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Tube warmth and distortion and it's pros - Page 9

post #121 of 194
In general, digital equalizers are more accurate and clean than anlogue, but there are good analogue equalizers too.
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

Given the amount of different gear you've the ability to pick from, why would you choose a 5000 dollar amp over a 500 dollar one?

Hoo boy! You got me there!

(I have a $400 Yamaha receiver myself.)
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

They as in the equipment manufacturers themselves?  I find that hard to believe but I may not be getting that pronoun's reference correct.  I guess what I'm getting at here is that the amp, regardless of how neutral it is, has different flavors of neutrality or warmth or whatever.

No. Think of neutrality as transparency. A neutral amp does nothing but just add volume. No change in sound quality- all of the specs well below the thresholds of human hearing. All amps should be audibly transparent. The reasons to choose one amp over another are power and features, not sound quality.
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

The emphasis here is now shifted from subjectively picking equipment that you like soundiwse and instead picking equipment which will objectively make your system just run so that you can personally change the sound output via your EQ.  The EQ becomes the keystone of your system's inherent sound, the rest is just there to provide a signal path, power, and other basic needs.  Does this make sense?

Exactly. And if your amp burns out, you go out and buy another one to replace it and pop it in your system and everything still sounds the same.
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

To bring this back around to OPs post, you've a tube amp and a solid state amp which display the same numbers on paper (tough, if not impossible but let me use this fantasy for the purpose of the discussion); thus on paper the two amps should sound roughly the same.

In theory, two amps that measure the same should sound the same... even tube amps. But in practice tube amps have much higher distortion levels. Some people like the distortion. I prefer clean.
Edited by bigshot - 4/18/14 at 3:14pm
post #122 of 194

Wow, ok you're not at all wrong, but it's a completely different perspective to take in light of the hifi mantra that pervades most all other opinion; who's popularity hardly gives it anymore credibility.  Regardless, that is a very interesting perspective to stand by. 

 

May I play devil's advocate here for the sake of the science forum? ;)

 

Putting everything aside for the moment in search of the most neutral or transparent amp you can lay your hands on, how would you distinguish one from the other? In essence, how would you pick THE most neutral amp, your amp? 

 

But I digress, having the EQ in place, your sound is now permanently fixed for overall correction.  This is your sound, your personal flavor of music which pleases you the most or which you believe is most attuned to real life.  Now I'd definitely agree with you that the addition of a highly colored or otherwise additive amp would be troublesome as it would conflict with the signal path and thus your EQ; the source point of your sound.  But by agreeing with that assertion your now married to the fact that all amps influence the sound, the way a 100hz signal is heard, not just how loud it is coming out the back of the EQ.  Conversely, if all amps should be audibly transparent (if I'm understanding this correctly) and sound the same, any amp would suffice with the EQ in place.  

 

But intrinsic to the mere act of amplification, regardless of how simply you've produced that power, the signal must travel through a path.  A path which, more importantly, is not always the same.  Different materials present obstacles or advantages to the your signal's amplification.  Moreover, something has to do the amplification and the manner of that amplification, I'd argue, makes an audible if not a quantifiable difference within the amp.  Transistors, tubes, etc.  Even in an OTL amp where the output is simply coupled directly to the tube itself, you're not gaining transparency, you're gaining a different sound.  I've ascribed to the first school of thought, but at least in part, it seems that you're there too as "In theory, two amps that measure the same should sound the same... even tube amps. But in practice tube amps have much higher distortion levels. Some people like the distortion. I prefer clean."

 

So in the end, you're still searching through the haystack...just with neutrality in mind.      


Edited by colinharding - 4/18/14 at 4:48pm
post #123 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

Putting everything aside for the moment in search of the most neutral or transparent amp you can lay your hands on, how would you distinguish one from the other? In essence, how would you pick THE most neutral amp, your amp?

You don't need to pick, because there is no more transparent than transparent or more neutral than neutral.

There are aspects of sound reproduction that humans hear... frequency response, distortion, dynamics. As humans, there are things we *can* hear, and things that are outside our ability to hear... the thresholds of human perception. If distortion levels cross the line into imperceptability, it's transparent. You can have distortion levels ten times lower and it's still transparent. To human ears, they sound the same.

A lot of audiophiles worry about specifications that are beyond their ability to hear. But at some point, specs get so good that you can't hear the response imbalances or distortion or limitations to dynamics any more. At this point, it crosses the line into being transparent. Once it's over that line, all amps sound exactly the same, no matter what their specs say.

So if you have an EQ curve plotted on your equalizer, you can use a transparent Yamaha amp or a transparant Sony amp and it's still your EQ curve.
Quote:
Originally Posted by colinharding View Post

But intrinsic to the mere act of amplification, regardless of how simply you've produced that power, the signal must travel through a path.  A path which, more importantly, is not always the same.  Different materials present obstacles or advantages to the your signal's amplification.  Moreover, something has to do the amplification and the manner of that amplification, I'd argue, makes an audible if not a quantifiable difference within the amp.  Transistors, tubes, etc.

No, it doesn't matter how they get there, the end result is the same. Manufacturers of audio components design their equipment to perform in a certain way. They calibrate the output to hit the specifications. So if they design an amp to be audibly transparent, it doesn't matter if they use one type of transistor or another, the output is audibly transparent. If you patch music through two amps... an audibly transparent solid state amp, and an audibly transparent tube amp... they may be amplifying the sound using two different types of technology, but they sound exactly the same. Listen to one... listen to the other... identical. (Of course, finding an audibly transparent solid state amp is going to be a lot easier than finding an audibly transparent tube amp...)

That's the nice thing about audio equipment today. We've reached the point where we've met and exceeded our ability to hear. Our CD player or amp puts out sound that fully covers our ears' ability to hear, and it does it transparently, without subtracting or adding to the music. Flat, clean, dynamics intact. What goes in is exactly the same as what comes out.

The wild card are the transducers... headphones and speakers. It isn't possible to manufacture mechanical/acoustic things to the same precision as solid state electronic ones. So we keep the rest of the chain neutral so we can easily correct for the limitations of the speakers or headphones.
Edited by bigshot - 4/18/14 at 5:20pm
post #124 of 194

The funny thing about all those lengthy posts is that it always comes back to EQ... while all modern amplifiers, cd players, etc are usually perfectly flat wrt frequency response, even those considered colored.

post #125 of 194

Hmm that's very interesting.  In theory, and I say theory only because I haven't personally haven't heard a system setup the way you prefer, I'd have to agree with you.  As long as you're within the constraints of human hearing all other variables are negligible and you're just passing a power signal along with some musical data through the EQ.  Every amp should then work as long as it doesn't cross the distortion (or otherwise) precipice.  Yeah, ok I'll buy your argument in this respect.   

 

Now you say "If distortion levels cross the line into imperceptibility, it's transparent." Is that all that I'm worried about specification-wise is distortion levels?  Where does the "line of transparency" begin and end?  Once distortion becomes low enough the entire amplifier becomes transparent regardless of its other metrics?  I'm trying to find some sort of measurement, something I can go buy which will validate an amps transparency as I'd like to give this a try.  This is the sound science forum after all ;)

 

Would you be able to recommend a few digital equalizers which are your favorites?  I'm not too worried about the price, but am certainly interested in giving this a test.  Thanks again, 

 

--colin 

post #126 of 194
Generally distortion below 1% is inaudible. But it depends on the type of distortions. Most amps are below the level of transparrency at around .1%

Rane and DBX make the best equalizers. I use the parametrics built into my Yamaha receiver though.
Edited by bigshot - 4/21/14 at 9:36am
post #127 of 194
I know I'm not part of this debate, but I just want to input that a properly designed solid state amp will not sound harsh, bright, or dull. All of the quality SS amps that I have heard have smooth highs and a very slight lushness on the mid-range that makes it sound natural. I switched from a low end Pioneer amp to my Emotiva UPA-200 for my speaker rig and it made my old amp sound harsh, bright, and hard. It seems that this solid state stereotype sound comes from people not hearing well designed circuitry or not liking the sound of their headphone/speaker without tube distortion.
post #128 of 194

I think a lot of folks are thinking of solid state electronics from many years ago too. A lot has been done to improve sound quality across the board in the past twenty years.

post #129 of 194

Smooth highs and slight lushness on the midrange is not what I would want in a solid state amp though.

post #130 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmoe View Post

Smooth highs and slight lushness on the midrange is not what I would want in a solid state amp though.
Why not? What do you prefer instead? The lushness is more a product of not being hard like lower end solid states, not necessarily that it isn't neutral... I was more highlighting the differences between my receiver and power amp. But why wouldn't you want smooth highs, just because they are smooth doesn't mean they lack in detail?
Edited by ToddTheMetalGod - 4/22/14 at 1:54am
post #131 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToddTheMetalGod View Post


Why not? What do you prefer instead? The lushness is more a product of not being hard like lower end solid states, not necessarily that it isn't neutral... I was more highlighting the differences between my receiver and power amp. But why wouldn't you want smooth highs, just because they are smooth doesn't mean they lack in detail?

 

If it's lush then it isn't neutral. If the highs are smooth then they aren't neutral either. Explain to me how you think the sound can be lush and neutral at the same time?

post #132 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmoe View Post

If it's lush then it isn't neutral. If the highs are smooth then they aren't neutral either. Explain to me how you think the sound can be lush and neutral at the same time?
Well lower end solid state amps sound too hard and bright. Like some amps are too lush and smooth, lower end solid states seem to be the opposite. What I mean is, the good solid states are natural because they are between hard and lush. For example, my O2 sounds a lot more lush than the FiiO E17 I used to use, but that doesn't make it not neutral. I do prefer a bit of lushness, but I leave that to the headphones and try to buy neutral amps.
post #133 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by ToddTheMetalGod View Post


Well lower end solid state amps sound too hard and bright. Like some amps are too lush and smooth, lower end solid states seem to be the opposite. What I mean is, the good solid states are natural because they are between hard and lush. For example, my O2 sounds a lot more lush than the FiiO E17 I used to use, but that doesn't make it not neutral. I do prefer a bit of lushness, but I leave that to the headphones and try to buy neutral amps.

 

But both your Emotiva and O2 are lower end solid state amps. If you are talking about receivers/consumer level gear then I have to disagree, most of the ones I've heard (Pioneer, Yamaha, Harmon kardon, Onkyo, etc) are mostly very forgiving and aren't bright or harsh at all, if anything, from my own DBT ABX tests comparing an Onkyo receiver to my Quad solid state monoblocks, the Onkyo lacked detail and dynamics.

post #134 of 194
Quote:
Originally Posted by elmoe View Post

But both your Emotiva and O2 are lower end solid state amps. If you are talking about receivers/consumer level gear then I have to disagree, most of the ones I've heard (Pioneer, Yamaha, Harmon kardon, Onkyo, etc) are mostly very forgiving and aren't bright or harsh at all, if anything, from my own DBT ABX tests comparing an Onkyo receiver to my Quad solid state monoblocks, the Onkyo lacked detail and dynamics.
My experience was the opposite, but maybe that's because both my Paradigm Mini Monitors and HE-400 are bright so it brought out the bad in the high frequency response of the amps. My Emotiva and O2 are neutral though, so even though they are cheap they sound a good amount better than consumer amps. You've obviously heard much better equipment than me and I haven't been into audio very long, so you know better than me.
post #135 of 194

That's interesting because everything I've read about the HE-400 describes them as laid back with recessed upper mids, and overall the Hifiman headphones are "dark" sounding. Apart from a bump at 9kHz they don't seem like overly bright headphones.

 

I think you would be surprised by consumer level amps. People like bigshot would argue they sound just as good as any higher end power amps (in fact the popular argument on the Sound Science forum is that in a DBT test nobody can tell the difference between a consumer level receiver and a higher end power amp).

 

Anyway, to get back to the original argument, any solid state power amp will in fact sound bright/harsh/dull compared to a tube amp with no EQing being done. If you like lush, smooth sound signatures then you would probably enjoy tube amps.

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