Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Do i need a amp? Plz help, thx!
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Do i need a amp? Plz help, thx!

post #1 of 21
Thread Starter 
Hello, im a completely newbie and had jt arrived at the audiophile world through choosing headphne by their apparence rather thn the sq. Currently i own two headphones, monster inspiration and sony mdr-1r. And im planning to gt a ath esw-9. Normally i listen to hip hop, "clubbing" music (dnt kw whts the catagory for it lol) and mainly songs with a piano base. Due to convinient purpose, i use iphne 5 as source. My question will be do i need a amp or/and dac for the three headphnes i own?

My current targets are fiio e17 and jbs labs cmoy bb v2.03. And my budget is only in tht range ad well. Due to tge lack of places in nz to try out myself, may u guys give me some advice? Thanks a lot!
post #2 of 21

I might get labeled a witch for saying this, but in my experience there isn't much difference between amped or not other than volume. If you can reach the volume levels you desire without an amp, you don't need an amp. If you can't drive them loud enough on quieter material like acoustic, classical, jazz, or watching movies, then get an amp.

 

I think what a lot of people attribute to differences in amps is really differences in pre-amps. Provided you're comparing similar amplifier technology classes. The op-amps can color the sound in subtle ways but it's not night and day and an EQ would do the job with any amp.

 

I'm using a FiiO E9 because all 3 of my favorite headphones, DT880, DT990, Q701 are power hungry little bastards and my Audioengine D1's built in amp sometimes can't cut the mustard on quieter source material.

 

I had an E7 but sent it back because it basically didn't actually amplify anything.....The gain was too low outside of DAC mode to the point you had to turn it 95% of the way up just to make the output as loud as the input.

 

The E17 you'e looking at fixes this flaw though by having an adjustable input gain. It should do the job but is a little pricy if you don't actually need the DAC and portableness of it. You could get an E9 which has 1w output power for half the price and it will drive just about any headphone to alarming levels, even ortho's.
 


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 4:40pm
post #3 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodhifi View Post

I might get labeled a witch for saying this, but in my experience there isn't much difference between amped or not other than volume. If you can reach the volume levels you desire without an amp, you don't need an amp. If you can't drive them loud enough on quieter material like acoustic, classical, jazz, or watching movies, then get an amp.

 

 

And you already are biggrin.gif

 

Besides power a headphone amp brings more control over the bass, improve soundstage, and some other aspects on the sound. Its true that you can get loud volumes on a headphone when its unamped, but it will sound boring and lifeless. 

post #4 of 21
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jackwess View Post

And you already are biggrin.gif

Besides power a headphone amp brings more control over the bass, improve soundstage, and some other aspects on the sound. Its true that you can get loud volumes on a headphone when its unamped, but it will sound boring and lifeless. 

Im confused now, so will having an amp/dac improve my sq of my headphones (including esw9)? If do, wht do u guys recommand in the 50~150 usd range? Thanks a lot biggrin.gif
post #5 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by judgementday View Post


Im confused now, so will having an amp/dac improve my sq of my headphones (including esw9)? If do, wht do u guys recommand in the 50~150 usd range? Thanks a lot biggrin.gif

 

 

Look, I've started myself from the bottom level and when I bought my first pair of proper headphones didn't have an AMP/DAC. By all means get one. An amp/DAC will bring up a lot more of the potential in your headphones. For around your budget have a look at the DAC/AMP 2in1 in the link below, if it doesn't have to be portable. For portable a Fiio should do.

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/633006/aune-t1-usb-tube-dac-amp-discussion-thread-see-first-post-for-faq


Edited by negura - 2/15/13 at 5:30pm
post #6 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by judgementday View Post

Hello, im a completely newbie and had jt arrived at the audiophile world through choosing headphne by their apparence rather thn the sq. Currently i own two headphones, monster inspiration and sony mdr-1r. And im planning to gt a ath esw-9. Normally i listen to hip hop, "clubbing" music (dnt kw whts the catagory for it lol) and mainly songs with a piano base. Due to convinient purpose, i use iphne 5 as source. My question will be do i need a amp or/and dac for the three headphnes i own?

My current targets are fiio e17 and jbs labs cmoy bb v2.03. And my budget is only in tht range ad well. Due to tge lack of places in nz to try out myself, may u guys give me some advice? Thanks a lot!

 


I think the benefits on an amp will be immediately apparent with your

headphones and music preferences.

 

If the size & price suit you, go for the JDS O2 over the e17 or bb 203.

post #7 of 21

In the end it comes down to you. Hey something like 50% of the enjoyment in this hobby is psychological. Many double blind and ABX tests have proven we can't reliably hear differences between cheap electronics and expensive ones. The single biggest deficiency in the music chain is the headphone. To me this means that knowing you're listening to a hand built tube amp with those specially hand selected non chinese tubes you spent weeks researching, is infinitely more pleasurable than the actual nearly inaudible differences it actually makes to the sound.

 

Pleasures pleasure though right?

 

Anyway I can't speak for others. But my own personal experience with a couple of different amps, as well as my time before headphone amps entered my life I can share this.

 

Fiio E9, no difference in sound quality at all, only volume. Soundstage, dynamics, all the same.

Fiio E7, no difference in sound quality at all, even barely any volume difference. Soundstage, dynamics, all the same

Soundblaster X-fi, no difference in sound quality at all. Can drive 250ohm DT880's well enough for loud music, a little too quiet for quiet music

Audioengine D1 USB DAC, slightly brighter sound with a little less compression in midrange, IE more dynamic. Can drive most headphones well on loud material, may be lacking on non efficient headphones and quiet source material.

 

I could keep going on and on, I have several professional recording DAC's, a music studio with various mixing consoles, headphone amps, distribution amps, etc.

 

The point I'm trying to make is, it's a GOOD thing that amps don't change the sound of the source material. To my thinking, the job of an amp is to be absolutely transparent. I don't WANT it to introduce anything to the signal that wasn't already there. And for the most part, most amps do a stand up job of doing this. The main differences between them are in how loud they can get. Audible differences tend to be from the op/amp chosen and the effect is far more subtle than an equalizer. If you like X type of sound, you don't need to spend money on several different amps for different op/amps, just make subtle EQ profiles to make one sound like the other.

 

Look up Carver amplifiers if you want to get a sense of what i mean. He was famous (infamous) early in his career for being able to take 20,000 dollar amplifiers, figure out their sound signatures, and build amps that cost a few hundred dollars that precisely mimiced that sound.

 

If you do want to have an amp, just to have an amp, and I can't say I blame you because I've been there, then the FiiO amps are a good start. Inexpensive, good quality, and you can send it back if you hate it.

 

I stand by the E9 desktop amp for the simple reason that it has 1w output power which is more than enough to drive any headphone I might ever purchase. (electrostatics use their own amps). IT was inexpensive at $80 and most importantly it doesn't introduce any coloration or noise into the signal. It just accurately amplifies the input which is the only job I ask of an amplifier. Make it louder, don't introduce any other signals, and faithfully reproduce the input.

 

If you go the portable dac/amp route, avoid the E7, it doesn't have enough gain to actually amplify anything. The E17, and E7k fixed this problem by including an adjustable input gain.

 

Good luck and be sure to come back and reply to this thread if you do buy an amp and share your thoughts on it having gone through the process. Was it everything you hoped for, etc.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 7:32pm
post #8 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodhifi View Post

In the end it comes down to you. Hey something like 50% of the enjoyment in this hobby is psychological. Many double blind and ABX tests have proven we can't reliably hear differences between cheap electronics and expensive ones. The single biggest deficiency in the music chain is the headphone. To me this means that knowing you're listening to a hand built tube amp with those specially hand selected non chinese tubes you spent weeks researching, is infinitely more pleasurable than the actual nearly inaudible differences it actually makes to the sound.

 

Pleasures pleasure though right?

 

Anyway I can't speak for others. But my own personal experience with a couple of different amps, as well as my time before headphone amps entered my life I can share this.

 

Fiio E9, no difference in sound quality at all, only volume. Soundstage, dynamics, all the same.

Fiio E7, no difference in sound quality at all, even barely any volume difference. Soundstage, dynamics, all the same

Soundblaster X-fi, no difference in sound quality at all. Can drive 250ohm DT880's well enough for loud music, a little too quiet for quiet music

Audioengine D1 USB DAC, slightly brighter sound with a little less compression in midrange, IE more dynamic. Can drive most headphones well on loud material, may be lacking on non efficient headphones and quiet source material.

 

I could keep going on and on, I have several professional recording DAC's, a music studio with various mixing consoles, headphone amps, distribution amps, etc.

 

The point I'm trying to make is, it's a GOOD thing that amps don't change the sound of the source material. To my thinking, the job of an amp is to be absolutely transparent. I don't WANT it to introduce anything to the signal that wasn't already there. And for the most part, most amps do a stand up job of doing this. The main differences between them are in how loud they can get. Audible differences tend to be from the op/amp chosen and the effect is far more subtle than an equalizer. If you like X type of sound, you don't need to spend money on several different amps for different op/amps, just make subtle EQ profiles to make one sound like the other.

 

Look up Carver amplifiers if you want to get a sense of what i mean. He was famous (infamous) early in his career for being able to take 20,000 dollar amplifiers, figure out their sound signatures, and build amps that cost a few hundred dollars that precisely mimiced that sound.

 

If you do want to have an amp, just to have an amp, and I can't say I blame you because I've been there, then the FiiO amps are a good start. Inexpensive, good quality, and you can send it back if you hate it.

 

I stand by the E9 desktop amp for the simple reason that it has 1w output power which is more than enough to drive any headphone I might ever purchase. (electrostatics use their own amps). IT was inexpensive at $80 and most importantly it doesn't introduce any coloration or noise into the signal. It just accurately amplifies the input which is the only job I ask of an amplifier. Make it louder, don't introduce any other signals, and faithfully reproduce the input.

 

If you go the portable dac/amp route, avoid the E7, it doesn't have enough gain to actually amplify anything. The E17, and E7k fixed this problem by including an adjustable input gain.

 

Good luck and be sure to come back and reply to this thread if you do buy an amp and share your thoughts on it having gone through the process. Was it everything you hoped for, etc.

 

 

I'm with this guy that lower end amps really don't do anything. If your incoming sources is already good, then a fiio EXX won't do much to improve it. All of the portable, inexpensive amps I've owned really didn't do much. Especially with lower end headphones, I really couldn't justify the purchase. Unless you get yourself a "proper" desktop amp, I don't think it's worth buying an amp if you can already hear your music.

 

Seeing as your driving out of the iphone, the difference is, IME, not worth the $50+ you'll spend on an amp, plus the extra bulk you'll have in your pocket.

post #9 of 21
I own the e11 and I love it. It's pretty portable really. It makes a big difference with my hd380 pros and my Sony mdr xb500s. You get more thumping bass and a fuller, richer sound. It also improves the sq of iems, but the difference is best noticed on full size headphones.
post #10 of 21

I realize my assertion that most amps don't add anything is a little controversial. I swear on my headphone collection I'm not trolling or trying to raise a ruckus. My main point is that a lot of what people claim their ears are telling them is psychological. That doesn't make it any less real or pleasurable, it just means it's not the sound, it's the idea.

 

Consider the following:

 

You go to a restaurant and are served two identical pasta dishes.

 

A. Is on a paper plate (and for the sake of argument, the paper plate keeps the food as warm as a ceramic one) and the description is "Microwaved Fetuccini Alfredo with Chicken". It comes heaped onto the plate all mixed together.

 

B. Is on an expensive piece of plate and with silver cutlery. It is served with the noodles built into a decorative mound, with the sauce making an artistic splash across the plate. The description is "Hand made noodles from stone ground Tuscan wheat and alpine water, Alfredo sauce made with fresh cream from rare himalayan yak milk only harvested twice a year, and Syrian butter, the chicken is hand reared and free range, fed only fresh corn and seeds, and the whole thing is created by a famous chef".

 

 

Both are exactly the same things. The only differences are how they are served, and what you think you are eating. Which will be more pleasurable to eat? They will both taste the same, but your brain tells you different things about each and that adds to the experience.

 

It's in your head, but still real in a way, like love.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 7:33pm
post #11 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kodhifi View Post

I realize my assertion that most amps don't add anything is a little controversial. I swear on my headphone collection I'm not trolling or trying to raise a ruckus. My main point is that a lot of what people claim their ears are telling them is psychological. That doesn't make it any less real or pleasurable, it just means it's not the sound, it's the idea.


Consider the following:

You go to a restaurant and are served two identical pasta dishes.

A. Is on a paper plate (and for the sake of argument, the paper plate keeps the food as warm as a ceramic one) and the description is "Microwaved Fetuccini Alfredo with Chicken". It comes heaped onto the plate all mixed together.

B. Is on an expensive piece of plate and with silver cutlery. It is served with the noodles built into a decorative mound, with the sauce making an artistic splash across the plate. The description is "Hand made noodles from stone ground Tuscan wheat and alpine water, Alfredo sauce made with fresh cream from rare himalayan yak milk only harvested twice a year, and Syrian butter, the chicken is hand reared and free range, fed only fresh corn and seeds, and the whole thing is created by a famous chef".


Both are exactly the same things. The only differences are how they are served, and what you think you are eating. Which will be more pleasurable to eat? They will both taste the same, but your brain tells you different things about each and that adds to the experience.

It's in your head, but still real in a way, like love.

I understand your argument, but as far as amps, I don't think it's completely true. I definitely notice a pretty big difference in sound quality in my headphones with even a potable e11 amp, but it depends on the headphones too. I find that headphones with higher impedance benefit a lot more from an amp than those with a low impedance because the amp provides the power the headphones need to produce great sound.
post #12 of 21

It's easier convince yourself that it's all the same. Easier on your wallet, easier on the effort required to listen. Or both.

 

You could do a lot worse than the O2. You could also do a lot better, but for a lot more money.

 

KP

post #13 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by audiocookie View Post


I understand your argument, but as far as amps, I don't think it's completely true. I definitely notice a pretty big difference in sound quality in my headphones with even a potable e11 amp, but it depends on the headphones too. I find that headphones with higher impedance benefit a lot more from an amp than those with a low impedance because the amp provides the power the headphones need to produce great sound.


The only portable amp I've tried was the E7 and I used it with DT 880 250ohm speakers. I connected it to my Iphone 3gs with the line out adapter and turned the Iphone all the way up, and the E7 to a level that was identical. I turned the bass EQ off and closed my eyes. I had my wife pause and swap the headphones from E7 to Iphone and then unpause, back and forth not telling me which and I could not tell a difference in terms of quality. There were other little clues that told me what I was listening to but it wasn't the audio quality or dynamics.

 

Now if I were able to take the Iphone apart and solder a connection to pick up the signal as it exited the Iphones DAC and before it got to the Op/Amp and then did this test, I'm confident even my wife would be able to tell the difference between the two. But even the line out connector still has the signal pass through the Iphones op/amp so the coloration is the same whether line out or headphone out.

 

Neither distorted appreciably.

 

I don't doubt that different amplifiers might have different 'profiles' where some might warm the sound, others might sound a little thinner. I do believe there is such a thing as a good pairing. IE a headphone that isn't very warm (like T1 Tesla) with a warm amplifier to offset this slight problem, like a tube amp. But those same differences can be reproduced on any amp using a little EQ.

 

It's not that I have a ham fisted ear canal either, I have been mixing and mastering music for over a decade and have a pretty analytical ear. For instance I can tell whether my DAC is plugged into a HUB or directly into a USB port. I can even tell if a short or long cable is used. But these things don't really change the sound signature, just other things like noise floor and how loud they can go without distortion etc.

 

The job of any amplifier is to have enough bandwidth that the entire input signal is output without being distorted, and enough discreteness in it's design not to introduce any noise or coloration of it's own. I think given those simple requirements, most headphone amps do the job regardless of price.

 

I laugh a little at how much audiophiles love tube amps because as a musician I look at the tube very differently. Musicians love tubes because when they are overdriven they do what is called 'soft clipping'. This is especially good for guitar and microphones. But for the output stage of an amplifier, it might give a little warmth but if you aren't over driving the output to distort will otherwise make no difference in the sound signature. This is assuming the impedances are matched correctly and if they aren't you have bigger problems.

 

 

 

If I might make another analogy....Before we had LCD's and Plasma, most televisions used CRT's. People would often get into arguments about which set had the most accurate picture, best color fidelity etc. All CRT's use phosphors and pigments to make an image and those phosphor formulations are nearly identical from set to set. The differences people were seeing were in signal manipulation done inside the set. Provided you could get into the service menu's you could make about any TV 90% of the way to a studio monitor at 1/10th the cost.

 

Now that isn't to say that a Walmart RCA tv can do the same things that a Sony Wega could. The Wega's were awsome because they didn't restrict the video bandwidth as much, which let more detail through without artificial sharpening, and because they physically constructed the shadow mask differently (trinitron) they looked different than non trinitrons, complete with the little shadows. And audio amplifiers differ like that too, mostly in class, D, A, B, A/B, etc.

 

But unlike video equipment back in the day, audio equipment needs much less bandwidth, 20-20,000hz to fool our ear so that even inexpensive components and super thin cables can handle that. Contrast that with the hundreds of megahertz of bandwidth that a video signal needed and you begin to see how good we have it.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 8:00pm
post #14 of 21
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheKillerPiglet View Post

It's easier convince yourself that it's all the same. Easier on your wallet, easier on the effort required to listen. Or both.

 

You could do a lot worse than the O2. You could also do a lot better, but for a lot more money.

 

KP


It's not about convincing yourself they are all the same. It's about realizing that an amplifier shouldn't change the signal, just accurately amplify the input signal unmolested. Realizing that a $1,000 headphone amp isn't going to sound more real and make sound more accurate than a $100 one. It might make it sound different but if that's your goal buy an equalizer.

 

Audio signals are not difficult to amplify, they don't need much bandwidth, and even dirt cheap Chinese components don't alter the SNR or THD in any audible way. The biggest variable in an audio pipeline from source, to preamp, to power amp, to cabling, is the speaker or headphone.

 

The biggest statement people make about amps that makes me rage is changing the sound stage. Sound stage is a function of linearity between left and right, phase, and any amplifier should not be changing these things, even cheap ones. The only thing that will change the sound stage on a headphone is physically altering them, or introducing processing into the audio chain, like L/R mixing, DSP's to mimic sound in a room using HRTF etc.

 

No amplifier can change the fact that you are listening to drivers inches from your ear canal. Only signal processing and headphone construction.


Edited by Kodhifi - 2/15/13 at 8:07pm
post #15 of 21

I'm not sure that I'd hear a huge difference with something like the Fiio E17, but I sure do hear one with the E12. It's not a smack you in the face kind of difference, but after listening to the headphones amped for a while you start to notice things that you didn't before. And at that point, you're a lost cause; you can't just go back to unamped with the kind of headphones that do benefit from amping.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphones (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphones (full-size) › Do i need a amp? Plz help, thx!