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What would an amp/dac do for my etymotic hf5

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

So I got the etymotics as my first good headphone. I would like to explore the audiophile world a little more and purchase a DAC/AMP. What I would like to do is improve soundstage and maybe add some more to the bass. 

There are some things I am confused on though, one is that I will mostly be using my iphone 4S as a source, will the fiio E10 not work because it says USB, is that one specifically for computers and not meant to be for iPods? 

The fiio e11 is not a USB one but it doesn't have a built in DAC. So would it be more beneficial to me to get a DAC/amp combo or just the amp? Can you recommend me some portable equipment for my iPhone 4S/hf5 setup? I am a little confused on what to buy and how exactly to improve what I am looking more-soundstage/bass.

post #2 of 11
Thread Starter 

After reading a little more into amps and such, it sounds like a waste to get one, so never mind. Could I just alter the EQ a bit to better suit my needs? Also, how do you change your EQ? I noticed there are iphone apps for that but do people generally change the EQ of their headphones a different way?

Edited by MaximusPrime - 12/15/13 at 7:53pm
post #3 of 11

I have those phones and they do need EQing alot. The driver is top notch: no distortion, perfect impulse response etc. Apart from soundstage and no 20-30Hz bass, you can't get better.


The problem is that they are designed with a particular audio theory (diffuse field vs free-field) and that requires a hump at around 3000Hz. they claim on their site that the perceived audio is flat, but it isn't. You can quite clearly hear it using a tone generator. On their graph (see here) it looks like 10dbs, but my tests put it at about 5dbs at normal listening volume (these things vary with volume). The latest research effectively shows that they plumped for the wrong theory, and that's quite apart from the fact that we can hear the hump any way. And there are other artifacts also. My own careful tone listening got me the folowing equalisation:


130Hz -3.5db q=2.8 bw=0.5

650Hz -4.5db q=2.8 bw=0.5

2900Hz -5db q=1.4 bw=1




MASSIVELY improved audio!!!! You get all the benefit of the driver without the expense of going JH16 or UE etc, although those would get you low bass and soundstage.


(also, YMMV canal resonance, grey triples: 8500Hz -8db q=4.8 bw=0.3, best to tune that with a tone generator however)


For the iphone I use the Accudio parametric EQ app, which has a free version with which you can test this. The "thin air" of the stock etymotics goes away. It's a beautiful thing.


However, you may still need an amp. The reason is that iphones don't have much power in their little amps. I think it's .25V max for yours. A clip+ or fuze v1 has  .5V which is just enough except for some high DR music (classical, jazz).


With those equalisations you may find you aren't getting the volume. Furthermore, since the etymotics have a weak low end, and since the ears perception of bass drops with lower volume, if you use the EQ to compensate, such as my preference of :


40Hz 5db q=1.4 bw=1


...then the EQ app will lower overall volume by 5dbs, which is a lot. So to get that really good bass you may need the FIIO E5, which apart from a tiny bit of noise, is a basically hifi headphone amp, and very cheap.


Because bass tends to be weak and because every person has a different listening volume that they prefer (also not forgetting quiet vs loud listeners), it's really mandetory to have bass adjustment. People who settle for whatever their phones give them are cheating themselves. The human ear's perception of volume is dynamic and so you must adjust.


All in all, properly EQ'd you have a bargain on your hands.


Hope that helps.

Edited by theequalizer - 12/17/13 at 2:35pm
post #4 of 11

I forgot to mention that being single driver, there are no phase issues that muddy and confuse multi-driver phones. And the equalisation basically gives you waht the multiple drivers are there to do. So apart from that low bass and soundstage, it's a winner.

post #5 of 11

Oh yes, I forgot to explain that q and bw thing. It's two different measures of the width of the affected frequencies. On the Accudio its BW (bandwidth) and on a rockboxed clip+ or Fuze it's Q.

post #6 of 11

hmmm, just looking around. If you do have volume issues, then I would recommend the E6 over the E5 as it has another few dbs of power. The E5 only gives you an extra 5dbs which might not be enough.

post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

Wow, thank you so much. Helped a lot, I will play with the equalization a bit and if I find them to be not loud enough I will get the amp.

post #8 of 11
Originally Posted by MaximusPrime View Post

Wow, thank you so much. Helped a lot, I will play with the equalization a bit and if I find them to be not loud enough I will get the amp.


My pleasure. It would be great to hear what you think of the difference. I'm sure you'll be blown away.


However, it's worth keeping in mind that these phones are very sensitive and the small amount of hiss may not be acceptable to you. If so then there are two options available to you: pay a lot for a high quality, portable amp (properly designed by measurement) like the JDSLabs C5, or cheaper get a clip+/zip or Fuze v1. Both options are basically hifi. Don't be tempted by other budget options (like CMOY); they mangle the music. A semi budget option that's hifi but only quasi portable is the O2. That's what I use to power my full sized phones.


One thing you must always keep in mind with these phones is that any amp/source must provide an output impedance of 2 or less. Output impedance is an electrical characteristic of the output that has a big effect on balanced amartures of low impedance. The rule is that output impedance has to be 1/8 maximum of he phones impedance, which is 2 in this case. Otherwise you'll get boomy but weak bass and treble issues that my EQ can't compensate for.

post #9 of 11

For the record, I purchased a JDS Labs C5D to pair with my HF5. I also own a Sansa Clip+. I do not like the sound of the C5D. The gain sounds awful and the bass boost is not useful for my music. It really overshadows the mid-lows that come from acoustic instruments. And the highs did not sound good. I strongly prefer the Sansa Clip+. 



post #10 of 11

if it wasnt for you looking for a dac i would say the pico slim amp however it is a bit expensive however the sound quality of it is amazing and it doesnt need bass boosting, or equalizing, the bass is very nice with it and it very neutral but exceptionally great amplifier. but you need a dac so thats kind out of the realm of possiblity..also i know its a good choice for etymotic as i have the etymotic er4s and er4p and they sound exceptional with the amp.

post #11 of 11

Good info, I may end up getting a separate DAC and amp rather than a combo unit. Not so concerned about portability, just want a smaller setup for my desk at work. I <3 my HF5.



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