Higher power=better sound at low volume?

I have heard numerous times that the more powerful the amplifier, the better the sound will be even at low volumes. If this is true, I assume it only holds true if you are comparing apples to apples so to speak meaning 100 Krell watts problably sound better than 200 Rotel watts through the same set of speakers. But if you are comparing apples to apples, is this true? If so, this should justify more powerful amplifiers, perhaps above and beyond the power rating of the speakers, for someone who only listens at low volumes. Is this true? Is this true only for certain classes of amp, A vs AB VS D, ETC. or is this a myth?
Thanks for any info

thus making a really powerful amp useful even for people that don't listen at loud volumes.
All other things being nearly equal ( often the case in SS amps ), 200 watts power is usually better than 100 watts as it will be less likely to clip as source material becomes more challenging. A doubling of power is usually required to make a perceptible audible improvement.

Transients in music can be challenging even if the average sound level is quite low...this is why a more powerful amplifier or an amplifier with more transient headroom can be better even at low levels.

An inefficient speaker with a difficult and bumpy impedance curve can also complicate matters. Amplifcation needs to be appropriate for your speakers. Damping factor is usally higher in bigger amplifiers...this will better control your drivers and reduce distortion.

A small amplifier when overdriven can destroy speakers many times the rating of the amplifier.
On this topic, I always thought that it was about the speakers' ability to play well at low volumes that mattered. For amps is about how good that that first watt or two is that matters.

Regards, Rich
I have heard numerous times that the more powerful the amplifier, the better the sound will be even at low volumes.

Not a yes or no answer for that one, in my opinion.

For instance, Atma-Sphere builds several OTL amps, all similar designs.

The baby is 60 watts and two above it, 100 watts plus and one 200 watts plus. All three of these sound excellent and very similar at moderate volume levels.

In this case, the extra power of the larger models is not an advantage unless needed for sound pressure level or a more difficult to drive speaker.

On the other hand, my personal system was powered by amps from 40 watts to 750 watts and the various designs (read, different companies) did sound very different, even when using a fraction of their total output.

All amps have a personality and all speakers respond to the amp driving them. It's possible to love a speaker with one amp (low or high power) and not like it with another amp (low or high power).

Sorry to be confusing, but the point I'm making is power is important, design is important and matching is important and often an amp gets credit for the wrong reason.

A perfect example. A good friend in my group owned VTL 750's, just as I do. He powered his Kharma Exquisite speakers with them and on a lark, tried a par of the Lamm SET's. After a week, he sold the VTL's and kept the Lamm's.

The Lamm have only 18 watts per channel and the VTL's have 750 watts per channel. The VTL sound is dark, dynamic and contrasty and my friends room is VERY damped acoustically and his speakers sounded more lively and transparent with the Lamm.

Obviously in this case the personality of the Lamm was more appealing than the superior power. Both these amps are very high quality and both are expensive.
You'll find people who claim low powered amps sound best. I've never noticed that in my experience. I tend to have speakers that need some power and have found that 2-300 wpc is what I need although I never use it. It seems to me that it's when you tend to turn them up a bit that lower powered amps can sound a bit strained where the more powerful amps sound at ease.
How well it sounds at low volume is what I have been going by for decades.
opposite is true IMO.
However, almost all great amps sound great in that first watt (or they wouldn't sound great anyway)
The speaker is the key in low volume reproduction.
Some do well, some can only sound great at higher volumes.
It all comes down to the speaker - no point in discussing amps. I have a pair of Triangle Comete ES speakers and they rock at half the volume of my JM Labs. If you want low-volume listening, get some forward speakers with excellent microdynamics and mate just about any amp you want to them.
Speaker efficiency must play a part. If you get 90 db from your first watt and 93 from the second watt, 96 from the 4th watt and so forth, how much power will be needed for low level listening? So I agree with Elizabeth. My speakers are 101 db efficient and sound very dynamic even when played quietly.
I like Albertporter's theory.

Go to a hi-fi shop and take a resolving pair of bookshelf speakers.
Set them up with three different amplifiers at about 50w, 100w, and 300w.
Assuming they are all quality amplifiers there will be an appreciable difference in sonic characteristics.
Chances are the more powerful amplifier will be more dynamic at low volumes though.
Not necessarily better; just different.
Matching an amplifier with a speaker (and preamp, and source, and ROOM) is time consuming.
Recall buzzword "synergy."

Good luck!
Several factors come into play, both on the amplifier side and the speaker side.

The amplifier's distortion envelope is very important. Large amounts of second harmonic distortion are inaudible, but very small amounts of high order distortion can be quite objectionable. And a type of distortion called "crossover distortion" that occurs at the zero point with class A/B amplifiers is particularly nasty. Its usually masked at medium and high power levels, but is unmasked at low volume levels. If an amplifier's distortion rises at very low power, that's likely a sign of crossover distortion. Class A amps are free from crossover distortion, as are Class D amplifiers, and of course some Class A/B amplifiers are better in this area than others.

As you can infer from the above, loudspeaker efficiency can come into play. If the speakers are high efficiency and the amplifier suffers from crossover distortion, then the amp is more likey to be used at very low power levels where that distortion is most audible. This is probably one of the main reasons high efficiency speaker owners prefer single-ended triode amplifiers, as they are inherently Class A and free from crossover distortion, which under the circumstances would be far more objectionable than the high second order harmonic distortion they do generate.

Also, if a loudspeaker has drivers with significantly differing power compression characteristics (meaning they don't all increaase in loudness at the same rate), then the system has probably been voiced to sound right at medium to high volume levels and will have a tonal imbalance at low volume levels. Usually the tweeter compresses less than the woofer, so most common is a speaker that sounds dull at low volume levels and overly bright at very high volume levels. This is less likely to be an issue with high efficiency loudspeakers, and is a non-issue with single-driver loudspeakers.

Finally, I have read that some woofers have suspension systems that are non-linear at low power levels and so the bass is weak at such levels. Frankly I think it's more likely that weak bass at low power levels is a function of the ear's reduced sensitivity to low frequencies at low volume, but wanted to mention it just in case. Rubber surrounds are most often accused of being non-linear at low power levels.

As long as an amplifier isn't driven into clipping, I don't think it's how powerful the amp is per se that will make the most difference in its low-volume-level performance.

Best of luck to you,

This subject has been on my mind for a long time. I now have Wilson Sophia,series 2--Had the 1's before.(I think the upgraded 2's are better in the hi mid to upper high range) Now back to a power amp. I should mention I am an apt. dweller so low-volume is a constant way of life for me. I choose the Soph' for its ease of drive (Think; i.pod demo)and less fussy placement,qualities.
I was considering Pass 250.5 or 350.5. I was so confused about sound quality between the 2, I never bought either. I now have a Belles Ref 150 and even they make a 350 ref which I have pondered. I love what I have now but the speakers are still at around 200hrs of use and I figgure I should wait till they have at least 500 or more hrs on them.
So this thread re. someone's 150/250 vs their higher powered version has peaked my interest.
From what I have read, I love everything about the Lamms,'cept the price.BTW, this combo I have now it the best I have ever owned,but---?
Albertporter, FYI, Atma-sphere's smallest amp is their S-30, [30 wpc], although this is a stereo amp, and not a pair of mono-blocks, like the M-60.

The "big boy" is the MA-3, rated at 475 wpc! There are several unique features, including "on the fly" individual tube testing! Here is a link for the MA-3 Amp

I happen to think that Ralph Karsten is a remarkable designer, as well as a remarkable human being! He is one of the last truly independent manufacturers, having a long and proud company history.

Getting back to the question at hand, for SS operating in class A/B, I always went with an amp rated at or above maximum rated speaker power. For SS pure class A, I used an amp rated at 50-75% of speakers rated power. For tube amps, 50% of the speaker's rated power, even less sometimes, if the tube amp was operating pure class A. Just my general rule of thumb, tailored to my own listening preferences.
I think Audiokinesis brought up an important point about playing music at lower volumes: the lower the volume the less bass and treble the human ear/brain perceives in relation to the midrange frequencies. This is compensated for with switches on a lot of mass market equipment ('loudness' switches, etc.) but never seen on the higher end preamps and integrateds.
I definitely agree, though, that each amp/speaker combo has its own sound or personality regardless of wattage.
Albertporter, FYI, Atma-sphere's smallest amp is their S-30, [30 wpc], although this is a stereo amp, and not a pair of mono-blocks, like the M-60.

The "big boy" is the MA-3, rated at 475 wpc! There are several unique features, including "on the fly" individual tube testing! Here is a link for the MA-3 Amp

I knew that Chubbyparrott :^),

I was mostly trying to make a point about sound while reminiscing over the Atma-Sphere's I've owned. Just recently sold my mono M60's although It's been a long time since my MA2's.

No MA3's for me, I have to pay the electric bill around here. Can you imagine those in the summer here in Texas?

Now return here with some Parrot jokes, this thread is getting WAY too serious.