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Speakers or amplifier?

Discussion in 'audio' started by Arkless Electronics, Feb 5, 2020.

  1. Eyebroughty

    Eyebroughty JohnC

    Not really, easily changed, takes two minutes, then a pair of speakers could stay for a day, week or many weeks.
  2. Cereal Killer

    Cereal Killer 432 Point5

    Both go hand-in-hand (and a suitable cable between them) - its a package deal.
  3. Colin L

    Colin L pfm Member

    IMO, a “poor” speaker driven by great amps is going to sound as good as it can be, with all the speaker flaws exposed. It would probably be a fun listen, a thrill ride, though eventually tiring. There are brands I can speak of, but I won’t naim them.

    A great speaker, driven by a poor amp, will likely sound flat, boring and uninspiring.

    Great speakers and amps, room permitting, will give you more than the notes. You get the recording acoustic, the drama, relationship between the players and the space between the notes. It’s a small difference, but a big one to the enjoyment of the music (if that makes sense).
  4. realysm42

    realysm42 reMember

    It’s a chain, they’re all equally important as they all enable / disable one another from allowing the music through.

    Speakers may influence the overall sound the most, but if you want the ‘best’ (whatever that is), then you need complimentary components.

    Note my use of ‘complimentary’; the best amp / speaker is not universal, from both an objective and subjective perspective, although some are simply better than others in certain areas.
    Fatmarley likes this.
  5. manicatel

    manicatel pfm Member

    Speaker will have the most affect on tonality, bass levels, imaging ability etc.
    However, they cannot magic detail into the system that's not there in the 1st place, so the source & amp will be considered for that.
    So if someone simply wants more bass, or changes to a different room & the system isn't working as it was, changing speakers is probably going to be the best way to resolve that.
    If you want a better all round system, not just a tonality change, then the system has to be considered as a whole. It's only as good as the weakest link, wherever that weak link may be.
  6. James

    James Lord of the Erg\o/s

    Both are important. Some loudspeakers are difficult to drive or inefficient, which require a fairly powerful amplifier. But many class-A amps, which arguably sound better, tend to be lower powered - and won't bring the best out of more demanding loudspeakers. If I'm assured I have more than enough watts on tap, I'd always go for better loudspeakers first.
  7. zippy

    zippy pfm Member

    difficult to put into words, but for me, the electronics make the most difference to the 'quality' of the sound, the speakers are most likely to change the overall 'presentation'.
    Apologies if I've not explained this well..
    Arkless Electronics likes this.
  8. John Phillips

    John Phillips pfm Member

    Noting what I suspect is some "tongue in cheek", I think this is possibly true. But like many simply expressed explanations it just kicks the can down the road. The "can" being two questions: (i) what are those amplifier limits? and (ii) will the loudspeaker's demands stay within those limits at all frequencies and all sound pressure levels of interest?

    Amplifier limits are set by a combination of things that may (probably will) interact. Including: output voltage demanded, voltage gain, PSU voltage, output current demanded, current gain, current limit protection, power dissipation, power limit (SOA) protection. And more.

    I looked around some time ago to see if there were any credible definitive answers to "will this amplifier drive that loudspeaker?" and I concluded that there were indicators but no more.

    Thus I remain of the view that what matters first is a good amplifier + loudspeaker combination, found empirically. But once that combination is found I side with the loudspeaker. That could be expressed as finding a good loudspeaker first (compatible with the room) and then looking for the amplifier that will drive it.
  9. Fretbuzz

    Fretbuzz pfm Member

    Two interrelated things stand out to me in getting speakers right first:

    1. Room. This will forever otherwise fight against the 'wrong' choice of speaker. Big space to fill or near-field? Can you accommodate big 'uns or not? Can you place the speakers in the middle of the room or do they need to be up against walls or corners? Any other limiting factors for placement? Ultimately still need to find how speaker/room interacts. Especially relevant if you can't treat the room itself for whatever reason.

    2. Personal sound preferences. Want full range or more mid-focussed? Warmer/brighter sound? Tighter/looser? All speakers have a voice. And need dynamics at low volume (generally more sensitive speakers)? Fancy valve or low powered amp options in the future? (ditto sensitivity) ... etc.

    Amps/speakers are a synergy too but amps don't interact directly with the room.
    manicatel likes this.
  10. Whaleblue

    Whaleblue Southbound

    Thanks for the reply.

    I understand and agree with your point about low bass (physics and all that), but even so, as long as the speaker is operating within its limitations all that you need suffer is missing the lowest octave (ish). Sometimes that matters, but mostly not much (for my musical tastes, anyway).

    Are you suggesting that transients across all frequencies are lacking in smaller stand-mounts? Certainly not what I’m hearing on my D1s. Obviously if you just mean low bass transients then clearly, as the low bass is just missing full stop!
  11. h.g.

    h.g. pfm Member

    When listening to music at home I do so at standard listening levels. I find at lower levels the perceived reduction in high and low frequencies and loss of low level detail intrudes on my enjoyment. Many others clearly don't find this effect of lower levels as intrusive. I would also seem to give more weight to clean percussive sounds than average and dislike poor room acoustics (level dependent) more than average based on my interpretation of people's forum comments on what they heard at audio shows (an illuminating exercise I would recommend). My preference leans towards a clean high fidelity sound rather than a softer richer sound (assuming I have understood audiophile terminology well enough to translate).

    Typical small 2 way speakers at standard levels in a room (i.e. not sitting close to them) cannot reproduce loud low frequency information but in trying to do so they distort and remove clarity at higher frequencies and soften (translation?) the sound. The lack of a midrange driver also tends to become more noticeable at higher levels as the resonances in the midwoofer tend to be driven more by a nonlinear motor, high tweeter cone deflection leading to less linearity, the raised level makes low level distortion more audible. The sound effect of the directivity mushroom of a tweeter on a flat baffle isn't that affected by level. And on...

    A small 2 way is an excellent compromise when cost and size are significant constraints. I own several. It is the number of expensive small 2 ways as main speakers for rooms particularly when on stands that I find a bit baffling in a hobby where one might expect sound quality in a dry neutral technical sense to be significantly weighted.
  12. Robert

    Robert Tapehead

    Speakers for sure, but the amplifier should meet a minimum baseline performance level and the vast majority do.
  13. MVV

    MVV pfm Member

    When I finally gave up on the never ending pre-power amplifier upgrade thing I decided to buy one box on specs that would see me through all my future speaker dalliances. That was the NAD M3. It has been my best hi-fi decision and I will never need another amp. Pretty much transparent and powerful enough to drive almost anything. So my thoughts are once you have something like that it is all about the speakers.
  14. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    Maybe, but I absolutely do not subscribe to the “all amplifiers sound the same within their limits” school of thought. I’ve had various Linn, Arcam, Naim, Rega, Cyrus, Roksan, Exposure, Meridian, Sony and Pioneer amps here, all have sounded pretty decent but no two have sounded the same.
    Sue Pertwee-Tyr likes this.
  15. Dowser

    Dowser Learning to bodge again..

    Speakers interact with room, amplifier interacts with speakers. Both are important.

    In my listening room I prefer my SE valve mono hybrids driving my ESL63s, compared to an ML No. 29. Swap ESLs for SF Concertinos and the SEs sound broken in comparison to the ML.

    As Martin and others mention up thread - we are all listening for something different anyhow, as everyone’s idea of pleasurable is different, so there can be no one right answer, just lots of personal subjective preferences (even if that preference is for the best objective performance).

    There’s a slightly boring but relevant video posted on AOS from Frank Schröder where he discusses similar issues;
    torstoi likes this.
  16. Allaboutmusic

    Allaboutmusic pfm Member

    Completely agree here. In theory yes an amplifier if just amplifying a signal but in reality they are all tuned differently, so presentation will vary with all other things being equal. So amps are defo important but ultimately speakers will have the biggest impact on sound.
  17. linnfomaniac83

    linnfomaniac83 I bet you can’t wheelie a unicycle!

    Yes, speakers have the biggest impact by far... although a very good speaker will easily highlight any differences down stream, increasing the impact that other components make... and I’ve heard bad sources make a great system unlistenable.
  18. Sue Pertwee-Tyr

    Sue Pertwee-Tyr pfm Member

    Yes. The problem might, I suspect, be that amplifiers are tested with standard test loads rather than reactive loudspeakers. So it’s not inconceivable that they operate inside and outside their limits on dynamic music into reactive loads even at normal listening levels. If so, then the ones that do it less, or do it more gracefully, might sound ‘better’ than those that, on paper at least, should perform much the same.
  19. TonyScarlett

    TonyScarlett pfm Member

    My view is that both amp & speakers (+ sources upstream) are equally important, it's just that speakers are much harder to get right due to room interactions, domestic circumstances & musical preferences (which in my case are pretty eclectic & varied).
  20. sq225917

    sq225917 situation engineer

    Steady state testing is undoubtedly an issue, the multi tone sweep IMD tests go someway to addressing this.

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