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Debunking Amp Myths for the AVERAGE headphone listener... What headphones really need amps???

post #1 of 141
Thread Starter 
For the past few months I've been here, I've read more than my share of topics in which people say "the **** is good, but amazing when amped" or "the **** sounds extraordinary, but will sound flat and uninspiring when unamped." Truth is, for the average user, there isn't a really big difference for these headphones at all...

I know that the difference may be large for you devoted audiophiles that dissect each element of HP sound to attain perfection. But us average users who just want some toe tapping music can't really tell the difference sometimes. The problem with this is that because we're convinced that amps are a necessity for these great HP, we’re deterred from buying them and never experience what the audio world has to offer.

So I’m making this topic in hopes to debunk some “amp myths,” essentially the idea that some Headphones always need amps to sound great. Yes it will always sound "better," but will it make a difference to the average listener?
Please mention some headphones you believe don’t really require an amp at all to sound great for the average user.

Lets set a standard (however subjective and imperfect it may be):
I believe that if the headphone operates at 85% its potential, it doesn’t need an amp. 85% seems to be the threshold when a headphone difference ACtually MAtters to the average user.


Here’s some:
Sennheiser HD25-1
Sennheiser HD555
I also read from a topic, the HD580?? Which would include the HD600??

Feel free to debate~~~
post #2 of 141
Try to listen to K701 amped by a decent amp (in my case PH-12) compared to running straight out of X5L 30Gig. iAudio will be able to drive K701s in volume - but not even close in SQ (there's good 45% or more missing IMO). Some headphones respond better with amping while some barely benefits (A900, for example).

Would average listener be able to distinguish between amped HD25-I and unamped? Maybe - but most don't listen that carefully.

Would average listener know differece between K701 amped and unamped? most likely.

I don't have golden ears - in fact, it's probably lead - (I can't tell differece between HD25-I with stock cables and HD650 cables, let alone difference between Cryo interconnects and silver interconnects.

But you chose two headphones that are generally less sensitive to amping. Most people will find that HD600 sound better balanced, running through b22 compared to being driven from their portable DAPs
post #3 of 141
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post #4 of 141
Well, I do not think my Beyer DT 770's NEED an amp when at 45% my X-fi volume is very, very loud. I don't want to give myself hearing loss anyways.

I bet the 250 ohm versions need an amp though.
post #5 of 141
See, already people are confusing loudness for sound quality. Just because a source can drive a 'phone to unbearable volumes does not make it a good candidate for listening in quality.
post #6 of 141
There are very few (if any) headphones that work satisfying when driven by a line level signal. Aka not driven by an amplifier.
Built-in vs. external amplifiers is another discussion though...
post #7 of 141
HD-595's which are basically the HD-555's but slightly better, sound fine with internal amps.
post #8 of 141
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post #9 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by adkimemory View Post
For the past few months I've been here, I've read more than my share of topics in which people say "the **** is good, but amazing when amped" or "the **** sounds extraordinary, but will sound flat and uninspiring when unamped." Truth is, for the average user, there isn't a really big difference for these headphones at all...

I know that the difference may be large for you devoted audiophiles that dissect each element of HP sound to attain perfection. But us average users who just want some toe tapping music can't really tell the difference sometimes. The problem with this is that because we're convinced that amps are a necessity for these great HP, we’re deterred from buying them and never experience what the audio world has to offer.

So I’m making this topic in hopes to debunk some “amp myths,” essentially the idea that some Headphones always need amps to sound great. Yes it will always sound "better," but will it make a difference to the average listener?
Please mention some headphones you believe don’t really require an amp at all to sound great for the average user.

Lets set a standard (however subjective and imperfect it may be):
I believe that if the headphone operates at 85% its potential, it doesn’t need an amp. 85% seems to be the threshold when a headphone difference ACtually MAtters to the average user.


Here’s some:
Sennheiser HD25-1
Sennheiser HD555
I also read from a topic, the HD580?? Which would include the HD600??

Feel free to debate~~~
When you ask a question about headphones here, you don't ask "the average listener" for an opinion. So you get the opinion of a (more or less) audiophile that knows and cares about the little differences.
Stands to reason I think.
post #10 of 141
Unfortunately the amp improves things by a (very) large margin. When I first came here I remember I was trying to fool myself thinking that they weren't that required. They are.

The only headphone that didn't improve that much with amps was the UE-10, and still, the effect of a good amp on them was noticeable.

The 595 sounding great without amp is a myth. I was listening to it yesterday unamped and it was OK. I've been listening this morning from a Earmax Pro Aniv. Edition and they were truly remarkable. I had the R10s on sight but I preferred to keep using the 595 instead, that's how much I was enjoying them.

Sorry to say this, but it is true to my ears and I don't think it is just an audiophile thing. I recommended headphones to several friends/colleagues for unamped use (mostly SR-225, HD595, ESW9... depending on circumstances/preferences/budget) and when they come to my place and they listen to them amped (with same source for reference, a humble ipod) they are always amazed about how the sound improves. Only a couple of them didn't find that much difference, but then again I know them and I wouldn't take their word for pretty much anything, with all due respect.

Depending on headphones, Bass, or Soundstage, or Presence, or Detail, or Mids, or some or all of them at once get a dramatic improvement with the right amp.

That sucks because I don't like to carry an extra amp for portable use and I have to settle with a suboptimal sound.

Qualias, Grados (not HPs), L3000s, ESW9s, and HD595 are quite OK unamped, until you listen to them with good amplification, of course. Even a humble PX-100 sounds quite better from the right amp.

If you want to go unamped, IEMs will be your best bet, but they can be tricky to wear, especially for long period of time.
post #11 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by krmathis View Post
There are very few (if any) headphones that work satisfying when driven by a line level signal. Aka not driven by an amplifier.
Built-in vs. external amplifiers is another discussion though...
I was going to write what you summerized.

On the other hand i am now thinking amplifier to amplifier differences. Upgraded my pa2v2 to a pint, not so much of a difference or i am used to the differences so quickly.
post #12 of 141
I found a major differce in sound when comparing my Grado SR60s through mp3-player compared to it being driven my a X-Can v3 and a decent cd-player as source. I thought the audible difference was greater between SR60 amped vs. unamped, than amped SR60 vs. amped SR225.
post #13 of 141
I would agree wih the OP, my HD25-1 doesn't seem to improve much or maybe just a bit with a D1 Amp. HD600 and HD650 need a hell of an amp tho to sound wonderfull. if they are just plugged into an DAP without headphone amp, even HD55 sounds much more better.
post #14 of 141
Quote:
Originally Posted by ^adm^ View Post
I was going to write what you summerized.

On the other hand i am now thinking amplifier to amplifier differences. Upgraded my pa2v2 to a pint, not so much of a difference or i am used to the differences so quickly.
To me, that doesn't speak very well of the "pint". I don't find the PA2V2 to be a very capable amp. I should have spent the money on a kit & built a real amp myself. I feel the main advantage that an external amp can provide is current in the output stage. That is the same when driving any dynamic speakers.
post #15 of 141
There're few headphones that don't need an amp, and most of them are canalphones or earbuds, that is, not really headphones (earphones).

As much as it might seem that there is no difference to an "average guy" (which is a mythical creature, apparently taken by feeding a crowd into a meat grinder and compacting and sculpting a single person out of that), that "average guy" usually disappears after a few listening sessions in which his attention has time to focus on what he's actually perceiving.
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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Debunking Amp Myths for the AVERAGE headphone listener... What headphones really need amps???