buying an amplifier

The heart of your high-end system is your amplifier. It will boost the signal of your cd player, tuner, turntable etc. to your loudspeakers. I always had have a weakness for ´amps´, so I had have many of them. Right now I am more than happy with my current pre and power amplifier. More about that, in a later episode!

So, what is a good amplifier? This is a hard question to answer! There is not such a thing as a perfect amp. But when an amplifier suits to your system and your ears, you know you found yourself a good one!

We all know the one box amplifiers. Also called an integrated amplifier. They are the most common and they also start from low prices. With one box, I mean to say that an amplifier generaly consists of two different parts. One is the control or pre amplifier and the other part the power amplifier. As with the control part, we adjust volume, or select source. It will make the amounts of volts equal and ready for the power amplifier section.

Once your signal arrived in the poweramp area, it will 'amplify' the signal and it will drive your speakers. Easy does it! Of course there is a lot of science and math, making an amp work, but it's kind of boring!

What we need to know, is what kind of amplifier is good for us! We don't buy a car, because we like the figures and stats. We like it, because we like how it drives and feels.

Most common amplifiers use transistors. Yes, the same as we use in our laptops. The good thing, is that transistors can generate a lot of power and current. There are transistor amps from 100k untill 100.000k or more. So, a lot of choice!

Picking the right amplifier

So, let's say you want to have an integrated amplifier. You need to ask yourself first, what do you expect from it and what will you use it for? Then, look for amplifiers that match your needs. Keep it simple, would be my advice. Looks are deceiving and so do figures. Does it really do what it is designed for? Is it musical involving? Does it draw you into the music? Does it give you a big smile on your face? Buy it!!

Many people ( especially men ) are sensitive for impressive figures. For an amplifier, that is mostly done in the amount of WATTS it can deliver. For the record, that is totally not important at all. It doesn't say anything about the sound production it can deliver. A PA ( public address ) amplifier is very powerful and it ideal to use for drive-in disco's. But do you think it is suitable for your high-end system at home? Not at all! Keep that in mind. Besides that, figures are only a bunch of numbers on paper. I have witnessed how a Krell amplifier got blown away in drive and control by a self-made 30 Watts tube amplifier. Figures are a believe system that manufactures and sales people created and they would like to see it sustained. But I hope I can make a shift in that reality!

When I was working in a hifi-shop myself, it was a question I have heard often: "How many Watts does it deliver"? Especially, when they were together with their loved ones, who they tried to impress with intelligent questions:-) I do not blame them, I would have done the same if I was still ignorant with this subject!

During the 20 years I am a so called 'audiophile' I have had many many amplifiers. But there is one, I kept for almost 10 years. I was too attached to it. Why? It was incredibly musical involving. It sucked me into the music. It did not sound very bright or refined. Bass extenstion was not really tight or controlled either. It was a Musical Fidelity Avalon integrated amplfier. It operated in class A.(more about class A later on) Because Class A amps are highly biased they run very hot. In wintertime It did not give me only music, but also worked as a little heater! Now, this was an amp with charme!

So, what is my point? Look for an amp that wins you, using its charmes and musical presentation. Don't go for looks, or highly recommendations by magazines or what your neighbour thinks you should buy. Use your own jugdements and most of all your ears!