Usable watts


Well-Known Member
Feb 4, 2019
Ralph then Marc got me thinking about usable watts. We all see amps with watt ratings. But how many usable watts do you get before the amp starts to soft clip, compress,distort.

I have a 50 watt KT88 PP amp and it appears to play much louder before clipping than a 27 watt SET amp I also have. I was surprised how quick the SET seemed to loose its dynamics.

How manufacture dependent is this. How topology dependent. As in tube, SS, Digital

To make the question more complex, shall we also consider how hard one may need to drive an amp to get to its sweet spot. I believe I have heard certain SS amps have more noise when running under power. That they need a load to reach optimum low distortion levels.


Well-Known Member
Jun 13, 2013
E. England
Rex, I wont ever consider a spkr that needs a big jolt to wake it up. Got to get into cruise mode in few Watts and maybe only 50W to really push things.

For me that means horns or high efficiency like Zu.

Critically in my opinion the sound needs to be tonally saturated at low to medium levels, and then have sufficient reserves for jump factor dynamics.

It's a reason I moved from Audion Black Shadows to Nat SE2SEs. I did dally with the idea of owning Apogee Duettas, but in my room 4x size of a more typical space, I had zero confidence I could rely on medium power triodes to saturate the room. And so that ship sailed.

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