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So, are amps really THAT important?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
I'm entirely new to the high end of head phones, IEM's, and all that jazz so please don't flame me if you think I'm being dumb. =P

Anyways, I was just wondering whether or not you guys feel that using a portable amp in conjunction with whatever cans you guys use is necessary? I'm still not entirely sure how I feel about the amps because from the pictures I saw they don't look terribly small although I could be wrong.

To the people who do feel that amps are necessary to truly get the full enjoyment from the music and the headphones or IEM's, what amps would you guys recommend that are good but on the cheaper side?

I've got Ultimate Ears Super.fi 5 EB's and Super.fi 4vi's.

Thanks!
post #2 of 21
It all depends of which headphone we are talking here. Etymotic ER4S or Head-Direct RE0? Yes. SF5EB or SF4? Not really. Amp does often improve SQ, especially if you use it with an line-out signal. However, the improvement is generally small for sensitive headphone (which is about > 95% of all earphone). If you just want to try out new thing, an eBay DIY'ed cmoy amp or a FiiO E5 should be cheap enough to give you the taste of amp but not ruined your wallet.
post #3 of 21
They're not THAT important, but with the SE530, my Corda Move sure adds some musical magic to it that makes it sound even better
post #4 of 21
Portable amps = generally worthless, overpriced and can never come close to a properly powered full sized amp. The good portable amps are the ones with terrible battery life. So I would think you should save your money for a real amp.
post #5 of 21
I think it is needed with high impedance earbud & iem.
I tried my Pk1 with an amp, got some improvement in detail, but small, and a little bit warmer, however the bass is big improvement from unamped, because pk1's impedance is high ( 150ohm)
post #6 of 21
It really depends on what IEM or earbud you are shooting for. Although I vouch for the use of portable amps and their benefits, it really should be the last thing you get.

First, get new headphones.
Second, get a new DAP (or mp3 player) if your current one isn't all that great.
Last, get a portable amp.

Just be sure to do enough research before you get anything and you should be set.
Good luck.
post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by scytheavatar View Post
Portable amps = generally worthless, overpriced and can never come close to a properly powered full sized amp. The good portable amps are the ones with terrible battery life. So I would think you should save your money for a real amp.
Why is it that there is always someone who say something like this when people are talking about PORTABLE AMPS?? Nobody ever asks whether a portable amp is really necessary for a home system, thats not the point; yes the good ones can sometimes serve double duty if you are on a bit of a budget and cant have music blaring at home, or room to set up a home rig. but these amps are supposed to be used to augment a portable solution; so comparing them to home amps for the same money is just downright STOOPID IMO. No they arent as good as a home amp and no they arent as good value perhaps; but you ALWAYS pay a premium for something that is miniaturized and the power supply and size constraints of being portable mean that it just isn't possible to fit the right components in to make it as good. Not enough room for a decent pot, not enough room really for decent caps (except in some notable exceptions), power supply caps and battery power just isnt enough to do it. But if you actually treat them as what they are; and have reasonable expectations of what something that size can do; then IMO they kick ass. The extra enjoyment my amp, IC's and VCAP Dock give me over a stock ipod (or any dap for that matter) is well worth the extra money and weight. it just isnt possible to carry a home system with you wherever you go is it??? please in future when somebody asks a question about portable amps and how much they help their PORTABLE system; please refrain from going totally off topic and suggesting they spend their money on something that doesn't fulfill their needs AT ALL. if somebody was asking about what good PCDP players were available these days and were they any good because they spend time traveling every day and would like to make it more enjoyable; would you suggest that they just forget about it, because the money would be better spent on a decent home CDP??? because in effect thats what you are doing by answering a thread such as this with a futile and totally irrelevant post like that. All it does is speak of your own personal bias.

to the OP, portable amps are only really good if you already have a pretty good setup that you like, but are wanting to squeeze the last bit of performance out of it; or if your IEM's are particularly sensitive and hiss with your DAP the opposite is true as well, if you have some really hard to drive HP's then yes an amp will improve your SQ.. in your case, I would suggest that you spend the money on some better HP's because you are likely to get a much larger improvement by doing that. In most cases adding an amp WILL increase your listening pleasure, regardless of how easily driven your HP's are. but the difference is only in the last 10%-15% of gain. then the last 5%-10% is cables (sometimes more but mostly about that much)IMO and always depending on the quality of your source; and that includes the quality of the rip; whether it be high bitrate mp3 or lossless, you cant squeeze blood out of a stone. amps arent magic, they cant produce quality where there isn't anything to pull it from; I think this is where some people get disappointed, by thinking that somehow; because they've read of how great portable amps are, they will suddenly be immersed in audio bliss, when they are listening with mid fi HP, low quality music and by using a ratshack mini to mini cable amping a HP out. upgrade path should be
1. get better HP
2. make sure your music is in suitable quality
3. if 1 is complete and you are happy, but could be happier get an amp and LOD (or similar for daps that dont have a LO)
4. still happy but again could use just that last tweak, get better cables,
5. see line 1
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by scytheavatar View Post
Portable amps = generally worthless, overpriced and can never come close to a properly powered full sized amp. The good portable amps are the ones with terrible battery life. So I would think you should save your money for a real amp.
Gee, are we starting this discussion again??????
post #9 of 21
nah but some people persist in making that comparison
post #10 of 21
Try it and you'll know (just like most high end audio). If you can hear a difference worth paying for, get it. Otherwise, don't bother.

FWIW, I tried a friends and it didn't make much difference on an iphone, but did on my t-mo wing. On the wing, the sound became more open and there was more bass. On the iphone, it had the same effect but much less (1/5th maybe?). This was with SE530's.
post #11 of 21
what amp was that?? because the pico makes quite a difference to my SE530 with my iphone 3G. the bass is much tighter. amps arent supposed to bring MORE bass, just control it better. its the highs that take more energy and usually are more evident with an amp. of course I use my DIYMOD most of the time still but for a good 3 months the iphone 3G was my primary portable. Of course the iphone already has a pretty good HP out so that might have contributed to the feeling that it didn't make that much difference.
post #12 of 21
Gah everyone don't confuse the OP. Lol. If your IEMs have low sensitivity, it's better to get a portable amp. If your IEMs have high sensitivity, it's up to you to decide whether it needs that extra amplification. But of course if you're using an iPod, it's better to bypass the crappy amp inside the iPod and use an external amp.
post #13 of 21
I already said all that
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by kenyee View Post
Try it and you'll know (just like most high end audio). If you can hear a difference worth paying for, get it. Otherwise, don't bother.

FWIW, I tried a friends and it didn't make much difference on an iphone, but did on my t-mo wing. On the wing, the sound became more open and there was more bass. On the iphone, it had the same effect but much less (1/5th maybe?). This was with SE530's.
My opinion.. this is the best advice of all :-)!!
post #15 of 21
The order is as follows:

1. Headphones
2. Source
3. Amp
4. Cables

I really don't know why so many people here are amp-focused instead of source-focused. A strong, clean source will make even a cheap amp sound good.

That being said with regards to portable audio, there are some cans that are two different cans in my mind between amped and unamped. The AT portable headphones are in that category. Ever tried an ES7 out of a headphone jack and then out of an amp? One is sloppy/woofy and one is controlled/balanced.

If you aren't using some of best portable cans out there, it really makes no sense to amp it beyond a CMoy, FiiO, PA2V2, etc.

Spend your money on the cans first, then the amp and cables.
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