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I've seen many ads for amplifiers that include the words "clean power" somewhere in the description. Usually it's associated with an "old school" amp but, not always. I've seen the term used to describe expensive, hand-built models as well. This has long intrigued me. While I am willing to accept the premise of "clean power", the very idea of such a thing would necessitate the existence of "dirty power".

So what is it?
In my mind I see an amplifier with a mean looking goatee not unlike the one Mr. Spock sported in that Star Trek episode where the crew of the Enterprise gets trapped in a universe entirely opposite of their own.


Seriously though, I assume for power to actually be "dirty' it would have to contain a lot of unnatural elements like static, distortion, etc. However, it's been my experience that most such issues are caused by overdriven signal, poor grounding or possibly even faulty connectors. Has anyone ever actually experienced an amplifier producing "dirty power" of its own accord?
 

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Low quality and often cheap amplifiers do not produce as clean of power as mid-upper level amplifiers. Would most call the power they produce dirty? Compared to what? Power that has less than 1%THD+N is considered "clean", but some higher end amplifiers produce cleaner power.

This is how "I" look at Clean Vs Dirty power.
 

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the way people use it, it seems like they assume some amps put out outrageous amounts of distortion, which isnt really the case unless theyre being clipped. so its just a bs term to say "this is a good amp"

some people also refer to it as amps that wont do rated power, since once they do get to said power, theyre being clipped to hell and back
 

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Power is power is power. People that use "clean power" and "dirty power" are tools.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
i bet if you asked someone who used these terms, they also wouldnt know how to answer it lol
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Power is power is power. People that use "clean power" and "dirty power" are tools.
This is my general feeling as well. Just hoping to dispel a myth that some manufacturers would intentionally build a product that sounded "bad".
I've seen some low S/N numbers and even some THD ratings well above 1% on occasion but, I've never actually heard a bad amplifier.
Seems like someone of some prominence on this board once stated that you'd be hard pressed to notice as much as 10% THD above common road noise in the auto environment. If that is actually true, you'd have to build a pretty bad amplifier (or head unit) for it to be noticeable.
I say....dirty power is a myth!
 

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I don't think "dirty power" is a myth, I think the term is just ambiguous with no clear definition.

If someone says an amp has 100 watts of "clean power" and they mean that it'll hit 100 watts before clipping, then it's not a myth, those 100 watts are "clean" and everything after that isn't, because it's clipped.

High fidelity has so many ambiguous terms that it's difficult to make meaning out of them sometimes. Terms like "warm" and "harsh" could be very legitimate terms, if everyone agreed on what they mean, but we don't, resulting in nonsensical conversations.
 

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'Clean power' and 'dirty power' are terms commonly used in the field of electrical engineering when talking about the quality of AC power available from the grid. i.e. 'AC Mains'.

Dirty power is noisy, may wander around in frequency and is unstable in voltage.

Some third world countries are considered to have "dirty power". Some generators produce "dirty power", and many cheap DC to AC power inverters produce dirty power because they do not product pure sinusoidal outputs.

Perhaps some marketers simply borrowed these terms?
 

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'Clean power' and 'dirty power' are terms commonly used in the field of electrical engineering when talking about the quality of AC power available from the grid. i.e. 'AC Mains'.

Dirty power is noisy, may wander around in frequency and is unstable in voltage.

Some third world countries are considered to have "dirty power". Some generators produce "dirty power", and many cheap DC to AC power inverters produce dirty power because they do not product pure sinusoidal outputs.

Perhaps some marketers simply borrowed these terms?
Exactly! When terms don't have a clearly defined meaning, people use them in many different ways, mostly because they don't understand what's going on and want to describe them in a relatively understandable way. It's the ambiguity of jargon that makes communication difficult.
 

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It's the ambiguity of jargon that makes communication difficult.
And marketers only makes it worse.

I work in a highly technical business and we had to finally stop using publishing and marketing firms for our press. The articles they would write for us made no sense whatsoever. It seemed as if they Googled a bunch of random words similar to what they found on our website, mashed them together into paragraphs and threw the "draft" over to us for review/edit. It was easier to write press pieces from scratch than try to unravel their nonsense into something useful.
 

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And marketers only makes it worse.

I work in a highly technical business and we had to finally stop using publishing and marketing firms for our press. The articles they would write for us made no sense whatsoever. It seemed as if they Googled a bunch of random words similar to what they found on our website, mashed them together into paragraphs and threw the "draft" over to us for review/edit. It was easier to write press pieces from scratch than try to unravel their nonsense into something useful.
That drives me wild! I am finishing my EE degree, but before that I studied Philosophy. I'm amazed at how nonsensical some technical publications are, simply because the person who wrote them only knew one thing. I take a lot of pride in my communication skills. Even the most complicated, technical information can be made much easier to follow when someone with the ability to communicate effectively is in charge of compiling the information.
 

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This is my general feeling as well. Just hoping to dispel a myth that some manufacturers would intentionally build a product that sounded "bad".
I've seen some low S/N numbers and even some THD ratings well above 1% on occasion but, I've never actually heard a bad amplifier.
Seems like someone of some prominence on this board once stated that you'd be hard pressed to notice as much as 10% THD above common road noise in the auto environment. If that is actually true, you'd have to build a pretty bad amplifier (or head unit) for it to be noticeable.
I say....dirty power is a myth!
Many years ago (2005 or so) we had a customer who had a bad channel on his MTX amplifier, which was already then at least 5 years old. I don't remember the model or anything, 4 ch. he had infinity kappa perfect components, alpine head unit. Anyway, he was a good customer and my boss had me put in a loaner amp while we sent his MTX off for repair. The loaner amp was a 4 ch scosche. Real cheap amp. It DID sound very different. It, compared to the MTX, really sucked. I mean it really didn't sound good. This was one example that I can think of where I definitely have heard an amplifier that didn't sound good. It's true, different amplification can and does change the sound of your system.

"Clean vs. dirty"? I don't know if I'd call it THAT.............I don't know what the hell to call it. Some amps do really suck though, I have my theories on how this could be quantified, maybe someday.............
 

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here's my take:

clean power, is like the old school XM Sony series, with the long straight fin design. That was the kind of amp you'd get at a car audio shop, and then there was the gold color, cheaper series that you could get from the same, audio shop. Then you went to Walmart, and they had these silver/blue versions of the Sony, and were built to a price/performance spec that was on paper, just about as good as the car audio shop model/series.


but it wasn't as clean, it was more dirty power.

As you moved up the line in Sony's old school offerings, they could put you into the deluxe stuff, the special goods that existed before Xplod was a marketing freshman's wet dream, you know the stuff...

but the old school "clean power" stuff ended at the lines right before Walmart came into the picture. I wouldn't want the same amp in gold, that Walmart sells in Blue/Gray even if the amp came with better internals, since it's a design that was able to beat Walmart's penny counters to come in at a price point. I wouldn't want anything that was designed to achieve just that.

Now, I have a Sony XM 6020, and it's about perfect for AB amp designs, except it's costly to produce. The Sanken outputs, probably cost more by themselves than the entire bill of materials for a piece of junk amp from today's offerings.

it puts out clean power, and dirty power. It's clean when I won't gas on it, but it can throw some dirty love when my twisty hand gets on the knob.

so, let's review:

clean power, is better goods mainly aimed at enthusiasts and designed to specifications that allow things like high cost outputs, or complementary symmetry architecture, Darlington, triple or not, better grade components in better made parts.

dirty power is the goods that are going to fill the hole, start the journey, and are found in the lower tiers of the audio supply chains. JC Whitney was a master distributor of dirty power, Cadence is the connoisseur's version, doing good with less. NVX might be today's equivalent, or VM Innovations brand equipment, dirty power built for the entry level market.

And of course, it goes without saying that clean power can climb right through the audio shop roof to the boutique sportists, who deliver Euro-goods via online merchandising, this site stokes the fires of quite a few vaude-villains, able to procure the exotica that supplants the erotica...

yes, Swedish Erotica, that old timeless classic, back-magazine marketing, we should see an amp line from those guys, haha...
 

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Cajunner helped reinforce my point. "Clean power" and "dirty power" are examples of jargon that don't have an objective meaning. Using these phrases not only create confusion, but they don't mean anything without an objective meaning.

"Clean power" could mean power produced below a certain distortion percentage, it could mean power produced up to clipping, it could mean something more along the lines of quality equipment vs. cheap equipment.

This site has had a history of debunking myths and explaining things objectively, so that they actually mean something. We aren't trying to take the subjective experience out of enjoying music, or say that there are definite correct ways to do things and that all other ways are wrong, we are simply trying to explain things objectively so that they mean something useful.

Every hobby has it's jargon, but hi-fi has some of the most nonsensical jargon and snake oil of all. If someone uses terms like "clean power" or "warm" or "laid back" ask them what the hell they mean, they probably use those terms because they don't actually know what they mean. Don't be afraid to ask someone to explain the terms they use, you're not the idiot for not understanding, they have simply failed as the communicator to provide sensical information.
 

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well, it's a descriptor.

whether or not that descriptor is used excessively, correctly, or something else, entirely...


is often up for debate.


I wanted to illustrate that clean power is associated (loosely) with a time when you had to distinguish between the ultra clean, like the Denon/Nakamichi/Yamaha stuff, that had specs indicating extremely low distortion in their amplifiers, and some more American styled product that was not caught up in the ".00006% THD" wars, and therefore produced power that somehow, through the use of marketing genius, blows the doors off their Asian-engineered counterparts, from that period...

so two-angled, but not doble edge.

the clean power is reminiscent of marketing, you rarely hear of dirty power except in the comparisons in the brochures.

The biggest amps, JBL/Crown's A6000GTi, the Warhorse, the whatever, these are noted to supply "dirty power" since they can't muster extremely tight tolerances, but some would say they play the most cleanly, anyhow?

For the load, I should interject.


I so interject, I do...

:)
 
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