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Do I REALLY need an amp?

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 

Over the past few days I've been obsessing over trying to find the perfect pair of IEM's within my budget (~$150-200 MAX). I'm upgrading from a lousy pair of Skullcandy Ink'd earbuds and have absolutely no experience venturing into semi-audiophile IEM's. I've been considering Klipsch Image S4 (I actually tried these out from a friend, hated the muddiness), Etymotic hf5 (veteran posters have warned about the riskiness of entering the higher-end range by starting with an analytical-style driver), the Ultimate Ears TripleFi 10 (worried about comfort), and the Ultimate Ears 700. However, today I came across the AMAZINGLY helpful guides put together by both ljokerl and ClieOS and stumbled across the HifiMan (also known as Head-Direct) products.

 

I really liked the overwhelming praise that the RE262 received and was COMPLETELY convinced that this was THE IEM for me, however through further reading discovered that it is apparently MANDATORY to amp these pair of IEM's to get even a decent sound. Is this slightly exaggerated? I'm not an audiophile and please don't preach to me about how I'd need an amp with any set of IEM's to get decent sound, as that's not what I'm asking for in this post. I have already recognized the fact that I will NOT be using an amp 95 percent of the time and am only asking if the headphones I'm considering are even worth buying considering this information.

 

Like I said, I've never even considered experimenting with audiophile-quality headphones and I listen to the POS Skullcandy buds with my Droid Incredible all the time, so it's not like I've developed a high-quality taste by any stretch of the imagination. Also, I should mention I have a pair of Sennheiser HD280's which I LOVE, and I use these with my audio interface on my laptop. So I guess I do have some idea of what good sound "sounds" like (at least compared to the setup I use most of the time), but the Sennheisers aren't practical to carry with me all the time.

 

So am I at risk of losing anything by investing in the RE-262's based on the assumption I will NOT be using an amp 95 percent of the time? Does not using an amp render these headphones ultimately useless, even to a COMPLETE newbie, or does an amp only add the icing to the cake that highly-trained ears are able to distinguish? Will using the RE-262's without an amp still give me phenomenal sound? If not, are any of the substitutes I have listed above a better option, or is there an even better option for me? Would I be better off investing in one of HifiMan's other sets of IEMs such as the RE-0 or RE-ZERO?

 

Just incase it helps, I mostly listen to mainstream and alternative rock (Rise Against, A Day To Remember, Breaking Benjamin to name a few), some electronic/dubstep, and a little rap here and there. Again, I'm not an audiophile and don't look for immaculately recorded tracks or orchestral music or whatever the majority of the community listens to here; I just listen to my favorites. So please be gentle with my tastes in music :)

 

Also, I know there's a separate forum for headphone amps, but I felt that my post was more geared towards the specific set of IEM's I was looking at and my options. So I apologize if I've misposted, forgive me just this once ;)

 

Thanks so much guys. I really appreciate the help.

 

Edited by snoshreddax21 - 1/8/12 at 12:23am
post #2 of 21

It's good to have amp, so it's there when needed, though I rarely carry one (unless if I am flying), but on some occasion it does give a bit more weight and 'oomph' to the IEM's signature.

 

One of my friend was very sceptic about amp, until I bought him Fiio E6, now he always say that he can't imagine listening to his iphone/ipod without amp wink_face.gif

post #3 of 21

RE262 + E6 is a very good start for any new comer to the IEM world. I won't say RE262 absolutely must be used with amp, but it certainly makes it better. E6 is a very decent amp for the price and it has a very small footprint. The most important thing is E6 is affordable enough for you to try and you can decide for yourself if amping is something you want or not.

post #4 of 21

A good majority of IEMs will not "need" an amp. The RE262 have especially/unusually high impedance and may not sound as good driven directly from the typical DAP so yes, an amp will help with the 262s quite abit more than your average IEM. It won't sound terrible unamped, but it will improve fairly noticeably given amping.

 

As mentioned, there are very cheap and good amp options such as the E6 for you to try. It's small enough to not be a bother and cheap enough that you can probably afford to buy it just to see if you hear an appreciable difference. With the RE262 you likely will.

post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Omnirai View Post

A good majority of IEMs will not "need" an amp. The RE262 have especially/unusually high impedance and may not sound as good driven directly from the typical DAP so yes, an amp will help with the 262s quite abit more than your average IEM. It won't sound terrible unamped, but it will improve fairly noticeably given amping.

 

As mentioned, there are very cheap and good amp options such as the E6 for you to try. It's small enough to not be a bother and cheap enough that you can probably afford to buy it just to see if you hear an appreciable difference. With the RE262 you likely will.



Kiteki said that from his/her observations the E6 actually adds hiss to the audio, while the E5 does not. There's two different reasons to get amps for your setup: 1. To get rid of hiss coming from the source, and 2. To power the IEMs themselves.

post #6 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by djvkool View Post

It's good to have amp, so it's there when needed, though I rarely carry one (unless if I am flying), but on some occasion it does give a bit more weight and 'oomph' to the IEM's signature.

 

One of my friend was very sceptic about amp, until I bought him Fiio E6, now he always say that he can't imagine listening to his iphone/ipod without amp wink_face.gif


 

That's interesting, for the price of the E6 I may consider it for occasional use but most of the time I won't be using one as it's easier to just grab my phone and a pair of IEM's.


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

RE262 + E6 is a very good start for any new comer to the IEM world. I won't say RE262 absolutely must be used with amp, but it certainly makes it better. E6 is a very decent amp for the price and it has a very small footprint. The most important thing is E6 is affordable enough for you to try and you can decide for yourself if amping is something you want or not.


 

First off, THANK YOU for your awesome guide. I have to say it was  the thing that helped me the most on the entire site over the last few days and really does a great job of consolidating all the best IEM's for newbies like me to make a decision :) And anyway, like I said, the E6 is an option if I'm going to be in a long car ride or on an airplane or staying in a hotel or something comparable, but most of the time I'll just be grabbing my IEM's and my phone as I walk out the door. So would I benefit more by choosing a different IEM based on the assumption that I will not be using an amp? Would the UE700 (my second choice before discovering your guide) or another of HifiMan's products sound better without an amp than the RE262 would?


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Omnirai View Post

A good majority of IEMs will not "need" an amp. The RE262 have especially/unusually high impedance and may not sound as good driven directly from the typical DAP so yes, an amp will help with the 262s quite abit more than your average IEM. It won't sound terrible unamped, but it will improve fairly noticeably given amping.

 

As mentioned, there are very cheap and good amp options such as the E6 for you to try. It's small enough to not be a bother and cheap enough that you can probably afford to buy it just to see if you hear an appreciable difference. With the RE262 you likely will.


 

Understood. It sounds like an amp will improve any IEM's performance. Do you happen to own the RE262? If so, I'd love to hear your perspective on how the difference would be perceived by a newbie and not a vet audiophile. Is the RE262 still one of the best IEM's without an amp or does it only live up to its name when combined with an amp?


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mbamg View Post



Kiteki said that from his/her observations the E6 actually adds hiss to the audio, while the E5 does not. There's two different reasons to get amps for your setup: 1. To get rid of hiss coming from the source, and 2. To power the IEMs themselves.


 

That's another reason I would preferably NOT like to bother with an amp all the time. Like I said, I've never ventured into the world of high-end gear before and would rather not complicate things on my first setup. All I want to start off is a REALLY good pair of IEM's that sound fantastic even without an amp. Any suggestions? Or would the RE262 be perfect for me?

post #7 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by snoshreddax21 View Post


...


 

That's another reason I would preferably NOT like to bother with an amp all the time. Like I said, I've never ventured into the world of high-end gear before and would rather not complicate things on my first setup. All I want to start off is a REALLY good pair of IEM's that sound fantastic even without an amp. Any suggestions? Or would the RE262 be perfect for me?



It really depends because some IEMs are more sensitive to hiss than others. With most of my IEMs I've been hearing hiss from my E438 Walkman. What would you be using as your source? You're going to have to pair your source with an IEM that's just right.

post #8 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbamg View Post



It really depends because some IEMs are more sensitive to hiss than others. With most of my IEMs I've been hearing hiss from my E438 Walkman. What would you be using as your source? You're going to have to pair your source with an IEM that's just right.



Most of my music is 320kbps MP3 files, so it's not like I have lossless or FLAC music or anything. I just play it from my Android phone or laptop most of the time. 

post #9 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by mbamg View Post



Kiteki said that from his/her observations the E6 actually adds hiss to the audio, while the E5 does not. There's two different reasons to get amps for your setup: 1. To get rid of hiss coming from the source, and 2. To power the IEMs themselves.


 

I haven't experienced any hiss at all with any of my IEM's.

 

The E6 is a very clear and transparent amp, especially given it's price.  It pairs really well with the RE262.  IMO the RE262 really does need more power than your typical DAP for it to really shine, like you've been reading about.  I get nothing but a black background with the RE262 and the E6.

 

post #10 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post


 

I haven't experienced any hiss at all with any of my IEM's.

 

The E6 is a very clear and transparent amp, especially given it's price.  It pairs really well with the RE262.  IMO the RE262 really does need more power than your typical DAP for it to really shine, like you've been reading about.  I get nothing but a black background with the RE262 and the E6.

 

 

Like I said, most of the time I will not be using an amp due to just the sheer convenience factor. Is there any IEM that you would recommend other than the RE262 without an amp or will it still sound fantastic?

post #11 of 21

I believe hearing the RE262 with an amp might change your mind on carrying one but in lieu of that (the E6 is tiny; same size as an Apple Nano 6g), I have several other dynamic driver phones I'd recommend researching: JVC FXT90, Vsonic GR07 and possibly the Future Sonics M5.  These are all under $200, some more than others and none need an amp.  Of the 3 the FXT90 is the most mid centric but still doesn't come close to the RE262 mids, however it offers really, really good instrument realism and dyamics.  The RE262 and FXT90 are currently my favorite universals.  Check my sig for my thoughts/reviews if interested.

 

There are also some really good BA phones in the same price range worth checking out (none will need amping) but since I'm not that big of a BA fan, I'll leave those recommendations to others.  Good luck...

post #12 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by shotgunshane View Post

I believe hearing the RE262 with an amp might change your mind on carrying one but in lieu of that (the E6 is tiny; same size as an Apple Nano 6g), I have several other dynamic driver phones I'd recommend researching: JVC FXT90, Vsonic GR07 and possibly the Future Sonics M5.  These are all under $200, some more than others and none need an amp.  Of the 3 the FXT90 is the most mid centric but still doesn't come close to the RE262 mids, however it offers really, really good instrument realism and dyamics.  The RE262 and FXT90 are currently my favorite universals.  Check my sig for my thoughts/reviews if interested.

 

There are also some really good BA phones in the same price range worth checking out (none will need amping) but since I'm not that big of a BA fan, I'll leave those recommendations to others.  Good luck...


Aggh, my wallet is cringing. All three of those are in the top end of my budget, but I'm sure they're worth it. The Future Sonics that you mentioned have a reputation of bass-heavy (I'd prefer a well-balanced IEM that's not overpowering in one area). The Vsonics you mentioned are also an option. How would these compare to the RE262's both unamped? Which one sounds better?

 

EDIT: GR07 is on somewhat sketchy territory in my book. It's not available on Amazon directly, only through third-party sellers that aren't quite reputable enough for me to settle with incase something goes wrong or I need to return them. Plus they're over-ear only which I'm not crazy about. I think I'm gonna have to rule that one out as well. Is anyone able to give me a flat-out answer as to whether I'll be happy with the RE262 without an amp? I realize this is a completely subjective question, but will they be one of the best in the price range I'm looking at even without an amp? Thanks guys.


Edited by snoshreddax21 - 1/8/12 at 2:33pm
post #13 of 21


 

Quote:
Originally Posted by snoshreddax21 View Post

 

First off, THANK YOU for your awesome guide. I have to say it was  the thing that helped me the most on the entire site over the last few days and really does a great job of consolidating all the best IEM's for newbies like me to make a decision :) And anyway, like I said, the E6 is an option if I'm going to be in a long car ride or on an airplane or staying in a hotel or something comparable, but most of the time I'll just be grabbing my IEM's and my phone as I walk out the door. So would I benefit more by choosing a different IEM based on the assumption that I will not be using an amp? Would the UE700 (my second choice before discovering your guide) or another of HifiMan's products sound better without an amp than the RE262 would?

 

 

Unless you are a particularly weak source, I would say it is okay to listen to RE262 without an amp. Even not at its best, it will still beat out most other IEM of its price range.

post #14 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post


 

 

Unless you are a particularly weak source, I would say it is okay to listen to RE262 without an amp. Even not at its best, it will still beat out most other IEM of its price range.

 

Any other opinions or suggestions for another IEM that will work better for me without an amp? Otherwise I think I'm going to pull the trigger on this one and buy a pair.

post #15 of 21

Since you've eliminated the GR07, the FXT90 is an option under your budget. The Ortofon e-Q5 runs a little over your budget but follows the RE262 type of sound signature with no amp requirements, and is to me top tier sound at a much lower price bracket than the other top-tiers. As for RE262, I believe you'll still be happy with them out of a typical DAP. They certainly are not going to sound bad, but if I were you curiosity will soon get the better of me with the eternal question of "how much better can these sound?" biggrin.gif Thus triggering the descent into the spiral of madness that is head-fi tongue.gif

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