Discussion in 'DHCH Archive' started by Veritas, Oct 19, 2003.
Don't forget the interconnects and speaker cables, these can cost a few bob as well.
but surely 96kb/s is still far better quality than current radio?
Do a DIY job from that big high street electronics place we arent allowed to mention,.
I had a friend who worked at Richer Sounds.
Points to note:
Richer Sounds own / make Cambridge Audio, Mordaunt Short and Gale. You will notice they will offer these makes in preference to other makes.
While all of these things are good, my friend seemed pretty sure that there is better stuff out there for the money.
I personally went the NAD and DIY route.
NAD C541i CD ~ £300
NAD C320 Amp ~ £200
Celestion F20's ~ £150
DIY solid-core cat5 cable for speaker cable. (approx. £1.50 per metre and is supposed to sound better than many high-end cables ~ £10 pm)
DIY silver-core wire for interconnects. (approx. £30 for 2 x 1/2 metre, again supposed to be on par with inters in the £100 region).
I had the Cambridge Audio Arctics first of all (£20) and the DIY silver-core sounds much better for little extra cost. It does take some time to make though. Same with the speaker cable.
and why would that be?
Bear in mind that some hi-fi aficionados rate a high quality analogue radio as potentially being better than a top of the range CD player. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to state that a cheapo analogue is, but all the same, the potential does exist on the right broadcast.
As for the bit rate. Well most MP3s on the net are recorded at 128kbit/sec. In comparison, CD is non-compressed at 1200kbit/sec. Personally I don't rate even higher quality MP3s (e.g. 320kbps) as I've done comparisons between high quality rips that I've done, against the original CD.
So when people start talking about 96kbit/sec signals, doesn't sound like good news to me.
As a further example, I read a review of a £600 Arcam DAB tuner last month. Arcam are well regarded in the industry. In short, the summary basically stated that whilst the unit was very good as DAB tuners go, that it was pretty pointless, as it wouldn't sound any better than a unit half of the cost, simply because of the poor quality broadcasts presently being made.
Couple of points:
1. Having a great amp and speakers with a cheapo CD player will simply show up how bad the output from the CD player is. Advising a person to use "any old stuff" on the front end is NOT good advice. The quality of the CD player definitely does make a different. After all, just how would a group like Linn sell a £12,000 CD player, if it sounded insignificantly better than a £120 Sony.
2. Power output of an amplifier has virtually no bearing on the quality of the sound it gives off.
For example, the best system I heard at Bristol this year was from a £40,000 record based system. The amplifiers were a pair of monoblock SET valve amps, producing all of about 15 watts per channel.
What's more important with an amp is to match it with the speakers that you will be using. Most value based speakers are designed to work with lower powered amplifiers, so there really isn't a need for a mega watt monster. Concentrate on something that sounds good instead.
I think my Musical Fidelity A1 amp is rated to 25w rms per channel - sounds great, and is also probably too loud to listen to at max volume.
Mr_Sukebe - the more powerful an amp is usually means the higher quality it is. Mine is high powered and has excellent specs.
True some cheap cd players/dvd player sound awful, but i'm just expressing the opinion the £99 mini-hifi system I use with my expensive amp/speakers sounds very good. I can notice the difference with my RME soundcard, but then that is a studio quality refernence soundcard with a -112 decibel ouput.
I've also tried my amp/speakers with a £50 DVD player,from tescos, it sounded [EDITED] then. Although I still believe the speakers/amp are the most important, as without those even the most expensive cd player in the world would sound crap.
May I just add that even using the £99 mini-hifi as source the sound is still amazing, like they are playing/singing in your front room. Using the RME, the detail is even more fantastic. Using mini-hifi speakers/source sounds very mediocre...just shows it's not so much the source but the amp and speakers.
Edit: Swearing removed. Again. - The Dons.
Quality is most certainly not a function of the power output of an amplifier.
Although obviously, a certain power output is required in order for the amplifier to supply enough power to the speakers to cope with the transients within music etc, otherwise clipping will occur.
Some valve amps have about 10 watts per channel. Hardly high powered but its probably going to be the sweetest 10 watts you're likely to hear.
Even amps like the Sugden, which was a pure class A transistor amp wasnt very high powered but sounded sweet. Its not always about power but more about good design.
Hmm, this could be a lengthy reply, for which I do apologise.
You right to say that there is a myth out there that the more powerful an amp is, the higher quality it is.
Unfortunately, this is often simply not true.
Let me try to explain why. Think about the essential element of what an amp actual does. It takes a low level input signal (e.g. from a CD player), this is usually around 2v. The amplifiers job is then to increase the size of this signal so that when it is given to the speakers, that it is capable of driving the speakers.
The only other key features of an amp are really control over the gain involved (i.e. the volume control), and if you're using more than one source, being able to chose it.
Absolutely EVERYTHING else that is added as a facility to the amplifier will simply add to the signal path, and because it is an analogue signal, will degrade it. So for example, adding bass and treble controls is usually bad news, as it will degrade the sound.
Once the signal gets down to the speakers, there are several key factors. The voltage defines the absolute volume that is capable of being put out. The current capability defines the ability to drive and control the speaker. Lastly the linearity of the amp will define how it will perform over the whole frequency range (typically 20hz-20kz, although that is changing with SACD).
Typically, low priced high powered amplifiers are built to look good with on paper specifications. In reality they are often not as linear, don't have as clean a signal path, don't have the current capability and lastly use cheaper components.
The implications of this is
- having tone controls screwing up signal path
- maybe having lots of outright voltage, but bugger all current capability. Current capability is MUCH more expensive to add to an amp than voltage. For marketing reasons, the Japanese are well known for claiming high power, but not much current. The results of poor current capability is an inabilty to be able to control the speakers at a given voltage. They may be loud, but it'll sound rubbish because the timing and distortion characteristics will be lousy
- Cheap components are a fairly obvious thing. Put a cheap capacitor in, and it won't perform as consistently and well as a more expensive one. One of the critical elements of an amplifier is of all things the power supply. Most power supplies in cheap kit do the absolute bare minimum, which in hi-fi terms is simply bad news. Mains supply is most certainly NOT perfect 240v sine wave. In reality all the loadings that exist on it (e.g. your TV, cooker, fridge, next doors house, the national grid), have a massive impact on just how close to a sine wave it really looks. Good hi-fi put high quality power suppliers in, and these make a LOT of difference
Hopefully the above will highlight the fact that outright power is NOT a guarantee of good quality.
As already stated, kit like valve amps have terrible power capabilities on paper, but in reality they can sound amazing when done well, and matched with appropriate speakers.
As for your own amp and it's amazing specs.
Just what do you mean by that? Are you saying that you bought it because it has great paper based specs, or because you listened to it in comparison to a number of competitors and bought it because it sounded better?
Let me take this in a little more depth.
You have stated that it produces 200w into 4 ohms.
Do you even know when impedence you speakers actually are?
Most budget speakers are rated at an average of 8 ohms.
Using basic level physics, half the resistive load, and you half the power. So chances are that you amp is actually rated as 100w into 8 ohms.
Now lets look a bit deeper. Most Japanese manufacturers claim their power outputs at specific frequency points and for large levels of distortion. This is simply NOT representative of their actual real world capabilities. It's all well and good claiming 100w at say 10kz, but if it then has 5% levels of distortion, it will sound truly awful. Go check some hi-fi mags that genuinely measure amplifier capabilities (e.g. Hi-fi choice) and you'll find that they check the ability over a large frequency range and with low distortion levels. Frankly I'd be surprised if your amp is capable of anything like 100w across a full frequency range.
Ref the other excellent specifications, are you saying that the specifications talk about the type of power supply and components within the amp, or simply that it has lots of knobs, buttons and dials on it? See the bit earlier in this post where I attempted to describe the differences between screwing up sound quality with unncessary features (e.g. tone controls), and actually improving sound quality using high quality capacitors, power supplies etc.
Ref your findings with a £100 mini hi-fi as a source component.
Frankly I think it's great that you find it sounds so good.
I need to ask though, have you ever tried putting in a high quality dedicated CD player as a comparison? If not, then how do you know it sounds that great in real world terms?
From my own experiences, the best way I've found to assess how good my system sounds was to go listen to other kit, which I've done far more of recently. One of the things I've identified is that a little like yourself, my CD player is actually not up to driving my amplifier and speaker well. Seems that I have a good amp, great pair of speakers and have been using a fairly mediocre CD player (Teac VRDS-7). Now as I say, I've only found this by trying different kit, but I did find a massive discrepancy by trying different front ends on my kit.
I'd now actually advocate doing things the other way around to the way I have. When I upgraded my CD player, it made a HUGE difference. Yet when I've tried using cheaper speakers, they still manage to put across the "key musical message". No they might not have the control, depth etc, but they are fun. The reason for being so fun is that they are being sent a high quality signal. In comparison, my very expensive speakers sound frankly a bit yawnable with a low quality source. But hey, that's just my findings.
Hope you find the above useful.
I hope everyone doesn't mind if I ask for a little advice.
I have a Pioneer 912 amp/receiver driving my Pioneer 656-A DVD Player, speakers and Marantz CD6000 OSE CD Player.
What should be the first thing to be upgraded, the CD Players or add a hi-fi amp, as I can't afford to do both at the moment and I'm not sure how good the rather old Marantz is compared to todays newer models, would I notice a great difference by upgrading the CD player, but still using the AV amp/rec?
Nice post Mr_Sukebe, nobody's ever really explained things in that detail to me before.
Regardless of the hi-fi press, CD technology has not really progressed anywhere near as fast as is claimed.
As for your own system, well AV amps are notorious for not being too hot with music. I own a cheapy Marantz SR4300, supposedly "one of the more musical" AV amps. Frankly it's rubbish in stereo. I'm guessing you'd see a bigger improvement by adding a good dedicated stereo amp.
I'm not going to suggest a specific brand, as different people prefer different styles of presentation. Go find yourself a good dealer who can let you try a variety of kit.
Ref the CD, one option might be to use and external DAC. Something like an old Meridian 203 DAC (nearly 10 years old) is still comparable to something like a £500 CD player, but can be bought for under a ton if you hunt around. The other benefit to that would be that you could use your 656 as a transport for CDs, allowing you to sell the Marantz to fund part of the cost of the DAC.
The above would be my suggestion.
true - but Arcams flagship "Alpha" CD player in '96 was the Alpha 6 and it cost about £600 - my Arcam Alpha 7SE which cost £300, bought in 2000, is significantly better than this - I know this cos my dads annoyed that it beats his
I hate to tell you but this is completely untrue like Mr_Sukebee said.
What is the Model of your Amplifier?
Also mate - watch the language
Nice to see that there's always an exception to every rule.
As it happens, I used to have a 7SE myself. Replaced it with a Meridian DAC which was 10 years old. I sold the 7SE for more than I paid for the DAC and it sounded better.
Still, that's the way it goes.
As already suggested I'd look at a stereo amp, here is the audio side of my system:
Stereo: Castle Harlechs and a Myryad MC100 CD player attached to a Musical Fidelity A220 stereo amp.
AV: Sources attached to a Harmon Kardon AVI/200 Pro-Logic amp. The HK purely drives the rear Mission 734s and the Cannon centre speaker. The front left and right pre-outs from the HK are plugged into the MF A220.
When on AVI, the MF selector is set to the HK's pre-out output and the volume turned to half. HK is then in control of the audio side of things, especially as the HK has a remote and the MF doesn't.
The HK has a good amount of power but simply can't drive like the MF A220 can, for sound quality the MF just surpasses the HK in every way even though the HK has more "power".
The HK has about 70+ watts rms for each front left and right and the MF A220 has 50 watts rms per channel into 8ohms. However when the mags tested the A220 it was happy to drive upto 85 watts rms into 8ohms.
Basically the A220 is a much better amp.
Great British engineering.
What transport are you using?
Im tempted to get one of those Meridian DACs - the 280 is it?
CD technology has definately progressed but not as much as ppl would want you to think (mainly what hifi) who one day decided that the 7SE was only worth 3stars lol...
Amps are by far the best second hand gear to buy - speakers too, but not too old or abused
I used a Pioneer DVD player as transport, still easily outperformed the Arcam CD7SE. The DAC in question was a 203. I watched one go through Ebay for £91 recently, complete bargain.
Just one point, bear in mind that hi-fi is rather personal about what's good/bad, so just because I liked it, doesn't guarantee that anyone else would.
I would suggest that neither amp or speaker technology has moved on that much in the last decade, regardless of claims. My speakers are probably 10 years old, and frankly they still wipe the floor with most kit I've come across. The only ones I've heard that I prefered with on the back end of some extremely good kit, and I'm never quite sure if it were the speakers or the CD/amp that made the overall system sound so good.
Separate names with a comma.