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Whoever adviced me that Grado SR80i's do not need to be amped is a liar!

post #1 of 28
Thread Starter 

After having my grado sr80i's for a week or two just with an ipod a few weeks back i was strongly adviced NOT to buy an amp for them as they are 32 ohms and they take nothing to drive...


Many people assume the difference between sr80i amped and unamped is neglible - maybe in the grand scheme of things compared to the night and day difference of e.g HD800s or HD650s amped/unamped - but in my opinion hooking them up to a Little Dot MK III it is CLEAR how much difference an amp makes on even the lowest poowered and apparantly easily drivable headphones. Compared to the sound the Sr80i im getting direct from the ipod vs LDMKIII - NO contest



post #2 of 28

I think the problem is that a lot of people equate volume to quality.



Especially in phones like the Grados where the rudimentary nature of the driver is made up by it being much closer to the ear than many other more capable phones, and firing directly into your ear canal... and consequently sounding much more 'exciting'. In this case, with a relatively inefficient phone like the SR80 which can be driven to common-sense levels by most portable gear (but at the upper end of the volume scale), an amp can seem to make a major difference. However that aural assault might prove to be an issue down the line.



But try it like this:

- Buy an audio switch. A cheap one will do.

- Connect one input to the headphone socket, and the other to the amped output, and the common output to your phones.

- Switch to the headphone socket, set volume to reasonable listening level. Don't move the volume after this.

- Using something like RMAA on a PC - doesn't matter about the quality of the soundcard you're using it with - use the calibration part of RMAA to match the volumes of both outputs, using the headphone output as the baseline.

- Now while listening to music from the headphone, switch the output.



Edited by bangraman - 12/23/10 at 5:12am
post #3 of 28
Thread Starter 

Hi there Bangraman! I am from the UK as well! Im in Birmingham btw


I completely here what you are saying - I am a strong believer in that volume does not eqaute to quality.


Let me tell you me set up


Audiolab 8000CDE> LDMKIII> Sr80i


On the PC i use Foobar2000 + wasapi just standard really.


This switch that you mentioned... do you have a picture of one or an example of one? Your saying it plugs inbetween my amp and headphones?? Im keen on doing this A/B test just im a little lost of the lingo





post #4 of 28

Grados sound good unamped, awesome when amped. :)

post #5 of 28

I think the advice is based on the margin of diminishing returns... 

post #6 of 28

Another victim of the Head-Fi 'carved in stone' phenomenon. Someone posts that Grados 'dont need an amp' and its repeated ad nauseam, often by people who have owned a pair of SR60s for a week, returned them and bought the M50. Lollygaggers, basically.


I started a thread a short time back asking how many have been deterred from buying a specific pair of headphones based on what they had read on Head-Fi - perhaps I should have broadened it to include sources and amps. Even my little iBasso T3 gave my Grados more air, extension and improved detail - I also find the bass tighter and punchier (no, thats not a contradiction) with an amp. Whether you can get good results with low impedance phones hooked to an amp designed for 600 ohm monsters is a question for someone else, but Grados definitely benefit from the portable amps I have owned.

post #7 of 28
Thread Starter 

+1 i agree jimbob and estreeter


I think its a head fi phenomena and its like a brainwashing plague! Im happy as a newbie I went against convention and amped my grado's. The fact that sr80i do not need to be amped, its all bs. ALL cans can benefit from amping IMHO and experience!


I just wrote a post about my vintage marantz receiver and plugging my grado sr80i... 


if you live in a dream fantasy world whereby an ineffective can to you is something like a grado sr80i, then you should try plugging it into an amp! The difference is night and day with the vintage marantz - yes the resolution will not be as good (foggier, muddier, +floor noise) as a LDMKIII etc, but the bass.. HEAPS of bass... this is without the loudness button, and equalization of bass and treble on 0. Put the loudness on...and it gives u ooomph far beyond the LD MKIII -  suprising. Just what these SR80i's need is bass - and its offered to u here. only an amp can solve that issue or Bilavideo!


 I think many of the cult followers who believe grado sr80i/60i/125i cannot benefit ffrom ampage are insanely ignorant - there are countless threads about this and I advice all you newbies... if you wanted to get a starter set up like me sr80i + LD MKIII -- get it and dont look back. Infact if you have an ipod next to you i insist to constantly do A/B checks with and without the amp... its honestly a noticeable night and day difference. This is with stock tubes, stock IC's and stock mains - no DAC as transport just CDP.


Ive tried the sr80i's also on the Project headbox, SPL Auditor,  LD MKIVSE, Graham slee novo- all make a difference positively vs a standard ipod>sr80i set up.


Bhangraman - as a contributor with 9000+ posts its surprising you havent figured that out yet.


My next step is to start rolling tubes and buy a DAC transport then it will be OBVIOUS to somebody who isnt even into all this that the cans sound better plugged into the amp vs not.

post #8 of 28
Thread Starter 

Also from a diminishing returns point of view... surely buying an amp for your grado's would be economies of scale


the LD MKIII can power up to 600ohms, and is $240 delivered. Its quite capable of getting good results from AKG701/2 HD650/600/555 SR325is DT880 etc etc oh so ive read - A nice introduction to the real world of audiophilia without the wallet draining tactics that upgraditis generally cause.


I could sell the grado's here - surely i could get $100 for them UK only - they are 1 month in and still under warranty.  + another $100 I can be looking towards AKG701's etc...


moral of the story is - dont be put off by people telling you low end prestige range of grado's cant be amped. For me its a perfect entry level into the game.

post #9 of 28

I always recommend an amp to potential Grado buyers. I usually say that they don't need an amp, but they really want one. I can't stand to listen to my SR325's unamped.

post #10 of 28

Noobs and their "you dont need an amp for low impedance headphones" "advice" 


Glad to hear your enjoying the cans.


Sorry about your wallet :p

post #11 of 28

I would say that ipod is no good this way. You need something like Hifiman to drive big headphones.


And driving depends on more than dependence only, sensitivity does play an important role here. (You could refer to the tech specs of shure e5c)

post #12 of 28



1. Grados don't NEED an amp.

2. Every headphone sounds better with a good/descent amp.

3. Despite the virus-like pervasiveness of the ipod,the ipod is a poor source for anything.Highly overrated IMO.

4. "Need" is mostly a relative concept.

post #13 of 28

The source is mp3's *cringes* on an iPod created with the cheapest and smallest components by the lowest possible bidder in Taiwan and assembled by the lowest possible bidder in China and the concern is whether it sounds better with an additional amplifier stage?


I think I missed something along the way.


All else being equal, a different amp giving you more bass is due to less dampening of the transducers which means less control of those transducers which translates to sloppy response and less detail for your ears to revel in.

post #14 of 28
Thread Starter 

If im using my ipod i use ALAC which is apples version of FLAC. Ive done A/B testing on foobar wasapi FLAC vs itunes ALAC and theres a clear difference in smoothness in favour of foobar but thats another topic. as for this topic.. still talkin about amped/unamped grados - the ipod cannot deliver much bass, bad for grado's whom are generally bass hungry especially the lower end of the prestige range.


And Chime bells - i never chill with ipod>HP straight set up thats not how i roll!!:P



Originally Posted by Lee Fox View Post

The source is mp3's *cringes* on an iPod

post #15 of 28

Brumagician99 said, "If im using my ipod i use ALAC which is apples version of FLAC."


Any "lossless" codec is better than mp3.  Still, I would have concerns about evaluating the merits of any piece of gear if an iPod is the start of the chain.


I'm no elitist but I do a lot of pro level work.  The iPod just doesn't pass the sniff test when they specify 20-20,000Hz response without bothering to specify a +/- range for it.  (The same as they do for their earbuds)  They don't even bother to specify a dynamic range or signal to noise ratio much less a distortion measurement.


When you are trying to evaluate which amp provides the balance that's right for you, it might be better to try an FM radio rather than an AM one.


Can an amp make a difference?




Let's remember that you are testing the output of an amp whose input is connected to an iPod.  How is that iPod responding to the various loads that it's seeing? 


Is that headphone amp designed to handle the relatively high level/high current/very low impedance output from the iPod that was originally designed to drive speakers?



Those are just a few of the questions/concerns I have for the conclusions being arrived at.

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Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Whoever adviced me that Grado SR80i's do not need to be amped is a liar!