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Completely Confused

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hello head-fi,

 

I'm trying to understand what a DAC/AMP is but I just can't understand it, there are so many different things.

 

I know that a DAC has something to do with digital & analog audio conversion, and that an AMP is an output enhancer?

 

I'm trying to to get a good headphones + a good all-round amp/dac, but I just got no clue which one to buy =/

 

Currently I have a steelseries siberia headphone and a club 3d theatron agrippa dts sound card (an exact copy of the more known auzentech x-plosion).

 

Does anyone have any idea if there are amps out there which work for basically all headphones? Since it seems many amps are bounded to a specific type of headphones.

 

I don't have a lot of money so I'm looking for something cheap, and I'm also able to do some soldering and metal-working if there are loose parts availible to buy an amp myself.

 

Thx a lot in advance for any replies!!

post #2 of 24

Fiio e7/e9 combo is a good start... they can handle most of the HPs, from IEMs to 300 Ohms, dont expect superb quality, but you'll notice a huge improvement from your computer / ipod  alone.

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thx for your suggestion!

 

Is there anything cheaper? =/ I might buy the AKG K242HD headphones (120 euro) and this amp together is arround 250 euro.

I was hoping to find some decent amp below 100$, or is this not possible? :(

post #4 of 24

If you don't want to spend money on a powerful amp, don't get the K242HD. It's rather hard to drive.

 

Stick with something efficient, like a Denon D2000 or Sennheiser HD558/HD598. Any of those should be driven well with the E7 alone.

post #5 of 24
Thread Starter 

What do you mean with hard to drive? That the sound volume is low? (sry for my newbishness :P)

 

Maybe would the PA2v2 be a good idea? Or would that not be able to handle it?

I''m looking at the K242 HD because it's supposed to be really comfortable (I use headphones arround 6-8 hour per day because my job is pc gaming, so it's very important for me that the headphones are lightweigth and sit comfy, so I can use them for a long time :))

post #6 of 24

Two factors go into volume:

 

Impedance is how efficiently an amp can feed a headphone. High impedance means an amp is able to feed fewer milliwatts into the headphone for a given voltage output. High impedance also means the amp needs less current though, and ultimately results in a cleaner signal from most amps. Lower distortion, etc.

 

Sensitivity is how loud a headphone can get with a given power input. It's usually expressed in dB/mW (decibels per milliwatt) but is sometimes in dB/V.

 

The headphones that will play loudest with a given volume setting have low impedance and high sensitivity. The headphones that represent the easiest load to the amp in terms of distortion have high impedance, high sensitivity. The headphone that play quietest with a given volume setting have high impedance and low sensitivity. The headphones that are hard on an amp have low in both.

 

The K242HD has an impedance of 55, which is pretty low. It has a sensitivity of 91dB/mW, which is very low. They're going to be quiet, and a lot of amps will distort more when trying to drive them. You need a quality amp to get the best out of them.

 

The PA2v2 doesn't appear to be much more powerful than the Fiio E7, and the E7 includes a DAC as well. The PA2v2 is only an amp.

post #7 of 24

x2

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Head Injury View Post

Two factors go into volume:

 

Impedance is how efficiently an amp can feed a headphone. High impedance means an amp is able to feed fewer milliwatts into the headphone for a given voltage output. High impedance also means the amp needs less current though, and ultimately results in a cleaner signal from most amps. Lower distortion, etc.

 

Sensitivity is how loud a headphone can get with a given power input. It's usually expressed in dB/mW (decibels per milliwatt) but is sometimes in dB/V.

 

The headphones that will play loudest with a given volume setting have low impedance and high sensitivity. The headphones that represent the easiest load to the amp in terms of distortion have high impedance, high sensitivity. The headphone that play quietest with a given volume setting have high impedance and low sensitivity. The headphones that are hard on an amp have low in both.

 

The K242HD has an impedance of 55, which is pretty low. It has a sensitivity of 91dB/mW, which is very low. They're going to be quiet, and a lot of amps will distort more when trying to drive them. You need a quality amp to get the best out of them.

 

The PA2v2 doesn't appear to be much more powerful than the Fiio E7, and the E7 includes a DAC as well. The PA2v2 is only an amp.



So what you are saying is that the hd650s will not distort as soon as lower impedance phones, and thus doesn't scale as well with good amps as grados for example ?

post #9 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hevan View Post

What do you mean with hard to drive? That the sound volume is low? (sry for my newbishness :P)

 

Maybe would the PA2v2 be a good idea? Or would that not be able to handle it?

I''m looking at the K242 HD because it's supposed to be really comfortable (I use headphones arround 6-8 hour per day because my job is pc gaming, so it's very important for me that the headphones are lightweigth and sit comfy, so I can use them for a long time :))


 

Go for Sennheiser HD558 or HD598 and  get an Asus Xonar STX sound card.  Hd558/598 will give you better sound than any other headphones in the price range, they're extremely comfortable and have some of the best sound stage out there (which is especially useful in games and movies). 

Why I would go for Asus Xonar sound card instead of an external DAC?  Well, because it will offer better sound quality than any Fiio or similar cheap DAC under 200$,  it has a built in headphone amplifier that will perform better than any standalone amp under 200$, and you said you're a gamer.... Xonar sound cards offer a lot of features that will enhance your gaming experience, something that external DAC (at least cheap ones, which are very overpriced for what they offer) can never do.

 

Honestly, don't even look at DAC / Amp combos for under 400-500 dollars if you're using your PC as a source, high quality internal sound cards with integrated headphone amps do a much better job, I know this because I've been comparing a lot of cheap headphone gear with high quality sound cards and conclusion was that almost all entry level audio gear for headphones is highly overpriced and doesn't do the job as good as proper internal sound cards.

I think Asus Xonar STX sells for about 200$ and HD598's for 220-240$, and for that you get sound that will knock your socks off. gs1000.gif

 


Edited by derbigpr - 9/25/11 at 12:57pm
post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Somebody007 View Post

So what you are saying is that the hd650s will not distort as soon as lower impedance phones, and thus doesn't scale as well with good amps as grados for example ?


No, that's not what I'm saying. Personally I don't think headphones scale at all with amplification unless they need more power and are causing the amp to clip. It's not very hard to find an amp with inaudible distortion regardless of impedance. The E7 for example has a lot more distortion with low impedances than high impedances, but it is still generally inaudible. It's just a bonus that high impedance loads calm the amp down. It's also an important thing to know when looking at amp specs and measurements. When they give you THD, you really have to ask at what load it was measured. An amp that claims 0.05% THD (generally considered inaudible) might only get that at high loads, even as high as 100,000 ohms! If that's the case, any typical headphone might cause it to audibly distort. Unfortunately this information is rarely published.

 

For a given volume, the HD650 needs three times as much voltage as a Grado, so they're still a lot harder to amp. Grados are sensitive. Despite its low impedance, though, the K242HD needs nearly as much voltage as the HD650 because of its very low sensitivity. Combine that with the low impedance, and you have something that's potentially even harder to drive despite it having a little more volume. Another issue I didn't mention is an amp's output impedance, which can further complicate things by reducing voltage available to low impedance headphones. An amp with a 10 ohm output impedance (like the Fiio E9) might have a harder time driving the K242HD to a high volume than the HD650, in addition to the extra distortion.

 

Simply put, find something more efficient and get an amp that's weak but clean. The E7 (which has a great 1 ohm output impedance too!) isn't the best but it's one of the best for the price range, and has a DAC as well. Get something it can drive, or be prepared to buy a more powerful and expensive amp.

 

EDIT: What derbigpr suggests is iffy. It's certainly a good option, and I will sing praise for the Essence STX soundcard all day. However, it has a 10.7 ohm output impedance and that will cause problems with the HD5XX headphones (as well as the K242HD). You'll want a headphone with a higher impedance, preferably 80 ohm or more, to really take advantage of the Essence STX's headphone amp.


Edited by Head Injury - 9/25/11 at 1:00pm
post #11 of 24

You can get my setup K240 Studios with a cmoy or starving student. Dac is not that neccasary. K240 studios are comforitable, i can sit with them all day and they arent harsh so your ears will be happier.  If sweat might be a problem get K240 MKii, they come with velour(soft) earpads and a coiled cable.

Amp= gives headphones more electricity so they can get louder.  Hard to drive means the headphones need more electricity to get to the same volume as easy to drive.

DAC= converts digital "mp3" how the music is saved to analogue signal that give headphones sound. 

What music will you listen to?

You'll catch up soon enough,

post #12 of 24
Thread Starter 

Thx for the replies! :)

 

I tried the HD 598, but the thing that made me crazy from it was some bump that was pressing on the side of my ear all the time (see pic below):

 

1000x500px-LL-e4865788_SNV30055.JPG

 

 

So my Auzentech X-Plosion is a bad soundcard? :( I was hoping maybe it could do anything =/

 

edit: @ John I like trance music :) Do you like the sound quality of your K240 S? And how does the headband feal? is it heavy or does it feel lightweigth? :P
Also some ppl said the earpads "hole" for your ears to be in are a bit small? Or are they good? :)


Edited by Hevan - 9/25/11 at 1:40pm
post #13 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hevan View Post

So my Auzentech X-Plosion is a bad soundcard? :( I was hoping maybe it could do anything =/


I wouldn't say it's bad, I don't know anything about it.

 

The Essence STX has a surprisingly powerful amplifier. I think it can manage 7Vrms into high impedance headphones. That's enough to drive almost anything. Unfortunately the 10.7 ohm output impedance means much less power into low impedance loads, and coloration for headphones with wild impedance curves like the HD598. You don't need to know why, just trust me smile.gif

post #14 of 24
Thread Starter 

How would you say a K242 HD / K240 mkII compare to a HD 598? The reason is because I like this self-adjusting headband system which sits really comfortable (my old headphone have this to) from those AKG ones.

post #15 of 24

Have you considered the audio technica ad700s and ad900s? They were recommended to me as the best audiophile gaming headphones(if such a thing exists). In the end I settled for the hd650s which are not at all good for gaming lol(their soundstage is very narrow even compared to even beyer dt990s which aren't said to have a very wide soundstage). So maybe you should take a look into that ;)
 

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