Tag Archives: Power Amplifier

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Steam power

I love the term “running out of steam”. It’s an obvious reference to the beginnings of the industrial age where our world transitioned from animal power to steam power. When something runs close to its limits we say it’s running out of steam, or gas.

Recently there’s been quite a flap over on Ask Paul’s Videos. A question came to me about a subject that seems a tough one to grasp. Can preamp gain make up for low wattage? You can see the video response here.

Turns out this is a tough one for many to understand. I’ll see if I can approach it from a slightly different angle to chip away at the answer.

What’s confusing is the idea that if you put the same loudness music signal into both a big amp and a small amp, they produce the same number of watts (assuming they have the same gain – which most do).

To be more specific, let’s assume we have a 50 watt amplifier and a 500 watt amp, each with the same gain. Put 1 volt of music into either amp, and you will get (for this example) 30 watts out of both.

With me so far?

Using the same setup, now we will double the input voltage to both amps. Same thing happens, only the little amp will run out of steam—it can’t produce double the 30 watts and it clips. The bigger amplifier has plenty more steam available so it merrily outputs the expected 60 watts.

So, going back to the original question, can preamp gain make up for amplifier power, the answer is no. More preamp gain simply increases the input signal size to the power amplifier. It will still run out of steam at the same point. A preamp just gets it there quicker.

 

Asheville, Walnut Cove, Biltmore Forrest and Western North Carolina’s Audio and Home Theater specialists present Cane Creek AV and Paul McGowan – PS Audio, Intl.

Receivers

In the dawn of HiFi, the most popular audio product was the receiver—essentially a radio tuner and power amplifier with a level control. The receiver was how we all listened to music.

Over time, the receiver’s minimal feature set was added on to with various upgrades like tape and phono inputs, then later equalizers and other bells and whistles. Before long they became the Swiss Army Knives of audio.

Today, a receiver is about as far away from its origins as one could imagine. Some of the more feature-laden receivers don’t even have radio tuners any more. They are more home theater processors sporting up to 12 channels of power amplification, digital signal processing, streaming audio and even television tuners.

What’s funny is how the name “receiver” has stayed with the product category over all this time.

Sometimes products become so widespread their names no longer reflect their function. When this happens we refer to them as an eponym, like Kleenex, or Xerox.

I vote to upgrade the venerable AV receiver to eponymous status. After all these years, it certainly deserves it.