Is this clipping?

I listen to jazz music mostly, using a 10 watt SET (300b) amp and a pair of high efficiency single driver speakers. Sounds great at any volume with any and all jazz. But when I try to play HEAVY rock music loudly, it sounds like a completely different system: The soundstage flattens, instruments blur, and dynamics are lost.
We all know that a system like mine is not intended for certain types of musics, but I wonder what is the main reason for this behavior. Is it clipping? Is it a characteristic of this particular type of tube or amplifier? Or is it a charateristic of full-range drivers like Fostex, Lowther, PhyHP?
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Sounds like textbook tube soft clipping to me.
It could be clipping or you could be describing how a large percentage of rock recordings actually sound. Get an SPL meter and measure how loud you listen to both jazz and rock. If the sound deteriorates at the same SPL on both, then it's clipping.
I agree with onhwy61. Furthermore, some equipment cannot handle intense complex passages. A lot of single driver speakers have problems with that. Quad ESLs for instance, NOS DACs too.
If it sounds great at any and all volumes then there is no reason why it cannot play rock. If it is clipping on rock then it will clip on jazz too - if you play loud enough.
Well, I throw this out as possibility. Much Rock music tends to have plenty of sustained high volume. Much Jazz music tends to have more dynamic contrasts (some big band excepted). Many amps are capable handling brief power peaks, but are strained by continuous demands.
PEople are sometimes under the misconception that rock/pop music is the easiest to get right. When it does not sound good, the recording is blamed. I have not found that to be the case. Large scale classical and many rock/pop recordings especially newer loudness wars recordings were some of the toughest for me to really get right. The thing these have in common is longer high energy passages that get choked out in an underpowered system. Also smaller drivers may be challenged to deliver full dynamics with these as well. You may have a double whammy going on in your case with the low power tube amp and the single full range drivers. The recipe for good rock and pop in general is usually lots of power and larger or multiple drivers.
Mapman, most modern pop recording suck! The classical recordings are not subjected to the same mass marketing recording engineering aberrations. People in the know are not mistaken! It's the recording, not the amplification. Even those with power to spare suffer through most modern pop recordings.
My speakers are 16 ohm, 97db sensitive, in a small room. The amp is also set for 16 ohm. The volume control on my preamp seldom gets past 11:00, so I wonder if the amp is really clipping.

Unsound, I agree with your comment about sustained high volume on some rock recordings. Somehow this overloads either the amp or the speakers, or both.

Mapman, I agree that modern pop/rock recordings are some of the toughest to get right.

My experience over the years has been that most all rock/pop recordings suffer if the system is underpowered or undersized, among other things. The ultimate quality of these compared to others on the grand scale of things doesn't matter.

Whatever their other issues on the grand scale, the newer louder pop/rock digital recordings out there are more challenging from a power perspective, not less. I think it just follows that louder requires more power to reproduce accurately, for better or for worse.

Modern rock pop along with perhaps big band and large scale classical are exactly the types of music I would expect a flea powered SET running single driver full range speakers to demonstrate limitations with, at least at realistic volumes, although this kind of setup should sound heavenly most of the rest of the time.

Play the drum intro to "Know Your Enemy" By Green Day for example. WHen the song starts and the drums hit, they should sound very real and knock you out of your seat. Other than that, the recording is acceptable for what it is, but nothing special by any stretch otherwise.
Mapman, the way new pop recordings are made, more often than not, leads to the lowering of volume, even in high powered systems, negating the very benefits of high power. These recordings are made to facilitate lesser systems that amongst other things, don't have the power to handle true dynamic contrasts.
Well, if the system is clipping as a result, the results will not be good, that is for sure!

Overdriving the speakers won't help either.

Both together is the double whammy.
Overdriving = clipping.
Overdriving the amp = clipping. Overdriving the speakers is something else. Either way you stand a chance of damaging drivers.

Many audiophiles believe their tweeters are not in danger with tube amplifiers because they clip so graciously. This not so.

Overdriving the speaker results in damaged woofers.
Agree overdriving amp (clipping) and overdriving speaker are two different (bad) things.

With loud recordings, you have a lose/lose scenario if amp is underpowered. You can keep the volume up as intended and distort due to clipping or be forced to turn it down whether you want to or not.

Regarding overdriving the speakers, you have a different issue but the same choices, distort or turn it down.

if you have both, ie underpowered amp and speakers/drivers that cannot go loud and dynamic effectively, you have th edouble whammy which is more common and more severe with modern loud recordings.

Address both these issues and at least you are in a position to play the game optimally regardless of recording quality.

Clipping is the consequence of over driving.
" If it is clipping on rock then it will clip on jazz too... "


A primer on clipping and other challenges in faithful reproduction of musical peaks was written by Simon Thacher of Spectron and published in EnjoyTheSound:
That's a nice article.

My technical intuition tells me that fast and highly efficient Class D switching amplifiers like the Spectrons or Icepower are tailor made to accurately address the issues associated with dynamics, transients, and clipping better than conventional SS or soft clipping tube amps. What I hear on my BelCanto ref1000m Icepower monoblocks support that. For my application and speakers, in that I want realistic dynamics and transients as much as possible with minimal fatigue causing distortions, none of the power or current available in the ref 1000ms are optional or unneeded I believe. The OHMs in particular are capable of very good dynamics, articulation, detail and and muscle (a tough combo to achieve together) if provided the power needed fast enough and the BC icepower amps have set the bar in regards to that for me.
Food for thought. I recently produced a hard rock album that was master at sterile sounds in NYC. We sat in with the engineer and after about 4 to 5 hours of listening to the same few songs we left. In the mastering studio is sounded awesome, like yes right there drum hits perfect, guitar loud and controlled.

So we get in the car modest stock car stereo sounds terrible.

So I bring it home and put on this one song and on my Primare I normal listen with the volume on 25 or 26, 40 is half. Well the recording was so HOT is blew my right tweeter and just before it blew the sound stage just disappeared. So as much as I want to agree with MAPMAN that there is never anything wrong with the recording this makes me disagree but at the same time under powering a speaker is just as bad, so what it comes down to is process of elimination. I don’t think either one is a 100 true argument.

Oh MAPMAN DEATH MAGNEGTIC Metallica’s latest album play that and report back. Oh and don’t listen to the one from Guitar Hero it’s a different recording, there are bootlegs around of that one.

Ted Jensen doesn’t even what credit for mastering that one LOL
pardon my english corrections "Sterling Sounds NYC" and "want credit"

But you say it sounded good with realistic dynamics and loudness in the studio, right?

So the recording would not seem to be the issue. Sounds like your amp clipped and blew the tweeter. Clipping is usually the case when a tweeter blows. Loud, dynamic passages are usually the culprit.

When I used to sell audio years ago, with vinyl as th emain source, many more tweeters were blown by 15 or 20 watt amps tha 80 or 120w/ch ones. Warped records in particular were problematic in that the low frequency noise created used up the power and left the actual music to clipp fairly easily. This is not an issue with digital and I believe fewer tweeters get fried these days in practice due to clipping with digital sources, even though clipping is still a common occurence and affects the sound quality otherwise..

Overdriving a speaker with too many clean watts without clipping can occur also and limit or distort the sound perhaps somewhat, but damage to the speaker is less common than when clipping occurs.

I'll try to check out the Metallica. The Metallica I do have (S&M, Metallica Black album) finally sounds about as good as it can sound these days since moving to the 500w/ch Icepower "monster" amp.
Yes in the studio it sounded great but we took things a step further and found that the levels were peaking according to pro tools. Now why we didn't notice this in the studio could be because when u listen to the same song over and over again ur ears become deaf to attention to detail. They need a break. Now I believe in heart of hearts that in todays world of digital distortion clipping occures ever more often without a listener pushing the limits. Again thats what I believe.

I look forward to you listening to the metallica album. All nightmare long is a killer tune. But seriously be carefull its filled with digital distortion which is what people maybe be getting confused with clipping.
Its true that a lot of modern "loudness wars" CDs feature peaked out/clipped waveforms in the recording. Combine that with amp clipping during playback and things can get really ugly!

I have 13000+ CD tracks on my music server. I often play them randomly like a jukebox. I usually set levels to be loud enough for most recordings. WHen a newer loudness wars track comes on the overall loudness is clearly audible in comparison to other tracks. If my amp were clipping, I would probably not dare do this. As is, there is no audible distortion or breakup with these loud tracks unless in the recording, but yes the relative volume level is apparent. These tracks generally still sound pretty good, but definitely loud and they often succeed in grabbing your attention which is what is intended.
Getting back to my particular system (300B, SET, high efficiency full-range driver), I believe that all the components are well-matched, and there is no clipping. My suspicion is that this combination of components (as good as they are for traditional types of music) cannot faithfully reproduce the type of dynamics that are encoded in some modern digital recordings. I'm talking about the types of recordings that go from loud to louder to ear-splitting.
One interesting thing about these drivers is that there is never a hint of visible cone movement regardless of the volume. This in contrast to the clearly visible excursion of multidriver designs.
SPL Calculator

Here's a tool you can use to determine how loud your system can go given 10w/ch if you know your speakers efficiency.

These things are usually just ballpark estimates to determine where you are on teh grand scale perhaps. Playing a system at a believed safe volume level still does not tell you how accurately transients are handled at various volumes for example, so the more subtle effects of clipping are still possible.

If you are way into the green zone based on how loud you like to listen given the factors considered, though, that probably means clipping is less likely than otherwise, at least.

It would not surprise me if some full range drivers are undersized overall and/or have limited driver excursion and are thus more of a challenge to produce high level volumes and realistic dynamics with than multi driver designs , especially with low power amps.

BTW the way, I think the OHM Walsh speakers I am fond of and use are perhaps one of teh best designs out there for maximizing what you can get out of a single driver. Everything up to 8000hz or so is produced by a single omnidirectional driver using Lincoln Walsh's principles that can be scaled up or down in size accordingly based on room size with minimal or any change to the resulting sound. Properly amplified and in room sizes typically found in residences (I use 500w/ch Icepower amps) these go as loud as you want with fantastic dynamics and essentially no sign of stress. They are true "muscle" speakers also capable of finesse and detail. Conventional box designs have to be much bigger and way more expensive to compete IMHO.

After many years of trying, I think my current combo of high power Icepower amps and the OHM Walsh speakers finally puts my system performance into the upper echelons of performance possible in regards to ability to go loud, clear, and dynamic yet for comparatively modest cost.
If you would read the Simon Thacher of Spectron paper as I suggested above then you would see easy explanation why you can "drive" jazz but not heavy rock

EASY: your amplifier's power supply can reach headroom (peak) voltage and current required for jazz AND heavy rock (for your speakers, size of room and volume you set) but but but not for the duration (duty cycle) heavy rock requires.

If you want to listen heavy rock well - change your speakers to more efficient or amplifier with better headroom (do not confuse it with rms power as its not the same and power in rms is probably the most misleading specs in audio as it tells me nothing but some clue...).

Your dealer or manufacturer must be your consultant: they do not sell refrigirators and got to work for their money !
I've read that paper and I agree. The 300B amp can reach the peaks, but can't sustain them.
Fortunately I have Spectron monoblocks in my other system!
"The 300B amp can reach the peaks, but can't sustain them. "

That sounds like clipping to me?
Thinking more about recent digital rock recordings, seems to me that people make the mistake of associating compression and loudness with a poor recording. I disagree- they're supposed to sound that way. Unfortunately too much of the current audiophile equipment is unable to reproduce it well. This is one of the reasons we hear so much Norah Jones-type music at audiofests.
Last night I tried to listen to Katatonia-Night is The New Day on my 300b/single driver system, but simply unlistenable. Listening today through headphones- fantastic!

I think it is a safe thing to say that it is generally harder and more expensive to get a system to sound really good when played (realistically) loud than unrealistically soft.

Louder requires more power than soft. That is pretty intuitive, right?

Well, a lot of new recordings are louder overall, so more power than ever is now required as well.

Efficiency helps. Suitable degrees of efficiency overall to deliver loud recordings without clipping can be achieved readily these days with a more efficient amp, like Class D, and/or more efficient speakers.
Psag, while that might be true for some systems, why do those recordings sound so damn bad on systems that can handle dynamic range.
They're supposed to suck?!
Here is an interesting site to find out more about dynamic range of specific recordings:

[url=]Dynamic Range Db[/url]

Lots of red and much less green in recent years.

Still, you can't generalize that recordings in general old or new are good or bad. It depends which ones specifically.

Any particular examples in mind Unsound that others may have also to offer an opinion on?

There is no doubt that most pop/pock recordings these days, including newer remasters of old stuff, are louder overall in general. Some are also clipped. Most are compressed to some degree. Some sound very good. Some sound more "average". Most are enjoyable to me and have at least some good qualities although many are far from perfect.

In lieu of crunching the numbers, I think a greater % of new recordings that I buy sound good than ever before. Some of that is the sysem I am playing them on these days, but that alone would not save them if there was no merit otherwise.

Then again I am a music lover and will listen to almost anything once unless it is just so noisy, distorted or poorly produced that I can't handle it. That occurs rarely.
Unsound, Its probably a matter of your personal preference. Some of these recordings are supposed to sound loud and compressed. For better or worse, that's the artist's vision. The traditional criteria for a 'good' recording don't apply.
My guess is that the speakers, more than anything else, are the culprit. I've heard a number of single driver speakers. I love the detail, clarity and liveliness (incredible dynamics within a somewhat restricted absolute volume), but, they tend to favor smaller instrumental groups, vocals and jazz. Anything that requires a really wide frequency response (particularly deep bass) and weight and power (orchestral music and rock music) does not fair as well, regardless of the absolute volume.

Have you tried these speakers with other amps that have enough power to rule out clipping as either a contributor or the cause of the sound you are hearing with rock music? The sound you described could be symptomatic of an amplifier reaching its limits. Single ended triode often can becomed strained and sound as you described without producing the obviously harsh sounds of hard clipping.

I run 6 watt/channel amps with 99 db/w efficient speakers. I hardly ever hear really obvious signs of strain with rock music. What really taxes my amps is choral music, particularly, choral music without instrumental accompaniment. At what seems to be somewhat low volume, I can hear the sound become murky.
Psag, Do you really think that these releases are the "artist's vision"? I suspect it is more often due to these releases being driven by record labels pressuring recording engineers to make hot recordings that will grab the attention of potential listeners using poor quality ear buds and inferior automobile environments.
My opinion is in many cases it is totally consistent artistically with the kind of music being performed, if not necessarily teh result of teh artists vision.

Most artists are not influential enough to control factors that affect the marketability of the product.

Perhaps with smaller indie labels.

It is what it is and in the end its mostly all good though often far from perfect.

Compressed or clipped dynamics are more bothersome to me than over loudness. They are three different things. With some pop/rock recordings, together they can constitute teh triple whammy for sure.

Not all women need look like Minka Kelly to be attractive nor act like Mother Teresa to be good.

BTW I believe myself to hold pretty high standards in general, but I am a big yin/yang person philosophically and as a result am able to not let recording quality cause me a dilemma these days.

Sure, they could all be better. So what? In the pseudo words of the immortal Frank ZAppa 'They are what they is".
Those three things are usually delivered hand in hand in hand these days. You might be right: the "so what?" attitude could be Yin and the recordings could be Yang.
Be very careful to keep your amp under control. When you allow it to clip, you can and will damage your speakers. If you just hear a flattening of soundstage, could very well be the way to find out is to make the system soft and see if the depth and other audiophile issues return.