Can 1 amp do justice to a range of impedances?
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AngusMcToon

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This is my first post on HeadFi, and I'm getting ready to buy my first ever headphone amp, and I'm sorry if this question is dumb or FAQ. But I'm a bit baffled by this concept...If you've got high impedence phones--e.g., HD-600s which I just ordered after having completely fallen in love with them on the Headroom tour--and lower impedence less sensitive phones that you might use as well...well, are you typically going to end up (probably after much trial and error) amping them with different amps? My assumption, though perhaps this is oversimplified, is that you probably want to add power to drive 300ohms through the 600s--so you might, e.g., choose or build a single or dual 9V portable amp over a less powerful unit to try to bring out the best in 600s.

So will I typically find that an amp that rises to the challenge the of 600's resistance is going to be total overkill or worse, abrasively blasty or harsh, on lesser phones? Or am I likely to find, within the range of a given component's strengths and weaknesses, that lesser phones simply have a lot more headroom, and the provision to do right by the 600s works out to the advantage of less hungry phones as well?

Am I missing some crucial point? It comes down, I guess, to a question of how much to invest in making the 600s soar, vs. more general use and use for portability as well. I've been pondering, e.g., something like a Meta42 for home use with the 600s and an AH or TAH 9V for road use and work use sometimes with the 600s too.

Thanks...

AM



 
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kelly

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Angus
This thread is sure to gather very many statements of stereotype and generalization likely more in conjecture than in science. To that end, I'll offer you some of my own conjecture and generalization with the forwarning that it is little more than that.


A lot of people seem to think tube amps do the best job of driving the high impedance headphones like the HD600. Especially beloeved are a subclass of tube amplifiers that don't use transformers.

Low impedance headphones on the otherh and, get a bit overloaded by these high output tube amplifiers. There are several ways this can be and is commonly dealt with. One is the transformer. AudioValve offers an outboard transformer for the RKV, but that makes it not truly an OTL amp. The Melos has an opamp output stage. The most unique solution seems to be Berning's MicroZOTL. I'd recommend visiting http://www.davidberning.com/microzotl.htm to read more about that if you're looking for the best tube driven solution for versatility.

For low impedance headphones, I, and many others, have found the best results with solid state headphone amps. While most of them don't seem to have the "umf" with high impedance cans that the tube amp counterparts have, there is certainly a segment of HeadFi who loves the HD600/Max combo and a growing segment who think the HD600/Sugden Headmaster is the best thing since the phonograph. I'm waiting for my Sugden to decide for myself.

If you want the ultimate in versatility, you're really looking down one of these paths:
tube amplifier with transformers (iEAR HP4), outboard transformer (RKV)
high end/high power solid state amplifier (HeadRoom Max, Sugden HeadMaster)
Hybrid amplifiers (Melos)
Berning MicroZOTL

Yes, there are many options.
 
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andrzejpw

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The headroom little seems to be a favorite for both phones.
 
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AngusMcToon

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Ah...I just caught up with the "Why are headphone amps so expensive" thread and see that I've inadvertantly stumbled onto rather a hotbed of debate haven't I? I guess there is something kind of nouveau ugly or philistine about jumping in a high level when my components and sources aren't as up to the task.

kelly, I'm afraid I might be one of those folks who will be underutilizing my 600s today, but will definitely work hard at the upgrade path as I can. Certainly today, I do love the sounds of tubes, e.g., I can hear definite advantages to tube mic preamps I've used in the studio and don't have preconceptions about tubes vs. ss for headphones--I suspect I'll like both at times until something wins me over big.

And while I'm certainly a novice here with somewhat of a low budget (the Max is way out of my league at least) I suppose I'm drawn to the 600s a bit aspirationally too, having heard them through a number of great amps at the headroom show.

What's harder for me to figure out just getting started here is that I tend to do a lot of listening on the road and/or at the office...so my first instinctive move is toward portability, small size, versatility, and alas perhaps by extension small and solid state for now. I can of course envision starting on the portable side (though of course 600s are contradictory in this regard), listening more, learning, and work up to better amps for home listening.

I figure by next year's Headroom tour, I'll have a whole new set of gear I'll want to explore...
 
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kelly

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Angus
If you follow only one piece of advice take this one, don't do any of this stuff to impress anyone but yourself. This stuff's expensive enough just trying to please yourself--you go trying to keep up with the Joneses and I guarantee there will be a handful of people here to always outdo you.


My comments about the importance of source are only because so many people ask for advice. On a budget, I tend to think people underspend on the source relative to their expensive amp and headphones on this forum. Keep in mind that it's only my opinion and it's all relative.

I'm honestly just trying to help when I can.
 
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AngusMcToon

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Quote:

If you follow only one piece of advice take this one, don't do any of this stuff to impress anyone but yourself.


This is good advice. I go in fits, as with my musician gear as well...bouts of slightly obsessive gear acquisition, followed by a dedicated period of catching up, listening, simplifying, focusing on the music, trying to remind myself that the tunes are the motivation for the whole gig, and that gear is just a distraction.

Perhaps that why I've been such a lackluster audiophile...at some point, I decided to spend the majority of my money on music itself, on the collection. Of course, gear is really wonderful too...tactile, joyous, at times invigorating and motivating in itself, and why not? But even with gear as you say it should be about what we want and need to hear.

I hope my nice new headphones aren't going to change my overall attitude too much. I've got 8 other phones around, though, and do worry that this latest step is just an accident that's been waiting to happen...
 
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SumB

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Quote:

high end/high power solid state amplifier (HeadRoom Max, Sugden HeadMaster)


Be careful, I didn't achieve good results with the Headmaster and low impedance cans. The amp is best suited with Sennhieser's.

Quote:

If you want the ultimate in versatility, you're really looking down one of these paths:
tube amplifier with transformers (iEAR HP4), outboard transformer (RKV)
high end/high power solid state amplifier (HeadRoom Max, Sugden HeadMaster)
Hybrid amplifiers (Melos)
Berning MicroZOTL


Add the Earmax Pro to this list. It drives low and high impedances with aplomb - and without the output transformers (yay).
 
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kelly

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Quote:

Originally posted by SumB


Be careful, I didn't achieve good results with the Headmaster and low impedance cans. The amp is best suited with Sennhieser's.


This is interesting. I'd love for this to be true, actually.
However, Vertigo swears it's the best thing he ever plugged the 32ohm Sony R10 into.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by SumB


Be careful, I didn't achieve good results with the Headmaster and low impedance cans. The amp is best suited with Sennhieser's.

Add the Earmax Pro to this list. It drives low and high impedances with aplomb - and without the output transformers (yay).


I'd say the Headmaster drives low impedance cans with excellent results, maybe particularly low impedance cans before high impedance ones. For one thing there's the absence of hiss. Out of all the headphone amps I've tried I'd say the Headmaster is the best one I've ever used for the 40 ohm R10s.

I'd actually doubt that the EMP can drive a variety of cans well. I've read numerous reports regarding its failure to drive various cans properly without clipping, such as the Etymotics. I certainly didn't think it did well at all with the R10s when I heard the two together, and cringe at the thought of Themegifts pimping the EMP as the ultimate amp for the R10s.
 
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SumB

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With low impedance headphones the sound was extremely bright and lacked a solid bottom foundation - with higher impedances it was a different story. FIY I used Grado RS-1, Sony V6, Sennheiser HD545's and 600's.

The Earmax Pro drives these cans easily. If you're experiencing clipping with said 'phones it's a warning to lower the volume or suffer hearing loss. I can't comment on the Etymotics, but problems with the Earmax and that headphone seem to be limited to a select few.
 
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Audio-Me

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Hi, I was the one that brought the META42 to the Boston headphone tour. Did you get to try it with the HD600? I think it's an excellent amp and does just fine as a home amp. The one I have can be further upgraded for even better sound, I assume a power source upgrade alone will take it to a new level. However, it probably isn't as good as the high end amps like the Melos SHA-1 which I intend to buy later on.
Although I didn't care for the Etymotic ER-4S (100ohms), I thought it was pretty amazing with the META42, crystal clear accurate sound. eric343, the person who built my amp, can build you a meta42 in a smaller case to use portabily as well. I am planning on 3 different portable systems all featuring the META42 in different cases.


I hope that you already have a decent cd player or turntable or plan on getting one before you jump into this stuff, the source is crucial part of a good system.
 
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Quote:

Originally posted by SumB
With low impedance headphones the sound was extremely bright and lacked a solid bottom foundation - with higher impedances it was a different story. FIY I used Grado RS-1, Sony V6, Sennheiser HD545's and 600's.


aren't the v6 and the rs-1 typically known for their bright sound? maybe you have a bright source or something because i find the sugden to drive my rs-1 and sr-325 beautifully. definitely not too bright, don't know what you're talking about..
 
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SumB

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Not the source. There was some significant bass rolloff happening.
 
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If you search for member "Hirsch" you can find his reports on how this amp works with both low and high impedence amps. For absolutely optimal results, some exchanging of tubes is involved.

But even with stock tubes, it works wonderfully with my Senn HD 600 and Grado 325.
 
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AngusMcToon

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Didn't hear your Meta42, Audio&, at the Boston show, but wish I had. Actually, I'd love to hear more about your meta scheming. What's the plan? Seriously, why 3, and what will you do differently in each?

On another note, I got my 600s today, and they are totally, incredibly, surreally great, even without an amp, and through an Airhead. I am very pleased.
 
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