What makes low wattage systems special?

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Freo-1

What makes low wattage systems special?
« on: 21 Aug 2015, 02:13 pm »
Haven't had much discussion in this circle lately, so it's time to get the ball rolling again.

Would like to start a discussion about what traits drew you to a low wattage system solution, and what makes it a special listening experience for you. 

A couple of traits I find are as follows:

1) Dynamics.  Speakers like the Klipschorns, at 104 db/w, can produce life like dynamics that very few systems can match.  Of course, the right electronics can provide that extra level of realism.

2) The first watt:  Low wattage single ended amps have a reputation for "getting it right".  As many have said "If the first watt isn't right, then why bother?" 
 

So, what is it about your low wattage setup that draws you into the music?   It certainly is much different approach than the systems that employ very high powered amps.  Supporters of the high power camp point to clipping as a major concern.  Yet, with low powered amps, don't hear much concern about that.  Is it because of the high efficiency speakers? 

Let the readers know what you think.

FullRangeMan

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #1 on: 21 Aug 2015, 02:22 pm »
What makes low wattage systems special?
-Tubes

Freo-1

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #2 on: 21 Aug 2015, 02:33 pm »
What makes low wattage systems special?
-Tubes

 :lol:

OK, fair enough.  I have some high wattage tube systems that sound great as well. 

What is it about low wattage and tubes?  (In your own words).

FullRangeMan

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #3 on: 22 Aug 2015, 01:10 am »
:lol:

OK, fair enough.  I have some high wattage tube systems that sound great as well. 

What is it about low wattage and tubes?  (In your own words).
Low wattage tube amps means SE, which have few parts, cost less and sound great as demoed by Decware.
However I would prefer the Decware 84SE in mono to 6W that is not an SE but a hybrid w/that transformer.

Folsom

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #4 on: 22 Aug 2015, 01:33 am »
There's good clipping and bad clipping. One may not even notice it, ever, or it might be truly awful.

The speakers I'm using aren't very efficient, but using a 15w amp hasn't been a problem, at least with this one (SS). The thing is for a price that isn't outrageous, the quality is extremely high. That's attractive, but subjective too. One person thinks $8k is a steal on an item, another thinks how their system wasn't half that.

FullRangeMan

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #5 on: 22 Aug 2015, 11:09 am »
I would say the last spice on the sound before the speakers is the OPT.
According our AC member transformer builder E55LS:
EI lamination give the usual warm tube sound.
C core give a more transparent detailed sound.

Quiet Earth

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #6 on: 23 Aug 2015, 09:20 pm »
I have heard some very nice high-wattage low efficiency systems and I realize that there is no one size fits all in this hobby. Please take my comments with a grain of salt as I am heavily biased towards low wattage systems. (Biased into class A? :wink:)

I think that.....

- high efficiency speakers sound just as lively and dynamic at low SPLs as they do at high SPLs. Their ability to breathe life from the smallest signal is a strong asset in this hobby.

- low efficiency speakers need to be pushed harder to sound equally live and equally dynamic. I have to listen at louder SPLs with low efficiency speakers to get the same same sense of scale and liveliness as high efficiency speakers. As I gradually turn the volume down, the low efficiency speaker rapidly looses its sense of scale and life.

- low efficiency speakers require more watts. More watts means more complication in amplifier circuitry, and that further reduces the "life" aspect of their sound.

- the sensation of wide dynamic range and power and scale comes from having sufficient gain, not excessive power.

- the low watt amplifiers I enjoy are based on very simple circuitry. When I have something that is inherently simple I am more likely to have it built with the very best parts everywhere, not just in critical locations. I understand that circuit design and layout is the driving factor of what makes something good, but such a thing is never fully realized until I put everything I've got into it. With low power amps I am more likely to have every part in the circuit optimized for quality because there are less parts to upgrade.

- the advantages of low watt high efficiency systems make a high watt low efficiency system sound electronically constructed by comparison.

- my low watt system makes it very clear to me just how important the preamp and the source components are. If I want excellence out of the amp and speaker, I have to put excellence in.

- the better the source component is the more I enjoy the format. This keeps me listening to all the music I like rather than searching for great recordings of music I don't like. And since I have a lot of great music of questionable audiophile status, a good source component keeps me listening to music for a very long time. That seems like the whole point of having this stuff in the first place.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say, but that's all I have for now.

JerryM

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #7 on: 23 Aug 2015, 09:39 pm »
This is 2 watts. I find that special.  :)


Poultrygeist

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #8 on: 23 Aug 2015, 09:42 pm »
For me it's about resolving detail at low levels. 95% of my listening is with small group acoustic jazz and my SET powered OB Lowthers do well in that area.



Freo-1

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #9 on: 26 Aug 2015, 08:30 pm »
I have heard some very nice high-wattage low efficiency systems and I realize that there is no one size fits all in this hobby. Please take my comments with a grain of salt as I am heavily biased towards low wattage systems. (Biased into class A? ;) )

I think that.....

- high efficiency speakers sound just as lively and dynamic at low SPLs as they do at high SPLs. Their ability to breathe life from the smallest signal is a strong asset in this hobby.

- low efficiency speakers need to be pushed harder to sound equally live and equally dynamic. I have to listen at louder SPLs with low efficiency speakers to get the same same sense of scale and liveliness as high efficiency speakers. As I gradually turn the volume down, the low efficiency speaker rapidly looses its sense of scale and life.

- low efficiency speakers require more watts. More watts means more complication in amplifier circuitry, and that further reduces the "life" aspect of their sound.

- the sensation of wide dynamic range and power and scale comes from having sufficient gain, not excessive power.

- the low watt amplifiers I enjoy are based on very simple circuitry. When I have something that is inherently simple I am more likely to have it built with the very best parts everywhere, not just in critical locations. I understand that circuit design and layout is the driving factor of what makes something good, but such a thing is never fully realized until I put everything I've got into it. With low power amps I am more likely to have every part in the circuit optimized for quality because there are less parts to upgrade.

- the advantages of low watt high efficiency systems make a high watt low efficiency system sound electronically constructed by comparison.

- my low watt system makes it very clear to me just how important the preamp and the source components are. If I want excellence out of the amp and speaker, I have to put excellence in.

- the better the source component is the more I enjoy the format. This keeps me listening to all the music I like rather than searching for great recordings of music I don't like. And since I have a lot of great music of questionable audiophile status, a good source component keeps me listening to music for a very long time. That seems like the whole point of having this stuff in the first place.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say, but that's all I have for now.


Quiet Earth,

Very good post!  You bring up a lot of excellent points about what you like about how low wattage systems work for your listening preferences. 

To me, the real trick is getting speakers that are highly efficient and provide linear frequency response.  Once that is sorted, the options available to get audio bliss are many and varied. 

JLM

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #10 on: 26 Aug 2015, 10:59 pm »
I'm a speaker guy (but not obsessed by it like some) and as QE knows I tried loving the low wattage approach for years.  Have always liked the simplicity and smallness.  I've heard the low level dynamics, etc. that have been expressed above and wholeheartedly agree with those observations.  But I've yet to find the requisite high efficiency speakers that don't exhibit excessive colorations (I suppose all transducers are bound to have some distortions).  And nearly all high efficiency speakers lack deep bass, which isn't high-end audio in my book. 

That was years ago.  Are there now any low-colored, high efficiency (say 95 dB/w/m), full range (F3 of at least 30 Hz) loudspeakers?

guf

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #11 on: 27 Aug 2015, 01:30 am »
I have heard some very nice high-wattage low efficiency systems and I realize that there is no one size fits all in this hobby. Please take my comments with a grain of salt as I am heavily biased towards low wattage systems. (Biased into class A? :wink:)

I think that.....

- high efficiency speakers sound just as lively and dynamic at low SPLs as they do at high SPLs. Their ability to breathe life from the smallest signal is a strong asset in this hobby.

- low efficiency speakers need to be pushed harder to sound equally live and equally dynamic. I have to listen at louder SPLs with low efficiency speakers to get the same same sense of scale and liveliness as high efficiency speakers. As I gradually turn the volume down, the low efficiency speaker rapidly looses its sense of scale and life.

- low efficiency speakers require more watts. More watts means more complication in amplifier circuitry, and that further reduces the "life" aspect of their sound.

- the sensation of wide dynamic range and power and scale comes from having sufficient gain, not excessive power.

- the low watt amplifiers I enjoy are based on very simple circuitry. When I have something that is inherently simple I am more likely to have it built with the very best parts everywhere, not just in critical locations. I understand that circuit design and layout is the driving factor of what makes something good, but such a thing is never fully realized until I put everything I've got into it. With low power amps I am more likely to have every part in the circuit optimized for quality because there are less parts to upgrade.

- the advantages of low watt high efficiency systems make a high watt low efficiency system sound electronically constructed by comparison.

- my low watt system makes it very clear to me just how important the preamp and the source components are. If I want excellence out of the amp and speaker, I have to put excellence in.

- the better the source component is the more I enjoy the format. This keeps me listening to all the music I like rather than searching for great recordings of music I don't like. And since I have a lot of great music of questionable audiophile status, a good source component keeps me listening to music for a very long time. That seems like the whole point of having this stuff in the first place.

I'm sure there's a lot more to say, but that's all I have for now.

you mentioned a lot of these points on a post of mine a few years ago. It took me 6 months to understand, and I only understood because I tried it. I reluctently changed my WHOLE system with a simple low wattage in mind. I've been so happy ever since. Thanks!
« Last Edit: 27 Aug 2015, 05:31 pm by guf »

Quiet Earth

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #12 on: 27 Aug 2015, 05:31 am »
I'm glad that it worked out for you guf.  :thumb:

JLM, I'll make a few speaker suggestions in a little while, but let's see if some other people having something to say in this thread first. I know there are plenty of "low watt" people here at AC. I'll bet most of them are just enjoying their music rather than writing about it.

 8)

G Georgopoulos

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #13 on: 27 Aug 2015, 05:56 am »
Aha what makes it special
well,guys i'll give you my honest opinion
it's the low power amplifier
i'll tell you why
there's less stress on the amplifier
there's also huge available devices for low power amps
high power amps require devices that are hard to find
and are heavily stressed for more power
of course you could say i'll use a high power amp
at levels of low power amps,well that may work for
some but not for all high power amps
several high power o/p transistors can cause
distortion not only at the high power levels but
also at the low power levels because are design mainly
for high power and low linearity.
many talk about efficient speakers for low power amps
actually the speaker must be good for both the low power amp
and high power amp so there is gona be less sound from
low power amp so be it,remember the speaker must be good anyway

if you dont agree with me that's fine



G Georgopoulos

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #14 on: 27 Aug 2015, 06:44 am »
Remember

high power devices are not linear

low power devices are more linear

my honest opinion guys... :green:


mcgsxr

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #15 on: 27 Aug 2015, 01:33 pm »
I have had personal experience with high efficiency OB (visaton b200 drivers @ 96dB) driven by an SE pentode Magnavox EL84 amp.  I absolutely loved the sound.  It was dynamic, it had detail, and it had excellent tone.

That all said, I do feel that my current setup delivers a similarly excellent presentation (Maggie 1.6QR's and a Crown XLS 1500 amp) while being at the polar opposite of the efficiency scale.

I think it is combinations of excellent gear that make for satisfying systems, and have proven (if only to me  :lol:) that it can be done at either end of small amp vs big amp.

Freo-1

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #16 on: 27 Aug 2015, 08:34 pm »
I'm glad that it worked out for you guf.  :thumb:

JLM, I'll make a few speaker suggestions in a little while, but let's see if some other people having something to say in this thread first. I know there are plenty of "low watt" people here at AC. I'll bet most of them are just enjoying their music rather than writing about it.

 8)

I think the speakers are the key to getting the sound right.  There are strong engineering reasons many audiophiles own lower efficiency speakers (mostly due to its easier to get a flatter frequency response).  Finding high efficient speakers that are linear is a real challenge.  Low frequency response (or a lack of)just adds to the challenge. 

There are so many speakers out there, it's hard to know which ones work for a given audio application.  One of the few low wattage friendly speakers that can provide decent frequency response (including bass) is the Klipschorn.  However, one needs two corners, and a decent size room to get them to work well.

Looking forward to recommendations. 

FullRangeMan

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #17 on: 27 Aug 2015, 09:03 pm »
I would rec some 2way models from Klipsch to keep costs low.
- RF83 used, 3x8'' great bass.
- Used bookshelf if you prefer or the new model:
http://www.klipsch.com/rp-160m/details
- Avoid the top of the line RF-7II model, Xover cut is too low=1200Hz.
http://www.klipsch.com/rf-7-ii-floorstanding-speaker/details
You may want apply a 3mm layer black felt in the horn to a more soft treble.
« Last Edit: 27 Aug 2015, 10:58 pm by FullRangeMan »

JLM

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Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #18 on: 1 Sep 2015, 12:10 pm »
K-horns can be thought of as too much of a good thing:  too big; too expensive; too much required of the room; too efficient (revealing of system noises/grounding issues); too dependent on tube amps (the advent of cheap high wattage with high damping factors of solid state has about killed them); and too many channels (originally from the days of monophonic when the size, cost, and room issues would be lessened).  The K-horn was an ingenious design 65 years ago.  But response only up to 17,000 Hz, relatively poor bracing for a high output bass horn, huge phase delay between bass and midrange drivers (crossover at 450 Hz), and compromised imaging due to corner position have made them more of a relic than fans would like to admit.  And it's surprising how few rooms have two adjioning deep corners (minimum 9 feet of unobstructed walls on either side) that the K-horns require.  But it's not surprising that they're only well suited for huge residential rooms or small auditoriums.

Freo-1

Re: What makes low wattage systems special?
« Reply #19 on: 3 Sep 2015, 08:31 pm »
K-horns can be thought of as too much of a good thing:  too big; too expensive; too much required of the room; too efficient (revealing of system noises/grounding issues); too dependent on tube amps (the advent of cheap high wattage with high damping factors of solid state has about killed them); and too many channels (originally from the days of monophonic when the size, cost, and room issues would be lessened).  The K-horn was an ingenious design 65 years ago.  But response only up to 17,000 Hz, relatively poor bracing for a high output bass horn, huge phase delay between bass and midrange drivers (crossover at 450 Hz), and compromised imaging due to corner position have made them more of a relic than fans would like to admit.  And it's surprising how few rooms have two adjioning deep corners (minimum 9 feet of unobstructed walls on either side) that the K-horns require.  But it's not surprising that they're only well suited for huge residential rooms or small auditoriums.

You bring up many valid points regarding K-Horns.  They are too large for my present living space.  However, with crossover mods, and the right room (larger with two good corners), they can provide some outstanding dynamics that very few speakers can match.  What's even better, they can achieve this with a 5 watt amplifier. 

Paul Klipsch was fond of saying:  "What this country needs is a good five watt amplifier!   :lol:


So, let's hear some recommendations for speakers that support low wattage playback.