How important is the amp?


Over the last few year I have upgraded my phono amp (Sensor Prelude), Turntable (SAC Girati Grande) etc.

But I have never upgraded my integrated amp, a Symphonic Line La Musica. At what point do you upgrade your amplifier. I have been looking at a 2nd hand RG10 mk 4 reference or maybe a Kraftwerk.

When I fool around with cable and other items I can still hear improvements. As long as I can still hear changes in my system when I upgrade I think my amp is still fine or is that a wrong train of thought.
mordante

I believe if you like what you hear there's no reason for a change. A change you can hear and appreciate is going to cost a lot of money, be prepared.
An amps primary purpose is to properly drive a pair of speakers. So an amp is very important and must be up to this task. It should allow you to listen at whatever level your comfortable at with no worry of clipping or putting it into protection mode.

Since you do not list your speakers, we have no idea if you currently have the right amp for your system or could benefit from an upgrade. If its the wrong amp, then an upgrade becomes very important indeed.

If you really like your speakers and plan on keeping them for some time, then amp upgrade is definitely a right move. You might want to upgrade speaker cables too in this case. Without knowing your speakers and taste in sound and music, I'll just mention Gryphon and Rowland, to add to your list.
However, you said you'd never upgraded your integrated - maybe you like it.
My speakers are Dutch speaker. Very little is know about them. Dynamic Solution Master One.

I have no real info about my speakers, no clue how efficient they are or what the impedance is.

http://www.dynamic-solutions.nl/pdf/one.pdf

I'll contact the manufacturer to see if I can get more info.
Not familiar with the sound of your speakers but when I had the Dynaudio C1's I had a Bryston B100 and an Octave V70se. I could change tubes in the V70se to vary the sound from warm to very linear. The Octave although had less power it had more 'control' with the music and didn't sound as dry as the Bryston. With the Dyn's a warmer sounding tube sounded killer. Then I got Raidho's and a linear sound was much better for those.

That said it's all about total system synergy.
The amp is pretty important, but a lot depends on your speakers. If the speakers are meant to be driven with transistors, its likely you will not hear a lot of difference between amps. But if the speakers are meant to be driven with tube amps, you may hear pretty dramatic differences. Some speakers can be driven by both, then you can compare what the differences are between tubes and transistors and again the differences can be pretty profound.

I would think that good conventional speakers should sound good with both transistor and tube and hybrid amp, just different. Electrostatic, horns etc may be another matter.
10-08-15: Inna
I would think that good conventional speakers should sound good with both transistor and tube and hybrid amp, just different.
Nah! I don't think so. I'm in agreement with Ralph here. if you look at the speaker impedance & phase plots you can tell whether the speaker was meant to be driven by s.s. or by tubes. Also, talking to the speaker manuf can reveal some important info such as what amps do they use when they "voice" their speaker. All this leads to the correct category of amplifier - tube or ss or hybrid, etc.
A speaker driven by the wrong sort of amp can sound terrible...
Mordante,
this is probably a biased view since I'm a big fan of Symphonic Line amps myself. I've had experience with the RG4 Mk3, RG1 & Kraft 300 amps. Symphonic Line amps are really very good & can drive most speakers. So, if it were me, I'd wait till the last minute to upgrade the La Musica amp.
having Said that a friend's friend got the Kraftwerk & found it to be a superb amp. I don't have knowledge of how the La Musica & Kraftwerk amps compare.
If you like what you hear and can hear differences when you tweak then I can't think of a good reason to change.

Wait, oh yeah, because there is always something better!!! of course! You never know for sure sometimes unless you try.

If you are content, you will just enjoy listening to the music. If you are not, don't loose sleep. Look for something better now! Money and time is all you have to loose.

Seriously, only you know if you are happy with what you have, but in your case, it sounds like the vital signs are good.
The amp is very important.It was the combination of power, control and overall coherence that made audio system work well seemingly with all musical genres.
and amp to a stereo system is like an engine to a car

Mordante hi,
For what amp will sound the best for you really need to see an impedance/-phase angle graphs on them, I've looked for you and there's nothing.

Failing to get these graphs, the next best is to email the designer and ask them if they have the graphs or last option if they recommend what type amp drives them the best.
Before getting on the amp merry go round, to find what amp drives them the best yourself.

Cheers George
Wow what a tough question.
As important as the preamp and speakers.
In the sense that an amplifier is a fundamental and necessary component to any audio system, they are important. As far as it's contribution to the quality of the sonic signature the system produces, provided it is functioning properly and is of adequate power to properly drive the speakers attached to it....not so important. I would think components' affect on sound quality ranks something like this:
Room Acoustics
Loudspeakers
Recording Quality
Preamp
Source Hardware (TT, CD, Computer Configuration, etc.)
Power Amp
Wires and Cables.

How important is the amp?
Everything is important.
No amp, no sound.

Good amp up to the task of driving speakers to their max, great sound.

Then there is everything else in between.

So it's pretty important I would say.
10-09-15: Danoroo
In the sense that an amplifier is a fundamental and necessary component to any audio system, they are important. As far as it's contribution to the quality of the sonic signature the system produces, provided it is functioning properly and is of adequate power to properly drive the speakers attached to it....not so important. I would think components' affect on sound quality ranks something like this:
sorry but i strongly disagree.
do not underestimate the amp-speaker electrical interface. many people here on Audiogon (& other places) have gotten themselves into loads of trouble both electrically & sonically by blowing this off.
The amp is a major part. You get this interface wrong & all your hard work for the components upstream is flushed down the toilet.
Like it or not, the amp is the heart of the system. It's absolutely not the pre amp. Only one of these can be eliminated without consequence. I find the synergy factor laughable except for certain speakers requiring specific characteristics. I've owned lots of speakers and amps and have always been able to identify the amp regardless of whatever else is in the system. So you always end up listening to your amp no matter what other changes you've made. I challenge anyone to not recognize the sound of their amp through any and all changes they've made. It's the only component in the chain that this can be attributed to.
All components can't have equal billing and that's where the problem arises. Every component has a loyal and fervent (almost religious) following. Having said that, the biggest distortion generator in the audio chain is the speaker. Hands down.

Amps can bring out the subtle differences that amount to greater pleasure and yes, it all depends on the interfaces between amp and speaker but isn't that already an established fact? Its should be easy enough to consult someone on the matter on what to look for and stay within those parameters when choosing a speaker for your amp.

On the other hand, once you've decided on speakers, you'll have a much wider choice when dealing with amps.

As frustrating as it can be when dialing in one's system, it's been my experience that it's the best speaker we can afford that completes it.

All the best,
Nonoise
Having used dozens of amps on dozens of different speakers my finding is thus:

Tube/SS has a relative importance when matching impedance, however, the sound quality of the amp is every bit as important. Often though a tube or SS amp is not theoretically ideal, it will still sound holistically better than the alternative.

In terms of importance of components of an audio system:
The source is critical
The link from the source is critical
The power cord on the source is critical
The DAC or analogue preamp is critical
The power cord to the DAC/pre is critical
The Interconnects (anywhere) are critical
The Integrated amp is critical
The Amp (SS or tube) is critical
The power cords to the amp(s) are critical
The speaker cables are critical
The speakers are critical

Having used cables with passive electronics in them, power conditioners, and tweaks with questionable benefits, I do not consider any of them critical because I find them all to be as subtractive in terms of sound as additive.

The audiophile is free to discount any one or several of these elements, but in so doing you can rest assured you will get nowhere near SOTA sound. :)

Think of it like the human body; which system in operation in the human body would you like to dispense with? The endocrine? Sympathetic nervous system? Circulatory? Excretory? Lymbic? Reproductive? Skeletal? etc.
Now, which of the systems (discrete parts of an audio system) do you think is dispensable?

Nuf said.
Early in my career as an electronic circuit designer I released to the mechanical designer a circuit design I had created for a printed circuit board. The mechanical designer asked me to specify which interconnections within the module were critical. In doing so, he commented that "if all connections are critical, then no connections are critical."

Translation: See the first sentence of the well-stated post by Nonoise just above, with which I agree completely.

Regards,
-- Al
10-10-15: Nonoise
...... Having said that, the biggest distortion generator in the audio chain is the speaker. Hands down.
I agree Nonoise. I stated this in another thread not too long ago & was challenged by the fellow who makes the Lightspeed Attenuator preamp (the one that has optical coupling for signal propagation). He insisted that it was the preamp & that I would surprised it was the preamp hence his design effort to minimize the distortion from it. He pointed me to his white paper which was an OK read. I figured it would be a pissing match if I countered his argument.
In the end, I also agree speakers are the worst offenders but I learnt that not everyone agrees on this. This surprised me as it's so easy to hear the distortion thru speakers esp. if they are not time-coherent (which 99% in the market are not). Anyway, just a side comment FWIW.
@Bombaywalla, you wrote the following "side comment" above:

"In the end, I also agree speakers are the worst offenders but I learnt that not everyone agrees on this. This surprised me as it's so easy to hear the distortion thru speakers esp. if they are not time-coherent (which 99% in the market are not). Anyway, just a side comment FWIW:

Of course, ... how could one not but agree. It's common sense. But your "side comment FWIW" is a pet issue of mine: namely, time coherence. Add to that room effect factors.

If interested in my "FWIW side comment," take a look at the "DEQX Game Changer" thread, which has over 400 posts, including contributions from Al (Almarg). IMO, I think the DEQX addresses many speaker/room related problems touched on in this thread that transcends many "simple" amp/speaker compatibility issues.
I think the most likely source of distortion or any form of inaccuracy in the signal chain are found in the opinions expressed by the listener.
Wolf ... you crack me up. So true!!!
Thanks Al and Bombaywalla for the the kind words.

Bifwynne, you beat me to it. There's nothing like a little Wolf to keep things chugging along in the most humorous of ways.

All the best,
Nonoise
Thank you all for the responses. I am going to try to get an other integrated amp from a distributor for testing. Just to see if it will have an impact.

I will be honest with the distributor that the chances are very slim that I'll actually buy it. But I have bought some of his products in the past so maybe as a courtesy he will loan me an amp for one or two week.
Everything is important in the audio chain; it is true that the speakers are the last element in the chain (plus the room) and they can have a profound effect on good/not so good/terrible results for audio playback but consider those systems you've heard with otherwise good speakers pushed by bad or at least not ideal component choices including amp and pre-amp, digital front-end, cabling, power, etc....and the whole adds up to less than the sum of its parts so to speak. Conversely, remembering several systems with older or less expensive speakers backed by extremely intelligent choices of amp, front-end, cabling, power, etc...exuding much more performance out of a speaker than its price point would indicate and you see the other side of the coin.

There are also many examples at shows, etc...of so-called 'high-end systems' and speakers that simply don't sound good at all...

This 'religious debate' has no winner IMHO and often tons of personal agendas stacked upon it.....the entire system is important, the sound we are looking for, how we build it, how we choose compoents, synergy of each with the other, including speakers and room AND the musical material and quality thereof that we play...it all factors in.

My 2cents....
He insisted that it was the preamp & that I would surprised it was the preamp hence his design effort to minimize the distortion from it.

Well if we are going to talk about distortion and coloration, preamps make very little of it, often a 1/10th or 1/100th of that of the amp, which in turn often pales compared to that of the speaker.

Here is a wonderful set of comments condensed into an pdf by one of the world's leading designers- its well worth the read:

http://jockohomo.net/data/johncurl-v.0.1.pdf
^Interesting link. Thanks.
The room used and its acoustic properties is perhaps the single biggest part of a home system and the one you have least control over to change as needed. So after that, you have to have speakers that can perform well as needed in the room. Then you need an amp up to the task of driving the speakers to their potential. Now you have a solid foundation for good sound you can tweak as needed. After that, you are in a position to focus on teh quality of the source devices used, but these days, with modern digital in particular, getting good results there is less problematic and much harder to go wrong altogether. Of course, teh quality of source material played can vary widely as well, even if all the rest is done to perfection. You have little control over recordings as well other than to try various releases and remasters if needed.
Simple: If your amp mates well with your speakers, than you can possibly change it when you change speakers to find better match.
I borrowed a Octave V110 with super black box. Hopefully tomorrow I'll have some time to install and listen.