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Podcast #33 – How much amplifier power do we REALLY need?

  • 86dB. That’s the sensitivity rating of the TuneTot – a two-way, ported mini-monitor – as measured by its maker, Wilson Audio. What does this mean for the listener? A single watt of amplifier power will generate 86dB of sound pressure levels (SPL) when measured one metre in front of the TuneTot. This is typical standmount behaviour when all but the lowest of bass must come from a 5 or 6″ driver playing from inside a pint-size cabinet. The KEF LS50 Meta, which I also own, clock in at 85dB. And if I sit one meter in front of the KEF, one watt of amplifier power will cause sound pressure levels to reach 85dB on an SPL meter.

    My smartphone’s SPL meter tells me that, when I sit in my listening chair, two and half metres away from the KEF or the Wilson, ‘low-level listening’ comes on song at 63dB and that ‘loud’ begins at 75dB. A happy medium – let’s call it a comfortable listening level – lives somewhere between 70dB and 72dB.

    Now comes the spicy finding. According to 6moons’ Srajan Ebaen, we should subtract 10dB from our loudspeaker’s sensitivity rating to tell us what one watt of amplifier power would give us when sitting three metres away from the loudspeaker. I sit just shy of that. The Wilson TuneTot would therefore give me a little more than 76dB in the seat from one watt of amplifier power. The KEF, a little more than 75dB. But wait: this is where music begins to get loud for me. Could it be that all my listening was being driven by a single watt of amplifier power?

    This question set the stage for Srajan Ebaen’s second turn in the podcast driving seat. A turn that would tackle this very topic – and many many more – to take us into Godfather II territory. We talked for two and a half hours. (The Podfather II, anyone?) Any attempts to hack this episode down to size were thwarted by a conversational flow that simply couldn’t be broken without cutting the listener adrift. At the very end, you’ll hear me talk about splitting the preceding conversation into two episodes. That plan was also thwarted by the interconnectedness of topics such as how loud we listen, why we still need big-watt amplifiers, how we listen, what we glean from certain music genres and how we choose which hi-fi hardware to review.

    Listen via SoundCloud, Spotify, Apple Podcasts, TuneIn or the embedded player below:

    As mentioned in this podcast…

    Enleum AMP-23R

    Wilson Audio TuneTot

    Zu Audio Soul 6

    Pass Labs 30.8 XA

    Kinki EX-B7

    Cube Audio

    Klipsch Forte IV

    Buchardt A500

    KEF KC62

    Genelec G Two

    Genelec F Two

    RAAL-Requisite SR1a

    iFi iDSD Pro

    Final D8000

    Vinnie Rossi Brama

    Written by John

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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