Golden ears
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ampgalore

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Has anyone done a double blind comparison between the headphone out on home CD players, mini systems, integrated amps, and the headphone out on dedicated home headphone amps?

Ever since I got my Grace 901, I hooked it up to the optical out on my Kenwood mini shelf system. I have been switching back and forth on headphone out on the Grace and the Kenwood mini system with my HD600. To be perfectly honest, I don't think I can hear much of a difference at all.

I think I can hear a difference between the XP7 and the Grace 901, but not between the Grace and the headphone out on my mini system.

This quite disturbing.

The only possibilities I can think of are the following:

1) I don't have the golden ears
2) Poor source material
3) Both the Grace and Kenwood have NEUTRAL amplication, while the XP7 has COLORED amplication


With regard to COLORED amplication, this got me thinking. Could it be all the hype we are hearing about the very highest end amps are COLORED amplication, rather than NEUTRAL amplication? The highly coveted tube sound is largely attributable to distortion.

Another possibility is that the headphone out on my mini system is on par with the one on Grace. I HIGHLY doubt this. Then I must admit to the fact that I lack those golden ears.

After having spent all this money on amps, I am just speechless.
 
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chadbang

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Well there must be a reason somewhere. Of course, I bought an X-Cans V2 headphone amp and found scant difference between it and the headphone jack on my 9 year old Sony cd player. Go figure.
 
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Abula

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Quote:

After having spent all this money on amps, I am just speechless.


That was exactly my remark when I started with amps. But in Audio everything is relative to the user, so give it some time, let your grace settle in, and train your ears, continue hearing and feeling the music. IMO this is like a race, you cant run so fast and so much when you start, but training you get better, as well as your ears.
 
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john_jcb

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What music are you using to do the comparisons? Many recordings are sub par in my opinion. They tend to be recorded too loud leaving little headroom for the normal fluctuations in the music. When I want to hear differences between pieces of equipment I tend to use a variety of recordings where I can concentrate on a single instrument or voice. I have found that it takes some practice to train your hearing for critical listening. It requires focus and concentration especially when the differences are small.
 
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ampgalore,

don't be alarmed.

Listening is a skill and it can be honed. More than that, your performance will vary from day to day due to human hearing being so variant.

I'm sure that if you listen to one amp for a long time on a high quality / bit harder to drive headphone and then switch to another amp, you'll hear the differences.

If you don't, you can always sell the amps, but I wouldn't certainly recommend doing that in a haste.

Just give it time.
 
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elnero

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Quote:

Originally Posted by ampgalore
With regard to COLORED amplication, this got me thinking. Could it be all the hype we are hearing about the very highest end amps are COLORED amplication, rather than NEUTRAL amplication?


In my opinion every audio component is colored in one way or another it's just a matter of which shade you prefer that decides your definition of neutrality.
 
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markl

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One other possibility, is you've got some very expensive amps hooked up to a shelf system. It may be that your source isn't able to reveal the differences as easily.

These differences are subtle between high-quality amps. I agree with others that it takes a lot of listening to train the ears to more readily hear differences. But it's not some magical mystical thing, *anyone* can do it with enough patience, concentration, and experience. Quote:

With regard to COLORED amplication, this got me thinking. Could it be all the hype we are hearing about the very highest end amps are COLORED amplication, rather than NEUTRAL amplication? The highly coveted tube sound is largely attributable to distortion.


No two people will agree on what "neutral" means or sounds like. That's why we debate over gear so heavily here and we see such a wide variety of opinions/reactions to different gear. Every component in the signal path leaves a signature, this is true if it's a transistor or a tube. A solid state amp has every bit as much potential to be as colored as a tube amp. There are plenty of examples of tube amps that don't have a classically "tubey" signature, either, making it very hard to stereotype the "tube sound".

If there were only one "right" design, there would only be one amp out there. Yes, each design and the parts used yields a different sound that will appeal more or less to different people, that's unavoidable. In general though, what you get with higher-priced amps is the use of much better parts quality, which yields sound with less measureable distortion, higher performance, and better sound quality.

But in audio, there is often no way to measure the differences in sound we hear. In audio, there are a million pieces of gear that will measure the same, yet sound subjectively very different. So it isn't the case that "more expensive amps" are specifically designed to produce different colorations or generate different distortions to appeal to different people; they can look the same on paper yet yield a different sound signature.
 
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sacd lover

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Looking at your profile I would lay the blame on your sources. With limited resolution even the best amps arent going to show much difference. Team source first has pointed this out many times to many members so prepare yourself when they show up.
 
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saint.panda

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Quote:

Originally Posted by sacd lover
Looking at your profile I would lay the blame on your sources. With limited resolution even the best amps arent going to show much difference. Team source first has pointed this out many times to many members so prepare yourself when they show up.



I think ampgalore used the optical out so isn't he using the Grace's dac then?
I don't think the Kenwood's transport should be that bad to make the difference between headphone jack and grace 901 inaudible.
Nevertheless, I do agree with everything that has been said about giving it some time. At the beginning I could hardly tell the difference between no amp and amp (supermini at that time),
 
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ampgalore

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Thanks guys for all the responses.

Yes, I am using the toslink optical out.

Another reason could be that I have only been getting 4 or 5 hours of sleep these days. Could be I am just tired. I find my hearing often varies substantially with the amount of sleep I get.
 
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erikzen

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Your ears, just like every other part of you, needs proper rest to perform properly. If you're not getting enough sleep I would say your critical listening skills will not be up to par.

[OT Rant]There are a lot more important things out there, that require greater concentration, than music appreciation and critical listening. I suggest you do yourself a favor and get more sleep. I used to be a night owl and stayed up late at night doing "important" things. Recently, I started working from home, eliminating the need to get up early for a long communte, and made a conscious effort to try and go to sleep by 11:00 each night. It is amazing how much better I feel in general. Physically, I feel stronger and mentally, I did better in school this past semester than I have in my entire graduate career. Not just in terms of grades but in terms of understanding and assimilating the material. This is all while there were lots of things going on in my life, young child, new house, new job, pregnant wife.

I don't mean to preach, but: get some sleep.[/OT Rant]
 
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ampgalore

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Took a late afternoon nap. A bit more rested now.

Did some more comparison between the headphone out on the shelf system and the Grace using Eric Clapton's Clapton Chronicle's CD. I think the sound from the Grace is a bit more controlled, or tighter, than from the shelf system.

Need more beauty sleep tonight to rejuvenate my "golden ears."


I am finding that my hearing gets more sensitive as I get more rested. When I initially received the Grace, with the HD600, I was listening at 9-10 o'clock position on HIGH gain. Now with the HD600, I am listening at 7-8 o'clock position on LOW gain. I don't think I'll ever need that high gain, unless I acquire the W1000.
 
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oneeyedhobbit

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Don't feel obligated to hear a difference just to appease those who insist that there is. I feel like too often people who hear no difference report hearing a difference to impress the "big boys" of the head-fi world.

Now, I personally notice differences between different amplifiers--for example, the HR-2 blew my PPA out of the water in just about every respect. OTOH, the Gilmore Lite vs. my PPA did somethings better, but some worse. I thought it was more detailed and had better seperation, but at the cost of strident brightness.

Where I'm going with this (bet you thought I was rambling
) is that I'm sure if you get accustomed to your high-end stuff, you'll start to notice differences. And if you don't? Save your money and be content in audio bliss
 
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Definitely check out the recordings angle on this problem. Some recordings will reveal differences between amps in a flash, others either sound good on lots of amps...or sound mediocre/bad on lots of amps. I find acoustic recordings reveal things most easily. Guitar work, orchestral, small ensemble.
 
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Everybody's been talking about the source/recording quality being the problem here. Can that be right? Everything I've heard about the Grace would indicate that it is a *highly* revealing amp--if the source or recording doesn't measure up, it should be noticeable. Namely, it should sound crappy, correct?? The difference between amps should still be readily detectable.

I think with an enthusiast site such as head-fi, the excitement about different products can generate a level of expectation about a product that exceeds its real-world performance. That can sometimes lead us to hear differences (or, perhaps better, to *think* we hear differences) that may be subtle or nonexistent. Still, I find ampgalore's findings to be fairly inexplicable--there *has* to be a substantial difference between the Grace and a mini system, doesn't there?


Is it time for me to start hunting down a Kenwood mini system, perhaps?
 
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