Qualities of a good amplifier


I am relatively new here and looking for useful opinions and points of view.

My thread’s title is a question: what are the qualities you consider the most desirable in an audio amplifier?
My interest is not so much in which amplifier you have or promote and why, but in Generale what you think are the qualities that make an amplifier desirable - be it looks, shape, sound, whatever.


I think that most Members would agree that the amp needs to look good, as well as sound good. It needs to be well built (which I hope is a given with Naim products), and needs to be serviceable if something goes wrong.

Beyond that, it needs to do its job - that is, to process the incoming signal well (the pre or control amp) and drive your chosen 'speakers well (the power amp).

Naim pre and power amps do these jobs as they should, so the deciding factors will be what inputs the preamp is being called upon to process; and how much power you need to drive your chosen 'speakers.

If you’re starting from scratch, you need to find a good dealer who will help you to make and narrow down your choices, so that you can get on with what this hobby is all about, listening to your favourite music.

Hope this helps. If you need further guidance, just ask away, as there are many knowledgable and helpful Members on this Forum.

It goes up to 11!

  1. Sound
  2. Manufacturer support & serviceability
  3. Build Quality & reliability
  4. Efficiency (power consumption)
  5. Looks, shape, design
  6. Price (taking into account all of the above)

4 has recently been promoted as a priority, which may well rule out inefficient Class A amps or those using valves.


If #4 is a priority, then Class D amps - the good ones, and it seems there are some - should be at #1.
Your reply makes me aware of the recent energy issues, which somehow spoils the pleasure of idling discussing amps… But you’re right. I’ll take a look at Class D models too.

Well it is only at No.4 in the list of priorities for me (and here Naim do pretty well on efficiency). Sound will always be at No.1 and I’m not yet entirely convinced about Class D on that score, even when it’s done (very) well.


Form factor and system synergy as a whole play a part here also. Do you have an integrated preamp and power amp, are the power amp and preamp in seperate boxes, do the amps have their own power supply or external ones, are the power amps in the speakers or further beyond that is all the amplification and digital source handled within the speaker itself.
The best advice is take your time and go and spend some time with local dealers listening to as much kit as you can ideally with the music you like and are familiar with.
There’s also an argument to focus on getting the source product right first, be that a turntable, digital streamer or whatever and then optimise down the chain incrementally as you go.
It’s tempting to buy really nice speakers and then have insufficient budget left to drive them, you’ll likely find it more rewarding to have as good a source as you can fund and improve the amp and speakers over time.

I understand. But still, your remark (rightly) reminded me of the last months’ hammering alarms on the energy crisis. I know that Naim amps are great at low consumption. And I know that tube amps are not…

There are also cost and environmental issues in using and transporting large quantities of copper for those big transformers, plus multiple aluminium cases etc.

I expected members to elaborate on sound characteristics too… Like, I love detail, I prefer tight bass, I go for a warm and non-fatiguing sound, I am definitely for impact and dynamics, I prioritize imaging.
So, more specific opinions are welcome!

A good amplifier should sound right with your speakers in your room, and should match your music taste perfectly.

I have Naim and other brand amps, they all have their pros and cons, Naim is very musical has an addictive body all over the sound, if you only will have one consider a listening.

Other brands can have better and more addicting soundstage, create a more credible 3D image, be more or less controlled, have a even more realistic sounding, be more detailed, but also can be a lot worse depending on what you are searching for you.

Also Naim has some quirks, no stand by, DIN makes no sense for me even if their gear is made to sound better with DIN, power supply’s buzz, hiss on twitters, and a lot more quirks you will have to accept, their power supply’s are expensive, their servicing is not cheap. But from what I have read here Naim support their gear for a long, long time and that gives confidence on the brand.

If you want to listen to music all day without listening fatigue you can’t go wrong with Naim.

For me the sign of a good system is that you forget all this stuff completely because it just draws you into the music and you no longer focus on specific characteristics.
There are noticeable differences, such as the extra bass extension and punch you get from a NAP250 compared to a 200 for example, but I prefer not to focus on the specifics.

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For me the amp should allow me to enjoy the music or voice that is being played through it. For 30 years amplifiers were part of the furniture and dominated the various rooms they have inhabited, and were a bit of a distraction or talking point. Now they are hidden away and I don’t think about them and enjoy the music, radio and television all the more.


False economy. You don’t leave either of those on 24/7. 20 mins before listening session; then off when done. Anything else and tubes won’t last long. My wasteful tube amp might drag 100w constantly but it’s only on for a couple hours every other day.

In reality, their usage restrictions probably make them consume far (far far far) less power than an always on A/B or similar amp over a year.

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I’ll assume that you mean both pre and power. Or integrated.
For me, the only qualities that I require is that I can listen to music and not have my attention drawn too easily to a deficit in the sound. If the music is smooth it is smooth, if it’s edgy then it should sound edgy. Never too bright and never too dull. A good amp should deliver the qualities of the music.

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thanks for your accurate impressions.
Actually, what we call DIN sockets:


have been the standard connection for audio signals in the 60s and 70s across Europe. RCA plugs were never intended for line originally. Naim is rather correct in this. Hiss in the tweeters is a known fact, but it’s very very low in normal conditions; if it’s too evident it may be more a problem of the tweeter…

I am familiar with the ‘Naim sound’; it favors flow and rhythm, not a bad thing. Some people prefer not to have such good timing at home but rather a more relaxed, 3D hologram. It’s matter of taste I think.




yours and the previous post seem to focus on the system’s ability to be ‘right’. I understand this, but it’s the concept of rightness that may benefit from some tentative descriptions… Because clearly if the sound is right for you, it matches your taste (as @sonwleo wrote) and hence has to sport some definite sonic features. It’s what I was curious about - people’s preferences in sonic signatures.


I find there’s no need to leave a power amp always on, even a Naim one. I switch mine on about half an hour before I sit down to listen and then off at the end of a listening session.


That’s useful clarification. What about power supplies, is it best to leave them on or off?

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I generally leave the supplies for the pre-amp and phono stage on unless I’m not going to be using them for a few days.