A little deeper on amp power please....

If somebody could elaborate on exactly how a higher watt amp will improve the sound of speakers (lower sensitivity speakers that “need” power).  More specifically, I get that when the nature of the recording and the volume setting demand an immediate spike in power, an amp that delivers the spike will perform better than one that does not.  But when I used to have an amp with output meters, it would be in single digits for most normal listening, and I don’t recall what a spike would have been - I want to say 15 or 20 watts.  What I am scratching at is whether there is something more to power, i.e. the notion that the effortless power of, say, a 300 watt amp would somehow be an improvement over an otherwise similar 75 watt amp…even if a spike is just 20 watts.  Hope the question make sense.


Nothing is ever easy, and I will need to learn more. I get that power, impedence, and damping factor will all play, and then I need to learn more....

What inspired this is that I thought I had my end-game speakers in Harbeth 40.2. But then I got interested in playing around with low powered gear (I know it can be expensive too, but there are definitely interesting economies of design and $$$ in producing, say, 5 high quality watts vs 100). Some people say they have had good experience with low power amps and these speakers, others have said running SS monoblocks is a must-do! With unlimited space and budget, I would love to add a set of high sensitivity speakers for experimentation. (can somebody loan me their La Scalas?)😂

One of the things I learned along the way is that there is a really big difference between tubed amplification and solid state. For solid state, more power… of the same quality make most speakers sound better at most volume… even at nearly a whisper. This is also what is “said” in audiophile circles and it is typically very obvious unless you have very efficient speakers… then it can be a liability. Why? I have not really found investigating why results in a means of determining if speakers match amps other than at the most general way… like don’t pair a 2wpc amp with 82db efficient speakers.

Most speakers are much less sensitive to the overall power from tube amps… quality is more of primary concern… so I used to use a 350wpc SS amp to power my 90db speakers and dropping to 250 wpc would make a difference. I replaced it with a 140 wpc tube amp and they sound very different (the tube amp sounds way better… and different). I can operate my tube amp at 140wpc or 70wpc in triode mode and there is virtuallly no difference in volume or punch, but the 70wpc sounds better and more musical. Why? I have not really found investigating why results in a means of determining if speakers match amps other than at the most general way… like don’t pair a 350wpc amp with 100db efficient speakers.

So after fifty years of passionately pursuing high end audio what is my conclusion? If you are trying to come up with a set of specs that will lead you to the right choice of amp forget it. You must try them. However, if you are simply interested for the sake of learning… carry on… good luck. But still make sure you audition amps first… especially if you have a big spread in the sensitivity / amp power.


Also, one of the most amazing / interesting systems I have heard was a huge panel electrostatic powered by a 4 wpc Viva tube amp. Which was the most ridiculous pairing that would never be something that theory would have led you to put together.

I do have r3 red rose speakers , Iam using Norh 100 w monoblock, Iam very happy . Until I read one r3 owner said the t3 shines on 250 w amp above. I happen to have musical fidelity 550 supercharger mono, Indeed the R3 did sound amazing on more power.

I’m going to channel Ralph @atmasphere here because what I learned from him is that you don’t want your amplifier working toward the upper range of its capability.  I assume that’s true of both tubed and solid state amps.  Am I wrong on this Ralph?