Everyone going to canjam should be sure and find boomana and thank her for this post
post #61 of 147
5/16/09 at 10:48am
Truly an excellent post and I'm glad it has become a sticky.
My .02 cents:
Keep in mind how you will use your headphone
I always stress to people, be realistic about how you are going to use your headphones and the primary environment. For example, if the main purpose is to use something whilst commuting, it doesn't make sense to spend $300+ on earphones, incorporate a portable amp and load your DAP with nothing but lossless files which take up a heck of a lot more space than V0 MP3s. No matter how isolating IEMs can be, noisy environments will drown out subtleties that high-end earphones can offer. Not to mention the added risk of losing or damaging equipment in public situations and the tendency to increase volume levels to drown out said background noise which is not good for your precious hearing. Same thing goes for open headphones in a constant noisy environment such as a dorm room - not the ideal type of headphone.
Keep in check the tendency to overspend
As Boomana mentioned, there are plenty of terrific choices to fit all budgets. I've seen a number of FS postings of people selling equipment because they ultimately couldn't afford it (credit cards are very dangerous with this hobby). It is oh, so tempting to get the newest amp or the latest closed headphone or the much talked about this or that. I've read a number of posts stating something to the effect they shouldn't be spending this money but they just had to get a pair of X headphones or that amazing Y tube amp. The temptations are strong - believe me, I know - but with a bit of homework, you can find some gems with a relatively friendly price tag.
Never forget the main reason for this hobby
It is easy to get caught up in the equipment and lose sight of the main reason we got involved in this crazy hobby - the music. You can enjoy music equally as much on a $80 pair of headphones as an $800 pair.
Welcome to head-fi and sorry about your wallet.
FS Forums = the For Sale Forums, which are great places to buy excellent used gear.
And yes, cans = headphones.
Good question. I usually use the term in reference to full-size headphones, but I think "cans" arguably includes all headphones.
Hey boomana, if you're still updating, maybe you can help clear up some of the common misinformation going around. I can't really think of too much at the moment, but when I keep seeing people telling others that certain headphones don't need amps because their impedance is low, that just kills me. I saw a post by Cool_Torpedo in Currawong's blog that explained things pretty well:
OK, here we go, since I can't find the thread nor the reply, I'll try to explain a bit -again- how the impedance/sensitivity thing goes.
Headphones' drivers are transducers that convert AC electricity into sound. Dynamic drivers, the most common ones, use a coil -wounded wire around a hollow cylinder- into a magnetical field provided by a magnet, to convert the AC voltage into movement which is transferred to a membrane. The membrane's movement is transferred to the air particles in front of your ear. For the frequency characteristics of that vibration, and its pressure level, your brain interprets it as sound.
The voice coil of the driver has an impedance, which is the opposition it presents to the AC source (the amp or any headphone out) to the free flow of electrons thru it. The lower that impedance, the more freely the electrons travel and the closer is the scenario to a short-circuit. This means that your source of electricity needs to pump more current intensity to correctly drive the transducer. So you can take two conclussions from this:
- What makes the AC to drive any coil is its voltage. The minute variations of voltage follow the signal originally recorded.
- The current intensity is important to keep the coil excited, and you need more current intensity the lower is the impedance. There's a relation between the current voltage and the intensity which is the power measured in watts. Power is the product of the voltage and the intensity: P=V*I. This is why amps are rated for their power output and not only for their voltage capabilites.
Up to this moment there's no relation between the impedance and how loud the transducer will sound. However there's a parameter named sensitivity which tells you how loud will a transducer "sound" for a given amount of power you're feeding it. The sensitivity is rated in dB/mW for headphones, so a pair of phones delivering a SPL of 100dB/mW are more sensitive (can sound louder) than a pair rated at 90dB/mW.
So the easy or hard to drive a pair of phones is, depends on both parameters, the sensitivity and the impedance. The worst case would be a pair of phones of very low sensitivity and also a very low impedance. Why? because they'll be asking to the source more watts to sound equally loud as a more sensitive pair, and an important part of that power will be asked in the form of current intensity, which is something that most portable players, headphone outs in receivers and players, etc. aren't designed to deliver. This is the case of cans like AKG 701 or Denon D5000.
If your cans are low impedance but are very sensitive (the case of Grados and most IEMs) then despite their asking more current from the source, they still manage to sound very loud because they need very little power to do so.
Most people tend to think that low impedance equals to louder sound, but this is plainly wrong. It all depends on the sensitivity and how much power the cans need to give a high SPL. Also take into account that not all manufacturers offer their sensitivity values and not all them do in dB/mW but do in dB/mV. It's not much of a problem, you just need to convert the mV in mW knowing the phones impedance.
Torpedo, if you see this, I'm assuming it's OK for me to repost. If not, my apologies.
#2 is something I needed to hear back when I first came here. Sticky this indeed, lest others fall victim to the myth that portables are actually an alternative to full-sized amps...