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What is 'headphone amp' for?

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

Hi. I'm a newbie. 

I didn't know if these 'headphone amps' exist before I come to this website.

So, what are they for? it seems like they have some sort of tubes. What makes it better? 

I have a few good headphones and never thought I will need an additional amplification device for it since I could get enough volume from Ipod. 

Please tell me about its benefits. Does it enhance audio quality?

I know it's a gear that amplifies the volume but why some of them are very expensive? I've seen ones that sell for over 600 dollars. If they were just for volumes, that price doesn't make any sense to me.  

 

 

Thanks in advance


Edited by kawaivpc1 - 4/29/14 at 10:31am
post #2 of 5
You might want to use the search function to find threads like this one.

Basically, your iPod has an amplifier inside, as that is what is delivering power to your headphones. However, the amp inside your iPod has limitations (all amps do), and you might not be delivering enough power (or voltage) to use the dynamic range of your headphones.

It is not a matter of volume. It is a matter of quality. A dedicated headphone amp will be able to deliver more power (and/or voltage) and control to your headphones, and separating the circuits from the digital board inside your iPod can also reduce noise in the signal.

Do you need a headphone amplifier? That depends on the headphones. You can get many recommendations for headphones that work perfectly fine without one. Usually, once you get into "really nice" headphones (technical term), a headphone amplifier and DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) will further improve your sound quality.
post #3 of 5
Quote:
Originally Posted by kawaivpc1 View Post
 

Hi. I'm a newbie. 

I didn't know if these 'headphone amps' exist before I come to this website.

So, what are they for? it seems like they have some sort of tubes. What makes it better? 

I have a few good headphones and never thought I will need an additional amplification device for it since I could get enough volume from iPod. 

Please tell me about its benefits. Does it enhance audio quality?

I know it's a gear that amplifies the volume but why some of them are very expensive? I've seen ones that sell for over 600 dollars. If they were just for volumes, that price doesn't make any sense to me.  

 

There are solid state headphone amplifiers, tube headphone amplifiers and hybrid (tube+solid state) amplifiers.

The first amplifiers used tubes, then when the transistor came out solid state became more popular.

Solid state is cheaper and more reliable, but with a tube amplifier you can swap a defective or broken tube in a short period of time or swap a tube just to change the sound.

Apple products usually come with decent built in audio hardware.

So depending on which iPod you have and what headphones you are using and how much your willing to spend on a headphone amplifier, will effect on how well you can improve audio quality.

With your iPod, chances are buying better headphones will be the best way to improve audio quality.

It's really cheap to drive headphones, it's driving the headphones "better" is what costs money.

post #4 of 5

Hi. I'm a newbie. 

Hello Welcome and sorry about your wallet.

 

I didn't know if these 'headphone amps' exist before I come to this website.

Yes for 99% of the music listening public headphone amps don't really exist, or the need for one doesn't exist.

 

So, what are they for? it seems like they have some sort of tubes. What makes it better? 

Amps do several things.  Volume boost / gain and attenuation, depending on the volume levels preferred by the user.  An amp can color the sound with its own blend of frequency alteration and harmonic distortions.  An amp adds dynamic headroom for voltage and current peak transients.  An amp also serves as an impedance matching device between the source and speaker (or in this case a headphone driver).  Amps are not always better, depending on the headphone and what its plugged into.  Grados plugged straight into a macbook Pro for example is a really good sounding setup, and the addition of a second amplification stage is only sometimes beneficial... IMHO.

 

I have a few good headphones and never thought I will need an additional amplification device for it since I could get enough volume from Ipod. 

You might not benefit from an amp addition... depending on the specific player and headphones used.

 

lease tell me about its benefits. Does it enhance audio quality?

For me personally yes, Amps do increase musical enjoyment.

 

I know it's a gear that amplifies the volume but why some of them are very expensive? I've seen ones that sell for over 600 dollars. If they were just for volumes, that price doesn't make any sense to me.  

Thats a LOADED question.  In a nutshell... it costs $$$ to research, develop, field test, market - advertise and sustain/service a product.  That has to be balanced against what the consumers will pay.  So different products require different financial investments, and they conversely occupy different consumer price points.

 

As I mention before, its NOT just about volume boost.  Amp circuits do sound different from one another.... thats just how it is.  Circuit designers tweek and tune their designs for different sonic characteristics.  Owners roll tubes and OP amps to further refine the sound.

 

 

Hope this helps to clear things up a bit

post #5 of 5

Just some quotes from Jaben Malaysia's topics for "Why do you need an Amplifier" ..

"First is raw power. Power to drive a more difficult usually higher impedance load. You may have heard of a headphone's "impedance." Impedance is the combined resistance and reactivity the headphones present to the amplifier as an electrical load. High impedance cans will usually need more voltage to get up to a solid listening level, so they will often benefit from an amp, especially with portable players that have limited voltage available from their internal batteries. But low impedance cans may require more current, and will lower the damping factor between the amp and headphones.


So while low impedance headphones may be driven loud enough from a portable player, the quality of sound may be dramatically improved with an amp. Most amplifiers that are part of your portable digital audio device circuit are designed to consume low power from the battery in the device and to provide enough power to drive an easy low impedance load. They target to drive most ear buds that come with portable digital audio devices between 16 and 32 ohms.

In order to use with a higher impedance type headphones, a good aftermarket headphone amps can provide enough power to drive higher impedance loads to reasonable levels and without draining the battery in your iPod or mp3 player. Even with this power, not all headphones can be driven with a portable headphone amp. Some low sensitivity and higher impedance studio type headphones still require a desktop or studio amp to get them to reasonable listening level. In short, it enables your headphones to perform at its maximum capabilities, instead of paying loads of cash and underutilized your headphone.

The second benefit of this amplification is that it can be engineered to sound better than the one in your iPod or mp3 player. They improved the distortion and energy over the entire frequency range. The result can be either better bass reproduction, cleaner highs, or a quieter background, increased dynamic range is also, improved transparency, more resolving resolution or detail retrieval. With a well-designed amp with a lower noise floor you can now listen to little details, experience more musicality, increase in spatial cues like depth, reverb tails, and even soundstage width, that may be masked by the overall noise levels of the amp that is part your digital audio player.  From a layman term, the explanation can be better vocal focus, more space between instruments, and the ability to hear more from the recording. "

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