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Decibels, distortion, amplifiers and golden ears  

post #1 of 790
Thread Starter 
Good morning everyone.

This may well be my last post/thread here, I strongly suspect that my views upset more than a few of you and that is not my intention at all.

I've been doing a little math and have come to some conclusions that I would like to share.

The majority of high quality amplifiers these days have a distortion level of 0.01 percent or less.

The formula for calculating decibel gain or loss for voltage or current is:

Gain in dB = 20*(log base 10*(gain ratio))

http://www.allaboutcircuits.com/vol_3/chpt_1/5.html

0.01% =1/10,000 or a ratio of 10,000/1

log 10,000=4

20*4=80

So the distortion level of modern amplifiers is approximately -80 dB down from their output.

On this thread, the most golden eared audiophile who took the test could hear distortion down to approximately -40 dB.

The formula for calculating decimal ratio from dB is:

decimal ratio=10^(dB/20)

Which gives us:

10^(40/20)=10^2=100

Therefore the most golden eared audiophile that took the test could only hear distortion down to 100 times that of the high quality amps which we have today.

Even the best transducers (headphones, speakers, microphones) today have distortion far greater than 0.01%, personally from my own experience with phonograph cartridges I would guess closer to 1.0%

Strangely enough that is the same ratio by which the most golden eared audiophiles heard distortion in the test to which I linked above.

My conclusion therefore is that the differences in high quality amplifiers today are totally hidden by the distortion of the transducers through which we listen to those amplifiers.

I welcome discussion on this subject.

As I said at the beginning, my intention is not to cause anyone to become upset, it is rather to introduce some rationality into what I see as a somewhat irrational fixation on ever and ever better specs on amplification and/or DAC's.
post #2 of 790
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheVinylRipper View Post
As I said at the beginning, my intention is not to cause anyone to become upset, it is rather to introduce some rationality into what I see as a somewhat irrational fixation on ever and ever better specs on amplification and/or DAC's.
It sounds like you just want to start yet another argument, honestly.

If you are as intelligent as you try to make yourself sound in other threads, then you should realize that this is probably the worst possible forum to try to convince people that fixating on DAC and amplifier specifications (and god forbid actual reviews and personal experience even) is irrational.

Your assertion is just your opinion, which is fine, but other than random noobs, you won't change anybody's mind on this matter and they definitely won't change yours.

That being said I won't be sucked into another argument with you and I hope I've given people due warning for what this thread is headed towards.

Peace!
post #3 of 790
Thread Starter 
I showed my work.

I also gave a link to the equations which I used.

Do you see anything wrong with my math?
post #4 of 790
Typical tiring science of numerical equations trying to disprove personal experiences, spiced up with claims of "listened to by golden eared audiophile"...

Go listen to some music for entertainment, and listen to some real gear!
post #5 of 790
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hi-Finthen View Post
Typical tiring science of numerical equations trying to disprove personal experiences, spiced up with claims of "listened to by golden eared audiophile"...

Go listen to some music for entertainment, and listen to some real gear!
Go and look at the thread I linked to, I think you will see that I was one of the most golden eared there..

I listen to music constantly, go and look at my website.

On edit:

You do realize that science and equations are what is used to design the equipment you listen to?

Every major advance in the last three hundred years has been driven by "tiring science".
post #6 of 790
Hmmm...interesting. So what do you say to those of us who pay NO attention to specs, and simply listen to make decisions about what we like? Call it pleasing coloration, or whatever you like...
post #7 of 790
Thread Starter 
What do I say?

I say, go here and take the test.

See what you can hear and what you can't.

http://www.klippel-listeningtest.de/lt/default.html
post #8 of 790
Thread Starter 
I also say that if you look at my website you will see that I spend my energy *improving* sound, not merely listening to it.
post #9 of 790
I think you're missing my point...it doesn't matter whether I can or can't "hear" the difference on the test. What matters is the extent that I either enjoy or do not enjoy the sound that comes from a given combination of gear.

I think this is where the wheels come off of the objectivist wagon when they crop up on this site. I don't even pay attention to specs, and have no interest in proving whether I can or cannot pass a certain test. If it pleases you to believe that I'm afraid that I won't pass it, or that I'm being fooled into believing that there is a difference (placebo effect, etc...), it doesn't matter to me. I know what I like and don't like.

I'm sure you've discovered already that there are a LOT of other folks like me here. We've put forth a great deal of time learning about what we do and do not like, and that commitment of time ought to be respected at least a little, don't you think??
post #10 of 790
The difference is sound is not totally an issue of distortion. It is also about the harmonics that the amplifier is able to produce. The second,third and fourth etc harmonics can be much higher than 80dB down and easily heard. This is the primary difference between tube and SS amps.

To isolate the debate only on distortion is not a proper comparison since other issues come into play in any real comparison in the real world.
post #11 of 790
Thread Starter 
If you look at my sig you will see that I have a quote which says:

"The first principle is not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest one to fool".

I grew up a rather hardscrabble life, we never actually went hungry but we didn't have much. I put my first bicycle together out of parts I scrounged. A frame here, front wheel there, rear wheel somewhere else and the chain from yet another place.

One thing I know, the wolf is never far from the door.

One illness, one accident, a car crash, a slip in the bathtub and your entire life can come crashing down.

Right now, my wife and I are in so much debt from medical bills that we will never get out, no matter how long we live. We didn't see it coming, we had insurance. But the insurance company used the fine print to weasel out of most of the bill and we were left holding the bag.

And the recent changes in the bankruptcy law has made it impossible to declare bankruptcy.

In the short time I've been here I've already seen at least two people forced to sell their treasured gear due to financial disaster.
post #12 of 790
Thread Starter 
Harmonics *are* a form of distortion.

Any difference between the input waveform and the output waveform is technically distortion.

And tube amps create far more distortion than do solid state amps.

I have a tube emulator filter in the program I use to clean up vinyl records. I don't use it because it adds more distortion.
post #13 of 790
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheVinylRipper View Post
If you look at my sig you will see that I have a quote which says:

"The first principle is not to fool yourself, and you are the easiest one to fool.
Yes, well, this is EXACTLY what I'm getting at. You are assuming that if I hear a difference that I'm simply fooling myself. I disagree...I'm simply listening to a combination of gear that produces a sound that I prefer. Even if I AM fooling myself (and I don't believe this to be the case), it doesn't matter to me. Why it matters to YOU is another matter...
post #14 of 790
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post #15 of 790
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheVinylRipper View Post
I welcome discussion on this subject.
Okay. You asked for it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TheVinylRipper View Post
The majority of high quality amplifiers these days have a distortion level of 0.01 percent or less.
This is a meaningless statement... which amplifiers are "high quality" these days? What kind of transducers are you assuming (surely no one cares about the ability of an amplifier to drive a line input or something)? At what volumes? And how would you measure such negligible amplifier distortion to begin with?

Don't get me wrong: I'm an amp skeptic for the most part and I think it would be a good thing if you could warn newbies about the amp groupthink that's going on here.
But I don't think your "data" or your math proves anything. IMO, the evidence we need is DBT results.

Why did you tell the story of your health insurance misadventure BTW?
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