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"scale up" and "potential"

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 

I've read and heard stuffs about some headphones have lots of "unexplored potential" where when pairing with certain "higher end" headphone amplifiers, it can "scale up" pretty well. Things like tighter bass, wider soundstage, and like the example of HD650, becoming "not so dark", whereas the K701 "really" needs an amp to push its performance.

 

Have anyone here any idea what do those mean? I'm quite fond of both HD650 and also K701. But the idea of "needing extra goody amp" held me back. I wonder if I'm not investing a better amp, thence I'm not listening to music?

post #2 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnholy View Post

I've read and heard stuffs about some headphones have lots of "unexplored potential" where when pairing with certain "higher end" headphone amplifiers, it can "scale up" pretty well. Things like tighter bass, wider soundstage, and like the example of HD650, becoming "not so dark", whereas the K701 "really" needs an amp to push its performance.

 

Have anyone here any idea what do those mean? I'm quite fond of both HD650 and also K701. But the idea of "needing extra goody amp" held me back. I wonder if I'm not investing a better amp, thence I'm not listening to music?

 

I would say its part placebo, part fact.

 

An amp would help high impedance headphones like the HD650, but any half decent amp with good power delivery, low distortion and neutral signature should work as well as an expensive one.

Regarding the 'not so dark' part, the HD650 is dark by nature, the frequency response *is* mid low centric, with certain high freq dips. Thats what sets it apart from the other headphones. Why would you want to change it?

 

While I can understand the idea of giving magical attributes to headphones and amps, there's a certain line to be drawn, and you'll have to choose where to draw that line.

 

There's a holy grail, this ideal sound every listener wants. It doesn't take long before the chase itself starts to give you more pleasure than the end result. 

 

You can either fiddle with endless combinations of headphones and amps, or take them for how they've been designed, and choose the headphone that fits closest to your needs.

 

Headphones are electro-acoustic devices after all, designed by measurements and science with a clear relationship between the *electric* and *acoustic* characteristics.

As long as their electrical requirements are met, they'll perform acoustically as they're intended to.


Edited by proton007 - 10/1/12 at 2:59am
post #3 of 38
Thread Starter 

that's what I hope it'd be. because no way I can possibly try out all the amps out there just to find one which "probably perfectly fit" that singular headphone and my sound taste. Yeah, I'm used to T70, and listening to HD650 really held me back as both are really on the opposite side of the FR. But lately I'm trying to consider an open can.

 

Regarding the technically fit issue, that's what my personal belief lies. When the amp does it technical job, which is to provide power to drive the headphones, I see no reason why I'd like to choose it just to change the "sound" it delivers, unless, there really is. But over and over I've read that people can fail a blind test on amps. That's what really concerns me and my spending direction.

post #4 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnholy View Post
But over and over I've read that people can fail a blind test on amps. That's what really concerns me and my spending direction.

 

The reason is, there is a limit to how well an amp can be made. Beyond a certain point, improvements are marginal.

 

Another reason I believe has got to do with corporate research. While there are major innovations in commercial enterprises, there's no way to tell if a research is actually scientifically reviewed.

How many papers have you seen in scientific journals from commercial firms? Mostly because they don't want their research to go out in open domain, its not published, and second of all, its not that obvious to verify either.

 

So my point is, its very hard to separate real innovation from pseudo-scientific claims, hence you cannot say for sure if an amp being expensive due to XYZ is really worth the cost.


Edited by proton007 - 10/1/12 at 5:59am
post #5 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by proton007 View Post

Another reason I believe has got to do with corporate research. While there are major innovations in commercial enterprises, there's no way to tell if a research is actually scientifically reviewed.

How many papers have you seen in scientific journals from commercial firms? Mostly because they don't want their research to go out in open domain, its not published, and second of all, its not that obvious to verify either.

 

There's a whole bunch of published, peer-reviewed research from corporations under their name (though granted, probably a lot more conference papers than journal articles, but those the same thing as far as we're concerned here).  Of course, they can't reveal everything, and I suppose it's more common in some fields than in others, but it's out there.

 

 

 

Anyway, with regards to amps, it depends on what you're expecting it to do.  An amp gets some electrical signal input and outputs some electrical signal to headphones.  If you want the output to pretty much look exactly like the input did (i.e. high fidelity) excepting some change in volume, then there's a limit to how good that can be done.  If they're identical, then you can't do better than that.  If they're really close, isn't it functionally the same for any human listener because nobody can tell the difference and be happier with one sound over another that's pretty much exactly the same?  As for what constitutes "really close", see any number of other threads and look at which claims are possible, which have been substantiated, and which haven't been substantiated.

 

If you want the output be different than the input (i.e. some coloration or change added / subtracted / altered in some way), then who knows what you're looking for exactly.  You could be trying out every headphone/amp combination that exists.  That said, if you want an obviously colored sound or a certain type of change, you can probably rule out a lot of possibilities without listening to them.  Also, in my opinion, the question would come up about why you want to do tone controls in hardware (expensive, not flexible, need to try a lot of things, hard to set up) and not in software.

post #6 of 38

When I started researching Head-Fi in 08, it was due to not getting the sound I was looking for with the AKG K701s. I thought that all headphones had an intrinsic quality that could be untapped by the right amp, only I guess I didn't have the right amp? Little did I know I spent a couple hundred on a Woo3 but found out later that it didn't impedance match the AKG K701s correctly!

 

 

 

Over the years I found that the sound of the K701s could be improved with the right amp. Just like the above post stated, it all depends what you want to out to get out of this silly hobby. Basically more powerful amps give you both better bass and damping which controls the detail at which the driver moves in relation to signal quality.

 

I feel many amps do sound different and synergy is important as some gear works better together than other gear. We all have a sound we personally like and everyone is different.

 

The easy way is take you gear to a show and find people to help. If you have music that you are used to bring it too. It's really just that simple. Every one needs to find out for themselves. I never was able to get the 701s to become the everything headphone, the journey in searching was all worth it in the end. Most of the time problems are just an opportunity for education.


Edited by Redcarmoose - 10/1/12 at 8:39am
post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by autumnholy View Post


Have anyone here any idea what do those mean? I'm quite fond of both HD650 and also K701. But the idea of "needing extra goody amp" held me back. I wonder if I'm not investing a better amp, thence I'm not listening to music?

 

That depends. As mentioned already, sometimes the amp inherently alters the sound of the source too much, the easiest examples being tubes with the stereotypical "tube harmonic distortion", and "bass boost" amps for AKG K70x cans.

 

However, consider that most sources' headphone amplifiers have inherent design limitations, like space and power supply design (a single PSU powering everything in a full-size CDPlayer, or the need for extended battery life in a portable device). A separate amp can sound better by having its own power supply (assuming its well designed) and not as restricted in packaging components into a single, multi-purpose chassis. When you can't notice significant if any difference between using an amp with a source or not, reasons can vary greatly:

1) The amp could be transparent enough that it doesn't alter the sound, but...


2) ...assuming it could have improved dynamic range, if the source doesn't have much of that either even before it gets to amplifying the headphone, then the amp can't improve on that

 

3) Maybe the amp itself isn't up to the task, but this isn't simply a case of bad amp or better amp vs the rest

Note : many portable devices can drive "harder to drive" headphones well enough, surprisingly, so separate amps being inadequate is a bit less likely to not drive such headphones well. Also, if you look at some transducers (headphones or speakers), impedance to freq response graphs for some harder to drive designs tend to be less constant, which means your amp for example has to have a lot of current if not voltage as well. Plus cans more than speakers can vary widely in impedance, so while most objective parameters can weed out badly designed amps, among the ones with acceptable performance here, some may just be better on a more limited range of headphones. This is why you should pick headphones (and speakers) first - the amp will just squeeze more performance out of them, and then you go out and choose the one that can do that.

 

4) The music doesn't have dynamic range to begin with, and if any improvements are there it's mostly just "louder" (like "loudness wars" CDs, or older compression formats)

 

5) Human factor - the listener him/herself can't hear the difference

Note : some are too enthusiastic, ie your typical splurging audiophile, while some are too skeptical, so biases come in. At the same time, the best 'test subjects' I've had were my friends who were in a band. They aren't audiophiles, and before my headphones used only bundled earphones and monitors in the studio; they're registered since I egged them to for attendance in local meets but don't really hang out online in audio forums, but to see them wide-eyed - even with just adding an amp or a better source, not just a better (or colored) headphone - validates my findings. However, even they have biases too - they prefer Grados (SR225 and up) over pretty much everything else besides the K1000, although they validate descriptions getting thrown around when they first listened and then took off the Grados and go, "just like standing front row!" then with the HD600, "great with a jazz, sounds like a bistro," or "(otherwise) a 'safe' all-rounder for anyone who wants just one open headphone at home." (sic)

 

In the end, you have to balance objective instrument measurements with your own listening. Personally, if the first says they are too flawed, don't bother unless of course there's a feature you need and are wiling to compromise (ex, a 'good' music phone, so you only carry one device), just don't forget there's a compromise to be made. However, between a better objective score and one that's slightly behind that but you prefer the system as a whole better, then don't feel bad if you go for the latter - just be aware that objectively it's farther from perfect. I mean, in the end, you'll be the one listening, not the USB mic with analyzing software, right? And to that end, it's up to you too if you'd prefer to save money or spend it.

 

And just because you're not using "proper" gear, doesn't mean it's "not music." I can still enjoy music like the ambiance audio in a lounge, for example. Design compromises doesn't always mean "horrid" or "unlistenable."

post #8 of 38

This is The Sound-Science Forum !!

 

Amps in the playback-chain are not supposed to sound of ANYTHING !

 

Not enough bass ? EQ !

To much treble ? EQ !!

Not 'warm' enough ? EQ !!!

To 'warm' ? EQ !!!!

 

Your amp sounds 'to warm' ? It has in-built EQ !

Your amp sounds 'to cold' ?  It has in-built EQ !!

 

And NO -

Sadly, an iPod can NOT drive decent headphones properly.

High-efficiency mid-range cans is no problem, unless you have a EU-limited pod, but high-range cans ??

Forget it, 3.7 volt ain't enough !

post #9 of 38

My only question regarding using EQ to shape sound, is speed and decay. Yes you can change the FR of the sound with an equilizer, but what about claims that an amp is "fast" or "slow" (which I think also contributes to the idea of "harsh" or "lush")?

post #10 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maverickmonk View Post

My only question regarding using EQ to shape sound, is speed and decay. Yes you can change the FR of the sound with an equilizer, but what about claims that an amp is "fast" or "slow" (which I think also contributes to the idea of "harsh" or "lush")?

 

The only inherent "speed" of an amp is how fast it can swing a voltage, called the slew rate. IIRC on the order of 2 V per microsecond is needed. Of course it's exactly the kind of simple and useful measurement which no amp manufacturer ever adds to the specs. The only place I've seen it is for the beta 22 (and other AMB amps) which does 200 V/us.

 

I don't know how "fast" a software EQ can operate. Do they take little FFT windows? Who knows.


Edited by joeyjojo - 10/2/12 at 9:46am
post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyjojo View Post

 

The only inherent "speed" of an amp is how fast it can swing a voltage, called the slew rate. IIRC on the order of 2 V per microsecond is needed. Of course it's exactly the kind of simple and useful measurement which no amp manufacturer ever adds to the specs. For comparison I believe the beta 22 has a slew rate of 200 V/us.

 

I don't know how "fast" a software EQ can operate. Do they take little FFT windows? Who knows.

 

 

As for software eq, my thought was that speed was not something a software/hardware EQ could effect, but that various amp designs could. My other thought is harmonic distortion, and how the relation the distortion of various harmonics could effect sound replication.

post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeyjojo View Post

The only inherent "speed" of an amp is how fast it can swing a voltage, called the slew rate. IIRC on the order of 2 V per microsecond is needed. Of course it's exactly the kind of simple and useful measurement which no amp manufacturer ever adds to the specs. The only place I've seen it is for the beta 22 (and other AMB amps) which does 200 V/us.

 

It is rarely an issue in a headphone amplifier, though, unless for some reason it uses uA741 or similar op amps. However, slew rate was a real problem in old solid state speaker amplifiers, which used "slow" power transistors while having to output a greater voltage swing at the same time. The slew rate required for a sine wave is ℼ * f * Vp-p V/s, so the slew rate of the Beta22 would in theory allow for 22.5 Vrms output even at 1 MHz, which is a major overkill.


Edited by stv014 - 10/2/12 at 10:44am
post #13 of 38
The reason that slew rate isn't listed in specs is probably because it's no longer an issue in any amp. Some amps don't even bother to list THD any more. Not because they're hiding something, but because it's at a level that is clearly inaudible.

It's best to choose amps by features. Specs aren't much of an issue any more.
post #14 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bigshot View Post

It's best to choose amps by features. Specs aren't much of an issue any more.

One exception I am aware of. Amps to power electrostatic headphones. There are few offerings and the loads can be very, very difficult to drive. It is not about slew or delivered power in the usual sense. The capacatance of the phones varies wildly with frequency, for instance. Getting both current and high voltage into the Stax 007 series is challenging. To answer your question to be, it is SO worth it in the end. The high end Stax phones' potential for quality is almost limitless; at this point, the better the amp the better the sound.
Edited by Clarkmc2 - 10/3/12 at 11:28am
post #15 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by AKG240mkII View Post

And NO -

Sadly, an iPod can NOT drive decent headphones properly.

High-efficiency mid-range cans is no problem, unless you have a EU-limited pod, but high-range cans ??

Forget it, 3.7 volt ain't enough !

 

I disagree with your sweeping generalization. A decent "pair of headphones" is not restricted to low sensitivity 600+ ohm headphones.

My HD600's are driven quite well from an ipod. I certainly consider those decent headphones.

 

 

I think many audiophiles believe in magic when it comes to amps. Like, there is something that goes beyond just the specifications and measurements that makes them sound better. This is BS.

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