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DarkVoice 336SE with sub-100ohm cans

  1. ls13coco
    Hi all, so I recently ordered the Little Dot 1+ and Mullard M8100 tubes off of Massdrop. Then, the Darkvoice came up on there.
    I understand that the majority thought is to also upgrade the tubes on the DV, but I have also read somewhere that the DV is not made for low imp cans.
    As someone with 3 pairs, all under 100ohm, can anyone with experience of this amp with low impedance HP's share some opinions?
  2. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Just plugged my 32-Ohm Soundmagic HP200 headphones into my Darkvoice 336SE tube amplifier, sounds fine to me.
    What is the make and model of your 3 headphones?
    ls13coco likes this.
  3. ls13coco
    Currently I'm using Sennheiser HD 598, HifiMan HE400i, AKG 712 Pro and possibly ordering the X2's soon.
    Using the Creative X7 as amp/dac.

    I'm also thinking of the Schiit Lyr 2 if I take kindly to the LT 1+, but this is just a good price for the 336se.
  4. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Guessing the K712 Pro will get a nice tweak from the Darkvoice.
  5. Mr Rick
    I own the 400i, the 712 Pro and the X2's, as well as a DV.  I believe in using the proper tool for the job, so I never use low-Z cans on my DV. A solid state amp like the Schiit Asgard or Jotunheim would be a better choice. That is what I use.
    The DV is solely for my HD 650, my Beyer 880 / 600 ohm , and my Beyer 990 / 600 ohm cans.
  6. ls13coco

    I do have a solid-state already, but similar to what you seem to be saying is that it does seem OTL would be best avoided if I am using such low ohm HP's.
    I'll probably stick with the Little Dot for my tubes right now, maybe a Schiit Lyr down the road.
    DarkVoice if I get into the HD 600, 650, 800 or Beyer territory but I honestly think aside from the X2, that Audeze is the next step - which I doubt would pair well once again.
  7. PurpleAngel Contributor
    My two cents is your headphones will improve plugged into the Darkvoice.
    The 62-Ohm AKG K712 Pro needs more power then a 250-Ohm Beyer headphone.
    The HD598 are somewhat light on the bass, 336SE might add more bass.
    Read up and ask on this thread about how the HE-400i sound plugged into a tube amp.
    The Price for the 336SE on Massdrop right now is $199.99 plus $13.25 shipping.
    Amazon is selling the 336SE for $319.99
    Try asking on this thread if anyone is using your current headphones with the DV.
    See what they have to say.
    ls13coco likes this.
  8. Scott Branham
    That Massdrop price got me thinking as well. I have an Audeze Deckard and have an LCD-2, d5000, d7000, and a TH900. I understand these are all low impedance cans, and that they "can" be a little on the bright side to some. Since I know NOTHING about tube amps and tube rolling, what would I likely experience trying out a Darkvoice? Also, are there other options around the $200-$250 range that work well with Denon and Fostex?...Or is it a no no in general where my beloved cans have very bold low end already? Thanks for your patience as I learn haha.
  9. PurpleAngel Contributor
    I believe your Denon D5000 & D7000 are only 25-Ohm, guessing you really only would want to use with a solid state or maybe hybrid headphone amplifier.
    A pure tube OTL headphone amplifier to me would not make sense.
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    The high output impedance results in lower damping factor, so expect that the bass will be EQ-d by default. The question is whether it boosts or trims the response, and if boosted, whether it comes out like creeping molasses or a torrential wave than something that still passes for music, which can vary with each particular headphone.
    So basically before you jump into that, at the very least try to gather some impressions on how each of your cans does with it.
  11. ls13coco
    As PurpleAngel suggested, a hybrid should be sure-fire which is why I did order the Little Dot 1+ and "tubey" tubes. I'm still new as hell to this but one aspect I was focusing on before buying the 1+ was it's an amp that gives closer to 1W of power for lower ohm headphones, with that power going lower as impedance goes higher. Which seems to be the opposite with OTL tube amps as the output is greater with higher impedance.
    After some of the replies in this thread, and in others, I'm thinking to just use the 1+ and if I do pick up high ohm cans I'll consider the 336SE again.. unless I can't help myself on this drop! :p
    Okay, that does make sense. Basically, the higher ohm headphones would "trim" some of the frequency response if I follow you correctly?
    When it comes to EQ, I do seem to get away with low-end EQ perfectly fine with the HE400i and X7 combo, however, the 598 for example doesn't take as well to such EQ.
  12. Scott Branham
    Thank you guys for the input!
  13. obobskivich

    OTLs have higher voltage swing/output impedance, generally speaking, and that makes them more efficient/better suited to higher impedance loads. Their current output is generally limited, which is why you see less power at low impedance (this all tracks with Ohm's Law).

    1W of output power is just nutters for the vast majority of headphones (the headphones it isn't nutters for can probably be counted on one hand). And I do mean "you can damage your headphones and more importantly destroy your ears" not just "its over specified." Of course that doesn't mean you're drawing all that power out all the time, just that it isn't needed.

    Output impedance will interact with the reactivity of the load. So if there is a very reactive load (Sennheiser HD 600 has been mentioned, and is a good example) its frequency response will be impacted by changes in output impedance (this is measurable and modelable), here's an example, from PersonalAudio.ru:

    I wish the scale was a little finer, but they're showing around a 2 dB rise with the 300 ohm output. This doesn't matter if the output impedance is the result of being an OTL, or just high value resistors on the end of a solid state amplifier.

    If the load is not reactive, however, the frequency response largely doesn't care and all higher output impedance will do is diminish efficiency (its basically "getting in the way"). Here's an example of a non-reactive load, a planar magnetic;

    ** For the peanut gallery: I know I'm using the word "efficiency" wrong here, and it should be "power transfer" instead, but "efficiency" probably makes more sense for most people.

    A couple of years ago now, some very vocal folks latched onto this idea that "output impedance needs to be 0 because anything else represents error" based specifically on how the Sennheiser headphones (as reactive loads) respond to changes in output impedance, and that idea seems to have taken root on a large scale. The problem is that argument is a slippery slope: who gets to arbitrate what the "truth" should be here? It's an observable change, but that's where objectivity stops - the event can be seen and described, and has been. How you feel about it or whether or not you like it or desire it is something else entirely. "Damping factor" really should have no place in this discussion (or any discussion if I'm being entirely honest) - its a marketing spec borne out of a bygone era that's been appropriated to push a specific agenda. :triportsad:

    To your original question: I don't actually have an answer, and its something I've wondered about myself as well. My guess is that if the amplifier has enough current delivery and the headphones are sensitive enough, it can probably get by well enough, but I'd be nervous about asking too much current from the amplifier depending on the cans (without more information about the 336SE's output specifications this really can be written off as idle speculation, and that's really what it is: I don't own the 336SE, and I'm speaking in generalities - maybe it works great, and at least one response to this thread seems to indicate that is the case).

    Oh, and you don't need to say "higher ohm" or "lower ohm" or "ohm rating" - you can just say "impedance."
    ls13coco likes this.
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    No, I wasn't referring to using an EQ, I meant that a very high output impedance, worse if higher than the load impedance, will act like an unpredictable EQ. It will either boost the bass or trim it, you have no idea which way it will go. My Grado SR225 sounds like a tin can out of many integrated amps, including tubes, but is boosted in the bass by the Little Dot MkII. The K701 sounds like a tin can on the MkII and otherwise somewhat normal on some old Technics amp.
    No, the higher output impedance will interact with lower impedance headphones as described above.
  15. obobskivich

    I added emphasis.

    You can know pretty clearly how it will go, if you know the impedance curve of the headphone and the output impedance of the amplifier. As you approach ideal power transfer you will see "boosts" (so points with higher load impedance + higher source impedance will lead to "boosts" of the frequency response). And it isn't explicitly tied to "the bass" either - it is simply the inter-relationship of load impedance and source impedance. Many single-driver systems have a resonance in their mid-bass and that's why "it affects the bass" is such a common explanation. A lot of IEMs or multi-driver systems have much different looking impedance curves, and their FR will respond accordingly to higher source Z. Examples:

    Bose In-Ear headphones, and the impedance rolls off as frequency goes up, as here:

    So as output impedance increases, treble rolls off.

    Conversely another IEM:

    And its impedance curve:

    If the amplifier has atypical frequency response, is current/voltage limited, or is doing something else, that can also have an impact on the sound. So this isn't the only variable. But "high output impedance" does not equate to "unpredictable changes to bass response" - that's far too generalized of a statement. The nominal impedance of the headphone also does not determine this interaction - their reactivity (or lack thereof) does; the HE-6 above are a low-ish impedance load (~50 ohms), but they're also essentially resisitive. There are dynamic cans that are close to this as well - not all dynamic cans have the roller coaster curve like the HD 600. For example, the Kenwood KH-K1000:
    (that's about 1 dB at 300 ohms, and I should've pointed out earlier: there is an audibility threshold here - 1 dB is generally regarded as the smallest difference in intensity that people can reliably detect, 3 dB is double the intensity, and 10 dB is double the perceived loudness; for an interactive example with pictures and audio samples, give this a perusal: http://www.animations.physics.unsw.edu.au/jw/dB.htm)

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