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What's the point of an amplifier?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Hear me out. I've tried over 15 pairs of headphones, but I never have once used an amp on a single one because I'm under the impression that they simply increase the volume. My sources (Samsung Infuse with Wolfson Chip, iPhone 4, and my laptop) are all loud enough for me... so why is everyone buying and recommending amps? I don't get it.

 

Right now I have two headphones, HD600 and HD650 and I'm just comparing them and the topic just came up in my head. I've read what people have said here but would like to know some more. In addition, if anyone has any experience in not amping/amping differences, I'd like to know about it please.

 

Thank you.

post #2 of 9

I've tried the sony mdr xb700 withouth an amp and with an amp. ( well its for portable use so they will do good without).

Together with an amp they  got of course more volume without sounding bad when pumping them up, there was alot more base, the mids got more clarity.

post #3 of 9

It's not just volume, it's clarity of volume. A better power source will make clarity and tightness more consistent across all volume ranges (assuming those ranges never surpass the capacity of the speaker).

 

You're ultimately listening to extremely rapid vibrations, and you're ultimately using some sort of amp. The ones in your integrated laptop soundcard and iphone are just quite minimal, like a small child shakily managing to lift up a heavy weight and occasionally lagging behind the count of his personal trainer.

 

A good amp is more like a professional power lifter coming and doing smooth precise effortless repetitions with that heavy weight. It won't necessarily change the sound signature of a speaker, it will just make it sound like the speaker is fully powered and the frequency sensitivity will be more consistent across all volume levels.

 

If you go on car audio forums you will see most people identifying as "SPL" (sound pressure level aka volume) or "SQ" (sound quality), but both generally use the best amps they can afford, even if they have to skimp on other things, because without adequate power, you can never be sure if everything in front of the amp in the chain is even performing how the engineers intended.


Edited by machoboy - 8/26/12 at 10:29am
post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by nothing4me View Post

Hear me out. I've tried over 15 pairs of headphones, but I never have once used an amp on a single one because I'm under the impression that they simply increase the volume. My sources (Samsung Infuse with Wolfson Chip, iPhone 4, and my laptop) are all loud enough for me... so why is everyone buying and recommending amps? I don't get it.

Right now I have two headphones, HD600 and HD650 and I'm just comparing them and the topic just came up in my head. I've read what people have said here but would like to know some more. In addition, if anyone has any experience in not amping/amping differences, I'd like to know about it please.

Thank you.

I think part of this is a lack of terms being explained clearly enough. First off, you are using an amplifier, there is one built into every device you have mentioned there (the laptop may just be a line driver opamp, and not really suited to driving headphones/speakers, but the mobiles absolutely have some sort of amp built into them (it may be opamp based)).

But generally speaking, dedicated headphone amplifiers are frivolous unless you hear obvious flaws, like clipping or other distortion, or the device can't get loud enough with the cans you have (this excludes exotics like electrostatic headphones that require specialized drivers, of course). There's a lot of claims to the contrary, but by and large the majority of dynamic headphones do not need and will not noticeably benefit from throwing more money into a nice little box sitting on the shelf.

Regarding the HD 600 and 650 specifically - those are actually fairly reactive, and really will change with different amplifiers. They're one of the few headphones where you can notice (and measure) some pretty consistent and dramatic differences between different drivers. This is the result of how their Z interacts with Zsource of whatever amplifier they're hooked into, which will change FR. Most headphones are much more stable, and don't change nearly as much.

As the saying goes, if you like what you're hearing, then it's good, and leave well enough goes.
Quote:
Originally Posted by machoboy View Post

It's not just volume, it's clarity of volume. A better power source will make clarity and tightness more consistent across all volume ranges (assuming those ranges never surpass the capacity of the speaker).

You're ultimately listening to extremely rapid vibrations, and you're ultimately using some sort of amp. The ones in your integrated laptop soundcard and iphone are just quite minimal, like a small child shakily managing to lift up a heavy weight and occasionally lagging behind the count of his personal trainer.

A good amp is more like a professional power lifter coming and doing smooth precise effortless repetitions with that heavy weight. It won't necessarily change the sound signature of a speaker, it will just make it sound like the speaker is fully powered and the frequency sensitivity will be more consistent across all volume levels.

Not looking to stir a fight, but what does even mean?
Edited by obobskivich - 8/26/12 at 10:25am
post #5 of 9

well to get the most out of higher impedance headphones you need a amp, a good amp can increase the sound stage and tighten up the sound, and if you use a tube amp you can roll the tube and find a sound that fits you best.

post #6 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by obobskivich View Post


Not looking to stir a fight, but what does even mean?

 

No worries I don't get into forum fights

Bad analogy maybe? I gave it a shot

post #7 of 9

Just tried the hd650 going through right from my logitech z5500 headphone output and then I tried it out with the nuforce hdp.

You could tell that there were some difference.

Of course more base, non fatiguing base, and it goes deeper being amped. Better soundstage and the clarity with the mids and highs got a big boost.

post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by dolor View Post

Just tried the hd650 going through right from my logitech z5500 headphone output and then I tried it out with the nuforce hdp.

You could tell that there were some difference.

Of course more base, non fatiguing base, and it goes deeper being amped. Better soundstage and the clarity with the mids and highs got a big boost.


I never tried the nuforce but something like the woo audio wa6 is one heck of a hd600/650 amp. The schiit amps are very popular but I never tried them with hd600/650s

post #9 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by machoboy View Post

No worries I don't get into forum fights

beerchug.gif
Quote:
Bad analogy maybe? I gave it a shot

Perhaps - I just don't get the "weightlifting" thing I guess.

Regarding the HD 580/600/650 and amping, maybe this will help:
http://www.meier-audio.homepage.t-online.de/tipstricks.htm
http://www.afrotechmods.com/reallycheap/soundcard/sennheiser.htm

These are fairly reactive cans (here's one measurement: http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD600.pdf) which means they will be influenced by changes in Zsource and current/voltage supply from a given device (http://en.goldenears.net/index.php?mid=KB_Columns&document_srl=1389), but they are not indicative of all headphones (here's an example of a fairly stable headphone: http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/MonsterBeatsPro.pdf).
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