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The advantage of an Amp for IEM's

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 
Hey guys, I"m a total newb when it comes to headphone amps. To tell you the truth I have no idea what they do besides what I can imaging which is boost the signal or power, something like that. Anyways, I've ordered some V-moda Vibes, and I know that they arn't 'high-end' but its my first venture into IEM's and I was wondering what the advantage, if any, to an amp would be.
post #2 of 22
One major area of improvement is over noise floor. Some sources are quite noisy with IEM's with very high sensitivity. An amp can remedy this to a great extent.
post #3 of 22
Please be sure to post your impression of the vibes. I am considering buying them myself, especially since I learned the apple stores sell them. (probably a lot easier to return them if I absolutely hate them).
post #4 of 22
Thread Starter 
I don't think you understand... I"m a TOTAL NEWB, noise floor??? its sort of disgusting
post #5 of 22
I think by 'noise floor' Zanth meant 'hiss', which is not uncommon with bad sources into IEMs. In my experience IEMs don't benefit 'that' much from amps besides soundstaging. But that's just me.
post #6 of 22
Sorry, yes I meant hiss. Basically, all devices have an amp. Internal amps in sources like an iPod aren't bad actually unless the phones are too sensitive. The headphones themselves don't offer a lot of resistance to the signal. So you get to enjoy everything at a magnified level, such as hiss. However, external amps offer better signal to noise ratios, meaning that the background noise the hiss, is much lower than the signal of the music. Plug in your IEM's to something like an iPod and without music, crank the volume to max, at what point can you hear hiss? with my two IEM's I can hear hiss nearly straight away. With an external amp (solid state not using tubes) I get nearly no hiss until I'm well up the volume dial. If for only this reason, an external amp is good idea, provided one doesn't mind walking around with one or being stationay with one etc.

Other advantages: all headphones need a combination of proper current and power. The more sensitive the headphone the less power they need to get to a decent volume, but they may require more current to adequately drive them. IEM's are unique in that they don't require all that much current or power, but they do tend to enjoy more current which internal opamps can't provide usually. One digital audio player that excelled with current was the Rio Karma but it is no longer available new save for auction sites. Though the iPod doesn't do too badly at all, to get the most out of such a device (because it has a nice neutral/linear sound) is to get an external amp which can provide additional current which will get a person snappier harder hitting deeper bass, better highs and sparklier mids. With IEM's this will be subtle because, again, they are already so efficient that small amounts of current and power are required to get them moving.

For me then, I use an amp to get a quieter sound experience. I presently use a Fixup Supermacro V3 but hope to try a Headamp AE-1 soon.
post #7 of 22
Yes, i think the main improvement is the hiss
I think an amp improves an IEM's sound a bit, but i don't think it's enough to make me carry one around (even when my amp is a supermini)
post #8 of 22
i was planning sumthin in this range as well for my GF. just not sure which IEM to go for yet.. (see sig)

the plan was to have the source from a Sony Ericsson W810i (yeah yeah..i know) going through an LDM+ (high gain version) with undecided IEMs.

not sure how good theyll sound... but i also plan to make an ohm adapter for the IEMs.. ive just bought the resistors at 100, 200 and 220 ohms.

anyone can gimme thoughts on this setup?
post #9 of 22
I don't hear an improvement using my D465 as source.
post #10 of 22

To amp or not to amp

I read a lot of posts about whether IEMs really benefit from an amp. Some say they do, other say the improvement is minimal since IEMs are very effective.
The only IEM that should benefit from an amp is the ER4s.
I can't tell you from my own experience yet but in a week or two I will receive a Supermacro III V6 to complement my portable setup (iAudio X5 > Qables LOD to straight goldplated mini > ER4p/s or Shure E500) and will let you know.
post #11 of 22
With current situation that most IEMs are very effiecient, i have to say improvement is minimum at best...unless you got one of those 100ohms impendance IEMs.
post #12 of 22
I notice no change between Shure E4's through an ipod or with an amp (Total Bithead)
post #13 of 22
Just to reiterate what has been said previous I cannot tell much of a difference with my IEM’s amped. Since they isolate so well the volume (for myself) is always low and the hiss is nominal. At least it isn’t disturbing enough to carry around a second piece of hardware.
post #14 of 22
Originally Posted by Coltrane View Post
I notice no change between Shure E4's through an ipod or with an amp (Total Bithead)

Are you hooking the headphone out of your Ipod to the Input of the amp or using a line out connection from the Ipod dock connector? I was under the impression that using the doc connector and line out to bypass the internal Ipod amp and headphone jack would make a noticable improvement in the sound quality. Have you not found this to be the case? I am considering trying an amp with my Super Fi 5pro and 5 Gen Ipod for just this reason. They get plenty loud with the ipod itself (louder than I can comfortably listen) but I was wanting to see if there was a noticable sound quality difference using a lint out and amp.
post #15 of 22
Like the others have said, I get reduced hiss, better bass, and better soundstage with an amp between my Ipod and my SF5Pros.
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