It seems this month there is talk of having some WATTS!! Hmmm, did i mention without WATTS there is no hi fidelity, there is no realism? Did I mention you can't reproduce the LIVE event with some useless 20 W amp. But to have a miserly tube amp hooked into this adative amp is kinda retarded. Like some one else mentioned, buy the right amp the first time. If you put new tires and fancy wheels on a 1992 TOYota, it's still useless and still junk. Watts, there is no substitute. And the article says what I've said all along, you cannot get 106dB of realsim on 6" speakers, nor some 40W obsolete tube amp. It's a mirage, it's delusional. Wake up to WATTS. It matters.
Do you feel one still needs 500 watts driving a 105db efficiency speaker?
500W is barely enough. Did you read teh Sept issue on amps? How all of a sudden, watts matter? Mention is made to 106dB levels for just that classical stuff, hmmm, and ya can't do it without WATTS. How come audiophiles have this insane beleif that cus' they have magic 50W from some grossly over priced underpowered amp, their underpowered stuff is musical and better? When in fact they are listening to under powered distorted, bloated, hardly lifelike reproduction. Then these under performing amplifers, driving miniscule under sized speakers, under some mis guided perception that tiny drivers are more musical, than properly sized multi driver systems, that can move air, like live performances of real instruments. Less distortion because the drivers are not driven to their extremes, and adequte WATTS that ain't clipping. And even if not playing at nice loud levels, more watts always sounds better than under powered inadequete amps. listen to the same speakers, now matter what they are first with a clock radio 50W magic amp, then use a real amplifier with at least 500W pc, and those same speakers will sound better, fuller, more in control, less strained, and any other audio buzz wurd you wanna apply. Watts matter. But this Sept article is like, they are conceding under powered amps are useless, but the solution gimmick is to atttach this setup to it. Kinda like putting a bi turbo engine into a 1993 Toyota with the expectations now you have a real car. Like other's mentioned, why not get a real amp to begin with. And they don't need to be $40K, cus' that doesn't necessarily ensure it'll deliever either, what brand was it that was missing about 500W from it's ability, and it was a really pricey thing, Chord? and never did get a response or reason why they mis specd' this defective? amp...But the rviewer glosses over it, with what's 500W when there is still a lot more available? Is that high end? Pro audio installations would call it a defect, and send it back. Watts, there is no substiute.
By far, the most musical and lifelike system I've heard, bar none, was the Avantgarde trio driven by an 18 watt Lamm SET amp. I've never heard a setup that came even remotely close to reproducing music that sounded LIVE.
I have and I do. 18W ain't gonna do it. Live shows have literaly dozens of amps, mucho drivers, woofers out and about, flying speakers, based on room size, watts/sq ft I'm there. It takes watts, drivers, no distortion, good source DSD/SACD covers the source, the right amps and speakers take care of the rest. It's actually very doable, not with 18W. Just can't. your point of reference is incorrect, if you think it can be done with the power of a clock radio. Teh term musical has become code for highly distorted tube amps? Nothing musical about altering the recording. Loose flabby tube bass is what poor sound guys do at local clubs, it's all mud and boom, no bass detail, couldn't find teh bass pattern in the blur, that's not good, flabby tube bass is mud.
Avantgarde Trios have self powered subwoofers, so the 18watts applied only to the tweeters and midrange. However, even with that, I thought that speaker system with those amps was the most realistic musical reproduction I've ever heard.
The Trios have a big, powerful, visceral sound - larger than life. Really.
At 110dB sensitivity, 18 watts is more than enough.
This is the 21st century: technology advances, we don't need no four-jillion stinkin' watts.
In general I agree with your message even though I don't agree with the way you present it. The sound we prefer individually is subjective, but there are clearly (and obviously) physical properties that matter. A thread from July started with a question about peoples' experiences with small wire size for speaker cable and that may be where you started your WATTs tirade. In 1981 I had a pair of home built Speakerlab K horn loaded speakers that put out a decent amount of sound from a Walkman. I used the Speakerlab design for the bass unit but used a wide throat Altec horn for the mid-range and Heil air motion transformers for the tweeters (I really hate the sound of horn tweeters). The custom crossovers had hand wound air core inductors and high quality film capacitors. (It's amazing how much you can get done when you're young and single).
In addition to the Walkman, I had available a loaned Audio Research D75A and used it to drive the K Horns. Initially I used what I considered overly heavy gauge wire to drive the speakers, as I recall it was 14 gauge stranded AC power line cord. When we turned up the volume on those horns it sounded like a disco. Once the lady across the street came over and asked us to turn it down.
One day a good friend came in with some wires that were bigger than the jumper cables in my car and about 25 feet long each. I asked him what they were for and he said "speaker wires." I told him he was out of his mind, that wire was wire and the resistance of the 14 gauge line cord was plenty good enough. I had a degree in electrical engineering and nearly 4 years experience designing integrated circuits and was sure I knew what I was talking about.
But he convinced me there was no harm in trying them out, so we replaced one channel of the line cord. I was SHOCKED and AMAZED - that channel sounded clearer, crisper and more well defined. I still didn't believe it, so we put the line cord back on that channel and moved the "jumper cable" to the other channel. Now the other channel sounded better. Not just a little better, but a lot better. And it didn't require any additional watts to get better sound.
I put the jumper cables on both channels and eventually bought them for the bargain price of $75 for the pair and I still use them. They are the original, heretical "wire DOES matter" speaker cables known as Fulton Gold, and they are many many strands of silver plated fine copper wire. I still don't know of an objective way to measure why they sounded better but they certainly did, and I did not and do not consider myself a golden ear.
The use of a 75W/ch tube amp into the K horns was certainly plenty of power, and the DC resistance of the 14 gauge wire was too low to measure on my Ohm meter. I never measured the capacitance nor inductance of either cable so if that was the issue I don't know. Certainly the CONductance and total surface area of the silver could be what gives the benefit, for music is a traveling wave and perhaps the wave moves through the silver with less distortion. Perhaps the different dielectric insulating material caused the improvement.
To get to your point about power, the Walkman never sounded good through the horns--there were no dynamics, little bass and little treble, even though it got pretty loud. (Of course that was the fault of the design as well as the lack of power in the Walkman.) I had to return the D75A to its owner and replaced it with two 45W Dyna Mark IIIs, which were plenty of power for the horns and they sounded great. But I got tired of moving the 200 lb each horns and tired of searching for homes with the right corners. So I got a pair of Magnepan MGIIIa s and hooked them to the Dyna Mark IIIs, which was a miserable failure. The transformer output Dynas had less power at 4 Ohms load than at 8 and this combination hardly had more dynamics than the Walkman/Khorn combo.
The issue with driving the Maggies is not the 4 Ohm load, it is (as you have said) the energy required to move the drivers. The planar driver diaphragms have a wire attached and are stretched tightly over a frame, so to get dynamics and to be controlled they need a LOT of current quickly.
I replaced the Dynas with their MOSFET big brother, a Hafler DH-500 with 250+W/ch. This made a huge difference in the sound available from the Maggies. The dynamics came back and there was sufficient volume for any music in any room. The Maggies are easier for the amplifier to control than a cone speaker in a box because the load is purely resistive. There is (relatively) no speaker inductance or box resonance. They are also easier to control than an electrostatic because there is (relatively) no capacitance. But they still need a lot of current to move the diaphragms quickly. Newton said it best: F=ma.
But power doesn't solve every problem. When I play the Telarc 1812 Overture on the Maggies with the DH-500s turned up, the 10Hz cannon blasts cause the Mylar to slap against the magnets at the front of the speakers. Now that's some severe distortion. (The old K horns sounded like there was a war in my living room, even when driven by the 45W/ch Dynas.)
So in the end its not just WATTS...everything matters individually and in combination--efficiency, impedance, current, power and a good match between components including wire. Of course everything that matters pales to subjectivity, and some people even like listening through 30 gauge magnet wire, although I suspect they are missing some of the content of the music. At least they could try oxygen free silver plated 30 gauge wire-wrap wire.
Great post, audiodb. Thanks for the effort you put into this and the great examples.
I had forgotten about the Fulton Golds - those things are huge! I think these were out even before the original Monster Cables (the ones that eventually turn green under the clear plastic), true?
I appreciate your kind words Elk, and I like your byline.
Yes, the Fulton Golds are the ones that eventually turn green; mine have some green places. Bob Fulton was the first guy to point out that wire is important and Fulton Gold was definitely a precursor to Monster cable.
I haven't done any A-B comparison lately, I'm not sure my ears are up to the task any more--I just sent my Maggies for repair because the midrange of both was dead and I'm not sure when it happened. That was VERY depressing to learn. But I've read lately that Fulton Gold does not measure up to modern cables so maybe I can blame it on that? :-) I found an interesting page http://www.laventure.net/tourist/cables.htm about making my own silver cables, maybe that's next after the Maggies come back.
More watts is ALWAYS better. Great amps deliver lotsa current, control the speakers, make em move. your distortion from teh Magnepans just show they are poor speakers, in capable of lifelike reproduction. I get's no slappys at 4800W RMS into speakers that are meant to reproduce lifelike levls and clarity. Trying to make tweeters do the work of woofers is the problem. JV dude trys to convince me there is no need for CURRENT!! you do make a valid point that the MAgnepans need current to make things happen. My speakers 4 Ohm and less at certain freqs, need current, when the amps deliver, and the speakers make use of it, that's lifelike reproduction. But I use ribbon tweeters as tweeters, not membrane tweeters used as full range is against logic. Watts ther eis no substitue. Get those Hafler DH500 rebuilt, into sonic marvels, for a lot less than most highly touted higly advertised, grossly over priced amps from big advertisers. Checkout www.avahifi.com See the rebuilds section, Omegastar EX ckts, sonic marvels, priced for mortals. The Hafler P500 version have much larger AC mains transformers and go out to around 1400+W RMS running in mono, the DH500 quite a bit less, an audio amp is a modultaed power supply, a bigger power supply is always better. It's there when ya need it. Inadequete amps and speakers, do what they do best, un deliver. It's very easy to clip a mere 300W or so RMS watts into 4 Ohm speakers, thus teh need for mono Bi amp around 4800W RMS. It does make a difference, WATTS matter