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Portable vs. desktop amps

post #1 of 27
Thread Starter 

This will only take a sec!

 

I'm looking into headphone amps, but don't know whether I need a desktop amp or a portable. I guess what I'm asking is: are all portable amps battery-driven, and wouldn't that be a pain recharging them all the time? As a video editor who also does a fair amount of sound work, I want to invest in an amp, but for the most part it will stay on my desk. Suggestions?

 

Thanks.

Ryan

post #2 of 27

Just my opinion, but I'd get a desk top amp based on how you plan to use it.

post #3 of 27

It all depends on your needs and preferences but for you I would get a desk top amp if you are a full time video editor.

post #4 of 27

desktop amp sounds more practical for you, and for the most part desktops sound better anyhow.

you get more bang for your buck for a desktop too, since portables tend to get expensive and most of what you are paying for is the portability.

 

sometimes a good alternative to a portable amp is just getting an extra long headphone cable, or using an extender so that you at least have semi-mobility.

 

as far as charging, many portable amps can be used while plugged in as well.

post #5 of 27

Neither is necessarily better.  That will come down to specs.  If you travel a ton a desktop is going to be a pain to lug around with you all fo the time.  It sounds like you are going to somewhat startionary so a nice desktop amp will treat your situation better.  Let me know what your budget is and I can come up with some good suggestions for your.

 

I personally use the Headroom Ultra Desktop and Grace Design m903, but those mid to high level options.

 

As far as sound comparison when I go from my portable amp ( Bithead ) to my home rig ( m903 ) there really is not comparison in  sound quality.  The m903 crushes the Bithead in every way.  It has a better DAC and head amp section and drives my DT990's and AH-D2000's into perfection.

post #6 of 27

There ARE desktop options which could easily be taken to and fro an office/hotel room etc - Fiio E9 and Apex Butte spring to mind - but do you really want to be messing around with power cords ? The E9 looks chunky in photos, but it weighs less my laptop computer and is considerably easier to carry - for some, that will still be way too big, but its still technically 'transportable'.

 

I simply don't have a simpler, more compact solution than my uHA-4 : plug the cable into a USB port and I'm good to go for movies, games and music. Its not the 'worlds greatest' anything, but once you start thinking in those terms it really is time for stationery kit that will never leave your home.

post #7 of 27
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

There ARE desktop options which could easily be taken to and fro an office/hotel room etc - Fiio E9 and Apex Butte spring to mind - but do you really want to be messing around with power cords ? The E9 looks chunky in photos, but it weighs less my laptop computer and is considerably easier to carry - for some, that will still be way too big, but its still technically 'transportable'.

 

I simply don't have a simpler, more compact solution than my uHA-4 : plug the cable into a USB port and I'm good to go for movies, games and music. Its not the 'worlds greatest' anything, but once you start thinking in those terms it really is time for stationery kit that will never leave your home.

 

There is also the this amp, - the FA HA-02

It got very little attention here on head-fi - but I've one that I use daily. 

The treble & bass EQ is really great!

 

I switched this with my main desktop amp, because I have been moving around a lot lately, but still spend the majority of my time in front of a laptop anyway. - it can be powered by either USB or mains/AC.

 

I remember when I first got it, I was really surprised how small it actually is. You wouldn't be able to tell from photos! - well i wasn't able to :P

Rather than "portable amp", you could call this a "trans-portable amp" :)

 

 

post #8 of 27
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the responses!

 

I've been reading lots of reviews and specs, both on head-fi and other sites, and as far as cans go I think I'm gonna order the Beyerdynamic DT-770 PRO (250 ohm). I'm new to audiophile headphones, but I knew my requirements: budget < $175, neutral, accurate sound, sturdy, and can be worn for long periods of time and still be comfortable.

 

Anyway, back to the topic of headphone amps:

These will mostly be staying at work for use in a video editing studio. I'd like a good-quality desktop amp with a simple interface, and it would have to come in under say... $125. If there's one for $75, even better. What do I look for in an amp? Will these cans really sound better going through a desktop amp than plugged into a Mac Pro?

 

 

 

post #9 of 27
Thread Starter 


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by NA Blur View Post

Neither is necessarily better.  That will come down to specs.  If you travel a ton a desktop is going to be a pain to lug around with you all fo the time.  It sounds like you are going to somewhat startionary so a nice desktop amp will treat your situation better.  Let me know what your budget is and I can come up with some good suggestions for your.

 

I personally use the Headroom Ultra Desktop and Grace Design m903, but those mid to high level options.

 

As far as sound comparison when I go from my portable amp ( Bithead ) to my home rig ( m903 ) there really is not comparison in  sound quality.  The m903 crushes the Bithead in every way.  It has a better DAC and head amp section and drives my DT990's and AH-D2000's into perfection.


Thanks for being so helpful on this. My budget is very slim, so I won't be able to afford anything near the quality of your Headroom Ultra. frown.gif The highest I could go is $150, tops.

Out of curiousity: why will my headphones (250 ohm) sound better powered by the amp, rather than plugging them into my Mac Pro?

 

 

post #10 of 27


Quote:

Originally Posted by ryanstevenson View Post

Out of curiousity: why will my headphones (250 ohm) sound better powered by the amp, rather than plugging them into my Mac Pro?

 

Impedance, whilst often misleadingly quoted as definitive proof that a headphone "needs amping" is not the most important spec. Certainly, headphones with different impedances place different demands on an amplifier in terms of current or voltage required, but the important number you want is the sensitivity, preferably in db/mw. You can then compare this to the output of whatever you're going to be plugging them into into various impedances to see if you've got enough power to achieve satisfactory volume, especially on peaks.

 

The sensitivity of your headphones, according to Google, is 96db/mw. This is pretty sensitive, but not hugely so. If you want an external amplifier, the Fiio E9 would be an ideal choice - it excels into high impedance loads and is reasonably cheap as well (115 dollars approx.) It provides sufficient power to drive any more expensive headphones that you might want to purchase in the future - in fact, its only real problem is its high output impedance makes it not ideally suited to driving low impedance cans (which the ones you mentioned are clearly not).
 

 

post #11 of 27
Thread Starter 

It seems like there are several reviews stating problems with the build quality and connectors on the Fiio E9. That makes me pretty nervous about spending the money on it.

post #12 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willakan View Post

 

Impedance, whilst often misleadingly quoted as definitive proof that a headphone "needs amping" is not the most important spec. Certainly, headphones with different impedances place different demands on an amplifier in terms of current or voltage required, but the important number you want is the sensitivity, preferably in db/mw. You can then compare this to the output of whatever you're going to be plugging them into into various impedances to see if you've got enough power to achieve satisfactory volume, especially on peaks.

 

The sensitivity of your headphones, according to Google, is 96db/mw. This is pretty sensitive, but not hugely so. If you want an external amplifier, the Fiio E9 would be an ideal choice - it excels into high impedance loads and is reasonably cheap as well (115 dollars approx.) It provides sufficient power to drive any more expensive headphones that you might want to purchase in the future - in fact, its only real problem is its high output impedance makes it not ideally suited to driving low impedance cans (which the ones you mentioned are clearly not). 

 

 

Willakan, I know it's primarily a DAC, but would the NuForce Icon uDAC-2 be able to power these headphones?
 

 

post #13 of 27

Avoid the uDAC-2 like the plague. It could, but it's crap. Terrible channel balance, clipping when it really shouldn't (output clips at 0dbfs for no apparent reason) and generally mediocre measurements make this a pretty terrible product. 


Edited by Willakan - 10/13/11 at 11:48am
post #14 of 27
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Willakan View Post

Avoid the uDAC-2 like the plague. It could, but it's crap. Terrible channel balance, clipping when it really shouldn't (distortion on anything approaching 0dbfs is stupidly high) and generally mediocre measurements make this a pretty terrible product. 



Any suggestions for an alternative?

post #15 of 27

I hadn't heard of the E9's build quality problems. If you already have a DAC, the Objective 2 is certainly worth a look - more expensive but will drive almost any normal headphones prettymuch perfectly. Downside is, it's either a DIY job or wait for another US builder to do some (prices at about $110-150 for the build set that is now closed and a WIP).

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