Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › My HE-400 just arrived. Do I need a DAC/Amp/both?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

My HE-400 just arrived. Do I need a DAC/Amp/both?

post #1 of 18
Thread Starter 

My HE-400, purchased after long discussions on this forum, arrived today.

 

These are my first 'audiophile' headphones. Coming from a $20 pair of Sony cans, I expected to be blown away by the $400 HE-400. Unfortunately, I was not. Yes, they do seem rather better than the Sonys - maybe 20% better - nothing to warrant a price TWENTY TIMES the Sony.

 

Since everybody seems to love the HE-400's, I have a feeling I'm doing something horribly wrong.

 

Question 1: Do you think this disappointing sound is merely due to lack of burn-in, and that it'll get much better in 100 hours or so?

 

-------------------------

 

I'm using them from a HP Envy laptop, which has the infamous 'Beats Audio'. It seems that the actual audio hardware (the DAC) on these laptops are actually SUPERIOR to the average laptop. However, the Beats Audio software is terrible. I've kept the software disabled. But I'm still not sure if:

 

Question 2: Do I need an external DAC?

 

-------------------------

 

On my laptop, I find myself listening at 30-60% of max volume. Above 70% becomes too loud to tolerate. This seems to indicate that the laptop's audio hardware is able to 'drive' the headphones adequately. However:

 

Question 3: Is this really true, or would I still benefit from an external amp?

 

-------------------------

 

I'd really appreciate some help!


Edited by Atriya - 11/2/12 at 1:53pm
post #2 of 18

Definitely don't believe that burn-in will change your headphones over time, not to the extent of making them sound way better.

 

What kind of songs are you listening to?

 

I'd definitely look into getting a cheap amp/dac like Fiio E10.

post #3 of 18

I think that you just don't like the headphones. An amp isn't going to turn them into a new pair of headphones.

 

Either that or it's Beats Audio messing with your sound. I think I saw a video where when you disable it, it completely messes up your computers sound by changing the tone. Try it off of another device and see if you like it.

post #4 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewy4 View Post

I think that you just don't like the headphones. An amp isn't going to turn them into a new pair of headphones.

 

Either that or it's Beats Audio messing with your sound. I think I saw a video where when you disable it, it completely messes up your computers sound by changing the tone. Try it off of another device and see if you like it.

 

Yes, it does. When you disable it at the software level, it sabotages your audio by enabling an EQ with bass -12!!! An then when you turn it on, it sets bass to +4. It's just atrocious from an ethical point of view and Beats should be ashamed of themselves.

 

However, I have disabled it at the device driver level - completely uninstalled the Beats device driver and installed a generic one - so now there's no chance of the above happening.

 

It's not that I don't like the headphones, they just seem to justify a $20->$400 upgrade, or even come close. Maybe I just liked my $20 Sony cans a lot. :P 

post #5 of 18

1. No, burn-in is not going to make that significant of a change.

 

2. What is the format of your PC music? mp3? mp3s through a laptops sound card could be quite unimpressive, with any headphones. Do you have a home CD player with a headphone connection? If so, try that. That could be substantially better than mp3/PC.

 

2/3. Yes, an external amp/dac will help. But the source material above matters more.

post #6 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sparky14 View Post

1. No, burn-in is not going to make that significant of a change.

 

2. What is the format of your PC music? mp3? mp3s through a laptops sound card could be quite unimpressive, with any headphones. Do you have a home CD player with a headphone connection? If so, try that. That could be substantially better than mp3/PC.

 

2/3. Yes, an external amp/dac will help. But the source material above matters more.

 

It's 320kbps MP3. I have personally done an ABX to verify that I CANNOT tell between loss-less CD-quality FLAC files and 320 Kbps MP3. Yes - maybe some people can. But I can't. So source should not be a problem. It's as good as loss-less for me.

post #7 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by TMRaven View Post

Definitely don't believe that burn-in will change your headphones over time, not to the extent of making them sound way better.

 

What kind of songs are you listening to?

 

I'd definitely look into getting a cheap amp/dac like Fiio E10.

 

I tried all genres. Ironically, classical seems to be the LEAST impressive. This is terribly sad, because that's what I listen to the most. It's also weird, because several people on head-fi have written that it's awesome with classical - which is why I bought it.

 

Doesn't the fact that going above 70% of max volume on my laptop makes the volume TOO loud, seem to suggest that I DON'T need an amp? Or is my reasoning wrong?


Edited by Atriya - 11/2/12 at 2:38pm
post #8 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Atriya View Post

 

Yes, it does. When you disable it at the software level, it sabotages your audio by enabling an EQ with bass -12!!! An then when you turn it on, it sets bass to +4. It's just atrocious from an ethical point of view and Beats should be ashamed of themselves.

 

However, I have disabled it at the device driver level - completely uninstalled the Beats device driver and installed a generic one - so now there's no chance of the above happening.

 

It's not that I don't like the headphones, they just seem to justify a $20->$400 upgrade, or even come close. Maybe I just liked my $20 Sony cans a lot. :P 

Oh wow, good you have that disabled completely then then.

 

What sony cans do you have by the way? And what type of music do you usually listen to?

 

I mean whether a headphone is worth the extra money is really subjective too. I thought they were worth the upgrade from my MDR-V6 by a longshot. But the value per dollar curve on headphones is probably a bit exponential for most people(meaning you get exponentially less value per dollar as you go up the line) especially when you take amps into consideration. 

 

These things aren't too picky on amps though, you're really likely only going to get a volume boost for the most part with one if you already have 30% headroom. Try playing a sine sweep and see if your headphones struggle at any part of it, if it does then you would benefit from an amp.


Edited by chewy4 - 11/2/12 at 2:39pm
post #9 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chewy4 View Post

Oh wow, good you have that disabled completely then then.

 

What sony cans do you have by the way? And what type of music do you usually listen to?

 

I mean whether a headphone is worth the extra money is really subjective too. I thought they were worth the upgrade from my MDR-V6 by a longshot. But the value per dollar curve on headphones is probably a bit exponential for most people(meaning you get exponentially less value per dollar as you go up the line) especially when you take amps into consideration. 

 

These things aren't too picky on amps though, you're really likely only going to get a volume boost for the most part with one if you already have 30% headroom. Try playing a sine sweep and see if your headphones struggle at any part of it, if it does then you would benefit from an amp.

 

These are the Sony cans: http://store.sony.com/p/active-headphones/en/p/MDRG54LP. Amazingly, they seem to have 80% of the performance of the HE-400 for 1/20th the price.

 

I listen to classical mainly. I heard that the HE-400 is good with classical, but unfortunately it doesn't seem to be a huge improvement over the $20 Sony. :(

 

Yeah, since I have 30% headroom already I really don't know if I'll benefit from an amp. Thanks for the sine sweep tip. I'll try that out.

post #10 of 18

A good amp/dac will mostly give you improvement in a cleaner source.  I'd make sure whatever you're buying from has a return policy however, if you don't like the improvement with the amp/dac.

post #11 of 18

Heya,

 

Get a Fiio E10 and get off your laptop.

 

If you don't like what you hear, return the HE-400. And get yourself a Sony MA900.

 

Very best,

post #12 of 18

A common misunderstanding when people buy new headphones. Someones people expect way too much from their anticipated product and are a bit disappointed when it arrives, even if it's coming from your cheap Sony. Never expect to be "blown away" by things, this is a terrible habit and doesn't let you appreciate what you just purchased! I suggest giving the HE-400s a bit more time and I HIGHLY suggest getting a clean sounding DAC. Whenever I look for DACs, I try to find something neutral, like the JDSLabs ODAC is a great sounding DAC. For something like the HE-400, a simple Laptop isn't enough, especially with BEATS programming lol. Hopefully a USB DAC will completely bypass that stupid Beats Audio nonsense and you will get a clean source for one. Or simply, maybe the HE-400 isn't right for you.

post #13 of 18

1) Yea yea your laptop soundcard is sh***ing up the sound, doesn't matter how loud it drives em, it probably has a cheapo DAC and piss poor amp so that is the MAJOR MAJOR bottleneck in the sound quality. It's analogous to saying "why doesn't my PC run Crysis well? I have an i7 2600k CPU, 16 GB RAM, and an integrated Intel HD Graphics card".

 

2) Whether or not something wows you depends on what attributes you are actively seeking for that wows you. If you are looking for the perfect colouration that works well with electric guitar, then headphones even with the best technicalities and detail but a different voicing will not wow you, despite them being extremely good in an objective sense. Vice versa ofc.

 

3) Never jump to conclusions with regards to headphones' sound until you've actively listened to them for a while (by a while I mean 10 hours or so, and by active listening I mean sitting down and listening attentively without being distracted by other things). Nuances aren't nuances if they are supposed to jump out at you immediately.

post #14 of 18
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jerg View Post

1) Yea yea your laptop soundcard is sh***ing up the sound, doesn't matter how loud it drives em, it probably has a cheapo DAC and piss poor amp so that is the MAJOR MAJOR bottleneck in the sound quality. It's analogous to saying "why doesn't my PC run Crysis well? I have an i7 2600k CPU, 16 GB RAM, and an integrated Intel HD Graphics card".

 

2) Whether or not something wows you depends on what attributes you are actively seeking for that wows you. If you are looking for the perfect colouration that works well with electric guitar, then headphones even with the best technicalities and detail but a different voicing will not wow you, despite them being extremely good in an objective sense. Vice versa ofc.

 

3) Never jump to conclusions with regards to headphones' sound until you've actively listened to them for a while (by a while I mean 10 hours or so, and by active listening I mean sitting down and listening attentively without being distracted by other things). Nuances aren't nuances if they are supposed to jump out at you immediately.

 

Thanks. For a cheap DAC+Amp solution to replace my laptop's dubious audio, would you recommend the Hifiman HM-101? It's only $39, and being from Hifiman it may work well with the HE-400.

post #15 of 18
Quote:
Originally Posted by Atriya View Post

 

Thanks. For a cheap DAC+Amp solution to replace my laptop's dubious audio, would you recommend the Hifiman HM-101? It's only $39, and being from Hifiman it may work well with the HE-400.

Nah, DAC/amps aren't universally designed to drive all headphones, HE400s are efficient but they are still planar magnetic so they need at least moderately good power to sound ok. HM101s are not enough.

 

That said the minimum for them to perform adequately would be something like a FiiO E17, which puts out about 200 mW power for the HE400 impedance, by contrast the HM101 only puts out about 60 mW of power. These cans will only sound better as you get more powerful upstream gear of course.

 

Edit: also though pure amps such as E10 are cheaper than hybrid DAC/amps like E17, you really need a discrete and good quality DAC for the sound to be clean and high-fidelity, so even the best amplifiers, when coupled with a poor integrated soundcard DAC like those in laptops, will underperform vs a cheap but decent DAC/amp combo.


Edited by jerg - 11/2/12 at 7:00pm
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › My HE-400 just arrived. Do I need a DAC/Amp/both?