Objective ways to measure gear performance vs cost?

Discussion in 'Audio Hardware' started by Wired4Fun, May 17, 2019.

  1. Wired4Fun

    Wired4Fun Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Cary, NC
    I was thinking... are there objective ways to measure amps, so that gear costing less could fairly be stated as the same general quality as gear costing multiples more?

    I know this hobby is quite subjective. I get it. But I mean, is there any benchmarking that is reliable in terms of letting someone know that at (made up costs) $1,000 they actually do have an amp that performs (on paper) as well as one costing, say, $3,000?

    Or is this all too subjective to even reasonably do this?

    As an owner of (what I consider to be) expensive gear, I often wonder what lower and higher prices might afford me in terms of performance.

    Feel free to extend this past amps to other gear. I’m genuinely curious if anyone has a fair and sound methodology.
     
  2. Archimago

    Archimago Forum Resident

    IMO yes. Objective testing of amps and digital equipment can quite easily already demonstrate that less expensive devices perform equally if not better than very expensive stuff. A bit harder with speakers.

    By the same token, objective testing can show how poorly some amps perform despite ridiculous sticker price. Just have a look at Stereophile measurements for many examples of this.

    I don't think people spend money on actual sound quality (if defined as high fidelity) though. If everyone did, crazy expensive cable companies would have no market! The "non-utilitarian benefits" of luxury is where money is spent and most of what determines "value" (or perhaps more appropriately subjective desirability) for the "high end".
     
  3. Dillydipper

    Dillydipper Sultan Of Snark

    Location:
    Central PA
    First, check the extra steps you take maneuvering to hide the expense from your wife.
    Then, calculate the new angle of slumped shoulders on your audiophile friend when showing it off.
    Finally, estimate the dryness in the mouth of that tool in the office who just found out you had more disposable income than it took to redesign his patio.

    Use these factors to add to your confidence when trying to lure your next mistress into your space-age bachelor pad. Multiply by the number of doses of Viagra you save, once you realize you have a mistress that appreciates audio equipment.
    Double the results if you can get her to this point using a Jethro Tull box set.

    I'm sure there's a graph for this somewhere online if you google it properly...
     
    gakerty, Randoms, thejammy and 11 others like this.
  4. patient_ot

    patient_ot Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    If you look at objective tests done with proper equipment, cost doesn't always equal performance. There is expensive gear out there that is truly state of the art and the numbers look good. There is also expensive stuff that performs way worse than you'd expect. Likewise, there is cheaper stuff that tests very well and cheaper stuff that doesn't. That goes for everything, not just amps.
     
    zombiemodernist likes this.
  5. ShockControl

    ShockControl Forum Resident

    Location:
    USA
    Ask someone's who is young and who's hearing isn't shot what he or she thinks.
     
  6. Jeff Kent

    Jeff Kent Forum Resident

    Location:
    Mt. Kisco, NY
    Everyone has different ears, but has any audiophile magazine or site ever done blindfold type tests with equipment from a wide price range? From budget up through 'mortgage your house?'
     
  7. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    Objective testing will get you very far. Far enough? Some might say not, others might know what they are talking about.
     
  8. Carrman

    Carrman Forum Resident

    Location:
    Toronto
    On paper, you can compare things but they won't tell you what you'll experience in real life, unfortunately.
    Speaker specifications are the worst for this. +/- xx dB on the treble and bass ends, etc. You really have to hear something and see the price at the same time to make decisions.
    You can find speakers that are extremely close in spec that do not sound the same. If you see speakers that have a very similar price, the spec won't help there either in my opinion.

    Not HiFi but in the synthesizer world, a MiniMoog Model D from the 70's will cost you around $10000. Moog recently reissued it for about $5000.
    Then a company called Behringer made a copy of it for $500 and it sounds EXACTLY the same as the original. $10000 worth of sound for $500? Wish Behringer would get into the HiFi business.

    And I know what you're thinking but I don't care if the components are made on the moon or if its assembled in a dumpster, it sounds exactly like the original, that's all that matters to me.
     
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  9. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    I've got an expensive-ish new SS preamp / power amp combo that measure (independently confirmed) 0.00023% and 0.00078% THD+N which I believe are very respectable figures, but soundwise they just don't convey anywhere near the emotion of far cheaper amps (SS & Tube) I've had in the same setup. I'm coming to the conclusion that my ears probably prefer a bit of distortion. Amps I've had costing less than $1000 are way better IMHO than this $3000 combo.
     
  10. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    You generally get what you pay for but not always. It isn't just amps that make or break a system but the entire chain, especially the preamp.

    I have bought lots of used equipment (and some new stuff too) but only after doing extensive research and read what professional reviewers have to say. When several are in agreement and give the item a stellar review for the same reasons I pull the trigger.

    I have NOT been disappointed and everything the reviewers wrote coincides with what I hear.

    As I moved up the food chain more expensive equipment made my audio system sound better and better.

    There is NOTHING OBJECTIVE - it is all SUBJECTIVE. Only tech specs are objective and as I concluded more than 40 years ago - specs don't matter too much - it is what the component sounds like that makes or breaks it.
     
  11. Mike from NYC

    Mike from NYC Forum Resident

    Location:
    Surprise, AZ
    let's be blunt, you bought something that doesn't match your concept of music and may not be right for your system. My Bel Canto REF 600s blow away cheaper amps.
     
  12. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    I don't think so. Sure there are some exceptions, but rarely and that's not to say that there isn't some great sounding less expensive equipment. I doubt you could get Steve Hoffman or any other experienced person that has climbed the sonic ladder of audio equipment for decades to agree with this statement.
     
  13. Tullman

    Tullman I prefer analog

    Location:
    Boston MA
    When my old CAT mono's were in the shop, I put a NAD power amp that was rated 50 watts/channel greater than the CATs. My system sounded anemic with the NAD, because the NAD had no nads.
     
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  14. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    Huh, huh, huh... He said... nads.
    -Bill
     
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  15. KT88

    KT88 Forum Resident

    This is true. The bit about the Moog and the Behringer is wishful thinking though. It is possible for it to emulate the Moog under some conditions, but not with the crap amps that Behringer makes. They also have horrendous reliability records on most everything they make. It isn't just less expensive, it's cheaper...
    -Bill
     
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  16. ScottRiqui

    ScottRiqui Member

    Location:
    Fort Worth, Texas
    I think audiophile magazine reviews generally exaggerate the differences between various components, so they're probably not very interested in advertising what stringent blind A/B/X testing might reveal. After all, I don't think anyone ever passed Richard Clark's "Amplifier Challenge," either, and that's a very basic test - can you repeatedly tell the difference between *any* two amplifiers if they're level-matched and both operating within their linear range (i.e. not clipping)?
     
  17. MC Rag

    MC Rag Forum Resident

    Exactly and I don't think there is an objective way to define the quality of an amp.
     
  18. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    Location:
    UK
    But when it worked it was Go.... oh never mind.
     
  19. Randoms

    Randoms Aerie Faerie Nonsense

    Location:
    UK
    Simple answer, no.

    The difference between heating up a resistor when fed a test tone and driving the real world complex loads of a pair of loudspeakers is substantial.
     
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  20. Newton John

    Newton John Searching for the Lost Chord

    Location:
    Tynedale, UK
    Complicated answer, also, no.

    You are asking for "Objective ways to measure" two things that are highly subjective: our perceptions of sound quality and afforability.
     
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  21. Wired4Fun

    Wired4Fun Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Cary, NC
    Thanks for all the answers folks. Appreciate it.
     
  22. ledzepp

    ledzepp Well-Known Member

    Location:
    USA
    The technical specifications (and the verification of the specs’s claims) can help reduce the number of brands/models to search through.

    I’ve been paying attention recently to the ASR site, master index of hardware reviews. It’s primarily for sub-3K hardware but there are some gems in the list.
     
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  23. missan

    missan Forum Resident

    Location:
    Stockholm
    There is a logical fallacy here. Objective must always be more accurate than subjectice, by far.
     
  24. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    Wrong. No offense but not even close. With few exceptions we're in this game to improve sound quality and that is what we spend our money on.
     
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  25. avanti1960

    avanti1960 Forum Resident

    Location:
    Chicago metro, USA
    I agree- but who among us is objective?
     

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