How big of a difference do amps make?

There are probably plenty of threads on this subject so dont be looking for those who went from ss to tube amps.
Current system:
Thor TA-1000
Merlin TSM-MMM
H/K Citation 16
cheap cdp
Im looking to upgrade amps to Thor 30's with maybe Marantz 8004 cdp.
Just curious what to expect... Thanks Jayson
Amps make a huge difference!! Compare systems with amps to those without, the difference is night and day!!
Almost as big a difference as Pangea powercords
Very nice! You are correct. Guess i should have been a little clearer on the title.
Any valuble advice on how much changing amps can impact system?
The tube amp makes a huge difference, the preamp second.
the source makes the most difference 'cuz if the source does not create the sound, the downstream components are sure not going to amplify them! so, i would 1st spend money on your source, get it to where you feel comfortable money-wise & sound-wise & then spend the money on pre & power. buying superb amps before having a source that can take advantage of it would be putting the cart before the horse. IMHO. FWIW.
I think they are every bit as important as speakers, the best speakers in the world just let you hear what your amp sounds like.
I'd rather have a $200 used pr of KEF standmounters with a 10K amp than other way around.
I agree with Schubert. Tube amp with SS pre is better than SS amp with tube pre. I tried it. All tubes is the best. I have Lipinski L707 speakers and they sound great with my Linn Classik, but not nearly the same as my Cary tube set up.
Contrary to Schubert, I drive my Aerial 10T with Sunfire SRA(bought NOS $450). Feels like I need a-bit more power of let's say Sunfire 300(used $700) and I'm sure that it will sound waywayway better than $200Kef with Halcro or Mark Levinson monos. At the same time I don't think that mine do well with 30wpc OTL tube amps or vintage Fisher receiver due to lack of power.

Without sufficient power to the specified load of the speaker neither price or sonic performance copmarison relevant.
Depends on the speakers. Some just can't make use of extra power. Matching amps to speakers is more important.

Cue Ralph's link to the "power paradigm"...
I had to look up the HK Citation 16--apparently it's still a fairly well respected amp (?).

Also your question is very theoretical--you'd do better asking "what amp is best for Merlin TSM's"--& there are tons of threads already on that. But yes, most people use tubes with Merlin's.

But with a "cheap cdp", your system will only sound as good as the "cheap cdp".....with expensive speakers like Merlins, it's like putting Pep Boys tires on a new BMW......
Steveaudio hits the nail on the head. What are you doing with a 'cheap' cdp and thinking about a better (or different) amp. I have little doubt that the Thor will sound better, but why bother if you really can make a much bigger change with a new CDP.

But that said, if getting the Thor (or any other amp which you feel is better for your Merlins) is just your first step in getting ready to seriously explore quality (not necessarily expensive though) CDP's have at it.
I can't recall how often I've said this. Once you get used to the attributes of all your other gear, guess what you then start listening to, again? Your amp. Which will always be the most identifiable piece of gear in your system. You will hear through every other piece very quickly.
Csontos, that may be so but I think it is too bad if it is so. In a given system if I start looking for sonic changes with the speakers I always look at sources and ancillaries first. But having anticipated what you suggest I only use tube amps where I can, for a few bucks, make minor changes by just using different tubes. A cheaper way to skin the cat I think. :-)
The value of a better amp depends on the overall level of quality of your system.
For less expensive (cheap) systems, the 50% for speakers is a good idea. So a cheap amp is going to be required to fit the budget.
For better systems the amp can be more expensive.
My amp is the same cost as my speakers.
I like it. I might by better (read three times current cost) and I would use the same amp. but that is just me.
(from Magnepan 3.6 to Magnepan 20.7 And yes the 20.7 could use even better amplification, but it is all I could afford!)

For amps, that last bit of perfection can really cost a LOT of money.

So for the op, it all depends on the level of your system.
Better all around and then the cost of the amp relative to otehrs can go up.

The Merlin is designed on and for tube amps and is friendly to all tube amps as long as they make enough power.
Newbee, sure, but first things first. It's just the way it is. I wonder how many amp designers would disagree.
I decided to get rid of some of my other gear (sony 5400 and Focal 918's) to save for speakers. I just got the Merlins and I have a good lead on a pair of Thor 30's that I dont want to lose. So i planned on trying to find a stepping stone source in the 600 dollar range to save for the amps.
I am sure others may have traveled a similar path. So i am looking to hear their experience going from ss to tubes.
The Thor preamp made a HUGE impact on me so if the amps follow suite....i think im in for a treat.
McPherson, Sounds like a good plan, getting a tubed amp for your Merlins. I've not heard the Thor so I can't comment further about that but it has a good reputation. I also agree with getting the 8004, it has gotten high marks as well. In fact I was thinking of getting one for backup. I have a lot of hybrid cd's and would like to hear what SACD has to offer.

FWIW I've had three 'watershed' moments in audio. My change from a SS pre to a tubed pre, my change from ss amps to tubed amps, and finding my present speakers.

Good luck. I too think you are in for a treat. :-)
Some amps make a big difference to your bank account, but do
very little to improve the sound. It is really important to pick the right amp for your speakers, so in that view, it can make a hugh difference. Dont confuse this with spending more money to get a "better" amp, because it could be a waste of money if the amps are not right for your speakers.
Hopefully you have a good dealer that has sorted through allot of combinations to find systems that work well.( a tall order, i know :)
I've gone back and forth from tubes to solid state many times in the past 40 years and now have both types of systems. Is one better than the other in most ways? Nope.
polk 432
So in your experience the tube amp made a bigger difference than tube pre?
Case in point, in 2002 I purchased both a Krell KCT preamp and 300cx amp from San Francisco Stereo to power my Thiel CS6s. After half a day of listening I decided that perhaps the more powerful 400cx might be a better match, so I swapped out the 300cx for the 400cx and immediately, I heard more detail, deeper and more highly controlled bass, and deeper soundstage (yes, the 700cx was way out of my budget then). My point here is that even within model lines, and given all else equivalent from a design and execution standpoint, the power supply itself and the current served up to the speakers can make a huge, audible difference.
point could be taken that even amp of less quality with sufficient power may sound better than great one with lack of power.
McPherson, yes, without question. I went from a Carver M 1.5t amp Carver C-1 preamp to a McIntosh 7270 SS amp to the Carver C-1 pre then tried both amps hooked up to my current Cary SLP98P tube pre. The pre made a difference with the SS amps and so did the amps, then I hooked up a Cary V12R tube amp to the Cary tube pre, and heard a big difference, and an even bigger difference when I hooked up my current Cary CAD120's tube amp. Thursday, I'll be getting some (8) matched Gold Lion KT-88 tubes to find out if they will make a difference instead of the stock Electro-Harmonic's.
*I am sure others may have traveled a similar path. So i am looking to hear their experience going from ss to tubes.*

I, & I'm probably others, could go on for hours about going from ss to tubes, & back again. The real issue is: What kind of SPEAKERS do you have? Do they need lots of SS power? Or are they designed to work well with lower powered tube amps? (Like Merlin's).

Merlin's like tube amps--any Merlin owner will tell you that. So still debating SS vs. tubes--what's the point? (Unless you sell the Merlin's & get some power hungry speakers that need big SS amps).

BTW, as far as amps--there are people that design their whole systems around their tube amps--even esoteric expensive amps like Cary 805's say.....(I always wanted to own those).....
That's exactly the correct way to go. You got it!
I was an amplifier nihilist until I went from SS to tubes after I bought my Zu Definitions. Then I went from an EAR 859 to a Yamamoto A-08 to a Deja Vu Audio 2a3 to an Ancient Audio 300b SET amp. Finally, I went from Shuguang Black Treasures to Sophia Royal Princes to Takatsuki 300b. Each change made a difference - some more than others, of course.
I would NEVER own a tube amplifier. Too much money, to much fooling around. Too big a chance for major fireworks.
Paying to retube an amp? no way. (Maybe if i had a garage full of NOS tubes.. but to buy tubes now? crazy expensive.)
I take the solid state amp.
The folks who love tube amps just like the colorations..
There i said it.
A tube preamp can give you a great sound. Good solid state amps are GOOD.
"The folks who love tube amps just like the colorations..
There i said it."

Feeling brave are we??
Elizabeth I would venture that you never heard a great tube amp or maybe you have never owned one, just a guess. So far as colorations with a tube amp wouldn't you also acknowledge that tube pre-amps also can add their own flavor? It seems your fears may lie with thermionic meltdown maybe? I'm sure a concern with some designs but certainly all of them. I've owned 5 tube amplifiers over the years and never have had a major issue with any of them, biasing and replacing tubes is all.

Amp speaker interface is crucial. Source component and recording is where it logically starts and will determine the potential of everything downstream at least in my experience but amps can make a significant difference in the system whether tube or ss.

Rok2id, I wish things were as simple as you seem to wish or believe them to be, thanks for keeping it real :)
I am no expert but I have heard a significant difference in sound tonality, etc...whether it be when trying a different amp, a different preamp, or a different source when using the same speakers. And then, when trying different speakers with these same components...again a significant difference in sound again...and on and on.....IMHO any component in the chain can make a significant difference (to some degree) in sound.
In the last 20 years, only encounter with "fireworks" was with a SS amplifier. Never with a tube amplifier.
Amps make a huge difference!! Compare systems with amps to those without, the difference is night and day!!

Historic moment: the first time Rok has said *any* equipment change is audible! :)
Gsm18439, as an aside... how do you like your Takatsuki 300Bs?? How do they compare to your previous Sophias?
I’m no physicist - just a Science Channel junkie; but it seems that modern physicists no longer talk about space and time as separate entities. That’s because they found that space and time are so codependent that the singe word spacetime is more useful. I’m beginning to think that it’s time for audiophiles to do the same thing with speakers and amplifiers. Like space and time, they are so codependent that to consider them separately serves very little purpose. Just a thought.
I'd trade my beloved tube pre to a SS before I'd ever trade my tube amp. However, it's nice to have both.
Hi Liz,
Maybe you had a bad encounter with a tube power amp I don`t know. I can tell in 20 plus years of using various tube amps they are simple and trouble free.

We all accept that the best amp choice depends on your speakers.Liz, in my experience tube amps have been more realistic and life-like then any SS amp I`ve heard in all these years.I understand your experiences are different from mine.

My current amp is the simplest,trouble free,reliable and by far the best sounding I`ve ever owned.IMO SS amps with odd and upper order distortion is more obviously 'colored' and wrong sounding than many tube amps that admittedly will have more even order distortion. YMMV is definitely true.
Tubes, semiconductors or IC It's all matter of design, but you can't wear size 12 shoes when your feet have size 8.
Congratulations Elizabeth. Don't drink the Kool Aid. It's not what we hear, it's what we think we hear. Often, cause and effect are not as direct as we assume.
When you purchase your audio components do you choose by how they sound or how you 'think' they sound?Who are the Kool Aid drinkers? why is liz`s viewpoint any better or worse just because she prefers SS amps,it`s simply an individual choice.I`d never say tubes are better for everyone, they just are for me so far.
"Historic moment: the first time Rok has said *any* equipment change is audible! :)"

Not so fast my friend. I will admit that my current POLKs sound better than my previous POLKS. :)
I'm with Phaelon: everything affects everything, and discussion of whether this amp or that amp is better or worse is pretty much lacking context when not discussed in connection with the rest of the system.

And this is coming from someone who is extremely happy with his current pre and power amps.
Hi Fla,
Like Gsm I`ve heard both in my amp. The Sophia RP is excellent and top tier,the Takatsuki is a step beyond that level.It`s outstanding.
No doubt tube amp maintenance and expense is a fact that tube amp owners must deal with.

Taking special care of anything requires some special love.

I really like my ARC tube pre-amp, which was my initial experiment with tube amplification. A fantastic piece of gear! Probably about as low maintenance as any piece of high performance tube amp gear. But frankly, I may still replace it someday or relegate it to less frequent use in my second system if I end having to replace tubes too often.

I've had it about 3 years now and am on my third set of tubes, though I have learned since that only the main tube in the phono section requires an extra costly tube tested for low noise. I cannot stand noise when I listen! WHen I hear it with certain tubes, my love of tube sound heads south.
The folks who love tube amps just like the colorations..

This is incorrect. The folks that love tube amps have discovered that they enjoy a larger soundstage, greater detail and don't like the coloration known as brightness.

Tubes can be guilty of richness (coloration) due to 2nd ordered harmonics, but it is a matter of design (not the fact that it is a tube amp) that controls whether or not this will manifest (for example our amps lack this harmonic entirely due to their fully differential design). OTHO transistors exhibit odd-ordered harmonics that tubes don't; due to the way our ears perceive sound this comes off as brightness even if the odd ordered harmonic content is barely measurable.

Additionally, modern day tubes need not be expensive. Our M-60, which is very popular with Merlins, is about a little over $350 to replace the output tubes in both channels.

What we learned here is that both tubes and transistors exhibit colorations. With tubes they are easier to control.
"Rok2id, I wish things were as simple as you seem to wish or believe them to be, thanks for keeping it real :)"

Be careful what you wish for. Things are really dull on my side of the fence. Nothing to upgrade to, keeping the same wire forever, no beautiful tubes to watch at night, staring at lo-fi components and wondering when they will finally fail so I can buy something new. And worst of all, no personal involvement in playing the music. You guys have your ritual to play LPs. I just push a button insert the CD and sit down and listen, absolutely no sense of accomplishment in that. No, you true believers are having all the fun.
I can only take some solace from the music. If it weren't for the music, I just couldn't go on. :)

welcome back, have not seen you in a while.

I have no axe to grind on either side of this argument. Who am I to say what someone else should prefer? Just appreciate someone standing against peer pressure.

The point I eluded to was that the ears hear but the brain interprets. It's a filter and it's called psyco-acoustics. For example, if a vocal frequency range is diminished in comparison to instruments, that can just as easily have the illusion of more distance or depth. For stereo, psyco-acoustics are fundamental. Nothing to do with tubes versus transistors intrisically.

In the projects I've done, like comparing Bessel to L-R filters, it's much more of a trick to disassociate the interpretation to identify an actual distortion or frequency response or whatever. Still not good at it.

Apologies for getting off track.
In my case, expensive speaker(Caravelles 4500.00) with less expensive amp(Jolida 102-B 450.00) sounded MUCH better, than Expensive Amp(Conrad Johnson MF-2500-A 3600.00?) less expensive speaker (Paradigm Studio 100 v2(1800.00?) Having said that the combo of expensive amp CJ MF-2500-A and expensive speakers Caravelles sounded heavenly! Wish I still had that amp,,,,will someone please send me one! I will pay you back when I get a full time job!!!Thank you in advance
We are now into 'spacetime'. Can Quantum Mechanics be far behind. In quantun mechanics, an amp can be good, bad, bright, dull, have a wide sound stage, narrow sound stage, low noise, high noise, even be in everyone's system, all at the same time!! That would mean everyone is correct, no matter what they say or when or where they say it. And just think, all this just to listen to someone like Ms Krall on an LP playing thru a tube amp!!!