More power or better quality power?

I use a 120 watt NAD integrated and a pair of Sonus Concerto Monitors (Home version), and a REL stadium III for the low end. I am researching new integrateds because my System sounds lifeless. My car system sounded much the same before I added a higher power (twice the wattage) and higher quality (3 times the price) amp. The difference was night and day. So I am wondering, do I need more power for my home system, or do I just need better quality power...or worse yet, BOTH! My room is pretty large (18 by 18 give or take, plus a high vaulted cieling). The system is tucked in a corner and i listen from about 8 feet away on axis. I listen to everything, but mostly rock. I was considering a 100 watt Primare that is on audiogon right now. I was going to go Plinius, but I think with warm speakers, and warm cables (cardas) That might be just too much warmth :)
Low level quality of sound is important because I do no live alone and don't want to need to crank it to get a good quality sound.

So, is bigger really better, or is it it the quality?
If the first watt doesn't sound good, why would you want any more?
pull the system out of the corner if possible. if not ,atleast pull the speakers out, see if that helps. what is the cd,amp,speakers,cables? large room, but doen[t necessarily need more power,especially eight feet away. power is expensive, if it's good power, so be careful. don't move to fast, if you like your speakers, then , it may be your cd player....try another cd player, if you can borrow one from a shop? go slow and thoughtful....give me your system and ill let you know. i have been messing around over forty years with this stuff and money doen't always mean the best sound, but most of the time ,it cost ..dwhitt
Quality is everything. The ability to reproduce low level detail does not come from brute strength, although its great if you get both at the same time.

That 'first watt' concept BTW is important- music is quite dynamic and most of the time your power levels are quite low. Its the peaks that demand power most of the time. So if the first watt is uninvolving you will have a lifeless stereo.
It's almost never the electronics -- consider speakers. Sounds like yours aren't dynamic enough. Unfortunately, your choice of sub hasn't helped.
I recently traded more power (ARC VT200 200 wpc) for better quality power (ARC Ref 110 100 wpc). And I couldn't be happier.
Speaker placement can also have a huge impact.

Quality is always better than quantity. That said; many higher power amps are also better quality.

I definatly disagree with Mr.Reynolds. Having owned NAD from 1986 to 1990. And recently auditioning a NAD 325BEE for use at work. In my recent audition I was disapointed in the system as a whole. I attribute this mostly to the NAD, although a good piece for its price I have become spoiled. Qulity is definatly more important than quantity. Your speakers deserve the best integrated or pre/amp you can easily afford. Musical Fidelity and Sonus Faber as a combination come to mind. I have had a chance to listen to various combinations of the two numerous times in the show room and at RMAF, IMHO they make a good combination.

I agree with Dwhitt in that there are many things that make up a system and one of the most important is the room. I feel you have made a good choice with corner placement of your system. You room is by no means large. I would call it medium and square is other than ideal. Ok that said try different speaker placements with the sub off and just see what happens. You might be suprised.

If you are going to step up from the NAD do your homework even if you have to take your speakers, CDP and cables with you. It will be time well spent.

Good Luck.
There is a common myth that because the sound emerges from the speakers, that the speakers are the most important.

If the speaker is really that good it will reveal everything upstream from it too. The fact of the matter is everything is important. It is also true that there is no relationship between size and quality: there are plenty of big amps that are dreadful and plenty of small dreadful amps, just as there are big wonderful amps and small wonderful amps.

One thing about high end audio, it is intention rather than cost, power or size that makes the difference. If the intention is to make money, the results will be very different than if the intention is to be the best.
It's not a myth, it's logic. Electronics do not directly interact with the acoustic space. Speakers do. Until speaker distortion is relatively close to that of electronics, the speaker is where our concern should be placed.

Just my opinion, of course.
Everything Atmasphere said...and

03-16-07: Bob_reynolds
It's not a myth, it's logic. Electronics do not directly interact with the acoustic space. Speakers do. Until speaker distortion is relatively close to that of electronics, the speaker is where our concern should be placed.

The fact that the speaker interacts with the acoustic space does not make it any more important than the components driving the speakers. Your car's tires directly interact with the road, but you wouldn't say your choice of tires is more important than the engine or the suspension.
As many have already said that the synergy between componets is VERY important. It your case you also have a relitively large room which can also play acoustical tricks on you. I agree with Dwhitt & atmasphere that try some placement changing first, this in so many cases exposes many differences before you have to spend any money, if you aren't satisified with the results after a couple weeks (you have to give youself time to adjust to the changes) try to better pinpoint what is unacceptable to you. It might turn out to be a cable change or other componet that in reality is the soruce of the trouble. Please also take in to consideration the speaker(s) efficency too, in our "hobby" there are so many variabiles that make big differences in your changes. Good Luck and keep us all posted to your progress
All things being equal, a simple circuit will most always produce a better sound at low levels and if you don't need the additional power, thats where you need to be. More power does involve more circuitry which can adversly effect low level detail & transparency to some varying degree. In addition, quality parts and how a product is engineered will also play a major role in sound quality. So for Phoenix469, my vote is for sound quality as opposed to more power.
There are two camps: one is proponent of a very simple (Pass, 47-Labs), the other of a very complicated circuitry (for example Mark Levinson). But is the one inferior to the other? I must say though that Mark Levinson amps do sound too "controled" and less musically flowing. Does this have to do with the thousands of components inside the amps?

I agree with Phd (and Ralph, as well, given the simplicity of his circuit designs). I also agree with Sugarbrie that effort expended in trying different speaker placements, including crossing both in front and behind you may radically improve sound.
8 feet is fairly close, yet even a foot or two more of semi-nearfield listener position may allow the use of a lower power, high quality amp and lower average listening spl.Of course, I'm one of those whose high volume listening days are way over. Well-mated components do the lower volume thing in a very satisfying manner and gain much greater acceptance from those sharing your domicile.
For what it's worth, I had an NAD C370 which I liked, changed to a Consonnance 8200 which I felt was a step up, but a little brighter than I like, next got a Portal Panche which is a great amp - warmer, very good detail, moved that to a second system as I wanted to try an amp with more than 100wpc and got a Plinius 8200 185 wpc (lucklily new). Love this amp, sound somewhat similar to the Portal with more umph. To my ears it fits well with my Audio Analogue Paganini CD which is warm, and my Tyler Acoustic System 2s which to me if you had to pick warm or bright lean more warm but no overly so. If you wnat to stick with 100 wpc I don't think you'd go wrong with a Panache and if you don't like it they sell very quickly on the gon when they are up for sale - check out Portal Audio web if you are inlcined - Joe is a great guy and sells new as well as units that he has loaned out, latter at a discount with full warranty and trial. Otherwise I wouldn't shrug off the Plinius off the bat.
Thanks for all the input. The only other thing I'm trying to consider is if I need balanced inputs or not. mY new CD player has XLR outputs. SHould I try to get an integrated with balanced inputs?
Watt quality makes a huge difference!!! Your speakers are 85db efficient, so you need some decent power to get them moving. Low power tube integrated won't do the trick. No mattter the power, however, you won't get the spl you have in your car with such small speakers in a larger room. You are almost in near field listening territory with your set-up. Quality of soundstage and intamacy at low volumes is what you are shooting for? Tube, hybrid or solid state? Are you looking to replace with another integrated? Your source could be part of the problem too. What are you using?
I am researching new integrateds because my System sounds lifeless.

Sonus Fabers lower models need an upfront and dynamic amp or else it would sound as what you've described. Also, since you listen to mostly rock, you would certainly need to look at the amp. Primare and Plinius are not good choices are they are on the lush and warmer side of things. I would suggest a Krell integrated. If possible, try to borrow a KAV-300i and see what it will do in your system. It brought back life and dynamics to my Grand Pianos which sounded like dead speakers with my Plinius amp prior to auditioning the Krell.

I have owned Sonus Fabers before and share your same thoughts. Although I still can make them work, I chose to get rid of the speakers and find some new speakers that are more neautral. It's your call on whether to work on the amp, or the speakers.
My source is the brand new Cambridge Audio Azur 840C. It is an upsampling 24but, 384khz player.
Anyone care to define Quality? Everyone seems to think it's important so it'd be nice to learn what defines a quality watt.
If you decide to go the electronics route, then yes I'd take advantage of balanced lines. Though I'm not aware of many integrated amps that have a balanced input. I think the Krell KAV (300 or 400) does.
I was just listening, and I know I need to do something. The system just doesn't sound right. CYmbals sound like a burst of static, and all the voices seem hollow. Midbass and midrange for the most part are fine, it is the upper midrange and treble that sound lifeless. I was thinking of trying new speakers too. I've read DYnaudio is good for rock. I have Dyn's in my car and love them. Or, I was going to goose the Sonus's with a powerful musical fidelity amp. Either way would cost the same.
If I were you, I would look at the amp first cos your current NAD is on the low-end. If you upgrade to better speakers the NAD won't do justice to them and it's back to square one.

I would define a quality watt as follows. An amps ability to reproduce music accuratly without clipping or distorting. This may seem easy but without a quality power supply and a good supply of reserve power it is virtuatly impossible. Lets take a guitar if you are listening to music at say 5 watts the initial pluck of the guitar string may require 50 watts peak to peak to be acuratly reproduced. As the note decays of course the signal or power required reduces. It is the initial pluck that draws on the current reserves of the power supply.

Again a transistor or valve must not reach saturation during this initial pluck. There by clipping or distorting the signal. A transistor by its very nature will clip the signal. A valve will distort the signal. It is my understanding that some manufactures have what is called soft clipping circuits for their SS amps, so they act more like a valve amp at higher volumes. Valves and transistors have a maximum voltage rating at which point they will clip or distort. It is up to the designer to decide on what those ratings need to be to acuratly reproduce peaks in the music not just the max power of the amp.

A quality watt has nothing to do with the ability of the amp to play at ear splitting volumes. But as I said previously the ability to accuratly reproduce the music being fed to it at reasonable volumes. If you listen at ear splitting levels the only way to reproduce the music accuratly is with massive amounts of powerr and current reserves.

Hope I was clearer than mud.

P.S. My normal listening level is between 9 and 10 o'clock.
Bob_reynolds, in my opinion, a quality watt represents power that contains a highly desirable audio signal & is pleasing to the ear as opposed to mediocre sound.
So, the problem remains: Is it wiser to invest in a new amp or integrated? Or is my choice of speakers to blame? Also, would using the NAD as a linestage be effective to drive a new power amp?
Bob, you should maybe just get out and listen to a bunch of gear; it would probably help you to understand what people are talking about when they say things like different amplifiers sound substantially different. You might become less set in your theoretical opinion that everything sounds the same.
Paul, thanks for the suggestion. Been there, done that -- at least enough to know there's no sense in continuing to do it.

BTW, I don't believe that *everything* sounds the same. I do believe that if one amp/preamp sounds substantially different when level matched operating within their linear region, then one of them is broken (possibly by design).

And as I suggested to Phoenix, speakers commit much larger sins than good electronics so it makes sense to address the speakers (and the room if you can).

Kindest regards,
I do believe that if one amp/preamp sounds substantially different when level matched operating within their linear region, then one of them is broken (possibly by design).

In my opinion, I don't believe one design is broken if it does not sound the same as with another design. Speaking out of common sense, all designs, be it amps or speakers are all different. The parts inside the amps, the type of parts, the arrangement of electronic boards etc. are all different and that explains to why they sound different. In general/theory, an amp is supposed to be neutral, in fact everything should be designed close to as neutral possible so as to reproduce the signals in their true state. This doesn't appear to be true in actual case. Designer's may be striving to achieve neutrality but most equipment more or less have their own kind of sound due to the points as mentioned above. The term is subjective and debatable. In fact, I don't know how we can classify any particular equipment as neutral. Only if we can measure neutrality.

More technical persons would be able to explain or clarify in better terms.

In response to the poster of this thread, it would be good to get a quality integrated amp as opposed to using your NAD as a line stage in the long run.
Ohh yes I guess those tube guys don't care about neutrality anyway as they continue to roll their tubes...

We agree that speakers are the "most important" component (have the most influence on sound) but that is about all we agree on, I think. I'm really not sure how you could *not* hear major differences, irrespective of power, between, say, a class AB SS amp, an OTL push-pull tube amp, a digital amp, and a single-ended tube amp, so I don't know. They all tend to have rather distinctive sounds, though ranking one or the other as best or better is largely taste.

Here's a little story (which I am making up right now). A subjectivist and an objectivist were going to go out for dinner. The subjectivist says "Let's go to Vito's, this killer Italian place I know - you'll be amazed." The objectivist replies, "Ha! I've measured the food at McD's and found it to have comparable or better calorie, protein, carbohydrate, and nutrient specs than Vito's. You're kidding yourself to say their food is 'better'! It's placebo effect!"
No offense. :-} I hope that was at least passably amusing.

P.S. Objectivists take all the fun out of audio.
Phoenix, it might make sense to pick up a Krell KAV-400. I'm sure most folks here would consider that a component with quality watts. It has balanced inputs so you'll be able to take advantage of the balanced outputs from your Cambridge player (you've got a great player there, BTW). It'll also provide plenty of power. If your system is still not dynamic enough, you'll know it's not the electronics.

Best of luck and I apologize for unintentionally hijacking your thread.
I think others would agree that you start with a pair of speakers and build a system that maximizes their potential. The speakers are like furniture in your room. They are selected by their size, looks and sound qualities. Their placement and interation with the room remain constant. You are using them off in a corner. Different speakers may or may not be an option. If they suit your situation then I would keep them. They have a lot of good press, and I don't think they are your weakest link. The NAD is upper mid-fi. Recommendations from other Sonus Faber users would be the direction I would take.
Thanks for all the info. Better integrated, here I come. Any suggestions other than the Krell?
Musical Fidelity A308 Integrated or the new A5 Integrated. Looked in the classifieds no A308's listed.