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Feb. 2018
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Sound levels, big amps, small speakers

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  • Sound levels, big amps, small speakers

    Hello,

    I've been enjoying my p3esr's for the last month. I absolutely love the speakers at low to moderate volume. I am using a naim NAP 100 amp which is rated at 75 W per channel at 6ohm.

    The speakers perform extremely well with all types of music until I get anywhere close to the halfway point on my dial. My room is 11x16ft, should I consider larger Harbeths?

  • #2
    Amp, or speakers?

    You could consider a more powerful amp. Realistically, the NAP 100 isn't very powerful and if you are using a matching Naim pre, it is pretty well flat out at halfway on the volume control.

    Having said that, the P3ESR isn't for head banging, so if you regularly enjoy loud music, one of the larger models should do the job.

    Comment


    • #3
      More amp headroom?

      I guess to make my concern more clear, do I need an amp with more headroom [that means available power output} or am I maxing out the volume on the p3?

      Comment


      • #4
        Marvellous P3ESR magic

        Thank you for the response.

        I think I'm going to look at the c7 with a marantz reciever. About same overall value but putting more money on the speakers. That being said, I was listening to Iron and Wine and Great Lake Swimmers last night and couldn't be happier. These really are marvellous speakers!

        Comment


        • #5
          First, a more powerful amp

          I was thrashing the P3ESR to insane levels the other day but with a much more powerful amp than the Naim. They just kept going when I expected them to show distress but I think the C7ES or M30.1 would be a more sensible choice for long term, high volume level listening.

          If you have a friendly dealer, why not borrow a more powerful amp and hear if that makes a better job of driving your P3ESRs.

          Comment


          • #6
            >>> Head banging loudness?

            Originally posted by Gascho View Post
            I've been enjoying my p3esr's for the last month. I absolutely love the speakers at low to moderate volume. I am using a naim NAP 100 amp which is rated at 75 W per channel at 6ohm.

            The speakers perform extremely well with all types of music until I get anywhere close to the halfway point on my dial. My room is 11x16ft, should I consider larger Harbeths?
            75 wpc is more than adequate for the P3 in the room you mention. Naim tend to have high input sensitivity, sound louder at lower volume control settings than most other amps, and probably max out on power delivery at the halfway point. But at that point, with 75wpc, it ought to be head banging levels. I am not sure what you mean - is it that the speakers don't sound good at those levels or do you want to go louder than head banging?

            --------------------------------------------------------
            {Moderator's comment: Regarding the amplifier: if the amp's input sensitivity is high it will give the illusion of extreme power, but only at the lower rotation of the volume control. The illusion will end when the elevated sensitivity turns into the amp playing at full power, which could be at a point far short of the full rotation of the volume control. Half-way to full rotation is certainly possible.

            Would someone volunteer to lend us a typical amp of this design philosophy so that we can once and for all technically evaluate it and report our findings here for the benefit of all? Thanks in advance. We would only need it for a few days.}

            Comment


            • #7
              Plenty of power in this room

              Originally posted by Gascho View Post
              My room is 11x16ft, should I consider larger Harbeths?
              Wait: the problem could also be the room itself and larger speakers could even worsen things: the higher the sound pressure, the more interaction you get with the ambient, walls, furnitures, windows etc...

              I also have P3ESRs, my amp is a YBA Heritage A100 rated 100W/8ohm (even overpowered for the speakers, but better safe than sorry), and the room is 4,60x3,60m with a high ceiling and very little furniture and absorbing matter.

              Until listening levels that I consider comfortable (means about 70db of SPL which are real life levels for the kind of music, for example chamber music, one could think to realistically reproduce at home) the illusion of reality is very high, if I close my eyes I can "see" the players in the room even if I don't seat between the speakers but then, if I try to raise the volume any further, while the amp is still very far from its limits, the room starts "playing" and so the image starts confusing and blurring, overall tonal balance shifts towards bass, mid-highs become less clear and so on...

              If I wanted to listen at those high levels (which I don't!) I know I must consider room treatment first of all.

              Comment


              • #8
                Naim sound?

                Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                [I]{Moderator's comment: Regarding the amplifier: if the amp's input sensitivity is high it will give the illusion of extreme power, but only at the lower rotation of the volume control. The illusion will end when the elevated sensitivity turns into the amp playing at full power,
                I am open to correction, but my feeling is that it is just this illusion that is the so called Naim sound, where amplification is concerned.

                Back to the OP, I am puzzled as to why 75wpc isn't enough for the smallish room. Unless the amp isn't working as specified.

                Comment


                • #9
                  A very, very, very basic test on amplifiers: advancing of volume and observing clipping behaviour

                  Originally posted by Kumar Kane View Post
                  I am open to correction, but my feeling is that it is just this illusion that is the so called Naim sound, where amplification is concerned.
                  Well now, that is an interesting comment. If true, it could be proved (or disproved) by connecting a sine signal generator outputting CD-max level at industry standard 2 volts (or a test CD with tones at full level) to the CD input of the amp, coupling an oscilloscope across the output, connecting either a dummy 6-8 ohm load or some speakers (would be very loud!) and advancing the volume to see if -

                  a) the purity of output is maintained as the volume increases (i.e. does the shape of the outgoing sine tone look like the shape of the incoming sine tone on the 'scope screen only bigger)...
                  b) to determine at which point, regardless of how much further the volume control is advance, there is no further increase in output amplitude (i.e. the amp is working flat out)...
                  c) and to observe, on the 'scope, beyond that point of maximum pure output, what corruption occurs to the shape of the pure tone at the speaker terminals a.k.a. clipping

                  Wouldn't take more than, say, 30 mins, which is why hi-fi magazines routinely perform this test when reviewing amplifiers - not.
                  Alan A. Shaw
                  Designer, owner
                  Harbeth Audio UK

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    The con of amp volume control scaling

                    In the latest Hi-Fi World magazine, there is a review of the Naim Supernait-2, with measurements which go some way to explain the Naim 'house sound'. The damping factor is very low, leading to an undamped, fat bass and the HF rolls off earlier than most amps, being 1 dB down at 20 KHz and falling from there. The sensitivity is high, which means the volume control doesn't need to be rotated far to provide high volume levels.

                    I don't want to get into technical discussions as I am not qualified but I have had a lot of experience using Naim products over many years, which is why I made my comments in post 2. If the OP is using a Naim pre, then the Naim power-amp is probably running out of steam at half rotation. It is only 50 watts into 8 ohms, so the OP's amp is either clipping or the speakers are being over-driven.

                    Naim amps are not unusual with their volume controls providing little travel for full output, in fact, I would say that the majority of modern amps do this.

                    It's rare to find an amp providing full output with the volume control fully rotated.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Guessing?

                      Originally posted by Nessuno View Post
                      If I wanted to listen at those high levels (which I don't!) I know I must consider room treatment first of all.
                      Good point. I hadn't taken this into account.
                      Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                      Wouldn't take more than, say, 30 mins, which is why hi-fi magazines routinely perform this test when reviewing amplifiers - not.
                      Some do, many don't. They listen to it, and say that it exhibits the usual PRAT that Naim is known for.

                      Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                      It is only 50 watts into 8 ohms, so the OP's amp is either clipping or the speakers are being over-driven.
                      But it is 75 into 6, which is the P3 impedance, so power delivery should not be the constraint here? Anyway, unless the OP specifies what exactly is wrong, we are guessing.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        About clipping.

                        Originally posted by A.S. View Post
                        Well now, that is an interesting comment. If true, it could be proved (or disproved) by connecting a sine signal generator outputting CD-max level at industry standard 2 volts (or a test CD with tones at full level) to the CD input of the amp, coupling an oscilloscope across the output, connecting either a dummy 6-8 ohm load or some speakers (would be very loud!) and advancing the volume to see if -

                        a) the purity of output is maintained as the volume increases (i.e. does the shape of the outgoing sine tone look like the shape of the incoming sine tone on the 'scope screen only bigger)...
                        b) to determine at which point, regardless of how much further the volume control is advance, there is no further increase in output amplitude (i.e. the amp is working flat out)...
                        c) and to observe, on the 'scope, beyond that point of maximum pure output, what corruption occurs to the shape of the pure tone at the speaker terminals a.k.a. clipping

                        Wouldn't take more than, say, 30 mins, which is why hi-fi magazines routinely perform this test when reviewing amplifiers - not.
                        What is the average or conventional (standarised?) level of distortions (THD) when amplifier starts clipping?

                        Is the characteristic of this clipping the same for all types of amplifiers?

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Volume control fashions over scaling

                          Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                          It's rare to find an amp providing full output with the volume control fully rotated.
                          This is another of those things like tone controls. It seems fashionable now for amps to sound loud enough for normal listening at the 9 am position, and maxing out at noon/1 pm. Perhaps it gives an illusion of power.

                          But one loses the control over volume that the full range of the knob movement can provide if volume levels were to change throughout out the movement of the knob.

                          It is a little like the speedometer of most cars that show a speed range far in excess of the top speed of the car. Perhaps to cater to knowing the speed of an out of control car, stuck in top gear, on a steep downhill slope!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The zone of instability

                            Originally posted by pkwba View Post
                            What is the average or conventional (standarised?) level of distortions (THD) when amplifier starts clipping?

                            Is the characteristic of this clipping the same for all types of amplifiers?
                            That's a very big question indeed. One of the biggest questions ever asked here!

                            There is no simple answer. Even the complete, complex answer would take hours of explaining. There reason is this .... when an amplifier is driven to and at and just beyond the point that the power supply runs out of ooomph, it enters what I'll call the zone of instability.

                            Now this zone of instability means that the normal logical rules of cause and effect that keep the amplifier behaving well suddenly don't apply any more. And by suddenly I mean that the transition from control rules OK to rules no longer applying, with all the consequences that can have, could be, depending upon numerous factors in the amp design when driving real-world speakers, the difference between a 1mm rotation of the volume control (almost breathing on the control). Or it might be a little more progressive so that the amp enters the zone of instability at one particular rotation of the volume control with mild instability, and then a few mm further around the dial, the instability becomes chronic.

                            As for numbers for Total Harmonic Distortion (only one specific type of distortion: there are several other types). Just at clipping, perhaps 10% distortion: if the signal/volume control is advanced beyond clipping, 30%, 50% or more could be the result. How does 30% distortion sound? It can sound wonderful if it is even order harmonics (2nd, 4th, 6th etc.) and horrible if it is odd order (3rd, 5th etc.), so the right sort of THD can be used as a way of 'beefing up' the sound of an small amp because it adds a certain warmth to the sound.

                            And at what point of the clock face of the volume control does that zone of instability start? How long is a piece of string? Impossible to make any general rules. It could be at 9 o'clock, barely off the start of the control range, 12 o'clock, 1433 hours, 1621 hours or any other rotation angle in between. It depends upon the loudness of the incoming music signal, the speaker load, the type of music, the basic design of the amp plus the tolerance on the components (especially the volume control itself, the widest toleranced component in the entire amp) so that no two specimens off the production line have the same rotation angle v. clipping point.

                            And what is the moral of the story?

                            Simple.

                            Design rule #1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. How to flog audio amps to the uneducated public. All the same: Arrange for the volume control to be graduated such that it gives the user the illusion that he has massive power available by making the amp deliver full output somewhere before the 12 o'clock position and to hell with the fact that the amp is in the zone of instability beyond that point. Fools 99% of amp buyers 100% of the time.

                            It's exactly the same with the design of the throttle peddle on a car. Small engines seem to have all the revs on just the first few mm of peddle depression giving the illusion of a zippy, power-at-your-command engine. Conversely, a car with a big engine has (to have) a throttle that is sensibly graduated so that there is a progressive application of the (huge) potential: the user is much more in control. Are these two throttles/engines likely to be confused under blind (!) driving comparisons: never!

                            (This was one of Preston's new found ideas ....!)
                            Alan A. Shaw
                            Designer, owner
                            Harbeth Audio UK

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              The old volume trick

                              Originally posted by hifi_dave View Post
                              Naim amps are not unusual with their volume controls providing little travel for full output, in fact, I would say that the majority of modern amps do this.

                              It's rare to find an amp providing full output with the volume control fully rotated.
                              I had the same experience with a LFD zero MKIII. Volume started at 6 o'clock, at 9 it was for me too loud. On my Rega Cursa3 I usually listen at 10 to 11 o'clock, sometimes 1 o'clock and it isn't too loud. Maybe max would be more than 3 o'clock

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