Mastering Power Amplifiers

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by covenant66, Jun 12, 2006.

  1. covenant66

    covenant66 Guest

    I thought it might be a good topic to discuss amps.

    I know alot of guys use Bryston, Rotel and McIntosh. But what else is out there? What are the advantages of different brands in comparison to the others? What are studios like Sterling Sound using?

    Go into detail on your opinions on power amplifiers, if you would.
  2. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    Amps: This is one of the hardest pieces of equipment to buy. For one, no one that comes to your studio cares about your amp. They'll probably never see it. Another, it costs a good deal of money for a good one. Picking an amp is a time consuming expensive process. I've probably listened to about 20 amps so far in the last 10 years. I've found that specs don't mean much, talking to people and listening mean much more in finding amps to try out. There are different style of amp designs and they tend, but not always, have a particular kind of sound to their design. Basically what you want to do is try and find an amp that compliments your monitors and volume and just general taste.

    I have a Simaudio moon series amp. It wasn't the most pleasing amp I've listened to but it was one of the more critical amps at least for my setup. I heard many amps that I liked, and many I didn't like. Basically you want to figure out what you want to pay for an amp, then double it. Finding a shop in your area and getting them to let you listen to a bunch of different amps on the same monitors is great. You can get a sense of how different each amp can sound. a good amp will last you a very long time, a cheap (get me by) amp will get replaced every year or two.

    Some amps that I liked:
    Pass labs, mcintosh, Classe', Jeff Roland, BAT, Bel canto, Krell. this is just to name a few and by no means the end all be all. taste has a big roll to play too. there are many designs and configurations that are too numerous to mention.

    What monitors are you looking to power with an amp?
  3. covenant66

    covenant66 Guest

    After a few months of saving, listening at my local audiophile stores and posting on this and other message boards, I just purchased some Bowers and Wilkens 805s.

    I have been considering getting an older Bryston from Ebay, but the obvious drawback is that I couldn't possibly hear my monitors on them first. No local stores carry Bryston amps. I have heard the B&Ws on a new Rotel, and have listened to some McIntoshs as well.

    I want to get something that matches my monitors well and will not have to be replaced for many years. I have a real problem because there is not a wide variety of amps that I can really audition due to the lack of audiophile stores in my city.
  4. JoeH

    JoeH Well-Known Member

    Philadelphia, PA/ Greenville, DE
    Home Page:
    You could poke around at the B&W site, go to "support" and ask them what THEY recommend. (at least privately - they may not want to go on record publicly as to what THEY use ot test-drive their stuff...)

    My gut reaction is to tell you "Bryston" and be done with it, but there's a lot of good stuff out there that you may like just as much, or better. Shop around, even if it's just online.
  5. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    If a Bryston is handy, and at a decent price, I'd say get it even if you don't need it.
  6. redrabbit

    redrabbit Active Member

    Would there be a reason to use different amps when mixing and then mastering? If both tasks are held within the same studio, it seems it would not. If at different facilities, then my question is not valid....(what are the chances??ha).
    The reason I ask, is that a good mastering facility will (should?) have a seperate listening area.....and more attention is paid to equiptment choice (speaker, amps, converters)....
    I am not a pro, but I see sound quality issues discussed more ernestly when the topic is mastering.....I would think it should be just important in the beginning of a recording, as at the end ???

  7. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Good point -

    But yes, the better the chain on the way in = the better control on the way out.

    Admittedly though, when I was a tracking / mixing type, I always tried to go for "bang for the buck" and "adequate" on everything (as "everything" was so MANY things). On the mastering side, it was "less is more" and "no compromises." Which I think is typical thinking for the most part.

    A mastering studio will spend $10,000 on compressors. So will a recording studio. But the recording studio might get 20 or 30 channels of compression for $10k, while the mastering facilitiy gets 4. A mastering facility will drop $12-15,000 on a pair of speakers - A recording studio will drop the same on a case full of microphones.

    It's all about what's needed and what it's worth in the end.

    But no doubt - Most (okay, how do I say this...) "professional" studios I hang out / hung out in have relatively serious monitoring systems... It's not like they're using nearfields as mains or something. It's the one place for sure that there should be as little compromise as possible.
  8. Brandon

    Brandon Guest

    for the B&W's i would have to recommend Bryston.

    forget ebay, spend the dough and buy new.

    Bryston come with a 25 year warranty and sound very open and clear, very representative of what the high-end consumer might hear.

    Ultra-stable they are also.

    If the budget is tight, Rotel is always a great choice.

    If you want to hear things as the average consumer might hear, maybe good idea to have a Yamaha receiver on hand, preferrably one with pre-out/main in, just unhook the jumpers and plug into main-in.

    I'm a beginner in the mastering field, but I worked for many high-end shops in the chicagoland area.

    That's my story and i'm sticking to it.
  9. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member

    Fredericksburg, VA
    Sorry - this is a repost, but because of the big dump that RO took a few days ago, I'll chime in again.

    B&W actually recommends Rotel.

    I heartily agree. Don't get me wrong, Bryston is nice, but when paired with a good Rotel amp, the B&Ws truly sing.

    The reason I bought my Rotel was based on a demo with a pair of B&W Nautilus speakers powered by the 120 W/channel 5 channel amp with their matching preamp. The sound was absolutely glorious - finer than most any other amp/speaker combo I'd heard to date. Oh, and the price is stupid cheap!

    Make sure your rack is sturdy though - these amps are NOT light.

    J. :cool:
  10. TrilliumSound

    TrilliumSound Active Member

    Montreal, Qc, CANADA
    Home Page:
    I used Rotel amps several years with B&W speakers too. They make a nice couple. When swithched to Bryston (2 x 3B's) I realised that the Rotels were a bit slower and/or rounder in the bass. Now I am used to Bryston which I find tighter on the bass but not necessarily more musical though.

  11. Don Grossinger

    Don Grossinger Distinguished past mastering moderator Active Member

    just north of NYC
    Home Page:
    B&W and Rotel are imported by the same parent company. Let your ears be your guide. Classe amps are also from the same company, but I think, are better than Rotel.

    I have in the past found Bryston a tad "hard". Some may find them "revealing".

    I do like Pass, Cello (no longer made), Spectral, among many others. I use a pair of Kinergetics Research KBA-202 Patinum monoblocks. I like monoblocks as a rule for ultimate build quality (they are often the showcases of a given manufacturer), stereo separation, "doing one thing right", tremendous power & reserve capabilities with no stress.
  12. StephenMarsh

    StephenMarsh Guest

    rough question - so subjective. I personally (not that anyone cares perhaps!) don't care for class D or MOSFET amps in general as they sound "hard" to my ears - I perfer discrete dual monblock designs with gigantic power supplies (to quote David Smith from Sony NY-" in the power supply") and bullet proof filtering. Most of the straight MOSFET amps are just too fast for me most of the time (did I leave that door open far enough?!)

    Amps I've used and loved in mastering rooms over the years -

    Bryston's-various (this is about as "hard" an amp as my ears can take, I use these on the PMC's in my room with Film Filters)
    McIntosh 75's (these can even make NS-10's sounds silky)
    Mark Levinson dual mono-blocks (used in the past and loved, though prone to breakdown with heavy studio use - mine died twice in 8 years) and
    Crown Reference amps (installed currently on my surround monitoring system and a steady fave for a few years now).

    I'll omit the list of amps I don't care for to protect the innocent though for mastering these days I would probably avoid tube amps like the Mc's as they don't give you the most translatable feedback.

    Quick aside - I'd never heard a $16,000 set of Dunlavy SC-V's go from sounding like the voice of God to sounding like a cheap PA system faster than the day we trying swapping out the Levinson 336 (dual monoblock) amp powering them with a MOSFET amp of similar cost (which shall remain nameless). Man did it sound awful. Granted, a different set of ears, a different set of speakers - it could be the other way around.

    Another note - I've found it can be helpful to find out what amp your speaker mfg used to voice your speakers at the factory, for instance, PMC uses amps from it's "sister" company, Bryston, to voice their speakers and you can be pretty sure PMC's will sounds pretty darn good on a Bryston amp. If nothing else - it's a starting point.

    Hope some of that helps--Steph
  13. bblackwood

    bblackwood Active Member

    I'ma big fan of the Nelson Pass designed amps - his Pass Labs X250 is stunning on the B&W N802s...
  14. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
    Welcome to the forum Stephen.
  15. StephenMarsh

    StephenMarsh Guest

    Thanks Micheal - I trust all is well. I just discoved it while googling the other night - very nice bunch of folks you've got here. I hope I don't offend anyone by just jumping in!

  16. Michael Fossenkemper

    Michael Fossenkemper Distinguished past mastering moderator Well-Known Member

    NYC New York
    Home Page:
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