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Can a RME Digi96/8 PAD adequately drive a pair of Sennheiser HD600 headphones?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I know it's not ideal, but until I get a dedicated headphone amp, can the analog output of an RME Digi96/8 PAD drive a pair of Sennheiser HD-600 adequately?

I am primarily concerned about the difficult HD-600 load stressing the op-amps in the RME and conceiving causing damage to the sound card?
post #2 of 15
I'm pretty sure the RME can't drive cans directly at all...
post #3 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mshan
I know it's not ideal, but until I get a dedicated headphone amp, can the analog output of an RME Digi96/8 PAD drive a pair of Sennheiser HD-600 adequately?

I am primarily concerned about the difficult HD-600 load stressing the op-amps in the RME and conceiving causing damage to the sound card?
Actually, the HD-600 presents an easier current load and has less chance of damaging a soundcard than low impedance cans. If you think of a straight wire (short) as being 0 ohms impedance, the higher impedance the headphones the less "strain" on the electronics.

The question is, will the card get loud enough with HD600s (i.e. voltage swing)... that I don't know. If the analog output is purely line-level, it's likely you'll be able to hear stuff but the volume may not be sufficient.
post #4 of 15
I actually tried this back when I had both, and the answer is definitely YES! It didn't seem as good sounding as with the Gilmore, but it was pretty nice. It couldn't get earsplitting loud, but louder than I would care to listen at the max volume, from what I recall.
post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Iron_Dreamer
I actually tried this back when I had both, and the answer is definitely YES! It didn't seem as good sounding as with the Gilmore, but it was pretty nice. It couldn't get earsplitting loud, but louder than I would care to listen at the max volume, from what I recall.
I had the same experience.
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ph34rful
I had the same experience.
Me three! If you go near the RME's max volume when directly driving HD600s, you're listening at dangerous levels. Plus I honestly found the RME -> HD600 to sound better than RME -> headroom little -> HD600, and it was quite close to the performance with the Perreaux. I did find the Gilmore to make a distinct improvement.

I wasn't a terribly big fan of this card's sound (at least when stock), but I was impressed by its ability to directly drive cans.
post #7 of 15
I listen to hd650's straight out of the rme headphone out; all is loud and clear (realized halfway through my audiophile binge that I needed to save money for my upcoming mcgraduation, so had to put an amp on hold).
post #8 of 15
Thread Starter 
Since the analog output is apparently greater than line level output, when I get an headphone amplifier, will I have to (digitally) attenuate the output level in the RME's control panel? If so, does this significantly degrade the sound (resolution?) of the RME's output?
post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mshan
Since the analog output is apparently greater than line level output, when I get an headphone amplifier, will I have to (digitally) attenuate the output level in the RME's control panel? If so, does this significantly degrade the sound (resolution?) of the RME's output?
The best thing to do would be to bypass the analog stage with a pair of high-quality capacitors, which will vastly increase the sound quality (of course the card can't directly drive headphones anymore) and it lowers the output volume slightly, giving you more range on the volume dial of your amp.
post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 
Can anyone make some generalizations about what improvements a dedicated quality headphone amp will make over the variable analog output of the RME, both driving Sennheiser HD-600 with most recent Cardas headphone cable?
post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by mshan
Can anyone make some generalizations about what improvements a dedicated quality headphone amp will make over the variable analog output of the RME, both driving Sennheiser HD-600 with most recent Cardas headphone cable?
Better bass control, proper impedance matching (which can affect neutrality/transparency). Not a heck of a lot more than that... amps are meant to amplify, first and foremost. People tend to make a bit of a big deal of them around here (guilty of that myself on occasion).
post #12 of 15
From what I recall (comparing unamped to Gilmore) the Gilmore made the bass tighter and punchier, and the soundstage wider and mroe pronounced. Those are the only differences I recall, and I was suprised that they weren't more.
post #13 of 15
It can make HD600s so loud you'll be crying with pain, if by "adequate" you mean "loud enough."

Even with a great amp, the sound out of the 96/8 PAD is grainy and harsh up top, with an occluded midrange, decent imaging (lots of blurring), and a rolled off bass.

Compared to other sound cards it is a reasonable improvement, but if you are considering it as a complete all-in-one source you would be better off saving for a used or new meridian (the GO7 would be great) and a max. That's what I'd use to drive HD600s or their bigger brothers, the HD650s.

I own the RME and I really wish I'd have saved up for a more high end source or vinyl, that stuff knocks the socks off of digital.

Some people on these boards have had good luck modding their RME card; I may or may not do it considering the difference in tastes, but you could always give that a shot too if you have the same problems that I'm having with my card.

Cheers,
Geek
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geek
grainy and harsh up top
I can say that the mod I told him to do definitely takes care of those problems, if not the others.
post #15 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Geek
Compared to other sound cards it is a reasonable improvement, but if you are considering it as a complete all-in-one source you would be better off saving for a used or new meridian (the GO7 would be great) and a max. That's what I'd use to drive HD600s or their bigger brothers, the HD650s.Cheers,
Geek
Geek, I think you meant "quality source," not all-in-one. a CDP is by no means an all-in-one solution, by any means. Digital audio is considered all-in-one because it localizes everything into one console, not because it provides the ultimate quality. It's always a tradeoff, one many of us are willing to accept considering how much computers are a part of our lives these days.

Of course, this has all been said before.
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