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Help me understand why I want/don't want an op amp

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 
It seems like a distinction in many headphone amps is whether or not it has an op amp. I understand what an op amp is but not why it is a better or worse choice than an alternative.

BTW being a long term 'speaker' HT guy moving into the world of headphones and related items I feel like an idiot at times and just lost at others
post #2 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by Phishin Phool View Post

It seems like a distinction in many headphone amps is whether or not it has an op amp. I understand what an op amp is but not why it is a better or worse choice than an alternative.

BTW being a long term 'speaker' HT guy moving into the world of headphones and related items I feel like an idiot at times and just lost at others

 

Heya,

 

When I look at an amp, I could care less if it's an operation amplifier, or a different type. I look for quality sound, with output ranges that fit my needs.

 

I suggest you worry less about this. You seem to be doing too much reading, and not enough listening.

 

There are probably thousands of threads on the subject of op amp rolling, looking for "the sound" but each one for each person is different. No different than simply having a favorite color. There's not one that is clearly superior. The only thing that matters is the subjective variable of you liking it.

 

You will literally drown in technical gear fights, with no clear winner, and gear creep as new stuff is released, or an old idea is "revisisted" and becomes popular again.

 

Again, I highly suggest you simply don't worry about it, and focus on getting something that sounds like it will be pleasing to your ear.

 

Very best,

post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
That is fine and sage advice but often I am buying based on reviews or advice of others. I am not for or against anything but when I see many more knowledgeable than me stating 'avoid this' or 'look for that' it gets confusing so a little guidance and understanding imo never hurts.
Maybe not concerning op amp but sometimes a certain topology or feature or lack of is either an indication of quality or a particular sound signature. I am just trying to figure out the distinctions and how they all influence one another.
For example, I was able to tame some shrillness off of treble and get a warmer sound moving from solid state to a tube amp and then refine a bit further by rolling. I tend to follow my ears not a chart once something enters my home but $$ are precious and avoiding buyers remorse is important.
I used to think of myself as an audiophile but now I think of myself more as a music lover just trying to figure out what suits me best, the more I understand at times the easier it becomes.
post #4 of 7

It's good to understand what the different circuit components are just so you know what people are talking about (and it's part of the hobby for some people), but the mistake is in thinking that a certain op amp or topology will always have a certain type of sound. The only exception to this rule is maybe solid state vs tubes, but even then, it's far from clear (e.g. you can find bright tube amps, warm solid state amps, etc. -- so the differences you observed when moving to a tube amp could be just due to the fact that you are listening to a different amp, not necessarily because of the tubes themselves).  So while this knowledge is interesting, it shouldn't really guide your purchasing decisions. 

To share an anecdote... I have a Little Dot tube amp and I experimented with tube rolling. I got different tubes that I'd read about and generally heard what I had read that I would hear. Then one day I thought I had some supposedly warm tubes in my amp, I thought I was hearing a warm sound, then I noticed that I actually had some supposedly bright tubes in my amp. Now I'm not so sure that there is any difference between them. Hello sighted listening bias. 

post #5 of 7
There are three major types of amps:

1) Tubes
2) Discrete Transistors
3) IC OpAmps

There are also hybrids of the combinations of all of those. It's really silly to pay attention to any of the internals unless you know enough about the circuit to make your own judgement about both the components and how those components have been implemented. The best opamp in the catalog can be made to sound like cr@p in the hands of a ham-fisted circuit builder. After a while, you will learn to read the reviews of people that tend to hear things in a similar way to yourself, and then you can read what they say about the sound quality and the build quality. As long as the mfr isn't trying to claim they have mastered the secrets of the ancient alien audiophiles, then I tend to ignore the internals.
post #6 of 7
Thread Starter 
thanks to all who responded, an evening of reading nwavguy really helped me get a better grasp of things
post #7 of 7
Thread Starter 

So I am late to the party but after reading through NWavguy blog extensively and a ton of links and other forum stuff regarding the O2  amp and odac I was kind of floored. You would think this guy tried to tell people the world was flat and more lines seem to have been drawn in the sand in the vein of the xbox/playstation or iphone/android wars. Just fascinating especially since I am trying to decide netween a modi/magni or o2/odac set-up for my bedroom ATM.

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