drives difficult speaker loads this wasnít a big surprise to us, and
reiterates the point that watts and distortion specs at this level are
relatively meaningless if not deceptive in their own right.
- Your desperately
need to fit this into a neat little category is the cause of all this
friction. We designed this amp to be different from the average SET
by having it put out more power into lower impedanceís so that it would
stand a chance at driving regular speakers. Remember this product was
targeted to sincere but broke audiophiles who otherwise couldnít afford
to discover the magic of SET amps. We of course knew that if it only
drove "easy to drive" high-efficiency speakers which are always large
and expensive that no one would keep the amp.
- We also knew that
the average customer using it with their 90dB bookshelf speakers were
going to clip the amp. For that reason the way the amp clips was as
important to us as how the amp sounded. Certainly if it sounds ugly
when it starts to clip it would again intimidate the customer into returning
it, even if during normal listening levels it never happens. We opted
for less RMS power and more dynamic peak power with graceful clipping
characteristics to ensure that customers who are used to 30~100 watts
successfully make the adjustment to high resolution low power amps like
the Zen, without panicking in the process.
- This is why we
chose to phrase it "around 5 watts" because as you would expect, people
who read a RMS figure of 1.8 watts would automatically assume it wouldnít
be enough power based on the common assumption that all SET amps and
watts are the same. If the amp was built to favor an easy to drive load
like so many SET amps out there, they would be right.
- So is it a more
meaningful a number to "those who donít know the difference" - as you
put it, to state the RMS power without taking into account the clipping
characteristics and headroom and the fact that the amp will happily
drive loads down to Ĺ ohm, unlike any other SET I know of, or to phrase
it "around 5 watts" For guys just like yourself who get caught in the
middle of the interpretation, we were MOST careful not to include the
letters RMS after our "around 5 watts" rating.
- I think Doc understands
this better than you do, and when he modified a Zen and measured the
RMS power I donít believe he was trying to make an issue out of it.
I think it was simply for his own reference that he measured it, just
as I would and have his amps. I know when I measure RMS of an amp it
gives me a ball park reference of what to expect, but otherwise can
be misleading. Several times I have heard tube amps with 7 or 8 watts
of RMS power puke when asked to drive a difficult load where the Zenís
with barely 2 watts RMS into the same load would do it with ease. In
other words, the lower RMS power Zen would get significantly louder
before you heard it clip.
The term" around 5
watts" is 3 words and more accurately represents what this amp can do.
This explanation is 927 words so far and if used along with the RMS figures
would have gone unread by most. Again, some of our market does not understand
why those "best buy" receivers are not really 200 watts by your and my
definition of a watt. Half of our market has never owned a tube amp and
would never consider a 1.8 watt RMS amplifier without understanding the
many reasons why it might work for them. We offer a 30 day money back
guarantee to these customers who take the chance and try one. They receive
unparalled support and personal attention to detail that often goes well
beyond the sale. I donít see how this type of marketing is in any way
less than honorable, truthful, or meaningful.
Since the big stink
about this last year, which I find myself wondering if you might have
been largely responsible for (being a self-appointed protector of the
truth), we have sold enough amps and gotten enough press to actually change
the stereotype impressions of SET amplifiers. By this time it was far
less likely that a first time customer would be scared off by the RMS
figures because the positive reviews from people just like them were overwhelming.
RMS watts are a poor
indicator of how an amplifier will perform. RMS watts are not equal units
by which to make a comparison unless they are used for reference within
a specific family of circuits. RMS watts are very valuable to me when
prototyping and comparing one Zen amp to another. However once we change
to a different circuit they become a mystery until the real "meaningful*
process of listening to them is completed. Certainly no two different
amplifiers with identical RMS watts will perform the same. You will hear
one clip before the other.
So in summary I really
donít think your campaign that we "embellished the facts" is in any way
on target. I understand your concern in a world where you can go to Best
Buy and purchase 200 watt receivers that have less than 30 usable watts,
but I think this is very different. And I think your burden of having
to "balance the effect of poorly represented facts" is self-inflicted.
P.S. Since you enjoy
publicly addressing your concerns about the marketing and actual performance
of our products, I think it would be more productive for all if in the
future you actually purchased one and listened to it.
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