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Driving Super HL5+ with hegel h90

pshane

New member
putting things into perspective, a BMW 318i with a 1,500 cc engine in comparison to a Nissan Patrol Safari 4,800 cc. The BMW outputs around 130 hp and 150 Nm of torque as compared to the Nissan with its larger engine outputs 280 hp and 460 Nm of torque.

However, the 0 to 100 km/hr sprint times contradict these figures. the BMW does it in 8 seconds while the Nissan takes around 11 seconds on road. The fact remains that these cars are built for different applications and their power and torque outputs are very different at similar engine rpm. the BMW has an 8 speed gearbox and the Nissan has 5 gears.

Unlike the linear relationship between loudness and watts in audio, the relationship between speed, acceleration, power and torque arent linear in automobiles because we need to take into consideration the terrain it was built for. The torque drawn from the engine is more rpm dependent than speed. Speed is simply a by-product of torque at a certain rpm and the terrain under consideration. But in audio, loudness is a direct result of Watts

In Audio, perhaps Genre is the equivalent of Terrain in Motoring. A Miles Davis album can be likened to a smooth cruise on the road, while a Death Metal Album is probably like Dune Bashing in the Desert. The BMW's higher acceleration is not sufficient for dune bashing because the torque output at low rpm which is needed for desert driving is simply not available as compared to the slower Nissan which can achieve far higher acceleration off-road since it is backed up by low end torque. Taller gears as well compared to the BMW which is far more fuel efficient despite the better acceleration on road.

A low powered tube amp in that sense may not be the ideal choice for Death Metal music which is usually not heard at very low volumes. There is obviously no point in listening to Miles Davis at ear drum shattering loudness either. The genre that an individual listens to maybe the most important criteria in amp selection.

The low powered tube amp may therefore limit genres as well just like the BMW cannot achieve high speeds off road, and the higher powered Nissan cannot beat the BMW on road either. This is the contradiction. Power isn't the only variable in the motoring world unlike audio.
 

ibluegrass

New member
I'm currently assembling a new home audio system and after this discussion, and some very similar posts over the last several months, I'm thinking I'll go with 100 watts+ into 8 ohms x 2 channels, integrated amp. And that will be my minimum requirement. I'd prefer 120 watts+ or even 200 watts+. I want to be able to cover most any loud transients with the minimal amount of distortion and compression possible. I listen mostly to bluegrass music (about 90% of the time and small combo jazz and blues 10% of the time). Bluegrass can be very "busy" music with a large dynamic range. And it is played with all acoustic instruments which produce lots of harmonics and overtones. It's more similar in that regard to symphonic music than you might think.

Just yesterday I received my Super HL 5+ 40th Anniversary model speakers with stands. Now all I have to decide on is my amp and streaming stuff. So far I've narrowed my choices down to a few amps...the new NAIM Supernait 3 (it comes out late this month), Luxman 509x, Moon/Simaudio 340iX, and some others in the same general power/price range. Other amps I've considered are McIntosh, Levinson, Rogue, HegeI, Audio Research, and VAC. I have a relatively small listening room (27' x 12') but I sometimes (5% to 10% of the time) listen at relatively loud levels. So, as I mentioned above, although I usually listen at just moderate levels I want to be able to adequately cover the transients while listening at moderately loud to loud levels...at the lowest distortion levels possible.
 

willem

Well-known member
Many of the amplifiers that you suggest are in the boutique category. For pre-amplifiers/DACs with volume control I would suggest either the Benchmark DAC3 or the RME ADI-2 DAC. Both measure impeccably, and are by well respected pro audio companies. The RME is the cheaper of the two, and has the additional advantage that it has traditional pre-amplifier controls for bass and treble, balance, dynamic loudness and also five parametric filters for room equalization. For me this sealed the deal. I don't think there is anything better on the market right now, if you do not need an analogue input (I think digital sources are far superior). My family insisted that I keep my old LInn/SME 3009 turntable, so I bought a Pro-ject Optical ebox to digitize the MM signal and generate an optical output. Vinyl lovers will be horrified but l am not.
As for amplifiers, I think if you want the very best, you have two options. The first is the Benchmark AHB2, the second is one of the many offerings based on Hypex modules. The combination of the RME DAC and a Hypex amplifier is quite a bargain for what is arguably the best that money can buy.
 

Don Leman

Member
ibluegrass said:
. Bluegrass can be very "busy" music with a large dynamic range. And it is played with all acoustic instruments which produce lots of harmonics and overtones.
I have a large collection of Bluegrass music but never thought of any as having a wide dynamic range. As I am curious, would you point me to one or two you have that you would consider show this characteristic?

I fully support your plan to purchase an amp in the 100 wpc range.

Thanks.
Don
 
My twopenny worth ........

I've found that having more power than perhaps is necessary (250 watts into 8 ohms) gives a sense of ease. With a good recording no music phases the amp, the balance, tonality, detail remains in the same balance as volume is increased - you just get nearer to the performers. Engrossment and enjoyment increase. Similarly, in terms of cars, when you put your foot down with 250hp on tap and automatic transmission it just smoothly goes to a higher speed; no extra noise, vibration etc.
 

tIANcI

Member
I won't say different amplifiers sound different, that would be heresy.
I beg to differ (to the dismay of many here) ... I have tried testing (non-scientifically) different amps in same set up and they do differ slightly.

I have found some to have a pronounced mid, some tighter bass and others extended highs.

Perhaps they do not measure the same. They aren’t all that flat.

I’m not one to buy into speaker cables etc but from my own listening, there are difference in the sound that you get from different amps.
 

Milosz

Active member
It’s been explained here many times that in uncontrolled comparison, without volume levels of tested amplifiers carefully matched, difference in sound is absolutely normal and to be expected. It’s nothing new. Those differences actually result from the different sound levels of tested gear.

Only in a controlled test differences between competently built amplifiers diminish greatly or disappear altogether.
 
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tIANcI

Member
It’s been explained here many times that in uncontrolled comparison, without volume levels of tested amplifiers carefully matched, difference in sound is absolutely normal and to be expected. It’s nothing new. Those differences actually result from the different sound levels of tested gear.

Only in a controlled test differences between competently built amplifiers diminish greatly or disappear altogether.
If we are to truly believe there must be proper controlled tests then:

- we cannot trust auditioning speakers at the dealers
- we should not really recommend which model of speaker to people who ask

There is no controlled testing in our opinions or at the dealers BUT we talk about that so freely. Even here.

When we state an opinion here about which model there are many variables. The music, the room, the listening levels, our personal preference.

So what gives? Just food for thought.
 

MikeM

Active member
It’s been explained here many times that in uncontrolled comparison, without volume levels of tested amplifiers carefully matched, difference in sound is absolutely normal and to be expected. It’s nothing new. Those differences actually result from the different sound levels of tested gear.

Only in a controlled test differences between competently built amplifiers diminish greatly or disappear altogether.
There was a very long discussion about this in a thread a while ago (sorry not got the time at the moment to go searching for it), when it was finally agreed, even by Alan, that the "under controlled circumstances, all amplifiers sound the same" argument - which I now agree with by the way - only applied if there was the assumption that the amplifier was 'competently' designed in the first place. I pointed out at the time that this was not the case for at least one world renowned (in Hi-Fi terms) British company where it was fairly clear on listening that there was undue emphasis being placed in the lower mid frequencies and a volume control that could hardly be used after the first quarter. I have since found this to also be the case, although in a much more pleasant sense, with another British company in the lower frequency band. These are not exceptions in my humble opinion but, I fear, an ever growing trend with less mainstream amplifier AND speaker brands to 'stand out' in a dealer demo. One of these companies is very proud to boast about its house sound.

I have now very recently purchased a Quad Artera Play+ and Artera Stereo (140wpc) for my little Harbeth P3ESR's and, for the first time in over 30 years, I'm hearing it as I think it should be with nothing overblown or standing out across the frequency range - just clear and clean.
 

Milosz

Active member
There was a very long discussion about this in a thread a while ago (sorry not got the time at the moment to go searching for it), when it was finally agreed, even by Alan, that the "under controlled circumstances, all amplifiers sound the same" argument - which I now agree with by the way - only applied if there was the assumption that the amplifier was 'competently' designed in the first place. I pointed out at the time that this was not the case for at least one world renowned (in Hi-Fi terms) British company where it was fairly clear on listening that there was undue emphasis being placed in the lower mid frequencies and a volume control that could hardly be used after the first quarter. I have since found this to also be the case, although in a much more pleasant sense, with another British company in the lower frequency band. These are not exceptions in my humble opinion but, I fear, an ever growing trend with less mainstream amplifier AND speaker brands to 'stand out' in a dealer demo. One of these companies is very proud to boast about its house sound.

I have now very recently purchased a Quad Artera Play+ and Artera Stereo (140wpc) for my little Harbeth P3ESR's and, for the first time in over 30 years, I'm hearing it as I think it should be with nothing overblown or standing out across the frequency range - just clear and clean.
I deliberately used the word “competent” amplifier and took for granted that this notion contains:
- sufficient power to drive the speakers at hand, at given volume level so that the amplifier output isn’t clipped
- reasonable sensitivity so that the amplifier’s input isn’t clipped by voltage from the source unit and well considered gain structure so the signal isn’t clipped at any later amplifier’s stage
- amplifier’s output insensitive to changing loudspeaker impedance with flat frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz
- distortion below audible level

Such amplifier can be built and found in reality, although I agree there are also many that don’t satisfy those conditions, including some from well known audiophile brands. Nevertheless, all those conditions are achievable and it’s not hard to find a technically perfect amplifier. This concept has been known as “straight wire with gain”. On the contrary, it’s impossible to build a perfect loudspeaker and it will never be done. This is the difference in discussing amplifiers and loudspeakers.

BTW I also got Artera Play and Stereo not long ago for my Harbeth P3ESR’s and cannot be happier. I seriously doubt more can be achieved in terms of amplifiers, regardless of price, supposing that the power is sufficient to drive the speakers. It’s certainly enough for P3ESR’s in my room and with my music and listening habbits.
 
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MikeM

Active member
I deliberately used the word “competent” amplifier and took for granted that this notion contains:
- sufficient power to drive the speakers at hand, at given volume so that the amplifier output isn’t clipped
- reasonable sensitivity so that the amplifier input isn’t clipped
- amplifier output insensitive to changing loudspeaker impedance
- distortion below audible level

Such amplifier can be built and found in reality, although I agree there are also many that don’t satisfy those conditions, including some from well known audiophile brands. Nevertheless, all those conditions are achievable and it’s not hard to find a technically perfect amplifier. On the contrary, it’s impossible to build a perfect loudspeaker and it will never be done. This is the difference in discussing amplifiers and loudspeakers.

BTW I also got Artera Play and Stereo not long ago for my Harbeth P3ESR’s and cannot be happier. I seriously doubt more can be achieved in terms of amplifiers, regardless of price, if the power is sufficient to drive the speakers. It’s certainly enough for P3ESR’s in my room and with my music and listening habbits.
My apologies if my earlier post was perhaps not clear - I was very much agreeing with you but just wanted to expand on that a little with why some amplifiers deliberately choose to market a different (less than accurate) sound. Your further explanation above for anyone coming new to the HUG could not be more clear and useful.

Glad that you are also getting great satisfaction from the beautifully made Artera combination. Enjoy your music.
 

Milosz

Active member
Enjoy your music.
Thank you, and the same to you. I was not at all critical of what you said, just wanted to clarify my earlier post, which, as I realized, was too brief. I also agree that far too many amplifiers are not “straight wires with gain” and have some kind of a “house sound” instead; perhaps it’s something even more common today than decades ago. I just think that all one needs to do is find an amplifier that is a straight wire and from this moment on stop bothering about amplifier “sound” and enjoy the music.
 
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ahofer

Member
One interesting question - does this extend to Class D amplifiers? I have one (arriving today if I'm not mistaken) built on the Hypex NCore modules, which measure incredibly well. (see page 13 here - https://www.hypex.nl/documenten/download/908). I mean everything measured here is below audible levels (didn't I read the most distortion sensitivity recorded in listening tests was at about 0.1%? or am I off?).

It seems the argument *should* be, any amplifier capable of adequate instantaneous (x watts) and persistent (y watts) power delivery into typical loads (2-16 ohms) where the various distortions and noise (at 1 watt and rated power) come in below some accepted audible threshold and the frequency response from 20-18 Khz stays within, say, 1db. In that case, newer class D would fall into the group but various tube designs would fall out. The remaining question for class D being, to paraphrase Alan, what the side effects of having an AM transmitter in the room might be. I'm told proper shielding is simple and the energy to the tweeter from the switching frequency unmeasurably low.

I've read a lot of assertions recently that many amps that measure incredibly well just don't sound good. My instinct is that is not true, if the power and distortion measurements are comprehensive (cover a range of frequencies and power levels, and include different types of distortion).

Anyway, I'll be reporting my subjective conclusions soon. The amp I bought is a fraction of even most audiophile class D implementations ($800) and delivers a clean 250 watts (more than) instantaneously (but less than constantly*), so I thought it was worth a try.

*this seems to be a comparison issue with conventions for Class D power measurements, although not much of an issue for real life. That kind of power is almost always reserved for transients, even with extremely low DR recordings, unless your listening room is a concert venue). But the AB amps will generally do rated power constantly,
 
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Milosz

Active member
I've read a lot of assertions recently that many amps that measure incredibly well just don't sound good.
I think it’s only possible if your loudspeakers do not sound right in first place and need a “colored” amplifier to make them listenable. It’s not at all the case with Harbeths that only sound natural and need a straight wire with gain to sound at their best.

I don’t have any experience with class D but I think class AB or current dumping type amplifiers are good enough for domestic use. One huge advantage of class D is easy implementation of digital room correction features though.
 

ahofer

Member
I think it’s only possible if your loudspeakers do not sound right in first place and need a “colored” amplifier to make them listenable. It’s not at all the case with Harbeths that only sound natural and need a straight wire with gain to sound at their best.

I don’t have any experience with class D but I think class AB or current dumping type amplifiers are good enough for domestic use. One huge advantage of class D is easy implementation of digital room correction features though.
Class D is only pulse width modulation, so I don't see why it would make DSP easier. The reason it's worth exploring is that a good quality AB amplifier (e.g. a Parasound) might still set you back $1500 for over 100 watts. All class D amps are based on these fairly inexpensive modules (Hypex, ICE, TI, and now Purifi) and offer substantial power of 150-1200 watts. They should end up being cheaper per watt (not to mention more efficient and cooler-running), so it's worth figuring out if they will be indistinguishable from AB amps. I'm betting the new ones, in which the IM distortion in high frequencies has been pushed below any reasonable audible threshold, will be.
 

willem

Well-known member
By all accounts the Hypex based amplifiers are extremely good and competitively priced. The big future proof advantage is of course low power consumption. We are moving into a world where energy consumption has to be reduced, and thus far class D is the only realistic option for audio. The other components in the chain hardly consume any electricity at all. There is a lot of regulatory pressure on appliance manufacturers to reduce energy consumption, and I think this is one of the reasons major mass market companies are embracing this technology.
For now, I am still more than happy with my refurbished Quad 606-2, the ancestor of the Artera. Now that I have added an RME ADI-2 DAC/pre-amplifier instead of the old Quad 33 pre-amplifier the sound quality is cleaner than ever. Incidentally, part of the sound quality probably comes from the perfect gain matching of the rme DAC and the dsp facilities for tone control, balance, variable loudness and parametric equalization.
 
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Rajupras

New member
I'm currently assembling a new home audio system and after this discussion, and some very similar posts over the last several months, I'm thinking I'll go with 100 watts+ into 8 ohms x 2 channels, integrated amp. And that will be my minimum requirement. I'd prefer 120 watts+ or even 200 watts+. I want to be able to cover most any loud transients with the minimal amount of distortion and compression possible. I listen mostly to bluegrass music (about 90% of the time and small combo jazz and blues 10% of the time). Bluegrass can be very "busy" music with a large dynamic range. And it is played with all acoustic instruments which produce lots of harmonics and overtones. It's more similar in that regard to symphonic music than you might think.

Just yesterday I received my Super HL 5+ 40th Anniversary model speakers with stands. Now all I have to decide on is my amp and streaming stuff. So far I've narrowed my choices down to a few amps...the new NAIM Supernait 3 (it comes out late this month), Luxman 509x, Moon/Simaudio 340iX, and some others in the same general power/price range. Other amps I've considered are McIntosh, Levinson, Rogue, HegeI, Audio Research, and VAC. I have a relatively small listening room (27' x 12') but I sometimes (5% to 10% of the time) listen at relatively loud levels. So, as I mentioned above, although I usually listen at just moderate levels I want to be able to adequately cover the transients while listening at moderately loud to loud levels...at the lowest distortion levels possible.
I will quote my experiences and hopefully that will help you.

Over the past few years, I started out with AV receivers (Marantz SR5010) and then moved on to a series of preamp/DAC + power amplifier combinations. I tried the Rotel RC1590 + RB1582mkII, Benchmark DAC3 HGC + AHB2 (single then dual bridged) and have now moved on to Hegel H360. I know many will not agree but I did find differences between these various equipment for my usual listening habits - and there could be various plausible reasons for this.

My learnings to date have been:

- there is a lot of very clear information on this forum about power amplifier clipping, volume control position and such like. Not all forums or high-end reviewers offer such information and quite a few offer unsubstantiated opinions that may or may not hold true for you.

- listen with the equipment and the speakers in your own room whenever possible (your choice of music and the loudness you play at may not be the same as your friend / dealer).

- published measurements of equipment are helpful, but need to be careful in interpreting them and in particular which of these are likely to make a audible difference. We may tend to ignore equipment with relatively poorer measurements (which may actually be irrelevant audibly).

- avoid equipment or choices that add to audiophile nervosa (is that power cable good, is that USB connection ok, should I go single ended or balanced?). I have a big box of just cables from the time when I was trying out stuff to see if it 'improves' the sound. I even have a purported USB cleaner device (thankfully I do not use it anymore).

The last one has been the most recent finding and the reason for me to move away from separates to an integrated amplifier. I now run audio from my computer to the Hegel using the network input. The Hegel does everything in one box (almost other than possibly fixing me breakfast!). The sound from my Harbeths are highly enjoyable and my only 'audiophile' problem now is that I have nothing to fret / fuss around with :)
 
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MikeM

Active member
I generally agree with the common sense in #37 above but would like to pick up on a couple of points (bold emphasis is mine):

published measurements of equipment are helpful, but need to be careful in interpreting them and in particular which of these are likely to make a audible difference. We may tend to ignore equipment with relatively poorer measurements (which may actually be irrelevant audibly).
If an amplifier (for instance) measures poorly I would certainly take that to mean that it will have its own 'sound signature' and 'personality' and therefore not be able to be described as true fidelity.

avoid equipment or choices that add to audiophile nervosa (is that power cable good, is that USB connection ok, should I go single ended or balanced?).
Interestingly, when I purchased my QUAD Artera Play+ & Stereo a couple of weeks ago, Rob Flain (QUAD UK Service Manager) urged me to use the balanced XLR connections for a much cleaner sound. I didn't compare - just purchased industry professional Canare XLR terminated cable and forgot about it!

Absolutely right, Rajupras, nothing more to fret or fuss about now (y)
 

Rajupras

New member
Allow me to clarify and set out some more context to my comments. I write because I don't have answers to quite a few of my questions and hopefully sharing my experience and thought processes may prompt a healthy and informative discussion.

Measurements
Let me consider 2 of the equipment I have used and compare some published manufacturer specs. The Benchmark DAC3 HGC has a SNR of more than 120dB while the Hegel H360 publishes a spec of SNR more than 100dB. Between these I would think that (other things being the same) most would tend to choose the equipment with the higher SNR, while possibly discounting the possibility that a SNR of more than 100dB is sufficient. I for one was not able to determine any differences in noise or distortion levels between the 2 equipment during normal listening.

Interconnects
On the balanced v single ended question, I think it is another one of those where there is no one right answer for all listener situations. There are multiple discussions in various forums and I for one got terribly lost and confused after reading through those. Just some of the things that I remember

- balanced connections usually offer a higher output level (around 6dB I think) and downstream components need to be able to handle those high levels

- balanced connections also require additional balancing circuitry at both ends of the balanced cable.

One theory was that both these processes involved additional components that could be possibly avoided in typical home situations where there was no need usually for long interconnects that could avoid interference issues.

Then there is the other argument whether the entire circuitry in the equipment is 'fully balanced' or are they 'pseudo balanced'.

If one goes down this path, and if one does not have an engineering or electronics background (like me) one tends to want to try out various options in the quest for audio nirvana.
 

Milosz

Active member
@Rajupras

As regards measurements, they are essential but a few things need to be taken into account. Firstly, in my opinion it’s better to use independent measurements (optimally from the same source), not the measurements published by the manufacturers because I’ve seen many times that they can be very unreliable. For the components you mentioned you can use the following measurements:



You also need to make a distinction between measurements that can be audibly discerned and ones that are “good enough” beyond some threshold of audibility. It’s not easy to judge it but obviously many measurements of modern equipment, especially DAC’s, are already far beyond audibility levels and improving them farther does nothing for the quality of sound you can hear.

Lastly, I’m not sure how you can compare measurements of S/N ratio of two different components like preamp / headphone amp (Benchmark) and integrated amp (Hegel). Could you tell more in what way you tried to compare the two to see if you can hear the difference between their S/N ratios?

As regards balanced connections, they surely are required in studio and concert applications where much longer cable runs are used. In domestic applications they obviously don’t hurt and can be used just as well but looking for differences between them and unbalanced connections (except loudness) is a needless worry. Just use one that is more practical in your setup and forget about it once it’s hooked.
 
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