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  1. #1
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Specs 101. Class has started

    I look at the specs for many items before I buy. Listening is good, but I like to know the facts also. Some of these I understand. Some I have an idea on. Some leave me totally guessing. Below are some specs from a 2 channel amp I've been looking at. Please help me fill in the meanings to these specs. It may come in handy to some new comers. Oh OK, it's for ME! But it may help others too.
    Extra points to whoever tells me what amp these numbers came from first.


    Continuous power output: (OK, we all know that these mean different things to different manufacturers. But it's good to have a starting point for power)
    125 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms, both channels driven (continuous power into each channel when your speakers are 8 ohmers)
    200 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 4 ohms, both channels driven (ditto for 4 ohmers)
    400 watts RMS x 1, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms (to use this amp as a subwoofer amp)
    Current capacity: 45 amperes peak per channel (high current? good for hard to drive speakers with a few dips in resistance?)
    Signal-to-noise ratio: > 112 dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted (more sound than noise?)
    Total harmonic distortion: < 0.06 % at full power (Seems great, can I really hear a difference between 0.1% and 0.001%?)
    IM distortion: < 0.04 % (huh? Instant messaging? huh?)
    Power bandwidth: 5 Hz - 100 kHz, +0/-3 dB at 1 watt (huh?)
    Slew rate: >130 V/Ásecond (oh come on)
    Dynamic headroom: > 1.5 dB (I like the sound of this one)
    Interchannel crosstalk: > 80 dB at 1 kHz; > 63 dB at 20 kHz (who?)
    Input sensitivity: 1 V for 28.28 V, THX Reference Level (how much the inputs can take?)
    Input impedance: 33 k_ (Does this mean that it can't have kids?)
    Damping factor: > 800 at 20 Hz (oh oh, does this have something to do with it's ability to control base?)
    Voltage: Switchable for 110V – 120V or 220V – 240V operation (ok, you can use it here, or there.)
    Dimensions: 17-1/4" w x 4-1/8" h x 13-1/4" d, 3-5/8" h without feet (it's not so big)
    Net weight: 28 lbs. (not too heavy either)
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  2. #2
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    I look at the specs for many items before I buy. Listening is good, but I like to know the facts also. Some of these I understand. Some I have an idea on. Some leave me totally guessing. Below are some specs from a 2 channel amp I've been looking at. Please help me fill in the meanings to these specs. It may come in handy to some new comers. Oh OK, it's for ME! But it may help others too.
    Extra points to whoever tells me what amp these numbers came from first.


    Continuous power output: (OK, we all know that these mean different things to different manufacturers. But it's good to have a starting point for power)
    125 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms, both channels driven (continuous power into each channel when your speakers are 8 ohmers)
    200 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 4 ohms, both channels driven (ditto for 4 ohmers)
    400 watts RMS x 1, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms (to use this amp as a subwoofer amp)
    Current capacity: 45 amperes peak per channel (high current? good for hard to drive speakers with a few dips in resistance?)
    Signal-to-noise ratio: > 112 dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted (more sound than noise?)
    Total harmonic distortion: < 0.06 % at full power (Seems great, can I really hear a difference between 0.1% and 0.001%?)
    IM distortion: < 0.04 % (huh? Instant messaging? huh?)
    Power bandwidth: 5 Hz - 100 kHz, +0/-3 dB at 1 watt (huh?)
    Slew rate: >130 V/Ásecond (oh come on)
    Dynamic headroom: > 1.5 dB (I like the sound of this one)
    Interchannel crosstalk: > 80 dB at 1 kHz; > 63 dB at 20 kHz (who?)
    Input sensitivity: 1 V for 28.28 V, THX Reference Level (how much the inputs can take?)
    Input impedance: 33 k_ (Does this mean that it can't have kids?)
    Damping factor: > 800 at 20 Hz (oh oh, does this have something to do with it's ability to control base?)
    Voltage: Switchable for 110V ľ 120V or 220V ľ 240V operation (ok, you can use it here, or there.)
    Dimensions: 17-1/4" w x 4-1/8" h x 13-1/4" d, 3-5/8" h without feet (it's not so big)
    Net weight: 28 lbs. (not too heavy either)

    parasound halo A23
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  3. #3
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    parasound halo A23
    Did you actually READ the specs, or did you just remember that that's the amp I want?
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  4. #4
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    Continuous power output: (OK, we all know that these mean different things to different manufacturers. But it's good to have a starting point for power)
    125 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms, both channels driven (continuous power into each channel when your speakers are 8 ohmers)
    200 watts RMS x 2, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 4 ohms, both channels driven (ditto for 4 ohmers)
    400 watts RMS x 1, 20 Hz - 20 kHz, 8 ohms (to use this amp as a subwoofer amp)
    Current capacity: 45 amperes peak per channel (high current? good for hard to drive speakers with a few dips in resistance?)
    Signal-to-noise ratio: > 112 dB, input shorted, IHF A-weighted (more sound than noise?)
    Total harmonic distortion: < 0.06 % at full power (Seems great, can I really hear a difference between 0.1% and 0.001%?)
    IM distortion: < 0.04 % (huh? Instant messaging? huh?)
    Power bandwidth: 5 Hz - 100 kHz, +0/-3 dB at 1 watt (huh?)
    Slew rate: >130 V/Ásecond (oh come on)
    Dynamic headroom: > 1.5 dB (I like the sound of this one)
    Interchannel crosstalk: > 80 dB at 1 kHz; > 63 dB at 20 kHz (who?)
    Input sensitivity: 1 V for 28.28 V, THX Reference Level (how much the inputs can take?)
    Input impedance: 33 k_ (Does this mean that it can't have kids?)
    Damping factor: > 800 at 20 Hz (oh oh, does this have something to do with it's ability to control base?)
    Voltage: Switchable for 110V – 120V or 220V – 240V operation (ok, you can use it here, or there.)
    Dimensions: 17-1/4" w x 4-1/8" h x 13-1/4" d, 3-5/8" h without feet (it's not so big)
    Net weight: 28 lbs. (not too heavy either)

    45 amperes is enough to drive most of the speakers out there, and bridging it to mono doesnt nessesarily mean that you have to use it as a subwoofer power amp, you could (and i'd do that if i bridged an amp) use it as a monoblock too, so then you need 2 amps for stereo, but you'd have very much power.

    s/n numbers: the higher the better, you divide the amount of sound by the amount of noise, the higher the s/n number, the less noise.

    0.06% THD isn't bad, and will satisfy most of the listeners, some, however want a lower thd...

    IM disortion = inter modulaire (or something like that) disortion, or otherwise said, the amount of disortion at 1 khz

    power bandwith: the bandwith (between 5hz and 100khz in this case) where the amp can deliver it's full power.

    slew rate: not sure, I'll have to research that one...

    dyn headroom: how much the amp can deliver for a short amount of time over the maximum output so if your amp has a gain of lessay 28db, and you have a 1.5db headroom, you can have that extra, so you'll have a 29.5db gain for a short period of time.
    my upcoming toy will have a dynamic headroom of 2.4 db, good reputation points when you guess which one

    crosstalk: the 'noise' from one channel that's also in the other channel, but it's not supposed to be there.

    input sensetivity: in this case, 1 volt for 28.28 volts, this means that if it gets 1 volt at the inputs, it will give you 28.28 volts of output, which is in this case, the full output. so read as: 1 volt input for full output.

    input impedance: same impedance as speakers, only more. there is a rule for this, I think your poweramp's input impedance should be at least 100 times (or more) the preamps output impedance.

    damping factor: you are kinda right there, higer damping factor usually means tighter base.

    voltage: you were right there too

    dimensions: no it's not 'big' like a mcintosh, neither is it heavy as a mcintosh, but it's as big/heavy as it's supposed to be.

    weight: see above...


    this should get you started

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.

    Edit: I think I know again what slew rate means: it's the maximum amount of power running through the amp's circuit at one time.
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  5. #5
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    Did you actually READ the specs, or did you just remember that that's the amp I want?

    i kinda knew, but the specs confirmed my suspicions
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  6. #6
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite

    dyn headroom: how much the amp can deliver for a short amount of time over the maximum output so if your amp has a gain of lessay 28db, and you have a 1.5db headroom, you can have that extra, so you'll have a 29.5db gain for a short period of time.
    my upcoming toy will have a dynamic headroom of 2.4 db, good reputation points when you guess which one

    .
    a mcintosh?
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  7. #7
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    what the? how do you know?
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  8. #8
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Just psycho I guess.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  9. #9
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Very good!

    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    ...
    IM disortion = inter modulaire (or something like that) disortion, or otherwise said, the amount of disortion at 1 khz
    ...

    slew rate: not sure, I'll have to research that one...
    ...

    Keep them spinning,
    Bert.

    Edit: I think I know again what slew rate means: it's the maximum amount of power running through the amp's circuit at one time.
    Don't have much to add to Bert's input, but ...

    IM = intermodular distortion. Input two sine waves at say 8kHz and 10kHz; if you get a response at 9kHz, this is spurrious and its level determines the among of intermodular distortion. High IM is, or used to be, associated with solid state amps.

    Slew rate: sometimes referred to as "rise time": the rate at which the amp responds to a change in input voltage. This is the real "speed" of the amp. It's often referred to together with a square wave plot. If an amp can reproduce a square wave well, it is likely to have a high slew rate, because the sharp edges of the square wave represent high harmonics of the base square wave frequency, and their reproduction requires that the amp be able to respond to voltage change very quickly.

  10. #10
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    what the? how do you know?
    Maybe it had something to do with this.

    "dimensions: no it's not 'big' like a mcintosh, neither is it heavy as a mcintosh, but it's as big/heavy as it's supposed to be."
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  11. #11
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by GMichael
    Maybe it had something to do with this.

    "dimensions: no it's not 'big' like a mcintosh, neither is it heavy as a mcintosh, but it's as big/heavy as it's supposed to be."

    ooh I see...

    well, you did guess right though...
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  12. #12
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Hey GM,

    Do you really think A23 would be 3X better than an amp that retails for $300?

    JRA

  13. #13
    Oh where have ye gone RL?
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    Huh? What?

    So what happened to the learning aspect of this thread?

    Thanks for your input and trying to keep the topic on track Feanor.

    Oh and, you too Bert, for the most part.

  14. #14
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    Hey GM,

    Do you really think A23 would be 3X better than an amp that retails for $300?

    JRA
    Not if I could find an A23 on Ebay for $300.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  15. #15
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rich-n-Texas
    So what happened to the learning aspect of this thread?

    Thanks for your input and trying to keep the topic on track Feanor.

    Oh and, you too Bert, for the most part.
    I was hoping for a little more input from the techie guys. Calling out Kex. Where are you?
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  16. #16
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    0.06% THD isn't bad, and will satisfy most of the listeners, some, however want a lower thd..
    The problem with THD is twofold: it is measured with steady state tones (dynamic behavior can be radically different) and it doesn't factor the human element. Minute amounts of high order distortion found in high feedback amps can be highly irritating (Crown amps) where seemingly large amounts of pure second order harmonic (like tubes) falls into a human "blind spot". My VTL amps with 2% distortion sound substantially more like music than an old Crown amp with 0.05% (or at least when its driving a resistor with a test tone) Real world speakers reproducing real world music render this metric essentially useless.

    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    damping factor: you are kinda right there, higer damping factor usually means tighter base.
    Anything above 60 or 80 is irrelevant to most speakers. It is quite easy to achieve astronomical DFs - add more negative feedback. Which is contrary to reproducing dynamic musical passages in a natural fashion. Too much is a bad thing unless the amp is delegated to subwoofer duty.

    rw

  17. #17
    Class of the clown GMichael's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat


    Anything above 60 or 80 is irrelevant to most speakers. It is quite easy to achieve astronomical DFs - add more negative feedback. Which is contrary to reproducing dynamic musical passages in a natural fashion. Too much is a bad thing unless the amp is delegated to subwoofer duty.

    rw
    Thanks E. I thought more = better. I was writing off some amps because their numbers were so low. (IE: the non Halo Parasounds.
    WARNING! - The Surgeon General has determined that, time spent listening to music is not deducted from one's lifespan.

  18. #18
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Damping factor

    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    ...
    Anything above 60 or 80 is irrelevant to most speakers. It is quite easy to achieve astronomical DFs - add more negative feedback. Which is contrary to reproducing dynamic musical passages in a natural fashion. Too much is a bad thing unless the amp is delegated to subwoofer duty.

    rw
    I found this definition of damping factor: "Technically, the damping factor is the specified load impedance (in use, that'd be the speaker system) divided by the amplifier's output impedance." This definition is standard; a fuller explanation can be found here ...
    http://www.classic-audio.com/marantz...ingfactor.html

    A telling point about very high damping factor is this, (same source): "A very high damping factor can tell you something else, and almost always does unless the manufacturer specifically tells you otherwise: Since it tells you that the amplifier has very, very low output impedance, it also tells you that the amplifier design probably has a lot of negative feedback." As I understand it, a lot negative feedback is used deliver the very low THD figures attainable by solid state amps; unfortunately, it is also the sounce of the higher-order HD that, though low in total, is the likely cause of the stereotypicall, harsh S/S sound.

  19. #19
    Just passing thru topspeed's Avatar
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    Terrific answers so far.

    Oddly enough, the more experienced I became, the less attention I gave to the specs. Why? There are too many variables and no regulated way to test. Besides, there are new technologies such as switching amps that simply don't fit into the square hole used to measure conventional amps designed 30 years ago.

    I will say this, get your speakers before you get your amp. If you're still thinking about the Mini's, allocate funds toward them first. That way, you'll be able to audition amps with your speakers in your room to determine which sounds best. Not all amps sound the same, and specs won't tell you which ones will "lock in" best with your speakers. Synergy is no easy thing.
    "If you can leave black marks on a straight from the time you exit a corner till the time you brake for the next turn, then you have enough horsepower." Mark Donohue

  20. #20
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by basite
    input impedance: same impedance as speakers, only more. there is a rule for this, I think your poweramp's input impedance should be at least 100 times (or more) the preamps output impedance.
    this is the one I'm having a hard time with. I have a 2-ch ss power amp sitting in a closet that I'd like to match with a tube preamp. I've read just enough to confuse myself over an amp's input impedence and a preamp's output impedence and whether these are the key specs that will tell you whether the preamp will adequately drive the amp. I think that if there is a mismatch in these specs, no matter how great the amp and the preamp, they just won't perform together. But in comparing the numbers, one is so much greater than the other that I can't get a grasp on what's a good match and what's not. A little elaboration on this would be appreciated.

  21. #21
    I took a headstart... basite's Avatar
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    there is some more info in here: Upgrade time...maybe tube time?
    Life is music!

    Mcintosh MA6400 Integrated
    Double Advent speakers
    Thiel CS2.3's
    *DIY Lenco L75 TT
    * SME 3012 S2
    * Rega RB-301
    *Denon DL-103 in midas body
    *Denon DL-304
    *Graham slee elevator EXP & revelation
    *Lehmann audio black cube SE
    Marantz CD5001 OSE
    MIT AVt 2 IC's
    Sonic link Black earth IC's
    Siltech MXT New york IC's
    Kimber 4VS speakercable
    Furutech powercord and plugs.

    I'm a happy 20 year old...

  22. #22
    Music Junkie E-Stat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dean_martin
    I think that if there is a mismatch in these specs, no matter how great the amp and the preamp, they just won't perform together. But in comparing the numbers, one is so much greater than the other that I can't get a grasp on what's a good match and what's not. A little elaboration on this would be appreciated.
    Primary concern is that of HF roll off. I've used tube preamps with SS amps for years. What are the specific figures for your components?

    rw

  23. #23
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by E-Stat
    Primary concern is that of HF roll off. I've used tube preamps with SS amps for years. What are the specific figures for your components?

    rw
    The input impedance of the amp is 20k Ohms.

    The preamp I'm considering has an output impedance of "less than 500 Ohms."

    There are some more specs I can give, but I'm not sure if they're relevant.

  24. #24
    Shostakovich fan Feanor's Avatar
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    Just try it

    Quote Originally Posted by dean_martin
    The input impedance of the amp is 20k Ohms.

    The preamp I'm considering has an output impedance of "less than 500 Ohms."

    There are some more specs I can give, but I'm not sure if they're relevant.
    Your ratio is 20,000/500 = 40. Not the Ideal 100+, but some say as low as 10 can be alright.

  25. #25
    Can a crooner get a gig? dean_martin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Feanor
    Your ratio is 20,000/500 = 40. Not the Ideal 100+, but some say as low as 10 can be alright.
    Thanks for "showing your work". That helps alot.

    Also, that previous thread linked by basite is helpful. I understand the numbers are not the last word on compatability, but I've read reviews that used them to explain why a particular amp did not perform well with a particular preamp.

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