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Amps that can drive the HiFiMan HE-6 planar headphones - Page 139

post #2071 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohhgourami View Post
 

 

 

I can get into more detail about to two DAC if you like. But what I got out of this meet is that I want an OR5!

 

Empirical Audio Off-Ramp 5? Yes, please express on the DACs. I'm still up looking at furniture options for my gears... affordable :wink_face:furniture to be clear.

 

Thanks for sharing the fantastic pix!

 

Post Script.:  While I have not heard any of the Empirical stuff, Steve has personally helped me solve some computer audio problems over at CA and left me performance tips.


Edited by Silent One - 11/4/13 at 3:59am
post #2072 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by songmic View Post
 

 

It seems a lot of folks here enjoy their HE-6 with FirstWatt amps. No doubt they provide very clean, high quality amplification. However, reading their spec sheets make me wonder...

http://www.firstwatt.com/prod.html

 

First of all, aren't these all power amps? I would consider a FirstWatt integrated amp, but it appears that they are power amps or monoblocks and that would require a separate preamp. However, what's really weird is that their power output is very measly (5-25 W @ 8 ohms) for power amps. I would understand such low power output if they were integrated amps, but power amps?

 

From my experience in audio, dedicated power amps tend to be - ironically - larger, heavier, and more expensive than integrated amps. That's because higher quality parts are used to deliver amplification that is more powerful and better quality than integrated amps. Power amps that are the size and price of those FirstWatt amps are usually rated at least 100W per channel. While the quality of amplification in these FirstWatt amps may be top-notch, I think it's somewhat shameless that the quantity of amplification of these dedicated power amps and monoblocks are only 25W at best.

 

Also, your F1J amp is supposedly only rated 10W @ 8 ohms. That translates into approximately 1.6W at 50 ohms, which IMO is definitely not enough power to drive the HE-6, despite being a speaker amp. 

 

Even a Schiit Lyr, which is a sub-$500 headphone amp, delivers much more power than that. If the HE-6 sounds good with your F1J, then you never felt that F1J lacks absolute power to drive HE-6?

 

Then I suppose the HE-6 is not such a power hungry headphone, after all?

 

It seems strange, because even with my 70W Pathos amp, which outputs 7 times more power than your FirstWatt, I turn the volume to 50-70% of max volume for casual listening, going as high as 80-90% for audiophile recordings.

 

First Bold:

I suggest you read up on Nelson Pass (AKA Papa) to get a full understanding of his design theory.  This is a great place to start - https://www.passdiy.com/project/articles

At one time he mainly focused on low powered amps to drive  high-efficiency full-range speakers. The First Watt Amps are know for it's minimalist pure class A designs.

 

Second Bold:

Why do you think that?  This IMO this works out really well for us HE-6 folks.  Do we really need a 200 watt power amp?  Note.  His low powered designs are a God Send for us headphone / HE-6 folks IMO.  Also, take a look in DIY audio - he has a very large following.  Ask Brunk..:biggrin:

 

Again, read to understand where Nelson Pass design theory leads you.  Also he does have another company.  Pass Labs, there you will find your high powered amps at a much higher cost as well.  Most are not pure class A, but they are biased really high to stay in class A for longer periods of time before switching to class B.  Headphones on these amps would most likely "never" leave class A.

 

Third Bold:

It seems your "stuck" on the power aspect alone.  There's much more that comes into play besides power.  When we talk about power to drive the HE-6 we are not talking about "loudness" or how far your volume knob can go.  That's gain.  The power we're talking about is mainly and IMO current reserve and the ability to give the HE-6 a full bodied sound and the current when it asks for it.

 

You say 'despite being a speaker amp"  But these speaker amps are made to drive "speakers"  Surly a headphone - even the HE-6 is not a more difficult load to drive compared to the speakers these amps are designed for.  

 

The HE-6 is only hard to drive or considered power hungry when it's compared to other headphones.  They are not hard to drive compared to speakers.  So a low powered speaker amp fits the bill IMO.

 

Forth Bold:

Again, power ratings are not the only piece to this puzzle.  I asked myself, what's the main difference between a headphone amp and a speaker amp.  Now I'm not an EE by no means, but I did stay at a holiday inn last night:biggrin:

 

Maybe Brunk can chime in on this.  I know both use transistors, capacitors, transformers and things.  Some "may" can be used interchangeably I'm not sure.  However, the most noticable difference being used in both are the "Transformers"  This is where all the current is held if I'm not mistaken.  

 

In most headphone amps the most used transformers are r-core / c-core transformers.  The Lyr use 2 (??)-core transformers. Some use toroidal transformers like the Beat22, GS-X mk2 and others.  Audio-GD puts a lot of effort in his power supplies, so their headphone amps may be a little different.   However, they are still relatively small compared to the ones used in speaker amps.  For instance.  Most headphone amps concentrate on small form factors,  the smaller the better for some.  Speaker amps don't have this restraint.  Lets take a very cheap speaker amp - the Emotiva a-100 mini X, It's transformer is bigger than most headphone amps in their entirety.  IMO this is the main piece of the puzzle.  This is where the current reserve is kept.  The bigger the transformers are the more current reserve is available.  

 

The HE-6 requires a constant current flow to consistently sound its best.  To maintain the thump and great bass response, to consistently tame and smooth out the treble, to always make the mids sound it's best for this headphone - the current has to be in reserve, and "Most" headphone amps are not able to accomplish this.  I think it's because of the small transformers being used.

 

Someone please chime in and correct me where I'm not correct.

 

Fifth bold:

Again, the position on the volume knob relates to gain.  However, when that volume knob is turned up like that, the question is how long can it maintain before it runs out of gas - so to speak.

post #2073 of 4874
Quote:

Originally Posted by songmic View Post
 

The FirstWatt amps look interesting, but unfortunately it seems they are only power amps and not integrated amps, which means I'll also need to buy a preamp. There is also the space issue....

Have you considered that unless you have a number of different source devices, you can often bypass the need for a preamp altogether? For example, I have been using an Oppo BDP-95 for a number of years and its internal 32 bit digital volume control has no problem driving any of the numerous speaker amps to which I have hooked up my HE-6s. (Oppo output impedance ~ 75 ohms, amp input impedance 7,500 to 115,000 ohms)  Although I eventually switched to a passive LDR volume control, it is still the Oppo on max gain that drives the amps; and if you want to listen to LPs you will also need a phono preamp, so I don't quite understand your requirement for an integrated amp? Most Class A amps are certainly not portable or lightweight but they really are not that large (well, a lot of them including the First Watt amps). Although heat could become a problem in the summer but if you have ac .... 

post #2074 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by songmic View Post

... Snip...

Also, your F1J amp is supposedly only rated 10W @ 8 ohms. That translates into approximately 1.6W at 50 ohms, which IMO is definitely not enough power to drive the HE-6, despite being a speaker amp. Even a Schiit Lyr, which is a sub-$500 headphone amp, delivers much more power than that. If the HE-6 sounds good with your F1J, then you never felt that F1J lacks absolute power to drive HE-6? Then I suppose the HE-6 is not such a power hungry headphone, after all?

It seems strange, because even with my 70W Pathos amp, which outputs 7 times more power than your FirstWatt, I turn the volume to 50-70% of max volume for casual listening, going as high as 80-90% for audiophile recordings.

Common misconception. The F1/F1J are current amplifiers. It will deliver roughly 7 watts into the He-6. Another misunderstood First Watt amp is the F5 at 25 watts into 8 ohms. Most amplifier power specs (voltage amplifier) state max power at max voltage, so the simple ratio metric relationship can be used to estimate power at some other load impedance. Not so with the F5. It will have no problems delivering the voltage and current required for about 7 watts into the HE-6.
post #2075 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by rlawli View Post
 

Have you considered that unless you have a number of different source devices, you can often bypass the need for a preamp altogether? For example, I have been using an Oppo BDP-95 for a number of years and its internal 32 bit digital volume control has no problem driving any of the numerous speaker amps to which I have hooked up my HE-6s.

 

This is true.  Also the NAD m51 has a very good Digital preamp section as well.

post #2076 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by preproman View Post
 

 

This is true.  Also the NAD m51 has a very good Digital preamp section as well.

 

So, does it mean that I can directly plug my NAD M51 into a FirstWatt power amp without buying a separate preamp?

post #2077 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by songmic View Post
 

 

So, does it mean that I can directly plug my NAD M51 into a FirstWatt power amp without buying a separate preamp?

 

Yup. It sure does.

post #2078 of 4874

WOW!! So much great and eventful discussion going on, love it!

 

Quote:

Originally Posted by songmic View Post
 

 

Was the $7k McIntosh amp a MC275, by the way? And a sub-$1K solid state amp was better sounding with the HE-6 than the McIntosh? Then I suppose synergy DOES matter with the HE-6. My Pathos Classic One MKIII integrated amp is actually not a pure tube amp but a hybrid amp: pure class A tube input stage for its preamp section, and solid-state output for power amp with oversized transformers. This imparts a more solid-state sound characteristic than tube.

 

The FirstWatt amps look interesting, but unfortunately it seems they are only power amps and not integrated amps, which means I'll also need to buy a preamp. There is also the space issue... the Pathos Classic One MKIII is one of the few integrated amps that can fit in a desktop system with limited space while delivering massive power of 70W per channel. For now, I'm going to stick to the Pathos amp, but if I move to a bigger house than I'll definitely consider a FirstWatt.

 

Thanks for your kind input, mate!

Nope, it was the MC302 off the 8ohm autoformer taps. The dealer recommended the integrated MA6600 for me, which may still be on that rare McIntosh discount, because they're coming out with a new version. I do think synergy matters, but in the context of quality amplification, not sonic signature which is subjective. I only found it to be better because the McIntosh was just too warm. 

 

It is correct that you would need a preamp of some sort. Something I have discovered, and many are realizing this as well who have tried it is that a LDR-based preamp a.k.a. "lightspeed"  That thread I linked was started by the original designer of lightspeed. There is not only a huge following on diyaudio, but audiogon as well. This thing can be built for peanuts, with a typical maximum price of $500. It's small too. 

Quote:
Originally Posted by songmic View Post
 

On a side note, I discovered that the HE-6, while being a genre master, is not friendly with sub-par recordings. Headphones like the LCD-3 or TH900 somewhat masks the little faults of such recordings at the expense of transparency/soundstage, while the HD800 makes listening to brightly mastered pop and rock songs (especially those subject the loudness war) unbearable. I think the HE-6 falls in the latter category, revealing faults in the source in an unforgiving way.

Yeah, not many TOTL cans tolerate crappy recording very nicely, but definitely not as bad as the HD800.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

That F1J is more powerful than anything I've heard on the 6 short of the big speaker amps. Even then, that amp has the current flow not seen by any that's graced the table. Darryl has had many amps roll through the audio dungeon and the space heater has bested them all.

:veryevil: I just pictured Darryl sweating in an audio dungeon from the Class A dissipation with a big smile on his face. Good grief when I had a 9.2 system running, I had the AVR's amps, 2x Emo XPA-500s and the sub amps all putting out heat and it was just ridiculous after a few hours. Way, way too hot and stuffy lol. Definitely requires an audio closet lol.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent One View Post
 

:beerchug:

 

Glad you made it down! I was unable to attend, but did pick up :wink:my new gears on Saturday. I heard them at the studio so there was no rush to unwrap them last night. Going to do so shortly - will be keen to see if the monos have enough stuff to push the HE-6. And then listen to a simple source  - iPod into the amps with and without the preamp and learn more about the new sound signature. 

 

Can't wait to see pix!

:popcorn: 

 

Yay SO! Send us pics soon :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by preproman View Post
 

 

First Bold:

I suggest you read up on Nelson Pass (AKA Papa) to get a full understanding of his design theory.  This is a great place to start - https://www.passdiy.com/project/articles

At one time he mainly focused on low powered amps to drive  high-efficiency full-range speakers. The First Watt Amps are know for it's minimalist pure class A designs.

 

Second Bold:

Why do you think that?  This IMO this works out really well for us HE-6 folks.  Do we really need a 200 watt power amp?  Note.  His low powered designs are a God Send for us headphone / HE-6 folks IMO.  Also, take a look in DIY audio - he has a very large following.  Ask Brunk..:biggrin:

 

Again, read to understand where Nelson Pass design theory leads you.  Also he does have another company.  Pass Labs, there you will find your high powered amps at a much higher cost as well.  Most are not pure class A, but they are biased really high to stay in class A for longer periods of time before switching to class B.  Headphones on these amps would most likely "never" leave class A.

 

Third Bold:

It seems your "stuck" on the power aspect alone.  There's much more that comes into play besides power.  When we talk about power to drive the HE-6 we are not talking about "loudness" or how far your volume knob can go.  That's gain.  The power we're talking about is mainly and IMO current reserve and the ability to give the HE-6 a full bodied sound and the current when it asks for it.

 

You say 'despite being a speaker amp"  But these speaker amps are made to drive "speakers"  Surly a headphone - even the HE-6 is not a more difficult load to drive compared to the speakers these amps are designed for.  

 

The HE-6 is only hard to drive or considered power hungry when it's compared to other headphones.  They are not hard to drive compared to speakers.  So a low powered speaker amp fits the bill IMO.

 

Forth Bold:

Again, power ratings are not the only piece to this puzzle.  I asked myself, what's the main difference between a headphone amp and a speaker amp.  Now I'm not an EE by no means, but I did stay at a holiday inn last night:biggrin:

 

Maybe Brunk can chime in on this.  I know both use transistors, capacitors, transformers and things.  Some "may" can be used interchangeably I'm not sure.  However, the most noticable difference being used in both are the "Transformers"  This is where all the current is held if I'm not mistaken.  

 

In most headphone amps the most used transformers are r-core / c-core transformers.  The Lyr use 2 (??)-core transformers. Some use toroidal transformers like the Beat22, GS-X mk2 and others.  Audio-GD puts a lot of effort in his power supplies, so their headphone amps may be a little different.   However, they are still relatively small compared to the ones used in speaker amps.  For instance.  Most headphone amps concentrate on small form factors,  the smaller the better for some.  Speaker amps don't have this restraint.  Lets take a very cheap speaker amp - the Emotiva a-100 mini X, It's transformer is bigger than most headphone amps in their entirety.  IMO this is the main piece of the puzzle.  This is where the current reserve is kept.  The bigger the transformers are the more current reserve is available.  

 

The HE-6 requires a constant current flow to consistently sound its best.  To maintain the thump and great bass response, to consistently tame and smooth out the treble, to always make the mids sound it's best for this headphone - the current has to be in reserve, and "Most" headphone amps are not able to accomplish this.  I think it's because of the small transformers being used.

 

Someone please chime in and correct me where I'm not correct.

 

Fifth bold:

Again, the position on the volume knob relates to gain.  However, when that volume knob is turned up like that, the question is how long can it maintain before it runs out of gas - so to speak.

 +1 As usual, great post man. I do reiterate first and second bolds. Third bold - this is true, watts is a small part of the picture. Fourth bold - the "PSU section", not watts, is the very foundation upon which everything else is built. I liken it to mp3's, you can't retrieve what isn't there in the first place, no matter how good your cans and EQ is. Power is the very soul of our electronics, which is the very thing reproducing this music. Toroidals are overall the best type of "transformer", but it's not the only attribute to look for. This would be like building a speaker cabinet out of cement to eliminate its resonances, but you only solved one problem and ignored others - mea culpa.

 

Anyways, power is the foundation, but again it's not the end of all your problems so to speak. I and perhaps Happy Camper (among others) are in the same boat as me. Instead of thinking "what sounds the best", I take the approach of "what does the least damage to the signal?" There's all sorts of trickery to get an amp to look perfect on paper - negative feedback, several watts, balanced operation, high quality passive components etc. but that doesn't mean they took "music" as the first and most important consideration. Mr. Pass had developed First Watt as separate from Pass Labs because he enjoys pushing the envelope, coming out with new products on a fairly rapid pace to avoid boredom, and has in turn graciously made his schematics highly available and encourages the diy community to test, refine, and allow the designs to speak for themselves, which in turn sells the amp.

 

I could go on for a very long time about preamplification and small signal loss throughout the chain, but I'll stop here and let others discover these things for themselves unless someone really wants me to delve further into the topic.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by rlawli View Post
 

Have you considered that unless you have a number of different source devices, you can often bypass the need for a preamp altogether? For example, I have been using an Oppo BDP-95 for a number of years and its internal 32 bit digital volume control has no problem driving any of the numerous speaker amps to which I have hooked up my HE-6s. (Oppo output impedance ~ 75 ohms, amp input impedance 7,500 to 115,000 ohms)  Although I eventually switched to a passive LDR volume control, it is still the Oppo on max gain that drives the amps; and if you want to listen to LPs you will also need a phono preamp, so I don't quite understand your requirement for an integrated amp? Most Class A amps are certainly not portable or lightweight but they really are not that large (well, a lot of them including the First Watt amps). Although heat could become a problem in the summer but if you have ac .... 

You "can" bypass the dedicated preamp all together, but just how good is that digital preamp? Short story, the best digital preamp can never be as good as the best analog preamp. However, with a 32-bit preamp domain, the average pot like a blue velvet is NOT better. That's not a statement, but a fact. 16-bit digital preamplification is easily beaten however, which is why there's such a distaste for it, it's carry-over from things of the past. There are however several pros and cons of current technology of both digital and analog preamps, but I can say this with certainty, a LDR-based preamp will take a while to be handily outdone. It's just a matter of time and the right genius to come up with an analog pre built-in the DAC chip itself with sufficiently low thermal noise and accuracy to render it obsolete, along with digital preamplification. Hopefully sooner than later! Preamplification is a recent topic i have a passion for and has room for vast improvements with tech in the future.

 

Cheers to everyone and enjoy the music!

:beerchug:

 

Brunk

post #2079 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by Silent One View Post

It's official! @ an estimated 7.5 wpc/50 Ohms into the HE-6, my Shindo Laboratory Sinhonia F2a monaural blocks (40 wpc) just made the cut. wink.gif  Now in-session...

Further, preliminary results suggest despite using a Silver plated Copper headphone cable, Silver interconnects and Silver speaker wires, the HiFiMAN's do not have me running for cover from brightness!
I didn't think you would. If you have copper to do some comparisons, I'd like to have your impressions, either here or PM. The topic of silver seems to be a big point of contention in the cable forum. I feel it passes more detail with less power. I'm also being told I'm crazy.
post #2080 of 4874
Simplicity is the most direct and least altering way to audio purity. IMO

I wish I could afford to experiment and this would be one of the first I'd play with. http://www.sakurasystems.com/about.html

A total of 22 parts in their Progression DAC, 9 per channel in an amp.
Edited by Happy Camper - 11/4/13 at 8:29pm
post #2081 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

Simplicity is the most direct and least altering way to audio purity. IMO

I wish I could afford to experiment and this would be one of the first I'd play with. http://www.sakurasystems.com/about.html

A total of 22 parts in their Progression DAC, 9 per channel in an amp.

Oh, the gain card! I totally forgot about that one. I'm sure that would be a perfect beginner DIY project. I do think there is a certain point where a "wire with gain" is just almost too simple and can benefit with some extra stuff somewhere, but only when it's needed. There's always a trade off somewhere... I need to investigate one of these for myself :cool: :biggrin:

post #2082 of 4874
Check out the signal path lengths. That's impressive. If you could build a CD spinner/DAC/amp into one module without cabling, it would be one sweet accomplishment.
post #2083 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

Check out the signal path lengths. That's impressive. If you could build a CD spinner/DAC/amp into one module without cabling, it would be one sweet accomplishment.

Oh boy, don't get the gears going in my head at this hour! :tongue: 

post #2084 of 4874

Interesting question that's been bothering me.

 

If we use the headphone outputs from a speaker amp (ie. front panel), which are usually in-line with the speaker outs but with serial resistors, wouldn't the output impedance be....stratospheric?

 

And if so, are we not better off just using the speaker outputs directly?

 

Sorry if this was already answered. TL;DR

post #2085 of 4874
Quote:
Originally Posted by brunk View Post
 

Oh boy, don't get the gears going in my head at this hour! :tongue: 

 

:rolleyes: I know what you're saying. At this hour, the gears in my head are grinding over.... furniture options and room configs. Pulled a few more audio accessories out of storage last hour. It's gonna be a long night.

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