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Thread: Anyone use a tube amplifier or integrated tube amp ?

  1. #21
    markus sauer Guest

    Default Adults taking responsibility for their actions ....

    I still disagree with your stance. In an ideal world, you should send those callers to their dealers and ask them to listen for themselves. It is not for you to tell them how to spend their money. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a core quality of adult humans in my book. They should not need anybody else to validate their decisions.

    In a perverse way, you keep those callers in just the same position they were in before they called you - not trusting their own judgement and relying on someone else's instead.

    In the non-ideal world, I suppose I should be grateful for anyone who gives non-snake-oil advice. But you do that frequently on the forum; you could even insert a "template post/standard disclaimer" outlining your position after each post of the kind you want to eradicate. Easy to do when posts are reviewed before publication anyway.

  2. #22
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    Default Please, don't be too restrictive about content ...

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post

    You cannot imagine how many back-office calls there are about how we, Harbeth UK, feel about our loudspeakers being used with this or that accessory/amp/cable/electronics/room damping etc. etc.. Callers want guidance. They want reassurance. They want to know unambiguously, directly, no beating about the bush, black and white what we think and how they should spend their money. In effect, we are holding their purse. I know by the way they interact that they will follow whatever advice we give. Regardless of the cost or inconvenience. Do we take advantage of that. No, never. We all want the customer to get the most satisfaction for the least expenditure. You should hear their relief at the money/stress/anxiety we have saved them - real, genuine appreciation that we gave them an honest, pragmatic (and above all cheap) answer not salemen BS. That gives us here a real buzz. Often these callers are at their wits end ...

    So, my point: we don't want to be spending more time cancelling misunderstandings gleaned from the HUG that we have seemingly endorsed-by-proxy this or that non-Harbeth product. ...
    Could you not look at this in a different way? Instead of seeing the HUG as a generator of misunderstanding, would it not be more positive to see Harbeth as a generator of good buzz and discussion about your great product?

    I mean, even if people occasionally veer into areas you find a bit questionable, doesn't that just give you the chance to step in and clearly and calmly lay out your position? For all you know, doing so is actually going to "cancel" far more misunderstanding, and do so more efficiently, than doing it person by person on the telephone.

    If it's the repetition you find irksome - and I suspect it is - you have to remember you're not talking to one person: it's a dynamic and fluid group that changes over time, so yes, you will have to make the same point over and over. That's not bad, that's good - how many people get to do that?

    Your position is understandable, but in my respectful view, unduly constraining. The best PR people can give you is unfettered enthusiasm for your product. The technical accuracy of what they say - especially when it's not even about your product - is secondary. And, again, the fact that people say it is what gives you the opportunity to "cancel misunderstandings" (which, if expressed, must already exist and not be generated by the forum).

    Whereas if you constrain people too tightly they'll simply end up saying nothing, and while you'll lose the potential harm of the forum (to the extent there is any), you'll lose all the benefits as well. In my view - and I say it appreciating it's not my company, and I don't have the inside view - the latter outweigh the former.

  3. #23
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    Default Adults and decision making ....

    Quote Originally Posted by markus sauer View Post
    ...In an ideal world, you should send those callers to their dealers and ask them to listen for themselves. It is not for you to tell them how to spend their money. Taking responsibility for one's actions is a core quality of adult humans in my book. They should not need anybody else to validate their decisions...
    Oh dear oh dear oh dear. Yes, we always encourage callers to visit their local dealer and seek his advice. Some do - we see the orders come through later. Some have a 'history' with one or more dealers whereby they have ground them down over the months and years with incessant, daily phone calls. Sadly, there is a small core of hifi enthusiasts who have such a chronic need for black and white, unmbiguous advice that it completely ruins their lives. I had to be diplomatic with one caller last week who was calling us several times over the week desperate for advice. He'd been barred from his dealer. We have a responsibilty far more profund than you could ever imagine.

    Take a look here at one highly successful publisher who doles out advice, month after month, in vast quantity. Haymarket Publications. Click on the A-Z list [See all] and I count about 135 titles that they print (many monthly), including WhatHiFi .... that's giving out advice on an industrial scale across a vast range of subjects. And very profitable it is too for one group of humans to tell another how to behave. And you say that in an ideal world adults should make up their own mind? Have you spent any time in sales?

    Those adults you mention are crying out in the millions for someone to make decisons for them. I regret that I can't add much more to this: it's all very basic sales management stuff and I'm not in the business of teaching marketing.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  4. #24
    markus sauer Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    Have you spent any time in sales?
    Very little. But as my profession involves advising people, I know only too well that they don't want advice, they want someone to make a decision for them and take the blame if it goes wrong.

    But that's beside the point. I still think you have to decide if this is going to be a lecturing vehicle - you educating the masses - or a discussion forum - you as one poster among many, but certainly with more authority in your statements that anybody else.

  5. #25
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    Default Tailored, specific opinions ...

    Quote Originally Posted by markus sauer View Post
    ... my profession involves advising people, I know only too well that they don't want advice, they want someone to make a decision for them and take the blame if it goes wrong. But that's beside the point..
    No, that's not beside the point; that is the point. Your clients and our members (hifi consumers) both want someone to make quick, precise decisons; decisions that will solve problems immediately and with certaintly. That is the modern world I'm sorry to say.

    So, my point and your position coincide: we both know that there are no perfect, optimal decisions (about, say amplifiers) ... there is a range of choice and there are compromises (always). The best advice for one user may be the absolute worst for another. And that's my gripe with opinions published here under the umberella of the Harbeth banner - they just don't suit all users. But they give the illusion of being official, because they lie adjacent to posts from me "so they must be Harbeth's opinions too". But in an impatient world, who reads the small print (and there isn't any here on the HUG) which says 'Beware! What fits one many may not suit you!'. Here, HUG, we have a scenario of 'one-member-can-influence-many' thanks to publishing on the internet. The potential for misadvice is tremendous: but in a dealer's 1 to 1 situation the advice is tailored, specific. And much more likely to lead to satisfation. That's why I just wish I could control the one-to-many because it isn't going to be universally applicable, even though well intentioned in most cases.

    Lecturing? Perhaps you do see it as that. I may not live forever - in which case who carrys the BBC torch? Every hour I spend discussing business strategy is another hour wasted when I could be - and should be - discussing and illustrating another aspect of (BBC) speaker design. I really truly do not want to spend any more time discussing these private business decisons. We do what we think is best to nurture our highly successful brand and protect our users.

    P.S. We've created some space to allow general discussion at arms-length from my views and those of the Harbeth company. It's a pity in a way because as a responsible 'parent' by nature I've always taken my role seriously. But now I have to open the playground and just stand back. I have a lifetime of knowledge-base scanning and cross-indexing underway and I must not take time away from that.

    Questions with real technical meat up on the top-level of the HUG that add to the core (engineering) knowledge in this HUG archive I remain committed to answer.
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  6. #26
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by A.S. View Post
    Folks, this really is the core issue. We just do not feel it's our place, under the Harbeth manufactuers banner (literally - on name appears across the top of the page!) to endorse (by implication) or give publicity to products (amps etc.) we've never heard of and never used. And never will use because I'm quite contented with what I have (from the 1980s).

    If I, the designer, say that it desn't matter what amp you use, surely that is good enough as Harbeths official position about amplifiers?
    I fully support Harbeth's stand.

    There is a saying that goes something like ..."Sometimes one just has to spend a lot of money before realizing that you don't have to spend a lot of money!" Applies perfectly to electronics and cables... unless you take AS/Harbeth's advice!

  7. #27
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    Default Tube amps – why? Part 1

    I have to comment that, in my view, the current trend towards favouring obsolete tube designs is perverse, and has more in common with selling dubious slimming products to the overweight than offering devoted music lovers the maximum possible enjoyment. Audiophiles, so called, really do seem to be a paranoid bunch. Whole essays could be written attempting to explain this but let’s keep it simple for now. There is a well-known children’s story called “The Emperor’s New Clothes”, wonderfully brought to song by Danny Kaye in 1952. This tale summarizes the psychology that underpins “audiophilia nervosa” with exquisite elegance. Put simply, it is this:

    1. I desire the best.
    2. I do not know when a satisfactory approximation to the unattainable has been reached.
    3. I therefore remain constantly irritated by my own uncertainty and, as such, am susceptible to the most absurd influences to lead me in my path to perfection. I spend lots of money in the attempt to achieve perfection but…back to step 2.

    Of course, there are lots of small diversions along the way…expectation bias possibly being the most significant. Having spent significant money on that expensive amplifier (or cable, fancy spikes or whatever), you always hear an improvement. It’s human nature and has been discussed here many times. But we are still faced with the problem defined in step 2 in the above list , and so it goes round and round ad nauseam.

    Such a loop obviously affords an ample opportunity for the snake-oil merchant to target the hapless and confused punter. By reinventing the technology of 50 years ago and even, in the shape of the single-ended triode, an 80 year old approach discarded by all the real masters of tube amplification as soon as something better had emerged, the snake-oil vendors have you right where they want you. By selling a wonderfully machined chassis with large blocks of highly visible brushed aluminium, they offer a product so visually seductive that it cannot possibly sound anything but superb. All at a price you can expect to pay for the best of everything. 10 cent resistors aren’t good enough, no we only use resistors that cost $5 apiece – the capacitors, 10 times that. Why? Because they sound better, naturally. And audiophiles, with the enthusiasm of the overweight looking for the feast that will nonetheless make them slim, lap it all up.

  8. #28
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    Default Tube amps – why? Part 2

    Let’s examine what tube amplifiers actually offer. First and foremost, massive amounts of distortion. There’s no getting around this: you can argue till the cows come home about nice distortion and nasty distortion, about the idea that ‘nice distortion’ somehow benefits the music. Perhaps – in a 100W Marshall stack (which is, in a sense, a musical instrument), but not in a device where the objective is to reproduce the sound as accurately as possible. Tube amps have a very high output impedance – several ohms is not all uncommon, far higher than the today’s loudspeaker designer expects or allows for in most cases. They are extremely unreliable by modern electronic standards; the high voltages involved frequently causing sparks to fly, quite literally. And let’s not even go into the environmental impact of powering valve equipment.

    Tube amplifiers reached their ultimate development between 1950-1960 with the ready availability of beam tetrodes such as the ubiquitous KT88. Companies generally held to be ‘up there’ were, in the UK, Leak, Quad & Radford and in the US, McIntosh & Fisher to name but a few. It is significant that in the nineteen fifties, in spite of the lack of baggage and the unashamed desire to produce the best amplifiers they could, none of these masters thought of turning the clock back to the era when the single-ended triode was king, because they had something better. So why does today’s audiophile so lust after technology that, even in the heyday of the thermionic tube, was considered passé by the premier exponents of the art?

    Most of us here have bought, or aspire to, Harbeth speakers. Renowned worldwide for their accuracy combined with fatigue-free presentation, they are designed with modern solid state amplification in mind. Low impedance, low distortion and the assumption that there will be a more than adequate reserve of power are all high on the designer’s list of considerations.

    It’s quite simple really – if you want the very best of which your Harbeths are capable, forget about driving them with poor technology that is little more than an industry con to extract your cash.

  9. #29
    honmanm Guest

    Default

    One of the things I've appreciated in the past about this forum is that it has been a place to discuss the electronics from a rational perspective.

    In fact it was the conjunction of my love of vintage electronics and clear, natural midrange that led to my curiosity about the Harbeth speakers... and an eventual purchase.

    From what Alan has written recently, I can understand the reasoning behind the changes... and the subjective sub-forum is a good idea. I do think Alan's contributions would be best organised in blog form, which would give him time to discuss issues in depth and in his own time, and without that information getting buried in a clutter of other posts.

    Personally I would love to be able to drill through subjective impressions to the underlying objective facts - but given the misconceptions in the hi-fi world there is a lot of manure to shovel and if you go back through my own posts there is a lot that I've got wrong... and a lot that I've learned.

    With respect, one thing the Harbeth team may be missing is that a forum is generally understood by internet users as a place for open discussion - which results in posts that deviate from the "party line" - but also an understanding by readers that these are individual and not corporate voices.

    Mark, currently in the kitchen enjoying a friend's 1970's american amp (cheap mini-system speakers - not willing to risk the P3ESRs on it yet).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pluto View Post
    Such a loop obviously affords an ample opportunity for the snake-oil merchant to target the hapless and confused...
    I’m afraid what Alan and moderation is suggesting is prudent, that it is best to leave subjective and opinionated recommendations crystal clear as they really are. I’m myself guilty of not adhering to this and much of the time think it’s due to seeking positive affirmation of prior executed choices.

    It is without doubt hard to draw the line on what are plausible and sensible recommendations, as this can extend to extreme statements and claims which belie and defy common sense. Unfortunately as Alan has pointed out, this is not a cheap exercise and pursuit. And the unfortunate thing is that the “chase” itself, much of the time, is irrationally based. Some if not most claims, given the technological brick wall in place, are even just plain outrageous.

    There is an interesting documentary, the name of which I now forget, about the brains and minds of musicians. Sting was a featured guest who allowed himself to be cat-scanned while musical stimuli was applied. To cut a long story short, what hit me from the documentary was a statement that music only exists in our brains. “Everything” in between, ie between the source (in this case the speakers) and our ears is something incoherent. Can you imagine, If there were beings from another planet, hopefully more intelligent than we are, looking down at us, sitting in front of some rectangular box with noises and “hash” emanating, discussing whether this component would create a better nonsensical noise than the other. It will be a true comedy for them, and if you are willing to step back as well, for us.

  11. #31
    jdinco Guest

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pluto View Post

    So why does today’s audiophile so lust after technology that, even in the heyday of the thermionic tube, was considered passé by the premier exponents of the art? Probably the same reason some of us still listen to vinyl.

    Renowned worldwide for their accuracy combined with fatigue-free presentation, they are designed with modern solid state amplification in mind. Low impedance, low distortion and the assumption that there will be a more than adequate reserve of power are all high on the designer’s list of considerations. Are you speaking for the designer?
    See answers and questions above.

  12. #32
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    Imo feel we shouldn’t equate the popularity of archaic technology and how good it is. They may be totally separate issues. Archaic technology has so many roles eg. consoling us in these fast changing times etc. How many of us have record players because someone left vinyl? Japan is an extreme example where the pace of change is so quick that people want to hang on or build in remnants of the old, in design of things etc. Pluto has brought up indisputable technical points of why solid state amps are better. Its hard if not impossible to argue against that. There are other reasons imo why ppl want to go for Lp’s and Tubes and they have nothing to do with being objective. If we try and be “objective” while relying on something as unreliable as our ears, there really is little point in having a debate, as the discussion really has to cross over into areas which not many really understand eg. Our upbringing and predispositions for sounds, culture, musical instruments, harmonics, mother tongue and songs sung to us when we were young, exposure to music etc.

  13. #33
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdinco View Post
    Are you speaking for the designer?
    Tell me...are you implying that it would be good for a designer to assume that an amplifier with an output impedance of a few ohms was in use (instead of a few milliohms), and that the distortion figures thereof were in the order of several percent rather than hundredths of a percent?

  14. #34
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    Default Six solid months of my life ......

    Quote Originally Posted by honmanm View Post
    ...With respect, one thing the Harbeth team may be missing is that a forum is generally understood by internet users as a place for open discussion...
    For that reason we did chose the name Harbeth User Group, not Harbeth Forum.

    Today I've slightly refined the page 'why does this group exist'. In my mind I started HUG over four years ago as a vehicle for me to get down in writing and out of my brain everything I know and believe about the 'BBC monitor concept' which underpins the Harbeth speakers. There was much to say, and I encouraged questions which would allow me to flesh-out new areas of the subject. I definitely did not conceive this group as anything other than an objective, rational knowledge sharing pool. There are dozens of forums which would welcome those sort of subjective postings, and it would be pointless to compete with them. And anyway, I'm not interested in waffle - life is too short and the BBC baby is too precious.

    So when we here drift off into 'my amp is better that yours' such contributions fail the acid test of this group 'is the comment I want to make reasonably objective and likely to be reproducible by other readers'. Since nobody here has ever said that they've constructed a proper controlled A-B test between amplifiers (which necessitates test equipment to equalise the loudness) those contributions, in my opinion as the group founder, don't pass the first test of credibility. So now we have the worst of all situations - good, solid, objective contributions buried amongst waffle.

    And that pains very much because it's not why I set this group and contributed so much time.
    ================================================== =======================

    Quick calculation of my input: 2000 posts I've made @ 30mins each = 60,000 mins. = 1000 hours. Assuming 8 hours working time per day = 125 days typing, assuming 5 day weeks = 25 weeks. So, in the past four years I have sat here typing for six months! That's a superhuman contribution I think you'll agree and I think I've earned the right to be a little picky about what subjects I want to be presented here under the umbrella of the Harbeth factory.
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Alan A. Shaw
    Designer, owner
    Harbeth Audio UK

  15. #35
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    Quote Originally Posted by jdinco View Post
    Probably the same reason some of us still listen to vinyl
    I'd be interested in knowing that reason.

    I remember the day I first attended a demonstration of the newly introduced Compact Disc, to a group of audio professionals. It was at Advision Studios in Goswell Street, London, ISTR, and the material was a newly released Bernstein recording of some Gershwin on DGG. They played a master tape, its child CD and gramophone record. Now bear in mind that this was very early days for digital audio and many of the converters were frightful compared to those we now enjoy. The gramophone record sounded OK but suffered from the usual vinyl malaises - clicks, thwomps, eggs frying...etc. The CD was a little 'harsher' than the master but other than that the two were essentially the same.

    After the DGG chap had given his corporate speech, he stated that he and his colleagues believed that this new technology would marginalise the gramophone record within a decade, a comment that entailed a round of applause from the assembled group…well, all except for three guys who ran a disc cutting business.

  16. #36
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    I'm of the opinion, along with others, that Harbeth is being overly restrictive in what it deems appropriate content.. While most are appreciative of Alan's contribution to the HUG, I don't think many appreciate the overtly paternal stance he has taken. It's fine to treat the HUG as your baby, but please don't treat its members as though they were children. Unfortunately, some may be left with that impression given some of the more defensive comments that have recently been written.

    Now, that being said, I believe Harbeth has made a sufficient attempt at a reasonable compromise. The sub-thread for 'subjective topics' (or whatever it's called) sounds perfectly sensible and I encourage HUG members to take full advantage of it. So, just to be clear, although some (myself included) may not agree with the restrictive position Harbeth has taken, there is ample opportunity to discuss interesting topics elsewhere in the HUG.

    If I may make a suggestion, perhaps Harbeth should stop adding fuel to the fire. When controversial posts are made challenging Harbeth's moderation policy or unwillingness to entertain subjective topics, instead of repeatedly stating your position - thereby claiming that we're wasting your time - perhaps you should simply reply with a link to your officially stated position, then direct the user to the appropriate 'subjective topics' sub-forum. That, or don't reply at all.

    Can we please move forward?

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    Sorry I have to post it under here because the original thread was closed by the time I finish typing this. Anyway, if this passes the moderation.....

    You amaze and delight me that you have the time to commit to expressing your feelings.
    My feelings amaze and delight you??? LOL..brought back long forgotten memories.

    We are what we are...... Member are merely asked to swing along with our ethos, culture and beliefs or to find another place, elsewhere, of expressing their deeply held fellings about audio equipment outside of our umberella.
    That is perfectly understood.

    Customers also are customers who will press on to ask similar questions. I know with record three consecutive months record production and 11 times more local sales such questions would tire and irritate any busy manufacturers but that's what we are who we are.

    So as a customer who wanted to know why his M40.1 sounds better with a 30W amplifier than a 150W amp, where should he be directing the question? A member did ask me this question to me and the only explanation I could come up with was a lower power amplifier attenuate the bass thus rendering the whole presentation with more clarity considering the 150W gives out too much bass for such a small room. Even though this appears to be a fairly reasonable question to Harbeth users but the member didn't post the question to the usergroup. Maybe, he thought it wouldn't pass the acid test.

    I am not sure about the answer but only made a wild guess with the very little knowledge I had. So is there a avenue for Harbeth users like these to ask questions in the usergroup? Will Harbeth clear our confusion?

    ST

    p.s No more moderation? Thank you on behalf of most HUG members. Hope, we can see the usergroup thrive again but with the objective of meeting Harbeth policy and aspiration.

  18. #38
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    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    ....So as a customer who wanted to know why his M40.1 sounds better with a 30W amplifier than a 150W amp, where should he be directing the question? A member did ask me this question to me and the only explanation I could come up with was a lower power amplifier attenuate the bass thus rendering the whole presentation with more clarity considering the 150W gives out too much bass for such a small room. Even though this appears to be a fairly reasonable question to Harbeth users but the member didn't post the question to the usergroup. Maybe, he thought it wouldn't pass the acid test. I am not sure about the answer but only made a wild guess ...
    This is not a question for Harbeth, for here. Without a proper A-B controlled test (to eliminate variables) we can only guess. Your speculation is as good as any we could dream up!

    p.s No more moderation? Thank you on behalf of most HUG members. Hope, we can see the usergroup thrive again but with the objective of meeting Harbeth policy and aspiration
    No, HUg is still Moderated except in the sandbox "discussion area".

    P.S. Alan's opinion - 'not enough information to even begin to comment. No logical correlation between 30W and good sound and 150W and not good sound. 30W for such a speaker leaves little or no power reserve.'

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    Quote Originally Posted by STHLS5 View Post
    So as a customer who wanted to know why his M40.1 sounds better with a 30W amplifier than a 150W amp, where should he be directing the question?
    I have already been beaten to the punch on this one but it bears repetition. Without a detailed inspection of the equipment in question including listening tests and bench analysis, it’s impossible to say. Perhaps a good start would be the amplifier manufacturers.

    But this leads onto the very easy way that audiophiles have with words such as “better”. If I had heard an unexpected difference between two similar bits of kit, I would be wary of publicly describing one as “better” than the other until I had conducted extensive tests both in the workshop and listening room and had accumulated enough evidence to convince myself that the opinion was correct.

    One man’s “clarity” is another man’s “harsh”.

    One man’s “woolly” is another’s “warm”.

    Once man’s “better” is another man’s “worse”.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Pluto View Post
    I have already been beaten to the punch on this one but it bears repetition. Without a detailed inspection of the equipment in question including listening tests and bench analysis, it’s impossible to say. Perhaps a good start would be the amplifier manufacturers.
    This is the dilemma 99% of the consumers face. They do not understand the specification requirement, nor they can do a level matching bench analysis. As I was thinking, 150W amplifier could always be matched to a 30W amplifier but not otherwise. So it makes no sense to me. And 30Watter amp does not meet the minimum requirement of 50W for the M40.1. Unless, the whole business of amplifiers specifications was inaccurate or misleading.

    Recently, I discovered that a so called 40W amplifier actually can only output significantly lower power than the 40W without distortion or clipping. At 40W the distortion sets in and above (or below?) certain frequencies and the said amplifier could reach as high as 60W or 80W before clipping. So is this, a 80W or 40W or a 10 or 20W amplifier? Should it even be called a 40W amplifier? At least the manufacturer was honest enough to give full details.

    ST

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