Nice speakers, what about the amp?


New member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 2
Registered: Oct-12
Hi all,
I'm new to the forum and to home audio in general.
I've been a full-time live sound engineer for something over the last 20 years. I just got my first home setup and I love it. I've only had it 5 days now.
All the sounds I want to hear are centred around my PC; I transfer all my music to my hard drive first, even CD's, and I don't own any other playback device. I'll explain that in a minute. I also hook the TV up to the DAC with a TOSlink optical cable, so DTV and movies go through the system too.
The system is:
Dynaudio X16 spkrs
Cambridge Audio DACMagic Plus dig-to-analogue converter
Yamaha DSP-E800 amp

Interconnects (DAC to amp) are Tara Labs' Prism 200a (1 metre)
Spkr cables: MIT Exp, with 2x14 gauge and 2x18 gauge cores per cable, 2.5 metres

Equipment is much more expensive here in Australia than the USA.. I really wanted Dynaudio Focus 160's, but couldn't afford them. In the end I bought X16's. For the price, I'm really happy. They've only been used 20 or 30 hours and I've heard they really need 100 hours at good volume to run them in properly.

What I'm trying to do is a reasoable quality digital playback system, for recreation and a small amount of commercial work, where you'd usually use studio monitors. I chose these as a good compromise, since I'll only do a little bit of the commercial stuff.

Now, my questions:

Can anyone give me a comparison of the X16's vs either Focus 140's or Focus 160's? How similar are the components, inc crossover and drivers, and would anyone care to compare the sound?

Main question:
Obviously, the amp is the weak link. I just didn't have the budget yet to get better. I'll have more money for equipment in about 6 months, so I just wanted something good enough to get by. This is a pretty unusual amp; it's 3-channel with a surround receiver for people with a 2-channel setup who want to add surround. I'm just using 2 channels as a straight power amp. I don't want surround at this stage. Later, when I get a really good 2ch power amp, I'll keep this one to do surround for movies and PC games. (and anyway I got it for 150 bucks. It's the one used component of my system).

What do you guys think of Yamaha "Natural Sound" series amps these days in general? Anyone know this model? How will it do as a match for my speakers? From an audiophile point of view, how do these amps stand in their own right, and compared with other gear around their new price?

I've made sure it's just acting as a straight power amp; no surround decoding or DSP, no EQ (those stupid presets!), no nothin'. Just plain amplification, which is all I want from it.

Power is rated at 80w/ch into 8 ohms; the X16's are a nominal 6 ohms. Should be adequate, do you think?

Is it going to significantly detract from my speakers' performance, which seems to be pretty good for that category and price?

Would anyone care to recommend an amp for me, under about $1500 US? (BTW at the moment US and Aussie dollars are almost equal).

I listen to almost anything, but especially jazz, choral and string quartets. I like a lot of rock but very picky; I lean towards alt/indi. I like SOME electronic music but hate most of it.
I use FooBar2000 for playback and an ASIO driver to bypass all the windows audio and mixing stuff so I get raw digital straight to the DAC. If I want to use EQ I've got a VST wrapper and various graphic and parametric plugins but I rarely use them.
I avoid compressed formats, unless I have to use them. Most of what I play is FLAC files, downloaded (paid for!), mostly 24 bit, and about half of it's either at 96 or 192k, so my source material's pretty good. I don't use CD or other player; just the computer. I transfer everything to it first, and will later set up a media server.

(I happen to hate class D after bad experiences in the live sound world.)
The DACmagic has balanced XLR outs available, but I'm using the RCA's. I wouldn't want to pay much more for balanced, but I'd consider it. (I'm very familiar with balanced lines and XLR's from my work). I'd kind of prefer to avoid integrated, as I want that minimum signal path and with the DAC I've got all the connectivity I need, until I need some analogue sources, and I'd probably prefer a separate preamp for that.

Comments: I LOVE my DACmagic Plus! What a great product! It really is as good as they say; I bought it before the other stuff and took it to a couple of friends' studios to compare with their gear, and it's as good as any I've heard and has all the right features. Very happy with it and it's the key to my system.
I know a bit about positioning from my work and I'm putting some effort into that. So far, so good, and I'm really happy with the system. The speakers are probably better than I expected, or maybe it's the DAC. Anyway it all sounds pretty nice. I know my system is pretty unconventional and a little bit "fringe", but it does achieve the best quality playback on the budget I had, by spending that money on fewer pieces of higher-grade equipment than I would with a more conventional setup. And I'm really happy with it so far.

So, equipment-wise, the amp is my only concern. Opinions?
Thanks in advance

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17509
Registered: May-04

Yo! Bernie, one thread in one area of the forum asking the same question will get you an answer.

"Can anyone give me a comparison of the X16's vs either Focus 140's or Focus 160's? How similar are the components, inc crossover and drivers, and would anyone care to compare the sound?"

I'm going to say no one presently visiting this forum can make a direct comparison between those two exact speakers. And, if they did, how relevant would it be to you? You and I can both listen to the same system playing the same music and we will still have our individual take aways depending on our musical values and what we have as priorities in both music and audio. What I say is rhythmic may not be your idea of keeping time. A system with great soundstage depth to you may be only medicore to my values. If you hold detail extraction in high regard and I find artistic communication to float my boat, we can easily talk past each other. The differences in "audio" language can even be so extreme that simple and overused terms such as "warm" can mean two completely dissimilar qualities to two listeners trying to communicate what they have just experienced.

So, sorry to say, I don't tend to do recommendations or descriptions of what I hear as music played through any system. As I see from another of your posts, you understand acoustics. Then, even should we be on the same page with musical values, two listeners using the same system but in different rooms are going to experience different values due to, if nothing else, the power response of the speaker system in each room. For all of those reasons - and more - I tend not to place much emphasis on individual reviews or comments on a component's or speaker's performance - particularly those "reviews" performed by individuals with whom I have no connection to or knowledge of their priorities and associated equipment. Just the fact I use tube amplifiers excludes many of my comments from being useful to the average reader. Any comment I would make regarding a speaker's performance with a solid state amp would need to be filtered through that fact.

Regarding a comparison between the Dynaudios and the Focals, I would think you might begin by saying Dynaudio has been making their own drivers for several decades and those drivers have found favor in other manufacturer's products. To the best of my knowledge Focal now also design and build in house the drivers which would have been used in either model you mention. This in house ability to create drivers suited to the designer's needs would make either company a somewhat technically better selection, IMO, than a company pulling stock from the off the shelf series of a company such as Dynaudio. However, I've owned speakers built from other manufacturers' drivers that I thought performed their function of playing music much better than anything in the driver manufacturer's own line. So ...

Sound-wise, both companies are European and have what most Americans would consider a "European" sound though national characteristics do exist in both companies. The French Focal asks you to like what they build while the Danish Dynaudio is more demanding that you will prefer their products. Take that with as little jingo-ism as possible. Both lines have, through the last decade or more and as have many European lines, tailored their products' character to broadly meet US tastes since the US remains the largest market for high end audio in the world. Once again, no jingo-ism intended.

Crossovers? What information are you looking for? You can find a description of the order of filters each speaker employs and the crossover frequency by doing a simple look up on the companys' web pages. What else do you want to be told? I think you'd need someone very familiar with both lines to tell you the number of elements in each filter - though both companies tend to think watts are cheap and don't hold back on minimalist filter designs.

In general, I would say I've read about and heard - when there was a Focal dealer in town - somewhat looser, more woolly bass from the Focal line. To my ears, I could always hear the port doing what ports so often do with any Focal product. As a line, the Dynaudio's are more emphatic in the upper ranges than are most other speakers in a similar price range. This gives them a good sense of clarity to the average listener but also means they will need more careful system matching unless you live in a very overdamped environment.

But I have no information which tells me about how the dispersion of each driver is handled across each line's products so there's not to even guess about how each speaker would likely mate with any given room. They both build monopole speaker systems, but you likely knew that already. You are familiar with room treatments so I would think you could make either work rather well in your room - particularly if you do not perceive absorption as an intrinsically evil, broad band necessity in most rooms.

Offhand and without any specifications for direct comparison , I would tend to think the Dynaudios would be slightly more kind to most mass market amplifiers. The Focals are (probably) higher in electrical sensitivity but they are also a more difficult load across their line. One value probably negates the other if your budget can handle a multiway speaker with a rather lowish nomimal impedance and a fair amount of reactance.

"What do you guys think of Yamaha "Natural Sound" series amps these days in general? Anyone know this model? How will it do as a match for my speakers? From an audiophile point of view, how do these amps stand in their own right, and compared with other gear around their new price?"

I'm afraid Yamaha as an amplifier manufacturer does not meet most "audiophile" dreams of owning "that" amplifier. Decades ago Yamaha moved from the US market 's independent, high end audio shops to the department stores. Not many shops were happy with that decision after the independent dealers had spent time building up Yamaha as a reptuable Japanese manufacturer of better than average, middle of the price range merchandise. Offhand, I'd say Yamaha electronics found on the consumer audio side tend to have about the same reputation as do student level Yamaha acoustic guitars. Not bad for the money spent but, wouldn't you really rather have a nice Martin? On the pro sound side, Yamaha still has a decent reputation, I suppose, especially for their DSP based products. DSP is not where American "audiophiles" are buying - or even listening - though. Power supplies are somewhat skimpy in the Natural Sound amplfiers and the emphasis in design is more toward on paper specs and less toward the average US audiophile's sonic values. In other words, not bad for the money spent - you certainly could have done worse - but wouldn't really rather have, say, a Rega? Or, a Naim?

"Power is rated at 80w/ch into 8 ohms; the X16's are a nominal 6 ohms. Should be adequate, do you think?"

Probably, if you aren't needing lease breaking music levels. "Nominal" impedance is not a great way to determine whether a speaker will work well with any specifc amplifier. But buying more wattage probably won't make much difference if the amp is not a better product than is the Yamaha. I will say, long, long ago, when I wanted to demonstrate just how one lower powered amp could actually play subjectively louder than an amp with higher on paper watts, a Yamaha would typically be my "go to" for that demonstration of a high powered amp that didn't play as loud. It depends on your priorities as to which amp you might prefer. With either the Dynaudios or the Focals, I would start you off looking for a rather hefty amp with good instantaneous and long term current (amperage) delivery. What sonic personality you would prefer, I have no idea.

"(I happen to hate class D after bad experiences in the live sound world.)"

I would suggest you just listen and do not place preconceived ideas about class or operational characteristics in front of finding a nice amplifier. Class D amps don't have the hold on the consumer market that you've experienced on the pro sound side. Actually, there is not much penetration into the consumer high end market for class D amps - or class A for that matter. The few class D amps which exist beyond the cheapo department store brands are rather good actually in the US high end market. Channel Island is a well known line here. Class A tends to be relegated to SET's and other small amps unless you have waaaaay more to spend than you indicate. The US tends to be a big watts, push/pull, AB amplifier market. Most retailers - of those we have left standing as brick and mortar stores, don't even carry tubes in any real quantity.

I can't give you much guidance on what is available in your end of the world.

Balanced lines are not widely used here in the US consumer market and certainly not in your price range. There are balanced line components but not enough in the middle of the price range that an entire system is likely to be fully balanced - at least without a few transformers in there somewhere. The US market likes our RCA's and single ended lines - + six dB of signal to noise be d*mned!

I believe that covers the questions I can address in any detail. Questions?


Gold Member
Username: Magfan


Post Number: 2943
Registered: Oct-07
'd' amps have been making lots of progress in the last few years.
Yes, Channel Islands is a brand with a good rep. Find out who they source their modules from.....Hypex?
Other 'd' modules are made by B&O, sold under Bel Canto, Wyred4Sound and other names. I think Rotel uses those modules in some amps.
Hypex is now selling NCore amps to the general public. They are getting some pretty good reviews. You could put together a dual mono amp for within your budget.
Now, I have th DM+ and find it quite the nice piece of goods. I'm expecting the BlueTooth Dongle at Christmas, so I can hook up to my iMac. I don't think the DM+ does 24 bit, so you may be wasting some money on 24 bit downloads. I use the balanced outputs from the DM+ which the W4S integrated would accomodate. The remainder of the inputs are RCA, so be prepared.

A very nice minimalist system could be made using the variable output feature of the DM+ into powered speakers.

New member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 7
Registered: Oct-12
Hi, and many thanks for these helpful responses. I'm brand new to these forums so I'm sorry about repeating myself in different topics. I actually wrote again in the speakers forum because I hadn't realised I was posting in Integrated Amps, and thought I was asking in the wrong place for info about speakers.

Jan, maybe I didn't explain properly, but what I meant was the Dynaudio X16's versus another Dynaudio product... they make a range called Focus. and I'd wanted the Focus 160's but couldn't afford them. Perhaps I mistyped it... anyway, what I'm getting at is more about what differences are there between this manufacturer's different product lines, when comparing two products with similar basic spec's? That is, both models are 2-way bookshelf models with similar sized drivers and enclosures.

I was hoping to find some direct statistical comparison of the outputs of these models. I understand how difficult it is to give a subjective comparison, but since I can understand most technical audio terms, what can be said about frequency range, impulse and transient response, that sort of thing? And again in technical terms, are the crossover slopes of the same order, and filter type (eg. Bessel vs Chebychev or other)? Yes, I know, look at the website, but I'm hoping to hear people's own personal experiences with the different models, if that's possible.

What I'm getting at, ultimately, is trying to work out what one gets for the money, if you upgrade from the Excite to the Focus range within Dynaudio's product line-up. If the X16's are at all comparable to the more expensive Focus line (twice the price where I live), that would certainly make them relatively good value, in my eyes. Can anyone comment on the "value" of these different models? (I do appreciate that's again a subjective, therefore difficult, question to answer, but I'd be interested to know if other people who've made a similar purchase are happy with what they got).

Thank you also for your comments on the Yamaha amp, that roughly confirms what I expected to hear. I may have mentioned, I bought it as a temporary measure. I'll have a better budget for upgrades in the new year, but until then I needed to save money. I got the Yammy for 150 bucks, and for that, it'll do for now. But OK, it's far from a "nice" amp in absolute terms. Until I finish experimenting and deciding on my final speaker placement, and other details of the system, I know I won't really be making the most even of what I have now, so I don't mind much that I'm putting up with a lesser amp in the meantime. But in the end, certainly I'm looking for something better. I do believe these speakers aren't bad, and deserve something good enough to make the most of them.

Thanks Jan for your comments. Is there anything I've said that sounds really misguided?

Leo, thanks for the reply. I'm also getting the BT100... I wonder if the error rate's alright with BlueTooth? I don't see why it shouldn't be, after all it's got to reliably transfer executables and so on that can't tolerate errors.
I like the idea of using it that way, and as a learning exercise I intend to set up a media server based on one of those little single-board computers using a Linux distro similar to that which Android is based on.. There's one for under 40 bucks with bluetooth, USB, an SD card slot, HD video decoding and ethernet (plus other stuff). With a USB hard disk, I'd have all I need. It could feed the DM+ via the BT100.

According to its manual and everything else I can find about it, the DM+ certainly does appear to do 24 bits, and I'm sending it that data most of the time. I've got the manual and the box right here, let's see... here's some quotes from the manual: "Up to 24-bit content is now supported via both the USB Audio and Digital Inputs". "With Windows PCs the DM+ can operate driverlessly (ie use Windows own built-in driver) at up to 24 bits/96k resolution. In addition our Windows driver (downloadable from ...) allows up to 24 bit/192khz operation and supports both kernel streaming and ASIO"
... and so on. The filters and DAC's listed in its spec's are certainly 24-bit, and there's plenty of claims in the literature that it does operate at 24. This COULD, of course, mean that it merely accepts a 24-bit stream but only functions at 16 or 20 bits, but I don't think so. I've seen nothing to suggest it's limited this way.

I read a review where the reviewer tested this unit with some fancy $50,000 test station, and it turns out the RCA outputs actually had a lower noise level, by about 4dB. That doesn't of course count the improvement you get from better rejection of outside interference with a balanced line. I've seen poor quality balanced systems introduce distortion, as they usually use an op-amp based circuit to provide the inverse-phase leg, and it needs to be a good quality circuit, but I don't expect that to be a problem in a unit of this standard.

I've not checked out class D in domestic equipment at all, and I'll admit to some prejudice. We use them at work though, and they're the ones I really don't like. And that's across several brands. We've got some KV2 gear, including several models of speakers and amp, and that's some of the higher-end gear we carry. Those amps, when used to replace almost anything else we've got, are a definite improvement, but regardless of class, that's what you get when you use such high-end stuff.

Anyway... I'm considering Rotel and Marantz in the AB class, and there's a nice Lyndell Audio class A going for a good price locally. The trouble is, it's only rated at 40watts/channel into 8 ohms, but in my experience the good class A's often have low numbers. On paper it doesn't sound enough, but I've got to where I've learned to pay little attention to the number of watts. After all, some of the fanciest, most expensive amps I've heard of might have a rating of 25 watts a channel, and are being used to drive some big stuff. Is it something to do with the fancy brands deliberately using very conservative ratings, and another manufacturer would claim it's good for much more? I've experienced that with speakers but I don't really get that with power amps, though I do understand it when you take into account sensitivity. THat's actually low-ish in my speakers, so could I take it that 40w/ch really isn't enough? Or does it not really matter... I don't really run the things very loud, or if I do, it's never for long.

Sorry to ramble. Finally, anyone able to say they've come across an amp that matches really well with the X16's?

Thanks again

New member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 9
Registered: Oct-12
PS Leo, here's that review I mentioned. The measurements for the DM+ are fantastic, and this guy says very nice things about it. He seems to know what he's talking about.

I can't see anything that makes me think it can't work at 24 bit internally. It really should with those 24 bit processors.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17510
Registered: May-04

Sorry for my mistake. But ...

You choose a speaker based on whether a Bessel or a Chebychev, etc filter is being used?

I get it that each filter type produces a slightly unique result, and personally I have found I prefer certain generic implementations over others, but you would appear, IMO, to be radically overthinking this issue. Tearing the speaker down into its constituent parts, examining each as a distinct and unique entity and then trying to reassemble the egg you have just scrambled seems highly unproductive to me. Particularly after you have made the decision your recent speaker purchase best suits your present budgetary restrictions. IMO you would best be served by moving on to fixing the bacon and toast to go along with the eggs already on your plate.

First, what you are asking for seems to me to be a contradiction of requests. On the one hand you want technical specs for crossover types (which I can only assume will based on your past experiences and preferences predict a certain type of behavior from the system just as you have already judged most of the class D amplifiers), impulse response, frequency response, etc. I'm guessing here but will all of this somehow predict what you would expect to come from a speaker? Then you ask for subjective impressions which do what? Confirm what you have supposed after examining the technical merits of the systems on paper? For a consumer that seems to me to be placing the cart before the horse but the cart is missing a few wheels. It possibly makes for extended "intellectual" conversations over a few beers but doesn't really alter the fact the speaker either appeals to your sense of musical values or it doesn't.

Possibly, if we approach this from a slightly different angle, we can get closer to a response which satisfies you. You claim, "I really wanted Dynaudio Focus 160's, but couldn't afford them. In the end I bought X16's. For the price, I'm really happy."

OK, why did you "really" want the Focus? Other than your budget, whay did you select the less expensive speaker? Did you have the opportunity to audition the speakers? Or, was this simply a matter of cost and you purchased what you could afford that was acceptable to your ears? Like buying a midline Camaro instead of the Corvette you can't afford.

Either way, you now own the less expensive speaker. So, why continue to ask about the speaker you couldn't afford? Impulse response?! Really? Are you saying you would suddenly not like the speakers in your room if someone told you the more expensive, more tehcnically superior speaker actually had superior impulse response?

I don't get it.

First, I am more than a small bit confused by the fact you have not mentioned a single musical value which enters into your decision making process of choosing a system. If your decisions are actually based upon, say, a Linkwitz crossover and not a Bessel, where does music come in? Wouldn't you rather expect there to be an improvement in the technical merits - impulse response, damping, frequency response - anechoic, semi-anechoic, in room? - or, say, dispersion characteristics and off axis power response if Dynaudio is asking you to pay twice as much for a roughly identical speaker? I'm just not getting what you're looking for, Bernie.

IMO, and I've stated this on this forum several times, when you are sitting around cruising the internet looking at speakers, you first need to look at the height, width and depth of the speaker - or the amplifier or CDP or whatever to make sure stuff "fits". Then you should consider the weight of the component so you can determine whether you'll need to borrow your friend's pick up or have the item delivered. Now, with a speaker, you probably should have some idea of the system sensitivity and the total reactive load it will repesent to an amplifier. If you completely ignore those two values, you might be very disappointed with your selection.

But, impulse response with a test signal? What frequency? Burst or square wave?


After that, you go listen. Pack up all of your musical priorities and bring them with you along with, maybe, a CD or two and go listen to some music being sent through the speaker/component in question. Once you have the item in your system and you are "really happy", you can read the manual and look at specs if that really is that important to you.

I am going to assume you did not take impulse response and anechoic refequency response into consideration before you made your recent purchase. So, why concern yourself with them now?

The higher priced series of speakers will tend to be the "better" speaker both tehcnically and, assuming the system in front of the speaker is capable of putting into the speaker a superior quality signal, subjectively also. Are you simply trying to reassure yourself and have some ammunition to tell your friends how good a deal you made? I don't know what you are after.

Are you thinking of taking your speakers back if someone tells you something that technically makes them inferior to the twice the price speakers which Dynaudio claim to be the superior speaker in their line?

Hmmmmm ... a story if you please ...

Years and years ago, when I was selling the Celestion line, they introduced a series of speakers which were accorded very high remarks in the audio press. Technically and measureably the speakers performed much as you would expect from speakers with such a distiguished calibre and heritage. One speaker sold for about $1200 a pair and the other similarly sized system for about $2500 a pair. The higher priced speaker actually came from much of the technology originally created for the lower priced speaker but was the technically correct extension of what the designers would have preferred if they had not been constrained by a target price range The drivers were generically similar between the two systems but the higher priced version had far more technically advanced drivers using much more closely toleranced components throughout with higher cost and less commonly used materials. The cabinets were, in the lower priced speaker, a somewhat conventional but highly braced MDF while the higher cost speaker boasted an aluminum clad in sound suppressing coating. Aluminum vs beryllium in the tweeters. Metal vs coated fibre for the woofers. Etc, etc, etc ... A near completely non-resonant enclosure in one and a "somewhat" resonant cabinet in the other. I could stand there and spout the technical variations between the two systems but the best selling tool was simply to play music through both and allow the client to decide which was best suited to their needs and desires. If a client said they preferred the superior design, there were times when I cautioned against its purchase.

A superior speaker's task and its reason for existence is it superior ability to display exactly what is being put though it. Buying the "better" speaker to place at the end of a less than superior system was, IMO, foolish and would only result in many disappointments and possibly a returned speaker when it did not perform at home as it did in the store. For example, using your present Yamaha amplifier - which I understand is a place holder item in your system - a superior speaker is all the more likely to demonstrate the deficiencies in the system. Less than adequate stands for either speaker would bring the comparison to a much less decisive conclusion. $4 @ foot cabling vs $20 @ foot cabling would negate many of the potential superiorities in the more expensive speaker system. Garbage in = garbage out. You cannot escape that rule when you are judging products on either a technical or a subjective basis. That is why superior products exist in audio. If you ignore that rule, there's a good chance you'll be turning off your system more often than you find yourself turning on good music.

You don't have to explain anything to me, Bernie. But, if you would, tell me what you're getting at with your questions. Why the interest in all the technical aspects and not a single word about music? Does one speaker perform to a higher standard than the other? We can only assume so or else Dynaudio has no business asking twice as much. Does one speaker use a different crossover type? What does that matter? Will the more expensive speaker sound "better" in your room? That isclearly something we can only guess at no mattter how many technical measurements we are fed.

You say you are happy. What more are you looking for?

And, yes, I still suggest you head to the Dynaudio website for many of your answers. However, Dynaudio doesn't appear to have much interest in supplying to the consumer the extensive specs of the type you want to know. At times that is due to a company which produces two dozen different speakers which are all rather similar in basic appearance but not so much in sound and the company having nothing special to say about any of them. In other cases, the lack of technical information suggests the specs are not what is to the manufacturer important about their products since many speakers might actually have superior measurements but not have the ability to produce convincingly realistic music in any given situation.

I don't know which it is with the Dynaudio line. I do know very few consumer audio based reviews of speakers go into the sort of detail you are requesting, a very few salespeople would care to know the details you are requesting and directly contacting the distributor will be the best way for you to come by something like impulse response measurements. I don't believe you're going to find anyone other than the distributor or the actual designer/manufacturer who can answer your questions in a way that would be satisfying to you.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17511
Registered: May-04

Sorry to ramble. Finally, anyone able to say they've come across an amp that matches really well with the X16's?"

I am not tyring to be either rude or contentious but, what, in your opinion, would make an amp a really good match with your speakers?


Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 11
Registered: Oct-12
Jan, you asked me, wouldn't I prefer a nice Rega or something? I absolutely would, of course, and I should have made clearer that I'm definitely planning an amplifier upgrade in the (hopefully) near future, say around the new year.

I've been considering either an integrated amp (hauling myself back on topic) like Marantz 6004 or 7004 (probably the 7), and though I haven't checked it out, that Peachtree one, whatever it's called, with a valve stage (is it a gimmick?) and the inbuilt DAC. I was advised though that it has a definite character and possibly colours the sound more than a lot of other amps, so it's a question of whether I like that particular colouration, and I haven't heard it yet. That sounds like something to avoid; I'd ideally have an amp with as little self-characteristic as possible (i just made that up, but I'm sure you know what I mean).

What would be some good alternatives to the Marantz 7004, given a similar config and not too far away from that price? Would most people consider this a significant improvement over my Yamaha DSP-E800 (used as a simple power amp)?

What I've also been thinking about would be something like a Rotel 1552 power amp (2x120W, 8 Ohms) with a nice separate preamp. Probably not the 1582 for 50% higher price; I love headroom, but I think the former's probably already got enough. Then, with the money I don't spend on the bigger model, I'd put it towards a preamp; in my case I'd definitely investigate class A solid state. Not sure I care about valves but if there was something I really liked I'd get it.

If I go down that path I'd probably be willing to spend $2000 on an amp and preamp, as opposed to probaby up to to 1200 or 1500 for integrated.

The usual specific questions: Alternatives to the Rotel to achieve the same thing? A reasonable match for the X16's?

Jan, you mentioned Rega. Would you suggest I investigate any particular models, integrated or not?

And rather than ask the impossible question ("what preamp should I get?") I'll phrase it like this: would anyone care to suggest some suitable line preamps as a starting point? From which I'll hopefully start to inform myself in time to decide on something by the time I'm ready to buy. I'd be especially interested in models featuring proper class A circuitry, balanced inputs or (of less importance to me) a valve stage, but would also want to consider several more alternatives that are closer to mainstream.

Balanced inputs WOULD get my attention, as I might like to try it with the DM+, and I would occasionaly bring home some studio or commercial gear which is usually balanced, and that's how I'd normally use it in its regular context.

The idea is to gain a noticeable sonic upgrade from that Yamaha I'm using. While I know it's hard to avoid subjective comparison, and to avoid the question of what TYPE of sound I like, surely it's safe to describe many amps as at least "better" than others? I'm sure I can get "better" than what I've got.

Thanks again for your time and attention

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17512
Registered: May-04

"The idea is to gain a noticeable sonic upgrade from that Yamaha I'm using. While I know it's hard to avoid subjective comparison, and to avoid the question of what TYPE of sound I like, surely it's safe to describe many amps as at least 'better' than others? I'm sure I can get 'better' than what I've got."

How would I know, Bernie? In all that all I see are more technical "specs" you are interested in having. It's not that difficult to place "class A amplifier" in a search engine and get the answers you seem to need. You say you may not want tubes because of their character. Do you not think other devices and circuit topologies affect the character of an amplifier when paired with a specific speaker load?

What "character" is pleasing to you? What is a "sonic upgrade" for your system? I have absolutely no idea what you would like other than, maybe, class A something or other and balanced lines, yeah, balanced lines would be good.

Bernie, what we have here is a failure to communicate.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17513
Registered: May-04

I'm thinking you might be better served over at Hydrogen Audio forums. Those guys are all specs, measurements and numbers. Not much on music - everything sounds the same if it measures the same, eh?

This forum really has very few members who actively contribute. Even when the forum is more active we tend not to be focussed on things such as impulse response to determine the product which might appeal to us. This has traditionally been a subjective opinion forum interspersed with some technical information.

"What would be some good alternatives to the Marantz 7004, given a similar config and not too far away from that price? Would most people consider this a significant improvement over my Yamaha DSP-E800 (used as a simple power amp)?"

Without knowing what you consider to be a "significant improvement" over what you already have - "what" do you actually have? I don't know other than you have a Yamaha NS amp, no one can answer that question. The guys at Hydrogen though are always full of opinions and they loooooove frequency response questions.


Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 12
Registered: Oct-12
I wrote that last response before reading yours. I guess the problem is I haven't made myself clear.

But fair questions and I'll try to manage fair answers. The actual question I suppose I would ask in summary is, what are the specific differences between these models (why I ask, I'll get to that). The answers that interest me are their construction, design parameters and performance on the audio side (for lack of a better quick term), Musically I'd ask, given that I know Focus 160's DO play music in a way I enjoy and would be happy to pay for, if I could exhaustively compare these two models side by side, for long enough to really get to know both, am I likely to think I've really missed out on something by settling for what I bought? I don't mean, "will I feel disappointed?", which is clearly a question for a different type of professional <smile>. I mean, although this question plumbs the murky waters of subjective assessment, are the differences I'll perceive relatively minor, or is this a speaker that is obviously inferior to I wanted when I go to play my music on it?

And, given my particular background, I happen to feel I can come to understand my speakers better and have a better idea of what I'm listening to, and why it is that way, if I've ALSO got a specific empirical assessment of their performance, in technical terms and as comprehensively as possible. It actually helps me listen to music. because I make a picture in my mind of their performance, with special ref. to their strengths and weaknesses.

That last point is probably of particular interest to me more than to many other listeners, and certainly more than the average walk-in buyer at a hi-fi store. That's because I've spent all these years with pictures in my head of frequency graphs, thoughts of phase relationships, and learning what I can about every part of a speaker system: the crossovers, phase plugs, materials, alignment type and all of that. I get to use so many different designs of commercial stuff that when I do a gig with them, or spec them for a client's show, I tend to say to myself, "ah, that's a HF section of THAT type! Well then, I can expect it to do THIS! or THAT! And it may also explain THIS behaviour here at the venue..."

For my needs, I want as much information as possible about the gear I use, even after the purchase. I chose them this way: money was available to buy a basic system for a short window of time, and with a definite limit. Speakers were the most difficult choice. I knew I didn't have time to do exhaustive listening tests. I decided to narrow my selection to a few brands I knew and trusted and liked. I wanted to use my limited test time so that fewer models got listened to for longer, rather than hearing many for too short a time to learn anything about them. Rest assured, I never let numbers I'd read on a spec sheet, or engineering data or any such thing make me think "...gee, this model sounds great, but it doesn't have such and such material in the cones..." No, I think I did well musically, because I knew what I was listening for. I wanted deep bass extension without "sounding like a sub", I wanted to hear certain details in my favourite choral, orchestral and rock music, and I wanted that music to somehow make me think, "hey, I LIKE that! I think that sounds really GOOD to me!" In those terms, my choice is a reasonable success... I do actually listen to my favourite music now for hours every day, enjoying it more than ever now and without too much fatigue, and until a week ago I simply didn't do that. THAT'S a good buy! It actually has enhanced my enjoyment of all the music I play. In my old favourites, I even hear vocals, instruments and details I never could before in album's I've had for 25 years. That's a distinct pleasure that I didn't expect. I am truly content.

So why then do I want to make a specific comparison with another model? I still think I have fair reasons for this. It's certainly no longer about choosing something to buy, and it's not even to see if I should regret it or even tell myself I'm a really good speaker-chooser for egotistical reasons.

I believe that the more I understand my speakers in technical terms, the better I can understand what I'm hearing, WITH REGARDS TO THE MUSIC. If I hear a harshness in the top end, but I don't hear that with other tracks, it must be this track... that's basic. But also knowing the little I do about what particular design features tend to "sound like", I can start to tell the difference between the track and the system as I listen... this is important for my capacity to listen to the music and get into it. I believe my experience of different systems helps me to make allowances for the type of gear, and to almost imagine what the music would be like without those characteristics.

Obviously, I'd like my system to be as "invisible" as possible. But, the more I know about it, the more I understand its interaction with the room, with me in my listening position, and the function and contribution of the component parts. Yes indeed, that amp is surely limiting the comprehension and enjoyment I can get from the music I love so much (and I do). But I know about that weakness, and I try to listen "through" that. I can do that with speakers better than amps, although I guess the specific harmonics and transient response and what-not of an A class amp must just appeal to me. Plenty of people like that particular "imperfection" valves give to music; that particular harmonic content (I even used to know the maths of it, but I've forgotten it all years ago... now I just mix bands) seems to appeal to a statistically significant bunch of people!

And why compare these two very models? Because I happened to know the Focus 160's well enough to decide I'd have them before I went shopping, and the X16's I didn't know at all. But the X16's pleased me in the time I had, and I DID partly make my decision this way, unwise as it may be... "OK, I like all the Dynaudio's I've heard, and this model's built pretty like the one I wanted, so I'll trust it not to do bad stuff that disappoints me". It was also... "Sounds great! But gee, I can only listen to not very long of not very many pieces of music... I HOPE it's like this for the rest of it, like those 160's are!" But if I'd decided to spend as long as it really takes to make a proper decision by listening tests, I'd still be testing and the money would have been spent elsewhere by now anyway... and not on speakers at all.

This system is, as I've said and you've acknowledged, incomplete. It needs a much better amp, I know that. All my cables are kind of not bad, and given the amp I'm using, are probably not my weakest link. Room acoustics and speaker placement are something I'll tinker with for a long time and probably never consider to be "finished", like writing a piece of music. Years from now, I may want new furniture and the speakers will have to move, as I'll be influencing the room. That's OK, I LIKE doing that.. I'm a sound guy. Perfectly sound, in fact. And trying little upgrades, I imagine including new cables (I make and sell them myself too, tho I ACTUALLY PAID OTHER PEOPLE to provide me with some this time), settings in software, types of stands... you name it. But I also plan to REPLACE as little gear as possible. Even the Yamaha will be kept for when I want to watch movies with surround sound; it'll be just fine for rears and centre, I'm sure. Or just as a decoder with other amps.

I consider the other actual audio electronic audio components to be my major purchases, and I'm not the type of "audiophile" who wants to listen to the gear, over the music. I want to get at least ten years out of these speakers, and the DAC until they change formats. When I get my new amp, I'll keep that forever too.

So why again do I want to compare my speakers with one specific set I didn't buy, and over all others? To give me a point of reference in terms of something I already know just a little bit (really quite little). Doing it in terms of technical and lab test results suits me just fine; I'm no longer interested in which models might be better than mine, coz I've bought this one now. I did try to explain what I'll actually do with the information: put it towards my understanding of what I'm hearing, basically. To help me perceive my system generally, so I can subtract this from what I'm hearing, and leave me with nothing but the MUSIC to listen to in my mind.

THere's another reason: for my working life so far and for what's left of it, I remain interested in speaker and audio theory in general. I want to keep learning it forever. I use frequency graphs to read for interest's sake, not just to help choose what to buy. I'd like to know everything I can about all facets of my speakers' performance in other than subjective terms, and including the materials and design approaches used in them. I STILL think I'd have probably liked music through a pair of 160's a little better, but I wonder exactly what I could point to and say, "THAT'S the difference; THAT'S why that pair's better than this, and here's what I could expect it to mean." If I made my purchase wisely, I'll also get a little glow because I'll be able to say, "pretty close though, huh?"

Strange as it may seem, and for all the difficulty I'm having explaining why, knowing all the technical data about my speakers (and against others I know) really will, I believe, help me to get more knowledge, wisdom and pleasure out of the music I play on them. I do love music; I also love what I do for a living, and also any fine machine, whether it be a quality car, computer or sound system Anything someone put effort into making as well as they could interests and appeals to me, and I want to know everything about how they did it and why it is so. (Engineering of all kinds is in my family).

And that's about the best answer I can give! Just quickly to wrap it up, any idea where I might get more performance data than I've seen on their site?

Many thanks for your time and attention.

Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 13
Registered: Oct-12
Also agree with your thrust re. amps, and that I haven't yet properly explained what I want to know about them. I thank you for helping me get straight in my head what my goals are with my system.

But it's late and I'll try again tomorrow.
Night! And thanks

Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 14
Registered: Oct-12
Jan, there's something I'm missing here. Are you saying that basically, listening tests are the only way I can expect to select my audio gear? Certainly, I agree that's the way to finally settle between different candidates, but there's another issue.
You seem to be saying that you can't really describe one amp as "better" than another, not from its paper spec's. But we already agreed on one thing: my cheap, used Yamaha amp probably isn't up to the standard of my other equipment. In its own right, it's not considered a high quality piece. And that's not just to do with what I'd think of it subjectively; there are clear technical reasons for that. Didn't you mention something about the power supply... I understand that without a reserve of current available to draw on almost instantly, the amp modules won't track transients well.
Other factors that might make an amp a less desirable choice than a given alternative: higher noise floor. Higher distortion. There's a term for the distortion of a push-pull amp going from positive to negative output current or back again, and not smoothly following the desired output curve as it crosses the zero voltage or current point... you know what I mean. Is that intermodulation distortion? That sort of thing: what we'd call technical performance data, I suppose.
And when I ask about an amp's "suitability" for my speakers, or how well "matched" it is, I don't see what's so unclear about my question: isn't it plain I want to find out if the speakers present the type of load (impedance curve, I guess) that doesn't lend itself well to a given design? THat is, would a different *type* of amp be more or less likely to avoid uneven response across the speakers' range?
I don't really understand why you're calling me to task; what is it about my questions that make them difficult to answer? I don't see that I should be asking "what would be the results of these specific lab tests that I can't find on their website", since few posters would be likely to have those answers and I'd stand a better chance by writing to the manufacturer.
What I've been asking are general, but I think straightforward, questions. I know I can't expect an answer that says "THIS will be the BEST amp to use in your system." But I think an appropriate answer might be something like, "generally, here's a class of equipment you should look into", for example, AB integrated amps of a given rating, and maybe to suggest some manufacturer's product lines to investigate.
I also think it's fair to say, "can we throw aside all subjective analysis, and then compare some amps strictly in terms of their measured characteristics". I'm sure it IS possible to say, "OK, you may still like the sound of amp A, but amp B certainly does have *better* performance spec's." As to the next consideration, whether it's the right amp for me and my needs, or *better* than another in the context of making it fit my system, I think we all understand that's not empirically quantifiable. and it comes down to my preferences and tastes.

But you seem to be saying on the one hand, yes, my cheap amp is definitely not a high quality unit, then on the other, there's no way to tell me some examples of amps that are. Are you telling me my questions make no sense? Because I don't think so; I'm asking people to tell me if they've got experience with these speakers and how they feel about the amps they themselves have tried with them. It's just that so far, nobody at all has been able to say that they own the same speakers or know much about them. THat's fine; but honestly Jan I don't understand exactly what you're saying is wrong with my questions. They seem pretty straight and answerable to me.

You see, again, we both agree nobody expects my cheap amp to offer the type of performance the upmarket models do; but surely, knowing mine isn't so hot, it's fair to ask about other amps being "better"; measure or describe that however you like, in subjective terms or straight up measurements. You seem to be unhappy with whatever method I propose to describe one piece as an improvement over another; yet we all know there are benefits available from higher performance gear. THe issue isn't how I phrase the questions; I just can't accept that it isn't possible to say, "this type of amp, or amps from such and such a range, ought to be a big improvement on what you've got."
Can you please explain to me exactly what's wrong with my questions? Are you saying that there is just no way to recommend anything, ever, to anyone, in any circumstances, or that try as I might I've yet to ask that in a reasonable way?
I simply don't see the problem and I don't understand your reluctance to talk to me about what I'm asking.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17514
Registered: May-04

Well, Bernie, you certainly do get my memory cells working in overdrive. I'm not certain whether I have enough caffeine in there to make all of the appropriate synaptic firings but ... you see, it would be so much easier if you would only take the time to read everything I have ever posted on this forum over the last near decade as I've covered everything you ask about in that time and generally more then once.

Assuming you are not going to take the time to read all 17,500+ posts (I would), let's have a go at this ...

I'm not at all certain which of your concepts of music reproduction systems that I should tackle first. So let's begin with;

Sorry about the nonworking links but the forum's formatting rules were fighting me today. A quick copy/paste into a search engine should get you to where you need to be in each case.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17515
Registered: May-04

OK, that should be a nice beginning point for someone new to the way some subjectivists in audio think about the hobby. Not that Stereophile is the last word in subjective audio thinking, but it is; first, the most widely read of the subjectivist magazines, second, actually under its founder JG Holt, Stereophile created the concept of reviewing not the technical measurements of an audio component but the musical presentation of an audio component and, third, it is the most accessible of the bunch (which has become far less accessible with the latest changes to its on line format).

Actually, there have been much better versions of Stereophile in past years as the current magazine is full of, IMO, know nothings (with a few exceptions of note) when it comes to audio who mainly serve the purpose of being John Atkinson's clay puppets and lap dogs. Atkinson himself though is an interesting read in the magazine whether you are looking at his reviews or this thought pieces. He came from the British magazine HiFi News and Record Review where he was tutored by several of the brightest, most inquisitive minds in audio over the last half century. Atkinson was, as you'll see in his piece on Heyser, a rather strict objectivist when he first joined HHNRR and he felt measurements foretold - if not completely defined - the performance of an audio component. His views have shifted somewhat over the years though his magazine is one of the few "subjecivist" review publications to perform and include in their writings the technical measurements for virtually any component which receives a full review process. His reasons for performing both subjective and objective reviews are explained in more than one of the linked articles above.

If I had access to the archives of HFNRR, I would certainly include them in your "education" as they were in many cases the think pieces which formed my attitudes toward audio both as a hobbyist and as a salesperson who was expected to have more than a few comments on THD, frequency response and watts. Unfortunately, those articles are not include in HFNRR's web site, the web site is somewhat unworkable since it includes none of the valuable historical pieces of information I prefer and, like most current audio magazines, it has become more concerned with drawing a readership whose attention span is not much longer or more deeply involved than an 2G MP3 player's song lists.

However, while you'll have to wait awhile until I can add more comments on what you've posted, I think, if you'll read a few of those articles, you'll begin to see where you and I and the subjective vs objective viewpoints diverge. Of particular interest to you in these lists are the first articles which deal with Heyser and the last two Stereophile links which deal with subjectivist vs objectivist approaches to an issue plus the "Sharpeners vs Levelers" article which comes not from audio but from the cognitive sciences. I've included the introduction to the Triode Guild by Dr. Gizmo simply because he is a continuing source of inspiration for a small contingent of out of the mainstream audio hobbyists. Gizmo's style not withstanding, I would guess his approach to music reproduction will be somewhat of an affront to your ways of thinking about audio.

There are more than a few quotations included in those articles which could summarize my feelings toward what you have posted, Bernie. I'll allow you to discover those thoughts on your own. As a thought inducing publication, Stereophile at times still flashes a bit of the old magazine's leap over the surface application of "my ears are all the measurement tools I need" thinking of the not so bright subjectivist crowd while calmly placating the less than severe objectivist cries for "if it measures right, it is right". For that, I think, Stereophile still deserves some credit which it at times is not afforded by the uber-objectivists. That and the availability of think pieces such as I've included here.

For the most part, I've seen my role on this forum not as someone who is able in virtually any circumstance to fulfill requests from "what/which is better" posters. For the most part, those are the subjective buyers who are completely unfazed by and unaware of the fact audio reproduction equipment actually has technical merits which we can discuss and compare and should to some extent. They - the uber-subjectivists - do not care to be distracted by measurements or why a specific measurement or value might be of use to their decisions. They simply want to be told which product to buy to have a "really great" system. Fewer in number, but still found here, are those like yourself who have some technical background in the mechanics of reproducing "sound". They often remind me of my days selling across the street from McDonald Douglas and all the engineers who would wander over to the shop on their lunch break to belittle the hifi salespeople who wanted them to buy more than 18 AWG zipcord for a speaker connection. There are also the posting members who fall somewhere between those two extremes. The near constant, however, in any group has been the desire for answers to which is "better".

Answering that question is not something I do.

I will be happy to discuss with anyone what they might prefer and why but a simple flat "this is better" has never been how I've gone about selling or discussing audio. Rather, I see my role here on this forum to be one in which I try to make the questioner answer their own questions by asking more questions of them. In other words I try to get someone thinking about things other than what they are seeing in front of them simply because many times what they are seeing is not, IMO , what is actually important. You're not the first to not understand what "I think" is wrong with the questions you've asked or to think I am being less than helpful. Trust me, I am being as helpful as I think is possible. That is, IMO, because me telling you which piece does "this" or which piece is in my estimation "better" is like discussing the role of ground pepper in a well made lasagne. Yes, pepper is necessary for a good, well made and truly enjoyable lasagne but it is simply one ingredient which makes up the whole lasagne and cannot be taken out and observed as just ground pepper. Possibly someone will prefer a meat based lasagne over a vegetable lasagne or vice versa and my preferences have nothing to do with your priorities. More sauce, less sauce, sauce made with basil or sauce made with oregano, plenty of sauce, no sauce and more cheese, Parmesanno or Romano, riccotta or beschamel, etc, etc, etc ...

How many people have you worked with, Bernie, in your professional dealings, who have the same systems? Why do you suppose so few have the exact same systems? Possibly they can agree on whether a specific component or a particular speaker satisfies their needs but seldom can they agree that same component belongs in each system they use. You might have near field speakers, room speakers, mastering speakers and general playback speakers. Why not just one pair of speakers if we can all agree on which pair is technically "best"? If that specific component is "good" or even better at its job than is another but still not good enough or necessary enough to always be included in each and every system put together by each and every user, doesn't that come down to more than just the technical functionality of that specific piece of gear? If you then asked each and every engineer why they did or did not include that specific component in their system or how they assembled their system(s), what sort of answer do you suppose you'd get after you'd listened to multitudes of answers?

If I can get someone to think more about what they are seeking, why they want "that" value or component and how it might fit into the "synergy" of a complete system, then that's where I prefer to focus my energy. I could give the same pat answer that I like "this" more than "that" and many posters would be quite content to have that opinion. Yet, what I prefer - and I learned long ago that much of what I prefer is not what my clients preferred - says nothing really about what they are going to prefer or how it would actually work with other components or create a system with synergistic values where a group of lower cost but well chosen pieces can exceed the subjective musical performance of a more expensive but less well put together system.

So, IMO, this always comes down to "priorities" and perception. You and I do not share perceptions. No two people do when we are discussing music. I tend to keep my "priorities" focused on the music and not the equipment. Not to say I don't understand the equipment or make decisions partially based on the technical properties of certain pieces. I do, and I can easily trace the progression from my very first system to my present system(s) through both the technical and the musical values I was seeking at the time.

And, suffice it to say for now, Bernie, that is where you and I diverge the most. You want technical answers and you are willing to say, "I also think it's fair to say, 'can we throw aside all subjective analysis, and then compare some amps strictly in terms of their measured characteristics'. I'm sure it IS possible to say, 'OK, you may still like the sound of amp A, but amp B certainly does have *better* performance spec's." IMO, no, you cannot say "this" is technically superior to begin with and I would also disagree with the notion of choosing the technically "better" component over the component you "like the sound of". To start here, Bernie, I have to say I am not interested in how any component "sounds". I find no component that "sounds" like anything. They are inanimate objects with no ability to sound like anything other than if I strike a speaker and an amplifier chassis with hammer I am likely to hear the characteristic of the materials which surround their working parts. What I am interested in knowing is, first and foremost, how does music appeal to me, what emotions and recollections does it conjure in my mind, what mood does it move me towards when it is sent through a system containing "this" specific component. Then I may be interested in the technical merits of the design but they are not what I find myself using as a deciding tool for which component is "better" and certainly not when I find it is the component I prefer the "sound of" less. This may be splitting semantic tools in your opinion but to me this is where most posters go off the tracks first and then slide down the embankment next.

Since I need to wrap this up for now, here's where you and I diverge the most IMO. While technical merits are of interest to both of us, you tend to be putting technical issues ahead of all else and seeing issues of class A or class D, you are seeing distortion specs (crossover or "notch" distortion is what occurs when a signal passes from + going to - going in anything other than a class A gain stage) and impulse response as the prime drivers of your final decisions. And you are asking me to supply to you things which are not typically detailed in "high end" audio publications or manufacturer's web pages when dealing with the high end of consumer audio.

More importantly, though, what I am seeing in each and every post you have made is the complete lack of mentioning music as the end goal to why you would want to own any component or speaker.

If you want to sit and listen to music while conjuring ideas about crossover filter types and slopes, diffraction components, inter-modulation distortions, etc that's fine after you have made a decision to own a component due to the music you perceive as the signals are sent through that component. As I told all of my clients, I don't care what you do with it or what you think about after you've made the purchase. It is not my job to worry about such things. My job, as I see it, is to get you to the point where you have music in your home which will endlessly be a source of entertainment and wonder.

Now, personally, I see a lot of "professional" audio people who tend to think very much as you do, that equipment serves a purpose and that purpose is to be as technically correct as they want it to be for the job. I also remember discussing - if that's the word for what was happening, the sentiment expressed by engineers such as Heyser which simply states, "If it measures right but sounds wrong, you've measured the wrong thing" And that is one of the most important reasons why I tend not to place any significance on the technical aspects of a design until after I have at least auditioned that component and the music which passes through it as 1's and 0's or from a positive going to a negative going waveform. Looking at specs and measurements is not the same as enjoying a lasagne. Deciding freshly cracked pepper should be; A) coarsely ground or, B) finely ground is not the issue which will ultimately make the lasagne appealing to anyone.

So, you see, we approach the end result from different viewpoints. Is it the pepper in the lasagne which matters? The valve lift timing which makes the car appealing? The 10kHz square wave response of the amplifier or speaker which means you should buy "that" and not the one you prefer the "sound of"?

IMO none of that matters as we each have to face our own priorities and my own priorities are centered on and revolve around the musical experience and not the technical merits. Unless the music matters first, why bother with the rest?

You've taken my comments to mean your Yamaha amp is not as "good" as another amp. That's not at all what I suggested. I said most audiophiles do not stay awake at night dreaming of the day when they own that amp. Two vastly different things. You've taken my comments regarding the Yamaha's power supply to mean your amp might not be technically adept at handling quickly rising transients. Define "quickly". What if that transient is not followed by another? Or, is in parallel with another signal of long duration at a much lower octave? What if the load your amp looked at was relatively benign rather than highly reactive - 16 Ohms and not 4 Ohms - and what if your speakers presented the amp with 104dB sensitivity rather than 89dbB?

Music is dynamic and above all else it is temporal. The basis for the subjectivist viewpoint regarding audio equipment is, nothing that tests a piece of equipment in a lab has music's temporal values and few have dynamic opposition as opposed to static values. Therefore, what good does it do to look at stasis - an automobile standing still - when the purpose of the equipment is not what you are measuring? What good does it do to make objective measurements of anything when the end product of its use is perceptual, temporal and dynamic?

Enough for now, I have to go. More later.


Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17516
Registered: May-04

Bernie, here are a few comments I recently sent to another forum member via email in regards to audio specs.

For the money? Yeah, it's probably worth the experiment.

I don't remember exactly what the Totems represent as a load on an amplifier. I tend to think they are a not so bad match for tubes.

The issue is not exactly sensitivity that you want to know when it comes to how many watts you might need. Watts are fungible and some lower wattage amps subjectively play considerably louder than other amps with higher stated wattage output. T amps do make for a good indicator of how sensitive the speaker is in areas that matter. If you can drive a speaker with a five-ten watt T amp and be reasonably satisfied, then that speaker is probably going to play well with most tube amps.

Remember, as with most audio specs, a simple sensitivity number is only relevant to the single, static frequency used to take the measurement. A few retailers will average out several specs over several frequencies, but, if that is not stated or implied, you have to assume the measurement was taken at a single frequency. That single frequency might be one that benefits the speaker but is not realistic to the listener. A measurement taken at 2kHz is not representative of what the speaker might be doing at 700Hz.

Additionally, this is a measurement taken under very specific conditions. I've seen specs which indicate a measurement taken under anechoic, semi-anechoic or in-room conditions and even a few which tell you the combined spec when using not one but two speakers. OK, stereo will require two speakers but the addition of the second speaker in the measurement will provide an additional few dB to the number on paper which will not be realized in use against another speaker with a stated spec for only one speaker.

More important IMO is the "on axis" spec which is the method used for taking most sensitivity specs. On axis represents the very best behavior for any speaker save the true full range omni-directional systems. On axis measurements can hide some real flaws seen in the in-room measurements. First, any meaningful number should tell you a bit about how the speaker will react to being used to reproduce music. It would be virtually impossible to take a sensitivity spec with music, but music is always more than one frequency and in use the buyer should be aware of the final end result when using specs as any sort of guideline.

What would be more useful information than a simple sensitivity spec would be an "in-room" measurement stated at different frequencies. Obviously, as frequency rises through one driver, the dispersion of the driver will narrow at its upper limits which means there will be more reflected (off axis) sound in the room at lower frequencies than at higher frequencies emerging from that one driver. At the crossover frequency (if there is one) the dispersion again widens at the lower limits of the higher frequency driver and narrows at the upper end of the lower frequency driver. This is what accounts for the speaker's "in room response" (more accurately termed "power response") and is more predictive of a speaker's actual in use sound than would be most other measurements.

A speakers' real world "sensitivity" number then would represent what is perceived at the listener's ear position and not a simple "on axis" measurement taken at one meter away from the system. For instance, place the measuring microphone a bit higher or lower than where the speaker system has its greatest output at the listening position and the sensitivity spec will be off. If, for example, the speaker employs a MTM alignment (mid/tweeter/mid or D'Appolito alignment), the placement of the measuring microphone either favors the lobed output of the MTM alignment while ignoring the output of the low frequency driver or it disfavors the lobed output of the MTM system in favor of a different spec. Consistency was the aim of the FTC measurement guides but consistency has been thrown out in too many instances and consistency is still often a matter of what the person doing the measuring wants as a result.

If the speaker were a bipole/dipole type, the actual in room response should indicate the reflected frequencies bouncing off the front wall and combining with the directly radiated sound coming off the driver facing the listener. On axis response measurements ignore this added in room "efficiency" of the complete system which, in this case, must include the reflected room sound. (Of course, given the multitude of rooms which might be used with any one speaker, this is an impossible spec to actually predict for any one room.) Multi-polar system (bipole/dipole/omnidirectional) response in a speaker system would typically add as much as +6dB in room response - at certain frequencies, not at others.

There's today's first lesson in why audio specs are fairly meaningless.

Next, you need to consider the amp and its test bench measurements. We've talked about watts and how they are quite often not useable in the real world when the power supply of the amp is lacking or the frequency is anything more dynamic than a single1kHz sinewave. Running 6L6's to output 25 watts is very conservative and you would expect that amp to have some available headroom another 25 watt amp might not exhibit. In a tube amp that would be somewhat dependent on the output transformers and how well they have been designed to allow the amp to output real watts into a reactive load. Never the less, a 6L6 rated at 25 watts shoud be running in a very comfortable power band and, at the very least, should account for decent tube life. There is a danger of running the tubes too cool but this gets into too much that is unknown about any amplifier until it is given a thorough test bench measurement or more details are put forth regarding its design. Do be aware some tubes prefer to be run rather hard for best sound and some do not. So simply rolling tubes without knowing a few particulars can be a waste of money should you choose the wrong tube for any specific amp.

Here though is the real issue with tube amps and why so many people find they don't realize that "tube magic" they've read about. Unless the amp is a hybrid design with only small signal tubes in the pre amp/driver stages of the amp and solid state in the outputs, any tubed power amplifier must be either transformer coupled or OTL (output transformerless, with multiple tubes for each half of the push/pull waveform per channel connected in parallel) to bring the high output impedance of a tube down to a workable range for any modern loudspeaker. Either method will result in an amplifier with a relatively high output impedance when compared to a direct coupled solid state design.

Just as a nominal impedance for a speaker says very little, so too does the nominal output impedance of an amp. It will rise and fall with frequency and it will be the prime indicator of how well the amp will pair with the reactive load of the speaker. The higher the nominal output impedance, the more the amp should rely on excellent transformer design and execution to maintain a consistent total output impedance. This is where most modern tube amps fail since the designers tend to buy off the shelf transformers or do a poor job of actually winding their transformers. Back when tubes were the way to design an amp, transformer design and construction (along with materials selection) were an art as much as a technology and whoever could build the best transformers would tend to have the best amplifiers. (Can you say "Dynaco"? Cheap amp with really high quality transformers becomes the most successful amp in audio history.)

What all this means is you need to know the reactive load of the speaker and the output impedance of any tube amp. Ohm's Law states the frequency repsonse will rise and fall with frequency based impedance changes - as will the need for either more voltage or more amperage. Traditionally, tube amps do output voltage well but not so much on amperage.

If you assume the average transformer coupled tube amp will have a nominal output impedance of, say, 1 Ohm, you can be assured that same amp will have much higher output impedances at different frequencies. Combine that amp with any reactive load - a speaker with a wandering impedance load and worse when that wandering dips lower than any one tap on the amp's output transformer - and the frequency response of the system will be determined by that mismatch in impedances. Therefore, many tube amps will have a system frequency response that is not steady with frequency and even +/- 1dB in certain areas of the response can mean unacceptable music reproduction for certain listeners. Possibly one listener might consider these frequency response variations to be "euphonic" while another would think off balance. Claiming any tube amp to sound "so and so" is merely a comment on how that amp pairs with any specific speaker. More than a solid state amp with a typically much lower - and therefore more stable frequency response as predicted by Ohm's Law - output impedance, a tube amplifier's character is a one time system sound which would change if the speaker had a more or less reactive load. The addition of certain audiophile speaker cables simply makes this a far more complicated affair than most listeners - and reviewers - imagine.

The real point here is that wandering frequency response is what does in many tube based experiments. Typically higher-than-solid-state output impedances in a tube amp also predict lower damping factor numbers. Since most speaker designers tend not to take into consideration the speaker will need to be driven by a real world amp - let alone a tube amp - they design a speaker with a very difficult to drive low frequency response which asks more than is possible from many tube based amplifiers. This low damping factor creates loose and flabby bass response with a tube amp. Again, this is all predicted by the numbers - if you know the numbers and understand how to apply the numbers. Most people don't and most tube amp attempts fail for this reason.

In my previous response I mentioned the lack of high negative feedback loops in many of the Quicksilver amps. This is a bit more complicated than even this explanation requires but NFB is used, in at least one sense, to make an amplifier more stable into a real world loudspeaker. When zero NFB designs were more popular the amps would measure fine but fail miserably under real world use into a real world speaker not so friendly to tube amps. And, to complicate matters even more, most triode based amps will do better with only small amounts of NFB than will any other type of amplifier topology. Solid state amps virtually always require NFB to make them stable enough to work into any loudspeaker load.

In the end, it is not the speaker sensitivity spec that is very important - there's more than enough wattage in most 25 watt high quality designs for all but the most inefficient speaker systems and the most demanding listeners - but the total impedance specification for any speaker that actually matters. When added to the high-ish output impedance of most tube amps this is the number that matters the most as it will determine in advance what the system frequency response will be. If you don't know these numbers or simply ignore the fact they exist, then your chances of success with any speaker/tube amp pairing will be, at best, 50/50 with the likelyhood the system will not meet your expectations.


I want to clarify that when you say, "Would it be safe, or even doable to use one of the inputs on the amp, and use the pre-amp section of the NAD amp (my emphasis) as a pre-amp/volume control?", you are saying you simply want to use the NAD DAC's internal digital vc as the attentuator for the system. So your source would run directly to the NAD DAC and then from the DAC's analog outputs you intend to run the signal into one of the inputs on the Sonneteer. If that's correct, then my answer would be a tentative, yes.

From reading a bit about the M51 you can see that its "fixed" output level is slightly higher than normal for most digital devices. You would therefore have to assume that its "0" gain setting on the variable output would also be at a similarly higher voltage output than most other DAC's or CDP's. People like - and will prefer - louder over better when comparing music in a component to component or speaker to speaker evaluation. There is a danger for a reviewer in this fact when using the NAD DAC.

First, the specs provided by Sonneteer indicate the minimum voltage sensitivity of the high level inputs but not the overload values. Clearly the NAD meets and even slightly exceeds the minimum requirements but without a clearly stated overload value. That's fine, most modern day digital sources will do the same. It is possible though that the higher voltage output of the NAD could tend to overdrive the Sonneteer's inputs. This is what is not indicated by the Sonneteer's specifications. There is the chance this slightly overdriven situation would result in a very slight distortion component creeping into the playback. And, just as an electric guitarist would slightly overdrive the pre amp of their amplifier head/stack to gain a bit of sustain and "sweetness" on certain notes, you could mistake a very slight bit of overdriven pre amp stage in the Sonneteer for something the NAD is not truly capable of producing.

In the worst case scenario, the NAD would (likely) tend to sound, first, slightly warmer (possibly you might interpret this as "more fully fleshed out" to use a common reviewer term) than it actually is when the Sonnetteer is just barely overdriven and then tipping into a hardness if the distortion is more severe on, say, very dynamic or highly complex passages. Where the tipping point is reached would be a function of how well the Sonneteer deals with overdriven gain stages. If the Sonneteer's line input is purely passive however - more on this later, this overdriven quality would shift to the power amp section and would essentially become a more commonly heard clipping type distortion. Overdriven distortion is overdriven distortion no matter what but, as any electric guitarist understands, where in the signal chain it cocurs will affect the sonic value of the result. Overdriven distortion in the pre amp might add a bit of pleasant sounding sustain and warmth while overdriving only the amp might provide greater sustain but with added grain. It all depends on how each component - and each stage within each component - reacts to being over or underdriven.

Taking a look at JA's measurements from the Stereophile review of the M51, the fixed level output is approximately 1.5dB higher than "normal". My first inclination would be to use the M51 at a fixed level output after you have lowered the fixed output level by either 1.5dB or 2dB (depending one how fine an adjustment to this value the NAD allows) and against what other DAC's you would be comparing to the NAD. It's certainly possible another DAC might also have slightly higher than normal output voltages and you would need to make concise and technically correct comparisons if you are to accurately evaluate the NAD. This lowered output level should minimize any situation where the Sonneteer could be overdriven by the NAD when you are running the NAD into one of the amp's high level inputs. I believe the Sonneteer owner's manual suggests specific inputs which should give better results in this set up. I assume that is due to the lack (or, at least, lowered part count) of any intervening active gain circuitry being used in these specific pre amp circuits.

(If you have read the post I made on digital vc's, you 'll see I mentioned buffers used in an active pre amp to maintain reasonable impedance matches as the volume control changes position - and therefore impedance. Most active pre amps use such buffers to their general advantage though they are never completely transparent to the incoming signal. How the buffers are employed is somewhat critical to their transparency. (Typically, a high end component will have a 1 or 2dB gain in their buffer circuits [set up typically as cathode followers in a tube type component] - simply stating there is an active component in line and there can be no true "0" gain stage when active components are in line.) There are a few components out there, however, which treat certain inputs as active in nature and certain other inputs as truly passive in design - in other words, those "specific" inputs have no buffers and no active circuitry in line with the signal and the signal path runs directly from input connector to volume control. In this sort of hybrid design of active/passive pre amp the passive stages are prone to the issues I discussed in that vc thread but it is virtually impossible to overdrive a volume control. The input/output impedance of a passive control is constantly changing as the position of the VC is altered. A mismatch in impedance on either end - the vc is set too high or too low - can result in slightly degraded performance. If you aren't sure how the Sonneteer operates its line level inputs, it would be worth finding out and then applying the NAD's inputs accordingly. Or, if you really trust your ears, simply make a few comparisons using the various inputs on the Sonneteer. Passive line stages offer exceptional performance when a competent attenuator is used but cannot escape the pitfalls of the passive nature of the circuit. Adding high quality transformers or autoformers to a passive line stage will improve the performance across the vc's range but will add to the cost by a considerable margin. Additionally, using stepped attentuators with individual resistors seting the level will improve performance but also bring with them their own issues.

Back to the connection of the system, when using the NAD's fixed output level (lowered by the amount mentioned) you would then use the vc of the Sonneteer as your system attentuator. You do want to lower the output of the NAD or else all of your conclusions will be inaccurate. First, for the reasons I described above. Secondly, since we tend to pick "louder" over "better, as the Stereophile review indicates, your initial impressions will be the NAD is capable of doing things which would sonically be erased when comparisons were made at matched levels. So you would want to get a grasp on how the NAD would perform just as a DAC first and then procede to review its function as a system attentuator as per its built in digital vc.

Trying to evaluate what then is basically a digital volume control means you'll have to have some level matches made before you begin comparisons. Ears aren't really reliable here and you should have some SPL measurements to use as a reference. A few fixed tones played at "X" level and with the Sonneteer's vc advanced to its fullest rotation. (This too is one of the less than perfect standards found in home audio vs pro audio. Where the analog vc has its least affect on signal quality will vary with the attentuator. Some will sound best when advanced fully while others would perform best when rotated to what would be an essentially 3 O'Clock position. The difference is usually minimal for actual lstening purposes but could influence a review decision where "critical listening skills" are in use.) After you are satisfied you can accurately set the NAD's attenuation to similar levels used for other DAC's, then you can proceded to use the NAD's digital vc as the system attenuator using music as your source.

The design of the NAD's 32 bit digital vc is outside the data stream and should only be affecting the output side of the signal. It is therefore assumed the digital vc as implemented by NAD should have no affect on the digital signal's resolution. Additionally, since the M51 upsamples all incoming signals and converts the format to PWM, there should - in theory - be no issues with the vc affecting the resolution of the data stream. For a system using strictly digital sources which could potentially be run through the M51, this would make for a simple system connection with a (theoretically) near perfect system attenuator.

Establishing the correct overall level for the system is somewhat crucial though to first understanding just how the NAD actually performs. I have no idea whether this slightly higher output level is the result of the signal manipulation employed by NAD in the data conversion processes used by the M51. That would be an interesting answer to have a response to directly from NAD and I'm a bit surprised JA didn't mention more on this. It could be, however, NAD has decided to take a page from the old time Pioneer/Sony/Kenwood wattage wars of the '70's forward. It's very common for a less than well educated consumer to make comparisons based on where the vc sits on any given reciever/pre amp and the loudness they preceive in the room. If someone "likes" one component better than another and they see the preferred componet's vc is set to a slightly lower level than the others, they will assume the prefered component is of superior quality. Of course, what they are perceiving is actually just the taper of the vc or the amount of gain internally applied in the preferred component and that one component plays slightly louder when the comparisons are set to average listening levels. This is especially tricky when direct A/B or A/B/X comparisons are made by rapid switching between components but can still fool most people even when auditions are performed with extended listening sessions. It has nothing to do really with "quality" and everything to do with the ouptut levels, technical measurements and the natural tendency for humans to prefer the louder of two music signals.

With just that one fact of human perception you can begin to understand how many of the severe, uber-objectivists can think subjective listeners are falling prey to measureable (though commonly not measured) differences between components You can also see why many subjectivists have no confidence in A/B/ and A/B/X testing since completely valid comparisons between components are virtually impossible to establish when the dynamic conditions of music are actually used as the test procedure. It is also easy to understand and be perplexed by the avoidance of actual real world measurements common in professional audio to be totally ignored when providing "specs" in the consumer audio market. Often times it is not what is said in consumer audio that matters but what is (intentionally?) left out.

Possibly those comments can serve as a reflection of my attitude towards the use of specifications and measurements as a valuable tool in predicting how any audio compnent will "sound" in actual use.


Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 15
Registered: Oct-12
Hi Jan, I'm trying to write a quick reply, but I'm having some trouble. The site says I'm logged in, but I type and submit a post and get an error saying I'm not. I don't know if these posts are getting thru or not.

Back later

Bronze Member
Username: Berniew

Perth, Western Aust... Australia

Post Number: 16
Registered: Oct-12
Ah, OK, I can post.

I just wanted to say, thank you kindly for your wonderful posts and the time and effort you put into them. I wrote a reply, but it turned out to be 72kb long and the site wouldn't accept it. Now, I know I type fast and I ramble, but 72k is ridiculous even for me. I suppose I could email it... no, I need to learn to express myself more concisely.

So I've kept a copy, and will edit it down to something more manageable (which people might even be able to finish the day they start reading it), and post again. I'm short of time, and I've been unable to get online much for the past week, so I wanted to say I haven't been ignoring your fantastic input to the thread I started, and that I'm grateful for your attention. You deserve the recognition for that, at least.
So I hope to have a decent reply ready for you later tonight.

Platinum Member
Username: Jan_b_vigne

Dallas, TX

Post Number: 17527
Registered: May-04

The forum has grown over the years and the number of income producing ads, pop ups, cookies, etc. have been added expotentially to that growth. I have dificulties with this forum just operating as it should. I would advise you to "copy" any work before you hit post. At times, if my post is going to be fairly long, I'll work in another program that is safe from the vagueries of ecoustics operation, then simply transfer my work over here. It's far too easy to loose a good deal of work to the ether of this forum. And there have been too many interruptions to posting in the last few days. I have little confidence this post will actually make it to the thread.

"You deserve the recognition for that, at least."

At least?!!! Thanks, Bernie, that makes the last eight years on this forum all worth it.


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