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Do I need an amp for AKG Q701?

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 

Hi folks,

 

This is my first post to the forum, and of course I am asking for a recommendation :) I should acknowledge that I have been checking this forum for years and have found it very useful in general.

 

Anyway, here is the question. I do my music listening mostly through my desktop and laptops. I have a Sound Blaster Z sound card, which is equipped with a Maxim MAX97220A headphone amplifier  (specs are here http://www.maximintegrated.com/datasheet/index.mvp/id/7138?ver=C&utm_expid=50713806-2. Of course the circuit design and other variables come into play when it comes to headphone amps, but there is not much information on what the headphone output on this specific card can provide. I have been using this card with my Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro - 250 Ohms for the last few months and I feel like it is doing a good job driving the DT 990. I also used the DT-990 with Xonar STX and a TASCAM US 2000 sound card, and to my ears none of these cards have difficulty driving these earphones.

 

So, the question is, will that card be able to drive AKG Q701s properly? I have read a lot that the AKG K/Q 7... series are power hungry headphones. If you think the Maxim amp on the soundcard won't cut the Q701s, can you recommend a budget desktop amp that could reveal the potential of the Q701? I am not interested in DACs because I want to keep the Sound Blaster Z for gaming and entertainment purposes and I don't want to deal with dual sound cards. A lot of music I am listening to is in the FLAC format, so the amp will be used with the Sound Blaster Z in chain.

Thanks in advance!

post #2 of 23
There's a HUGE discussion thread for the Q701s. The Q701 owners could likely tell you a lot about the benefits of different amps: http://www.head-fi.org/t/582276/q701-appreciation-thread
post #3 of 23
Thread Starter 

My bad. I took the welcome message, which says "please post your first thread in the Help & Recommendations Forum if you're looking for headphones, IEMs or equipment and want suggestions" as an invitation to ask whatever popped into my mind :) Will check the thread.

post #4 of 23
No problem posting here. Just with the Q701s, which I agree are a little bit difficult to drive (I demoed them at home for a week), I think the owners in that thread can probably help you a lot wink.gif
post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 

Oh, they already did. Thanks for directing me to the correct thread, cel4145 :)

post #6 of 23

As an owner of the K701s, I suggest this test:  have an "enthusiastic" listening session.  Stated as a %, how high did you have to raise the volume?

 

For reference, I had a 2008-vintage X-Fi card with the front-panel kit.  50% constituted a reasonable listening level, and 100% almost approached an enthusiastic session (discounting distortion.)   I've since replaced the internal card with a Schiit Lyr & Bifrost for headphone (and Vanatoo Transparent One for nearfield) listening.  25% is an average listening volume, 35% is enthusiastic, and 50% is I-don't-want-to-think loud.  The tubes are an added bonus to twinking the output sound.

My preference is to have an amp that is at least modestly oversized for the job--IMO if you have to use more than 50% of your volume dial to get your headphones really loud, it's not the right hardware for the job.

 

To be blunt, saying "budget" in an audiophile space makes providing recommendations difficult.  Posting budget numbers is far more helpful.  Having said that, Schiit makes some excellent products, but I can only speak to the Lyr.  The Magni might be a reasonable fit, but it's output is 25% of a Lyr (not to mention no tubes!  :triportsad: ) 

post #7 of 23
Thread Starter 

Nice suggestion. With the DT-990 Pro 250 ohms, the average listening volume was around 30-35 %, using the headphones amp on the Z. I assume that the Z will provide headroom, but I am not sure about to what extent the amp will provide room for the expression of the dynamics of the Q701s.

My budget is not higher than $150 for the amp. Should I save and shoot for higher tier amps provided that the Z would do a decent job?

Thanks for the suggestions.

post #8 of 23
You can't go by the volume knob, though. It depends on what the input signal is and how sensitive the amp gain is. That differs from amp to amp.

But I agree. What you want usually is a at least a good 10db or more of dynamic headroom at minimum. Amps typically start to have higher distortion once they get close to their limits. And then for a typical listening volume, a lot of songs will have peaks that require more output of the amp.

Meanwhile, according to Golden Ears, the Soundblaster Z has a low output impedance of 22 ohms. Typically, the optimal for a set of headphones will be 1/8 of the headphone impedance. Q701s are rated 62 ohms, so something lower is better.
post #9 of 23
Thread Starter 

From what I understand from the charts in golden ears, the bass will probably sound weaker with the Q701s because of the relatively high output impedance of Z's headphone amp. Weaker bass was not a problem with the DT990s as they have a bumped bass response, but this might be a serious issue with Q701s. I hope they are responsive to equalizing. Otherwise I'll need an amp and use the line out from the Z as the raw signal (I am happy to see that golden ears evaluated the main output of Z as excellent).

post #10 of 23

For around 150USD you can get yourself an Asus Essence STX, no clue how good it is personally but it has gotten some pretty good reviews. 

 

I don't own the Q701 or an Asus Essence STX, a friend of mine owns the Q701 with the Asus Maximus VI Impact (Which seems to run fine...? Driver issues?), and I have never touched a Asus Essence STX or the ST version, I plan on one though. So take my words with a grain of salt. But if you do ever get them, I'm sure that you'll love them, I personally wish the bass hit a touch harder, as that is what I prefer, but they still sound amazing, properly driven (or not...?).

post #11 of 23
Thread Starter 

I used Xonar STX for a few months but the driver problems drove me crazy and I finally gave up on them. From what I remember, the high end was a little bit harsh with the DT-990s, but it provided better dynamics than the Z. 

 

I am still considering other options, maybe a step up to K-712 pro, but I am not totally convinced that it's worth the price difference between these two models.

post #12 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by perfect tritone View Post
 

I used Xonar STX for a few months but the driver problems drove me crazy and I finally gave up on them. From what I remember, the high end was a little bit harsh with the DT-990s, but it provided better dynamics than the Z. 

 

I am still considering other options, maybe a step up to K-712 pro, but I am not totally convinced that it's worth the price difference between these two models.


Guess you could upgrade to the SB-ZxR (Sound Blaster ZxR), comes with the same headphone amplifier chip (TI 6120) as the Essence STX.

But i would assume the SB-Z would have no problems driving the 62-Ohm Q701s.

post #13 of 23

Hmm, I guess all of Asus's stuff has driver issues. Fun, I guess I'll skip the Asus sound cards. The driver issues I was talking about was a different issues specific to the Asus Maximus VI Impact Motherboard's sound card, something to do with not being able to utilize the amp all the way. I read about is somewhere, I forget where.

 

I think someone mentioned it before but have you considered the Schiit Magni? It's 100USD and very highly rated, once again, I don't own any of this (honestly too poor buy anything), but I did read a lot of the reviews and threads on the Magni (usually paired with the Schiit Modi DAC) along with some recommendations from people I personally know and the general consensus is that it is a really good Amp to have. No matter the level of Audiophile you are.

 

Enjoy~

post #14 of 23
Quote:
Originally Posted by VXAce View Post

Hmm, I guess all of Asus's stuff has driver issues. Fun, I guess I'll skip the Asus sound cards.

No reason to worry about driver issues for most Xonar sound cards. The Uni Xonar drivers solve driver issues for Xonar sound cards, which is why a lot of people use them. They work very well. See that page for a list of the the Xonar sound cards the UNi drivers support.
post #15 of 23

Oh? I'll look into it, that does revive my want for a Xonar card. Got confused there for a second, then I remembered the "Essence STX" is also known as "Xonar Essence STX", whoops.

 

Thank you.

 

Edit: This is the moment when I realized that I used up all the PCI and PCI-E slots in my computers, whoops, my bad. I guess this will have to wait after all. :( Seems like the Modi/Magni might be the best option for me after all.


Edited by VXAce - 10/16/13 at 9:58pm
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