Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Discrete vs opamps...
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Discrete vs opamps...

post #1 of 176
Thread Starter 
As with many people with "just enough information to be dangerous", I hold a dogmatic opinion: that a discrete amp is better from a design perspective, because I think an amp should take the incoming signal and amplify it, without coloring and processing the sound in any manner. i.e. the last "chip" in the path should be the DAC.

I just think that doing otherwise is solving the wrong problem... i.e. listening to 128kb MP3s straight into a discrete amp should result in a grainy midrange.. because that is what you are listening to. So source problems should be solved at the source, perhaps tweaked subtly with interconnects (more quickness, more warmth, what have you), or replacing/modding your phones, but the amp should stay out of the way and do its job.

For example, I've had a fair amount of success tweaking various processors in Foobar to help with midrange grain problems (upsampling, etc.) and tweaking signatures with a good EQ.

So for a given pricepoint, why do people prefer opamp designs over discrete designs, if you take modding out of the equation? Don't bother flaming me for my ignorance btw, as I freely admit it.
post #2 of 176
I think that what you were once saying was quite true, the discrete amps were once far better. I think that situation is much less clear these days since the opamps have improved. I think these days it makes more sense to buy based on sound rather than technology.
post #3 of 176
GPalmer's got it; the gap was once broader than it is now, and op-amp based amplifiers have come a very long way since the times when that sweeping statement held truth
post #4 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by gpalmer
I think that what you were once saying was quite true, the discrete amps were once far better. I think that situation is much less clear these days since the opamps have improved. I think these days it makes more sense to buy based on sound rather than technology.


I still believe discrete designs are MUCH better. I have yet to hear an op amp design that sounds remotely as good as a discrete amp. I have one of those generously hyped op amp portables in my possession right now and the flaws are obvious. Whatever the op amp is in this amp the sound quality is nowhere near as good as the discrete Gilmore Lite ..... thats the same price. The treble is VERY smeared and the whole soundstage is compressed in a little ball in the center of my head. The cymbals sound like they are coming out of the center vocalists back pocket.

This amp is harsh out of a buttery smooth modded cd-25 source into senn 600's or the akg 701's. My ears hurt after an hour. I cant imagine what this would sound like out of a bright and/ or unrefined source.

If I am going solid state ..... for headphone use ..... I want a discrete class A design.
post #5 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by sacd lover
I still believe discrete designs are MUCH better. I have yet to hear an op amp design that sounds remotely as good as a discrete amp. I have one of those generously hyped op amp portables in my possession right now and the flaws are obvious. Whatever the op amp is in this amp the sound quality is nowhere near as good as the discrete Gilmore Lite .....
Let me get this straight, you're comparing a *portable* (i.e. low powered) amp to a Gilmore Lite? Why not make it a bit more fair and compare, say, a well-equipped PPA with STEPS to the Gilmore. Do some opamp swapping until you find the one that's the least colored to your ears, then make the comparison.
post #6 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by fewtch
Let me get this straight, you're comparing a *portable* (i.e. low powered) amp to a Gilmore Lite? Why not make it a bit more fair and compare, say, a well-equipped PPA with STEPS to the Gilmore. Do some opamp swapping until you find the one that's the least colored to your ears, then make the comparison.


First the portable cost more than the $299 Lite so why cant I compare them. Secondly, I have already done numerous comparisons and I have yet to hear an op amp design I find thats not colored. Certainly I havent tried them all. But I have tried enough to say no thank you. I have heard the PPA / steps you mention and I liked the gilmore v1 I had better at that time. The PPA I heard was a maxed unit and cost around $1000 ..... the v1 cost $499. The PPA was good but it still had that smearing.

Now ...... you are questioning an opinion when you are the one who lacks the experience. Listen to a good discrete transistor or tube amp for a few weeks and go back to the op amp designs. Then tell me what you think. There is a lot of hype going on about these portables being equal to home amps etc... no way.
post #7 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by sacd lover
First the portable cost more than the $299 Lite so why cant I compare them. Secondly, I have already done numerous comparisons and I have yet to hear an op amp design I find thats not colored. Certainly I havent tried them all. But I have tried enough to say no thank you. I have heard the PPA / steps you mention and I liked the gilmore v1 I had better at that time. The PPA I heard was a maxed unit and cost around $1000 ..... the v1 cost $499. The PPA was good but it still had that smearing.

Now ...... you are questioning an opinion when you are the one who lacks the experience. Listen to a good discrete transistor or tube amp for a few weeks and go back to the op amp designs. Then tell me what you think. There is a lot of hype going on about these portables being equal to home amps etc... no way.

I don't know about that; I have a friend with a tube-based discrete amplifier (I wish I could recall the name, but it's not an inexpensive one, for what it's worth) that he's let me use. It's different than any of my solid state portables, yeah, but it's not necessarily positively different, and in fact struck me as more colored than any of them. I didn't compare extensively, instead A/B'ing a few songs and then giving it back to him with a polite no-thanks. That can tell you two things: 1.) maybe I didn't give it a chance to grow on me, or 2.) I really didn't like it by comparison.
post #8 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by sacd lover
Now ...... you are questioning an opinion when you are the one who lacks the experience.
That doesn't take away my right to question someone's opinion (which incidentally, I wasn't disagreeing with). There's no linear relationship in audio between sound quality and price, so I question a comparison on that basis alone.

Quote:
There is a lot of hype going on about these portables being equal to home amps etc... no way.
You just made my point for me -- you need to compare two amps that are powered similarly and are similar in most other aspects (aside from one being discrete and one being opamp-based) if you want a fair comparison between the two technologies.
post #9 of 176
No contest.

Properly done a discrete Op-amp will whip any monolithic Op-amp hands down if the enjoyment music is your ultimate goal.If you like to look at pretty scope traces and are a spec whore go for the monolithic solution.
post #10 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotJeffBuckley
I don't know about that; I have a friend with a tube-based discrete amplifier (I wish I could recall the name, but it's not an inexpensive one, for what it's worth) that he's let me use. It's different than any of my solid state portables, yeah, but it's not necessarily positively different, and in fact struck me as more colored than any of them. I didn't compare extensively, instead A/B'ing a few songs and then giving it back to him with a polite no-thanks. That can tell you two things: 1.) maybe I didn't give it a chance to grow on me, or 2.) I really didn't like it by comparison.
How can you compare a discrete Tube amp and an op-Amp based Solid State as a comparison between a discrete amp and an op-amp based one and come to the conclusion you did?

There's a huge lurking variable there and it isn't even lurking, it's right out in the open - that one amp is SS and the other is Tube based. Some Tube amps are designed to be colored as some people associate that with tube sound and expect it.

Maybe it would be better to compare two SS designs that were designed with neutrality in mind where one is a discrete design and the other is an op-amp based one.
post #11 of 176
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotJeffBuckley
I don't know about that; I have a friend with a tube-based discrete amplifier (I wish I could recall the name, but it's not an inexpensive one, for what it's worth) that he's let me use. It's different than any of my solid state portables, yeah, but it's not necessarily positively different, and in fact struck me as more colored than any of them. I didn't compare extensively, instead A/B'ing a few songs and then giving it back to him with a polite no-thanks. That can tell you two things: 1.) maybe I didn't give it a chance to grow on me, or 2.) I really didn't like it by comparison.
To clarify, I'm talking purely about solid-state amps at this point. Seems like tubes are sort of like op-amps for the analog set, generally even more "colored" than op-amps.
post #12 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by sxr71
Maybe it would be better to compare two SS designs that were designed with neutrality in mind where one is a discrete design and the other is an op-amp based one.
That's what sacd lover was claiming to be doing, except the two amps in question were nothing alike except price-wise. I'd say compare two solid state designs (discreet vs. opamp) where both are powered by the same voltage, have similar levels of complexity (this might be more difficult to determine given the "contents" of the opamp are a mystery) and have similar volume pots, etc. PPA vs. Gilmore Lite seems reasonable to me, provided the PPA in question is powered the same and has the same component quality as the Gilmore.

BTW, I have no dogmatic opinion on this subject. Discreet has fewer parts, but opamps have no long circuit board traces and all the parts are much closer together with fewer solder joints, so the signal path will be a lot shorter and most likely cleaner.
post #13 of 176
Quote:
Originally Posted by NotJeffBuckley
I don't know about that; I have a friend with a tube-based discrete amplifier (I wish I could recall the name, but it's not an inexpensive one, for what it's worth) that he's let me use. It's different than any of my solid state portables, yeah, but it's not necessarily positively different, and in fact struck me as more colored than any of them. I didn't compare extensively, instead A/B'ing a few songs and then giving it back to him with a polite no-thanks. That can tell you two things: 1.) maybe I didn't give it a chance to grow on me, or 2.) I really didn't like it by comparison.

There are poor sounding tube amps too. But I am talking about flaws I hear in ALL the op amp designs I have tried. I purposely have discrete output stages in all my cd/sacd players precisely for that reason. I always seem to hear the treble smearing with op amps. They sound harsh and fatiguing to me. I tried this new portable design to see if the hype about their sound quality was true. Supposedly the amp has a new op amp thats wonderful sounding and a measurement marvel. I hear the same flaws. I like discrete amps better period. I have proved this to myself to many times.
post #14 of 176
Honestly I see op-amps as a compromise solution to save money (it is ironic how some discrete designs are cheaper than some op-amp based designs).

As good as they may have gotten, these op-amp devices are not really even designed for audiophile quality audio at all, they are all multi-purpose devices with different specs that could be used for audio. I see them as a kludge solution in audiophile grade applications. Coming from loudspeaker home audio, I was surprised to see how many op-amp based products are revered here and really they should be only excused in < $100 products or those that are built to be tiny.



P.S. Yes, I see the irony of me saying this for those of you astute to recognize it.
post #15 of 176
Quote:
Seems like tubes are sort of like op-amps for the analog set, generally even more "colored" than op-amps.

reality check time :

Point #1-the first "Op-Amps" were TUBE devices using 12AX7 tubes

Point #2-You folks need to get your heads out of the "tubes are colored" thought pattern and realise tube gear can be every bit if not more accurate as any solid state design known to man and if it is colored either by intent (to satisfy the ignorant) or by mistake because the designer has no clue.

Point #3-Every time i read "the opamp has a tube like quality" I crack up becuase it is more than obvious most have no idea what that means yet buy the device anyway because of the "con job" going on.

"sounds like tubes" has become a code word for "sounds great" yet the same person who would buy this "great sounding" piece of solid state gear (because most sounds like crap and will give you ear bleed) would in the next breath call tube gear colored as a way to slam it.
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphone Amps (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Discrete vs opamps...