I think the protection circuitry you may have read is their "soft clipping" feature which may limit it playing loudly if it runs out of power. Your speakers should not require a lot of power. If you plan to play music softly, I would suggest defeating the soft clipping feature. Your amp will probably sound a little better w/o it.
jcd; it's been my experience that it is not the amp that is the limiting factor in making music sound good at low volume, but rather it's the speakers. And I don't think speaker sensitivity has much to do with it either.
For example, My Vandersteen 3As or 3Asigs both sounded very good at low volumes and I enjoyed that, but I recently (5 months ago) acquired Vand. 5s, and the 5s have to be driven at distinctly louder volume to sound good. The 3As and 5s have about the same sensitivity. I have read where reviewers have noted this phenomenon too. I think it has to do with the design of the speaker. As the 5s continue to breakin, they are now sounding better at lower volumes, but still must be played louder to sound good. Good Luck. Craig.
Generally, lower power amps (around 20 watts) sound better than higher powered amps at low volume levels. Most of the time these amps are tubed and sound "alive" at low volume levels unlike solid state amps which tend to go dead. The only exception to this that I know of is the 47 Labs Gaincard, although a pure class A (Pass Labs) may have this characteristic.
Also, as pointed out in the above post, speakers are very important. Electrostatics have excellent low level resolution as do hybrids (ribbon with dynamic cones). Speaker design is also very important, but it seems that bigger speakers do not resolve as well at low volumes as do their smaller driver counterparts. Driver size may have something to do with this.
Garfish, I had something different happen over here. My speakers are 88db sensitivity and didn't have much imaging at low volumes with 60W of tube power. When I moved up to 120W of tubes in Ultralinear I was able to listen at very low volumes with good imaging. This put a smile on my face :)
Hi Buckingham; FWIW, I used a big McCormack DNA-2DX Rev. A (600 wpc 4 OHM) with both the Vand. 3As as well as the Vand. 5s. The 3As sounded quite good at low volume, whereas the 5s don't. As noted above, as the 5s continue to breakin, they are sounding better at low vol. levels, so maybe it's just going to take some time.
I owned/used an SF Power 2 110 wpc tube amp for awhile, and found that it needed to be played distinctly louder than the McCormack with the the 3As to make them sound decent. So the amp/speaker interaction is important too. Cheers. Craig.
My experience is that systems ( primarily speakers ) that tend toward warmth sound better at low volumes. This is probably due to how our ears work and perceive tonal balance at different volume levels. This is also why "mid-fi" gear comes with a "loudness" control.
I agree that very low powered amps ( primarily SET's ) or high bias, hot running SS amps will sound best at low listening levels. Sean
I think opposite about speaker's efficiency. Lower efficiency speakers will sound more quiet at the same volume levels than higher.
Why music sounds thinner and less lifelike at low volumes is a phenomenon called the "Fletcher-Munson Effect". This is when the ear is more sensitive to midrange sounds at low volumes. The "Loudness" button on receivers is designed to compensate for this by equalizing the response curve according to the "Fletcher-Munson Response Curve" which raises the amplitude of the highs and lows at a rate specified in a published,standardized format. This is also why, in the old days, you would see graphic equalizers with all the sliders arranged like a "smiley face". If a speaker sounds flat and neutral at very low volumes, then you can bet it will be boomy/sizzly when listening at louder levels. Conversely, a speaker that is very neutral will sound rolled off at both ends when listening at very low volumes. This is due to the "Fletcher-Munson Effect" as described above. Sean got it right.
This has been an interesting thread-- thanks Jcd. I think I "re-learned" some things I had forgotten, re Sean and Twl. But that still doesn't explain why my (past Vand. 3As) sounded good at low Vol., but Vand. 5s don't.
Sean may have hit it though, ie warm sounding speakers (3As) may sound better than the more neutral 5s-- that sort of makes sense to me. And as the 5s continue to breakin, they ARE sounding better at low vols.-- and getting warmer. A big contributor to this (warmth) was also a change from Acme silver outlet to copper FIM. Cheers. Craig
Twl, it's true I've grabbed a lot from your great answer
Thank you guys for all of the replies. I will probably be getting the equipment fairly soon, and it should be fun to hear a good system in my house for once.
As a follow up to my comments above, I thought it might be useful to report that I just took delivery of a NAD C350 yesterday. My initial reaction is very favorable and it has not been burned in. The amp plays fine at high and low volume and does not shut down at low volume. It is a very synergistic match for B&W DM602s2's and has thus far outperformed much more expensive equipment with these speakers. I still suggest you leave the soft clipping button in the off position.
Actually, there has been a more exhaustive study conducted some time after the Fletcher-Munson materials were presented. It supposedly delves deeper and with more accuracy as to exactly what takes place in our ears in terms of volume vs frequency response. Can't recall the name of it, so someone help me out on this one if you know.
Marakanetz, please expound upon your statement about speakers adjusted for the same listening level sounding "quieter" or "louder" than the other. I think i know where you are coming from / going to with this one, but i'm not sure. Sean
I think that Robinson and Dadson (1956) are responsible for refining the work of Fletcher-Munson (1933). Can we trust these scientists? Lord knows Nyquist is not trusted.
How low(volumewise) can a real trumpet sound? How low can any brass instrument sound(also volumewise)? How low do you listen to a real piano or grand-piano in the room? Did you try to sing along with the singer that you hear from your speaker in unison or a-aapella or voice-duo? I think that how low should a speaker reveal its sounds as close as possible. If you're listening to an orchestra than the orchestra must be reproduced correspondedly proportional in your listening room(certainly there is no ideal reproduction of the recorded music but as close as possible).
Speakers with less distortion will sound quiter even if they are actually playing at higher volume levels. ATC active speakers for example. Without the "noise" of distortion things sound quieter.