Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Is my sound card headphone amp good enough to drive the AKG Q701 or K70X?
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Is my sound card headphone amp good enough to drive the AKG Q701 or K70X?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I have a creative sound blaster Z. It has an onboard amp that supports up to 600ohms I believe. I heard the AkG Q701 or K701 are notorious for being hard to drive. Please let me know if I still need an external amp. Thanks in advance.

post #2 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by element72 View Post

I have a creative sound blaster Z. It has an onboard amp that supports up to 600ohms I believe. I heard the AkG Q701 or K701 are notorious for being hard to drive. Please let me know if I still need an external amp. Thanks in advance.

 

It isn't that they are hard to drive. Your sound card will do it just fine. The issues is that the headphones are REALLY sensitive to your audio source and the quality of the playback. They are certainly more sensitive to minute changes than most headphones, but that doesn't equate to being difficult to drive. 

 

On the flip side of things, I will say that if you don't invest properly in these headphones they will sound like total crap. I originally had my Q701s on a crappy 40 dollar sound card. It sounded ok, but it wasn't worth the money to me. I was about to sell them until I read that they are actually really good if you have a good audio source. So the next step I took was I upgraded the sound card to the asus essence stx which made a crap ton of difference. Everything was so much clearer, full bodied, and warm. Then I learned how to properly equalize the headphones, which was again, a whole different world of audio improvement. 

 

Then I recently went to a head-fi meet, and tried a bunch of headphones. The ONLY ones that I personally felt beat me setup was headphones all in the 1K mark. 

 

Afterwards, I bought this turn table for 20 bucks from a thrift store and it adds a lot of warm rich bass back into the music that the headphones lose which is yet another whole new level of audio. 

 

My newest upgrade is still in progress. I will be selling my sound card, turn table, and lot of other things for a dedicated tube amp. This will probably make me never want to take them off again, and later (when I have some more money) I will be building a tube dac which will yet again add so much fullness into the sound. 

 

In short. These headphones LOVE better equipment. Where as other headphones like my audio technica 900xs and my old sennheisers that I sold reach a point where even if you had 5K worth of equipment, they won't see any benefit. 

 

If you want good equipment for these headphones, get the schiit magni and modi and ditch the sound card all together. 

post #3 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by element72 View Post

I have a creative sound blaster Z. It has an onboard amp that supports up to 600ohms I believe. I heard the AkG Q701 or K701 are notorious for being hard to drive. Please let me know if I still need an external amp. Thanks in advance.

This is the new one, that's vaguely based on the Recon3D, right? If so, it'll be absolutely fine as far as I know (it will either have the TPA6120 like the Asus competitors, or it will have the Maxim chip that the Recon has; either will drive the K701 just fine). Don't be surprised if you need the level higher than other headphones though - they're fairly insensitive compared to most similar headphones.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

It isn't that they are hard to drive. Your sound card will do it just fine. The issues is that the headphones are REALLY sensitive to your audio source and the quality of the playback. They are certainly more sensitive to minute changes than most headphones, but that doesn't equate to being difficult to drive. 

Actually the data would disagree with you. The 70x series have relatively low sensitivity, and therefore need relatively more power than most other headphones. This doesn't mean they're "hard" to drive, but it certainly has spawned an era of mythos around them being this mythical dragon that require a nuclear reactor to slay.
Quote:
On the flip side of things, I will say that if you don't invest properly in these headphones they will sound like total crap. I originally had my Q701s on a crappy 40 dollar sound card. It sounded ok, but it wasn't worth the money to me. I was about to sell them until I read that they are actually really good if you have a good audio source. So the next step I took was I upgraded the sound card to the asus essence stx which made a crap ton of difference. Everything was so much clearer, full bodied, and warm. Then I learned how to properly equalize the headphones, which was again, a whole different world of audio improvement. 

Then I recently went to a head-fi meet, and tried a bunch of headphones. The ONLY ones that I personally felt beat me setup was headphones all in the 1K mark. 

Afterwards, I bought this turn table for 20 bucks from a thrift store and it adds a lot of warm rich bass back into the music that the headphones lose which is yet another whole new level of audio. 

My newest upgrade is still in progress. I will be selling my sound card, turn table, and lot of other things for a dedicated tube amp. This will probably make me never want to take them off again, and later (when I have some more money) I will be building a tube dac which will yet again add so much fullness into the sound. 

In short. These headphones LOVE better equipment. Where as other headphones like my audio technica 900xs and my old sennheisers that I sold reach a point where even if you had 5K worth of equipment, they won't see any benefit. 

If you want good equipment for these headphones, get the schiit magni and modi and ditch the sound card all together. 

Honestly there's nothing wrong with the new Sound Blasters - the fidelity is already higher than that of the music you're playing, and there's no measurable benefit to throwing more money at it. The "we need external boxes for fidelity" marketing fiesta that's gone rampant in the last few years is an unfortunate side effect of the utter lack of consumer awareness or protection in the segment.

And before the flames start - I've tried the K701 on equipment ranging from $20 to $20,000 - they sound like K701s pretty consistently (as the measured data says they should!), they just need more input power than a lot of their competition (like the HD 650, for example), and that generally means having a volume control at a relatively higher position, which I think makes people uncomfortable for some reason.

As far as dumping a ton of money into more boxen - it doesn't make a whole lot of difference in a real sense, now that doesn't mean you can't convince yourself otherwise, or that you can't like a product for other reasons, but by and large the 701 are pretty stable and will sound like 701s pretty much wherever you plug them in, as long as that plug can tap out a few mW per channel with relative ease (and many modern devices can).
post #4 of 9

I am certainly not going to flame you obob. Your opinion is your opinion. 

 

The only thing I would say is that I am aware that it take a bit of juice to drive the Q701s, but I was comparing it to the long list of headphones that are really difficult to drive. You said the same thing, and I just want to make sure that you understand me before I start looking like and idiot on these forums k701smile.gif

 

 

As for the sound blasters. You could be right. I personally haven't tried out the newer versions. I have however tried out almost all of the older ones, and I hate every single one of them. They always have a really tinny and cold signature to me. I have no bias when I listen to sound cards (mostly because I wouldn't even know what to be biased about), but I have never had a good experience with sound blaster. Do you think the new cards are maybe worth a look? 

 

As for better sound equipment, I would have to disagree. My proof would be the bass response. If I plug these headphones into my mobo and played a really bassy song, the bass is there, but it is pretty weak. If I put it into my sound card, the bass is actually pretty noticeable, meaning that I can take the headphones off and feel them vibrating when they flat out wouldn't move with my mobo on the same song. The only thing after my sound card is my turn table. I am not sure how to argue that one. It does add body to it, but there seems to be a grounding problem as well. Soooooo I could very well be hearing white noise and it is just by my luck of the draw that it makes things sound better, or it could be some completely obscure thing. All I know is that it actually does improve the sound in a direct comparison.

 

I tested these out on a tube amp the other day and it made the sound a lot warmer (again, in a direct comparison).


The last thing I am going to say is not intended to be a cocky way of poking holes in your theory, so please forgive me, but the K701s and the Q701s and for that matter ever the K702s are all completely different headphones. To say you tried it on the K701s doesn't mean a whole lot. The Q701s have a much better bass response, and the mids are slightly less muddied (that though could be my interpretation of course). But the bass response in all three of these headphones are totally different which is what I mostly pay attention to since I know the mids are going to be fine on all three.   

post #5 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

The only thing I would say is that I am aware that it take a bit of juice to drive the Q701s, but I was comparing it to the long list of headphones that are really difficult to drive. You said the same thing, and I just want to make sure that you understand me before I start looking like and idiot on these forums k701smile.gif

What would be an example of "really difficult to drive" then? The K701 are probably the least sensitive current production dynamic cans that have any sort of popularity, and are worse than some of the orthos (yeah...people really seem to underestimate that little detail).
Quote:
As for the sound blasters. You could be right. I personally haven't tried out the newer versions. I have however tried out almost all of the older ones, and I hate every single one of them. They always have a really tinny and cold signature to me. I have no bias when I listen to sound cards (mostly because I wouldn't even know what to be biased about), but I have never had a good experience with sound blaster. Do you think the new cards are maybe worth a look? 

Cold and tinny through what/what setup? And which Sound Blasters (they go back to the early 1990s) - I wouldn't touch anything older than an Audigy 2 (which is pretty ancient to be honest); Audigy is a fine card but has the resampling quirk (not that it kills fidelity, but it can really bugger up if you ever mean to record or work with audio). Live! and AWE are less satisfactory - better than nothing, but we've certainly come a long way since 1994.

Regarding X-Fi and Recon - yes, they're very good hardware. I prefer Recon because the driver package is better overall, and the extra processing power that X-Fi offers doesn't do very much for very many people (basically EAX5 in HW is a cool feature, if you have one of the few games that uses it, and otherwise X-Fi is a lot of complexity). The "Z" cards are meant to be a more direct replacement for the higher up X-Fi cards - but I haven't found a complete specsheet for one yet (to see what they're really changing from Recon and so on (sorry "SoundCore" lol)).
Quote:
As for better sound equipment, I would have to disagree. My proof would be the bass response. If I plug these headphones into my mobo and played a really bassy song, the bass is there, but it is pretty weak. If I put it into my sound card, the bass is actually pretty noticeable, meaning that I can take the headphones off and feel them vibrating when they flat out wouldn't move with my mobo on the same song. The only thing after my sound card is my turn table. I am not sure how to argue that one. It does add body to it, but there seems to be a grounding problem as well. Soooooo I could very well be hearing white noise and it is just by my luck of the draw that it makes things sound better, or it could be some completely obscure thing. All I know is that it actually does improve the sound in a direct comparison.

So basically when running them off a line-driver they are gutless; that's in-line with their specs and what a line-driver will typically do with cans. The table can't be directly compared (you're changing too many variables). But it's likely the difference in mastering on the LPs you're listening too - you might also be getting rumble if the thing isn't setup right (as you mentioned).

What I mean when I say better equipment, is that if you take the K701 on a proper amp, and hook them up to a hojillion dollar source, or an inexpensive source, there isn't a lot of difference. Nor is there a huge difference between competent amps (they're stable, after all). But that's fairly typical across the board - big improvements are generally not to be had by changing source components or amplifiers assuming what you're starting with isn't a turd (which isn't hard to do).

Sure, within your conditions, you're going to have some performance differences, but you aren't comparing apples to apples.

Quote:
I tested these out on a tube amp the other day and it made the sound a lot warmer (again, in a direct comparison).

As it should.

[/QUOTE]
The last thing I am going to say is not intended to be a cocky way of poking holes in your theory, so please forgive me, but the K701s and the Q701s and for that matter ever the K702s are all completely different headphones. To say you tried it on the K701s doesn't mean a whole lot. The Q701s have a much better bass response, and the mids are slightly less muddied (that though could be my interpretation of course). But the bass response in all three of these headphones are totally different which is what I mostly pay attention to since I know the mids are going to be fine on all three.   
[/quote]

No - they aren't "completely different" - they are actually extremely similar (this has been confirmed by third party measurements pretty consistently). Of course you're free to believe (and behave) however you like, but that doesn't mean your beliefs reflect data.
post #6 of 9
Thread Starter 

I'm considering getting an Astro mixamp because it has dolby headphone and I'm reading everywhere that you need an amp for the Q701 to get the best sound out from it.

 

My sound card is Titanium HD. Now my question is will this be a good enough setup to use my Q701? Could I also use any headphones on the amp, namely my HD555? Also is there a cheaper amp that has Dolby Headphone that could power my Q701? 

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by element72 View Post

I'm considering getting an Astro mixamp because it has dolby headphone and I'm reading everywhere that you need an amp for the Q701 to get the best sound out from it.

My sound card is Titanium HD. Now my question is will this be a good enough setup to use my Q701? Could I also use any headphones on the amp, namely my HD555? Also is there a cheaper amp that has Dolby Headphone that could power my Q701? 

No need for Dolby Headphone - the X-Fi has CMSS Headphone, which is the same general idea (HRTF). And "everywhere" is wrong. wink.gif
post #8 of 9
Quote:

Originally Posted by Tjj226 Angel View Post

 

As for the sound blasters. You could be right. I personally haven't tried out the newer versions. I have however tried out almost all of the older ones, and I hate every single one of them. They always have a really tinny and cold signature to me. I have no bias when I listen to sound cards (mostly because I wouldn't even know what to be biased about)

 

Bias is not something you can consciously choose to have or not to have. To claim that all sound cards are "cold and tinny" sounds very much like bias.

post #9 of 9

I've been messing with my AKG K702 for some time and I gotta say it's very equipment sensitive.

 

I've settled on the fact that it only sounds decent on my ASUS Essence STX sound card.  I also have the Audioquest Dragonfly and a fancy Pioneer Elite receiver but it didn't sound quite right on either of those.  Tried it on a friend's Auzentech Forte soundcard and some other low end amp and it wasn't great.  Went to a hi-fi meet and plugged it into a variety of other quality DAC/amps that were out of my budget and concluded that it loved the Schiit Valhalla/Bitfrost combo.  

 

Hopefully the Q701 isn't as picky as the K702.  

Odds are much higher that the DAC/amps you'll find will pair up well with the Sennheiser HD555 since Sennheisers are much more lenient in general.

If I had to take a blind guess as to whether the Titanium HD will be good enough for the Q701, I'd guess no.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Computer Audio
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Computer Audio › Is my sound card headphone amp good enough to drive the AKG Q701 or K70X?