Do you understand your amplifier?


I see a lot of people talking about the sound of their amplifier. Simply out of curiousity I would love to know how many audiophiles actually understand why their amplifiers sound a specific way. Simply put, how many Audiophiles understand the circuitry of their amplifiers. There is no right or wrong answer. I am just curious.
liguy
No!!!!
We arew currently undergoing thearapy to improve our communication.
I really do not care why, probably should, but don't. I care what it sounds like, how it grips the speaker, as it were. Just does it produce the magic, does it make the speaker sing or is it just a lot of hot air moving about making sound but not music.
I thought I did...but one of us is schizophrenic! No I am not! Yes you are! Shut up I wasn't talking to you! Benny where's Benny?
I have a pretty good understanding of amplifiers and have over the years developed a preference for certain types of circuit topology. However, I moved to valve amplification several years ago and haven't really auditioned any of the newer amps. Valves simply sound better to me and I've moved on and settled in. I wish I had done it many years ago.
Yes!! I understand how my amplifier works
By the way an amp has no sound until it is connected to a speaker and source equipment.Therefore an amp can sound different depending on the speaker mainly and the source equipment
My problem is, my amplifier doesn't understand me!
Who needs to understand it? That takes all the fun out of it. Just enjoy the hell out of it.
I don't understand my amp so much as I think I understand the rational behind it as presented by the maker. Same for my speakers, cables, source, etc.
I also tried to 'match' them as such and I think I did a pretty good job.
LOL @ Dill!
No I don't understand my amp, but as an audiophile I am a rank amateur.
Every time I try to learn about a certain design quality of my amp, like the damping factor or µF memory, someone posts about how that particular design characteristic has no effect on how music sounds. I think there are some electrical engineers on Audiogon who really do understand how their amps' circuitry affects sound, but I'm not one of them.
I have "groaked' the essence of my Bryston 4B-SST2 amplifier. I is satisfied with the speakers it had agreed to drive. Thought it wants a pair of Magnepan 20.1s someday in the future.
I have accepted it's wants as being resonable, and My amp has agreed to cooperate in driving the current Magnepan 3.6s for the forseeable future.
With the pleasant dream of eventually driving something my to it's tastes.
My amp is happy with its power. and the music I play.
So it is pleased to be here.

Is this what you were asking about?
I don't so much understand the reasons that certain circuit topology sounds the way it does. But I do have an understanding of the way different designs sound mainly from my listening experience with a wide variety of different amps.

Decades ago I was using Class AB solid-state, which worked well enough especially when coupled to a decent tube preamp. I've also used some hybrid amps and some Class-A solid-state here and there.

In the '80's I got into tubes big time and have owned many different tube amps of many types. Accordingly I have some favorite tube types and realize that the sound of any tube amp is highly influenced by its particular tube compliment and its condition. I recently owned a pair of Atma-Sphere M60 Mk3.1's with upgrades and liked their sound very much (though they were a bit hot running for AZ summers). Plus they only perform their best with 8 to 16-ohm speakers so they are somewhat limited in that respect.

But now, in this 21st Century, I've gotten away from finicky tube amps with their ridiculously priced NOS tubes. After trying many class-D switching amps (NuForce, Spectron, DAC, and Wyred 4 Sound) I believe this technology has evolved to the point where it can exceed the performance of most tube amps although I do admit to using my ICE and Tripath amps with very good tube preamplifiers feeding them. Plus I like that they are very efficient and use little AC power to produce their given output. Additionally, I don't need to consider that I may get a hernia every time I have to move my amps to a different system or location. I do have a very nice QuickSilver tube amp sitting in my closet as a spare and for nostalgia.
I have not studied amp design , so I can only answer no .
Liguy: Very interesting idea for a thread to me. No.... I don't understand the circuitry of my Class AB or Class D amp. According to one member here in paticuclar, it is the misunderstanding of Ice-based Class D amplifier topology that causes some audiophiles to:

1. pair Class D amps with the wrong preamp, sources, cabling etc.
2. and therefore not like the sound of Class D (unnatural)
3. have not heard the true potential of Class D
4. and therefore dismiss Class D as flawed technology

I've stayed the course to this point with my Class D amp.

This is sort of a different subject, but one of the problems I see in high end audio is identifying who the real subject matter experts are versus those who write in the audio forums as an expert would write. Then, there are the manufacturers and designers, some of whom you can't be sure if a "conflict of intereset" skews what they have to say. Many times, you don't know who or what to believe about high end audio. Finally, there appear to be some occasional myths and inaccuracies getting repeated over and over by audiophiles in the forums. (I'm probably guilty of this one)- I'm still learning just like you :) Dealers can have their biases too. So who do you turn to for accurate answers, based on real evidence and experience, who can be trusted to be unbiased, and really know what to tell you about system building across various topologies? Maybe many of us need Audio clubs.... There should be something like a high end audio expert software program where you type in your room dimensions, the gear you have or propose having, the sound qualities you value etc. The software program would generate recommendations on what sources, electronics, cables, speakers etc. you should pair together based on your goals for sound. Nice....
Do you understand your amplifier?

That's why I pay Nelson Pass to understand....lol
here are some terms i have tried to understand the meaning of over the years:
0. when looking at printed circuit boards with hundreds of tiny resistors and
various other devices, how do you design them? with a computer model?
1. global feedback
2. current gain stage
3. voltage gain stage
4. bipolar transistors
5. single-ended transistors
6. input stage
7. impedence- value of SS preamps VS tube and compatability with SS amps
8. power supply vs transformer vs capacitance
9. watts/amps/volts
10-11-12... "additional terms from you"
I have a good understanding of why they are good fits into my systems, and I had a decent idea of what to expect they would sound like prior to hearing, but the 80/20 rule is in effect here. You can't know exactly how anything will sound until you hear it.
Foster, that's a very good idea and totally feasible, again at least as a tool for getting people into the right ballpark regarding good equipment choices for their needs.

Question will be what is the market for it?

I'll add it to my list of things I might do someday when I retire.....
They only thing I really need to know about an amp, or pretty much any other product is what the final sound will be like in my system and room.

What I have learned first hand is that it's the implementation of the design rather than the technology. Tubes aren't inherently better than SS; all class A aren't better than A/B, D, ICE, etc. I've heard excellent examples of pretty much every configuration, and I've heard poor examples. It drives me crazy when people say things like 'tube sound,' 'analog sound,' etc. If it has a distinctive type of sound in this regard, it's probably been designed to have a sound that ventures too far from neutral IMO.

Beyond that stuff, I don't understand anything, really. I just want as little coloration in my sources, amplification, and cables as possible. Since the speakers have the most distortion and are bound most by the room, let them be the tone control.
There should be something like a high end audio expert software program where you type in your room dimensions, the gear you have or propose having, the sound qualities you value etc. The software program would generate recommendations on what sources, electronics, cables, speakers etc. you should pair together based on your goals for sound.
I doubt that there would be any more consistency between the recommendations provided by computer programs developed by different people or organizations than there is between the recommendations offered by individual audiophiles.

Best regards,
-- Al
I have owned and have tried many different amplifiers and I have studied the different types circuitry and have come to the conclusion that simpler designs with high quality parts sounds the best. I like the sound of straight forward Class A and or high biased Class AB solidstate or tube with a solid transformer and great powersupply. The speed and timming the effortless sound. You do not need a trillion watts, you just need good power. I have re-built and modified several amps and have taken good straight forward good designs and put first class parts and have had amazing results. Anymore I do not care study this or build amps I just want to listen to good music and not worry what the electronics are doing because now I can afford any amp I want and I no longer need to modify the lesser expensive amps to get good sound.
In General, my answer is yes to solid state. I've built a couple kits, and have modified 2. I understand the diffence between Class A A/B D, different output transistors, power transformers supply caps, yada yada.
I can read the basics of a schematic but I cannot sit down and draw out anything detailed in a circuit design or completely understand detailed schematics. So, in detail my answer is no.
In tubes, I have rolled a few tubes. Call me Schultz there
I Know Nothing!
I doubt that there would be any more consistency between the recommendations provided by computer programs developed by different people or organizations than there is between the recommendations offered by individual audiophiles.
08-11-11: Almarg

Al, that may be true, but the database could be set up to provide great information:
- speaker phase angles, easy, moderate difficult loads and the amps to pair with various speakers

- amp/ speaker pairings known for matching well and sounding well together

- avoidance of impedance mismatches- preamps-amps, sources- preamps

-completely synergistic audio systems that list all components

-warnings about improper amp- speaker matches or problematic matches of electronics speakers and sources

This could give audiophiles a head start on possible mistakes, especially for the inexperienced. The consistency could be in helping people avoid mistakes in their pairings when making gear choices. Many costly mistakes might be avoided. Most of this stuff ain't cheap!
magic box make pretty music
08-11-11: Foster_9
The database could be set up to provide great information.... This could give audiophiles a head start on possible mistakes, especially for the inexperienced. The consistency could be in helping people avoid mistakes in their pairings when making gear choices.
Excellent point.

As I see it the audiophile is basically acting as a systems engineer. It is generally neither necessary nor possible (given the usual unavailability of schematics and meaningful theory of operation writeups) to have a detailed understanding of the internal design of an amplifier or other component.

What is both possible and desirable is to have a good understanding of the interface characteristics of the components (input and output impedances, impedance variations with frequency, etc.), and of the end-to-end transfer characteristics of the components (gains, sensitivities, signal-to-noise ratios, etc), and of how all those things interact.

While of course none of those things will be or should be decisive in finalizing a choice of components, that kind of understanding will, as you said, decrease the likelihood of poor matchups and expensive mistakes, narrow the range of choices, facilitate diagnosing problems, and make it possible to better prioritize investments of time and money.

Best regards,
-- Al
Exactly!

Build it and they will come?
Ignorance is bliss (sometimes). "Rockitman" has a point...why should I waste valuable nap time learning modern amp technology when other well trained geniuses are working on these things for me? I'm a musician...I need to practice. Read enough reviews and opinions and you can get a clue about how things work and/or sound before trying things at home. I have an amp that (amazingly) has almost ZERO info on the net (Forte' Model 55 MOSFET 100 watt A/B) but comes from a respected maker so I took a chance. Jon Soderberg of Vintage Amp Repair was my only source of meaningful info, and damn, the amp sounds GREAT with promise of sounding greater once I send it to him for mods.
"why should I waste valuable nap time learning modern amp technology when other well trained geniuses are working on these things for me"

The only reason would be is that an amp is a component in a component system. In component systems, for best results, you care about the interfaces between components, but not so much on the internal workings of the component. That is the domain of the geniuses who build them. The interface between each component has to be considered though to determine which ones can work together well.

Even in the best case of a stereo system professionally integrated by an expert using one or more boxes, for best results, you still have to deal with the integration of the system into the room. And also, for best results, the integration of you and your ears into the room (ie listening location).

At that point, you have all the bases covered and life should be good audiophile-wise!
Systems engineer? If only I was making enough money to be able to call myself something like that. };0)
She's class A and gets very hot!
It’s Italian - I like a lot of Italian stuff. It’s got tubes - I like tubes. It has moderate power - moderate power tube amps sound best to me. I have enough things in my life demanding understanding. I engage my stereo system to help me forget them.

Of course, if I did understand my amp, I might feel differently :)
Nope...don't have a clue...

however, I paid lot's of money to someone who DOES.

" Do you understand your amplifier"

Yes, we have a mutual understanding.

I don,t ask of her more than she is capable of and she does exactly what she claims she is capable of.

If this isn't maintained we divorce and I sit and try to figure out what happened while she looks for someone with a bigger and fancier power cord .

Cheers
i think there are two parts to this question.

the first is the design of the amplifier.

the second is the sound of the amplifier.

it is impossible to know the sound of an amplifier or any other component in the absolute sense. this statement can be proven mathematically.

as to design, i have a limited understanding of the design.
"it is impossible to know the sound of an amplifier or any other component in the absolute sense. this statement can be proven mathematically"...huh?...if this can be proved mathematically I'm staying home that day.

Having an understanding of the basics of the design of your gear is all you need...impedance issues, power needs, number of interesting lights, where you're gonna put it...otherwise, when in the presence of my friends who kindly tolerate my yammering about my new cables or Isonodes, I'd be boring the crap out them even more.
Quite well, but I'm an electrical engineer, so it's a bit unfair....
Hi Cathode, Normally I would completely agree with you, but last weekend, my electrical engineer neighbor asked me how to tell which breaker was bad in his box. I tried to loan him a meter and finally went to his house and showed him. You never know.
I see questions like, "I am looking for a tube like solid state amplifier"? Would it not help to understand that MOSFETS are voltage sensitive very similar to tubes and used in a class A biased configuration can be made to sound tube like with very rich second harmonic content. This was one of the goals of Nelson Pass's Aleph amps if I understand correctly. It is simply an aide in the selection process and save some time. Obviously your ears will be the final judge.
Having built a couple of valve amplifiers I would say I understand my amplifiers less now than I did before and find myself wondering how my amps really feel about this. However There is a noteable difference between pentode and triode.
Timlub - Ha! Is your neighbor gainfully employed?