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Studio headphone impedance

post #1 of 17
Thread Starter 

Hey everyone,

 

I will be buying new monitoring headphones soon, and I just had a question regarding impedance.  Now it is my understanding that high impedance headphones need some kind of headphone amp to be able to reach proper listening sound volumes, but is that the only difference between high and low impedance headphones? I will be doing mixing/monitoring on my home laptop, so I'd prefer something that doesn't need a headphone amp.  However, it is also my understanding that getting a low impedance headphone has a serious negative effect on it's sound quality, frequency response, sound stage, clarity, sensitivity, and drive.  Is this true? If it is, should I instead get the high impedance version along with a headphone amp (which will end up being plugged into my laptop headphone port), instead of just get the low impedance version and plug it into the laptop right away? Is the difference in the sound quality between the 2 headphones really serious? I'm looking at the 55 Ohm and 600 Ohm versions of the K 240 headphone.  So if possible, be specific to those headphones.  As mentioned, they will be used 99% for mixing/monitoring in production of trance music at home i.e no professional studio equipment, etc...would a headphone amp be possible to plug into a laptop headphone port in the first place?

post #2 of 17

Hi, there is no reliable rule of thumb regarding impedance and the quality of a headphone.

 

At my (very) basic level of understanding, impedance relates to resistance to voltage, i.e. Ohms. One could then say that high impedance headphones require high voltage--which is not usually provided from portable players like the Zune, Sansa Clip, or iPod. These players have more current than voltage, relatively speaking.

 

Conversely, low impedance phones seek more current. 

 

Re: plugging an amp into the laptop's headphone out, yes you can do that. This will be double-amplification though--the signal gets amp'd inside your laptop before it hits the headphone out, then routing it into your external amp will of course amplify it again. Generally not thought to be a good thing; with every amp stage, there's a chance that some distortion occurs.

post #3 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric_C View Post

Hi, there is no reliable rule of thumb regarding impedance and the quality of a headphone.

 

At my (very) basic level of understanding, impedance relates to resistance to voltage, i.e. Ohms. One could then say that high impedance headphones require high voltage--which is not usually provided from portable players like the Zune, Sansa Clip, or iPod. These players have more current than voltage, relatively speaking.

 

Conversely, low impedance phones seek more current. 

 

Re: plugging an amp into the laptop's headphone out, yes you can do that. This will be double-amplification though--the signal gets amp'd inside your laptop before it hits the headphone out, then routing it into your external amp will of course amplify it again. Generally not thought to be a good thing; with every amp stage, there's a chance that some distortion occurs.


So you have no idea about the quality issue of the headphones with high and low impedances? Also, I had no idea audio signals are amped inside laptops before hit the headphones out.  Does that mean that the amplification from the laptop in some cases would be enough to boost the level of high impedance headphones so that they won't need an external headphone amp? Thanks for the feedback man!
 

 

post #4 of 17

A laptop will have a few issues if you are planning on mixing, firstly onboard sound is likely to be pretty bad quality due to low quality DAC chipsets and "noise" generated by other computer components.  Secondly the power to drive higher impedance cans is likely to be an issue so the lower the better.

 

The best option from my opinion would be an external DAC/amp that is either run via optical or USB interface, most laptops will have a USB slot for you to use.  There are several options you could investigate such as iBasso models or the Fiio that wont break the bank completely and will offer a suitable upgrade over onboard sound as well as being able to drive higher impedance headphones.

 

Just my opinions, some people are happy with on board sound and quality does very much depend on your laptop.

post #5 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lp026713389 View Post


So you have no idea about the quality issue of the headphones with high and low impedances? Also, I had no idea audio signals are amped inside laptops before hit the headphones out.  Does that mean that the amplification from the laptop in some cases would be enough to boost the level of high impedance headphones so that they won't need an external headphone amp? Thanks for the feedback man!
 

 


I can say that there is a perceived quality issue of low vs high impedance: namely, high-Z headphones are thought of as better, or for audiophiles, or more suited to studio purposes. This perception can be challenged by the fact that there are a handful of headphones often used in studio settings with surprisingly low-Z...such as the Sennheiser HD 25-1 (70 Ohms), Sony MDR-V6 (63 Ohms), Sennheiser HD280 (64 Ohms).

 

Be aware that low-Z cans may need amping too, so again, there is no hard and fast rule.

 

Some PC sound cards are used by Head-Fi'ers for amp-hungry phones. Reports of their success vary.

 

And don't thank me for feedback! Feedback's bad!

Haha...ha. Nerd joke.

 

post #6 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tablix View Post

A laptop will have a few issues if you are planning on mixing, firstly onboard sound is likely to be pretty bad quality due to low quality DAC chipsets and "noise" generated by other computer components.  Secondly the power to drive higher impedance cans is likely to be an issue so the lower the better.

 

The best option from my opinion would be an external DAC/amp that is either run via optical or USB interface, most laptops will have a USB slot for you to use.  There are several options you could investigate such as iBasso models or the Fiio that wont break the bank completely and will offer a suitable upgrade over onboard sound as well as being able to drive higher impedance headphones.

 

Just my opinions, some people are happy with on board sound and quality does very much depend on your laptop.



 I see, I have 3 questions I wanna ask you then:

 

1.) I have an external Creative X-fi soundcard, I heard it's bad for production as I read it "decolors"/boosts/diminishes the output and certain frequencies, but I've had it before I got into producing...anyway, would it be better if I plug the headphones into the soundcard and bypass all eq'ing effects on it?

 

2.) I have a Zoom G2.1u guitar effects processor..connectable via USB, it works as an external audio codec/interface, and I have tried my current Sennheiser headphones on it and it DOES boost the audio signal, but I'm not sure if it decolors the output too.  I can also set that one on bypass.

 

3.) Can a regular guitar amp with a headphone jack serve the same purpose as a headphone amp?

 

post #7 of 17
Thread Starter 



 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric_C View Post




I can say that there is a perceived quality issue of low vs high impedance: namely, high-Z headphones are thought of as better, or for audiophiles, or more suited to studio purposes. This perception can be challenged by the fact that there are a handful of headphones often used in studio settings with surprisingly low-Z...such as the Sennheiser HD 25-1 (70 Ohms), Sony MDR-V6 (63 Ohms), Sennheiser HD280 (64 Ohms).

 

Be aware that low-Z cans may need amping too, so again, there is no hard and fast rule.

 

Some PC sound cards are used by Head-Fi'ers for amp-hungry phones. Reports of their success vary.

 

And don't thank me for feedback! Feedback's bad!

Haha...ha. Nerd joke.

 


Oh, so is it that big of a quality issue? or can it be overlooked if I want a clean mixing/monitoring headphone?
Also, is the difference between using high-Z headphones with and without a headphone amp just volume? Or does the amp also somehow "enhance" the sound? I want as flat/natural a sound as possible, so if an amp does enhance the sound in addition to boosting the signal, wouldn't the enhancement be considered "decoloring" the sound? (boosting/diminishing certain frequencies)

 

post #8 of 17

^ Most of those questions can be answered with the words, "Not necessarily." I'm sorry that it's so vague, but that's the only accurate way to say it.

 

There isn't necessarily a difference in quality between high-Z and low-Z headphones. If one pair is inferior to the other, then it's just inferior--blaming it on impedance would oversimplify the matter.

Can quality issues be overlooked? No.

 

 

What an amp does is...unclear, these days. Let's go back to the basic idea of an amp:

Traditionally, an amp has an absolute ideal--to amplify electric signals with no noise (or "decoloring", as you put it). 

Today's amps are not all sold as such. Many have Bass Boost functions, some are described as inherently increasing/reducing the highs/mids/lows, in all manner of combination.

 

Aside from volume, however, amping is said to provide one key benefit: a good amp will "drive" the headphones well. One analogy I've read goes like this: 

Amps are to headphones what fuel types/suspensions are to cars. 

High octane petrol and an appropriately soft suspension will give you a smooth ride--bumps don't hurt as much, acceleration isn't jerky, etc. And it doesn't matter if you're driving fast or slow, it's still a smooth ride.

A good amp supposedly does the same for headphones--a smooth ride, all frequencies adequately represented at all volume levels, no channel imbalance at low volumes (e.g. one side sounds louder for the first 5% of volume), etc.

post #9 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Eric_C View Post

^ Most of those questions can be answered with the words, "Not necessarily." I'm sorry that it's so vague, but that's the only accurate way to say it.

 

There isn't necessarily a difference in quality between high-Z and low-Z headphones. If one pair is inferior to the other, then it's just inferior--blaming it on impedance would oversimplify the matter.

Can quality issues be overlooked? No.


What about if they were the same headphones...like the AKG K 240's have a 55 ohm option, as well as a 600 ohm option...within the same model would the difference between those 2 be that noticeable?

 

Also, just in case I end up needing an amp, what are the 2 cheapest amps that you recommend that would not "decolor" the audio when I plug the headphones into them and boost the volume and stuff?

post #10 of 17

20 years ago most of the high impedance had more dynamic range, but this issue is over. Is better for your sound quality to used some sound card, like the Apogee Dueat/ Mini DAC, or even the Indigo DJ, or the Kontrol 1. Both apogee's can drive my K-702 very good, but you don't have to go for the 702's, you can start with the GMP 8.35, M-50, or the K-240MKll.

 

 

post #11 of 17

Heya,

 

Choosing a low impedance or high impedance headphone for monitoring literally should be based on what equipment it's plugged into.

 

It's actually kind of confusing why a lot of headphone makers still make really high impedance headphones, really.

 

Very best,

post #12 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

Heya,

 

Choosing a low impedance or high impedance headphone for monitoring literally should be based on what equipment it's plugged into.

 

It's actually kind of confusing why a lot of headphone makers still make really high impedance headphones, really.

 

Very best,

 

Well as mentioned above, I'm looking for something that can be plugged into my LG laptop right away (and/or my creative external soundcard) without needing amplification and with the intended quality it was meant to provide.  Just a side question also, would a guitar amp with a headphone jack work as a headphone amp? I have a guitar effects processor which can serve as an audio interface, I can hook the laptop to the effects processor and then to the guitar amp, and then put the headphones into the headphone jack in the amp (it's like a 8-10 Watt amp).  Question is, would it give me a close enough/the same end result as a headphone amp?

 


Because basically, this is where I stand.  The AKG K 240 MK II headphones have a 55 ohm and 600 ohm versions.  55 ohms from what I understand doesn't need amplification, but it's quality, drive, sensitivity, sound stage, stereo width, etc.. is noticeably reduced than the 600 ohm version.  However, the 600 ohm version needs amplification (extra $$$ which I don't have at the moment), otherwise it won't sound like it should if it is plugged straight into the laptop (volume wise, sensitivity, drive, etc, etc...) so again, I don't get the end result I want.  So I'm trying to find the middle ground!

Edited by lp026713389 - 8/23/11 at 5:05am
post #13 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lp026713389 View Post



 

Well as mentioned above, I'm looking for something that can be plugged into my LG laptop right away (and/or my creative external soundcard) without needing amplification and with the intended quality it was meant to provide.  Just a side question also, would a guitar amp with a headphone jack work as a headphone amp? I have a guitar effects processor which can serve as an audio interface, I can hook the laptop to the effects processor and then to the guitar amp, and then put the headphones into the headphone jack in the amp (it's like a 8-10 Watt amp).  Question is, would it give me a close enough/the same end result as a headphone amp?
 

 


Heya,

 

Get the low impedance headphone then. So long as it's not insensitive, you won't need a separate amp necessarily. Getting a high impedance headphone however will require you to go after an amp. So there's your easy-mode-answer. Go 55ohm on that headphone you want. And you can plug into the guitar amp, but I wouldn't really worry so much with that.

 

Very best,

 

post #14 of 17
Quote:
Originally Posted by lp026713389 View Post



 

Well as mentioned above, I'm looking for something that can be plugged into my LG laptop right away (and/or my creative external soundcard) without needing amplification and with the intended quality it was meant to provide.  Just a side question also, would a guitar amp with a headphone jack work as a headphone amp? I have a guitar effects processor which can serve as an audio interface, I can hook the laptop to the effects processor and then to the guitar amp, and then put the headphones into the headphone jack in the amp (it's like a 8-10 Watt amp).  Question is, would it give me a close enough/the same end result as a headphone amp?

 


Because basically, this is where I stand.  The AKG K 240 MK II headphones have a 55 ohm and 600 ohm versions.  55 ohms from what I understand doesn't need amplification, but it's quality, drive, sensitivity, sound stage, stereo width, etc.. is noticeably reduced than the 600 ohm version.  However, the 600 ohm version needs amplification (extra $$$ which I don't have at the moment), otherwise it won't sound like it should if it is plugged straight into the laptop (volume wise, sensitivity, drive, etc, etc...) so again, I don't get the end result I want.  So I'm trying to find the middle ground!


K240 mkII only come in 55 Ohm versions, they are more or less identical  to K240 Studio and K242HD.

The 600 Ohm K240's use different drivers and baffles then the new 55 Ohm models.

The 55 Ohm K240's are nowhere near as good as the 600 Ohm ones, the only advantage to the new ones is that they are fairly easy drive.

The 55 Ohm K240's suffer form a nasty bass hump and are in my opinion not very suitable for studio work, the bass is just too bloated.

If you want  K240's for studio use the K240DF's is the best choice, but it is a 600 Ohm headphone and it's very difficult to drive, so they absolutely need an amp to sound right.

A good place to start would be K271mkII (does not share the useless bass of K240mkII's) and an external studio audio interface with native ASIO drivers.

post #15 of 17
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Adda View Post





K240 mkII only come in 55 Ohm versions, they are more or less identical  to K240 Studio and K242HD.

The 600 Ohm K240's use different drivers and baffles then the new 55 Ohm models.

The 55 Ohm K240's are nowhere near as good as the 600 Ohm ones, the only advantage to the new ones is that they are fairly easy drive.

The 55 Ohm K240's suffer form a nasty bass hump and are in my opinion not very suitable for studio work, the bass is just too bloated.

If you want  K240's for studio use the K240DF's is the best choice, but it is a 600 Ohm headphone and it's very difficult to drive, so they absolutely need an amp to sound right.

A good place to start would be K271mkII (does not share the useless bass of K240mkII's) and an external studio audio interface with native ASIO drivers.


Thank you for the to the point reply man! I will try to save up for the K271's but they're closed back aren't semi-open headphones better than closed for mixing/monitoring uses?

Also, if the 55 ohm K240 bloat the bass a little, do you have any idea if the K121's or K141's overcome that problem? IF they overcome the bass bloating and so forth, do they lack in some other aspects in which the K240 delivers?

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