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What's up with this whole "hard to drive headphone" thing?

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

I understand the whole impedance concept and its effects.

 

I ask this question because even when I set my soundcard to output 64 ohms max to my 300 ohms HD 650, the volume is still very loud. If I go on max volume at 300 ohms, I swear to god, my headphones become loudspeakers. As loudspeakers @ 300 ohms, it's LOUD.

 

I mean, are you guys using headphones inside a nuclear power plant, so you need low impedance headphones with high SPL to set the volume so high in order to surpass the power plant's sound pressures? Do you guys actually use the deafening volumes that the near 300 ohm levels provide?

 

That's what I get when I see people everywhere saying it's "hard to drive" like as if they were complaining about it. Hell, even when I plug my HD 650 on cheap portables, volumes are pretty high. I'm definitely missing something on this whole "hard to drive headphones" thing.

 

Please, clear my mind.

post #2 of 9

It's not about getting headphones loud the reason why headphones amps are mentioned is that different headphones req different amount of power to be powered correctly. Getting them loud doesn't mean that it being driven correctly,because its not. If the headphone is loud and still sound bad because it producing the sound it meant to then it let you enjoy them to their fullest.

 

When they mean a headphone is hard to be driven they mean it req much more power for it to shine to get the most out of them. Easy to be driven mean it doesn't take much to shine. The sound the headphone produce is effected by it being powered good enough or not enough.


Edited by genclaymore - 5/28/14 at 8:07pm
post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by genclaymore View Post
 

It's not about getting headphones loud the reason why headphones amps are mentioned is that different headphones req different power to be powered correctly. Getting them loud doesn't mean that it being driven correctly,because its not. When they mean a headphone is hard to be driven they mean it req a lot of power for it to be driven to get the most out of them,. Easy to be driven mean it doesn't take much. The sound quality of the headphones is effected when they are not powered fully.

So, it's not about loudness, then is it about quality? You're saying that the electric signal my audio card provides at 64 ohms has different important properties compared to 300 ohms regarding quality? Would that be voltage or something related to that?

post #4 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by genclaymore View Post
 

It's not about getting headphones loud the reason why headphones amps are mentioned is that different headphones req different amount of power to be powered correctly. Getting them loud doesn't mean that it being driven correctly,because its not. If the headphone is loud and still sound bad because it producing the sound it meant to then it let you enjoy them to their fullest.

 

When they mean a headphone is hard to be driven they mean it req much more power for it to shine to get the most out of them. Easy to be driven mean it doesn't take much to shine. The sound the headphone produce is effected by it being powered good enough or not enough.

This is not exactly correct, you can only hear deltas in SQ related to power issues if the amp clips. SQ can be effected by other things like THD or impedance etc......

 

He is correct in saying that just because a headphone is loud that does not mean the amp is not clipping or distorting in some other way. 

 

There is more myth then merit when people say they need 1W+ amps  or for that matter 500mW.   Keep in mind that some headphones really are hard to drive like the AKG 1000 or the HE-6 for example.  They really can use 1W of power. 

 

Also keep in mind that impedance be it 32ohm or 600ohm is not the only thing to consier, things like speaker efficiency matter alot.   Most headphones are rated at just 1mW at 1khz. Even at such low power most headphones produce something like 95db or more.   Its alot more complicated then that.  For example it takes more power to produce lower frequency sound then higher frequency at the same loudness level.  Also some headphones impedance can be dynamic  etc...

 

Generally I would agree that most audiophile amps are over  engineered and have way more power then 90% if not 99% of headphones need. 

post #5 of 9
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Super MANSKITO View Post
 

This is not exactly correct, you can only hear deltas in SQ related to power issues if the amp clips. SQ can be effected by other things like THD or impedance etc......

 

He is correct in saying that just because a headphone is loud that does not mean the amp is not clipping or distorting in some other way. 

 

There is more myth then merit when people say they need 1W+ amps  or for that matter 500mW.   Keep in mind that some headphones really are hard to drive like the AKG 1000 or the HE-6 for example.  They really can use 1W of power. 

 

Also keep in mind that impedance be it 32ohm or 600ohm is not the only thing to consier, things like speaker efficiency matter alot.   Most headphones are rated at just 1mW at 1khz. Even at such low power most headphones produce something like 95db or more.   Its alot more complicated then that.  For example it takes more power to produce lower frequency sound then higher frequency at the same loudness level.  Also some headphones impedance can be dynamic  etc...

 

Generally I would agree that most audiophile amps are over  engineered and have way more power then 90% if not 99% of headphones need. 

In the end, does the impedance setting on my audio card affect final audio quality on my headphones?
Seriously, my empiric tests here show ZERO differences to my hearing comparing a 64 to 600 ohm setting at the same volume level. I think that it's just obvious this is a gain setting and nothing else, limited by the software.

 

It says here on my list of options:

 

Normal Gain (0 db for <64 ohms)
High Gain (+12 db for 64~300 ohms)
Extra High Gain (+18 for 300~600 ohms)

 

This appear to be nothing more than a volume range configuration, having absolutely zero relation to quality.

Then is it really true? Are people really wasting their time caring for impedance properties on headphones?

post #6 of 9

Generally (not specifically as I have not listened to that same sound card), a good amp with a good power supply design improves not just on lack of distortion but also in the PRAT of the reproduction. This is not apparent in all music - you need to have rhythmic music (off the top of my head, Feist's One Evening) or very fast and deeply-layered recordings (Nightwish's Wishmaster album). Note that even some "audiophile" stamped products can do poorly on these - there was a time that ceramic caps were some kind of fad around here (not Head-Fi, over here in my city), and when I used it, One Evening sounds "slower" than the usual audio-grade capacitors like Nichicon Muse, Panasonic, Mundorf, etc. It's not actually slower in terms of run time, but the trailing edge of notes take too long to fade out (ie decay is too extended). In the same vein that doesn't mean that a sound card can't perform with good PRAT - a good circuit design is usually good enough unless you need to use it with something that has very specific requirements.

 

That said sometimes people just use amps that are overkill for the headphones and speakers they're using. It's fine if you have a single headphone set-up and on top of the orthos you have a more usual dynamic driver headphone and you just use the same amp, but sometimes some people have just the latter type of headphone and use an amp as large as a speaker amp (and costs around 6x the cost of the headphones), and it's hard to argue when people call that impractical and unnecessary. If anything, the only time I've really enjoyed using an amp that costs way more than the headphone were the Q701 and K701 on a Burson Soloist and Conductor, but then again at least the amps aren't that big (or that if I used local MSRP instead of Amazon prices, those headphones are now around 50% of the Soloist's price).

post #7 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suncatcher View Post
 

In the end, does the impedance setting on my audio card affect final audio quality on my headphones?
Seriously, my empiric tests here show ZERO differences to my hearing comparing a 64 to 600 ohm setting at the same volume level. I think that it's just obvious this is a gain setting and nothing else, limited by the software.

 

It says here on my list of options:

 

Normal Gain (0 db for <64 ohms)
High Gain (+12 db for 64~300 ohms)
Extra High Gain (+18 for 300~600 ohms)

 

This appear to be nothing more than a volume range configuration, having absolutely zero relation to quality.

Then is it really true? Are people really wasting their time caring for impedance properties on headphones?

More gain does not mean more power, gain is the ratio to witch the imput signal is amplified.  More gain does NOT mean more power.  Yes it only effect loudness. 

 

No they are not wasting there time entirely but yes pretty much all amps sound the same ( or atleast so close it makes no difference) as long as they are not distorting or clipping.  Alot of people will not agree with that statement but there it is. 

 

The Headphones or the speakers do 99% of the magic if not 99.9% as long as you have enough undistorted power.  

 

You will find that higher quality amps have lower background noise or none at all. AKA no hiss when your crank the volume even to max. Also they last longer and look nicer. 


Edited by Super MANSKITO - 5/28/14 at 9:45pm
post #8 of 9
Quote:
Originally Posted by Suncatcher View Post
 

I understand the whole impedance concept and its effects.

 

I ask this question because even when I set my soundcard to output 64 ohms max to my 300 ohms HD 650, the volume is still very loud. If I go on max volume at 300 ohms, I swear to god, my headphones become loudspeakers. As loudspeakers @ 300 ohms, it's LOUD.

 

I mean, are you guys using headphones inside a nuclear power plant, so you need low impedance headphones with high SPL to set the volume so high in order to surpass the power plant's sound pressures? Do you guys actually use the deafening volumes that the near 300 ohm levels provide?

 

That's what I get when I see people everywhere saying it's "hard to drive" like as if they were complaining about it. Hell, even when I plug my HD 650 on cheap portables, volumes are pretty high. I'm definitely missing something on this whole "hard to drive headphones" thing.

 

Please, clear my mind.

 

There are 2 factors to consider

- some people listen to music which is quite/quitely recorded (like jazz, small clasical assembly), whose average loudness can be -12db from the 'normal' music and often does have very quite passages [the 12db is the diffrence between normal and high gain on asus stx soundcard)

- people just listen very on very loud volums (and unfortunatly after some time, even headphones designed for iphone need amping), actually sometimes I was appaled by the volumn which audifanatics listen to

Please note that also after a while you get used to higher volumn (add +2db after each10min of listening, and you might even not notice +10db of gain after one hour (just more treble and bass maybe)

post #9 of 9

"Are people really wasting their time caring for impedance properties on headphones?"

 

On average higher impadance means higher voltage needed to deliver the same sound level (and in xonar stx you .control mainly that)

So this is really just a hint (there are 32 ohms some [even very cheap] headphones which at 1V have the same loudness as HD650, but require 10x the current; those are really hard to drive! ;) )

The values for the xonar stx, for me are also over done, but consider the low-volumn not compressed music (+12db needed more)

and actually the 0 gain is (for me) really sufficient for long listening on HD600 or K701,but let's be honest it is not the volumn which will give you shrills.

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