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Do I even need a headphone amp (Tesla T1 / Yamaha home cinema amp)

post #1 of 24
Thread Starter 

This is kind of a follow up to my thread at http://www.head-fi.org/t/608458/integrating-headphone-amp-to-home-cinema-system-pre-power-amp-discussion.

 

I am the proud owner of some T1s, and I was amazed that people in the thread ^^ suggested plugging them into my receiver output.  From what I had read on here, I would have thought it was imperative to have a fancy tube headphone amp, and I'm saving money for one.  It's not a question of money although I'm thinking Crack Bottlehead sort of range, not the exotica (unlike the cans).

 

I'm not talking about subtle differences in sound quality between amps and sources due to colouring and texture, I'm simply interested in being able to drive the phones "adequately" as a base starting point, and an expected big jump from them being driven "inadequately".

 

From my research, 600ohm cans need a bespoke amp rather than a standard amp output, but 1) someone said the T1s are quite efficient and 2) maybe this is a matter of timbre rather than power.

 

If anyone can help unconfuse me I'd be most grateful. :)

 

I'm not opposed to buying an amp, but if it will be a 5% improvement rather than the 50% I would have assumed reading all the raving on here about amps, I will put it on the back burner.

 

(Disclaimer: Words are ambiguous when talking about music.  :))

post #2 of 24

I think that some people might tell you to listen to your gear then make a desicion regarding whether or not you'd like an amplifier or not because it's subjective. That's what I would say. I think it's important to not just pass receivers up in favor of amplifiers. I'd certainly give it a listen and if you like it, boom, there you go. If not, then start the search for a headphone amp. I don't own either of those, but I would think that the Yamaha unit would have enough power to drive those headphones, but again I don't have them so I can't comment from experience, only speculation.

post #3 of 24
Thread Starter 

Hi, thanks for the answer.  I know the answer is "listen and if you don't like it try something else", but we could say that for most threads on here, no?  I have absolutely no idea what the difference would be with a dedicated headphone amp, and I can't do that without hearing it.  I was fairly sure that I would obviously prefer the T1s to my much-loved SR60s, based on discussion and review here.  But I have *no idea how good they can be*.

 

It seems to be semi-gospel here that high-impedance phones such as these *need* a dedicated headphone amp, and it would be a *massive* jump in quality over not having one. I'm willing to believe it but want to try and quantify it against what I have.

 

I think my OP was clear enough - I don't see how I can clarify it any more.  Given my setup, is a dedicated headphone amp likely to produce a massive or subtle jump in quality?

 

It's all very well saying e.g. "if they sound flat try an amp", but these things are all relative.  For example, I tried Iron Maiden's Somewhere In Time (an exciting album by most standards), and it was a bit underwhelming.  Why?  Who knows.  Any of:

 

1) Album is actually produced and mixed with less sparkle than I thought, and detailed cans show it up.

2) I'm getting "too" used to good cans, I expect too much.

3) I had a tiring week.

4) The headphone amp on my home cinema amp is not adequate to drive these headphones compared to an OTL tube amp.

5) Something else.

 

I'm particularly interested in exploring 4).  :)

post #4 of 24
Thread Starter 

Anybody able to offer a clue?

post #5 of 24

I just recently bought the T1 but haven't got the time to listen to it yet. I ordered the T1s together with the Meier Corda Jazz headamp. I have a Sony TAE-9000ES AV preamp processor that has a headphone jack. If you can wait until this weekend, I can try the T1s on both the dedicated headphone amp and AV home cinema processor and report back if you wish.

post #6 of 24

The higher impedance and higher sensitivity the headphones, the easier they should be to drive well.  These are high-impedance, medium-high sensitivity headphones.  If most solid-state amps of any kind are driving them and not clipping at however loud you're listening, then you should be getting pretty much what they should sound like (unless the amp is designed to intentionally roll off the highs or something else, which I don't think a typical Yamaha home receiver would do).  You've had the T1 experience.

 

Either look for different music, different headphones, or some type of hardware effects processor / EQ / different amp to change the sound.

post #7 of 24

It is not only about driving them, ut also about pairing them well.

post #8 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

The higher impedance and higher sensitivity the headphones, the easier they should be to drive well.  These are high-impedance, medium-high sensitivity headphones.  If most solid-state amps of any kind are driving them and not clipping at however loud you're listening, then you should be getting pretty much what they should sound like (unless the amp is designed to intentionally roll off the highs or something else, which I don't think a typical Yamaha home receiver would do).  You've had the T1 experience.

 

Either look for different music, different headphones, or some type of hardware effects processor / EQ / different amp to change the sound.

+1

post #9 of 24
Thread Starter 

Points taken, I'll experiment.  But one pretty basic question:

 

If even these high-impedance headphones can be driven hard enough by a standard home cinema amp, why all the fuss on here about dedicated headphone amps?

 

Is it simply snobbery, does it take good headphones to a really new level, or do people on here not tend to already have a home cinema or stereo integrated amp at home?

post #10 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by topperdoggle View Post

Points taken, I'll experiment.  But one pretty basic question:

 

If even these high-impedance headphones can be driven hard enough by a standard home cinema amp, why all the fuss on here about dedicated headphone amps?

 

Is it simply snobbery, does it take good headphones to a really new level, or do people on here not tend to already have a home cinema or stereo integrated amp at home?

 

See post #7

post #11 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Szadzik View Post

See post #7

Doesn't really explain the answer to my question "Why all the fuss on here about headphone amps?"
post #12 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by topperdoggle View Post


Doesn't really explain the answer to my question "Why all the fuss on here about headphone amps?"

 

There are solid state, hybrid, OTL tube and transformer coupled headphone amplifiers. They deliver a lot of current or voltage and each headphone has its own requirements to sound best. Try to listen to your T1s on an amp like CSP2 or WA2 and you will know why they sound good on them and then listen to them on Burson HA-160D and you will see the difference.

 

If you buy a headphone worth $1000, you should really understand that you are asting your money listening to them from you 20 year old discman. I am not saying your receiver is bad, it was just never meant to be used with high end headphones and the headphone output may not be something the designers concentrated on.

post #13 of 24
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Szadzik View Post

 

If you buy a headphone worth $1000, you should really understand that you are wasting your money listening to them from you 20 year old discman. I am not saying your receiver is bad, it was just never meant to be used with high end headphones and the headphone output may not be something the designers concentrated on.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mikeaj View Post

If most solid-state amps of any kind are driving them and not clipping at however loud you're listening, then you should be getting pretty much what they should sound like (unless the amp is designed to intentionally roll off the highs or something else, which I don't think a typical Yamaha home receiver would do).  You've had the T1 experience.

 

I'm getting mixed messages.

 

Szadzik indicates more or less pretty much the standard forum line - high-end headphones need a dedicated amp.  I don't have a 20 year old discman, it's an Arcam Alpha 8, certainly no slouch in my book.

 

mikeaj says I've "had the T1 experience".  This seems to imply that a dedicated amp won't make much difference.  He makes an interesting point.  I've just been revisiting All Of The Above from Transatlantic's legendary SMTPe, and it has been an enjoyable experience.  This is really a song that I know backwards, and as a side project I don't think the production was overly complicated.  Not much was revealed that I didn't know before, but the presentation was great.  However, perhaps there is a little clipping.  There's a certain grainy edge at times, but I'm not sure if that's clipping, or just the cans showing up artefacts in the recording.  If anyone here happens to have the album and some T1s I'd be very interested to know what you find.

 

Anyway, given that I'm still clueless, I think I'll have to save for and then build a Crack Bottlehead.  If I don't feel the difference, I'm sure I'll be able to sell it easily enough, and it's the only way to find out if I can get more slam, depth, and impact from these cans, as I believe headphones with their reputation and price tag should be capable of.

 

Feel free to keep contributing to the thread, it has been interesting even if I'm still clueless.  :)

 

Edit: For what it's worth, I did some listening tonight, A-B'ing with my ATH-M50s.  I love the M50s, and if they didn't clamp so tightly I could listen to them all day at work.  Going from T1 to M50, there was a massive volume increase which is to be expected, but even when I raised the T1 volume to compensate, they didn't have anywhere as near much slam or impact.  The soundstage and detail of the T1 was much better, but they were less exciting than the M50s (which I do consider relatively neutral).  I am getting more and more sure by the minute that this receiver isn't able to drive the T1s sufficiently.  I'm all for neutral presentation, but it has to have some balls surely.  I'm moving house soon, but in the next few months, I'm sure a Bottlehead is on the cards.  If that doesn't do it for me, I'll sell them both and buy some high-end Grados.  ;)


Edited by topperdoggle - 5/24/12 at 4:18pm
post #14 of 24

you can bring the T1 to some stores that sells desktop amps and "try" to compare or recall how it sounds like with your yamaha amp. dont use their sources though, specially those DACs or SACD/hi-res files xD

post #15 of 24
Quote:
Originally Posted by topperdoggle View Post

 

 

I'm getting mixed messages.

 

Szadzik indicates more or less pretty much the standard forum line - high-end headphones need a dedicated amp.  I don't have a 20 year old discman, it's an Arcam Alpha 8, certainly no slouch in my book.

 

mikeaj says I've "had the T1 experience".  This seems to imply that a dedicated amp won't make much difference.  He makes an interesting point.  I've just been revisiting All Of The Above from Transatlantic's legendary SMTPe, and it has been an enjoyable experience.  This is really a song that I know backwards, and as a side project I don't think the production was overly complicated.  Not much was revealed that I didn't know before, but the presentation was great.  However, perhaps there is a little clipping.  There's a certain grainy edge at times, but I'm not sure if that's clipping, or just the cans showing up artefacts in the recording.  If anyone here happens to have the album and some T1s I'd be very interested to know what you find.

 

Anyway, given that I'm still clueless, I think I'll have to save for and then build a Crack Bottlehead.  If I don't feel the difference, I'm sure I'll be able to sell it easily enough, and it's the only way to find out if I can get more slam, depth, and impact from these cans, as I believe headphones with their reputation and price tag should be capable of.

 

Feel free to keep contributing to the thread, it has been interesting even if I'm still clueless.  :)

 

Edit: For what it's worth, I did some listening tonight, A-B'ing with my ATH-M50s.  I love the M50s, and if they didn't clamp so tightly I could listen to them all day at work.  Going from T1 to M50, there was a massive volume increase which is to be expected, but even when I raised the T1 volume to compensate, they didn't have anywhere as near much slam or impact.  The soundstage and detail of the T1 was much better, but they were less exciting than the M50s (which I do consider relatively neutral).  I am getting more and more sure by the minute that this receiver isn't able to drive the T1s sufficiently.  I'm all for neutral presentation, but it has to have some balls surely.  I'm moving house soon, but in the next few months, I'm sure a Bottlehead is on the cards.  If that doesn't do it for me, I'll sell them both and buy some high-end Grados.  ;)

I think mikeaj said it well.
I have the following to add: The amp is primarily a voltage source. It will supply as much power as the headphone needs, based on the voltage being put in. For the same voltage, the high impedance headphone needs less power than a low impedance headphone. Add to that high sensitivity (>100dB/mW), and you don't need to supply too high a voltage in the first place,  the headphone can go loud enough already. This makes for some pretty power efficient headphones.

Unless you're dialing your amp all the way up, and the amp has sufficient power (a/v receivers are pretty powerful) and low output impedance, there's no reason to consider another amp.

The musical experience will be changed only if the signal is altered in any way, which is the case with EQ based amps. This can be done with software as well.

But ultimately, what you hear is 95-98% headphone characteristics.


Edited by proton007 - 5/24/12 at 8:42pm
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