Originally Posted by MEETmyARSENAL
I also forgot to mention that I own a pair of Grado SR80i (although it's at home, because it's almost impossible to use them in a college setting).
1. Would the same hold with Android VS PC, as far as sound quality goes, unamplified?
2. Does the SR80i benefit much from amplifier?
1. Amplifier has nothing to do with sound quality in this relationship. The sound quality here is the source, which is the digital to analog conversion being done by the laptop or the android (this is what the generic term DAC is referring to). A more resolving headphone with a very high quality recording will discern a poor DAC in the device for example. The SR80i is not terribly resolving and is actually grainy sounding, so it probably isn't a good test phone for such a task. To keep it simply, you should just listen and if it sounds good to you, then don't worry about it. If it sounds kind of messy, noisy, or simply not great, then consider a new option that is a USB or portable DAC/AMP combo like the Fiio E7 which is relatively inexpensive these days.
Note: the quality of sound originates with the quality of the recording you're listening to. A lot of modern recordings are pretty poor. They may seem ok from a CD or a lossless format, but in a pair of headphones, you'll notice right away whether they're recorded well or not. From there, it's the quality of the DAC and it's ability to render the digital signal to an analog sine wave for use with a phone. The majority of the quality lies all in that process from the original recording to it's rendering to a wave. Now comes the headphone. You don't need an amplifier at all unless the headphone requires an amplifier to be driven to it's fully dynamic levels, this is where you pair different specs of the headphone to various abilities of different amplifiers to get a good match for the headphone's needs. The amplifier is not going to increase sound quality, unless the headphone was not being properly driven in the first place, and if it does, it does so indirectly by bringing the headphone up to it's dynamic peak output ability, and hopefully does it without coloration or altering the signal (which it essentially will to a small degree no matter what). People here at Head-Fi seem to think amps are going to make things "higher quality" and that's not how it works. There's a terrible rash of "amp amp amp! amp everything!! which amps!!" going on. And then people confuse louder volume with higher quality, which is a common trait in psychology, so they think they need amps on everything. Not everything needs an amp. A lot of headphones are made to be efficient from modern power sources of mobile devices. I would venture to say that 99% of the market of headphones and IEMs fall into that category. It's only about 1% of all available marketable consumer audio products that are not efficient and need amplification. That 1% is generally spoken of at length here at Head-Fi. Now and then, part of the 99% creeps in with their efficient headphone and the blanket of "amp it!" gets applied incorrectly.
2. The SR80i doesn't need much, if any, amplification. It benefits from added current, which you can get from an amplifier, but it doesn't need hordes of extra voltage because it's low impedance. I use a Fiio E11 with my Grados simply because I like the added hardware bass boost. Otherwise, my Sansa Fuze at the same perceived volume sounds pretty much the same. It doesn't need an amplifier.
Edited by MalVeauX - 9/13/12 at 12:01pm