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my watt vs your watt

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 
I've recently bought a pair of Sennheiser HD-650s. I love them, their sound is everything I could have hoped for.....and I'm powering them strait off my X-FI sound card!
So my question to you fine gentleman is: If I can power my HD-650s to a comfortable volume level directly off my sound card -- What use is it to dish out more money for an expensive amplifier?

It seems to me that the only advantage I'd get is the ability to raise the volume level higher, but I feel that's unnecessary as the volume from my source is already adequate for my liking.

How would I tell if my headphones are underpowered - Could my headphones sound audibly loud and yet still be underpowered? Am I missing something?

Thanks!
-Lap
post #2 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lapwing View Post
I've recently bought a pair of Sennheiser HD-650s. I love them, their sound is everything I could have hoped for.....and I'm powering them strait off my X-FI sound card!
So my question to you fine gentleman is: If I can power my HD-650s to a comfortable volume level directly off my sound card -- What use is it to dish out more money for an expensive amplifier?

It seems to me that the only advantage I'd get is the ability to raise the volume level higher, but I feel that's unnecessary as the volume from my source is already adequate for my liking.

How would I tell if my headphones are underpowered - Could my headphones sound audibly loud and yet still be underpowered? Am I missing something?

Thanks!
-Lap
Congratulations!
If you're completely satisfied with the sound of your HD650 from your sound card, there is no need for an amp at all.
post #3 of 28
Im am far from knowledgeable on the specifics of this subject, but after what i have read on this site you are correct in thinking that volume does not mean the headphones are being driven adequately.

Something to do with some headphone being more current hungry than others and vice versa.

Ill let someone with the knowledge go in to details.
post #4 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kees View Post
Congratulations!
If you're completely satisfied with the sound of your HD650 from your sound card, there is no need for an amp at all.
Thanks! But I must add that at one time I was completely satisfied with my iPod headphones. There's a factor of "I don't know what I'm missing"
post #5 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lapwing View Post
Thanks! But I must add that at one time I was completely satisfied with my iPod headphones. There's a factor of "I don't know what I'm missing"
Kees is right on the mark. If you like what you hear, then you have a great system. What you are missing may be nothing at all. Unless you hear a combination of equipment that betters your current setup, there is nothing better. In the short time I have ben actively involved in this forum, I have become quite a bit of a skeptic. I don't purchase anything that does not dramatically enhance my listening experience.
post #6 of 28
I'll go against the grain here. Chances are that you are missing out on quite a lot. To get a sampler of the difference, look at building yourself a little Cmoy, or finding a pre-assembled on on eBay.

They're dirt cheap, and will likely do a better job of powering your 650s. If it sounds the same, then dump it back on eBay. They should be ~$30 or so, so even if you can't sell it 2nd hand(can't see why you wouldn't, it's a well-known and often purchased little amp) then you'll not have dropped a whole bunch of money.

Just because your old Mini 850 will do 50mph, it doesn't mean that 50mph can't be achieved in something else using less fuel, more comfortably, or even quicker if you so choose.

The outright volume isn't the best reason to decide on whether you'd need an amplifier or not. Amplifiers can change the sound signature noticeably - most will give a wider soundstage and greater overall "feel" to the sound, even if not used to physically go any louder than your Creative card.

~Phewl.
post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by breakfastchef View Post
Kees is right on the mark. If you like what you hear, then you have a great system. What you are missing may be nothing at all. Unless you hear a combination of equipment that betters your current setup, there is nothing better. In the short time I have ben actively involved in this forum, I have become quite a bit of a skeptic. I don't purchase anything that does not dramatically enhance my listening experience.
I notice in your signature you're using a $600 amp and the HD-650s, do you feel that your amp adds more to your music at an volume amplitude matched to a sound card or iPod?

My real question is this: Could my headphones sound audibly loud and yet still be underpowered? Could the sound be enhanced in any kind of way, other than loudness, with the addition of an amplifier?

Thanks,
-Lap
post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by AudioPhewl View Post
I'll go against the grain here. Chances are that you are missing out on quite a lot. To get a sampler of the difference, look at building yourself a little Cmoy, or finding a pre-assembled on on eBay.

They're dirt cheap, and will likely do a better job of powering your 650s. If it sounds the same, then dump it back on eBay. They should be ~$30 or so, so even if you can't sell it 2nd hand(can't see why you wouldn't, it's a well-known and often purchased little amp) then you'll not have dropped a whole bunch of money.

Just because your old Mini 850 will do 50mph, it doesn't mean that 50mph can't be achieved in something else using less fuel, more comfortably, or even quicker if you so choose.

The outright volume isn't the best reason to decide on whether you'd need an amplifier or not. Amplifiers can change the sound signature noticeably - most will give a wider soundstage and greater overall "feel" to the sound, even if not used to physically go any louder than your Creative card.

~Phewl.
I've actually already bought a Little Dot MKIII which is currently in shipping, I'm just really really curious whether this purchase was in vain and when I plug in it'll sound exactly the same at the same volume level as I'm currently listening to.... So you think the addition of an amp will add a "wider soundstage" and "feel"? What does that even mean?

I my mind I would think that the best quality amp should ONLY amplify the input signal and NOT taint my music with any kind of "signature", so that I get the most neutral, flat amplification. I want to listen to my music exactly how the sound engineers who mastered the recording intended it to be.
post #9 of 28
^Without being there when it was recorded and mastered, you'll never have a real idea of how they intended it to sound. Some setups feel more pure than others.

It could easily be argued that most modern music was "designed" to be heard as an MP3, and through a cacky little pair of in-ear headphones.

IMO, music should sound pure, clean, and natural. Generally the wider the perceived soundstage(width of the portrayed music), the more pleasing it'll be to anyone listening. When it's wider, it's often easier to pick out individual sounds, noises, and even faults. Any half-decent amplifier should give a more "full" sound to your ears - better transparency of the lows and highs, without sacrificing the midrange. And the sounds should also seem "fuller" between your ears - that's the soundstage.

Sit back and give the new amplifier a good go - the chances are you'll grown to appreciate the sound more than if you went back and listened to it directly out of the sound card.

But, as always, opinions and points of view will differ. You may never find anything that - to your ears, at least - sounds better than your X-fi. Who knows... it's a long journey trying to find each persons "nirvana" .

~Phewl.
post #10 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lapwing View Post
I notice in your signature you're using a $600 amp and the HD-650s, do you feel that your amp adds more to your music at an volume amplitude matched to a sound card or iPod?

My real question is this: Could my headphones sound audibly loud and yet still be underpowered? Could the sound be enhanced in any kind of way, other than loudness, with the addition of an amplifier?

Thanks,
-Lap

To clarify your post, the amp I purchased costs $1000. My previous amp was a Little Dot MKII. To be brutally honest, I am not convinced that the Woo amp output is 5x or 10x better than the LD. If I had stayed with the LD, I would still be quite happy. I fell in love with the physical look of the Woo Amp, so vanity took over my judgement. At CanJam '08, it sounded really fine and made me fall in love with it. Future purchses on my part will only involve components that show a significant improvement in sound quality.
post #11 of 28
Oh man, Lap. That MK III is a good amp.

I actually aim for a "more tainted" sound, if you will, but that doesn't mean it is inferior in any way. And before I scare you and you start moaning about how the Little Dot is going to "taint" your music, it won't. I actually found it pretty transparent in comparison to some of my other less quality equipment.

I wouldn't say it "adds" a wider soundstage and better feel, per say. I would look at it more as, "allowing that original soundstage and feel to come through".


Have fun!

Tri
post #12 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lapwing View Post
I've recently bought a pair of Sennheiser HD-650s. I love them, their sound is everything I could have hoped for.....and I'm powering them strait off my X-FI sound card!
So my question to you fine gentleman is: If I can power my HD-650s to a comfortable volume level directly off my sound card -- What use is it to dish out more money for an expensive amplifier?
There is a huge difference in quality between a sound card with a cheap built-in amplifier and a real amplifier, especially with an HD-650 which is a hard to drive headphone anyway. More correctly, it is very scalable and a better amplifier results in better sound.

Think of it this way, have you heard a loud boom car going down the block churning out garbage sound? Was it loud, yes, was it good, no. A standalone amplifier will have greater power which means faster response time and better control over the speakers. This equates to better separation between events and more clearly delimited sound. This would be the big win for you moving up the food chain in amplifiers. I used to have some tracks with Cello and Piano where you could clearly hear the difference between the two. The piano would die out behind the Cello using sources such as sound cards and MP3 players and the HD-650 while with a real amplifier every note would be clearly distinguishable. One of the things you'll find if you do step up the food chain is that on your way up it's hard to hear the differences but if you go back to the previous level after having stepped up the ladder you'll clearly hear the differences in quality.

In addition, many of the stand alone amplifiers use a Class A topography which is never used by a sound card and is clearly superior. By comparison a sound card has a bulk amplifier which is implemented to be as cheap as possible to build and has sound quality as a secondary goal. It's much more important to reduce costs to build and support the chip instead.

With all that said though, the best bang for the buck is going to be the entry level amplifiers. Gear along the lines of a Headamp Gilmore Lite, or one of Headroom's offerings. In audio increases in dollars spent lead to diminishing returns which drop off rapidly. I have the complete lineup of the Gilmore amps from Headamp. The jump from using a headphone amplifier to the Lite is the largest incremental improvement for the least money.
post #13 of 28

franken post - cobbled together previous posts on this subject

I really don't think the Gilmore Lite should be the 1st suggestion for someone to appreciate the full capabilities of the HD600/650 - it simply doesn't have the V swing capablility to drive the higher Z headphones to their full potential

HeadAmp specs their Gilmore Lite output swing at 15 Vpp => 5.3 Vrms

looking at the circuit I think this could really be the clipping limit - the Lite circuit is very wasteful of supply V

the HD650 specs work out to ~100 dB/V

5.3 Vrms gives ~ +14 dB power re 1 Vrms

this gives ~ 114 dB SPL at HeadAmp's output V swing spec

Probably good enough for most listening, but “rocking out” at live event levels could still clip

look up Dynamic Headroom, peak SPL of well recorded music before naively pointing out that even 100 dB is "too loud" - only as a average listening level
http://headwize.com/articles/hearing_art.htm
http://www.cutestudio.net/data/produ...fame/index.php



see the original Headwize article for Gilmore's own suggestion to raise the supply V - the Gilmore Class A was intended as a 32 Ohm headphone amp – perhaps Justin could mod one for higher V
post #14 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lapwing View Post
My real question is this: Could my headphones sound audibly loud and yet still be underpowered? Could the sound be enhanced in any kind of way, other than loudness, with the addition of an amplifier?

Thanks,
-Lap

The first upgrade I'd suggest is to ditch the sound card. Sound cards run on "dirty" computer power from a switching supply and live in a "dirty" enviroment inside a case stuffed with fan and digital EFM. That is why a cheap stand alone DAC/amp, like a Zero, is such an upgrade over even a high end sound card.
post #15 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by bada bing View Post
The first upgrade I'd suggest is to ditch the sound card. Sound cards run on "dirty" computer power from a switching supply and live in a "dirty" enviroment inside a case stuffed with fan and digital EFM. That is why a cheap stand alone DAC/amp, like a Zero, is such an upgrade over even a high end sound card.
********. My ESI Juli@ and Prodigy HD2 sound way better than most standalone DACs I've heard, dismissed and sold off. Of course replacing the PSU caps helps a bit with lowering noise floor but even unmodified just because something is out of a computer case does not mean it must be better.

To the OP: Volume has nothing to do with how well your headphones are powered. Simplest experiment (which I would highly recommend against) - connect your headphones to a speaker amp (most have 20x or more gain) and will easily make them VERY loud, but as for making them sound good, that's another story.

Amplification is not about volume, it is about providing the power (voltage and current) to make the headphone driver move as it was designed to.
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