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Need headphone amplifier n00b help!

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi all,

 

I am the happy owner of a set of Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro's. (80Ohm version, in retrospect the 250Ohm probably would have been better, but you learn with time) I think they sound great, but lately I have had a little problem that bugs me.

 

I have been driving these out of the back of my computer, using the 300ohm max headphone output on my Creative Sound Blaster Titanium HD. I am liking the sound quality.  It's better than anything else I have ever heard, but I don't know how the DAC and amp in it compare to what you guys on here use (probably not favorably).  (In a separate topic, maybe I should replace the op-amps in it for better sound quality? This I know nothing about, just that they are replaceable.)

 

The biggest problem - IMHO - with this sound card is that it has a mechanical switch in the headphone out jack that automatically disables all other sound output, so if I want to use my stereo amplifier, I have to bend down under my desk, find and unplug the headphones from the back of the computer.  Then when I want to listen through the headphones again I have to go through the same thing in reverse.   It is very very very very annoying!

 

I was thinking maybe there is a headphone amp out there that can help me solve these problems, and get me some better sound out of my headphones at the same time.  Since I already have an OK DAC in the sound card

 

What I would be looking for is something like this:

 

1.)  Line Level Analog RCA out on back of sound card -> Headphone amp

 

2.) 1/4" or 1/8" jack on headphone amp to power headphones (capable of supporting up to 300Ohm if I ever decide to upgrade cans)

 

--AND--

 

3.) Line Level Analog RCA output from headphone amp to my stereo amp so don't have to keep reconnecting things.

 

 

Can you guys recommend something like this, or maybe another solution I can use?

 

I'm looking to spend no more than ~$250 or so.

 

I appreciate any suggestions.

 

--Matt

 

 

 

post #2 of 13

I've got no specific amp recommendation, just a comment on setting it up.

 

Line level analog outputs on an amp are also known as loop outs. Internally, they are just directly connected in parallel to the line level inputs of the amp. In other words, the line-in and loop-out jacks will work exactly the same even if you switch them around.

 

What I'm getting to is that you can also use RCA Y-split adapters to do the same thing. Just something to keep in mind if you find an amp you like but it doesn't have the line level output you need.

 

 

post #3 of 13

Schiit Asgard is worth considering, $249

post #4 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post

I've got no specific amp recommendation, just a comment on setting it up.

 

Line level analog outputs on an amp are also known as loop outs. Internally, they are just directly connected in parallel to the line level inputs of the amp. In other words, the line-in and loop-out jacks will work exactly the same even if you switch them around.

 

What I'm getting to is that you can also use RCA Y-split adapters to do the same thing. Just something to keep in mind if you find an amp you like but it doesn't have the line level output you need.

 

 


I see what you are saying about the loopback, but I always assumed that high end components used some sort of switched solution.   Wouldn't having the amp permanently hooked up to the loopback cause a degradation in sound quality to the headphones?

 

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by dyl1dyl View Post

Schiit Asgard is worth considering, $249



Interesting.  Reading up on these now.

 

All reviews suggest that the design is particularly good for "low impedance headphones".

 

I wonder what they mean by this.   Are we talking about 33ohm portable player type gear (in which case, why use a dedicated amp?)   Are my 80ohm Beyerdynamics considered low impedance?  If so, this amp would be a good fit for what I currently have, but can they also adequately power a set of 250-300ohm if I ever upgrade?

 

From the specs it says it can handle impedances from 6 to 600ohm.   I just wonder if it does so well once the impedance gets up there...


Edited by mattlach - 10/8/11 at 2:01pm
post #6 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattlach View Post

I see what you are saying about the loopback, but I always assumed that high end components used some sort of switched solution.   Wouldn't having the amp permanently hooked up to the loopback cause a degradation in sound quality to the headphones?

 


 

When a sound card sends its audio signal to an amp, that is an easy load. So even splitting a line level signal to drive two amps at once (headphone amp + stereo power amp) should not put a strain on the sound card. The only thing you might notice is that the volume becomes a little bit softer. But then if there's one thing an amp is good at, it's making things louder. tongue.gif  I highly doubt that there will be any perceptible degradation in sound quality.

 

(Contrast with sharing a signal between two headphones. Now that can cause uneven frequency response and distortion on top of the reduced volume. The severity depends on where your headphone signal is coming from, of course. With a good enough amp, even this may not be noticeable.)

 

post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:

Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post

 

The only thing you might notice is that the volume becomes a little bit softer. But then if there's one thing an amp is good at, it's making things louder. tongue.gif  I highly doubt that there will be any perceptible degradation in sound quality.

 

Agreed, but if the input is slightly softer, then you have to turn up the amp to maintain the same volume.   When you use the amp to compensate for a softer line level you are amplifying not only signal, but also noise, so you are increasing the noisiness of your sound...

 

I wonder if I can find an RCA Y-splitter with a switch that turns the signal on and off, that way I can switch off the speaker output when using headphones...

post #8 of 13

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattlach View Post

Agreed, but if the input is slightly softer, then you have to turn up the amp to maintain the same volume.   When you use the amp to compensate for a softer line level you are amplifying not only signal, but also noise, so you are increasing the noisiness of your sound...

 

 

That's true. On the other hand, the Y-split adapter will also reduce the volume of the source noise along with the rest of the signal. 

 

 

Quote:
I wonder if I can find an RCA Y-splitter with a switch that turns the signal on and off, that way I can switch off the speaker output when using headphones...
 

 

Something like these?

http://www.amazon.ca/Audio-Video-Switch-Splitter-Cable/dp/B004CJ5JWO

http://www.amazon.ca/Audio-Video-Switch-Switcher-Splitter/dp/B004S5H27M

Never used those myself. They're just the first ones I found.

 

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post
That's true. On the other hand, the Y-split adapter will also reduce the volume of the source noise along with the rest of the signal. 

 

Ahh,  good point.  I was only considering noise due to cable interference.    That makes sense then.  So there will likely only be a negligible noise increase.

 

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Yoga Flame View Post
Something like these?

http://www.amazon.ca/Audio-Video-Switch-Splitter-Cable/dp/B004CJ5JWO

http://www.amazon.ca/Audio-Video-Switch-Switcher-Splitter/dp/B004S5H27M

Never used those myself. They're just the first ones I found.


Interesting.  Thank you.  I'll have to look into those.

 

--Matt

 

 

post #10 of 13

Another one to consider is the Yulong u100 but it will take a while to get it. Ships from overseas. Review of it here.

http://www.headfonia.com/the-new-recommendation-the-yulong-u100-usb-dac/

post #11 of 13

Do you notice any hiss with your headphones running off your soundcard?

 

Usually headphone outs from soundcards are noisy, that's why alot of us use dedicated DAC/Amp's.

 

Sometimes when you move your mouse around your headphones can pick up electrical noise through soundcard outputs.

 

Something sufficient for your headphones i'd suggest the Maverick Tubemagic D1, it's DAC and amp all in one and considerably under your budget, saves you messing about if you decide you also need a DAC.

http://www.mav-audio.com/base/product/tube_magic_d1

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ilikepooters View Post

Do you notice any hiss with your headphones running off your soundcard?

 

Usually headphone outs from soundcards are noisy, that's why alot of us use dedicated DAC/Amp's.

 

Sometimes when you move your mouse around your headphones can pick up electrical noise through soundcard outputs.

 

The Sound Blaster Titanium HD has been surprisingly good in this regard.  No noise at all (from what my uncalibrated ears can tell).  The sound card is completely shrouded in a antistatic case of some sort which seems to limit any noise transferring from the rest of the computer.  Any noise would have to enter through the PCIe slot, and the motherboard and power supply I have in there must be of very good quality, as I have not heard any noise transfer in.

41A8ykYAqsL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

In the past I have - however - experienced this with other computers I've owned.  Mouse movement, changes on the screen, or heavy power use by the computer would all introduce noise.  With this sound card, I hear no noise at all.

 

creative have really gone the extra mile and tried to change their reputation as of late with this card.

 

Internal components are nothing to scoff at either:

 


Quote:
Originally Posted by mangamonster View Post

Some new details on the dac and op amps for the x-fi titanium HD. Very neat to say the least :)

 

Source: http://vr-zone.com/articles/vr-zone-exclusive-creative-sound-blaster-x-fi-titanium-hd-previewed/9020-1.html

 

6410.jpg

 

"The Burr-Brown PCM1794 by Texas Instruments is a 24-bit 192KHz delta-sigma stereo Digital-to-Analog Converter (DAC).

The very same PCM1794 DAC can be found on high-end CD players such as Cary Audio Design's CD 306 and Halcro's EC800."

 

 

6407.jpg

 

"Pictured above are a pair of National LME49710 high performance, high fidelity op-amps.

The signal from the pair of JRC 2114D op-amps are fed into the Nationals, which do the job of differential to single-ended conversion.

Four metallized polyester film capacitors are situated beside the pair of LME49710 op-amps."

While currently a little above my level, the option to replace OP-amps to alter the sound to your liking is pretty neat, especially from a consumer sound card.

 

Long story short, I am VERY happy with the quality of the sound coming out of this board, and don't see the need - for my purposes - for yet another DAC, which is why I'm sticking with analogue headphone amps, as I feel I can get more for my money, if I'm not also paying for the DAC.

 

It has a dedicated headphone out on the back that claims to be able to sufficiently power headphones up to 300Ohm.  (if you connect to the front panel case headphone outs, you are limited to 33Ohm, and it can get noisy, so I don't use these.)  The dedicated headphone port on the back sounds great on my 80Ohm Beyerdynamics, though I can imagine that if you had a 300Ohm set of cans and you like music loud, you may find this insufficient.   I'm currently listening at 40% volume, which is comfortable for me @80Ohm, yet loud enough that I really can't hear other people moving around the room.

 

If it weren't for the annoyance of the physical switch that disables all other sound outputs when the headphones are attached to the dedicated headphone out, I probably wouldn't even be looking for an amp.    I am so tired of having to crawl under my desk behind my computer every time I want to switch between speakers and headphones.


Edited by mattlach - 10/10/11 at 7:30am
post #13 of 13

Sounds sufficient, just an amp needed then.

 

The higly acclaimed Schitt Asgard should be just the ticket then.

http://schiit.com/cart/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=0&products_id=1

 

5 year warranty and 15 day money back guarantee would be deal clinchers for me. Also it's bang on budget (not sure about shipping costs though)

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