Do power amps make a significant difference?

wizons

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Having now tried several large and expensive solid state power amps, as well as a pair of valve monoblocks, I'm not sure I can say any of them are decisively better than my staple power amp, the Quad 909. Yes, they are all superior in some ways, but not in others. I'd go as far as to say the 909 is the best overall performer, even though it can't match the others in specific areas.

The conclusion I take from this is that power amps are not an overly important part of a system. It seems to me that speakers and preamp, in that order, are the essential components of a digitally based system.

What are your views on this?

 

Frizzy brizzy

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I think your sources need to be significantly better to judge differences further down the chain, and maybe your speakers too,

it may well be you are currently listening to a system that performs at its best as you have it and any changes are retrograde, so maybe to hear improvements requires drastic changes.

 

rabski

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Humorous comments aside, actually it's a reasonable point.

However, it's wrong to a degree.

Overall, power amps are probably the least important component in a well-balanced system. However, the further you move up the scale in terms of source and pre-amp, the more they expose the differences between power amps.

That said, I'm not surprised by your findings, though it does depend on what the valve monos were. The 909 is more than capable.

 

kernow

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My ears can't tell the difference between one well designed amp and another. There's always very little in it to me anyway. Speakers, carts sure. But there's fuck all in amps to my ears.

​omg all amps sound the sammmee!!1 cough

 

Clubsport911

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I agree with the comment on speaker masking.

I've just taken hold (in the last 6 months) of some very transparent KEF Reference speakers. Now all of a sudden, I can hear the limit of the amplifier and front end whearas until now, it was "balanced". I got rid of the MF Preamp + phono stage and changed for another make and presto... back to balance in someways, but I now I need to upgrade the power amps some more

 

kernow

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How do people know or find out if something is transparent or not :?

I think maybe it just sounds 'clean' and then it's all '​ohh this is soo transparent'

 

SSM

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Got the 909 (currently making dust bunnies in a corner of my old office:p), and recently acquired a Naim NAP 100 for home use.

Yes, ime, there can be differences between power amps. :D

SS

 

HoopsOnToast

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It really depends on the speakers. I have been playing with a 60s EL84 SE amp Vs a T-Amp and they sound completely different, of course one could be not as good as the other but they both have their merits and downfalls. They could equally be as bad as each other compared to something else.

IME, generally, as long as the amp gives you enough volume, then there are more gains to be had with the pre amplifier.

 

SSM

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Yes, a good preamp can make or break a so-so power amp. :p

I want me another preamp soon! :nerves:

SS

 

henkuk

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In the end of the day, this all comes out of your speakers.

If your speakers are not capable of revealing an improvement, that's the end of it.

I do believe power amps make a difference and had two examples of this very recently:

1/ Upgrade my Quad 99 to a 909, on the same sources, speakers etc. The difference was quite remarkable. I can now hear more detail, particularly in the bottom end and the sound is tighter..

2/ Moved the Quad 99 to my vintage office system where it drives a pair of restored AR-7's. It replaces an old Toshiba amp that is out for a health check and I feed it straight from a USB DAC with the volume on the laptop. Here again, far more clean bass, control and detail.

In example 2 one can argue that the 40 yrs old Toshiba was in need of work. Which would be equivalent to a less well designed amp.

So yes, IME it makes a difference and I was fairly cynical till a month ago.

Obviously the sources and speakers need to be able to demonstrate this...

 

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