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The challenge !
The challenge !
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Old 29th October 2002, 04:21 PM   #1
thylantyr is offline thylantyr  United States
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Default The challenge !

I just stumbled across one of the car audio forums
and found the Richard Clark forum. He's a celebrity
in the car audio sector. I don't know the details
but he has an open challenge (for many years now)
to see if a person can indentify one amplifier over
another one. You have to sit in on his test
and let him do the A/B switching of amps which
is unknown to you. I don't know the details, but
both amplifiers must be zeroed out, ie, no bass boost,
etc. and both amplifiers must be of equal power
levels. He claims nobody is able to identify based
in his testing of audiences for years. The guess rate is
50% which he claims is "just a guess".

Someone asked if they can audition a class d vs. a class a
amplifier and he said, sure as long as you bandwidth
limit the class a to match the class d. Isn't this
just a magician holding the cards while he amazes
you with this magic ? lol

Someone said is a $10k challenge, I dunno.

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Old 29th October 2002, 06:30 PM   #2
farrar is offline farrar
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It is a $10K challenge.
I believe that one is supposed to be able to identify an amplifer playing 1K test tones 10 out of 10 times. I don't believe that you are allowed to use music or voice for the tests.
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Old 29th October 2002, 07:01 PM   #3
eLarson is offline eLarson  United States
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Too bad he couldn't at least make it pink noise or a cluster of tones. I'm pretty sure he'll never have to cut that check.

BTW: does he mention at what volume he plays that 1kHz tone?

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Old 29th October 2002, 08:19 PM   #4
jwb is offline jwb  United States
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I couldn't find the challenge on the page you mentioned, but a 1kHz sine wave tone is a stupid test. No matter what equipment is used, you will just think it is annoying. Those car audio guys are deaf like tree stump in any case.
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Old 29th October 2002, 09:39 PM   #5
thylantyr is offline thylantyr  United States
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I don't know where the challenge is, but you can
post a request on that link, it's his forum, he'll
send the challenge via email. I was told he plays music.

Here is your chance for an easy $10k .....
train your ears for the competition - lol
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Old 29th October 2002, 10:17 PM   #6
farrar is offline farrar
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Here is the challenge as I found it posted on the Car Sound forum.
I stand corrected, as he does allow you to listen to music.
OOPS it is too long, I will have to post it as two separate pieces.

THE $10,000 AMPLIFIER CHALLENGE RULES {April 21, 2000}
By Richard Clark

There is no question that all amps are not the same. It is very easy to measure large differences in the performance of amplifiers. This is true in nearly every known specification, including power, noise, distortion, etc. My experience has led me to believe that even though these differences can be easily measured, hearing those differences may not be so easy. Given the relatively small magnitude of performance differences, there is a giant step between amplifier performance and our ability to hear performance differences.
It is claimed by designers, manufacturers and especially salespersons that differences in amplifiers are clearly audible. Reasons include "obvious" advantages of one type of circuit topology over another. For example, it is claimed that certain designs have a smoother midrange response whereas other amplifiers exhibit tighter bass. Tube fanatics claim that tube amplifiers have that "warm" sound we all need in our systems.
Such descriptive terms are certainly subject to personal interpretation. It is not my intention to determine if one particular amplifier is better than another amplifier. Differences in the quality of the discrete components and constructions are more appropriate for settling the issue of "good - better - best." The sole purpose of my amplifier challenge is to determine if the differences in amplifiers are audible.

What differences are Audible?

I believe the perceived differences in amplifiers are all due to various factors that can be explained with basic physics and elementary psyco-acoustics. For instance, if two amplifiers are not carefully matched in volume, and one amp is slightly louder than the other, then it would be a simple matter to detect such a difference. In such an example it is important to understand that it is not the circuit topology, quality of the component, design excellence, or superb marketing and packaging that caused the noticeable difference - it was an error in the test setup! It is my present belief that as long as a modern amplifier is operated within its linear range (below overload), the differences between amps are inaudible to the human ear.

Comparing Amps

The idea here is for a test subject to scientifically demonstrate his/her ability to hear differences in amplifiers. It is our job to carefully match the amps so that we are comparing "apples to apples" instead of "oranges to frogs." This means that we sure wouldn't want to compare one amplifier that had + 12 dB of high frequency boost against another amplifier that was adjusted for + 12 dB of bass boost. Such a test would be easy to pass - even on identical amplifiers with consecutive serial numbers.
For our comparison test, we aren't concerned with which amplifier sounds best to the test subject. We only require that the listener be able to identify each amplifier when it is powering the speakers. Since many folks seem to believe that amplifiers have some kind of distinctive sonic character, this test should be easy to pass. Right? After all, we're talking about comparing those harsh sounding, high distortion, squeaky "widget As" to those warm sounding, smooth, bass hog "widget Bs."
Now pay particular attention to the following sections. Since we're looking for differences in amplifiers, and we already know that those differences are probably going to be very, very small, it is important that the parameters under our control be carefully adjusted so as to be equal as possible. This means that we must be cognizant of differences we might unknowingly introduce between amp A and amp B. They must be adjusted as identical as possible. We already mentioned the importance of volume. The same goes for the L and R balance. It sure would be easy to choose an amplifier that exhibited left side bias over a balanced amp. Right?
Well, in order to keep this amplifier comparison test fair, there are a few other parameters that must be considered. I'll list them all in the following section.

Amplifier Comparison Test Conditions

1. Amplifier gain controls - of both channels - are matched to within +- .05 dB.

2. Speaker wires on both amps are properly wired with respect to polarity. (+ and -)

3. That neither amp has signal phase inversion. If so correction will be made in #2 above.

4. That neither amp is loaded beyond its rated impedance.

5. That all amplifiers with signal processors have those circuits bypassed. This includes bass boost circuits, filters, etc. If frequency tailoring circuits cannot be completely bypassed an equalizer will be inserted in the signal path of one (only one and the listener can decide which) of the amps to compensate for the difference. Compensation will also be made for input and output loading that affects frequency response. Since we are only listening for differences in the sonic signature of circuit topology, the addition of an EQ in one signal path only should make the test even easier.

6. That neither amp exhibits excessive noise (including RFI).

7. That each amp can be properly driven by the test setup. Not normally a problem but it is theoretically a problem.

8. That the L and R channels are not reversed in one amp.

9. That neither amp has excessive physical noise or other indicators that can be observed by the listener.

10. That neither amp has DC OFFSET that causes audible pops when its output is switched.

11. That the channel separation of all amps in the test is at least 30 dB from 20Hz to 20kHz.

Page 1 of 2

In addition to these requirements the test will be conducted according to the following rules.
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Old 29th October 2002, 10:19 PM   #7
farrar is offline farrar
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Amplifier Test Comparison Rules

1. To make things easy we would prefer to use high quality home type loudspeakers for the test. If our speakers are not acceptable, the listener can provide any commercially available speaker system as long as it uses dynamic drivers. The actual measured impedance cannot exceed the rated load impedance of the amplifiers tested. If, however, the tester would like to perform the test in a car, we will use a car, however, it will have to be provided by the test subject. For practicality we will have to limit the number of amplifier channels to four or less.

2. Amplifiers will be powered from the same power supply at a nominal 14 volts DC. (any voltage is OK as long as it is the same for both amps)

3. The test can be conducted at any volume desired; however, the amps will not be allowed to clip. In other words, listening volume can not exceed the power capacity of the smallest amp of the pair being tested. (power capacity will be defined as clipping or 2%THD 20Hz to 10kHz, whichever is less)

4. No test signals can be used - only commercially available music.

5. The listener can compare two amps at a time for as long as desired. For practical reasons we would like to keep this at least no more than a few hours. A test session will consist of 12 A/B sequences. Passing the test will require a positive identification of each amp for all 12 sequences. Remember, guessing will get you about 6 out of 12. If the differences are so great, and a subject can really hear the difference, then he/she should be able to do so for all 12 sequences.

6. To win the $10,000.00, the listener must pass two complete sessions of 12 comparisons. Passing the test means 24 correct responses.* The amp of choice can be compared to the same or a different amp in each session - challengers choice. We have many amplifiers in our demo inventory such as, but not limited to, Alpine, Rockford, Kicker, Phoenix Gold, Precision Power, MTX, Adcom, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sony, etc. You can pick any of them or bring your own.

7. All amps must be brand name, standard production, linear voltage amplifiers. This does not exclude high current amps. Amps can not be modified and must meet factory specs. They must be "car audio amplifiers designed to be powered from a car's electrical system."

8. Failure of an amp (this includes thermal shutdown) during the test will require that the test be repeated after repair or replacement or cooling of the amp. This means that the entire test session will have to be repeated.

9. The amps will not be overloaded during the session from either a voltage or current requirement.

10. To save time the listener will have to pass a quick 8 trial session to qualify for the extended 2 session test for the money prize. Any 2 amps can be used for this test. Passing this qualifying test will require at least 6 out of 8 correct answers.

11. The amplifier power up and/or power down sequence will not be acceptable for comparison. (The turn on/off noises of some amplifiers would give it away.)

12. Although anyone is welcome to take the test, only subjects employed in the car audio industry or Car Sound subscribers are eligible for the $10,000.00 prize.

13. Cost to take the test is $100.00. $300.00 for people representing companies. Payable in advance, scheduled appointments only. Done correctly the test takes several hours and I don't have the time if you aren't serious.

* Twelve correct responses in a row is certainly a lot of correct listening but $10,000 is also a lot of money for a few hours of easy listening. The way people describe the differences is that they are like night and day. I would certainly not have any trouble choosing between an apple and an orange 12 times in a row. When compared fairly I believe the differences in amps are much too small to audibly detect and certainly too small to pay large sums of extra money for. If I am wrong someone should be able to carefully take this test and win my money. Even if I am right, if enough people take the test eventually someone will take my money due to random chance. This is the reason for the large sample requirement. If you feel that you can easily pass this test but 12 sequences will give you "listening fatigue" I am willing to modify the requirements. Since the way it is being offered is a challenge and only my money is at risk I am willing to let a confident challenger "put his money where his ears are". If we are willing to make this a bet instead of a challenge, I am willing to drop 1 sequence for every thousand dollars put up by the challenger against my money. This would mean:

____My___________ _ _Your________Trails Required to win__
$10,000 to $0 = 12 Tries
$9,000 to $1,000 = 11 Tries
$8,000 to $2,000 = 10 Tries
$7,000 to $3,000 = 9 Tries
$6,000 to $4,000 = 8 Tries
$5,000 to $5,000 = 7 Tries
$4,000 to $6,000 = 6 Tries

I will not do the test with less than 6 trails. It would be statistically meaningless and reduce the challenge to mere gambling.
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Old 29th October 2002, 10:29 PM   #8
jwb is offline jwb  United States
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We have many amplifiers in our demo inventory such as, but not limited to, Alpine, Rockford, Kicker, Phoenix Gold, Precision Power, MTX, Adcom, Kenwood, Pioneer, Sony, etc
I'd be willing to grant Mr. Clark that all those amps sound exactly as bad as the others. I thought we were talking about serious equipment.
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Old 29th October 2002, 11:04 PM   #9
Dustin Haug is offline Dustin Haug
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I'd be willing to grant Mr. Clark that all those amps sound exactly as bad as the others.
Hey he says you can provide your own. If you've got better go for it.
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Old 29th October 2002, 11:27 PM   #10
AudioFreak is offline AudioFreak  Australia
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The challenge !
If I remember correctly, No DIY efforts are allowed and the amp must run from a car battery straight out of the box
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