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Portable Amp vs. Desktop Amp....or both?

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

*I'm brand new to Head-Fi so please forgive the fact that my questions may have already been answered elsewhere on this site.*


Not only am I new to Head-Fi, but I'm also just getting into better sound quality when it comes to headphones. My current pair were $20 at Best Buy and I decided I wanted something with a lot more bass. That being said, I'm more of a basshead than an actual audiophile. I really only listen to EDM so I wanted a pair of headphones that would provide some thump but not sacrifice mids and highs. I finally purchased the V-MODA m-100's. I heard nothing but good things about these headphones, especially for the kind of music I listen to.


I mainly use a desktop to stream music from sites like Spotify and SoundClound, but occasionally plug in to my Android device to jam on the go. While researching the best pair of headphones for me, I stumbled across information about headphone amps. I didn't know much about them, but it makes sense that the average listening device doesn't provide enough power to get the most out of high-end headphones, and that most PC sound cards are simply crap.


So my question is: should I be looking for a desktop amp or a portable amp...or perhaps something that will cover both? As mentioned, I do most of my listening sitting in front of a desktop PC (or laptop) so my initial thought is to go with a desktop amp/DAC. But what if I want to plug my Android phone into an amp while I'm traveling or away from my PC? I'd love to find something like the O2-ODAC that can run off of batteries - the O2-ODAC only uses AC power.


The I came across the Fiio line of amps and read really good reviews. It would appear that the desktop amp has a dock for the portable model (something like an E7) but I'm not really sure what the intended purpose is. Why would you connect a portable amp to a desktop amp? Or does the Fiio desktop (the E9 for example) not have an internal amp? I guess I get a little confused when it comes to the many, many optional available through Fiio. Fiio seems like the best option for me because I'm not really looking to spend hundreds of dollars - I'm just not that advanced yet.


Bottom line: I'm looking for an amp/DAC that will work well with the m-100, that isn't too expensive, and that can potentially be used as a portable amp (for Android). It would also be nice to find something that is battery powered or USB powered so I don't have to lug an AC adapter around with me.


I really appreciate the advice!

Edited by br34kb34t - 5/6/14 at 10:20am
post #2 of 8

And what you need depends on what you want. If you don't really have experience listening to your M-100's with an amp, you might just start with a desktop setup, and if you like it, then look at something for portable situations.

You could keep the Objectives separate. That would give you the ODAC for your desktop, but you could take the O2 with you. If you just wanted a desktop setup, you'll get great value out of the Magni + Modi combo from Schiit.

(I read your post again.)

Have you even started listening to your M-100's yet? It sounds like they haven't arrived yet, you're just concerned that they won't sound "good" without an amp. Generally speaking, a good pair of headphones will sound "good" without an amp (provided that they aren't a pain to drive), and getting an amp and/or DAC makes them sound "better." Your M-100's definitely fall into the "good" category.
post #3 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks so much for the response!


I think you're right in stating that I should start with a desktop setup. Almost all of my over-ear listening is done on a PC (using in-ear while exercising) so I guess there's really no point in looking something to accommodate a phone as well. I'll change my scope.


I haven't received the m-100s yet so I may be jumping the gun by looking for an amp. From what I've read, these headphones are going to sound good regardless of what I plug them in to. But, if I can make them sound even better, then why not do it! :regular_smile :


Again, thanks so much for your response and advice! The m-100s should be here tomorrow so I'll be listening to EDM in style very soon!

post #4 of 8

You dont need a separate amp for the V-Modas. 


As for DAC - I dont think you'll need one either, to be honest.   EDM isnt exactly something that requires a lot of high-fidelity to be appreciated (I say this as someone who likes his share of EDM, btw).

post #5 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the response!


I ended up going with the Nuforce udac-3. It's not extremely high-end, it's small enough to be considered portable, and the price was just right. The reviews I read were positive so I decided to give it a go.


I didn't exactly mention this in my initial post, but the m-100s will be the first high-end pair of headphones I've owned. I went to a local retailer to get a feel for what to expect - trying things like the beats studio and the Sony X line - but wasn't really satisfied with what was available. That's when I started researching online to find something that would work well for me. So, I guess I waned the best experience possible by combining an amp and using a better "sound card" than what is in my PC.


Again, thanks for the info! I'm excited to put these things to work.

post #6 of 8
Thread Starter 

I'm also wondering about burn-in for the DAC/amp. I know that I should burn in the headphones, but should the same be done with a DAC/amp?

post #7 of 8

You don't need to "burn-in" the u-Dac3.  You won't need to burn-in the V-Modas either.  All it will do is waste time, and it's not going to significantly change the sound (if at all).


As far as headphones go - here are links to some objective tests performed on a headphone that many believed to require copious amounts of burn-in (the AKG Q701):


Pay particular attention to the summary on page 4 - and remember that break-in proponents have said that there is a "night and day difference" between broken in and new AKGs :rolleyes:



The telling phrases from Tyll ......


Have I shown that break-in exists? No. I wish I could say the slowly descending IMD products is clear evidence ... but it's not. Who knows what that measurement represents. I do think, however, that if break-in is measurable, it would be this type of measurement that would show it. I'm pretty happy something showed up at all.

Have I shown that break-in doesn't exist and is not measurable? No. The slight changes around 9kHz on the CSD plots, and the significant change in IMD products over time do indicate that something is happening, and happening in a way that seems to me to be properly indicative of the things I've heard with break-in effects. I think the nay-sayers need to acknowledge something might be happening here.

The one thing I think I have proved, however, is that if break-in does exist, it is not a large effect. When people talk about night and day changes in headphones with break-in, they are exaggerating. This data clearly shows that the AKG Q701 --- a headphone widely believed to change markedly with break-in --- does not change much much over time.

My hiking boots break-in; my sneakers break-in, too. But my hiking boots aren't going to turn into sneakers over time. This idea that you simply must let headphones break-in before you know what they are going to sound like is a myth. And this data busts it.


and this ....



Until then, you can unbox you new headphones and have a listen without angst. You'll be hearing pretty much how they will forever sound. If you notice they're a bit irritating in the mid-treble, you might find that settles out somewhat with use and the headphones may deliver a mildly more pleasant listening experience.

If you do want to break-in your cans, I suggest pink noise at a slightly louder than normal listening level. If you don't have a pink noise track, just play music. If they sound lousy out of the box, but they start sounding a lot better as you listen to them over time, it's your amazingly versatile brain figuring out how to cope with the world.

The miracle is in your head ... not in the headphones.


Enjoy the headphones.  Enjoy your music.  Leave the burn-in for others.

post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Awesome information. The m100s were delivered on Wednesday and they definitely sound awesome right out of the box. Still waiting on the udac-3 to be delivered but I'm excited to connect everything and see what the difference is...if any.


Thanks, all!

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