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Do you really need a portable amp for IEM's??

post #1 of 30
Thread Starter 
I am probably going to be getting the SA6 for my Zen Vision M. I was initially under the impression that a usb Amp/DAC could bypass the internal DAC of the Zen but apparently everyone just uses the amp on their portable Amp/DAC. This raises the question for me that do you really need an amp for your portable rig using IEM's? You would still be using the crappy internal DAC of the Zen. I currently have Bose IE and I run the volume at maybe half its possible output, with the isolation of the SA6 I should be using even less volume. I know amps aren't just for pure volume increase but how much better sound do you really get on IEM's with an amp?
post #2 of 30
Well let's put it this way I'd rather listen to my headphones through my amp than not. That said you're right there are times where I think that way(that I don't need it). I am not familiar with the DAC inside the zen so I couldn't talk, but I know I hear a difference with my iPod. Think about it this way if the amp chip is crappier than the DAC chip, which would you want to bypass, the amp makes a big difference when you think that way. I have no idea but I think the DAC chips in most high end mp3 players are decent.
post #3 of 30
I was firmly in the 'no-amp for IEM' camp, until I got a D3 Python amp, and now I can say that the amp does make the IEM sound better, its not just about volume. But the change is small, and good IEM's will work easily without an amp, but having one can improve the sound.
post #4 of 30
Would something like Atrio M5s need an amp to sound really nice?
post #5 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by helicopter34234 View Post
I am probably going to be getting the SA6 for my Zen Vision M. I was initially under the impression that a usb Amp/DAC could bypass the internal DAC of the Zen but apparently everyone just uses the amp on their portable Amp/DAC. This raises the question for me that do you really need an amp for your portable rig using IEM's? You would still be using the crappy internal DAC of the Zen. I currently have Bose IE and I run the volume at maybe half its possible output, with the isolation of the SA6 I should be using even less volume. I know amps aren't just for pure volume increase but how much better sound do you really get on IEM's with an amp?
Just a quick note that you would not be able to bypass the internal DAC of the Vision M. I don't think there are any players right now that allows you to bypass the internal DAC. Amp/DAC combos are there for you to bypass the internal sound processors of laptops and PCs, not DAPs.

The main thing about using amps is that you bypass the internal capacitors and resistors that stand between the DAC and headphone out. These are the ones that degrade SQ and not the DAC as players from players from Creative and Apple do have good DACs just that they have bad headphone out (in the case of the iPod).

For the Vision M, you can probably do without an amp considering that the headphone out is of pretty good quality.
post #6 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
Would something like Atrio M5s need an amp to sound really nice?
I hope not as I had them No.1 on my list of IEM's to use ampless (i.e. when not in full-on Geek mode).
post #7 of 30
I'm considering picking up a pair as alternatives to my current SF5pros, which I have fitting problems with.
post #8 of 30
It depends 100 percent on the player. Some players (Recent Sony series, Sansa Clip/Express, some Irivers and Toshibas) handle low impedance phones perfectly fine, with stable frequency response and low stereo crosstalk. Most other players handle low impedance incredibly poorly, with major bass roll-off, much distortion and ridiculously high stereo crosstalk (which you'd hear as a collapse in soundstage).

For those sources which struggle with IEMs, dedicated amps make an immediate and positive difference, play any track with strong stereo emphasis and you can't not hear it.

Although, the improvements a dedicated amp makes to portable sources still might not be enough to be worth the hassle of carrying an extra device around. Also, if the background noise level is high enough (street noise, planes and trains, etc) it's unlikely you'd notice any of the ampless shortcomings in the first place.




EK
post #9 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
I'm considering picking up a pair as alternatives to my current SF5pros, which I have fitting problems with.
I know what you mean, no matter how much I try, any IEM that has 'over-the-ears' wire just doesn't work with me, I spend all my time fiddling and tweaking, not listening.
post #10 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by nsx_23 View Post
Would something like Atrio M5s need an amp to sound really nice?
Out of the D2 the M5's do sound better with an amp. This is because of the D2's bass rolloff with low impedance phones.

You could also use a resistance adaptor that overcomes the bass rolloff... Not as good as the amp solution (the amp also helps with soundstaging etc from the D2) but they sound pretty good anyway!

Even without the amp they don't sound bad.

Paul
post #11 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by Spadge View Post
Out of the D2 the M5's do sound better with an amp. This is because of the D2's bass rolloff with low impedance phones.

You could also use a resistance adaptor that overcomes the bass rolloff... Not as good as the amp solution (the amp also helps with soundstaging etc from the D2) but they sound pretty good anyway!

Even without the amp they don't sound bad.

Paul
M5 do sound nice with an ipod w/o an amp though.
post #12 of 30
I can say with confidence that the D2 Viper does improve the SQ of the SA6's (at least the way I listen to them, with the +bass port, shure olives, and a slight EQ bass-boost). It seems the amp cleans up and tightens the low end (which gets muddled by the olives), narrows the soundstage but takes you out of the front row and onto the stage itself. I haven't tried rolling the opamps yet but will, and of course, the effect is noticeable on all my music. On some songs, the amp doesn't seem to do much (but it always increases clarity). One common complaint about the SA6's is lack of instrument separation - the Viper seems to help with that considerably.

Despite this, chances are I won't be lugging the Viper around in my pocket everyday. It's going to stay firmly attached to my laptop, and I'll be taking it with me when I travel, but it won't be getting any love on my way to work.
post #13 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by azarel View Post
M5 do sound nice with an ipod w/o an amp though.
While I agree, when I got my ALO LOD and Corda 2 Move it was a tremendous upgrade. The soundstage widened a bit and the bass became tight and punchy. This past weekend I also set it to low gain and I'm appreciating the less sensitive volume control.

Every now and then I do a back and forth comparison with and without the amp. I'm always pleasantly surprised how much better they sound going through the Corda.

Scott
post #14 of 30
Quote:
Originally Posted by kingmajix View Post
While I agree, when I got my ALO LOD and Corda 2 Move it was a tremendous upgrade. The soundstage widened a bit and the bass became tight and punchy. This past weekend I also set it to low gain and I'm appreciating the less sensitive volume control.

Every now and then I do a back and forth comparison with and without the amp. I'm always pleasantly surprised how much better they sound going through the Corda.

Scott
Speaking of the corda, how noticeable is the crossover effect?
post #15 of 30
Here's my personal rule of thumb. Unless you are doing direct A/B tests with the same headphones and the same source, you will not immediately notice SQ improvements. So for going out and about where portability is the major concern, a amp is negligible. However, a good amp does improve sound quality. Usually a good amp will widen the sound stage as well as add oomph to your audio (in other words, direct from the source you will hear the bass but with a amp you may hear the deeper and richer thump of the bass).
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