Can long term underamping/not properly amped cause harm to your headphones?
Jun 10, 2013 at 11:07 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 34

airo

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For example, you would run an he-6 with your desktop onboard sound (ok maybe a bit too extreme but you get the point) and although no clipping or distortion is heard, would there still be any harm to the headphones?
 
I know for a fact that too much power can definitely harm headphones but what if too little power?
 
Also, if you were to burn in a headphone without proper amping would it affect the headphones long term? Such as burning in a pair of T1/600 ohm with an ipod compared to something like a Valhalla. I fear that if I don't burn in headphones properly or using them without proper amping for a long period, and then were to actually use them in a proper rig,  they will never sound as optimal as if I did amp them in the first place.
 
Do you sort of get what I am talking about here?
 
I am out of my country for a while and while getting new headphones is very exciting, I just don't have my gear with me. I probably don't have the patience of waiting, so I need to make the best of what I will have.
 
This sounds silly and stupid I know but it seems like no one has ever asked before so ill go ahead and ask the friendly people of headfi :D
 
Jun 10, 2013 at 11:24 PM Post #2 of 34

kimvictor

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Quote:
For example, you would run an he-6 with your desktop onboard sound (ok maybe a bit too extreme but you get the point) and although no clipping or distortion is heard, would there still be any harm to the headphones?
 
I know for a fact that too much power can definitely harm headphones but what if too little power?
 
Also, if you were to burn in a headphone without proper amping would it affect the headphones long term? Such as burning in a pair of T1/600 ohm with an ipod compared to something like a Valhalla. I fear that if I don't burn in headphones properly or using them without proper amping for a long period, and then were to actually use them in a proper rig,  they will never sound as optimal as if I did amp them in the first place.
 
Do you sort of get what I am talking about here?
 
I am out of my country for a while and while getting new headphones is very exciting, I just don't have my gear with me. I probably don't have the patience of waiting, so I need to make the best of what I will have.
 
This sounds silly and stupid I know but it seems like no one has ever asked before so ill go ahead and ask the friendly people of headfi :D

Too little power doesn't harm a headphone. Burning in is a controversy here, and while some will say burn in with good sq is better than burn in with bad sq, I think it barely matters at all
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 12:14 AM Post #5 of 34

kimvictor

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Thanks for the reply, but why are there other people saying their headphones are clipping when played straight from an ipod? Can this happen though?

The clipping is most likely from the ipod. Since their hps are hard to drive, they need to turn the volume up, and ipod distorts easily at high volume. It still won't damage your headphones, even with clipping.
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 11:50 AM Post #7 of 34

Mikey99

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Severe clipping will damage a dynamic driver, this is the classic way that people blow their speakers. It is well known that you are better off with overpowering vs underpowering your speakers. I am not sure how much a factor is is with headphones.
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 12:21 PM Post #9 of 34

kimvictor

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Severe clipping will damage a dynamic driver, this is the classic way that people blow their speakers. It is well known that you are better off with overpowering vs underpowering your speakers. I am not sure how much a factor is is with headphones.

Well, in this case, clipping is happening because of his source, ipod. If the clipping was happening because the hp couldn't handle the power, then serious damage can be caused. But I doubt that ipod(30mw output) can produce enough power for a full size hp to clip.
 
Jun 14, 2013 at 8:20 AM Post #10 of 34

cel4145

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Severe clipping will damage a dynamic driver, this is the classic way that people blow their speakers.


Agreed. Although I'm not certain if dynamic drivers in headphones are as easily and quickly damaged by this as speakers. When the amp clips with speakers, some of the power normally sent to the main driver can be sent to the tweeter, overheating the tweeter quickly and frying it.

It is well known that you are better off with overpowering vs underpowering your speakers.


Not exactly true. You can even more easily blow speakers that way if you run the amp to until it's severely clipping. However, an amp that has more power output than a pair of speakers can cause the drivers to distress before the amp is clipping, potentially damaging the drivers if run that way for very long. I would guess that dynamic drivers in headphones would be equally susceptible to this.
 
Jun 14, 2013 at 8:27 AM Post #11 of 34

cel4145

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Well, in this case, clipping is happening because of his source, ipod. If the clipping was happening because the hp couldn't handle the power, then serious damage can be caused. But I doubt that ipod(30mw output) can produce enough power for a full size hp to clip.


Just to clarify, it's not the headphone that clips, but the amp that clips. Clipping can cause overheating of the driver which causes the damage. Whether or not an iPod has enough output for that, I don't know. Might not happen fast, but I'd be worried that it could eventually cause damage if often run that way for long periods. Best not to suggest or speculate that it won't without real data or confirmation from a headphone designer, as it would be a shame if someone damaged their headphones from doing it because they trusted it was safe.
 
Jun 14, 2013 at 9:19 AM Post #12 of 34

Math-ECU

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Just to clarify, it's not the headphone that clips, but the amp that clips. Clipping can cause overheating of the driver which causes the damage. Whether or not an iPod has enough output for that, I don't know. Might not happen fast, but I'd be worried that it could eventually cause damage if often run that way for long periods. Best not to suggest or speculate that it won't without real data or confirmation from a headphone designer, as it would be a shame if someone damaged their headphones from doing it because they trusted it was safe.
+1....clipping is distortion of a normal sine wave fluctuation in which the wave is clipped thus inducing more area under the curve (power) than the amp is rated to handle under normal operation. This is much more detrimental to the speaker it is driving than overpowering by the same magnitude. However, thermal failure is the end result when attempting to pair grossly unmatched equipment...or just got for it til it stuff breaks and then buy more!
 
Jun 14, 2013 at 9:26 AM Post #13 of 34

cel4145

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+1....clipping is distortion of a normal sine wave fluctuation in which the wave is clipped thus inducing more area under the curve (power) than the amp is rated to handle under normal operation. This is much more detrimental to the speaker it is driving than overpowering by the same magnitude. However, thermal failure is the end result when attempting to pair grossly unmatched equipment...or just got for it til it stuff breaks and then buy more!


Thanks for explaining the science of it more, which I don't really understand :)

These kinds of discussion are always interesting to me because people are looking for whether or not or how much they can drive their amps and/or speakers/ headphones to the bleeding edge where there is distortion, whether the amp is distorting or the speakers/headphones have reached their limits. The answer is quite simply "no." Don't do it :)
 

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