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wolfgang

Do Amplifiers Really sound different?

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Reading the other thread started by CJR got me thinking.

Are there any well designed blind listening tests on amplifers been done that showed they do sound different then?

I have seen a few groups that have done this and crucially also provide good explanation how they have carried out the listening sessions. Unfortunately these articles showed they could not hear differences between good commercial amps.

Example of these are those mad audiophools from Spain. They have carried out many variation on this as shown in their Matrix website.

The only one that showed differences are

provide.net link

but these were carried out with old amps.

So anyone know of any other blind tests that showed clearly people could actually tell modern amps apart when using their ears only?

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Of course they sound different. The Bel Canto pre-power and Karan integrated (last two amps i've owned) sound worlds apart. I reckon I could pick them out in a blind test.

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Yes Phil, two very different amplifier topologies & 'ways of doing things' too. Bound to sound different ;)

Off the top of my head, I'm very confident I'd be able to identify blind:

Pioneer A400

Naim Nait 5

Exposure 2010S

I guess amplifiers is one area where we've moved on from the 70s, hence the lack of literature... I guess the argument to a lot of people would be "all competently amplifiers sound the same", myself not included. I bet a lot more people would have laughed if you'd suggested amps sounded different a few decades ago.

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I would take a blind test on my Primare compared to my old Denon any day of the week. I feel confident I could pick them apart, if only because the Denon doesn't control the bass as well as the Primare.

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Yup, there was a now-legendary blind group amp test way back in the 70s/80s.

A whole pile of interesting amps from the day ...... I remember it well, the cheapo Alba amp with top-mountedslider controls came out top much to everyone's surprise andconsternation ... and to the huge benefit of Alba's sales figures! All sorts of well-respected hifi names were shoved down the pile by the beer-budget Alba. :D

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JANDL100 wrote:

Yup, there was a now-legendary blind group amp test way back in the 70s/80s.

A whole pile of interesting amps from the day ...... I remember it well, the cheapo Alba amp with top-mountedslider controls came out top much to everyone's surprise andconsternation ... and to the huge benefit of Alba's sales figures! All sorts of well-respected hifi names were shoved down the pile by the beer-budget Alba. :D

Really?

That's great! So some audiophiles ARE happy to actually trust their ears after all. Happy days indeed.

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Guest Effem

I couldn't say with any degree of certainty there was a mountain of "difference" between any of the amps I have disliked the most, to the amps that I liked the most.

Different presentations, the ability to create the subtle balances in tonality that I personally enjoy maybe, but a chasm between any of them I very much doubt. I do know that the ones I disliked were identified very quickly, whereas the better ones took a fair while to rank in order of preference and even then there wasn't one that stood head and shoulders above the others so a blind test would produce an "interesting" outcome methinks.

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It would depend on the amp(s), I can well imagine some sounding more similar than different. Do you mean the tone of the thing, the way it controls the speakers. That a reputed pipe and slippers 909 sounds the same as a NAP whatever. If we keep going down it all sound the same route we all may as well but a all in one box and just worry about speakers.

(a brio sounds a lot different to a cursa/exons, and they both sound different to a Sansui, and all of then sound different to a set of Quad II's and control)

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I think, much like CD players and Cartridges Turn tables etc, that most well designed HiFi, built to high standards SHOULD sound broadly similar.

The best hifi should simply reproduce perfectly whatever is on the source disk. But my experience is that they don't. They fail and in varying degrees and in varying ways. Some of those failings we like (such as the warmth from a valve amp or the PRaT of a Naim/Exposure amp etc) The trick is to find the faults you enjoy and eliminate the ones you don't to create a system the YOU are happy with.

I strongly feel that the differences we hear are simply the shortcomings of each system manifesting themselves in different ways. For two amps to sound the same they would need to have the same shortcomings, or both be perfect. IMO.

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Wolfg, I had a situation when I was running my old HK6550 that drove the Dyns. it died, I recplaced it with a £600 Sony QS AVR 925 amplifer, I feel I could detect these 2 amps, bass signature was virtually nil on the Sony, even when cranked up. One thing is funny though the matrix blind test chaps, have ran blind tests on amps and found them indistinquishable.

One point it is very easy to blind test cables, as you can usually remote switch them in tandem, even hooked up to other source or sources with 2 anlg outputs, this leaves a very small gap in "auditory memory" imagine the difference in removing and amp.

For me personally I think hifi in difference stakes boils down to these (greatest at the top) :

Speakers

Amps

TTs/Phono Stages/Carts

CDs/DACs/DVD

Cables & Supports.

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HiFiWigWam wrote:

The trick is to find the faults you enjoy and eliminate the ones you don't to create a system the YOU are happy with.

Yup.

Also, I find it surprising & interesting how the designers themselves make their own choices of priority when it comes to sound - the "house sound" of many manufacturers is a well-established phenomenon, I think - they are simply finding the balance of compromises that gives them the type of presentation that they want at a given price level. In fact, IME, they often maintain that basic house-sound across a wide band of price and component quality.

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wolfgang wrote:

Reading the other thread started by CJR got me thinking.

Are there any well designed blind listening tests on amplifers been done that showed they do sound different then?

I have seen a few groups that have done this and crucially also provide good explanation how they have carried out the listening sessions. Unfortunately these articles showed they could not hear differences between good commercial amps.

Example of these are those mad audiophools from Spain. They have carried out many variation on this as shown in their Matrix website.

The only one that showed differences are

provide.net link

but these were carried out with old amps.

So anyone know of any other blind tests that showed clearly people could actually tell modern amps apart when using their ears only?

The differeance between some amps is BIG any valve v Solid if you can't tell the differance you should take up a new hobby or just buy an old ALBA :)

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JANDL100 wrote:

Yup, there was a now-legendary blind group amp test way back in the 70s/80s.

A whole pile of interesting amps from the day ...... I remember it well, the cheapo Alba amp with top-mountedslider controls came out top much to everyone's surprise andconsternation ... and to the huge benefit of Alba's sales figures! All sorts of well-respected hifi names were shoved down the pile by the beer-budget Alba. :D

are you sure it was alba? I know there was probably hundreds of these tests back in the day but the most well known is the one where all the top blokes from all the top makes at the time were involved, you name it they were there. They threw in a 15 year old Radford valve amp into the blind test and it was the one they all preferred!!

For me amps are very different, more so than CDPs!! I could easily tell a sugden A21a from Naim or my Rotel. amps and speakers are what its all about.

Edit: this is the test I mentioned http://www.stereophile.com/reference/70/

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