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HP volume is OK... so Why (else) might I need a headphone amp?

post #1 of 4
Thread Starter 

I'm most pleased with my new Grado PS500 open on-ear headphones driven by either my iPod Classic (7th gen) or my iPod Touch (5th gen).  Specifically, I get enough volume in the headphones with the iPod volume set at about 60%.

 

So... besides volume, what other advantages are there to adding an amplifier?  Do I get faster response to transients?  More transparency?  I'm considering adding an amp, but only if sound quality can improve even further.

 

(I had tried the Fiio E6 amp, with its .125W into 32 ohms, with my Sennheiser HD 598s... other than volume, I could not distinguish any improvement in sound quality, suggesting that that amp was not helping those headphones.  I realize the E6 is a very small amp...  for my Grados I'd be looking at a Schiit Magna or a Fiio E12 Mont Blanc, both of which are over 0.800 W into 32 ohms).

 

Thanks!

post #2 of 4

Yes an amplifier can improve the sound quality of your headphones quite a bit.

However the differences are not so readily apparent out of an ipod.

post #3 of 4
Quote:
Originally Posted by kayandjohn View Post

 

So... besides volume, what other advantages are there to adding an amplifier?  Do I get faster response to transients?  More transparency?  I'm considering adding an amp, but only if sound quality can improve even further.

 

Depending on the amp, yes you can get all of those. And the E6 isn't exactly one that has a huge capacitor bank to allow for faster transients, nor the price to warrant the circuit for having a lot of transparency. However Grados do tend to be easier to drive, and when people say tube amps do well with them, the percussion for example having more impact or deeper response is not because of a better power supply providing current but because they're coloring the sound. That said I have encountered an "amp" that made it suck aa bit compared to my iPod - the built-in amp on my NAD304 and Marantz CD60. Both were too thin and a bit shrill, but did well enough on the HD600 (flatter than a tube amp at least, but also didn't have any issues in terms of dynamic range).

post #4 of 4
The big thing is not so much what your volume dial is left on but how much headroom is left. Otherwise, even though your device may reach the volume you want, the dynamics could be squashed.

That being said, my experience with my Grado SR225i is that they are fairly easy to drive and the important thing is whether or not your amp has a low enough impedance. For instance, I find that my Sansa Clip+ and my Asgard 2 both do equally an adequate job of driving the SR225i, even though one is a $30 mp3 player and the other a $250 headphone amp.

And no. You would not get better transient response.

I'm not an Apple person (so I don't really keep up with it), but my understanding is that their headphone output is typically pretty good. So I wouldn't expect miracles. One thing: did you test the E6 with an Apple LOD of some sort? If you hook a headphone amp up to the headphone output on your device, you are reamplifying the existing headphone amp. That can help things to get louder, but then you wouldn't be able to tell otherwise if the additional headphone amp was any better.

Since you are considering a Schitt Magni, are you thinking of hooking the amp up to your computer instead? If so, might be worth getting the Magni and Modi since you have the budget. The combination of the DAC and the headphone amp could give you better sound smily_headphones1.gif
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