Audio Interface instead of a headphone amp?
Feb 19, 2013 at 7:39 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 7

Seanmike

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Im might be getting the Ultrasone Pro 900's here soon. After reading plenty threads, many suggest an amp. I plan on getting some speaker monitors and a studio mic here in the near future. So instead of buying an amp just for my headphones, would a decent audio interface suffice?
 
Feb 19, 2013 at 7:58 PM Post #3 of 7

1-MiC

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What kind of interface are you looking at? The interface WILL have a headphone output, though if it's as good as the stand alone ones popular around here.. i don't know.
 
Feb 19, 2013 at 10:26 PM Post #4 of 7

LarryKingsShoes

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Quote:
Sorry for me asking this, but what is an "audio interface"?



It's a common name for a sound card (usually external, in the case of common USB or Firewire interfaces) that has AD/DA converters for recording. They'll usually have mic preamps, outputs for monitoring, a headphone jack, and various inputs for multiple tracks of simultaneous recording.
 
To answer the question, I can only share some of my limited experiences. I used my Pro 900s with my Scarlett 18i6 and it sounded better than my laptop's sound card. Between the DAC, the amp, and it just being louder, the interface seemed to help bring the Ultrasones closer to their intended performance level. I'm not keen with the audiophile keywords that get thrown around so I can't vouch for how "warm" or "clear" anything sounded. I just know it sounded better.
 
The headphone output should work in a pinch and may even give you the results you expect. Much like an AV receiver, though, I'd expect the headphone output to be somewhat of an afterthought; something added to line the features list and to satisfy the people that need that sort of connectivity. It will likely sound better than a low end integrated sound card but I'm not sure how it would compare to a decent dedicated desktop card. I would assume that it wouldn't compare to something designed specifically for this purpose but the differences between the two are not something I could describe.
 
I'd say just go for the interface. You won't really be out any money since you seem set on putting together a recording rig. If it doesn't drive the headphones to your expectations, you can look for something else. By that point, you will have experienced the Pro 900s long enough to have formed an idea of what you want in an amp.
 
Feb 20, 2013 at 4:02 AM Post #5 of 7

1-MiC

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I'd say just go for the interface. You won't really be out any money since you seem set on putting together a recording rig. If it doesn't drive the headphones to your expectations, you can look for something else. By that point, you will have experienced the Pro 900s long enough to have formed an idea of what you want in an amp.

 
i agree. If your focus is being able to record and not the quality of the chain leading to your headphones, then yes i'd go for an interface. I only have a pair of speaker outputs on my soundcard, but if you could find a interface with a line output you could entertain the idea of a headphone amp. But i'd say go for the interface first, it may be all you need to satisfy your headphones.
 
Feb 20, 2013 at 4:13 AM Post #6 of 7

oblique63

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Yep, an interface should suffice. I recommend looking into the RME babyface/fireface series of interfaces, those have really good converters on them which will give you a good sound straight from their headphone jack.
 
Feb 20, 2013 at 9:46 AM Post #7 of 7

KiruDub

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Yup, RME is a good company to go with, but you're looking at  $750 for the Babyface (USB) and $1600 for the Fireface (FW/USB). Not cheap.
 
Interfaces don't focus on the headphone output as much as the mic pres, DSP, etc (RMEs are built like tanks, have very good mic pres, and very stable drivers).
 
I own an RME Fireface, and I think the headphone amp sounds nice, but I have nothing to compare it to since I don't own a headphone amp (yet).
 
It does sound better than the onboard sound of my Mac Pro, and at least as good as the sound of my Titanium HD in my PC.
 
Head over to http://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/ and you'll find reams of opinions (both factual and... not; kinda like this forum, lol). EDIT, looks like you've already been there 
wink.gif

 
But a few of the chaps at Gearslutz are top producers, most of them record/produce for a living, and a few of them even master using the LCD-2s, so they do know headphones.
 

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