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a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

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  • a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

    About 10 years back, I purchased 50wpc class A Threshold amp because I remembered hearing many good things about it back in its day (80's) and the price was good enough.

    My first amp was (and I still have it kicking around) a Soundcraftsmen PM860. Over the years I've collected a couple other amps. One being an old Nikko Alpha 230 and another is an SAE P50 (modestly rated at 70wpc). These are all vintage amps btw.

    Anyway recently I tried swapping them and doing a listening test and I have to say for the most part, they are so close that it could just be my imagination if one is better than the other. *IF* I could possibly differentiate between them, I'd have to say the Threshold is the smoothest, the SAE, the most lean and a bit forward (maybe due to it being a tad shy on the bass) and the Soundcraftsmen having the most control in the bass. Again, things are so close that it could be imagination or a guess.

    So what makes one amp so much more $$ than another and is it really worth it? For example what does the 50W Class A Threshold amp do over the others (or should) that would warrant its price tag when it was new. PS. It does double as a space heater.

  • #2
    Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

    If the sound is worth it to you, then it is not a waste of money.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

      Short answer (IMO), yes, beyond a point.

      1. Not to say that a $500 amplifier design is worse than a $20 chip amp design (though it's been known to happen), but beyond a point, the benefits are of the last 1 % variety.

      2. The choice and design of speaker makes a lot more difference.

      3. In some cases, the matching of the speaker to the amp can be of even greater significance. Try matching horns with a typical transistor amp in the home environment, for example, or a flea watt amp with a 4 way speaker.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

        Note also that the Soundcraftsmen and Nikko are pretty good amps in their own right.
        I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now.
        OS MTMs http://techtalk.parts-express.com/sh...d.php?t=220388
        Swope TM http://techtalk.parts-express.com/sh...d.php?t=221818
        Econowave and Audio Nirvana AN10 fullrange http://techtalk.parts-express.com/sh...d.php?t=216841
        Imperial Russian Stouts http://techtalk.parts-express.com/sh...=1#post1840444
        LECBOS. http://techtalk.parts-express.com/sh...ghlight=lecbos

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

          Originally posted by zobsky View Post
          Short answer (IMO), yes, beyond a point.

          1. Not to say that a $500 amplifier design is worse than a $20 chip amp design (though it's been known to happen), but beyond a point, the benefits are of the last 1 % variety.

          2. The choice and design of speaker makes a lot more difference.

          3. In some cases, the matching of the speaker to the amp can be of even greater significance. Try matching horns with a typical transistor amp in the home environment, for example, or a flea watt amp with a 4 way speaker.
          This sums it up well. The amps ability to deal with complex loads is probably what accounts for differences in amp sound and the general superiority of a superb audiophile unit. And I'm not talking 50k$ amps. (Amps do not really have a sound, speaking sort of existentially. They only have a sound in the context of an input signal and load.)

          Consider the Hafler 200/220, for example. John Hillig at Musical Concepts can mod those already decent amps into one that may be the last one you'll ever need. If you can DIY electronics, he has the mods in kit form. That's what I did to 3 Haflers.

          For sane money, lets say $3000 max for an amp -- and many would call that insane -- The relationship between expenditure and sonics is very roughly linear. But there are exceptions all over the place. I have a slightly modded Hafler 120 that beats, imho, the Pass X250.5, Ayre V5X, and a couple others I've had through the room in terms of listenability and overall musical satisfaction.


          I like Clayton amps. The S40 can be had for less than $2000. I now have an S100 and have had the M200 monoblocks. They're the best I've personally had driving many different loads. BUT -- My Musical Concepts modded DH-220 is close, very close and about 1/5 the price.

          These days there are scads of great, affordable amps. (I've not heard yours, but it's quite possible they're competetive with many newer ones. If they make you rock or weep or dance and are not fatiguing, then you have good amps.)

          I'm sure others will ring in with other examples. I have a panasonic XR10 receiver, about 10 years old, that may produce the most finely controlled high frequencies I've heard. $140 new at the time.


          Go used it you decide to try something else. I like to make sure some source of repair is available. Audiogon.com is a field day and it's a buyer's market. If I were shopping it would be a Quad 909. Widely respected, they're typically found for under a thou, but I've not been to the "'Gon" in a while.

          If you can DIY electronics, the possibilities for really good and really inexpensive sound are vast. However, again, you very well may be fine right where you are.
          Dave
          [You're primary question about the Threshold has not been answered. I'm sure an amp man will offer a good explanation. I know the answer, but not well enough to offer a truly viable response.]

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

            Originally posted by Interlochen2 View Post
            I like Clayton amps. The S40 can be had for less than $2000. I now have an S100 and have had the M200 monoblocks. They're the best I've personally had driving many different loads. BUT -- My Musical Concepts modded DH-220 is close, very close and about 1/5 the price.
            A couple STL companies ... you don't happen to be from St Louis do you?
            Vapor Audio

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

              I've often wondered that myself. I've read that speakers are the most important and after getting a Madisound speaker kit a few years ago, I fully believe that. I started out with a integrated Yamaha AVR and it sounded good. The yammy broke and I ended up getting a Emotiva preamp and a crown xls 402 amp. I wanted a Emo amp as well, but the crown was on clearance for $185. I just couldn't pass it up.

              Overall, I'd rate the upgrade very much worth it. Comparing older used cheaper gear to the new setup, dynamics are much better. Quiet to loud seemed wider and while I've read a amp is a amp is a amp over and over, I thought it was noticeably cleaner sounding too(could be a combo of a higher quality pre-amp as well). I'm happy enough with my setup to not really even consider upgrading. At least not until something breaks.

              I still wonder, can some of the costly Marantz, McIntosh, etc could really give another noticeably jump in quality over what I have. I'll probably never find out and I'm not going to spend the thousands of dollars to find out, but I do wish I could compare that some day.

              Unless you have thousands to spend, I doubt you would do a whole lot better then some of the Emotiva amps. I wish I could trade my Crown for this guy just so I could have matching gear. http://emotiva.com/upa2.shtm

              You could try used as well, but it could be hit or miss as well. Here is something I read just a few days ago. http://hometheaterreview.com/the-ris...ile-gear-used/

              A odd thing in recent audio gear as of lately. The amps seem to be going down in price, but speakers are going way up in price. I'm not sure the price of used amps is worth it at the moment, but each to their own.

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                So then its possible that they pretty much sound the same now because my speaker if a very easy load, but driving something really demanding is when there may be some big differences? That kind of makes sense. Actually probably a lot because if someone is buying a big price tag amp, then chances are that they may have some more exotic speakers or at least something more than a bookshelf system Ok so maybe to do the test again, I'd have to drag them to an audio store and hook it up to a pair of wilsons or something.

                ...so maybe saying that most amps will sound the same when not being pushed is correct. I'm assuming difficult loads will tend to push and amp.

                BTW I've always been very intrigued by Hafler stuff as well as Parasound. If I came across either for a good price in the used market, I think I'd have to go for it just to have it and play with....oh and who remembers the vintage Proton power amps with the huge VU meters. Ok I want one of those too for no reason but the VU meters



                =Interlochen2;1764948]This sums it up well. The amps ability to deal with complex loads is probably what accounts for differences in amp sound and the general superiority of a superb audiophile unit. And I'm not talking 50k$ amps. (Amps do not really have a sound, speaking sort of existentially. They only have a sound in the context of an input signal and load.)

                Consider the Hafler 200/220, for example. John Hillig at Musical Concepts can mod those already decent amps into one that may be the last one you'll ever need. If you can DIY electronics, he has the mods in kit form. That's what I did to 3 Haflers.

                For sane money, lets say $3000 max for an amp -- and many would call that insane -- The relationship between expenditure and sonics is very roughly linear. But there are exceptions all over the place. I have a slightly modded Hafler 120 that beats, imho, the Pass X250.5, Ayre V5X, and a couple others I've had through the room in terms of listenability and overall musical satisfaction.


                I like Clayton amps. The S40 can be had for less than $2000. I now have an S100 and have had the M200 monoblocks. They're the best I've personally had driving many different loads. BUT -- My Musical Concepts modded DH-220 is close, very close and about 1/5 the price.

                These days there are scads of great, affordable amps. (I've not heard yours, but it's quite possible they're competetive with many newer ones. If they make you rock or weep or dance and are not fatiguing, then you have good amps.)

                I'm sure others will ring in with other examples. I have a panasonic XR10 receiver, about 10 years old, that may produce the most finely controlled high frequencies I've heard. $140 new at the time.


                Go used it you decide to try something else. I like to make sure some source of repair is available. Audiogon.com is a field day and it's a buyer's market. If I were shopping it would be a Quad 909. Widely respected, they're typically found for under a thou, but I've not been to the "'Gon" in a while.

                If you can DIY electronics, the possibilities for really good and really inexpensive sound are vast. However, again, you very well may be fine right where you are.
                Dave
                [You're primary question about the Threshold has not been answered. I'm sure an amp man will offer a good explanation. I know the answer, but not well enough to offer a truly viable response.][/QUOTE]

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                  I think amps can have problems, and different speakers can reveal those problems.

                  Like I wouldn't use anything under 200wpc to drive anything with 88db sensitivity or less that dips to 4 ohms

                  I wouldn't use something with lots of crossover distortion with a speaker that has high sensitivity.

                  I think the latest quiet fan Crown Drivecore XLS2500 Class D amps might be all a person needs for amplification, unless they've found true speaker / room nirvana. Then i'd get an amp that looks a bit classier, like Marantz Reference series ;)
                  :blues: Flat frequency response, a smooth sound power response free of resonance, careful driver-integration, and high dynamic range both upward and downward :blues:

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                    Originally posted by contoursvt View Post
                    So then its possible that they pretty much sound the same now because my speaker if a very easy load, but driving something really demanding is when there may be some big differences?
                    Possible, but unlikely unless one of them is really current-limited.

                    Originally posted by =Interlochen2 View Post
                    This sums it up well. The amps ability to deal with complex loads is probably what accounts for differences in amp sound and the general superiority of a superb audiophile unit.
                    You are assuming that there is a difference in sound. Most of the time, that assumption is false. And when there is a difference in amp "sound," it is usually easy to explain. The most common cause of "sonic differences" in amps is mismatched levels.
                    --
                    "Based on my library and laboratory research, I have concluded, as have others, that the best measures of speaker quality are frequency response and dispersion pattern. I have not found any credible research showing that most of the differences we hear among loudspeakers cannot be explained by examining these two variables." -Alvin Foster, 22 BAS Speaker 2 (May, 1999)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                      Originally posted by DoubleTap View Post
                      A couple STL companies ... you don't happen to be from St Louis do you?
                      STL??

                      Not in MO, not close. Coincidence.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                        Originally posted by contoursvt View Post
                        So then its possible that they pretty much sound the same now because my speaker if a very easy load, but driving something really demanding is when there may be some big differences? That kind of makes sense. Actually probably a lot because if someone is buying a big price tag amp, then chances are that they may have some more exotic speakers or at least something more than a bookshelf system Ok so maybe to do the test again, I'd have to drag them to an audio store and hook it up to a pair of wilsons or something.

                        ...so maybe saying that most amps will sound the same when not being pushed is correct. I'm assuming difficult loads will tend to push and amp.

                        BTW I've always been very intrigued by Hafler stuff as well as Parasound. If I came across either for a good price in the used market, I think I'd have to go for it just to have it and play with....oh and who remembers the vintage Proton power amps with the huge VU meters. Ok I want one of those too for no reason but the VU meters
                        There are definitely amps that I would get if the price is right :D

                        I have a Parasound HCA1000A and Crown XLS 402D in my 2.0 setup. I use the Crown. I keep Parasound around because it didn't cost me that much money. I have a standing offer to any and all that think pro-audio amps can't cut it for sound quality. They are welcome to come over and stone cold A/B with a towel thrown over the equipment.

                        I actually offer that they can walk out the door with the Parasound if they can pick the 'audiophile' amp 9 / 10 attempts. Just leave the room for ~30 seconds after the coin flip and come back in. No takers as of yet.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                          Originally posted by jinjuku View Post
                          I actually offer that they can walk out the door with the Parasound if they can pick the 'audiophile' amp 9 / 10 attempts. Just leave the room for ~30 seconds after the coin flip and come back in. No takers as of yet.
                          Here's how I'd win that: listen to Massive Attack's "Angel" for about 4 minutes at ear-bleeding levels, then hit pause.

                          If I hear a fan, it's the Crown. If not, it's the Parasound.

                          The moral of the story is, the biggest difference between the typical "pro" amp and the typical "hifi" amp is that the former are usually fan cooled, and the latter usually passively cooled. There is also one other potential practial difference one should consider: pro amps may need a hotter input signal to reach full power. Not all, mind. Peavey and Crest amps can get there on just ~0.8V, meaning one can drive them off an iPod or miniDSP without problem. But most have minimum input sensitivities of more than double that, meaning that with some gear one needs a line driver to get everything out of the amp.

                          In terms of "SQ," often the pro amps are better because they're more powerful and, since they're designed to be used with more efficient speakers, often even less noisy.
                          --
                          "Based on my library and laboratory research, I have concluded, as have others, that the best measures of speaker quality are frequency response and dispersion pattern. I have not found any credible research showing that most of the differences we hear among loudspeakers cannot be explained by examining these two variables." -Alvin Foster, 22 BAS Speaker 2 (May, 1999)

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                            The moral of the story is, the biggest difference between the typical "pro" amp and the typical "hifi" amp is that the former are usually fan cooled, and the latter usually passively cooled.
                            Respected Pro amps have a good deal of fault tolerance on power supply and load conditions with the expectation of rough use under varying circumstances.
                            In many cases they will handle abuse that will shut down and damage typical non-pro amp.
                            "Not a Speaker Designer - Not even on the Internet"
                            “Pride is your greatest enemy, humility is your greatest friend.”
                            "If the freedom of speech is taken away, then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter."

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Re: a bit OT. Is an 'audiophile' amp a waste of money?

                              Originally posted by Pallas View Post
                              Here's how I'd win that: listen to Massive Attack's "Angel" for about 4 minutes at ear-bleeding levels, then hit pause.

                              If I hear a fan, it's the Crown. If not, it's the Parasound.

                              The moral of the story is, the biggest difference between the typical "pro" amp and the typical "hifi" amp is that the former are usually fan cooled, and the latter usually passively cooled. There is also one other potential practial difference one should consider: pro amps may need a hotter input signal to reach full power. Not all, mind. Peavey and Crest amps can get there on just ~0.8V, meaning one can drive them off an iPod or miniDSP without problem. But most have minimum input sensitivities of more than double that, meaning that with some gear one needs a line driver to get everything out of the amp.

                              In terms of "SQ," often the pro amps are better because they're more powerful and, since they're designed to be used with more efficient speakers, often even less noisy.
                              Sorry, that won't work out for ya:p I have a 5 volt supply running the fans. You can't hear them except if you have an ear placed to the amp.

                              The XLS seems fine with consumer level input.

                              Comment

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