I am new to the higher end of music listening, actually I haven’t started the listening part yet. I have just purchased an Emotiva XSP-1 pre and a pair of Magnepan 1.7i’s. My listening room is 14x14 but one wall is not closed off completely and there is an additional open space connected that is 8x9. My budget has been unexpectedly diminished more by having to buy new connectors and speakers cables. I just assumed I would be able to use my old RCA connectors and my 50’ spool of speaker wire I bought from Radio Shack 25 years ago. I will pause while you laugh....Anyway, the jist of it is is that I’ve got $2500 left for an amp. I need advice on what would be good for my setup? What would last the next 25 years, as I am a poor man with expensive tastes and will probably not be able to make any further upgrades. Would something used and older be out of date technically in 10-15 years? Could I consider something new that would be adequate for that price point? Should I go mono or two channel? Thank you for your consideration and reply.
For $2.5K, you are probably looking at stereo amps. Maggie's need a fair bit of power to show their stuff. I would buy used and get the best bang for the buck. You can score a used McCormack DNA-1 for $1k, more if it has upgrades. The nice part of McC is that Steve still upgrades his units- He made my monoblocks this past year. Ayre also makes some fine amplifiers. There is a V-5xe on Ebay right now for around your budget. Those are my favs. I am sure others will offer other manufacturers for you to consider. Bob
Why buy used? Well first off amplifiers really are typically bulletproof. And used saves a LOT of money. Second, buying used means you can also SELL the amp for about the same price. So if you do not like your used amplifier. You can sell it for almost no loss. If you buy a new amp you will lose at least 30%, maybe 50%. Bryston 4B-ST are a great value right now..several at $1,500 And a 3B-ST is only $750 wow.
Why buy used indeed is this not a website for selling used equipment? As Elizabeth correctly points out it's a great way to essentially home audition amps with little financial loss. I daresay many of us here have used that exact strategy over the years.
I have read on htguide.com how much the Magnepan fans love the Parasound A21 with their loudspeakers. Check out the Club Halo forum on that site. Some users also provide tips on how to optimize the sound of Magnepans. Read that years back; so you might have to search for that. So, like Elizabeth said, you might consider a used Parasound A21 and save the money for the "improvements". Good Luck.
There are many silly stories going round here about the sonic character of amplifiers. If an amplifier is any good it will not gave a sonic character, even in the most revealing system. So my simple suggestion is to get a matching Emotiva with enough power to drive your speakers easily (more power is always better). Emotiva makes excellent stuff for realistic prices. If you want to spend more, get a Bryston for really bombproof engineering without any voodoo science. And by the way, if anyone duped you into spending serious money on cables, you know that was a snake oil seller. Just return/sell the stuff and save some money. Emotiva themselves have excellent cables for a decent price.
There are many silly stories going round here about the sonic character of amplifiers. If an amplifier is any good it will not gave a sonic character, even in the most revealing system. "
There are many silly posts from you such as this claiming everything sounds the same and yes among the contributors here there are a tiny noisy handful of those who make similar claims and who are quick to yell snake oil and yet among this same group of contributors there are many many more who do hear the difference. So either this tiny noisy minority are right and all the others have been deluded by this vast conspiracy of snake oilers, or the few who maintain that everything sounds the same are just misinformed or trolls. Perhaps you believe you have some nearly exclusive ability to define the truth but in much greater likelihood it is the rest of this vast diverse experienced and knowledgeable community that is right.
I am not so sure this community is that knowledgeable about test protocol (and science is not a democracy I am afraid). Mind you, I recently did post some links to controlled tests that produced exactly the result that I claim. Do you have tests that demonstrate the contrary, or scientific data that prove/suggest that the kind of measured imperfections that we see in good electronics are above the threshold of human hearing acuity? There are enough audio professionals who will argue exactly as I do.
Have you ever participated in a controlled experiment on this? I have, and it was a sobering experience (I expected to be able to tell them apart). So, can you substantiate your claim under controlled conditions? If you can you can earn the free Harbeth speaker of your choice that Alan Shaw has offered as a reward.
"....you have tests that demonstrate the contrary......"
I certainly do, my ears. If to your ears all audio amplifiers sound they same and Emotiva is your benchmark for excellence, then you're a lucky person. You probably claim all acoustic guitars sound the same as long as they "measure" identical. You still haven't said what amplifiers have you actually heard to arrive at this conclusion . Your conclusions seem to be just by reading the measurements. As mentioned before, if the measurements were the only criterion in sound quality, all tube electronics belonged in the dumpster .
I have already answered you before about my experiences and my current setup (why do you keep asking). And no I do not claim all guitars sound the same. Amplifiers are not musical instruments, and they should not be. And indeed, I do not rate many tube amplifiers very highly - they may sound euphonic but that is not the same as accurate.
I do not doubt that you have heard differences, by the way. Apart from possible differences because you may have compared inaccurate tube amplifiers, the most common cause of perceived sonic differences is differences in loudness level. If that occurs, you do indeed hear a difference in ’sound quality’ - that is how the human brain interprets these level differences. Remove those loudness differences, and the sound quality differences disappear as well. But mind you, the remaining differences have to be very small - below about 0.2 dB, and you can only achieve that by using a good Volt meter on the speaker outputs. Just try and you will be amazed.
Thank you sir. This forum needs more posters like you. When I read the OP's first post in this thread I cringed at the idea that a person would spend money on wires before shopping for a critical component such as an amp. I am so happy that I was able to secure an education in electrical theory and a working knowledge of electronics repairing and maintaining radio equipment in F-4 and F-15 fighters before my foray into audio components. I have no doubt that with the stuff being marketed as audio enhancing technology these days that I have saved myself countless thousands of dollars that would have otherwise been wasted. Keep up the good work.
So you claim that your hearing is better than e.g. an Audio Precision Audio Analyzer? Do you have evidence for this?
Not necessarily. My claim is that my amplifiers sound differently depending on many factors. E.g. different coupling caps, tubes, feet, power cable. It is quite obvious. In fact, changing my platter mat changes the sound dramatically. Reproducible over a number of tests. Perhaps it is not the sensitivity of my hearing which is in question here, but of yours.
Just read my posts more carefully. I am not saying that everything sounds the same. I have argued that amplifiers may sound differently for a few identifiable and avoidable reasons commonly ignored by audiophiles, and not for the magic reasons that they think. Amplifiers are clipping on input if there is a gain mismatch between the output of a source and the input of the amplifier, they may have a load dependent frequency response (largely a tube isssue) and they may be clipping on output because of insufficient power. Finally there is also an observational issue when sighted comparisons are made at different levels, and with too much time in between. The result has been too much agonizing over electronics and too much budget allocated to them. For the industry this is attractive because this is where the profit margins are (I will not even mention the cable folly). I have also argued that the links of the chain at the interface between the mechanical and the electrical are far more flawed than people seem to think, and deserve more attention and a bigger slice of the budget (my argument is not that good audio is cheap). This is easily demonstrated by even the most basic and uncontroversial measurements. The explanation is simple, and nothing more than mainstream physics: these components have mass, and mass vibrates, is slow, and behaves in a nonlinear way. So microphones are imperfect, even the best ones (but this is out of our hands), and so is the vinyl link of the chain, and at the final end of the chain so are the speakers and their interaction with the room. For this simple reason I have abandoned vinyl years ago, and for the same reason I have bought what I think of as the best speakers money can buy (Quad electrostats, i.e. dipoles with less room interaction, and yes I listened to them), and applied room equalization to deal with the room modes generated by my sub (and yes I can easily hear the improvement). In all its simplicity the argument is nothing more than that you do well to allocate your money to reduce the biggest errors in the reproduction chain. The strategy is a simple combination of science and engineering principles and economics: what is the marginal sonic utility of an extra $1000 spent on speakers compared to an extra $1000 spent on electronics? How does an improvement in electronics distortion from for example 0.002% to 0.001% compare to the sonic benefits of a reduction in speaker distortion from 2% to 1%? In the first case you go from 2.002% to 2.001%, in the latter from 2.002% to 1.002%. You can do a similar sum with frequency response, where good electronics can easily stay within 0.2 dB, but speakers have a very hard time staying with 2 dB. Their real world in-room response is even far worse. So I did start a discussion of room acoustics, but that has fizzled out for apparent lack of interest. So no, I will not claim that all gear sounds the same, or that no improvements are possible.
@willemj Interesting points on total distortion comparison. My take is that if the measurable distortions (or not perfectly flat frequency response) do not detract from the general resolution of the system, then it is not a big deal. One can get hung up about small quantitative measurements while missing the bigger picture- the quality of the music reproduction. In other words, the goal is not to lose data at any cost, rather than minimum distortion at any cost. In fact DHT SETs with horns reproducing every minute nuance of emotion from a 60s mono LP may be more satisfying than an ultra low measured distortion rig which loses that detail at every step of the reproduction process. Remastering for example. Further, while vinyl has measureable and audible distortions, a great analogue recording will always sound better than one in which the data has been irretrievably lost.
Actually, yes you have ... you've just placed a few conditions on your claim.
I have argued that amplifiers may sound differently for a few
identifiable and avoidable reasons commonly ignored by audiophiles, and
not for the magic reasons
that they think.
If there's a practitioner of magic here, it would apply at least as much to you - and maybe more - as it does to your critics. "Magic" is an illusion, and relies on things such as misdirection, psychology and manipulating expectations.
Distortion and resolution are intimately related: with distortion you lose resolution. However, you are right there is a level at which distortion or non flat response become irrelevant, once they dive below the threshold of human hearing. That was exactly my point. But how do you define loss of data or detail?
cleeds, you are so tiresome in your deliberate misrepresentation of what I say. 1 It was suggested that I think everything sounds the same. 2 My answer was that this may be true in the case of electronics if some conditions are met. But those conditions do matter, and I have repeatedly stated them here. I have also repeatedly backed them up with emperical evidence. If you have empirical evidence to the contrary, you are welcome to present it. 3 The other part of my answer was that speakers and room interaction produce far from perfect results. I do not think that is controversial.
noromance, that then would be the distortion level that humans cannot hear. Indeed, there is enough research that we can tolerate or not even discern quite high levels of distortion. My question was, however, how resolution is lost if it is not by such distortion?
cleeds, you are so tiresome in your deliberate misrepresentation of what I say.
If you find my posts tiresome, don't read them. But when you make absurd claims - such as those with whom you disagree believe in magic - please expect to be challenged. It goes with the territory you've staked out as yours.
For a start, odd harmonic distortion present in some systems is more discernible while high levels of even order HD are less offensive. As far as losing information, let’s assume a straight wire with gain. Now, electronically, consider the hundreds of PN junctions in a digital system compared to a non-digital system. Then the actual ADC/DAC conversion processes? Digital amplifiers? The replication losses changing formats? SMPS power? If you take a direct to analogue recording and digitize it, you will lose information due to losses inherent in the process. Of course, remastering can add in subtle delays and effects to enhance the sound but it is not the same as the precious original. Again, in other words, once you subject the original signal to interference (pun intended), you lose data.
First, buy a used amp. You'll get almost twice the value for your money. There's a highly modified McCormack DNA-0.5 available here now well below your $2500 budget that will last forever and you'll never feel the need to apologize or upgrade. Another good choice is Bryston -- I'd focus on the SST2 models as I think they're the sweet spot of sound and value (btw there's a 4BSST2 for sale here now near your price range) -- that is also bullet proof and offers a 20-year warranty. My choice would be the McCormack, but I'd defer to Maggie owners if it's got enough juice to get the most out of your speakers -- although you've got a relatively small room and the 0.5 is conservatively rated so I'd think it'd be fine.
Second, my opinion is that these amps outclass your preamp -- not that you don't have a decent preamp, it's just that these amps are really good. And, at least in my experience, the preamp can have an even bigger impact on what you hear than the amp. Bottom line, at some point you should probably consider upgrading your preamp (or at least audition other preamps in your system) as your speakers and amp will give you even more of what they're capable of.
Lastly, despite what some others have said here, interconnects, speaker, and power cables all make a big and meaningful difference once you reach a certain level. Whether you need to spend more or less is entirely listener- and/or system-dependent, but at the very least it's more than worth experimenting. I'd just say this -- buy used and you can usually swap wires in or out at little or no loss. In fact, I'll throw out an opening salvo. There's a pair of Acoustic Zen Hologram speaker cables (very good all-around cables) available here now for 500 bucks. If they don't make a big difference over lamp cord or whatever you're already using, good for you and just sell them. At least you'll know, for your specific situation, that you're in good shape (obviously you can do the same for interconnects, where I'd recommend AZ Silver Reference series 1 or 2 -- they're both very good). BTW, by coincidence while researching your question I happened to see this review of your speakers with a Bryston amp and some Acoustic Zen wires -- just FYI.
Although I appreciate the scientific approach that some here have, I find it laughable that many claim, little, to no difference, in sound, between amplifiers / preamplifiers, not to mention cables, feet, and such.
Always an interesting argument, paper graphs vs. ears. I have sold high end audio and had a company selling and installing high end systems. The brands I have sold or were the dealer for were JMLab/Focal, B&W, Maggies, SoundLab, Ayre, AudioResearch, Acurus, Aragon, YBL, Wadia, PS Audio, NAD, Rotel, PSB, Harbeth, HSU subs and quite a few others. I also have an Associates Degree in Electronics so I can understand a lot of how circuits work. And I can solder. A lot of theoretical Engineers can't. My point is, I have heard and compared a lot of different brands and models for a living, and I liked my job. I have made my own interconnects and since a lot of my systems were in-ceiling/in-wall stuff I even bought 15 different volume knobs and tested them. BTW, Knoll's resistor based knobs sounded the best, way better than pots.
So yes, Virginia, there is a difference in amplifiers. I sought different audio gear and interconnects because of their differences. Because people hear and gravitate towards a particular sound/flavor. That's why there's not one generic box that says AMP on it for everybody. I think all of the brands I sold were quality, but they did sound different. Probably because I played shred guitar for years I like the sound of tubes. On paper they may not spec well, but the most sound I've gotten out of paper was shaking it. There are a lot of fraudulent or misguided attempts to enhance sound quality but I've seen some weird tricks that work. One is big ass AC cords-12ga. high strand count cable with hospital (Watt-style) connectors. After running the electricity through miles of Romex why do they make a difference in the sound through speakers? Doesn't work on some systems but my AR LS-8 and Aragon 8008BB appreciated them. Personally I really liked the Aragon amps, especially the 8008 series. And yes, they sound great with a non-balanced pre. I like tube pres myself, but that's just me.
So my job was to listen and compare and then present my recommendations to the customer based on qualifying questions like their existing gear, room environment, tastes in music and so on. If you do something for 20 years you should get good at it. And for every customer I had to prove to them there was a difference, an improvement or no sale. Depending on reviews only sucks, I trust my ears to know what's good (for me, anyway).
To wrap up a long-winded conversation: if you can find a high end shop near you and if they're a 'good' shop they'll work with you. Sometimes audio repair shops will carry used and consignment gear. If not check out reviews from good audio mags like Stereophile (I hope they're still around) or the like. CNET ain't gonna cut it for good audio but I do like their TV reviews (I'm ISF trained). Manufacturers sites usually archive reviews on older models as well.
You are going to get a lot of recommendations. Opinions are like... bellybuttons... (polite version), everyone's got one. Since this is a long term purchase take your time. Join an audio-enthusiast club if there's one nearby or post a c-list ad in 'electronics' and start your own. I used to attend monthly meetings at members houses to hear their systems, listen to mostly good music and geek out about sound and motorcycles (lot of members also rode). Enjoy the hunt, most of the above recommendations are good ones.
IMO the scientific audiophiles among us seemed to have missed an essential point in relying on low distortion or measures of human hearing. The goal, ultimately, is not accuracy. Accurate reproduction is impossible. Reproduction of what? The instruments? The engineers’ concept of the bands sound? The microphone manufacturers concept? it seems to me what many if not most of us are seeking is the maximum satisfaction with the sound of a system we’ve chosen and assembled with any and all of the elements we deem effective. This may or may not coincide with ‘accuracy’. Whether it does is irrelevant to anyone but the individual audiophile. In 40 years I have never heard two major components that sounded identical. To me. Btw. I’ve blind demo’d ic’s and speaker wire for many friends and not had a single one fail to hear some difference... which they preferred...now that’s something else entirely.
the scientific audiophiles among us seemed to have missed an essential
point in relying on low distortion or measures of human hearing ...
It seems to me that most of the audiophiles here who claim to be scientists are nothing of the sort. They typically offer data only collected by others; they don't confirm the data or results in their own tests. At the same time, they demand data from anyone with whom they disagree, and label them "faith-based" audiophiles or believers in magic. Meanwhile, huge numbers of audiophiles testify to what they hear - such as differences between amplifiers - that the "scientists" can't explain other than to point to things such as the very confirmation bias to which the "scientists" are obviously vulnerable. If you apply Occam's razor, it's pretty easy to ascertain the truth here.
After reading some of the posts in response to your question, it's not too late to sell all your gear and buy a motorcycle or boat..."He who asks questions on audiophile forums may wish they never bought that first AR turntable" I think Henry Kloss might have said that...
Just kidding..I would invite you to ignore the posts of people who scream "snake oil" and "all power amps measure and sound the same" crowd and make yourself happy with a system you can afford and enjoy.