"Overpriced amplification is just as bad as overpriced cables in this "hobby.""

Discussion in 'Sound Science' started by Niouke, Dec 20, 2017.
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  1. Niouke
    I've read this statement elsewhere :"Overpriced amplification is just as bad as overpriced cables in this "hobby"" And I've been wondering, is there anything to measure in an amp besides THD and power? Most models seem to have a ridiculously low THD, so is there anything for high end amplification?
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2017
  2. bigshot
    With speaker systems, power and cleanness can be tradeoffs, but it isn't all that hard to make an audibly perfect headphone amp. You just need to make sure it plays well with the impedance of your cans.
    TYATYA and Niouke like this.
  3. coinmaster
    THD is marketing BS. It's just an average of the total distortion. Low order distortion is ignored, or enjoyed by our brain because it is mechanical distortion present in nature.
    Higher order distortion (4th and up) is electrical distortion and is much more easily heard even at very low levels.
    There's also the fact that overall distortion percentage is nothing compared to the actual harmonic structure, a decending single ended harmonic structure is typically best because the properties of power through air itself is single ended.
    Which is the reason tubes can so easily sound "unexplainably" better than solid state because their curves are single ended. In other words it adds natural harmonic content that is present in naturally occurring sound to an otherwise artificial sound source.

    There is some potential evidence for cable differences having to do with stray capacitance in the cables and the stage used to drive it but other than that there shouldn't be a difference. However it's important to note that what isn't measurable isn't the same as what isn't measured. There's too many of the same unscientific coincidences in audio stated by consumers and designers alike for me to write anything off.
    That being said excessively expensive cables are indeed overpriced.

    Onto the amp price factor.
    Most headphone amplifiers over a $1000 are a rip off with crazy margin or overly fancy parts. Ideally If the design is done well and the sellers aren't being too greedy $1000ish is a solid price considering parts costs of good designs + 4x-ish margin which seems to be a typical low point in audio.
    Almost all of the best sounding amps are class A and balanced. Which is necessarily expensive. (Class A runs hot and heavy and balanced means effectively doubling most of the circuitry)
    If the best sound isn't important to you then you don't need to go crazy.
    Overall though, yes amps are overpriced.
    I g o r and trellus like this.
  4. bigshot
    Just buy a mid priced solid state amp and don't worry about it. If there is a cheaper one available, odds are it sounds the same.
    upstateguy likes this.
  5. Speedskater
    Well it's not BS, but neither is it very useful to the purchaser. On the other hand it is good tool during the design, manufacturing and maintenance phases. Because if anything is wrong in a unit, the THD or frequency response changes.
  6. bigshot
    I remember back when I was a kid when distortion was actually an issue. It's almost always inaudible now.
  7. wuwhere Contributor
    Ever since I got into this, there have always been very expensive amps. There are other factors that are important besides distortion like how fast an amp can respond to musical demands cleanly. A robust power supply is very important, it should be able to supply current on demand without limit. Of course all amps are current limited, eventually.
  8. Redcarmoose
    D23B278A-D38C-42F7-AA98-3616BB835C09.jpeg 702244F9-471C-496D-88DD-69F74D742C37.jpeg 038DBC82-8F9D-44DD-A801-D805BFA6D1CE.jpeg FFE3B673-1C84-4DFB-B7FD-10ABDAF31C4F.jpeg

    It’s all simply part of the fun in this hobby. Many amplifiers, especially those using tubes are going to sound slightly different. The tube amps are adding a slight distortion or slant to the response. Is it needed? Is it enjoyable at times............yes! Still a basic solid state amp like an Asgard from Schiit audio is going to get 95% of the way there, for most people’s needs. Overpriced ripoffs? It simply depends who you talk to and what their opinion is, as there are a lot of opinions. Best to go a a show and listen to see if there could be some value in other pieces of equipment other than write it all off as nonsense, as many have.
    trellus likes this.
  9. wuwhere Contributor
    Love them tube amps, I have 4 of them, 3 speaker amps and 1 e-stat hp amp.
  10. coinmaster
    Indeed. But from a consumer perspective. You could have two amps with "0.001%" THD that sound completely different.

    Personally I've never found a solid state amp that excited me, and I've heard a lot of very expensive ones.
    Tube amps are the way to go for me. There's a magic in the sound that typical solid state designs just don't have.
    Of course design matters most and unfortunately, making an amp produce practically no distortion is comparatively easy to making an amp produce good distortion, since there are infinite ways to do it. Tubes make this job much easier though.
  11. bigshot

    Yeah, frequency response is more important than distortion.
    There's an interesting thread here where people are using DSPs to create tube amp sound with clean, inexpensive solid state amps. You should check it out.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
  12. Redcarmoose
    Some would maybe think that’s it’s the imperfections in an amp which would give it character. But in truth, the more expensive tube amps can at times get out of the way, doing their magic in very subtle and slight ways. I have always thought the more expensive tube headphone amps get closer to the transparency of solid state but add a slight musicality.

    And.......much of this thought can come with large amounts of time spent listening and equipment matching. Spending a week or two with a nice solid state amp for headphones can start to reveal special attributes only capable with SS. For me anyway, I think every amp sounds slightly different, be it instrument placement or bass tone, every amp is a different canvas to display the source.
    TYATYA and robertbudding like this.
  13. coinmaster
    Frequency response should be flat in any electrical amplifier assuming it was designed with any level of competency. Harmonic structure is the key differentiator. It will determine how the sound is presented.
    Also higher order harmonics are the enemy, because even at super low THD they can be heard.
    Tubes naturally produce almost no higher order harmonics. Solid state designs can be all over the place in that department depending on the design..

    Don't underestimate how lazily designed most commercial amps (everyone uses the same old topologies with the same old inherent issues)
    A truly well designed tube amp will have every bit of transparency as any solid state with an added sense of realism.
    I've heard many big buck solid state amps, they don't compare to good tube designs. As I stated above, tubes distort in the same way air distorts. It doesn't take much to get a tube to sound good, which unfortunately is the reason most tube designs are unimaginative.
    I've got my own line of products I'm going to come out with soon to put a stop to that.
    Last edited: Jan 2, 2018
    cocolinho and trellus like this.
  14. Redcarmoose
    Cheers to that!
  15. wuwhere Contributor
    Why reinvent the wheel.
    bigshot likes this.
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