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Is there any reason to upgrade amplifiers if I have a Fiio E6?

post #1 of 82
Thread Starter 

Will a $200 dollar amplifier provide any noticeable improvement over a Fiio E6? My headphones are Ultrasone Pro 900's and my source is a Mac.  The volume with the E6 is more than enough for my ears so is there any other reason to have an amplifier other than higher volume?  From DBT it seems people cannot reliably tell a difference between amplifers. But does this include something as small and cheap as the E6? I guess I am looking for an objective response on this one.

post #2 of 82

Well, the e6 does its job in amping for you. But amps aren't all about power. How well they can reveal the track (along w/ the DAC) is how good an amp is. What you hear is the weakest link in the chain (be it the phones, bit-rate, source, or amp). 

 

I don't think you'll really need a $200 amp. You can get a DAC and an amp for ~$250: objective combo (O2 + ODAC) from JDS labs. If you're wondering about the measurements/comparison, then go to voldemort's blog. 

post #3 of 82
Yes there are better performers but you can't measure the differences without a reference better than what you have. Loudness isn't the benefit you gain but better control and needing less volume to hear all the signal.
post #4 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by tostaylo View Post

Will a $200 dollar amplifier provide any noticeable improvement over a Fiio E6?

 

No, unless the sound of placebo is important to you. As long as you've got the power you need, you are set to go. If you have a problem with your sound quality, always look to your cans. Electronics should all be pretty much the same as long as they're performing to spec.


Edited by bigshot - 2/23/13 at 7:55pm
post #5 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by tostaylo View Post

Will a $200 dollar amplifier provide any noticeable improvement over a Fiio E6? My headphones are Ultrasone Pro 900's and my source is a Mac.  The volume with the E6 is more than enough for my ears so is there any other reason to have an amplifier other than higher volume?  From DBT it seems people cannot reliably tell a difference between amplifers. But does this include something as small and cheap as the E6? I guess I am looking for an objective response on this one.

I'm not familiar with the Pro 900's or the E6 so I wouldn't be able to say definitively. However, from what I've read, things to watch out for with the E6 would be distortion and clipping. Also, the bass boost on the E6 is not very well regarded by some.

 

If you don't need too much gain, and have distortion issues, a Cmoy might be worth looking into. You might want to attend a local meet to hear for yourself. If you can't perceive any difference between your E6 and other options with your cans, then life is good as is.

 

As far as the 02-ODAC combo, it is 10x the price of your E6, and a bit over your $200 budget. It is definitively not nearly as portable or practical as your E6. If portability is not a priority, $200 is the budget, and you want something that can properly drive more (difficult) cans, you might want to consider a Schitt Magni+Modi combo which might outperform an "objective" combo for less $$ and better looks...

 

Or you may just upgrade your cans (taking into consideration that your options be an easy load for your E6.)


Edited by ultrabike - 2/24/13 at 12:30am
post #6 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by MrViolin View Post

Well, the e6 does its job in amping for you. But amps aren't all about power. How well they can reveal the track (along w/ the DAC) is how good an amp is. 

 

This is true but also utterly silly because it provides for you to judge whether the e6 is actually adequate. In fact, it almost certainly is: all amps with reasonably low noise that can drive a headphone without clipping are equally "revealing" - and you hit this level of noise with a Clip or cheap receiver amp:

 

http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

 

Oh, and once a DAC has jitter below what the human ear can detect, then there is no point spending any more money.

 

 

What you hear is the weakest link in the chain (be it the phones, bit-rate, source, or amp). 

Given that the only reasonable definition of the "weakest link" is the one that you actually hear reducing quality, this is true by definition. I.e. it isn't any use to anybody!

post #7 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by ultrabike View Post

I'm not familiar with the Pro 900's or the E6 so I wouldn't be able to say definitively. However, from what I've read, things to watch out for with the E6 would be distortion and clipping. 

 

Clipping is the distortion you get when amp doesn't have enough power and sound goes wrong at the top of the volume range. It's easily recognized - if you're not going "Oh yeah!" then you don't have it.

 

I think ultrabike is right about the cmoy: if you did need another amp, then needing a DAC too doesn't follow - Mac DAC's are supposed to be thoroughly decent.

 

Another option would be too look for a DAP with a strong amp - I remember people saying that Pro 900 worked very well with the Cowon J3, and a used one shouldn't cost too much.

post #8 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Happy Camper View Post

Yes there are better performers but you can't measure the differences without a reference better than what you have. Loudness isn't the benefit you gain but better control and needing less volume to hear all the signal.

 

 

And the reasons you believe this against all objective evidence

 

http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

 

and the tenets of electronic engineering and known physics are...?

post #9 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

And the reasons you believe this against all objective evidence

 

http://tom-morrow-land.com/tests/ampchall/index.htm

 

and the tenets of electronic engineering and known physics are...?

 

Because not all op amp circuits behave the same way?

 

http://tangentsoft.net/audio/opamps.html

post #10 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

 

Because not all op amp circuits behave the same way?

 

http://tangentsoft.net/audio/opamps.html

 

This link is useless crap:

 

 

 

This means nothing; even the "more-or-less objective" part is utterly subjective. Thousands of blind tests say that opinions like this are wrong. That you can find one guy on the net who can semi-competently use a soldering iron who agrees with you doesn't mean that those thousands of tests are invalid.


Edited by scuttle - 2/24/13 at 7:15am
post #11 of 82

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm trying to say here.

 

I think it is completely possible to design two different circuits that are audibly the same. The O2 and some other amps before it prove that.

 

But I also think that it's possible that some amps are designed with a pseudo EQ in mind. In which case, different amps with different EQ tweaks will sound different.

 

This is especially true with bass-boosting amps.

post #12 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm trying to say here.

 

I think it is completely possible to design two different circuits that are audibly the same. The O2 and some other amps before it prove that.

 

But I also think that it's possible that some amps are designed with a pseudo EQ in mind. In which case, different amps with different EQ tweaks will sound different.

 

This is especially true with bass-boosting amps.


Sure you can design an amp with ridiculous frequency response. So what? It doesn't make for a good amp and it doesn't make for an amp you should spend more money on. In fact, you'd do best to avoid it at all.

 

The point is that when it comes to the sound quality of amps, there is simply nothing you can do to an amp that warrants selling it for huge amounts of money; there is nothing you can do to claim exclusivity or elite status. 

post #13 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by SunshineReggae View Post


Sure you can design an amp with ridiculous frequency response. So what? It doesn't make for a good amp and it doesn't make for an amp you should spend more money on. In fact, you'd do best to avoid it at all.

 

But that's not just any particular amp.

 

That's a lot of low-end amps. And the Fiio E6 unfortunately falls into the same category. Need an example? Try the Digizoid ZO. Or better yet, try Fiio's E7, E11, E17, and the newly released E12. I have. They don't sound the same. Disregarding their bass boost switches, they still have undue colorations to the sound.

 

Seriously, not every amp has perfectly flat and accurate frequency response down to a fault. That's why the O2 is so popular. It's about the only amp under $200 that doesn't add or subtract anything from the original signal. It just makes it louder.

 

And also seriously, just because an amp has undue colorations (read: EQ) doesn't make it not worth having. Unless you have a headphone that is perfectly accurate (Stax?) using an amp with some EQ to "correct" the frequency response of the headphone is a perfectly acceptable practice.


Edited by Bill-P - 2/24/13 at 12:56pm
post #14 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

 

Because not all op amp circuits behave the same way?

 

http://tangentsoft.net/audio/opamps.html

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by scuttle View Post

 

This link is useless crap:

 

 

 

This means nothing; even the "more-or-less objective" part is utterly subjective. Thousands of blind tests say that opinions like this are wrong. That you can find one guy on the net who can semi-competently use a soldering iron who agrees with you doesn't mean that those thousands of tests are invalid.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

I think you're misunderstanding what I'm trying to say here.

 

I think it is completely possible to design two different circuits that are audibly the same. The O2 and some other amps before it prove that.

 

But I also think that it's possible that some amps are designed with a pseudo EQ in mind. In which case, different amps with different EQ tweaks will sound different.

 

This is especially true with bass-boosting amps.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SunshineReggae View Post


Sure you can design an amp with ridiculous frequency response. So what? It doesn't make for a good amp and it doesn't make for an amp you should spend more money on. In fact, you'd do best to avoid it at all.

 

The point is that when it comes to the sound quality of amps, there is simply nothing you can do to an amp that warrants selling it for huge amounts of money; there is nothing you can do to claim exclusivity or elite status. 

 

On the web there is a very large document which shows the results of electrical testing on a wide range of opamps - "Operational Amplifier Distortion"  by Samuel Groner - while its methods are open to debate it does suggest that several well regarded boutique opamps are quite technically poor in terms of distortion and tests by (someone who cannot be mentioned here)  suggest that some cheapo jelly bean chips (e.g JRC5532)  in a proper circuit do extremely well...

post #15 of 82
Quote:
Originally Posted by Bill-P View Post

 

But that's not just any particular amp.

 

That's a lot of low-end amps. And the Fiio E6 unfortunately falls into the same category. Need an example? Try the Digizoid ZO. Or better yet, try Fiio's E7, E11, E17, and the newly released E12. I have. They don't sound the same. Disregarding their bass boost switches, they still have undue colorations to the sound.

 

Seriously, not every amp has perfectly flat and accurate frequency response down to a fault. That's why the O2 is so popular. It's about the only amp under $200 that doesn't add or subtract anything from the original signal. It just makes it louder.

 

And also seriously, just because an amp has undue colorations (read: EQ) doesn't make it not worth having. Unless you have a headphone that is perfectly accurate (Stax?) using an amp with some EQ to "correct" the frequency response of the headphone is a perfectly acceptable practice.


I am not arguing that there are no differences between amps. If you find those lower model Fiio's perform differently, it's because they are not examples of amps that measure adequately (neither do they measure comparably). Besides that, their output impedances vary and there are differences in their ability to power certain headphones. What I am saying, is that in terms of sound quality all you should be paying for are good measurements and the amp's ability to properly power your headphones. If at that point there's something you don't like about the sound, anything concerning coloration can be EQ'd, while anything concerning the entire presentation of the music is generally altered by getting different headphones. The point is that coloration is not something you ought to pay any money for. In fact, one might go as far as to say that if you're looking for some kind of magical 'synergy' while avoiding any EQ'ing, that 'synergy' may as easily be found in a cheap old crappy amp as in something exotic such as a kilobuck tube amp. Coloration in an amp is not valuable, is not a display of craftsmanship and is the opposite of what high fidelity is all about to begin with.

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