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Exactly how do you determine neutrality? Are you using recordings where you were present in the studio when they were recorded? Or is neutrality a code word that justifies a purchasing decision?
Hm ... how do you determine something is neutral? I think it's a matter of listening a "component" with other associated equipment and different recordings. If the sound is consistently neutral, then it is most likely neutral.
As for being objective, since it is always subjected to a person judgement, I think there is always some part of it that is subjective.
We are getting too philosophical here. I don't know how to define what "neutrality" is but I know it when I hear it. That's all I could say.
I think you may be up against the "designed-by-the-book" camp vs the "better-than-reality" camp.
Most any hifi amp designers, using the "designed-by-the-book" model as a starting point, will try to push the performance envelope here or there, a little more presence...or clarity...or mo' better hi's...or whatever may suite best given the particular amp design being worked with and given his skill as a designer. Problem is that that will necessarily make for some reticence of performance in some other category or two of sound. Now if the designer is worth his salt of course, then that may likely fall in a category that, to most listeners anyway, will seem secondary or tertiary to our internalized "list" of our most (typically) favorite ones and the end result overall may be quite favorable...or at least at first. Just how long that will continue to be seen by us that way will be an open question after a decade or two. IOW our conscious perception of the amp may not really change all that much over time (barring major gear change), but our attitude toward it may actually be the thing that ends up changing...and if it does, do we once again find ourselves wishing for more neutrality.
Then there's the designed-by-the-book camp. That's how the Pro sound camp does things. Just the facts, Ma'am. Just design everything for neutrality's sake...no overemphasis here or there - and if the whole thing ends up coming up short of the sound of reality, then...oh well...
Traditionally, the pro sound, even when you turn loose of some money in the design process, has resulted in a sound that has taken a back seat to that of hifi amp designers. A little uninspiring in that there's nothing bad, like you say, but maybe nothing great either.
In the last few years, I've had the chance to, while building my current system, try the kinda crazy idea of throwing a lot of money's worth of power treatments at the Pro-sound platform. It was all rather a lot of doing, but the end result for me here was that everything sound-wise was improved (in the whole system) so much that the amps still fall short of reality, of course - but by a whole lot smaller margin than before - full stop. Expensive? Yep. But, I'm no longer looking back at hifi amps...neutrality in spades, and I didn't have to give up excellence.
All that expensive power treatment might have done a great job with hifi amps as well, but this way I don't have any of the weaknesses that would necessarily have to be designed into the amp as a result (if anybody could improve the sound well ahead of the curve without it ever resulting in a single drawback, then everybody would be doing it that way).
But, short of all that, if you're just looking for a quick, easy and cheaper answer, then yeah, I'd say that you might as well have an amp with a "personality". If you really do get tired of it after a long while, well, then you can always think in terms of changing it out for a new attitude. Folks do that all the time. It's what I used to do before I came across what I describe above, and I'm sure I could have gone on like that...it's just that, as expensive as the solution for me was, now I don't have to. I suppose all that may come down to what price you want put on being able to get to a permanent solution that you know will suit you. And on all that, YMMV.
It sounds as if your amp does not engage you musically. That may be the fault of the amp or maybe you've just gotten overly familiar with it. Most people here buy their "final" amp or other piece of gear at least a few times. After a while that amp that blew your socks off at first just doesn't do it anymore.
Find another amp that gets you involved in the music and don't worry about it being flavored or neutral, just enjoy it.
Something is lacking in your amp or amp/speakers unit or the entire chain. The sound you get is not 'neutral', it is boring. Sound that is true to the recording will not be boring, it will be engaging in a right way. This is not to say that engaging sound cannot be far from the original. Preferences vary, that's why we choose different speakers.
To answer your question directly, even though you posed it incorrectly. Yes, amp should have a personality, and in fact it always does. Compare Gryphon to Soulution to DartZeel to FM Acoustic to Nagra. Top level transistor amps, they all will have distinct personalities in any set-up.
Sorry, man, you might have to sell both of your Sim Audio amps and go higher.
I believe a system, as a whole, should be able to " show forth " the recordings, in such a way, that when you are in your listening seat ( the sweet spot ), you are hearing your favorite artists and musicians, performing at their " finest ", in their chosen acoustic space, and you, are completely engulfed and entertained, in the experience. Enjoy ! MrD.
Most likely, an amplifier designer uses 3/4 different pairs/types of speakers...to voice his amp so that it sounds like he wants it to sound....neutral, lush, forward, whatever... And his voicing may or may not be to your liking...
And, if you have different speakers, electronics, room, etc., then what you hear is going to be different....maybe to your liking and maybe not.
It is not a case of right or wrong, it is a case of preference and the reality of synergy...and why we often have to go through several pieces of equipment to find what works well together to deliver the sound that speaks to us.
Wanted to play some music last night but my amp was reticent.
Pushed, it started pulling. Push pull. Push pull.
Was about to unplug when a thunderous "NO!" came from the speakers.
With authority. Presence. Never heard it so forward before. My ears were ringing. Or was it the tubes? Sliding damper on, I could swear the amp began to hum. With pleasure. Liquid. Not syrupy, silky. Silky smooth. Yet at the same time, exciting. I slid another damper over a tube. This time, input tube. All the way. Really silky liquid now.
It runs hot and cold a bit, but I think I may be in love with my amp.
I agree with inna. Even though you think that your amp is neutral (I like the word natural better), there is apparently a subtractive coloration that is making the music less colorful and interesting, even though you can't identify it.
For some years, I used a McIntosh MC 300 as my main amp. I really liked it, and I had retired my MC2105 in favor of it. One day I took out the 2105 just for fun, and I never went back. It wasn't as silent or modern, and the mids were a bit more forward, but even though I'm sure that the MC300 was technically superior, I enjoy the 2105 presentation more. To sum it up, I think that every amp has a personality, and I don't think that the Sim is the right amp for you.
Whether it "should" or not is really neither here nor there.
All gear has its own distinctive sound and you either like how it sounds, or not.
There are usually sonic trade-offs in getting more of one thing while giving up something else, even with high end gear.
The trick is to find and buy what you like.
Pretty much every piece I've owned has had some sort of unique sonic signature - amps, preamps, phono stages, speakers, streamers, CD players, headphones, etc.
As others have said, it's a matter of finding components that have a personality that you (and the rest of your components) are compatible with.
What sounds good to you may not to me and vice versa. I think that the better I get at communicating what I hear and the "personality" characteristics that appeal to me, the easier it gets to find that sound I'm looking for.
"Every amp has a personality. Actually internal wire, caps, resistors, rectifiers and even the darn chassis EACH have a sound personality. So yes, the end product also does."
My first visit to this thread. Thank you Grannyring, there for a while I thought we were going to be in another thread that lives outside of audio reality.
Our hearing is too complicated and the English language is not adequate to characterize our hearing perceives sound and music.
If we can't agree on the meaning of the word "neutrality" then it's hard to move to the next phase. If "neutrality" does not exist, then why do professional reviewers keep using the word? Is it the best they can do?
Of course there are others who believe "neutrality" does not exist because every single component such as an amp has its own distinct sound therefore by definition is not "neutral".
Tube amps are the most "colorful" but for whatever reason most people believe they are most truthful in term of reproducing music. Too bad they cost too much lols. Hey like they say, you have to pay to play.
I agree. There's a difference between "neutrality" as an absolute theoretical and as a subjective impression. Either an amp in our system sounds like it's neutral to us or it doesn't.
It should go without saying that there is no component that ever existed that did not have a "personality". That's baked in to its DNA, whether by design or accident. That's a given.
I don't think we should exclude the discussion of a neutrality in the theoretical sense, it obviously might well be useful technically to understand as much as possible what might contribute, but I don't think that a conversation that starts with subjective impression should be prevented from concluding with the same. We might discuss amp theoretical neutrality all day long, but will it help us to identify the next likely amp candidate to try that might tic all the neutrality boxes for anyone subjectively.
As to your response to jetter's comment, have you considered trying higher efficiency speakers?
Sooo......you don't want to overspend on power treatments, a new serious amp OR less demanding speakers. All presumably (largely) because any of that costs too much.
Then my friend I think you are in a real pickle...one that I don't know how you might reasonably expect to get out of painlessly...unless you find, or someone can recommend, a less expensive amp that solves all your problems...but, for the life of me, I don't know what that beastie would look like. New-generation class D anyone?
I think at this point I'd have to be thinking of opening my wallet to have to get out of that trap you're in, no matter which option you might choose....or be content to stay....just sayin'.
No No. I'm not copping an attitude. That's not my way of telling you to get lost. I'm just trying to give you my honest 2 cents on it is all.
Sometimes the hardest system building problems turn out to be the best opportunities for achievement if we're willing to see it that way, but I've learned that from some equally hard mistakes that I've made over the years. But no, I apologize if I came across as hard nosed, not my real intent...just trying not to sugar-coat things too much. But, you are free to take that or leave it, wasn't meant to be personal.
In rereading the OP, it sounds like “neutrality” actually means “boring”. Is it also “transparent” to source and speakers such that whatever the end product is truthfully reflects the character of all the other components in the system, regardless of how forward, laid back, strident, warm, fast, etc. or does the W7 always sound “neutral” regardless of what upstream or downstream? If the later, then I would say “neutrality” is a problem.
Neutral, Natural, what is it really. I've had different amps with near identical frequency response, yet one amp was fast, dynamic, while the other had flow & rhythm. I've had others that sounded excellent with a perfectly flat speaker, change to another perfectly flat speaker that had a very different load and it sounded different.
Amps personality changes with different gear. There is something to be said for synergy.