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Do you really need a portable amp for IEM's?? - Page 2

post #16 of 30
I gave up on using amps with my UM1 and im716 with my iPod. After buying 3 portable amps and participating in a loaner program for another, I saw no real improvement in the sound when volume was matched. 3 of the amps actually didn't work for me at all because the volume was too high at the lowest setting.
post #17 of 30
I have tried a few portable amps, but what I heard did not convince me to buy them. I felt that while I gain in some aspects, I lose some others. The losses IMO did not justify the gain and the price.

That said I bought my LD Mk1 unheard and am impressed by it. It made my ER-4P sounded "right". Sound is no longer lean and bass no longer lacking, sound stage is wider and imaging specificity does not take too much of a hit (my main beef with those other amps I've heard). It might have to do with synergy, but anyhow I'm not going back.
post #18 of 30
I do use my amp regularly on the go, currently a Tomahawk. They make my congested sounding Custom-2s sound much wider and there's a definite speaker-like bass response (very much like a subwoofer's bass with the physical sensation of the air moving). I've tried a few other portable amps but at the end of the day, portability wins. Also to amp or not to amp comes down to what phones you're trying to amp as Navyblue has mentioned, synergy is a biggie.
post #19 of 30
I have a pair of dynamic driver IEMs....very bass biased and highs are congested. So I got myself a FiiO....bad choice right? Nope not really, yes the bass did go even stronger but the extra juice seems to force out the treble more and with a bigger soundstage without causing it to be any more muddy than before, so yea, even IEMs benefit from amping, dynamic or armature drivers
post #20 of 30
You can drive any of the quality IEMs w/ the headphone out of most DAPs & in many cases the sq will be decent. That doesn't imply that using a portable amp won't improve the sq ,considerably, in many cases. These DAPs were designed by computer companies who for the most part didn't always consider the best way to preserve the music signal integrity in the process. I think the attitude was "Yeah, this will work with all the other stuff we've crammed into this little box & it sounds ok". Better circuit design & knowledge of which passive components to use go a long way in improving the sound, which is what aftermarket amps accomplish in most cases. I think it comes down to how you listen to your portable music. If you're a casual listener you may never consider adding an amp. If you listen more intently then an amp might move you closer to the sq you're looking for.
post #21 of 30
The fact of the matter at the end of the day is that Head-Fiers listen to more quality kit and for much longer periods of time than basically the vast majority of people. Thus, through time and practice we are able to discern difference in SQ. For the vast majority in major consumer market land, they start off with stock buds or headphones and stick with those for a very long time. Then they might replace those with standard consumer grade kit. The Best Buy's and Apple stores of the world also carry a decent line of higher grade kit. To them, the jump from stock to off the rack Shure e210s is a incredible leap in sound quality. To be honest, that initial jump to what we consider to be low end kit will satisfy the consumer more than enough. Head-Fiers in a very snobbish and elitest kind of way strive for better and thus our infatuation with better sources, audio formats, amps, and headphones. To be perfectly honest, there is absolutely nothing wrong with not amping and using a good pair of phones. No real reason to jump for more unless of course you are really striving for perfection but in the end that is a matter of personal preference. What we consider a significant jump in SQ is honestly not very apparent even if we let the average consumer A/B kit to high heavens. In this respect pretty much all of the reliable DAPs, their built in DACs, and the headphone out are more than enough to enjoy your music.
post #22 of 30
So, in short, to enjoy your music you will need nothing more than your QUALITY (keyword) DAP of choice, properly encoded music of GOOD QUALITY (another key term here), and a pair of relatively easy to drive QUALITY (there's that word again) headphones/earphones.
post #23 of 30
I think dookiex makes a great point there. For the most part, you will hear a difference when you go looking for one. Which of course, means your method of testing is already biased. For the kind of money you spend I think you shouldn't have to look for the reasons why you bought it, the difference should smack you in the face.

Actually its weird, I can still 'enjoy' my music when I use some cheapy £5 sony earbuds I got in China from my D2, even after listening with my triple.fis. Maybe I just have bad ears, but tbh the 'structure' of the music is still there for you to enjoy, it just isn't expressed nearly as well.

Having said that - we are here after all because we all suffer from a sick need to pay lots of wallet for diminishing gains in audio performance!
post #24 of 30
Now, a amp for IEM use does come in very handy though when you are dealing with high impedance IEMs. The Etymotic ER-4S is a pair that has 100 ohm for it's nominal impedance. These really should ideally be powered by more than just the headphone out on your DAP. I believe Shure also has a model or two that's 50 ohms which would give you that smack in the face difference between being amped or not amped. But in general, IEMs usually run from 16 ohms to 35 ohms which is perfectly suitable for use straight out of the DAC. I've recently purchased a Tomahawk and if it wasn't for the fact that I needed them to drive my two pairs of Ultrasones then I wouldn't have bought a portable amp as I have a perfectly good home system that drives everything I have thus far great and then some. Since the Tomahawk is so small, I do indeed use it as my every day portable amp as well but that's just a preference and the gain in SQ is there but you would have to be devoted to your music to really notice a big difference (which you won't when you are moving about or concentrated on work).
post #25 of 30
Try going ampless with your portable rig for a week, and then use an amp again. If you cannot hear a difference after a week ampless, then either a: you need to get your hearing checked, or b: your portable headphones do not require an amp to drive them decently. My Westone ES2's need a portable amp to sound good, while my Yuin PK2's don't really require one- but they still sound noticeably better amped.
post #26 of 30
Originally Posted by roxxor View Post
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.
So, the Viper does help the sound separation of the SA6? What about the Predator? Anyone tried the combo? I read and heard that the Predator are pretty good in soundstaging and sound separation. Am I right to say that?
post #27 of 30
Originally Posted by roxxor View Post
Speaking of the corda, how noticeable is the crossover effect?
I tried several times to do comparisons with the crossfeed on and off and I really couldn't discern a difference.

I read in another thread that Dr. Meier suggested doing a test where you set your computer to do one channel out only then use with the Corda with and without crossfeed and you'll notice the difference.

I didn't do that test (too much hassle) so I just resigned myself to listening with it on. I figure it can't hurt

post #28 of 30
my ipod 5.5g sounds immensely better through E500's with an amp, used both Tomahawk and Xin Supermicro.
post #29 of 30

I found no difference

I tried an amp...I tried for weeks with a Tomahawk on my 80 gig classic using Shure E4C phones. I really wanted to hear a difference. I just cannot determine a difference in SQ that justifies the price of the amp, or the extra bulk, not to mention the ridiculous look of a LOD out of the bottom of the IPod attached to an amp, tied together with a rubber band or something similar that would no longer fit in my pocket, with people looking at me like I was carrying some type of bomb or something. The extra bulk for almost no difference is not worth it. Maybe my ears are bad, but I cannot discern a justifiable difference.
post #30 of 30
Originally Posted by cameron991 View Post
Maybe my ears are bad, but I cannot discern a difference.
"I Now Travel Without a Headamp" - My Personal Journey
by TrickyWombat

No, your ears are not bad - unless my ears are bad, too. I use IEMs mostly for travel, and my experience may differ sharply from many frequent flyer Head-Fi'ers. I no longer care to travel with an amp, and I save the amp for use at the destination. Even then, an amp does not make everything sound better.

Much of the time, the amp causes a subtle rather than fundamental difference with IEMs. Certain IEMs have characteristics such as a high impedance that may need an amp to perform, but a large number of IEMs do not change that dramatically with an amp. The change is enough for me to use it when practical, but not enough to prevent enjoyment of my music when an amp is not used.

Other times, an amp may be used to modify the sound through it's own unique coloration - such as adding to the midrange or bass. Taking advantage of synergy is another such application. Sometimes, a particular amp makes a particular IEM sound worse, sometimes a different combination makes for a spectacular sound.

As such, I am not in the "an amp makes everything sound better" camp. The existence of synergy argues that antagonism can also take place. Some of it can be predicted - e.g. an overly warm and boomy amp with my Atrio sounds terrible.

However, synergy or antagonism means that the components in combination have an overall effect of greater magnitude than that predicted from their individual effects. This necessitates a fairly involved process of trial and error IMHE as the extent of improvement has to justify the expense.

The practical end result of all this is that I choose IEMs for travel that sound good (enough) without an amp. In a noisy aircraft cabin, I find that no IEM has a combination of isolation and prolonged comfort to equal the listening experience in a controlled home environment, or at least without dangerously high volumes.

The sonic payoff from the amp, line out dock, player and the velcro/strap/pouch/thingamajig is hard to justify given not only in-cabin noise levels and lack of space, but given the hassle we go through just to get to a boarding gate.

Another solution I'm leaning towards is choosing a more euphonic non headamp-dependent source. iPods are great for amping, but multiple options have a more euphonic headphone out. I wish the Sony NWZ series had the same capacity as my iPod Classic. Not that I listen to several days of music non-stop, but I hate having to choose what songs or video to take with me on a trip.

Some TSA employees are distinct from the GED-holders with manners and personal hygiene who have chosen other careers. On rare occasions, I've had better luck explaining the benign nature of a gadget to a (insert age of young child or grandparent here), though I haven't had anything seized yet.

I've stopped using an amp on the plane, but do use it in the hotel room or at home. Detail, transients, decay, soundstage and transparency - characteristics that to me justify using an amp - get lost when your seat is just aft of a jet engine (if your assigned seat is aft of a tail-mounted engine I'd choose a parachute over a headamp). Even custom IEMs don't sound that much better amped in a noisy aircraft vs. straight out of an iPod. Better, but not enough to override the hassle factor.

For now I'm leaning towards waiting for a high-capacity, lossless-playing, compact, versatile source with great battery life and a great headphone out.

YMMV, but it is perfectly okay to modify the "always amp everything" doctrine.
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