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Are Headphone Amplifiers worth it

Discussion in 'PC Audio' started by crimsonmind, Mar 4, 2017.

  1. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    Some headphone require amplifiers to function, aka electret and electrostatic.
     
  2. Spork!

    Spork! Member

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    Quality, not just quantity.
    A good amp will bring out qualities in the sound, like "punch", imaging, instrument separation, etc.

    Up to a point the biggest gains are to be made with headphones, but once you get into the "not crap" bracket, most HPs will sound better with a decent amp, and more better with a more decenter amp. :lol:
     
  3. Mickatroid

    Mickatroid Member

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    Sure, they are tops. However, it is hard to imagine a market more saturated with snake oil. A decent implementation of a wide bandwidth opamp can be yours for around $100. I have an SMSL one and think its superb with some Sennheiser HD600s.

    If you have a fascination with valves or some other esoteric solid state solution go for it, they are cool as. Just don't expect any more in the way of precision.

    As for dissing MP3s, there is empirical evidence that at higher bit rates people can't reliably pick between them and the uncompressed source. Challenge anyone who says they can pick it to an ABX experiment using music, even do a test on yourself with the help of a friend :)

    I use FLAC because I can, it's open source and its a sure thing :)
     
  4. Kookooburra

    Kookooburra Member

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    I think the mp3 problem is 128/160k garbage
    320 sounds good but that seems to be the maximum anyone encodes at for mp3.

    Just from memory i think many of my hi res flacs sound better than 50mb wav files, cd-wav conversion.
     
  5. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    If you truly care about a well designed and engineered audio amplifier, opamps have no place in high end audio except where appropriate such as servos etc.
     
  6. Mickatroid

    Mickatroid Member

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    Recorded content that has not been passed through numerous IC opamps (which is what I am guessing you object to) is for all practical purposes unavailable. Some gramophone records perhaps? One more IC opamp won't and can't hurt.

    In the 21st century high fidelity sound reproduction is settled science and need not be prohibitively expensive. The opamp drivers designed for the ridiculously high demands of ADSL modems, for example, have it covered at headphone power levels despite the lack of romance this entails.
     
  7. Kookooburra

    Kookooburra Member

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    One of the problems making sense of the fancy world of high end audio is that with lower quality gear, VOLUME levels can mask sound quality, ie, lower volume, however, how loud can we go if we minimize distortion etc?

    IOW, the value of the amp/volume must start to lose it's value at a certain db/clarity range.
     
  8. Mickatroid

    Mickatroid Member

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    Headphone power levels are trivially low. However, any low level noise is easier to hear.

    With headphone amps of any basic standard RMS power output over the relevant range for a given distortion level should not be a problem. It's getting the noise floor down and the distortion levels down and making the amp tolerant of the loads applied that becomes important.
     
  9. Kookooburra

    Kookooburra Member

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    Maybe...but the amplification in my desktop pc is excessive....so even if the sound quality could be greatly improved, how many db of clear sound can i pump into my ear canals?
     
  10. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    That entirely depends on the type of headphone you own and how much you care about hi-fidelity and audio quality/resolution.
     
  11. THE D

    THE D Member

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    Sometimes a headphone amp will improve quality in real ways like noise, having a lower output impedance and thus not fucking up the headphone's frequency response and having louder output for headphones with high impedance.
    Sometimes it will not.
    If it is an improvement or not (or even a degradation) depends completely on what you have been using and what amp you have decided to add.
     
  12. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    All amplifiers will fuck up with a speakers/headphones measured frequency response, there is no such thing as a true "wire with gain" amplifier out there. The question is how much will the amplifier mess with the frequency of the transducer itself, some more so then others. Matching specifications to the type of load driven and its the load specifications is more important then trying to obtain a clean straight wire with gain sound characteristic - simply because it doesn't exist.
     
  13. eastley

    eastley Member

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    Which HEadphone AMP+DAC for around $400-$500.
     
  14. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    That's like asking what is your favourite color on Yahoo questions.

    You haven't specified what headphones you have and why you want a headphone amp or dac or headphone amp with built in dac.

    Be more specific...
     
  15. ysu

    ysu Member

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    I can highly recommend the Mayflower O2 odac I'm using. That's around the $400 mark.
    But I'd also recommend (as I did above) calling headphonic.
    They are very helpful.
     
  16. eastley

    eastley Member

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    I have a few headsets, but looking to use the AT MSR7's on them.

    I just want the best audio experience I can for my budget.
     
  17. GoneFishin22

    GoneFishin22 Member

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  18. Mickatroid

    Mickatroid Member

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    SMSL units on eBay. Well within budget. See my earlier posts on this page and the preceding one for why I say this. Enjoy :) M
     
  19. Drubbing

    Drubbing Member

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    There is a common misconception that amps add SQ. They don't. They're there to power phones that need them (80ohm+ impedance), so that they perform to the best of their ability. That's why they're in a chain with a good source. You can't amplify a poor source and expect an amazing result.

    If a phone doesn't need amplification, it won't benefit, you'll just get more volume.

    MSR7 have very low power needs. Most consumer level phones are designed to play on anything. They'll play from mobile phones. The way to get the best out of such headphones is to use them on a better source, i.e a DAC to bypass your PC soundcard. Once you get a better source, you'll start hearing the stuff in your library that's well recorded, and the stuff that isn't. The stuff that isn't won't sound any better than it already does.

    This is why going ever higher end is chasing your tail. You're always going to be limited by how much care the artist and their engineers have taken. No amount of gear will add in SQ that isn't there in the recorded material.

    Some phones don't benefit greatly from a better source either, the benefits can be very subtle, which makes the added spend a much diminished return.
     
  20. Matthew kane

    Matthew kane Member

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    Pretty much...if your source and front end playback system is of poor quality and low res no point spending big money on amplification and whatnot because it will only amplify garbage out from garbage in.
     

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