The "Spinal Tap" reference to the volume control that goes to "11" notwithstanding, there's a lot of confusion surrounding volume controls. There shouldn't be; the volume control setting has nothing to do with how loud an amp can play. Some folks mistakenly think that if you don't have to turn the knob up very far from the minimum setting to achieve high volume, that "proves" it's a powerful amp. No, not at all; the maximum volume level of any amp is determined not by how far you turn the knob, … Read more
In a perfect world, all 100-watt-per-channel amplifiers would be equally powerful. If we were talking about cars instead of amplifiers, you might suppose all cars with 300 horsepower are equally fast. But the weight of the car, gearing, and suspension tuning all play their parts, so performance expectations have to be based on more than just a single specification or number.
Before we go any further, I'd like to point out that the power spec's prime relevance lies in determining how loud a given set of speakers can play. Assuming the speakers can handle power, feeding them more power will produce louder sound levels. Sound quality is another matter, and isn't always associated with power, so the more powerful amp isn't necessarily the better-sounding amp. A few months ago I wrote a rave review of a 3.5-watt amplifier that sounded wonderful with my Zu Essence tower speakers. So just a couple of watts can sound amazing, and play louder than you'd think. Amplifier-speaker matching is more than a numbers game; knowledge of what works with what is a valuable commodity, so if you're lucky enough to have access to a top-notch hi-fi dealer or an experienced audiophile buddy, don't be afraid to ask for advice. … Read more
Amplifier power is measured in watts, as in "100 watts per channel," but what does that really mean? Do all 100 watt per channel receivers deliver 100 watts? And what about those "1000 watt" home theater in a box systems? Are they more powerful than 2,000 A/V receivers? And what about high-end 100 watt per channel high-end power amps? Are all watts created equal? I don't think so!
Unfortunately power ratings are a near meaningless way to compare the loudness potential of one receiver, amplifier, or HTIB against another. That's what power … Read more