Novice question about power and sound quality

henge

Member
Hi, a novice question about power (couldn't find an answer in the search)

I've just home auditioned a Rega Aethos and found it to be too much. Too punchy, too dynamic, it's as though there was too much energy in the room and I just couldn't get the volume right (and that's adjusting manually and not via the near-useless remote control); it was either too quiet and not 'singing' or it was too loud and kept startling me. It was ok if my mood matched and it was mid-day, but for some serious evening listening I didn't get on with it.

Is this the result of the 150w (my previous amp was a 50w Moon 240i), or just the nature of this particular amp? (Or perhaps some other issue?)

What should I expect from high wattage? All other things being equal, is it just a case of same sound quality but louder (and of course, option to drive more demanding speakers) or does higher wattage actually improve sound quality?

It's a small living room in a classic UK Victorian terrace, so I don't need volume (and having all that unusable volume past the first 90 degrees knob-turn seems pointless), I'm only interested in sound quality. I notice that higher end equipment have higher wattage; would I simply be buying volume that I don't need? In which case a less expensive, less powerful amp will be just as good? Or, can anyone recommend some high end (the Aethos price mark being my definition of high end) amps that won't be too powerful (if that is the issue)?
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
The simple answer is a yes. Driving the loudspeakers puts energy into the room which then makes it loud and can excite resonances and vibration from mirrors, Windows and tables, and reflections from any hard surfaces .Only heavy padded furniture and carpets absorb the sound. Next our ears are very un linear in their response, and something being even a bit louder will be very punchy.
You have not indicated that you have changed the speakers or their positions with the changes in amplifier. Different amplifiers can control the speaker differently .. the term is is Damping Factor
Now back to power. Higher wattage does not improve sound quality. It can produce a greater sound intensity ..so can happily handle the roaring finale whereas a lesser power just runs out of steam. Basically the power has to increase by 10 times to sound twice as loud , so it is typically the case that a passage of music is running at 2watts and then shoots up to 50 watts when the crescendo arrives . There has been a continuous trend in making loudspeakers less efficient!. ,Since it is acknowledged that their fidelity is inversely proportional to their efficiency..hence the desire for more powerful amplifiers.
In comparison with most household items, amplifiers are relatively low powered . A typical PC might be 600watts ,and there are very few amplifiers in that category.
Interestingly the amplifiers of the 50s to 80s where typically 10 watts ,and they produced what was viewed as satisfaction level hi fi in domestic settings .. fine for piano or chamber music and acceptable for orchestra...But the speakers were higher efficiency.
And of course larger amplifiers need bigger transformers, metal work and transport ..
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
For your budget you might consider either the Lyngdorf 1120 or 2170.

Both use RoomPerfect.
 

the groundsman

Active Member
Now I'm a bit confused. Sorry if I've got he wrong end of the stick about any of this but could you clarify?

I felt the same as OP - i.e. extra watts were wasted watts unless you wanted to really max out the volume on the loudest parts. @dannnielll I think you are in agreement with that view?

Then I read this thread

If I'm reading that thread right then upping the Watts will give you better control ( not just volume) and bring out the best in better speakers. It follows that extra watts are not wasted as they give your speakers a chance to preform at nearer their optimum even in the quieter parts?
 

henge

Member
@dannnielll thanks for taking the time to give a detailed response. I read this as saying as long as the amp has enough power to cover the demands of the music itself, any more power is just volume. What I need to work out now is what that power requirement is and that'd give me something to aim for. (btw, yes I did play around with speaker possition a little, but nothing helped much and just spoilt the sound stage, which wasn't great with the Aethos already)

Another question, with everything else being equal except the power of the amp, if I play the same music at the same volume, should the feel of the energy in room be the same (hypothetically). Or even at the same volumes, a more powerful amp will just fill the room more?

@Paul7777x Lyngdorf are totally new to me, I'm sure I'm about to lose hours finding out more. Something like RoomPerfect might be what I need ultimately, though I'm not ready to admit that yet
 

Paul7777x

Distinguished Member
@dannnielll thanks for taking the time to give a detailed response. I read this as saying as long as the amp has enough power to cover the demands of the music itself, any more power is just volume. What I need to work out now is what that power requirement is and that'd give me something to aim for. (btw, yes I did play around with speaker possition a little, but nothing helped much and just spoilt the sound stage, which wasn't great with the Aethos already)

Another question, with everything else being equal except the power of the amp, if I play the same music at the same volume, should the feel of the energy in room be the same (hypothetically). Or even at the same volumes, a more powerful amp will just fill the room more?

@Paul7777x Lyngdorf are totally new to me, I'm sure I'm about to lose hours finding out more. Something like RoomPerfect might be what I need ultimately, though I'm not ready to admit that yet

Done well, and carefully, genuinely talented room correction is a blissful boon sir.

And has a much greater effect than changing amplifiers and source equipment.

Promise.
 

gibbsy

Moderator
I don't think it's a power thing, after all you are in charge of the volume. No mention of the speakers that you are asking the Aethos to drive. You have been use to the signature of the Simaudio and it's quite likely that it's completely different to what you are now listening to with the Aethos. Your grey matter does have to adjust somewhat.

The Rega amps, certainly the Elicit-R can be described as you have done, punchy, dynamic are words I would use to say how they can sound, detailed is another. It has nothing to do with them being more powerful. The Moon is a class act but I would say more akin to a warmer portrayal than you'll find with any Rega.
 

dannnielll

Well-known Member
@dannnielll thanks for taking the time to give a detailed response. I read this as saying as long as the amp has enough power to cover the demands of the music itself, any more power is just volume. What I need to work out now is what that power requirement is and that'd give me something to aim for. (btw, yes I did play around with speaker possition a little, but nothing helped much and just spoilt the sound stage, which wasn't great with the Aethos already)

Another question, with everything else being equal except the power of the amp, if I play the same music at the same volume, should the feel of the energy in room be the same (hypothetically). Or even at the same volumes, a more powerful amp will just fill the room more?

@Paul7777x Lyngdorf are totally new to me, I'm sure I'm about to lose hours finding out more. Something like RoomPerfect might be what I need ultimately, though I'm not ready to admit that yet
Trying to respond to both yourself and groundsman. .. .
The first point . Most amplifiers operate in what is called class AB and they do not consume much more power than they output as audio. So a 300 Watt per channel amplifier will consume more power than a 30 watt unit ..but noting like 10 times as much..the Greenhouse effect is not that bad. So our mythical 300w machine might be burning twice the power of the 30 watt unit when running at 15 watts.
This is not true for another class of amplifier called Class A, ..Where you could heat the room with the wasted heat from the 300w machine.
Having excess power capacity in the amplifier is just reserve, ..like having a larger fuel tank.
If you do run any amplifier at close to its power limit, it starts sounding very bad, its output distortion becomes noticeable and this distortion can even damage loudspeakers. ..think of running a cheap transistor radio loud!. The sound break s down badly. Again if you drive a loudspeaker with a very powerful amplifier it can mechanically overdrive damage the speakers or burn out the coils...so its a compromise.between damaging speakers with excess power or excess distortion.
The very first measurement is read the rating on the loud speaker ..say 60w 100w . Then next read the Sensitivity ..SPL @1 watt.
 

henge

Member
@gibbsy thanks, yes that rings true (certainly the Moon has a warmth; more than I wanted which is why I decided to change), and it's good to be able to conclude that basically Regas aren't for me. (btw, Keff LS50s, so relatively insensitive. Probably not ideal for the Moon I was ruuning them from, but not a problem to the Aethos, and maybe some of what I was epxeriencing was the speakers working at full potential)

@dannnielll that's helpful thanks, and I think between yours and gibbsy's replies I have an answer that covers what I was after; I feel in a better position to go ahead and seek out a new amp now

@the groundsman, no problem at all, your comment was totally OT
 

gibbsy

Moderator
LS50s do need a good deal of power to get the best out of them, they are notoriously hard to drive dropping to 3.2 ohms. I would try the Elicit with them, plenty of beef there with 105 watts into 8 ohms. I'm driving a pair of KEF R300s with mine.
 

Steve Stifler

Well-known Member
Another less obvious choice would be something from Exposure's 3010 range. You can get an integrated amp, or pre-amp options with either a stereo power amp, or two mono blocks. I have the later set up, and they make my inefficient ATC SCM40s really sing.

I think you mentioned issues with the Aethos's remote. Its very insensitive to the touch. However, a lot of amps have a very limited turn of the volume knob from almost muted to uncomfortably loud. I recall Ed Selley mentioning this obseravtion in one of his amp reviews IIRC this year. To overcome that, some might suggest a line attenuator, but you risk a drop in sound quality. Some amps do have a much less steeper slope in increasing volume, like the Hegel H190.

If you can get a home loan of products, that's the best way to know if its going to work in your environment and with your equipment. Good luck with your quest :)
 

BlueWizard

Distinguished Member
Echoing what has already been said -

- You need 10 TIMES the Power to Double the Volume.
- Twice the Power only adds a slight increase in the perceived Volume.


But you don't notice a Volume increase with a more powerful amp (generally speaking) because you set the Volume with the Volume Control and you set it at a volume you like in the moment. So, the Potential for a slight increase in volume is only realized if you turn the amp UP.

As someone else pointed out, what you gain from more Power is more HEADROOM. That is, when a peak in the Music or in a Movie jumps up, it hits a much lower ceiling with a 50w/ch amp than it does with a 100w/ch amp.

Most of the time, you are cruising between a Fraction of a Watt and 1 Watt, with only the peaks jumping up higher.

The other factor can be Control. If you think of a car with a powerful engine, even though you (sort of) can't go above the speed limit, that extra power does have some advantage in control. Accelerating on to the Motorway. Decelerating when necessary. Passing another Car or Truck. You have more control over the vehicle.The vehicle is more responsive.

The same with Speakers, when done right, and assuming a solid Power Supply, and analogous to the Car above, more Power can give you more control over the speakers, the power to quickly move the speaker where you want it and to hold it there as needed.

Think about the Sensitivity Rating of your speakers, if they are rated at 90db 1w/1m then with a mere 1 watt of power they will be pretty loud. If you have an SPL (loudness) Meter, you can test this, and I think you will find that 90db in a modest room in uncomfortably loud.

Also, the is a SQUARE factor involved in Power relative to Volume -

P = E²/R

"E"
is Voltage applied to the Speaker and corresponds to the position or the Volume Control. Amps provide Voltage, and Speakers consume Watts. Because of the SQUARE Factor, small changes in Volume (voltage) make big changes in Power. But Volume is controlled by a mathematical LOG (db = 20 LOG (Vo/Vi), so Power relative to Voltage is also not linear. Even Volume is not linear relative to Power, as has been mentioned, doubling the Power only gives a slight change of the perceived Volume.

As to the Rega Aethos, I have limited experience with REGA Amps, but I once heard a Rega Brio driving some relatively pedestrian Monitor Audio Bronze 2 speakers, and I never heard those speakers sound better. So, in general, Rega Amps are pretty impressive, but they don't appeal to me personally for other reasons.

When it comes to picking an amp, I'm fond of saying -

You can't get what you want until you know what you want.

And by that I mean you have to look at yourself and your situation as much as you have to look at the Equipment. As a generalization, you will have a hard time exceeding a MOON Amp.

So, think about what it is you want from an Amp. Think of the features you need. For example, though I rarely use them, I want Tone Controls, so that eliminated a long list of potential amps. I would like to have an Amp with a DAC, so that narrows the field a little more.

While I don't doubt that the Rega Aethos is a good amp, perhaps it is simply not the Amp for you. That's fine. You like what you like.

Curious, what Speakers are you using and what are the dimension of the Room?

When choosing an Amp, consider how much you want to spend (it seems a considerable amount - £3000) and specifically what you want from the Amp. That will narrow the field.

Though we are admittedly out of my league for Amps, others on the forum have been very pleased with their Yamaha Audiophile Amps. Can't say they will work for you, but the are worth checking out -





Generally one does not think of Audiophile quality when one thinks of Yamaha Amps, but those in the forum who have these Amps seem very pleased with them.

Again, we are in a price range that it a bit above my pay grade. Others will likely have better suggestions.

Steve/bluewizard
 
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