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gain or no gain? preference?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 


Just wondering what peoples opinions on this are, especially in cases where higher gain isn't needed ie. low impedance cans. The conventional wisdom seems to say that it is better to use  as little gain as possible, stick to the volume controls, and keeping your source/s high (example: Foobar at 0.00db, windows volume 75%-100%, volume on amp at preference, low gain).

The thing I'm finding is that gain adjustments change the tones slightly. On a number of Fiio amps/amps and dac's that I have tried the gain switch definitely has an impact on the sound quality. I've only been able to test this today with my AT A900X headphones as well as the newer AD900X.

When adjusting gain on the Fiio E17, Fiio E9, Fiio E07K, Fiio E11, higher gain seems to add "punch" to the lower end and a bit of brightness to the highs. Is it common for gain to do this among other headphones and amps? Also, would you view this as a positive impact on the sound quality or not? I suppose to different peoples ears these changes would be subjective, just wondering what thoughts people might have on it. 

I've also read that adding the punch to lower end with gain can reduce sound stage, though to my ears I can't seem to confirm that.

 

post #2 of 11

Depends on the impedance + efficiency of the headphone and the output level of the source.  For the most part my DAC sends a "big" enough signal to my amps.  For the most part my amps perform more attenuation than boost.  The exception would be the HD580, its pretty power hungry IMHO.  I suspect my incoming K701 will be the same way.  But my Grados and koss cans are much more sensitive/efficient.  I have listened to my Grados on other members unity gain circuits and they handled it just fine.

 

I am not super-picky when it comes to amp design in regards to circuit gain.  As long as the noise floor is silent and L/R channels track evenly all the way up-down, I am perfectly OK with using (say) only the first 10% of the volume knob rotation.  As a senn-Grado user I have had to compromise in that regard.  I'd rather have an amp with enough gain for the HD580/K701, and dim the knob with Grados than the other way around and run out of gain for the 580/701.  With this kind of preference, The volume pot is a KEY component in this regard and I avoid amps that use junk pots.  I learned the hard way about low volume channel imbalance on my Grados with cheap pots.  ALPS pots remain my preference they are affordable, reliable and get the job done.  My earmax OTL is probably nearing ~10+ years old and its ALPS pot performs perfectly to this day.

 

I have one amp with switchable gain.  My millet hybrid I had to make some resistor changes to lower circuit gain.  The first version millet uses a cheap volume pot that does not track evenly all the way down.  I never really noticed a difference though in terms of overall tone changes with different gains once volume levels were adjusted for.


Edited by kramer5150 - 1/17/13 at 1:09pm
post #3 of 11

Heya,

 

Gain is purely a preference thing. If you don't need gain to achieve listening volume, then you're better off not using higher gains as all you're doing is making it louder and increasing the potential noise floor which adds hum/hiss to tracks that on lower gain you might not have heard as prominently. When things are louder, they sound different to your ears. It's not performing different.

 

Very best,

post #4 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

When things are louder, they sound different to your ears. It's not performing different.

 

Very best,


I definitely can hear a difference though, especially in the bass impact. With 0 extra gain and the volume increased, I don't notice that increase to bass impact. Perhaps it is just a trait of the Fiio amps, but this person seems to agree:

http://www.headfonia.com/headfonia-tips-keep-your-amps-at-low-gain/

post #5 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post


I definitely can hear a difference though, especially in the bass impact. With 0 extra gain and the volume increased, I don't notice that increase to bass impact. Perhaps it is just a trait of the Fiio amps, but this person seems to agree:

http://www.headfonia.com/headfonia-tips-keep-your-amps-at-low-gain/

 

Headfonia is one of the last places I'd take advice from.

 

If you want the same effect, without using gain, simply do the following:

 

Equalize your range by -10 or -20db in your equalizer. Keep it at low gain. Now raise volume on the amp. You're increasing voltage/current output against the load, it will change the characteristic.

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX - 1/17/13 at 1:25pm
post #6 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

 

Headfonia is one of the last places I'd take advice from.

 

If you want the same effect, without using gain, simply do the following:

 

Equalize your range by -10 or -20db in your equalizer. Keep it at low gain. Now raise volume on the amp. You're increasing voltage/current output against the load, it will change the characteristic.

 

Very best,


Thanks for the reply and info Mal, what range in the EQ do you drop by 10 or 20db to get that effect?

post #7 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post


Thanks for the reply and info Mal, what range in the EQ do you drop by 10 or 20db to get that effect?

 

Heya,

 

Depends on your goal.

 

If you want to raise bass for example without distortion, simply drop your frequencies from 60hz and up (assuming you want sub-bass only increased) by -10db or so. To start. Then adjust them all up or down based on your preference.

 

If you don't want to change the overall signature of the headphone's natural frequency response, just drop all frequencies by an equal amount. Start with -10 or -20db to get as much extra volume potential on your amp. Adjust as your preference indicates.


Very best,

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by MalVeauX View Post

 

Heya,

 

Depends on your goal.

 

If you want to raise bass for example without distortion, simply drop your frequencies from 60hz and up (assuming you want sub-bass only increased) by -10db or so. To start. Then adjust them all up or down based on your preference.

 

If you don't want to change the overall signature of the headphone's natural frequency response, just drop all frequencies by an equal amount. Start with -10 or -20db to get as much extra volume potential on your amp. Adjust as your preference indicates.


Very best,


Is there a particular EQ to use? I listen to all my music in Foobar and the generic EQ looks pretty...generic lol there's only one level on the EQ that isn't above 60hz, so I should be dropping almost all the sliders by 10db or so to get a slight increase in sub bass?

post #9 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post


Is there a particular EQ to use? I listen to all my music in Foobar and the generic EQ looks pretty...generic lol there's only one level on the EQ that isn't above 60hz, so I should be dropping almost all the sliders by 10db or so to get a slight increase in sub bass?

Check out this thread: http://www.head-fi.org/t/526507/audio-player-equalizer-resampling-measurements

 

If you don't want to read through all of that, the summary is basically use Electri-Q posihfopit edition if you want any precision. It is available as a VST plugin so you can use it with foobar.

post #10 of 11
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mani ATH 87 View Post


Is there a particular EQ to use? I listen to all my music in Foobar and the generic EQ looks pretty...generic lol there's only one level on the EQ that isn't above 60hz, so I should be dropping almost all the sliders by 10db or so to get a slight increase in sub bass?

 

Heya,

 

If you want to get really in depth, look into the Electri-Q (link above).

 

But for just dropping all frequencies, as in you're not tweaking total frequency response to be different, but rather just dropping all frequencies, then the foobar generic one works fine. Drop them all by -10 or -15 or -20db and keep it flat, so the headphone's natural frequency response is not changed. Now you can just pump your amp and give the headphone more juice.

 

If you want to enhance sub-bass a little, for fun, keep the 77hz and 55hz in the generic foobar equalizer untouched. Don't raise them. But don't drop either. By dropping other frequencies, the sub-bass will now be pushed forward. You can make A900X's quite earthquake like with this. Of course, tweak the bass down as needed as you turn volume up to avoid distortion or over-doing bass to the point of being out of control. Depends on which headphone you're using.

 

Example:

 

 

 

 

Very best,


Edited by MalVeauX - 1/17/13 at 2:06pm
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

I've looked into Electri Q before but for some reason cannot figure out how to get it to work with foobar, is there a certain way you should install it? 

The generic foobar one should work for now either way though. I'd like to use Electri Q once I get a bit more familiar with how to make EQ tweaks.

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