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What is the purpose of using a headphone amp on an in-ear stage monitor (IEM)?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

A recent ad said, "Headphone amplifiers are special purpose audio amplifiers designed specifically to drive “dynamic,” headphones to their ultimate performance."

 

Maybe you can clear this up for me please.  MacIntosh Power Amplifiers like I use to run three-way studio monitors in my home, run full power all of the time.  That is the current is like a relentless river ever flowing by full blast.  The pre-amp restricts volume, which is usually separate from the Power Amp with a MacIntosh.  When we need power it is like curling your hand out of a car window at 100 mph.  You tilt your fingers out slightly and instantly the wind comes in.  It comes in instantly at 100 mph.  No delay possible.  That is how it is with Mac power.  If this is what a headphone Amp does I am all for it.  What matters is how fast it delivers power.

current.jpg

If a headphone amp will bring that MacIntosh sound to portable electronic devices they are worth the hassle.  But a real amp, a power amp like a MacIntosh takes a lot of power.  It needs full power weather you are using it or not.  It is on high forever.  It drains power from whole buildings, all of the time.  I cannot see people carrying around a full current amp with them, no matter how tiny, to get sound out of an ipod, which contains a digital reader, pre-amp and Amplifier already.

 

I think most amps, amps that I will call cheaper amps for this discussion.  I think most cheap amps; do not run at full power.  Maybe they run at 30% maybe 10% maybe less.  These amps synthesize extra power when they think it is needed.  This process, audible or not, has a delay.  This is why I think we pay so much for great amps.  Sound from a MacIntosh amplifier, sounds, and feels, different than sounds from cheap amps.

 

If headphone amps are not a full current amps, are headphone amp enthusiasts, suggesting that we carry around a cigarette sized device, five times larger than our digital readers, just to be able to put our volume controls at 10%, instead of the current 50%, it takes to blast volume out of in-ear-monitors from ipods?

um3xends.jpg

What exactly is the point?

It seems to me that if you have big giant dynamic headphone cans, like those using ¼ inch plugs for use in the home studio.  These speakers need power boosters to run correctly.  But when they designed on-stage monitors, they moved the device close enough to the ear so that it takes very little power to stimulate your inner ear to make the correct vibrations.  Even the lowly ipod has enough power to run the in-ear stage monitors (IEM), loud enough to cause ear damage.  What is the purpose of using a headphone amp on an IEM?

post #2 of 26

I think you have been 'thinking too much' there is no delay, just like your 'expensive amp' which by calling others cheap amps you are calling by default, the amp is just on, the power is there and attenuated on input at the pot, not output like many people think. 

 

proportionate to the load, I would think some of these headphone amps have at least as much headroom as your power amp.

 

if you have to ask the other questions, you know not nearly as much as you think

 

low impedance loads take more current that higher impedance loads, a multidriver IEM is actually a much more difficult load to drive properly than a 300ohm single dynamic driver load.

 

you could drive your home speakers to loud enough levels with a crappy car stereo, but would you??.....

post #3 of 26

I'll simply quote someone else:

 

"If you haven't heard it, you don't have an opinion".

 

Granted you might be one of those with the blessed "golden ears" that dislikes the little amount of difference a headphone amp makes. But put a decent one in between, even a lowly GoVibe Martini or Linerossa W1, that iPod>UM1 combo and you will hear a difference. A *better* difference. Whether or not it sounds nice to your own ears is a different matter; if you can tell that there is improvement, it matters not, as that means that a headphone amp is not so useless after all.

 

Note that improvement and nice sound is not the same. For example, a pair of Livewires Trips definitely promises a lot more than the ESW9 at half its price. It's got way more clarity, timbre, in short, overall improvement. But I still like the ESW9's sound more.

 

And like what the above poster said. You can use a great amp to power some $10 pair of speakers. But would you like the sound that comes out? Whenever there is a weak link, it shows in the sound.

 

Cheers.


Edited by K.I. Unlimited - 5/31/10 at 8:02pm
post #4 of 26

hehe, now where have I heard that line before I wonder?? so true, an opinion without actual experience is an assumption

post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 

Quote:

Originally Posted by qusp View Post  ' there is no delay,... the amp is just on, the power is there and attenuated on input at the pot, not output like many people think.

What is a pot?

Quote:

Originally Posted by qusp View Post  proportionate to the load, I would think some of these headphone amps have at least as much headroom as your power amp.

Headroom? 

 

Hay I go to Headphone.com and they tell me, "In ear headphones, or earphones, have excellent sound quality and are very efficient, so they work well with an iPod or other portable player without an amp."  I would expect stage monitors to be even more efficient.

Quote:

Originally Posted by qusp View Post 

if you have to ask the other questions, you know not nearly as much as you think.

I am the one asking questions here, I don't know anything about it.  I think it is clearly a case of the  "Emperor’s New Clothes," and no-one has shown me any difference yet.  MacIntosh amps do sound different.    Do you know why?

 

Maybe I should talk to your supervisor.  There must be a reason that cheap amps do not have the MacIntosh amp sound, and run full blast all of the time, pot or no pot!

 

Headphone.com also went on to say that, "the size of your headphone will give you some clues to whether an amp may be warranted.  Most Earbud and in ear headphones are typically very efficient and are less likely to benefit strongly from an amp.  Many larger headphones will benefit, or even require, a headphone amp to reach listenable volume levels with portable players."

Quote:

Originally Posted by qusp View Post  low impedance loads take more current that higher impedance loads, a multidriver IEM is actually a much more difficult load to drive properly than a 300ohm single dynamic driver load.

I like many others, bring new cash to the table in this game.  What does this mean in American?

 

Do you expect us to learn a foreign language just to but earphones on an iTouch?

Quote:

"If you haven't heard it, you don't have an opinion".

If you have heard it, you can't explain it in words to someone who hasn’t.  Which is just about most of the known world.

Quote:

Originally Posted by K.I. Unlimited View Post   A *better* difference...  if you can tell that there is improvement, it matters not, as that means that a headphone amp is not so useless after all

Are you sure that it is not just louder?

Quote:

 definitely promises a lot more... at half its price.

You have a nice way of saying stuff.  I think I will use that," promises a lot more." shure-headphones-tn.jpg Yes, many of us are sure to bring a  lot more cash into this game, provided it does not turn out to be all smoke and mirrors.

post #6 of 26



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumflow View Post

Quote:

What is a pot?

Headroom? 

 

Hay I go to Headphone.com and they tell me, "In ear headphones, or earphones, have excellent sound quality and are very efficient, so they work well with an iPod or other portable player without an amp."  I would expect stage monitors to be even more efficient.

I am the one asking questions here, I don't know anything about it.  I think it is clearly a case of the  "Emperor’s New Clothes," and no-one has shown me any difference yet.  MacIntosh amps do sound different.    Do you know why?

 

Maybe I should talk to your supervisor.  There must be a reason that cheap amps do not have the MacIntosh amp sound, and run full blast all of the time, pot or no pot!

 

Headphone.com also went on to say that, "the size of your headphone will give you some clues to whether an amp may be warranted.  Most Earbud and in ear headphones are typically very efficient and are less likely to benefit strongly from an amp.  Many larger headphones will benefit, or even require, a headphone amp to reach listenable volume levels with portable players."

I like many others, bring new cash to the table in this game.  What does this mean in American?

 

Do you expect us to learn a foreign language just to but earphones on an iTouch?

If you have heard it, you can't explain it in words to someone who hasn’t.  Which is just about most of the known world.

Are you sure that it is not just louder?

You have a nice way of saying stuff.  I think I will use that," promises a lot more." shure-headphones-tn.jpg Yes, many of us are sure to bring a  lot more cash into this game, provided it does not turn out to be all smoke and mirrors.



You sir i think are being rather rude and should calm down. Qusp gave a very well written response to what you wrote. having a passing knowledge of how electronics work is almost a requirement to use this website and understand what is being said. You should go do a bit of research into what you are talking and learn things, like what "always being on" actually means that it is a class A amplifier. These are the kinds of things that will help you understand the advice being given out here.

 

When qusp states that multi driver iems provide a harder load to drive that some 600ohm full size headphones, it is because the crossover in the earphone( the electronics that splits up the incoming signal and sends it to the appropriate driver) provides a varying impedance load depending on the frequency of the input. This makes it harder for the amp to drive the load. Also for a given voltage, a lower impedance requires more current than a higher one, which is also harder to drive, this is just ohms law.

 

So in all, the above mean that the built in amps that are in your sansa clip, zune, or iPod dont have the drive capability or the current capability to properly amp some headphones. Which is where a much better outboard amp comes into play.

post #7 of 26
Thread Starter 

Thank you for your quick reply SoupKnowva.

Quote:

Originally Posted by SoupRKnowva View Post  dont have the drive capability or the current capability to properly amp some headphones. Which is where a much better outboard amp comes into play.

Can you tell by looking at the specs which headphones need this additional current to run the full frequency range? 

 

What kind of specs can we get on the ipod?

 

A common in-ear stage monitor has specs like:

 

UM3X Specifications
Sensitivity: 124dB/mW
Frequency Response: 20 Hz -18 kHz
Impedance: 56 ohms

 

No information on where the crossovers occur.  I don't see how this can tell us about the characteristics of the ipods power supply when it instantly needs to deliver a certain amount of charge because of a sound transient.

Quote:

...properly amp some headphones.

How do we know which ones.  Are there portable class A headphone amps?

post #8 of 26



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumflow View Post

 

 

 

Do you expect us to learn a foreign language just to but earphones on an iTouch?

 

Are you sure that it is not just louder?

You have a nice way of saying stuff.  I think I will use that," promises a lot more." shure-headphones-tn.jpg Yes, many of us are sure to bring a  lot more cash into this game, provided it does not turn out to be all smoke and mirrors.

Usually, the one that asks questions should be humble if he/she expects answer(s) of desirable quality. To get such answers while being a turn-off would of course, be a miracle. I only expect certain persona in head-fi to be able to do that, and I respect them the most.

 

Actually, when I said "you would hear better sound with an amp", I literally meant that *you* go try one of all those well-received amps. Try a few. And if you still perceive it as merely being louder, then by all means, stick to the McIntosh amp. Everyone's brains and ears are different, they perceive things differently and will require different equipment.
 

 

And I would like to clarify something. The "half the price" comment was referring to the fact that the ESW9's retail price is indeed, about half the price of the Livewires Trips. That is for me anyway.
 


Edited by K.I. Unlimited - 6/1/10 at 2:12am
post #9 of 26

I cant work out how to do quotes the old way in this new format, very annoying, I dont want to have to code my post in HTML just to use quotes. anyway read below, its a bit of a mess, but you should be able to follow it
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sumflow View Post

Quote:

What is a pot?

 

hmm, talking the way you do, I would have expected you to know the answer to that, potentiometer is what controls the volume or otherwise adjusts the level of energy that is attenuated. it is at the amplifier input, or part of your preamp

 

Headroom? 

 

wow I didnt think I was using language inappropriate for an audiophile. an amp that has a lot of headroom has plenty of power in reserve, so handles the easier tasks with finesse and has enough in reserve for when things get a bit more difficult. it tends to sound much better than something that is designed to do 'just enough' like an ipod, which also has to power many other tasks and uses a buck booster to get more voltage (but less current as a result) out of a 3.7v battery.

 

Hay I go to Headphone.com and they tell me, "In ear headphones, or earphones, have excellent sound quality and are very efficient, so they work well with an iPod or other portable player without an amp."  I would expect stage monitors to be even more efficient.

 

and yet they have their own range of portable headphone amps.......

 

yes they will sound reasonable with very little power, but they will NOT be handled well, as the above poster says, each of the drivers in a multidriver IEM presents a different impedance/load to the amp, at some frequencies this load is even lower than 4R, thats an insanely difficult load for an amp, symptoms are boomy bass, closed in soundstage and even distortion or drooping in the lower frequencies that demand more current. damping factor is what is needed for low impedance and complex loads, no DAP has enough

 

I am the one asking questions here, I don't know anything about it.  I think it is clearly a case of the  "Emperor’s New Clothes," and no-one has shown me any difference yet.  MacIntosh amps do sound different.    Do you know why?

 

well you sure talked big like you know whats up, nobody CAN show you the difference (your sig even mentions this), many of these manufacturers will have a return policy and if you buy an amp that is of good quality, there is an insanely good resale value here in the used section if they dont take returns; provided you take care of it.

 

it is not for me to convince you, I really dont care; you are the one missing out. if you are looking for advice, maybe next time try not coming in with such an attitude. or people will just ignore you like I was tempted to. 

 

Maybe I should talk to your supervisor.  There must be a reason that cheap amps do not have the MacIntosh amp sound, and run full blast all of the time, pot or no pot!

 

 

mate, I run my own business, you are talking to the supervisor. what exactly are you even talking about here? what cheap amps? its clear you havent tried a single portable amp, yet that seems to be what you are talking about, although you only mention your macintosh expensive amp sound again..i'm confused

 

try one, have your own opinion; or dont, it matters not to me, I dont make amps. 

 

 

Headphone.com also went on to say that, "the size of your headphone will give you some clues to whether an amp may be warranted.  Most Earbud and in ear headphones are typically very efficient and are less likely to benefit strongly from an amp.  Many larger headphones will benefit, or even require, a headphone amp to reach listenable volume levels with portable players."

I like many others, bring new cash to the table in this game.  What does this mean in American?

 

yep, wads of cash, got it

 

Do you expect us to learn a foreign language just to but earphones on an iTouch?

 

huh?? if you wish to get involved in a technical hobby, as with any of them, you must learn the language if you wish to know the technical details. I try to keep things reasonably simple, but some things just cannot be answered without the proper term. its not jargon, google it.

 

it is not even language specific to portable audio for the most part, or even just headphone audio, this language is used by all manner of audio enthusiast that chooses gear based on performance and spec. except maybe for those who want to be told what is 'the best' so they can just buy it, be done with it and get on with the business of being smug about it. there is no shortage of those in all fields, not just this one

 

If you have heard it, you can't explain it in words to someone who hasn’t.  Which is just about most of the known world.

Are you sure that it is not just louder?

You have a nice way of saying stuff.  I think I will use that," promises a lot more." shure-headphones-tn.jpgYes, many of us are sure to bring a  lot more cash into this game, provided it does not turn out to be all smoke and mirrors.

 

 

 those speakers of yours could just as easily be powered by a berringer stage amp, or teac home theatre receiver. those mac amps could probably have gotten away with half as many regulators, a single, much smaller transformer and perhaps used mosfets that were only rated for 400 volts instead of silicone carbide ones that are probably rated for 1200v (this is just an example, I have not researched your amp)

 

you seem to value the prowess of your macintosh amps, I dont understand why you dont get this?? or are you just looking for a reaction? the point being that having more than enough power brings with it an authority of sound that cannot be got by having 'enough' to do the job. and not even enough is worse again

 

yes there are quite a few portable amps that run in class A or class AB, some are modified to run like this by an enthusiast and some just use modern opamps, most of which are designed to run in A or AB as standard.

 

i'm sorry if I dont have the above mentioned grace, but mate, you really know how to put a person offside, while expecting them to take time out of their day to help you understand something

 

good luck with it all, get out there and use those ears, nothing you read here will tell you one way or the other if its for you and you dont seem short of a dime

 

 

 

 


 


Edited by qusp - 6/1/10 at 7:57am
post #10 of 26

SUMFLOW=Troll..Leave well alone!

post #11 of 26

so it would seem

post #12 of 26
Thread Starter 

Thanks,

I saw that you were down under.  Up here they do a lot of out sourcing down under.  The first thing we say when we are only getting a surface answer is the supervisor bit.  Nothing personal.  I had never heard of a class A amp before, but it may be what I want.

Quote:

Originally Posted by qusp View Post  the point being that having more than enough power brings with it an authority of sound that cannot be got by having 'enough' to do the job


If it's the right  kind of power, yeah more than enough is the way to go.  I can only guess how AB gets its current.  Do you think AB is delayed at all from A?

post #13 of 26

here's a little on the different types of amps

Class-A Output device(s) conduct through 360 degrees of input cycle (never switch off) - A single output device is possible.

(one of the most widely used designs)

Class-B Output devices conduct for 180 degrees (1/2 of input cycle) - for audio, two output devices in "push-pull" must be used

Class-AB Halfway (or partway) between the above two examples (181 to 200 degrees typical) - also requires push-pull operation for audio.

Class-C Output device(s) conduct for less than 180 degrees (100 to 150 degrees typical) - Radio Frequencies only - cannot be used for audio! This is the sound heard when one of the output devices goes open circuit in an audio amp!

(if you have ever had you cell phone go off next to your amp this can happen sometimes)

Class-D Quasi-digital amplification. Uses pulse-width-modulation of a high frequency (square wave) carrier to reproduce the audio signal.

(used in many guitar and bass amps)

 

This is a basic description of each there is a lot more info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronic_amplifier

 

I do not believe any amplifiers are delayed off  each other at least noticeably. So from my understanding class AB does not have any delay from class A

 

In laymans terms the pot is basically a knob. On an amplifier the volume knob would be one; on a guitar all the knobs are pots.

I hope this helps.

peace,

matt


Edited by gabbathebutt - 6/5/10 at 9:29am
post #14 of 26
Thread Starter 

I was thinking if the current was already there, like when I stick my hand out of a window of a speeding car.  That the result should be more immediate than when the electronics has to build up to that current by mechanical means.  I would think theoretically at least,  that the parts would offer some resistance.  I went to Wiki before I came here.

Quote:

Originally Posted by gabbathebutt View Post   I do not believe any amplifiers are delayed off  each other at least noticeably. So from my understanding class AB does not have any delay from class A

 

In laymans terms the pot is basically a knob. On an amplifier the volume knob would be one; on a guitar all the knobs are pots.

I knew that the knobs on a guitar were volume controls, why do you suppose they call them pots?

 

I thought a pot came from potus meaning "drinking cup," or a  container, used for storage.
 

post #15 of 26

No, 'pot' is just a slang term for 'potentiometer.' That is what restricts the total volume in your preamp, and a headphone amp, and any amplifier with volume control. A headphone amplifier is simply a preamp/power amp combo, that supplies a much lower current than a regular integrated, and is optimized for powering headphones. 

 

Other than that, your last post makes no sense. Also, blue is annoying. Good job figuring that out, troll.

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