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Unamped vs. Amped help

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 

Hi everyone! I've recently received the HE-400s, and they sound absolutely fantastic to me, even though I don't have a dedicated amp or DAC. I can't seem to find anything about what to expect unamped vs. amped. Is it worthwhile for me to use $200 on an amp/dac combo when these headphones are already some of the best audio I've heard? (I had some time listening to the HD700 amped and was pretty impressed, though they are very different). What differences should I expect to hear? If it helps, I'm thinking that if I do decide to get an amp and dac, it'll be Magni/Modi. Feel free to try and convince me otherwise, I'm clearly pretty new to this whole thing.

 

Thanks in advance :)


Edited by coletrain104 - 4/24/14 at 9:34am
post #2 of 15

Yes amp them.  The Schiit stack is a good place to start.

 

See "amplification recommended" in this excellent piece:

 

http://www.head-fi.org/t/634201/battle-of-the-flagships-58-headphones-compared-update-audeze-lcd-2-revision-2-6-4-13#user_HE400

post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 

Really, it just says that the sound is improved. I'm asking what qualities about it change. I just feel that if I'm gonna take a $200 plunge, I may as well do so knowing what the differences may be.

post #4 of 15

What will be "better" depends on what was lacking previously in the amp (not the overall sound, as that can come from the headphone/speaker). If the previous amp was lacking current, then the new amp might improve the bass impact. It might even make the bass tighter if the damping factor is higher too.  Sometimes even the PRAT of the overall sound can improve thanks to a better amp. All these assume a comparison between two generally transparent amps but one has lower output (the other has higher output but cleaner); in some cases an amp that deliberately colors the sound can seem like an improvement over one that doesn't (or vice versa).

post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 

thank you, I do appreciate it. I'm gonna assume that my computer's headphone out doesn't color the sound overly much. I'm not entirely sure how much I'll notice those differences, but I'll go for it. maybe in a little while :P still trying to work out the parent approval factor.

post #6 of 15
It was already touched on, but power delivery is where the difference between a Magni over a computer's audio jack lies. You want your amplifier to operate without any distortion at the musical peak, and the extra output power is what enables that.

Also, a DAC is essentially going to give you a cleaner signal. As long as you're coverting a digital signals, you need a way to convert those 1's and 0's into an analog signal, and a good DAC will do that. Now you might say "but shouldn't any DAC be close enough?" Well, the DAC in your cell phone might think that it's outputing the same signal as a Modi would, but your phone is also going to be subject to a lot of noise generated by high speed digital components and RF signals coming from the same baord. When you slap DAC circuits into a separate chassis, that doesn't happen.

USB also has its own set of issues (and you can read about some of the in the "Schiit Happened" thread), which is why optical and coaxial signals are usually preferred, especially in higher (Bifrost or Gungnir) products.

It is still somewhat of a subjective matter. If things sound good enough for you, then you are not obligated to buy anything. You really just need to be happy with whatever you choose biggrin.gif
post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 

Just hooked my 'phones into a CD player, and I'm not sure if its the higher bitrate (though my CD vs. lossless on my computer seems different. computer more congested, less dynamic range) or the fact that it's being converted directly into analog (if I understand correctly) and the soundstage seems much larger, layered, and uncongested. so I guess there's always room to improve. 

post #8 of 15

Its all about power and the signal-noise ratio, especially the Hifimans due to their driver composition. And I guess what you want from the music. My wife is insensitive to most musical dynamics but I am the exact opposite. 

I recently had this dilemma and to get around this, i experimented by hooking up my Beyerdynamic DT880s to some computer speakers (Bose Companion 20) with an inline amp. it made a huge difference even though the overall output from the amp was tiny. They are 32 ohms mind you but low dB, i.e., 96 so not very sensitive but more sensitive than the HE-400s. As Protegemaniac said, there is an effect but that may change from 'phone to 'phone and from frequency to frequency. For my Beyerdynamics, the bass region was so much better amped and the high frequencies were not clipped. So like you, I bought a DAC+Amp (Fiio E07k for USD 70) and it makes a huge difference, esp. from a computer as I can clearly hear a background hiss if I connect my headphone directly (DACs take care of this noise).

you may need to go for the Schiit however because according to Tyll Hertsens at Innerfidelity (link http://www.innerfidelity.com/images/HiFiMANHE400.pdf) you need 0.129 Vrms/33 mW to get to 90 dB (fairly low for me) to reliably represent all frequencies as the manufacturer/musician intended. If you were to aim for 105-110 which is really loud depending on type of music (eg, pop vs jazz) and quality (streaming vs FLACs), you'll need an amplifier that gives you at least 10-13 times more power, i.e., 1.7/430 mW which is huge but the Schiits should manage. If you just want to get your feet wet, an option is the Schiit amp alone + the HifiMan HM101 as a DAC. I know you can get both used for $100-110 total on Amazon. Hope this helps. 

More experienced folks please chime in if you see any errors/over-statements. 

Hope this helps.

post #9 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by superjawes View Post

It was already touched on, but power delivery is where the difference between a Magni over a computer's audio jack lies. You want your amplifier to operate without any distortion at the musical peak, and the extra output power is what enables that.

Also, a DAC is essentially going to give you a cleaner signal. As long as you're coverting a digital signals, you need a way to convert those 1's and 0's into an analog signal, and a good DAC will do that. Now you might say "but shouldn't any DAC be close enough?" Well, the DAC in your cell phone might think that it's outputing the same signal as a Modi would, but your phone is also going to be subject to a lot of noise generated by high speed digital components and RF signals coming from the same baord. When you slap DAC circuits into a separate chassis, that doesn't happen.

USB also has its own set of issues (and you can read about some of the in the "Schiit Happened" thread), which is why optical and coaxial signals are usually preferred, especially in higher (Bifrost or Gungnir) products.

It is still somewhat of a subjective matter. If things sound good enough for you, then you are not obligated to buy anything. You really just need to be happy with whatever you choose biggrin.gif

 

Superjawes is right. That hissing was mind-numbing when i went straight to headphones. In fact, when I connect some IEMs directly to my LG G2 which is supposed to have a good DAC (192kHz) I can 'hear' and see my page scrolling :D. I believe Head-fi exists for these kind of things but as I've realized, its a slippery slope, this Hi-Fi world.   

post #10 of 15
Thread Starter 

Haha, very true. My first thought when I noticed the difference between the ortho sound vs. dynamic sound was "man, I should pick up a pair of those HD700s in the future" XD

Also, my girlfriend literally cannot hear the difference from one headphone to another. though I've yet to test her on my HE-400s, so I think it's very true that some people are far more sensitive to small changes than others. I love having good dynamics, it makes the music so much less one-dimensional. I'm really loving what I hear from my CD player, so I think a good amp and dac would be a solid investment.

post #11 of 15

Get a NuForce HDP (combined DAC/AMP). The DAC chip in there is the same DAC chip NuForce uses in their $1100 DAC's and the AMP pretty much drive anything but an HE6; works great with my HE400, HD800, and HD650. It's a great value, too bad its discontinued and only available off amazon marketplace or ebay...

post #12 of 15
Thread Starter 

thing is, USB is all being used up on my computer, so I was leaning towards optical Modi. Though if it creates jitter (I have no clue what jitter sounds like, but its a common warning with optical) and I hate it, I still want to be able to return it, so even if it were of the exact same qualities, I want things that can be returned if necessary 

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by coletrain104 View Post
 

thank you, I do appreciate it. I'm gonna assume that my computer's headphone out doesn't color the sound overly much. I'm not entirely sure how much I'll notice those differences, but I'll go for it. maybe in a little while :P still trying to work out the parent approval factor.

 

Its DAC very likely doesn't, but its amplification circuit is much more likely to distort even at your distorting sooner, even around your listening level, than a decent amp (don't use price alone as basis) with its own power supply, much less a power capacitor bank that helps deliver the needed current.

 

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by coletrain104 View Post
 

Haha, very true. My first thought when I noticed the difference between the ortho sound vs. dynamic sound was "man, I should pick up a pair of those HD700s in the future" XD

Also, my girlfriend literally cannot hear the difference from one headphone to another. though I've yet to test her on my HE-400s, so I think it's very true that some people are far more sensitive to small changes than others. I love having good dynamics, it makes the music so much less one-dimensional. I'm really loving what I hear from my CD player, so I think a good amp and dac would be a solid investment.

 

Most people can't, but on the flipside, there are some people who can hear a difference but prefer the sound that isn't natural at all; or grossly inflate or dismiss the imaging on a headphone.


Edited by ProtegeManiac - 4/24/14 at 10:05pm
post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by coletrain104 View Post

thing is, USB is all being used up on my computer, so I was leaning towards optical Modi. Though if it creates jitter (I have no clue what jitter sounds like, but its a common warning with optical) and I hate it, I still want to be able to return it, so even if it were of the exact same qualities, I want things that can be returned if necessary 

I wouldn't worry about jitter.

I think you'll enjoy the HE-400s with the Modi and Magni. They really do respond well to being amped when you crank it up smily_headphones1.gif
post #15 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by cel4145 View Post


I wouldn't worry about jitter.

I think you'll enjoy the HE-400s with the Modi and Magni. They really do respond well to being amped when you crank it up smily_headphones1.gif

Thanks, I really wanna give it a try. I'm also gonna have to build up my CD collection.

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