Originally Posted by nicholars
Originally Posted by catspaw
I belive Planars dont have any problems with that (i remmber reading something about it), but id suggest you make sure yourself.
I had a quick search for it and it said it is less important than with dynamics... Still I might give an amp a try with the HE400 when I have some spare cash.... Interested to hear about on the HE400 with a good amp, even though people say you do not need one... Must make some difference?
I use an O2 amp, in part because it specifies the kind of low-output impedance that should allow it to drive even an 8 Ohm speaker without a problem. Therefore, no questions about whether or not the "damping" will be good or bad.
I'll just comment that, without question, the O2 was an upgrade to the Realtek audio chipset in my laptop (which is no piece of crap). However that chipset had more noise and less power than the O2. It also did not command the HE-400s like the new amp does. So, I have to assume that a very low output impedance is still important even when using Orthos.
In terms of quality, the O2 no question is an improvement over the laptop itself. Bass was definitely improved and overall clarity and performance scaled up with the HE-400. It took awhile for my ears to adjust to the 'black' noise floor of the O2, but there is no real going back. The most interesting change however, was the way the amp improved the sound of my Senn HD-595s. Those had always sounded good, but the amp upgrade really made it obvious that they were competitive with the HE-400 (to my ears anyway). They are 80-90% as good as the HE-400s, but they lack a lot of the extension and added bass texture of the orthos. Particularly when listening to live music, the HD-595s could not render the crowd clapping and cheering or instrument separation like the HE-400s. But how close they came with a better amp was a learning moment for me.
Now, the kicker is really, how much power do you need? The HD-595s were plenty loud without the amp (and with it I have to reduce system volume by at least a quarter). The HE-400 really needed it. The reason is that high dynamic range recordings, like games, movies, classical music, and the like, need the extra power to hit the volumes I want. Otherwise, I would say that the typical computer probably has enough power to run them just fine for regular music.
I am NOT going to preach amp purchases when the majority of headphones out there neither require much power to be driven to ear-damaging levels nor superior specs to sound amazing. I am too poor to be the industries sucker all the time. But there is no debate, in my mind, that the HE-400 will perform their best on a very good amp like the O2. If I were you, I would demo the same group of songs on as many different devices as you can first. Choose something with HDR, something that usually sounds crappy, something you think usually sounds amazing etc. Then play back through the HE-400 on your phone, Mp3 player, Computer, home stereo headphone jacks. When you find the one that sounds best, report back!
While 10 Ohm output impedance is not ideal with your soundcard, you are not THAT far out of spec with the HE-400 ('ideal' would be a headphone with roughly 80 ohm impedance or greater). But I've never tried an STX before, so I can't comment on its performance vs. my other equipment. What is your stock audio chipset? It may spec differently, and provide an interesting comparison. Personally, I've preferred my realtek chipsets to the Soundblaster I used to have - much smoother sounding.