Amplifier wattage meters

January 11, 2022
 by Paul McGowan

32 comments on “Amplifier wattage meters”

  1. Meh…if you’re into VU meters on your home-audio amplifier then you’re
    probably not that much into the music; they are just a visual distraction.

    I had a Luxman – ‘M-120A’ forty years ago with L + R LED ‘strips’;
    far more accurate than VU’s.
    It looked like a Zylon.
    I had them switched off 95% of the time as I didn’t want the distraction.

  2. Agree, meters are very cool and a lot of folks may want them in their systems for aesthetic reasons. I also agree meters are pretty useless and provide no sonic benefits etc. Why not make a separate really cool looking “meter box” ,that the customer can opt to purchase, and connect to PS Audio amplifiers which is completely out of the signal path?

  3. In the late 1980’s, when I was 15, I went out and bought myself a powered mixer.
    It used two rows of LED lights of different collars to tell you if rather you were peaking out or not.
    Paul is right on the money when he said, “analog meeders are useless.”
    But also at the same time, analog meeders will lead you a stray in a recording studio.
    This is why a lot of the records that were made between 1960 and 1985 sounds kind of ruff.
    The studio techs were relying upon analog VU meeders.
    I’ve also been where Paul has been too.
    A lot of radio station operators didn’t know that they were over driving their transmitters because of the analog VU meeders.
    The digital VU meeders that use rows of LED lights, are in deed the best ones to use.
    That is, if you really need to know if you’re over driving your radio transmitter or making your recordings a little too hot.
    Too bad that I can’t see how to use any such meeders anymore these days.
    I yoost to have fun just watching them!
    I enjoyed looking at the different collar lights flash off and on.

  4. I did and still do enjoy the meters on vintage equipment immensely especially on my SX-1980. I am sure it was and perhaps is a selling point much like added artistry on a cars interior or exterior (for example). Has no real use but is enjoyed by the consumer. Most companies would rather invest the $ on circuitry design vs eye candy. The real question is why more companies do not use Clipping indicators on their power amps. Many tweeters would have been saved in the process.

  5. Ah yes, the romanticism of the analog VU meter… thin black needle, fine lettering & numbers on a off white backdrop with the segmented numbered black and red arc. (Sometimes with the gratuitous inset red PEAK led). As soothing and therapeutic as watching flames from the fire. While some fire purists only revel in the heat and crackle and call the flame a gimmicky distraction, I personally love them both. If I had a roaring fire to my left and a pair of slow dancing volume unit meters rhythmically dancing with the music to my right, I would soon suffer from delightful darting neck pain…..

    But enough of the whimsical goo, let’s get down to the science.
    Because someone here ALWAYS has to blurt out some science. It’s a rule.
    SO:
    Speed of light = 299,792,458 meters per second. (186,000 miles per second for my southern neighboring ‘muricans – metric – it’s OK, you’ll get there SOME day…)
    Speed of sound = 343 meters per second. (767 miles per hour)
    SO
    IF you were to sit precisely .716 meters (2.35 feet) from your speakers and your VU laden vintage amplifier is exactly 3.44 meters (11.3 feet) away, and you take into account the lag of the meter design itself, the average time of the aural & visual human brain synapses, hemispherical location, eye blinking rate, current beer consumption, strength of your old fart glasses, where you reside on the solar flare VU index, the peak of the audio signal will hit your ears at precisely the same time as the VU meter peak hits your eyes. See? A perfect blend of audio bliss and natural science. And I did all that without a calculator.
    Einstein was an amateur.
    Yes, sometimes I just sit here just to hear myself type.

      1. Ya, if your moniker is accurate, I’m on the same relative follicle level as you… except my vacancy area is further back – right about where a Jewish Kippah would live. (Kippah, Kippen – HAH! Just realized that now ). Either my thinning hair is ebbing or rain drops are getting larger and much heavier. And colder.

  6. I have LED bar graph level meters on my LMS (Loudspeaker Management System) and these are quite useful to determine when I’m approaching / in clipping. It beats clearing amplifier fuses or worse, damaging speakers or amplifiers.

  7. On this one topic, I agree with Paul. Meters on an amplifier are like tits on a bull. I prefer functionality over fakery.

    Of course where meters make sense is on recording equipment, like on my vintage Pioneer RT-707 reel to reel. Not only do I get to enjoy big bouncing needles, I also get to enjoy watching the reels go round and round.

    I donโ€™t really listen to magnetic tape any more. The reel to reel player is just for visual entertainment, and nostalgia ๐Ÿ˜‰

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=3wgSZSuUvqw&t=36s

  8. Reminds me of one of the begind-the-scenes stories from ‘Star Trek: The Next Generation’ TV series. In shipboard scenes, they often showed ducts or portals on the bulkhead labelled ‘DNGN-001’ (or similar). Apparently, the acronym stood for ‘Does Nothing Goes Nowhere’ but it did lend some gravitas to the appearance of the set. (It looked cool!)

        1. Sitting down & listening to canned music for 4 hours at a time is seen by some people as a useless, or pointless, exercise, but I enjoy it.
          Your question is very subjective Peter.

          Maybe the better word would be ‘pointless’ instead of “useless”.

          1. Something we all missed! PSAudio makes gear with peak power indicatorโ€” my much appreciated Stellar Power Plant 3 can tap into its giant reservoir caps when Mahler occasionally and for a short time goes to 11. That is when an indicator light flickers. Better watch the volume.

              1. LEDs only way, otherwise just like mammous bulls.
                300 watts continuous, 500 watts for 30 seconds, 900 watts for not very long. When Joe Morello at Carnegie Hall gets busy with Castilian Drums. Oh yes.

                *If you ever liked Brubeck, but thought you’d had enough — get this one. Trust me on this.

                Not only but also, we have ‘Audio Tools’ on iPhone, including an analog SPL meter. As fast as you want, holds peaks.

    1. I’m with Peter…. While the meters are needed, when I have a flashback to the Hendrix, Pink Floyd, Sly Stone, and Iron Butterfly moments, I like to see those meters jump. I do this when I am taking a break from Miles, Coltrane, and Bird.

  9. I recently bought a vintage Marantz amp to drive two pairs of extension speakers because it had analog peak meters. It does the job and sounds decent, but those meters are super cool! Of course, when I listen to my ARC gear, I don’t care that it doesn’t have meters. Or tone controls for that matter.

  10. For most, music systems are for enjoyment. That enjoyment can come through any sensory modality that gives it to you. Many get enjoyment from the beautiful wood plinth on their turntable – which may or may not contribute to the sound quality. Some more appreciate the utilitarian aesthetic of a very basic design. Some take great pleasure in knowing that their speakers measure well with sophisticated measurement systems. Others place that criterion well down on the list of attributes that define whether they like a speaker. I owned a GAS Grandson amplifier at one time. It had mechanical meters that couldn’t follow the musical peaks. I still very much enjoyed watching them. If someone wants to term that a variant of “McIntosh mental masturbation”, I couldn’t care less.

    How many here read the following on a well-known objectivist audio site: โ€œYep, I remember seeing some of their old measurements and seeing how much better it sounded.โ€

    It’s my boat, on my private lake. If mine is the only boat that floats there, I’m fine with that.

  11. Well, I don’t see this having been addressed, so here goes. I’ve been biting my tongue for a bit now, and I agree that VU meters are cute too look at, but not really that useful… But, my McIntosh amp has two modes for the meters (yes, it’s an older model, newer ones have more), one is something I don’t have the definition for, maybe RMS watts. The other is referred to as “peak and hold”. It’s really quite useful to determine what the peak is you’re driving your speakers with. It tells you about your headroom. So, on this note I disagree. Read Russ Welton’s current article in Copper Magazine #153. Of course, it you have so much headroom you don’t need to worry about clipping, then you don’t need a method to evaluate it.

    1. 500wrms/ch/8ohms (headroom heaven) & my ears, work fine for measuring
      ‘peaks’ without destroying my loudspeakers, BUT, each to their own ๐Ÿ˜‰

  12. I have the Stellar M1200 amps and wish they had VU’s or LEDs on them. I just like the view. I have an LED meter on my Tascam DA3000 digital recorder and love to watch them work. Plus, a side benefit of not overdriving a recording from my turntable to the DA3000.

    If I ever win Lotto I’m going all in on MacIntosh.

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