Warm vs. Analytical

The subject is SS integrated amps. Some integrateds, like Audiolab and Krell, are often labeled "analytical." Others, like Arcam, are called "warm." I'm trying to get a grip on what these terms really mean. I understand they can be subjective.

To my own ears, Cambridge Audio sounds soft and dulled down at the edges. Musical Fidelity (the A3.2 integrated) sounds to me clean, precise, and detailed; it's the kind of sound I prefer. Is Cambridge Audio "warm"? Is MF more "analytical"? I'm not trying to start a flame war hear; I just want to know how my perceptions of sound fit into the terminology that people use to describe it.

Thanks for your insights
Buckingham was kind enough to share the address of the stereophile guide to audio terms the other day:


To me, warm means that the music is not detailed enough (i.e., a bit muffled and overly emphasizing the lower midrange) and analytical means that the music is too detailed (i.e., harsh with no life -- probably too much emphasis on the upper midrange). So, warm is too dull to be live and analytical is too crisp to be live. That's just me though. The link is a lot of fun and can really help isolate the nuances of listening.
For better or for worse, in audiophile-speak "analytical" is generally considered pejorative, "warm" not always (or even usually). "Neutral", on the other hand, is considered either too boring, or entirely mythical...
All in all, I cant see Musiical Fidelity works as you said. In fact, my opinion is that only Krell can give you more analytical sense while all others you mentioned are warm.

If you want analytical, try German brand, Audionet, UK brand, Advantage, Dutch brand, Sphinx, French, Cairn

Until then you will know what is analytical.

I'm with Zaikesman. Clinical/Analytical means you are hearing an X-ray of the music: the information is all there, just not the depth of emotion/soul. Similar to a mechanical performance. Warm, lush sound is a good thing, at least up to the point where you (the listener) find the loss of accuracy, clarity and detail to be fatiguing. Too much warmth in the sound is comparable to an overly finessed performance.
When the system is overly warm you're left with a "it can sound better than this" uneasy feeling. Too analytical and you have lots of "wow, listen to that!" distracting experiences.

Warm is too much forest. Analytical is too many trees.
These are just terms referring to tonal shifting when descibing overall sound.

Analytical, lean, bright, etched etc means increased treble energy from ideal nuetral balance. Can also be acheived by decreasing bass energy from neutral balance

Warm, rich, sweet, lush etc means increased bass energy from ideal neutral balance. Can also be acheived by reducing treble energy from neutral balance.

These terms have nothing really to do with amount of detail resolution, soundstage size etc. Of course everyone's idea of neutral sound is different so this all subjective terminology.
It appears, at least to me, from reading the responses that there is not an overall consensus on the definition of these terms, as well as other audio terms; this really doesn't surprise me. The list of audio terms is outrageously enormous which just adds confusion, IMO.

One says Neutral is ideal another says Neutral is boring; one says warm is good another says warm is not good.

Looking at some of the definitions given at the Stereophile link can further the confusion.

It is no wonder there are many disagreements.

neutral - Free from coloration.

warm - The same as dark, but less tilted. A certain amount of warmth is a normal part of musical sound.

analytical - Very detailed, almost to the point of excess.

dark - A warm, mellow, excessively rich quality in reproduced sound. The audible effect of a frequency response which is clockwise-tilted across the entire range, so that output diminishes with increasing frequency. Compare "light."

light - Lean and tipped-up. The audible effect of a frequency response which is tilted counterclockwise. Compare "dark."

coloration - An audible "signature" with which a reproducing system imbues all signals passing through it.

(As you can see, some definitions need others to define themselves! At least in audio slang.)
It is good to know the meaning of these terms, keep in mind that they are still one man's opinion. Of all the amps named in this post, and many morenot named, you can find an opinion on the sound of that amp. Just know that you can steer the sound of a well made amp in any direction, a cheap, not well made amp will maintain its sound no matter were you want it to go.
Could amp be analitical and worm both?

I have heard dSC Elgar and Rurcel + Accuphase transport through Lamm 1 monoblocks, speakers Grand Utopia on HE 2001 in NY, and sound seemd to me simultaneously analitical (I could heard every detail) and somehow worm. It was perfect to me.
I'd like to add more terminology to the sound description wording:

Sexy -- usually associated with Dark during an intercourse.
Dull -- usually associated with hangover syndroms next morning.

Agressive -- usually associated with disobedient wives that do not allow to listen to music at high volumes.

Illegal -- same as above but with neighbors complaining to the management.

Kholeric -- usually associated with small sound imperfections that drive listener to get off the listening chair or couch to readjust system, reconnect wires and powercords without end.

Charismatic -- usually associated with extreamly nice finished equipment that drives to believe that it sounds good.

Repulsive -- usually accosiated with old vintage equipment and opposite to the previous termin.

Imperative -- usually associated with break-in period and at certain cases might blend with Agressive where applicable.

Forgiving -- usually associated with happy wife after Bloomingdale shopping and opposite to Agressive.

Spontaneous -- usually associated with listening despite sounds of vacume cleaner.
live music never ever sounds analytcal. ironically most of the pop and jazz music from all the major labels between 1955 and 1985 were mixed using jbl monitors, which were famous for their warm yet forward sound in the upper and mid bass. strangley enough jbl still has bragging rights when it comes to the professionals (70%). the entire notion that something extremely analytical is good for longterm listening is the brainchild of us (audiofiles). we just can't believe that a carpenter's shavings are not worth keeping. buy what you will enjoy listening to.... warm and analytical comparisons are purely opinion and live music is still more thrilling than anything hi end audiophiles can dream up....
Reading through some of the subsequent responses, I want to make it clear that I was not endorsing common perceptions engendered by these terms, just reporting them (nor was I trying to define them). I personally have a low tolerance for both excessive or obvious warmth *and* analytical-ness, and consider 'neutrality', to the extent that we can obtain or be sure about such a thing, to be a virture.

I also think that the definitions offered above only touch on some of the aspects involved in generating these perceptions - the question actually goes beyond just tonal balance to me - but I'm going to refrain from expounding further since it's all very subjective anyway. But for the record, I find Rockvirgo's explanation to cover the whole gestalt more satisfactorily than a technical exegesis likely would.
jrd@direcway.com: If the music was mixed with warm sounding monitors, wouldn't the mix then be the opposite if the engineer intended a "neutral" mix? Or did you mean to imply that the JBL monitors were analytical, so the engineers mixed the music warm to achieve neutral?
ASDF: I composed a post making essentially the same point last night, but decided not to post it. Why? Because for whatever combination of reasons (which I could speculate on, but don't need to for us to acknowledge the net result), the truth of the matter is that plenty of recordings from the period JRD refers to do in fact have a 'warm' sound. It stands to reason that if the logic of your argument is good (and I believe that it is), then the premises must either be incorrect or incomplete, because the expected conclusion doesn't seem to follow. It is an interesting topic to ponder...
i'm just saying that the goal was to many to get the listener excited like at a live performance..and a have yet to here the words anylitical and neutral used to describe a concert's qualities...go for the sound that makes you 'feel' good when listening....good luck
Asdf and Zman this sounds like the chicken and the egg to me. Which came first, the warm sounding recording or the warm sounding speaker? Interesting thought loop.
The chicken, dunno about the other.
The current delivery of the amp can be the cause. A low powered MOSFET amp would sound warm vs a high powered bi-polar which can react faster and bring out more detail.
I would consider the MOSFET then to be more poorly designed from a design standpoint but which is more realistic depends on the other components, recording, listener's taste's, etc.