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AKG K550 Amp Synergy

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 



I have been following the conversations about this headphone with great interest, as I selected these from among several other closed cans in their general price range.  After comparing the Senn HD380 Pro, Shure SRH840 and SRH 940 against the AKGs, I chose the K550 because of the overall sound, detail and openness they brought.


This is not a review of the K550, but a question on amplification to get the very best out of them. 


Context: I used my Marantz SACD player to audition the group through the player's headphone output.  This provided consistency through my process, and seemed to bring out good things from the Shures and the AKG.  Also as part of my process, I then moved to the setup I will be using most with them, which is an iPod 80G feeding Apple Lossless to a Musical Fidelity V-Can Mk I.  I don't yet have an LOD, so the V-Can is fed right from the iPod headphone jack with EQ set flat.


There seems to be a difference in many aspects of the sound that rig produces that seems to subtract from the overall sound of the AKGs that won me over.  Things are muddier and the purity of the tone has been lost.  The sound is still all there across the frequencies, but less "there" than what I heard from the Marantz.  I know that I am at the mercy of the output from the iPod, but wonder if the V-Can is also not well suited to the AKGs.  The other headphones were worse through this setup as well.


With a limited budget of about $300, are there suggestions for a full size amp that would bring back the shine from the K550?  I am open to an amp/DAC combination, fed through an Apple camera connector, which I also have.


Thanks in advance for your help!



post #2 of 7



You're outputting an amplified signal to an amplifier, then further amplified, then fed to your headphone.


Get the LOD.


The K550 is a very easy headphone to drive, it really doesn't need an amplifier. Try plugging into your ipod without the amp. See what you think.


I would never put $300 into an amp for a headphone that doesn't need an amp. If you really want more power, try the Fiio E11 (assuming portability with the ipod). But again, you really don't need an amp for the K550.


Now, if you want a fullsize DAC/AMP for home for discreet use away from the iPOD from your PC/MAC, then by all means, use your budget to get something like the Fiio E10 or perhaps the NFB-12.


Very best,

Edited by MalVeauX - 3/22/12 at 8:04am
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the reply.


I will give the direct connect a try.


But with the desire to eventually take advantage of a higher quality DAC than what is in the 'pod, what would be some other AMP/DAC combos that are worth seeking? Maverick? HifiMan? NuForce iDo?  I also see many variations available from China.


All suggestions welcome.



post #4 of 7
Thread Starter 

Since I have had a chance to spend some time with the K550s, I thought an update may be in order.  In the intervening weeks I picked up a Schiit Asgard to pair with the AKGs, and have thoroughly enjoyed the combination.  This amp has taken a firm hold of these headphones in a way that running them directly from an iPod could not do.


An example came to me last night as I was running my iPod into the Asgard through a Pocketdock for true line out into the amp.  I find that this connection allows comfortable listening levels with the volume knob at about 11 oclock, so plenty of headroom if I want to crank it.  Shuffle mode is how I usually run the 'pod, so there is a variety of music available to judge the sound.  From Chopin to Audioslave to whatever comes up, the sound is nicely balanced across the frequency spectrum.


Some have complained about a lack of bass, but I beg to differ. What is missing isn't the bass, but an over-emphasis on the bass.  A track from Tony Braxton's "Secrets" called "Talking in His Sleep" came up in the rotation, and I can assure you, this cut has a very deep bass line along with some airy female backup vocals.  Not only is the bass there down to the deepest notes, but it integrates with the rest of the mix in a way that is very pleasing.


Bassheads need not apply for the K550s, but if you want your sound properly presented and layered the way the engineer wanted it to be, then these are your headphones of choice.  Oh yeah, it doesn't hurt that the Asgard is totally quiet and adds no signature of its own to the sound.  Just good clean power to make the souce sound its best.


Now if I could only find a small CD player with awesome SQ to go with them!



post #5 of 7
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post



You're outputting an amplified signal to an amplifier, then further amplified, then fed to your headphone.



Isn't the signal identical between HP out and line out, given that the volume is set to maximum? I always thought the output impedance were the same and the only difference being that the line out removes the ability to control volume (given the correct pin placement of the LOD). 

Isn't an iPod's volume metering based on digital attenuation, thus not really being an "amplified" signal from the HP out?


Also to OP, lots of CD-players that cheap aren't exactly clean. I'd almost prefer the iPod (classic) as a source, since it actually trumps many falsely acclaimed desktop DACs even. 

Edited by electropop - 4/4/12 at 11:17am
post #6 of 7

I've had the k550's for two days now and am enjoying them immensely with the Dacport.  They sound really good from an iPad playing Apple lossless files so if someone was looking for a great un-amped can this should be in the running.  But they really shine with the Centrance Dacport.  The music expands and goes to greater depths.  One of my favorite CDs is Cyndi Lauper's Body Acoustic where she updates her songs acoustically and adds a few duets.  Listening to True Colors I really heard the stand up bass at the beginning of the song which is usually overshadowed by the guitar chords.  It's always seemed like background noise but now it's right there in the music without making itself the focus.  I have several remastered gold CDs from Mobile Fidelity that have a huge bass presence.  Candy-O from The Cars is one of them and it really rocked with strong articulate bass and a lively pace.  The folksy Mumford and Son's CD "Sigh No More" really comes alive as do most of my singer songwriter albums (see, I'm not a total 80's throw back).  


The sound signature of this combo (k550 with Dacport) is what I imagined my K701's would sound like re cabled and with a Burson HA-160D (which I've been considering).  Instead spending over $1300 tweaking the 701s to get them where I want them, I'll take the K550s for well under $300 from Headroom.  I'm totally content and at peace in the headphone world right now.  Too bad that tomorrow is the big Los Angeles Meetup where I'll be forced to listen to $10K headphones and amps that would get me sent straight to the divorce lawyer.  Oh well, one full day of total contentment is pretty good in this hobby.




Oops, I didn't realize this was an old thread.  Oh well, maybe someone will find it helpful in a search.

Edited by mbritt - 8/17/12 at 7:53pm
post #7 of 7
I just picked up these headphones idk what problems your having that are so horibke these things sound nearly amazing fed with anything I'm currently feeding em off my EVO and they sound steller I do have an fiioe7 amp dac the only thing it really does is tighten up the lows because they get a little wonky with the lower quality from the phone but most the time I don't even use the amp. I listened to several headphones and picked these over many. They are wonderful headphones smily_headphones1.gif I couldn't be.happier. listening to these I've heard a clarity in music that would take weeks of fiddling with my stereo system and than it would only play that genre that well or I'd have to change the tune. I got about 4k$ in my current car setup...nothing my low end can do can touch the depth and details these headphones produce. The highs are so crystal clean you don't even question a single lyric.
Sent from my EVO using Tapatalk 2
Edited by eviling - 8/17/12 at 8:06pm
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