Author Topic: Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?  (Read 11486 times)

Offline Carlman

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« on: January 24, 2007, 06:33:18 AM »
With all things equal... I have found that the amp is of critical importance to the overall musical presentation I hear.  The speakers are important in a different way, and may not be AS important as good amplification.

It's a double-edged sword, really... without good speakers you can't really hear a good amp but without a good amp your speakers can't really sing...  but maybe it's the combination that makes the synergy happen?

What makes the synergy between an amp and speakers?

-C
I really enjoy listening to music.

opnly bafld

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #1 on: January 24, 2007, 07:11:19 AM »
IMO speakers are more important, because they can get you closer to the sound you are looking/listening for and then the amp can make them better still or less so.
Which comes first the speakers or the amp?
Does anybody buy just any amp they hear because they like the way it sounds or do they buy based on the hope it will sound good with their speakers?
For an example, I have some large multi-driver, 4 ohm, love lots of current speakers, I am not going to buy an SET or low power ss for them no matter how go good I think one might sound(unless I biamp). I also have some single driver, no crossover speakers, my high current hybrid 200w/ch plays better with them than does an SET or low power ss with the big multi-drivers, but I like the sound of the SET better.
So I guess what I am saying is, I think it is more important to pick the type of speaker you like first and then find an amp to match their strengths and weaknesses.

Lin

Hantra

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #2 on: January 24, 2007, 07:48:41 AM »
I think it depends on your definition of "important", and the goal you are pursuing.  

If your goal is supreme and accurate musical reproduction, then I am with Linn on this when they say the source is of supreme importance.  If the source is most important (because if you can't retrieve the audio, there's no need to go beyond that), then it would stand to reason that the amp is more important than speakers.  Because it comes before the speakers in the chain, if the amp throws away something, the speakers aren't going to regenerate it.  

If your goal is synergy and ultimate enjoyment of the music, as opposed to total fidelity, then the amp may be more important.  For me, I found speakers that I feel for head over heels, and anything I did after that was for the speakers.  I burned through three dozen or so amps trying to find "the one" for my speakers.  

David Wilson argues that the speakers are the most important part in the playback chain.  I understand why he feels this way selling speakers and all.  Same with Linn b/c they were born and bred from their sales of good sources.  Wilson's reasoning is that if your speakers won't play it back, then none of that other stuff matters.  Same as the source argument really.  But this comes from the ultimate fidelity camp.  

If I was rebuilding a system from scratch, I'd buy speakers first.  I guess the reason is that there's not much you're going to be able to do to change the basic character of your speaker.  You can change anything else in the chain and it might make your speakers a bit different here or there, but it's not going to cause a revolutionary shift in the way you hear things from those speakers in your room.  

Not only that, but each speaker has a vastly different power requirement as well, so you will need to buy an amplifier based on this.  If you try and buy speakers for an amplifier you love, it may work, but the chances are slim that you will find true synergy, AND everything else you're looking for in a system.

miklorsmith

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #3 on: January 24, 2007, 07:58:17 AM »
Like so many things in this endless pursuit, absolute truth is rare earth.  I recently visited a VERY experienced audiophile who had owned many, many pairs of speakers but didn't care much about amplifiers.

I think all good amps have speakers they synergize with and others that they don't.  This is true for good speakers too.  Serendipity is related to simple things like total power available and also current dumping capability in the case of really hungry speakers with low impedances and efficiencies like planars and Thiels, and created noise which is magnified on efficient speakers like horns.

Other factors also come into play.  SET amps like higher efficiencies and impedances.  OTL amps really like high impedances and, inverse to normal assumptions, increase power output at higher impedances.  High damping factors are presumed to be good but can suck the life out of some speakers.  Maybe that "life" is measurable distortion that Sphile's laser eye would declare poorly engineered.

Then you have the Special Magic Dimension that I don't think is measurable.  It hides within each great piece, like an eclipse.  Moon, sun, and earth always go about their business, and once in every great while they line up to create ephemeral wonder.  This parallel would indicate source, amp, and speakers though of course the room is crucial and preamp could be in there.

My most recent experience was getting my Signature 70s from Red Wine.  I was using TacT's DACs and things were OK but sounded digital and not particularly compelling.  Adding the Lessloss DAC snapped everything into place.

A bad speaker can't sound good and neither can a bad amp.  A good amp will normally sound good but very probably not to its full potential.  The difference between the "perfect" speaker with that amp and one that is merely good may be miles apart.

And this all is at the dear heart of this hobby of ours, the pinning jello to the wall, the endless searching.  At the end, the best of our analytical tools and expectations are little more than groping in the dark.  Experience and trusting our own ears are our best chance to beat the odds.

Hantra - love the new avatar.  Pride of ownership indeed!

canyoneagle

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #4 on: January 24, 2007, 08:46:35 AM »
Great thread and excellent posts here.
Like several of the others here, I've also seen both sides of the argument over the years.
I'm now a firm believer in 'system synergy' and am focused on this aspect of the hobby.

My friend who was responsible for empowering my audiophile aspirations would tell me that the front end doesn't matter that much, and that the speakers are where it's at ("most electronics sound the same").  I did't really ponder his statements that much, and quite enjoyed my numerous listening sessions at his home (and, eventually at mine).
Despite my apparent indifference to sources/amps, I still couldn't seem to get the 'magic' from my system that I had heard at some HiFi shops with synergistic setups (Quad, Linn, Naim, etc).  That's when I sold my gear and started doing in-home demos with Naim systems.
My friend ridiculed me for doing so, claiming that there's no way a low-wattage Naim amp could sound as good as his 200 watt Bedini, relying on pure engineering as his basis.
Interestingly, it was not the engineering aspect as much as the experiential aspect that was drawing me away from his analytical approach to everything.

Since then, I've re-discovered my love for music through the quest for 'musical' systems.

And on the quest goes..........

opnly bafld

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #5 on: January 24, 2007, 09:09:47 AM »
Hey, no fair you guys talking about source, the question was amp-speakers. :lol:

Lin

miklorsmith

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #6 on: January 24, 2007, 09:19:05 AM »
True, I was looking from the global perspective to illustrate the point - a great amp needs the right speaker to show HOW great it can be and vice versa.  Of course, you still won't know until the source is "right".   :twisted:

WEEZ

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #7 on: January 24, 2007, 09:28:43 AM »
My choice of importance would be speakers first for two reasons:

1) They have the largest impact on the overall sound presentation one is trying to achieve;

2) They need to work within the room one chooses to listen in.

(For example: would one choose Legacy Whispers for a 10X10 room? Or Proac Tablettes for a 16X26 room?)

Second would be amplification. (In the above example, it would likely be overkill to use 300wpc on the Proac's; and disappointing to use 30wpc on the Legacy's). A less damped speaker will sound better with a highly damped amplifier; while a highly damped speaker will sound better with a less damped amplifier.

Not to diminish the importance of a good source; but that does no good if the speakers overload the room..or get 'lost' in it.

ymmv,

WEEZ

Offline Carlman

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2007, 09:35:07 AM »
I agree with a lot of the above and appreciate the feedback.

The points WEEZ made are very logical... and yet even those rules of thumb are easy to break.  I should not 'need' more than about 20-40 watts of power with any 85+db speaker in my 11x13 room.

However, I have a 400wpc amp with 91db speakers... total overkill... and it sounds GRRRRRReat!  ;)  at all volumes... with of course, plenty of headroom. ;)
I really enjoy listening to music.

opnly bafld

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2007, 09:39:46 AM »
Quote from: "WEEZ"
(For example: would one choose Legacy Whispers for a 10X10 room? Or Proac Tablettes for a 16X26 room?)
WEEZ

Are you saying I should swap my speakers?
BTW, how did you know what speakers I have? :-k

Lin

opnly bafld

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2007, 09:54:20 AM »
I think that's where synergy comes in Carl.
You can have 2 different speakers with very similar specs and one is happy with a certain amp and the other is not.
I have a 120w/ch amp (240w 4ohms) and a well reviewed 150w/ch (150w 4 ohms) and although I was probably not using the full potential of either amp, the higher current amp sounded better with the RM40s.
And I have (had) higher efficiency (rated) speakers that like(d) power. :?:

Lin

WEEZ

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2007, 10:00:35 AM »
Lin,

Swap? No...

How did I know? I didn't....

(btw, the flatter the impedence curve, the less current you need)

WEEZ

Offline Carlman

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2007, 10:05:13 AM »
Ahh.... it's starting to make a lot more sense now... I think there is definitely a science to 'synergizing' speakers to amps then....

The McIntosh's auto-formers and high current probably do a great job with my Piega's that use a complex coax ribbon mid/tweeter with aluminum woofers and a big crossover network....

Great info, thanks.

-C
I really enjoy listening to music.

WEEZ

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Amp or Speakers? Which is more important?
« Reply #13 on: January 24, 2007, 12:44:50 PM »
Carl,

The 'science' gets us in the ball park, but we've all learned that the final arbiter is the 'listening'.  :)

WEEZ