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Double amping

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 
I have a Cowon C2 which I use with sensitive IEMs such as the SE535, so I've never felt a need to amp. Recently Head-Fi has been infecting me more than usual and I want to get into full size cans. I'm thinking AKG K550 with a Fiio E11. The problem is my Cowon doesn't have a line out.
What should I do? Double amp the thing or get a new DAP? Or just not amp the K550 at all?

Cowons are reported to have very decent internal amps; will double amping my C2 cause much of a detriment in sound quality? According to this review http://anythingbutipod.com/2011/07/cowon-c2-review/
One thing Cowon doesn’t sell is an audio line-out cable. Actually, since 2004’s iAudio X5, no Cowon player even had fixed-level line-out functionality. Strictly speaking, this isn’t necessary – ‘double amping’ the headphone output results in very good sound quality (since it doesn’t have to drive a difficult headphone load), and I doubt a real line-out would sound any different with the player attached to a home hifi rig

So according to this reviewer, it wouldn't even make a difference in sound quality if it had a dedicated line out, which is super relieving because I really don't want to fork out for another DAP.

But I'd like the advice of Head-Fi before pulling the trigger. I know double amping in general increases distortion, but is there anyone who double amps a Cowon? Is the sound quality difference really that negligible? Obviously if I'm spending £200 on audio gear I'd like for it to sound as good as possible.

TL;DR, buying full sized cans, Cowon doesn't have line out. Should I double amp, not amp at all, buy a different DAP or stick to IEms?
Edited by Orkboy - 7/23/13 at 4:32pm
post #2 of 11

I don't have a C2 to be able to give a valid opinion on the quality of its headphone output but I can point you towards some info in this thread.. http://anythingbutipod.com/forum/showthread.php?t=67957 which also has several good links.

post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks that was really helpful. I'm still not convinced either way though. Will there even be much of a benefit amping the k550 with a cowon?
post #4 of 11
Originally Posted by Orkboy View Post

Thanks that was really helpful. I'm still not convinced either way though. Will there even be much of a benefit amping the k550 with a cowon?


I've read a few reviews on the K550 where portable amps are used and they have been found to benefit from them to what extent though I'm not sure. I guess a lot depends on the amp and its synergy with the K550's.

Edited by Ari33 - 7/24/13 at 6:17am
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 
Okay. Thanks for your replies. But back to double amping, has anyone had any success doing it with a cowon? Any thoughts on how it may compare to a dedicated line out?
post #6 of 11
It's just gain + noise. Sure, adding additional gain on the headphone out is not ideal - but if your headphone out is decent and the amp you are adding is decent, then it's not a deal-killer. I look at it this way: which will be worse, not giving the headphones enough power, or adding some level of additional noise? You could try an experiment - use an E6 for half the money to see how it sounds - or since the E11 isn't a HUGE investment, just try it and sell it if it doesn't work for you. I'm not sure if you mentioned how you plan on using this rig - will you be portable with the full-size headphones? If not, then I might consider not using the Cowan as the source - you could use your computer with a proper DAC and avoid the entire problem.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 
To me those both seem equally bad, but I have issues. A little audible extra noise that would otherwise not be present with a dedicated line out is indeed a deal killer for me. If the difference was so negligible like that review suggests then I'd be able to deal with it, but if I can actually hear the degradation of sound, even if it's very small and still sounds good, there's still no way I'm spending £200 on it.
Edited by Orkboy - 7/31/13 at 2:10am
post #8 of 11
Here's a quote from ClieOS when someone asked him about double amping. The criticism double amping develop into is a little over rated imo.

Originally Posted by ClieOS View Post

It is only a bad thing if the headphone-out doesn't provide a clean (distortion-free) signal. It is a misconception that double amping is always bad because most assume line-out is the superior source of signal - normally this will be true if the player is designed to meet the audiophiles need and the line-out signal has not been tampered with. But most of the time, consumer electronics are just not designed that way. In fact, quite a few of the older generation of iPod doesn't have that clean of a signal on their line-out when compared to their headphone-out. I have seen measurement that shows that double amping is better yet people assume that line-out is better.

Many people amp Colorfly C3 straight from the headphone out with impressive results, I've amped Cowon C2 with E11 and there won't be a problem. Just use a decent interconnect set the Cowon C2's volume to a safe level around 3/4 and enjoy your music.
Edited by H20Fidelity - 7/31/13 at 2:59am
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 
Thanks that's really helpful. I'm feeling a little better about my planned purchase now. Do you think there would be any noticeable improvement in sound quality if the C2 had line out? In other words, do you ever think "this signal is clean, but it could be cleaner"?
post #10 of 11
Sounded fairly clean to me, most important is the volume level or line level, keep that high as possible before you hear any distortion, usually around 80% volume. Cowon's are fairly well behaved and tend not to distort even at full volume with most applications. I honestly wouldn't be to concerned about it, as ClieOS said there's been times I've preferred amping a headphone out even though line out was an option.
Edited by H20Fidelity - 7/31/13 at 4:15am
post #11 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thanks, you've given me some peace of mind. I'm actually going to hold off the K550 and get Grado SR80 for now, but I'll defninitely be looking towards the K550 and E11 combo soon after.

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