Damage to under powered headphones
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ratdog

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Is it possible to damage headphones that are under powered. Like hooking up a pair of cans like the Senn HD-580's that have a 300 ohm impendence to a cheap mp3 player or pcdp with a cheap internal amp (Or could it cause damage to the player?) Also in the same context could a mainstream receiver like a denon, onkyo, etc... cause any damage through it's headphone out or all they all properly regulated?
 
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Piccolo Daimaou

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I don't think under powering headphones will cause any damage. No headphones really require an amp, but for higher impedence cans (like my 580's) you won't get the most out of them unless you've got a quality amp. I wouldn't worry about damage to your sources either.
 
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ratdog

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I know it's a anal question but I could of sworn I read a post somewhere else talking about some type of damage. I think it was damage to a source devices internal amp because it couldn't push high impedence can's. You would think it would just drain the battery quicker.
 
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Piccolo Daimaou

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ratdog
I think it was damage to a source devices internal amp because it couldn't push high impedence can's.


Maybe it's just me, but I don't see how that would cause damage.
 
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JeffL

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Yes, you can damage headphones when using an underpowered amp, but the chances of doing so are probably very unlikely.

Clipping is when an amplifier is pushed to its maximum. The amplifier is being sent a signal which is beyonds its output capabilities, and the signal gets clipped off. When this happens, the amp puts out pure DC power, which can overheat the voice coils. (There are other causes of clipping too, but I'll keep things simple).

Really, any damage is much more likely to happen with higher power amps that are overdriven, because they would put out higher DC current which would overheat the drivers more quickly. Of course, you can also damage the headphones by simply playing them too loud with an amp that can handle the load.

Clipping can be identified by clicking like noises, mostly notable in the midrange and treble.

Most PCDPs with cheap, underpowered amps can clip very easily, even at mediocre listening levels. Damage from this isn't likely.
 
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Jeff,

Good explanation but you should expand it a bit. If you are listening to such a setup you may not perceive enough bass so you are likely to increase the volume. This will increase the high end (usually heard as hiss) also and may introduce distortion. This distortion usually occurs when the amp clips but will most likely be first perceived in the treble. By the time it clips in the bass region your hearing could be damaged. The bass region clipping can damage a driver as it is being limited in it's travel. Think of the driver being slammed forward and back as there is not likely to be dynamics produced in a nice orderly fashion. It may tend to sound compressed.

I feel that you are more likely to damage a headphone with an underpowered amp than with a high powered amp (same for speakers). One of the things I look for in a headphone is power handling. In this regard I can only recommend two, the CD3000 and the DT880. Everything else (I never tested the HD600 for max volume when I had the chance) seems to distort at a certain level that is within uncomfortable listening levels.
 
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