50 ohms too much for a laptop onboard sound card?
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Atriya

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I'm thinking of buying a pair of headphones which have a 50 ohm impedance rating (Sennheiser HD 558s).
 
However, I'll be listening to them mainly on my late-2007 Dell Inspiron 1520 laptop, which has onboard Intel HD audio (no dedicated sound-card).
 
Do you think things should sound fine, or will I really be missing out on the 'full potential' of the headphones?
 
Also, if I were to decide to buy external amplification of some sort for my laptop, would I need to buy a headphone amplifier, or a sound-card? What would you folks recommend as an ABSOLUTE ROCK BOTTOM headphone amp / soundcard? The headphones are stretching my budget as it is, so I can't afford expensive amplification options.
 
Thanks!
 
 

 
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tattoou2

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I would think it would be just OK; however, I believe you would derive much more enjoyment purchasing a USB DAC/amp such as a Fiio E7 or a NuForce UDAC2...both are relatively inexpensive.  You might find a few good deals in the classifieds.  Welcome to Head-Fi, and sorry for your wallet!
 
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Atriya

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Quote:
I would think it would be just OK; however, I believe you would derive much more enjoyment purchasing a USB DAC/amp such as a Fiio E7 or a NuForce UDAC2...both are relatively inexpensive.  You might find a few good deals in the classifieds.  Welcome to Head-Fi, and sorry for your wallet!


Thanks for the warm welcome. :p The Fiio E7 is rather steep for me too. :frowning2: What would you say to the Fiio E3 (or the E5 at most)? I understand that they are mainly meant for mobile phones and PMPs, but wouldn't a laptop benefit from them too?
 
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Anathema123

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You will not need an amp at all. A DAC is a much, much better choice.
I have the 595 myself. There is no difference in using it with just my FiiO E7 or the E7 + E9.
There is, however, a massive difference in quality between my laptop's onboard sound and the E7.
 
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Quote:
You will not need an amp at all. A DAC is a much, much better choice.
I have the 595 myself. There is no difference in using it with just my FiiO E7 or the E7 + E9.
There is, however, a massive difference in quality between my laptop's onboard sound and the E7.


X2
 
Amps are not a priority for sensitive headphones like these but I think the E5 amp is almost a useless product regardless. DAC should be priority but I don't have much experience with mid-tier DACs. What I do know is that portable DACs are also almost useless unless you're just trying to rid of computer processing noise. My HD598 benefited greatly with my Anedio D1 DAC than through something like my portable Ibasso D10 or Cowon J3. Unfortunately, I never tried DACs in between the price levels.
 
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As well you can checkout hps @ 35-40 ohms, like the M-50, GMP 8.35, RS-1, HD-25ll. Some Ultrasones models also can be taken into consideration. Most of the external sound cards will have a better sound compare to any onboard sound card.
 
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Atriya

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Thanks for the replies. I really can't afford the Fiio E7 and similar DAC's, so I might have to change my choice of headphone to a 32 ohm model like the Audio Technica ATH-AD700. Would the E3 or E5 (which are portable amps but not DACs) be useless?
 
Just as a curiosity, would a usb SOUNDCARD, like say the SoundBlaster Play!, or SoundBlaster X-Fi, be of help in this situtation? What's the difference between these and something like the Fiio E7?
 
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wind016

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Quote:
Thanks for the replies. I really can't afford the Fiio E7 and similar DAC's, so I might have to change my choice of headphone to a 32 ohm model like the Audio Technica ATH-AD700. Would the E3 or E5 (which are portable amps but not DACs) be useless?
 
Just as a curiosity, would a usb SOUNDCARD, like say the SoundBlaster Play!, or SoundBlaster X-Fi, be of help in this situtation? What's the difference between these and something like the Fiio E7?

The Fiio E3 and E5 are useless. I don't believe you'll need to buy an amp to power the Senn HD558.
 
 
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Getting headphones with lower ohms wouldn't be benificial in this case.
The laptop's onboard soundcard has enough power to drive the sennheisers, so to speak. It's just lacking in sound quality.
The ohm rating is just an indication of how much power the headphones require, this isn't an issue here.
I can't really advise you with regards to a DAC cheaper than the E7, as I have no experience with them.
You shouldn't worry too much though. If these are your first good headphones they will still sound great. Not as good as they could sound, but you don't *need* a better DAC :)
 
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Quote:
Getting headphones with lower ohms wouldn't be benificial in this case.
The laptop's onboard soundcard has enough power to drive the sennheisers, so to speak. It's just lacking in sound quality.
The ohm rating is just an indication of how much power the headphones require, this isn't an issue here.
I can't really advise you with regards to a DAC cheaper than the E7, as I have no experience with them.
You shouldn't worry too much though. If these are your first good headphones they will still sound great. Not as good as they could sound, but you don't *need* a better DAC :)

Thanks Anathema, that cleared up some misconceptions for me. Do you think an external soundCARD, something like the SoundBlaster Play! or X-Fi might help in my case? These are neither DACs nor amps (as far as I can tell), but they improve the quality of the sound signal going to the headphones in some way, perhaps?
 
 
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Quote:
Thanks Anathema, that cleared up some misconceptions for me. Do you think an external soundCARD, something like the SoundBlaster Play! or X-Fi might help in my case? These are neither DACs nor amps (as far as I can tell), but they improve the quality of the sound signal going to the headphones in some way, perhaps?
 

Those external sound cards include (at least one, maybe more if it does say 5.1 or 7.1 output) a DAC, some kind of amplifier, and then also ADCs, pre-amps for inputs, and probably some kind of sound DSP.  And they usually use some terrible software drivers.  In other words, a lot of the cost is going to things other than good headphone output sound quality.  Then again, a lot of the costs of audiophile standalone DACs or DAC + amps are going towards fancy enclosures and huge profit margins.
 
I would just get whatever headphones you want (Senn HD 558, the Audio Technica models, others--just not high impedance, low sensitivity models or low impedance, high sensitivity IEMs) and not worry about your laptop onboard audio unless you start to notice something blatently wrong like background noise when nothing is playing, clicks/pops, strange distortions, etc.
 
 
I wouldn't call an E3 or E5 a useless product, but they're not likely to help much, since all they'd be doing is amplifying the (potentially poor) output of the laptop.  You might be able to lower the output impedance or flatten the FR a little bit for the E5, but you might also be introducing other problems.  And you'd still be dealing with the output signal chain from the laptop.
 
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Quote:
Those external sound cards include (at least one, maybe more if it does say 5.1 or 7.1 output) a DAC, some kind of amplifier, and then also ADCs, pre-amps for inputs, and probably some kind of sound DSP.  And they usually use some terrible software drivers.  In other words, a lot of the cost is going to things other than good headphone output sound quality.  Then again, a lot of the costs of audiophile standalone DACs or DAC + amps are going towards fancy enclosures and huge profit margins.
 
From a practical perspective, it so happens that I can get something like the SoundBlaster Play! USB soundcard for less than half the price of the Fiio E7! In fact, it's priced almost the same as the E5! Not bad, if the thing includes a DAC, amps, ADC, pre-amps, etc! I can always bypass the software DSPs, I think. That may be my best option, since I can't get an E7 right now.
 
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SoundBlaster Play! looks like it only has headphones out and microphone in, and it looks so small that I don't think it has whatever DSP is in most of the other SoundBlaster cards.  I didn't look, but I think this device predates all the X-Fi products?  Anyway, I'm sure you could find out more some searching if you wanted.
 
But with that level of product, I'd guess that the performance may actually not be any better than your laptop onboard solution anyway (unless your laptop has glaring issues).  Like I said, just get the headphones and figure out later if there's something you need to fix with a dedicated sound card / DAC+amp / whatever.
 
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