Amping (or the lack thereof) was a big reason that I decided on the Senn 598s. Go much higher on the price point ladder, and the headphones start asking me to shell out for a pricy amp. For this reason, I see the 598s as the "sweet spot". Still, it would be hard to find an audiophile that believes my headphones wouldn't prefer an amp. So I'd like to buy a cheap one that can sit on my desk.
But my desktop has another shiny metal box incoming: I intend to purchase an audio interface (I'm looking at the Presonus Audiobox and the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, among others). These things are just tools for hooking up pianos, mics, and guitars to computers. They have the capabilities of a lot of different gadgets: DACs, ADCs, sound cards, midi interfaces, etc., and throw in some gain knobs and line in/outs. What's relevant here is that they provide a headphone jack. I expect this to be a decent connection; an audio interface will bypass the cheap sound card in my laptop, and run everything through a passable DAC.
What I'm concerned about is amping. One of the audio interfaces I am interested in lists a meagre output impedance of < 12 Ohms (though it also says "power output to 32 Ohms = 24mW"). This doesn't match the 50 ohm sticker on the Sennheiser 598s. So I have a couple of choices. I can either get an audio interface and a cheap amp. Or, I can scale up my audio interface to one that supports 50 ohm headphones.
The questions that I need to ask in order to make this choice are as follows:
- What are some of the more inexpensive options for amping the HD 598s? I'm thinking definitely under $100, is that unrealistic? Suggest a budget in proportion to the quality and needs of my budget-midrange headphones.
- Would a 50 ohm audio interface do a good job of replacing a cheap desktop amp? I know there are more factors to consider than output impedance when it comes to amplification, but that's the only measurement I have on these things in that way. Strangely, there don't seem to be too many places where audiophiles and music creators mix too thoroughly, so I can't find a good description of the capacity of an audio interface as a headphone amp.