What is your experience with amp power?

So I wanted to know what my fellow audiophiles feel about power.

I realize that some speakers are current hounds and need a prodigious amount of power or watts (lets say Maggies). But my question is for speakers that do not. Speakers that are easy to drive, or maybe just higher in efficiency and can be driven by a modest tube amp or even an adequate receiver. 

What is you experience with high power, high current amps ? Do your speakers sound better with more power? At low volumes, in a small or medium sized room? Do you think the quality of the music is dependent on higher powered amps?


Depends mainly on how far you are from speakers and how loud you want to go. Some speakers will benefit from higher damping factor in particular , others less so.

Having said that, more power in a line of amps will never hurt. Much like a bigger engine in a car. Making music can be a lot of work, especially with the lowest frequencies. If you skimp on those you can get away with a lot less power. Power needed for flat response increases exponentially as frequency gets lower. You may never miss having that truly extended low end response if you don’t but you are missing out on something if not.

I used to sell many popular lines of amplifiers to a lot of people. Nobody who ever compared ever preferred the sound of a lower power amp in the line to a higher one. But when comparing different designs from different vendors, that’s more apples and oranges and harder to predict what will be preferred.

This talk about the need for power and how bass is better really hasn’t been my experience. It’s why I ended up with high power amps for so long. I’ve had two tube amps in my system since ditching the high power and both amps make far better bass than any of my giant ss amps did. The high power ss did make tighter bass.  My issue is it wasn’t accurate or full to me.  I feel like sometimes we want our bass not to reverberate, yet I think that’s what bass is. Anyways I really feel it’s personal preference like everything in this hobby. I would encourage everyone to try both low watt tube amps and high power ss and see which they prefer. Far as a need lots of power for speakers that are 85db sensitive or higher I just don’t but it. People act like 30 watts is nothing then they suggest 100 watts. It’s literally less than 5db difference in max volume. Unless your truly maxing out your amp it just doesn’t make since to me. 

It also depends what are you looking for, and how your hearing is.

For most of us going for higher power is a no-brainer, as most of us have no hearing above 14kHz or so.

However, in case your hearing is still intact, and you are (un)fortunate to hear out to 20kHz, then there's a hard stop. I did this test yesterday - two amps going into a 89dB/Wm true 8R load full range speaker, no crossover, extremely revealing in the high frequencies up to 23kHz. So, easy and direct load and no interference from crossover. I used two amps to drive the speakers.

Amp 1 - 0.6WPC Darling amplifier (SET vacuum tube).

Amp 2 - CJ Premier SA350 Legendary 350WPC solid state power monster. (Which is one of the least fatiguing high power amps you can find.)

To my huge surprise I could not listen to the CJ any louder than I did with the flea-power tube amp! Why? Because yes, it could play MUCH louder, YET the level where it played WITHOUT NOTICEABLE FATIGUE was actually below the level the 0.6W Darling played.

If your hearing is compromised in the HF region, you can push your powerhorse quite a bit more before you notice ANY signs of fatigue. You might be able to use all of it....

Good luck! ;






Power is good and watts are watts, no such thing as better watts. But speakers are not resistors; they are reactive and good amp design(often great power supplies which don't show up in specs but do in sound) does matter when feeding real life loads. How an amp responds to reactance matters. Some amps ring a little bit into bad loads and take time to recover. Some amps can't produce power into bad loads only resistors. I recall a revered 80 watt tube amp that only put out 2 watts at 20 kHz into real loads. And the story can go on and on. The best is to have a quality amp that works into reactance AND lots of power. You'd be amazed how much power may be needed for split seconds(30 or more dB) to make clean dynamic transients even though the average power being used is only watts.

Most tube amps soft clip. Most SS amps hard clip. Many newer Class D amps also soft clip. Soft clipping gives the illusion of going louder overall (like “loudness wars”)  but the dynamic peaks are suppressed.

Clipping is public enemy #1 of good sound. Soft clipping is sonically more acceptable to most than hard clipping. More power when needed is the antidote to clipping. Them’s just the facts…..