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What Is The Point? - Page 2

post #16 of 43
Thread Starter 
Ian, thanks for writing. Yea my sound is good and I've never experienced any hiss. One of my favorite things to listen to are my live orchestral recordings, soundboard>flac. There's very little (if any) compression employed so the dynamic range is preserved and depending on the piece, quite broad. I wonder if amplification will improve or detract from my appreciation of that stuff?

Tone Def, not corny at all. I get your meaning, and thanks for your input.

Scott, I know I'm screwed. But your input is valuable.
post #17 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by MWA View Post
Ian, thanks for writing. Yea my sound is good and I've never experienced any hiss. One of my favorite things to listen to are my live orchestral recordings, soundboard>flac. There's very little (if any) compression employed so the dynamic range is preserved and depending on the piece, quite broad. I wonder if amplification will improve or detract from my appreciation of that stuff?.
I've heard that the Cowon's are good and don't hiss a lot. I use WAVS on stuff I want to sound good, but it all takes so much room so generally, I compress everything!!

The only thing that amplification may do is preserve the 'full range hits' that you will get from uncompressed files. In other words the loud attacks will take sudden bursts of power which will be clipped if the amp isn't up to it. However, it's not sure how much we detect when we're listening to music.

Some people are very affected by clipping, while others don't notice.

The main thing is, if you like the sound, stick with it. You'll save a lot of money and worry.

Ian
post #18 of 43
^Do you replaygain your music?
post #19 of 43
I don't think that anyone who has ever really gotten into audio and audio reproduction as a hobby is ever happy for long.

Nylan
post #20 of 43
Thread Starter 
Tone Def, yes - I use ReplayGain. It's a crutch, but as my source files range from some murdered, over compressed "Best of Funk" CD from the check-out counter at 7-Eleven to concert soundboard>flac to fifty year old jazz albums, RG saves me a bunch of fiddling about in my pockets. Which draws the wrong kind of attention.

Nylan - sounds like you're becoming a nihilist. What's frightening is that I find myself agreeing with you. If you haven't yet, you should check out The Big Lebowski. That flick explained nihilism to me in a way that Gide, Beckett and Nietzsche never could.
post #21 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by iancraig10 View Post
Low impedance headphones are likely to pick up hiss via the headphone output. (or rather, they will play it loudly) By going from a line out into an amp, you are using the amp as a kind of buffer, turning the sound DOWN. This means that the hiss level also goes down so you get a cleaner sounding signal to your headphones.
Ian, my experience belies your theory. My Zune has absolutely NO hiss through its HO with my super.fi 5 pros, even turned up to max volume/paused music. When I add my Headsix into the mix, I get a small amount of hiss when the amplifier -- not the player -- is turned up near max volume (it starts at 3:00/75%). I get the same hiss without the player plugged in at all. And with the Headsix in low-gain mode, my volume is lower than the unamped player at anything under maybe 50%/12:00.

And here's another fact whose relevance you may be more qualified to judge. I bought a Zune dock last week, when I was travelling and forgot my synch/charge cable. With AC power attached and the Zune on the cradle, line out is supposedly unlocked for the Zune...but if you adjust the Zune's volume, you find that it's been pumped up to 20 (max). I've heard before that maxing volume = line out, but I've never believed it, because it's seems intuitive that an amp can't be doing its best work at max load. But is that what a line out is, on, say an iPod? Your text above ("By going from a line out into an amp, you are using the amp as a kind of buffer, turning the sound DOWN. ") suggests that's the case. But that's not my idea of a line out. To me, a line out is pre-amp...if a line-out signal is made quieter by an amplifier, then it's obviously being amplified by a source's amp...which calls into question the benefit of a line-out on a digital media player.

I purchased a Zune 80g because I dislike iPod hardware and firmware (the iTunes software is undeniably superior!), but have somewhat regretted the absence of a line out. Now I'm wondering if I should.
post #22 of 43
There's probably hiss out of my A728 but I can't hear it.
post #23 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elladan View Post
Ian, my experience belies your theory. My Zune has absolutely NO hiss through its HO with my super.fi 5 pros, even turned up to max volume/paused music. When I add my Headsix into the mix, I get a small amount of hiss when the amplifier -- not the player -- is turned up near max volume (it starts at 3:00/75%). I get the same hiss without the player plugged in at all. And with the Headsix in low-gain mode, my volume is lower than the unamped player at anything under maybe 50%/12:00.

.
Hi Elladan,

The hiss that I'm talking about is there with the volume off and stays constant no matter what the volume control is doing. (Then you get the added hiss as you turn the volume up)

The volume through the line out is maximum. The hiss is constant but it is pushed down by turning the volume down on the external amp. Headphone out's can add more hiss as you change volume.

Say the hiss level = a constant 2 and volume is 6 for normal listening, then the hiss may be easily heard. (Theoretically out of 10)

If the Hiss remains at 2 but volume out from the line out is 10 (as it should be), immediately, there is a better signal to noise ratio which is helped by your turning the external amp back down to 6 (Normal level) but at the same time, you are also turning the hiss level down.

I'm not sure if that makes it clearer. Going from a headphone out isn't as good because then you have two amplifiers in line. The DAP headphone amp and your external amp.

The EU Ipods work even better since the headphone out is volume capped. However, the line out isn't, so we get a massive improvement on the Ipods via the line out into an amplifier.

I hear that the Cowons are remarkably low on hiss though. I also have two Irivers which hiss very badly via low impedance headphones. Then again, their output is higher so it's possible to get a higher impedance headphone to work with them so the hiss isn't so audible. However, they have a line out as well which I attach to an external amp - not as clear as an Ipod though!!

Personally, I think that headphone amps are worth attaching just to be able to use decent headphones. Mobile, I use Denon 551's or 751's and the hiss gets drowned out by external noise anyway.

Ian
post #24 of 43
Ian,

Thanks for the response, particularly as my post verged on incomprehensible. What can I say? It was late, and I'd had a few IPAs. I won't quote the whole thing, since I hope this will arrive as the next post.

Last night, I would not have understood your post at all. As I mentioned, my Zune is simply silent through the HO. There is no noise floor hiss whatsoever at any volume, with or without source, with or without power, even through quality IEMs (super.fi 5 pros). I mean that quite literally: no hiss audible to my ears. Though, admittedly, I am 37. And my Headsix has a noise floor that is inaudible until the amp is turned up to 75%.

Today, however, I received a cMoy BBv2.00 rolled to an AD823 opamp that I bought used, out of mere curiosity. Powered on, but at minimum volume -- with the Zune maxed, you can just barely hear the loudest of music passages with the amp at this level -- the noise floor is quite significant, and it only increases with volume on the amp.

I just did a little experiment. I turned the Zune down to 50% and listened through the cMoy, which I turned up to achieve similar volume to that provided with the Zune at 20 , and got more noise. I then turned the amp down a bunch and increased the Zune's volume. As you would predict, I got less noise (though there was still too much, this being a cMoy!).

Thus far, what you say makes sense to me and is reproducable. However, when you say that HO is inferior because there are two amps in line, I no longer get it. I mean, in principle, I do: clearly, you'd rather have a good amp working fairly hard on a clean signal than working less hard on a signal that's been amped at inferior quality. This is what I was trying to get at in my previous post, when wrote that I though a line out had to be pre-amp.

But it's implicit in what you're saying, as well as other things I've read, that the iPod's LO is, in fact amped. A player couldn't put out an unamped signal that's stronger/louder than the amped signal. Everybody says, "in absence of LO, max your volume to approximate LO," right? If there's an increase in quality from the LO (and I'd hardly question that there is!), and the signal is, in fact, highly amplified by the player, then the noise must come from the HO jack itself, or the circuitry between the amplifier and the HO jack. I suspect that the quality improvement comes from a cleaner/more direct signal pathway or a less lossy connection than provided by the iPod's HO jack.

Since my Zune offers such low noise, I find myself believing that an LO might be superfluous. Listening to the Zune unamped then with each of my two amps is enlightening. Unamped, I get a seriously clean, nicely detailed sound that's somewhat breathless at the low end and lacking in ultimate resolution (though still a healthy improvement on my wife's Nano 8gb) .

With the cMoy, I get much fuller bass (particularly with BB engaged), but the bass is so bloaty and the overall sound so hamstrung by noise, that I'm better off without it, unless maybe I'm on a plane or bus. Although it is kinda fun, too. Right now, I'm listening to Radiohead's "The National Anthem," with Thom Yorke playing one of the coolest basslines ever, and it's just so over the top!

With the Headsix, I don't get near the improvement in bass offered by the cMoy, but the bass is significantly punchier and "growlier" than unamped. Kick drums in particular are more resonant and seem to decay at a natural speed. High-end detail, particularly cymbals, is improved, as well. Timbres and tones are way truer than with the cMoy. When I turn the Headsix way up, though (and that's only safe if I have the Zune at 30-40% volume) I do get a bit of noise added from the external amp.

As my understanding exists now, I'm feeling a lot better about choosing the Zune. The biggest reason I never strongly considered an iPod was sound quality -- remember that I had never even heard of portable headphone amps at the time -- and I thought the lack of LO might have bottlenecked me. But empirically, it doesn't seem to be the case.

Actually sound quality was the second biggest reason, If it were the biggest, I might have gone with a Cowon or Creative. The biggest was the customization offered at zuneoriginals.net. I'm a sucker.
LL
post #25 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by nylan8301 View Post
I don't think that anyone who has ever really gotten into audio and audio reproduction as a hobby is ever happy for long.

Nylan
I think that is kinda true, but its actually a good thing. Not nihilistic. Sometimes the sound is just not there for us. Also, sometimes a performance is not quite there. In fact, I would argue the two are often related: performance less than amazing --> less than amazing sound.

That's life lol.

When the sound is clicking for me, it usually is because the performance is amazing me at the same time. I listen to a lot of classical pianists, and let's face it, that music can be devilish. If the recording sounds a bit thick or unclear, frankly, it is most likely the performance as much as the sound quality one is picking up on.

I try to be grateful for the moments where the music and sound drags me in. The rest of the time, I listen and still am grateful

sadre
post #26 of 43
Elladan -- the idea really is to get the volume control on the PMP out of the way! It's the crappy volume control that ruins the SQ. HO has the volume control in the path, LO does not.

Unless you build a quality multi-step resistor network, volume controls tend to hurt SQ at all but their max setting, to some degree anyway. This is why we are all told to "put your vol control on max when using HO to feed your pocket amp". Funny, non-audiophiles think you get better results when you turn the vol control down.

Anyway you had it exactly right -- LO is at max in essence, HO adds a volume control (attenuator). iancraig10 has it right too.

So portable amps give us two advantages: better components for better attenuators (volume control does not degrade SQ as much), and more aplification with less added noise so we can use better phones. I love my 600 Ohm beyer 880's driven by Predator sometimes and iQube other times.
post #27 of 43
Thread Starter 
Has anyone ever cracked their DAP and physically taken the attenuator out of the circuit (or shunt around it)? The logic is elegant but is it a totally stupid idea?
post #28 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by MWA View Post
Has anyone ever cracked their DAP and physically taken the attenuator out of the circuit (or shunt around it) ?
That's a nice idea. Yes, I did mean that the volume attenuator is out of the way via line out but said two amps are in line with each other instead!! With Ho, it is attenuated in the first amp and boosted in the second so the hiss would get louder if you turned the external amp up. (The hiss that I'm describing is the hiss you get with volume off)

Having said that - I have found a slight problem with LO on Ipods. If you connect into the Bithead from the Ipod, you can get distortion because the Ipod lineout is too loud for the Bithead which starts to distort on peaks. A great pity because I do like the Bithead amp.

If you have an Iriver, his is really obvious. Others hiss less. The Cowons are supposed to be extremely good in this respect and I also hear the Zunes too.
Ipods aren't too bad and higher impedance headphones with an amp will fix hiss plus an even better sound at home if you use it this way. I use either Sennheiser 650 or Beyer DT880 with my ipods either driven by a Graham Slee Solo or the lovely sounding Corda Move. The headphones are way too good for the compressed files but great for uncompressed.

Portable - much the same as everyone else and I put up with hiss because I can't be bothered to cart an amp around with me. External noise normally covers the hiss anyway. I use the Superfi 5's as well as the Denons 551 and 751. All hiss nicely with the Irivers - the Denons more so because they have quite a sharp response up top.

I'm 54, a musician and still am sensitive to hiss!!! It actually really bothers me for some reason. Maybe it's because I listen for recording faults all of the time.

You know, I may try and get a Zune now!!!
post #29 of 43
Thread Starter 
I'm 45 and play violin, eBass & rhythm, though I think I would shy away from the moniker, "musician" due to a demonstrable lack of talent.

I can vouch for Cowon as I own an iAudio 7 and there is no perceptable hiss with my Klipsch Image IEMs. But cranking the volume doesn't bypass whatever is attenuating my volume. Hence my idea of simply bypassing the thing and having a dedicated Pico in my chain. I listen to a lot of uncompressed music with wide dynamic swings: setup for hiss if overamplififed.

Anyway, back to my original question: what do folks think about cutting the attenuator out of the pathway.
post #30 of 43
Quote:
Originally Posted by wavoman View Post
Elladan -- the idea really is to get the volume control on the PMP out of the way! It's the crappy volume control that ruins the SQ. HO has the volume control in the path, LO does not.
Ahh, now this makes perfect sense to me! I would not be able to hear the difference, since I a) have no line out and b) ain't gonna pry my Zune open and having my electrical engineer friend bypass the volume pot. I do have a different issue with the Zune's volume control: there are only 20 steps, which I don't think is enough. I'd rather see 50, or even 100. It's not a big deal, especially since using an external amp gives me the "infinite" control I'd prefer, but sometimes, I'd like the volume just between 7 and 8.

Your suggestion of bypassing the volume control is cool, though. If someone wants to try that, I might be able to scrounge up a donor piece. My Creative Zen Touch 4gb is unused, though its batteries no longer seem to charge after about a year in a drawer.

However, I do find the assertion that maxed volume on a source is best for quality pretty counterintuitive. If you think of a volume poteniometer as a car's throttle, it's pretty clear that it would interefere least when the pathway is wide open. But I would expect that a weak amp working that hard would introduce quality degradation significantly greater than what the volume control produces. In my brief tests with the Zune at max vol, I've never noticed audible clipping (of the sort that destroyed my JBL speakers when my 65-watt JVC receiver ran out of breath back in college), but surely we could expect signal clipping of some degree?

Are DMP amps generally engineered with enough headroom at their maximum volume settings to ensure this does not happen? Or am I just wrong for some other reason?

Intuitively, I would expect that keeping the source's volume within its amp's comfort zone would provide the best sound quality. Additionally, it seems like using a very low setting on an external amp to compensate for the strong signal from a maxed source would prevent you from making the most of the external amp's abilities. I am visualizing this issue with another automobile analogy. You know how cars don't make most of their horsepower at very low or very high revs, but have a "powerband"? It seems like amps would have similar issues. But that's probably just my ignorance talking.
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