This mornings edition of a on-line audiophile publication spoke about another high end audio system at the most recent RMAF show. They liked it a lot. Retail cost of the components in this room? Around $318,000!!!
Preamplifier for $55,000, power amplifier for $53,000, speakers for $63, 000, a pair of REL subwoofers for $8,000, which comparatively, look like the bargains of the room, a phono stage for $13,000, equipment racks for $33,000 (yikes), etc. etc.
Who’s is buying this stuff and how many of these people are there? Don’t get me wrong. I am glad that these products exist and I would probably love to own many of them, if not for their audio prowess, just based on how they look. This is called eye candy.
However, it isn’t in my future for a couple of reasons. One is certainly cost, as I have a son about to go off to college. However, the other reason goes to the soul of the music. I’ve heard many systems like these that just don’t sound that great and I know you don’t need to spend anywhere near this to make great sound. I sure haven’t.
People don’t need to spend $315,000, or $200,00 or $100,000 or $50,000, or even $25,000 to make great sounding music. I sell a tube integrated amp called the Chronos Magnum, made by Rogue Audio’ that is fantastic sounding at $2495 and even has a phono stage and headphone amp built in. Add a good pair of Martin Logan Motion speakers and a Marantz or Oppo CD player and you can have great sound for around $5,000, or even less.
Currently, my system revolves around either a $3500 Rogue Audio RP-5 preamp, or a soon to arrive $6000 PS Audio BHK preamp. My system is inherently balanced and while the RP-5 sounds great, it is really mismatched in my system. The PS Audio is a balanced preamp and will work great, although I wish it had two balanced outputs, one for my main speakers and one for my Daedalus BOW subwoofers with Behringer DSP and a Bryston amp. By the way, as far as I know, my Daedalus subs, which are crafted out of solid maple and look and sound beautiful, are the only pair with two 12″ drivers in each cabinet. As are all Daedalus speakers, they are great subs and masterworks cabinets.
The only way I figured I could outdo my Daedalus Ulysses speakers, which I still have and will most likely end up with one of my children, as I consider it a keepsake, was to design and build my own speakers, incorporating some things I’ve learned along the way. I designed a Rosewood covered loudspeaker cabinet that I had someone local build for me and added a Great Plains Audio 604E drivers and their modified crossover to the final product, which sounds fantastic and ended up costing me around $5,000 to build. It may be the best speaker I’ve heard, although it needs EQ for this and most commercially available products aren’t as good as what I use here.
My hat is off to my friend Bryan for turning me on to the Altec and Urei stuff, which is a forever part of my audio system.
My amplifiers are Rogue Audio pure tube Apollo Dark monoblock amps that are $15,000 a pair, or my Urei 6500 vintage SS amp that I have about $1000 in to. My source components are a PS Audio DSD DAC that retails arond $6,000 and my analog rig, which is a Well Tempered Turntable with Dynavector 17D3 low output moving coil cartridge and Rogue Audio Ares tube phono stage, would also retail for about $6,000. All of this is expensive, right?
Well, compared to most people I know it is, but compared to what is being shown at these audio shows, maybe not.
Here is Paul talking about power amps. I think this is the harbinger for a new product to come from PS Audio and knowing PS Audio (like Rogue Audio), it is sure to offer great bang for the buck in a great sounding, American made audio product.
Perhaps no other category of amplification device has had more thought applied than power amps. How to get as many watts as you can for as little money as needed. It’s a big challenge.
Power amplifiers convert AC wall power into music. The same energy that runs our lights and chills our food is now engaged in playing Beethoven.
Speakers need power to move them. Back and forth, fast and slow, the moving elements of speakers pressurize air and music appears. But pressuring air takes energy—in some cases, lot of it.
We measure energy by its motive force; horsepower for machinery, Watts for speakers. The average loudspeaker needs only a few Watts to get it making sound, but lots more to fill the room. If we ignore the outliers, like SET and low power tube amps connected to horns, most power amplifiers of consequence range from 50 Watts upward. The average is 150.
Converting wall AC power to speaker wattage is an engineering challenge with many variables: heat, distortion, transient speed, impedance fluctuations, sound quality, isolating the source from the vagaries of power distribution.
No two power amplifiers sound alike because the types of technologies addressing the many challenges are as varied as the speaker types they drive. We’ve seen transformer coupled, cap coupled, tube, solid state, digital, digital, pulse width and density based, down converting, up converting, single ended, balanced, and bridged. Power supplies feeding amps are no less creative.
The long and short of all these amp types boils down to a basic problem faced by designers. How to get more for less without sacrificing performance. If the goal is to build a reasonably powered affordable amp that sonically competes with expensive counterparts, the first design decisions comes quickly.
What class of operation will be used for the output?