Quote:In the past I personally owned a Phase Linear 400 series 2, H/K Citation 16, and an Onkyo M504. Each amp failed for one reason or another within a 9 years span.
A small correction, the Phase Linear was a pro sound reinforcement amp, not a high-end amp. They did sound different from most PA amps of the time however. Those who like the Phase Linear sound are very dedicated to keeping these amps alive. However, they were/are not known for reliability; I assume you know the Flame Linear nickname for them.
I have A/B'd pro sound reinforcement amps v. high-end amps and find that PA amps do not do well in the comparison. The owners and engineers of recording studios and mastering studios come to the same conclusion and don't use them in their work either.
PA amps have gobs of power, the ability to transfer lots of current, and the modern versions are bullet-proof. They are wonderfully designed for their purpose and have been maximized for this role. They are an excellent buy if you want lots-o-watts on the cheap.
They are excellent for those that enjoy the sound of live amplified music as these are exactly the amps used to create this sound. This sound is distinctive and characteristic of R&B and live rock venues. If this is your music I would recommend trying a PA amp.
Unfortunately, they are not good at reproducing subtlety and nuance - neither dynamically nor in frequency complexity. They do not capture the timbre and harmonic complexities of unamplified acoustic instruments, nor the ambient sound of the space in which such instruments are played. Which is, of course, why they are not used as reference amps in studios. It is also why I don't like them for music reproduction.
Some people love them even for listening to unamplified acoustic however. I have no criticisms but don't share this opinion.
If you recall the sound of the spec wars Japanese amps of the '70's you know the basic sound of a PA amp. Clean in a brittle way, but muscular. Perhaps PA amps also have high TIM as the SS amps of the 1970's did.
There is one exception that I know of: Bryston. They make amps that both sound good and are also used in sound reinforcement applications. I don't know why they are different.
As we all have our own priorities I don't dismiss their use in a home system. Some people love the sound of these amps. They are lucky; they do not have to spend much on amplification to get the sound they enjoy. This is pretty cool.
There are PA amps and there are well designed high power pro amps. I'm sorry but with all due respect, I have to disagree with you. My Crown Xti 2000 compared to my Onkyo M504 power amp which has received many excellent reviews over the years, is simply in a different sound league entirely. I have got many direct to disc recordings from Sheffield Labs, and many others that I use as a reference. These albums are in mint condition. One guitar album I have is an especially delicate recording of acoustics guitar. On my Onkyo M504 the sound is thin, lifeless, boring, and lacks the nuances of a live unamplified acoustic guitar. The Crown opens this recording wide up, giving it the vibrance and attack that a good acoustic guitar recording is capable of. Bass passages on the Crown deliver the impact, and punch my Onkyo delivers as muddy, and boomy sounding. Like I said before the sound may be a little more analytical, but to say that "They do not capture the timbre and harmonic complexities of unamplified acoustic instruments, nor the ambient sound of the space in which such instruments are played." well simply is not true. Now I'm comparing a Crown Xti-2000, I have no idea what other current Crown amps sound like, as I have no experience with them, but this amp compared to my brothers Onkyo M504 is superior sounding in every way. When I had bought my Onkyo I payed $899.00 for it. It lasted about 9 years. This Crown cost me $699.00. It would be a steal at twice this price. I am now interested in learning what other pro amps in Crown's line sounds like. It could very well be that this new amp sounds much better than there other amps, I don't know. 5 years ago I would have never considered buying one of these amps. Today I can't imagine spending four or five times the amount on a consumer amp. I go with my ears and they have been listening to live unamplified jazz for many years. I'm more that pleased with the results. So much so I will probably never look back. I'm sorry but that is acoustic truth as I hear it. The only amp I have owned in the past that approaches this sound quality was my Harman Kardon Citation 16. I think we would all agree that was a fine sounding amp.
I'm not trying to invalidate your opinion. It's great that you are pleased with your Crown amp. It's not for me, but that's why there are other amps.
Actually the Phase Linear started out as a consumer amp and slowly migrated over to the pro side towards the end of it's life. Maybe for that very reason it failed as a reliable pro amp, because it was truely a consumer product.
Yupper, Phase Linear was /is a consumer product. When they tried to use it in teh enviorment of pro stuff it failed, cus it's a consumer product. CROWN has always been pro. They started selling into conusmer land and wnet back to all pro now. Has always been super reliable stuff, that takes it. Go to teh Crown website and read teh hisotry of teh company. They are biggger now than ever under Harman. Lotsa Crown/JBL combos out in the world of pro audio live events. All i see at live events are Crowns by teh stacks and stacks literally dozens at a time, and some QSC amps. And they are CRANKED every night, when a place has 1200 paying customers expecting a night of show, hours of live music, this ain't no time for stuff to crap out. Never seen a Crown die while in use ever. One place in Sayreville N.J. has 32,000 watts worth of stacks and stacks o' CROWNS. Buddy guy, Leslie West, Corly Lang, Matt Oree' go live on stage and make them amps sing great. They ain't gonna be using junk, that neither sounds right or fails while on stage. My amps are pro based rebuilt with newer faster ckts, they never failed in over 15 years of use of various models. The grossly over priced spec not meeting, finicky audiophile grade stuff from some companies are a joke. Just high priced nonsense.
Quote:Actually the Phase Linear started out as a consumer amp and slowly migrated over to the pro side towards the end of it's life. Maybe for that very reason it failed as a reliable pro amp, because it was truely a consumer product.
Now that I think about it, I think you are right. It was powerful for the time which would have given it sound reinforcement appeal.
Having read the Crown posts I couldn't help myself but to add my 3 cents worth. I think we need to get back to the basics before we decide how many watts we need to provide the best music sound or fidelity (remember what HI-FI stood for?). There are multiple devices that sound must pass through from the original "instrument" to our ear unless it is live. If you are listening to an accoustical group in a good room then you will hear the music at it's purest form. (yes, someone else in the room will hear slightly differently due to distances and refelections.) In an ideal world each device (from the microphone to the recording device to the medium to the playback preamp/amp to the speakers) processes the signal without changing it (adding distortion). If this were the case then an expert couldn't tell the difference between a sound system and a violin or set of drums behind a curtain. With digital sound sources the distortions of vinyl and phonographs have mostly been eliminated, however not all digital sources are the same quality(different discussion!). So in our homes we have the choices of CD players, receivers, peramps, amps, and speakers. Speakers typically have the least fidelity (unless you are clipping an underpowered amp!) But each component in the system adds some amount of distortion. This is important because sound is incredibly complex. If you look at the waveform of even a single piano note you will see the fundamental note with harmonics that is vastly different then the violin at the exact same frequency. Very slight distortions of the amplifier "color" these signals, which then in turn are further distorted by the speakers. This is why stereophile folks look for extremely low distortion figures through the whole spectrum. But different amp designs with same harmonic distortion figures can still produce ever so slightly different waveforms and sound slightly different. Here is where personal preference rules, especially if you have a large bank account. But most agree that speakers make the most difference in a system. Some speaker designs require much more power to produce the same sound pressure than others. Older Klipsch designs could fill a room with only a few watts although the transients required much more. Amplifier power choices should be based on the type of music you listen to, the volume, size of room and efficiency of speakers. Higher wattages will allow for more realistic loud transients (think Kettle Drums). If you have chosen your speakers then the best way to choose an amp would be to borrow some different wattages and types if you can. But remember, the law of diminishing returns is still alive and well in the stereo scene. The receivers that supply 7 X 100 watts for $500 clearly have cut some corners. Conversely the boutique tube amp that only has 500 units per year to spread the saleries of the engineers and marketing staff as well as tooling, not counting the actual manufacturing cost must charge $5000 to break even. In my mind Crown represents the best value by far. A wide range of performance (old D-50's and 75's on E-Bay to 4000 watt monsters) with rock solid reliability. And about as close to the ideal "a wire with gain" as you can get. Me, I am outfitting my extensive woodworking shop with the most important piece of equipment: the sound system. I just got my hands on a pair of Klipsch Forte speakers and am looking for a mid size Crown amp to push them. I really need advice on a decent preamp that is easy to connect an Ipod to.
after reading Buddha's comments about using an XLS802 to drive various speakers including Apogee ribbons. Well, the price was good and the XLS series could drive Apogee's with no problem. So I bought an XLS402 (300WPC, 900 Watts bridged @ 8 Ohms). It impressed me enough that I subsequently bought another (XLS402). I figured I'd bridge them and use one for each sub. One week into having both, one of my mono tube amps (driving my ESL's) blew a tube. Being fresh out of matched pairs of 6550's I un-bridged the Crown's, connected one to my ESL's and the other to both subs. Surprise, surprise, surprise, they sounded pretty good. The week old one was doing very nice things to my “stats”. However, it seemed a little forward in the mids with an overly etched top. I left both Crowns on and working for a week. I then listened to them again. and while still a very little (much less than before) forward in the mids the overly etched treble was gone. I was hearing more high end detail than with my tube mono's without any sense of “too much” treble.
With the tubes driving them sounds seem to start at my panels and go very deep (20 to 30 feet) behind them. With the Crown's sounds seem to start a foot in front of my panels and extend the same distance behind them. They are not shouty, honky or forward. They have a different perspective. What was and is missing from them is that “tube thing”. The bloom, sweetness and kind of laid back perspective (especially in the high treble) that tubes give just isn't there. But then, most other SS amps don't have those things either.
Needless to say I'm favorably impressed with my two Crown amps. They are now back (bridged) driving my subs. The 900 Watts to each sub imparts a fullness with solidity and a sense of unlimited power to the bass area. My subs have never sounded better. Now, all I need is a pair of 500 Watt tube mono blocks that go for the $200 each the Crowns cost.
Yes DUP, sometimes having lots of Watt's is a very good thing..
If you investigate the design parameters of pro amps you will discover that some, not all, have pretty legitimate engineering from a high end perspective. We in the high end have known for a while that large torroidal power supplies with lots of reserve capacitance can help generate clean audio. But go look at the QSC RMX pro series. They have it covered. Both their transformers and capacitors are huge! They simply dwarf what we are used to in budget home audio, unless you throw wads of money at your amps.
Ditto Suface Mount Technology where the installed devices are literally burned right in to the circuit without circuit board leads or any wires being involved. Again that is touted in the high end as a great way to increase clarity and yet mass market pro amps like the QSCs and others have it too.
Lastly we audiophiles know it is good to have high quality output transistors and some of our 100 watt premium powerhouses have these. Well so what? So do the 500 watt pro amps from the majors like Crown, Qsc etc. So do their 2000 watt versions!
I will not argue that pro amps sound exactly like high end amps. But what "sound" are we talking about here? Every high end amp I have installed, and I have installed several hundred in my career (45 years selling audio give or take) all sounded different one from another. Most Krell amps would tear your head off with their "full-on power" and D'Agostino's rail supply technology and super spicy meatballs installed. All the push pull tube amps I have known from McIntosh labs to Citations, to Marantz et al. were slightly foggy in the bass department.
I won't rag on high end amps just to be a jerk as many are perfectly wonderful, but the better ones simply demand you be a very wealthy guy to buy into their offerings. $5,000? Hmmm. How about $50,000... Or more! And their sonic virtues while exalted, may not be all that much higher in quality than a pro amp! I would rather have a high quality product too, but those don't exist for peanuts in the high end. Only in pro.
I have heard considerable "bloom," transient snap and all the other delights of the high end amp crowd and done it while auditioning commercial pro amps. Don't believe those that say it isn't so. They just haven't readjusted the speakers for their new power source or they make stuff up or something. The only thing you suffer for going pro is the need to put the amps outside your listening area as most will make a whooshing fan noise while staying cool. But that's a good thing. I wish our home amps would run cool, they would last a lot longer.
Looking at it another way, a lot of the amps we use in the home just don't have anywhere near realistic power and usually run somewhere near the ragged edge as a result. If you are poor and in the high end you probably have a much less powerful amp than you need and as a consequence your speaker system usually sounds a bit "loose" and foggy. At the extreme this can cost you dearly if you push just a little too hard as your puny amp will clip and your $10,000 speaker will fry a driver or three on clipped nasty current which cooks it before you can turn the volume down.
In illustration, after switching to 2000 watts of power per channel using a pro power set up I accidentally left the volume control on a preamp at a ridiculously high setting (listening to a low output internet station dammit) and powered up with , I dunno, 800 watts hitting a pair of Harbeth 100 watt studio monitors. A CD started up on autopilot with a crash---it was the fearsome Red Hot Chile Peppers and it was so loud I got the Hershey Squirts!
Instead of blowing up on the spot the Harbeths just played FRIGHTENINGLY LOUD, but otherwise seem to have suffered zero damage. I finally worked my way over to the rack (in a separate control room) as the remote decided just then not to function (naturally). I turned them off and checked for what had to be damage. Astonishingly it was Zero. A very happy number. No damage whatsoever.
Bear in mind these same Harbeths had to have a woofer immediately replaced (a huge pita) when a supposed 130 watt home class A amp clipped on them a year before. What am I saying? That clean unlimited power is much less likely to fry your speaker than an underpowered puny amp is.
So in conclusion, if a pro amp requires you to tune your room a little bit differently and toe the speakers differently and perhaps rebalance the power to the subs and mids and tweets---so what? Don't you do that with any new amp?
This from a guy who can hear huge benefits from high quality DACs, good cabling, great class A front end gear, etc, etc.
But throwing money at power amps? Not so much.
I guess if your prime objective is to own an amp that "cranks" then, Crown maybe your choice. If you want an amp to compliment the music, work well with your speakers, and create a liquid smooth soundstage with 3D-like microdynamics, then a hi-rez amp should be your prime objective.
200W will just make it sound limited, constrained, lifeless. 200W is a car radio..
200W will just make it sound limited, constrained, lifeless. 200W is a car radio..
I see DUP (CECE) has a new screen name after he was banned.
By the way, your quote above is complete and utter nonsense.
Side note: "crankin" Crown amps are very noisy internally, and the chassis vibrates worse than a jackhammer. Besides, they are made for concerts at Wembley stadium, NOT for critical listening in a home environment.
Not sure why guys in home audio get so worked up over their own preconceptions. Mine are based on actually installing job after job using Krell, McIntosh, Lexicon, Bryston, Meridian and other well respected names in amplification. What I can hear and report is that Crown and QSC make pretty great amps for high power pros.
Their sonics are pretty dead neutral and if you want detail and bloom that has more to do with speaker frequency response and how well you can voice the speaker within its room environment by moving it to the "perfect launch spot." A great clean amp really shouldn't be trying to add these qualities. It should just be about gain. Your preamp and playback components and interconnects should be what you look to in increasing that sense of "liveliness" that is so important to the high end. Your power amp not so much.
By the way, never heard any "chassis vibration" from a Crown amp. I have already mentioned they use fans to keep the heat under control. Some home high end audio amp companies are using fans too lately. It takes a bit of installer savvy to hide a pro power amp so you don't hear it, and you will need to consider using balanced electrical audio connections for the longer runs involved. If you insist on keeping your shiny amp out for people to admire it then pro amps are probably not your cup of tea. Personally I could care less what your amp looks like or where it is hiding. Most amps except for big Macs don't have any interesting lights or meters to stare at anyway.
As for sound quality it is true that some home audio amps are very well designed and their gain stages (input, driver, output) in some cases are properly adjusted so that the signal stays fat and hot yet not distorted. In some other home amps the gain either overloads at the input because the input section lacks overload headroom or overall gain is pretty weak and lifeless because the designer doesn't know how to pay attention to keeping it hot enough as it goes from stage to stage inside tte power amp.
That is also true in pro amps although by and large these guys have it down to a science. Amps is all they do and most know a lot about proper gain staging. And some quality parts pay off in amp construction just like everywhere else.
High quality resistors, capacitors, transistors, construction, power supplies...these all matter whether it is for home or for pro high power. You will find different qualities depending on who made it and how high up in the line the product resides. That applies to home or pro. But usually if you snoop around on the internet you can find out what grade parts are going into an amp you are considering.
What I am quite sure of is that you can buy a hell of a nice power amp from pro for pennies on the dollar compared to what the "high end" wants for the same quality. I have also found pro amps from Crown and QSC in particular to be pretty much indestructable. Home amps that cost a lot more are sometimes made under poor quality control compared to what the big boys can do over in pro. I can't tell you how many times I have had to repair or replace home audio amps over the years. Pro amps on the other hand can sometimes last damn near forever.
In short, yes I can hear the beauty of certain high end home amps that cost a fortune. Yes, sometimes you can get a smoother 3D palpable sound out of them compared to the "tell it like it is" sound of a big pro amp. And a big expensive hot class A amp is very likely going to have a slightly higher degree of realism than a cheaper class A/B design, whether home or pro.
But quite ofter the major differences can be compensated for by simply moving the speakers around to account for the difference in frequency response between the two approaches and ---voila! There is the same smooth 3D sound you had before---and No Distortion and No Clipping.
No Distortion and No Clipping---aye, there's a powerfull good reason to go pro, matey!
Avast ye pirates and shiver me timbers. And what's in YOUR wallet...?