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the necessity of an amp?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I know what the answer to this is going to be...but I just want to put up one last futile attempt before my wallet breathes its last.

 

I recently received my shiny new beyerdynamic dt990/600's and have been absolutely loving them. I was a little worried about purchasing them at first because of their high impedance and reviews saying you need a power source with approximately 1.21 gigawatts to drive them. However I have not really had any problems with powering them directly from my lapop, and could easily make my ears bleed if I play them at full volume. Now from my impression (and what I'm hoping you guys can explain to me why I'm wrong), an amps role is to simply drive the headphones so they can be heard. Is there some key component I'm missing as to why an amp would make my cans sound better? Thanks for the info!

 

TL;DR: My laptop can power my cans to pain-inducing levels, do I still need to buy an amp? 


Edited by Xozz - 1/13/11 at 10:06am
post #2 of 11

Yes you do need an amplifier (and a DAC). Search function might give you a better explanation but an amplifier tightens up all of the frequencies making the sound more controlled and cleaner. Your headphones are only at part of their full potential without an amplifier. DAC processes the digital signal to analog, doing a better job than your computer ever would, feeding the amplifier a clean analog signal.

post #3 of 11

If the onboard sound card is crap, then an additional amplifier will not give you any benefit.

 

^ the claims above ("tightens up all frequencies") are the stereotypical nonsense that gets posted over and over again here.

 

The only real problem actually is volume with a 600 ohm headphone, but since in your case it's not...


Edited by xnor - 1/13/11 at 10:18am
post #4 of 11

Delete


Edited by labrat - 9/16/11 at 2:28am
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the advice on trying different setups out! I really don't know why I didn't think of it. Already tried them out on my stereo, and while there isn't a HUGE difference I can definitely tell theres less "noise" and everything seems to be, I dunno...fuller or something. For sure going to try a few things out now before I plunk another $200 down on a fiio combo. 

post #6 of 11

When starting from a laptop, I agree that getting a better DAC (aka soundcard) will give you the most improvement in sound quality. But it is also possible to get lower distortion just by adding a better amp on top of the laptop's built in onboard amp.

 

Partial quote from http://www.tangentsoft.net/audio/ampweaksource.html

"Distortion goes up as the load on an amplifier goes up. If you add a headphone amplifier, this shifts the load from the source to the headphone amp, lowering the source’s distortion. If the headphone amp is of higher quality than the source’s output stage, distortion can be audibly lower."

 

Of course, bypassing the laptop's built-in amp completely (i.e. getting an external DAC) is still the better choice.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post

Partial quote from http://www.tangentsoft.net/audio/ampweaksource.html

"Distortion goes up as the load on an amplifier goes up. If you add a headphone amplifier, this shifts the load from the source to the headphone amp, lowering the source’s distortion. If the headphone amp is of higher quality than the source’s output stage, distortion can be audibly lower."

 


Ah, see thats what I was wondering, makes sense to me. Thanks for digging it up. And it seems to me like the consensus when running off a comp is that a DAC might be more beneficial than an amp, didn't realize that. The e7/e9 combo is looking pretty tempting right about now...

post #8 of 11

Well, a DAC and an amp are completely separate parts of the audio chain... you need to have both in there.  I generally say the source is more important than the amp, but the amp still needs to be at least sufficient to drive your headphones without clipping or distortion.

post #9 of 11

I agree with xnor, "tightens up" is generally going to be a fairly abstract concept to someone who hasn't yet had the opportunity to try audio components that work well with their headphones.

post #10 of 11
It's more about control than volume. More power usually translates into tighter bass control. If you don't have a firm grip on the low end, the cone won't start and stop as quickly as it could. That will make the bass fuzzier and possibly infringe on the mids and highs.
post #11 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Uncle Erik View Post

It's more about control than volume. More power usually translates into tighter bass control. If you don't have a firm grip on the low end, the cone won't start and stop as quickly as it could. That will make the bass fuzzier and possibly infringe on the mids and highs.


With 600 ohm headphones?

They don't load the amp down as much as lower impedance headphones would -> inherently lower noise, distortion

Also, they're less susceptible regarding output impedance of the amp -> inherently higher damping factor

And thirdly, the low end is where those cans are the most efficient and need the least current at a given volume (voltage) level.

 

I also don't see how amplifier "quickness" should be a problem with "grip on the low end" / low frequencies, where specs like a low rise time are even more unimportant than with higher frequencies in the audible range.

 

=> The only real problem I see is limited volume due to limited voltage swing (see portable players)

and the OP clearly doesn't suffer from that problem :)

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