I am pretty wise I guess
This is my first post on Head-Fi or on the internet so bear with me. Been lurking around here for almost a year and you guys have "helped" me buy more headphones than I ever thought I would need lol. Right now I am settled on the ZMF v.2, the HD650s, and of course those bastards that started my trip down the rabbit hole, the ATH-M50s. My dad bought them for me for Christmas a year and a half ago now and they really reawakened my love of music and audio. I was pretty much settled on my home theater system but I now I have something new to obsess over upgrading. I also have some K701s new in the box since I exchanged the original pair when a piece broke on them. Now just unsure if I should open them or sell them to fund something.
Anyway, without detailing my whole journey, I will ask the main question that is on my mind. Ultimately its the same as everybody, how can I make my headphones sound their best? I am thinking right now that the answer has to do with gain though I am confused on this. I have the O2 right now and based on the designers (who shall not be named lol) site, it seems like I only need 1x gain with everything and maybe 2x with the 650s at least based on that little chart which looks like it is based on 6db of excess gain. So I would conclude that a 1x/2.5x gain setting on the O2 would be ideal since I have the Bifrost as my source. Though there are some problems with this, mainly that I don't want to open it up and cut anything.....Also, I have trouble getting above 9 o'clock on the O2 which results in channel imbalance at those lower levels especially on the ZMFs.
I thought about just getting a new one with the lower gain settings and then discovered that if I output 24bit in foobar and lower the volume there by the right amount of db I can get above 9 o'clock and supposedly it is the same as lowering the gain on the amp? I kind of want clarification on if it is really the same thing. I really got confused when I took this further and lowered the player volume enough so that I could use 6.5x gain and started to think it sounded better but I am not volume matching except by ear so all comparisons have to be questioned.
I have also experimented with using the headphone output on an Onkyo 605 with some success with the 650s. The ZMF's sound awful out of there but maybe this has to do with output impedance. I haven't gotten a response from Onkyo on the specs of that output yet. I feel like the 650s sound more full and exciting out of the 605 while out of the O2 there is less bass impact but everything does seem clearer I want to say. Could also be that there is more power to spare out of the Onkyo but I don't know that for sure or if that really makes a difference.
Which leads me to my next problem, (sorry there is a lot on my mind) should I just stop thinking so hard about gain and get a Schiit Lyr or Project Ember? I have heard that to get the best out of the ZMFs or orthos in general that I want lots of power and Zach, the maker of the ZMFs, seems to love the Lyr with them. From what I understand, both the Lyr and Ember add something like 20db of gain which supposedly would be way too much from what I understand. But people are loving them with the headphones I have and from sources like Bifrost, so maybe I would to? I know the tube element also might add distortion to some degree although since these are hybrids it is not as much I guess? Just enough to get the tube sound without compromising too much is the way it seems to me but I don't know. Maybe I would prefer the tube sound, but no way to know unless I try. I could just get a SS amp with more power like something from Violectric if I really will get a benefit from more power and don't want to mess with tubes.
I guess to summarize all this, is lowering the volume in foobar the same as lowering the gain on the amp? If not, what is the difference?
Will I benefit from having more power from the Lyr or Ember for my ZMFs and HD650s?
Or will I just be adding distortion that may or may not be pleasant? Are the two previous questions just subjective, or is excess power or "headroom" I think is the term actually a real objective benefit to reproducing music properly?
Am I just thinking too hard and should just buy and see if I like? That's what I have been doing but I figured I would try not being a lurker and ask directly.
Thanks for listening! (reading)