Good Home Listening Headphones for Walkman NW-ZX507?
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Hello. I'm not necessarily new to this whole audiophile thing but some of the technical stuff is a bit hard for me to understand, which is why I'm making this thread to ask for help with a thing.

I have a Sony Walkman NW-ZX507, which I'm very happy with overall, aside from one little thing; it's a bit on the quiet side. From what I know it may be because of the EU volume cap limit that European versions of this DAP has. I'm not exactly asking for something outrageous, but just something that may be a bit louder and more powerful that I can use at home.

Currently I only have one pair of headphones; Bang & Olufsen Beoplay h9i (25ohm). These are great headphones because of their versatility, but a bit quiet with my Walkman, which is why I'm considering a second pair that I can use at home to offer a better audiophile experience.

The headphones I'm thinking of getting are either the Drop Hifiman HE-35X (dynamic) or Drop Hifiman HE4XX (planar magnetic), mostly because those two are within the price range I'm willing to go for.

Since I'm hoping to get a louder and better experience (if possible), I'm not sure which one of those is the right choice. Mostly because I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around the whole impedance thing. I've tried to watch a few videos and read some articles on the subject and by the look of things I should get a HE-35X because of it's lower impedance (19ohm) and slightly higher sensitivity, but the HE4XX isn't that much higher, at 35ohm. I don't have a headphone amp at home so my primary way of listening is via my Walkman (if I'm not using my hi-fi system).

It's also worth noting that I have an adapter so I can use the balanced 4.4mm output on my Walkman, so that's what I primarily use.

Where I'm confused is that I heard that a recommendation when it comes to headphones and amps is that the amp impedance should be 8 times lower than headphone impedance, but if that's true then neither of these headphones seem to fit? Or am I just misunderstanding this? I have to admit my math is terrible but I've tried to work things out with my calculator and I'm just getting a headache over this.

Or does the volume limit on EU devices make this whole thing irrelevant? I'd appreciate some closure on this. Hope you can help me out on this.
 
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Claypole

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25 ohm impedance is not high, i would say if your device has a volume limiter in it, then that’s your problem.

I once had an iPod nano which had a volume limiter, and it completely spoiled the device. Low impedance (16 ohm) headphones didn’t really help. The next players I got all had no volume limiter (or easily disabled in settings) and I never had a problem since then. I even managed to use a pair of Sennheisers HD650 (300 ohm) on a Fiio X1 at a reasonable volume.

i believe your player has a high gain setting, I take it you’ve tried that? As for output impedance, I believe this would only be a problem if it was really high, and even then it would only be with certain headphones.

Have you considered getting a separate DAC/amplifier for the Sony? You could still enjoy the Sony, but completely eliminate the volume limiter issue. Either that, or buy another player without a limiter?

I would say you are correct in thinking the volume limiter makes it all irrelevant.
 
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25 ohm impedance is not high, i would say if your device has a volume limiter in it, then that’s your problem.

I once had an iPod nano which had a volume limiter, and it completely spoiled the device. Low impedance (16 ohm) headphones didn’t really help. The next players I got all had no volume limiter (or easily disabled in settings) and I never had a problem since then. I even managed to use a pair of Sennheisers HD650 (300 ohm) on a Fiio X1 at a reasonable volume.

i believe your player has a high gain setting, I take it you’ve tried that? As for output impedance, I believe this would only be a problem if it was really high, and even then it would only be with certain headphones.

Have you considered getting a separate DAC/amplifier for the Sony? You could still enjoy the Sony, but completely eliminate the volume limiter issue. Either that, or buy another player without a limiter?

I would say you are correct in thinking the volume limiter makes it all irrelevant.
Well, from what I know the high gain setting doesn't exist on EU devices. I hear it might be possible to circumvent this by rooting the device but that voids the warranty, I think.

Maybe a DAC or some kind of amp is a better investment that I'll try to save up some money for. I'm still getting myself a pair of headphones because lately I feel like my current pair leaves a little to be desired sound wise (some music sounds way better with speakers than my current headphones and I'd like a pair that sounds a little closer to the speakers), but I'll certainly look into that.

My only concern is that I like using the balanced output and I'm not sure if there's a DAC that has that option. But maybe it still sounds good? All I know is that the balanced output makes a pretty significant improvement in overall sound and that's one reason I like my Walkman so much.

Either way, thanks for clearing things up for me.
 
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A new player could be the answer here. Depending on how much you are willing to spend, you can get one with no volume limiter, a lot more power through the 3.5mm jack, high gain option, plus balanced output for even more power. With it, you wouldn’t be so limited as to what headphones you can use.
 
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Quite a few things here to look further into, good that you asked.

Yeah, sadly, the EU version of the ZX507 has no high gain option and there is no way around it seems (even flashing the firmware doesn't seem to work). There is an official post for the ZX507 you can ask questions on, very knowledgeable people there: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-sony-nw-zx500.914486/

Impedance is not the end all be all indication for power requirements and devices compatibility. The sensitivity is quite important as well and the ZX507, even the non capped version I own, is not a very powerful device due to its design. Whatever headphone you want to pair with it has the be relatively easy to drive, low impedance and quite efficient for better results. I have 16ohms IEM too that I use with the ZX507 and it's a perfect match, no noises or anything. Stay away from anything notoriously head to drive. On 4.4mm, high gain, it barely runs my HD58X at 150 ohms with a sensitivity of 104db on common specs.

About that 4.4mm adapter, I hope you are not using it with non balanced headphones cables. It could damage your ZX507. Balanced output is for balanced cabled headphones. Use the SE (single ended) output if not.
 
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Quite a few things here to look further into, good that you asked.

Yeah, sadly, the EU version of the ZX507 has no high gain option and there is no way around it seems (even flashing the firmware doesn't seem to work). There is an official post for the ZX507 you can ask questions on, very knowledgeable people there: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/new-sony-nw-zx500.914486/

Impedance is not the end all be all indication for power requirements and devices compatibility. The sensitivity is quite important as well and the ZX507, even the non capped version I own, is not a very powerful device due to its design. Whatever headphone you want to pair with it has the be relatively easy to drive, low impedance and quite efficient for better results. I have 16ohms IEM too that I use with the ZX507 and it's a perfect match, no noises or anything. Stay away from anything notoriously head to drive. On 4.4mm, high gain, it barely runs my HD58X at 150 ohms with a sensitivity of 104db on common specs.

About that 4.4mm adapter, I hope you are not using it with non balanced headphones cables. It could damage your ZX507. Balanced output is for balanced cabled headphones. Use the SE (single ended) output if not.
Hey, this is super helpful so thanks.

As for that adapter, I haven't experienced any problems yet despite using it for at least a couple of months, but if you're correct and it could damage my Walkman I'll try to be more careful, so thanks again.
 
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Here, this article might help out understanding the balanced vs non-balanced (single ended) characteristics: https://www.moon-audio.com/balanced-adapters-caution
This clears some things up for me, but where I'm a little confused is that I got the adapter because the audio wasn't distributed evenly (one side sounds louder than the other) with one 3.5mm cable I got from Ali Express (unofficial) and another one I got from eBay (official) and the sound with the adapter sounds fine but I'll stop using it moving forward. So how can I know what cables are appropriate and which ones aren't? Because I would like to try the balanced option if possible. I can only assume those cables I bought weren't actually compatible with my h9i headphones, but I didn't know that when I bought 'em.
 
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Well, it's a little complicated really. Your headphone has to manage separate left/right, positive/negative signals so they need to be internally wired properly. Usually, headphones will have a connection for both the right and the left earcups. You can then get a balanced cable with a balanced connector, usually 2.5mm, 4.4mm, XLR and so on. Only then, you can safely connect and actually benefit from the balanced output of your DAP/DAC/AMP. Just know that is doesn't always mean better sound. It usually means more power due to the nature of a balanced output. The 3.5mm out of the ZX507 is no slouch tbh.

Sadly, the H9i will not manage a balanced signal at all. The single 3.5mm connection to the headphone will not pass a balanced signal. Passive headphones can be modded to manage a balanced signal but not bluetooth headphones.
 
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Well, it's a little complicated really. Your headphone has to manage separate left/right, positive/negative signals so they need to be internally wired properly. Usually, headphones will have a connection for both the right and the left earcups. You can then get a balanced cable with a balanced connector, usually 2.5mm, 4.4mm, XLR and so on. Only then, you can safely connect and actually benefit from the balanced output of your DAP/DAC/AMP. Just know that is doesn't always mean better sound. It usually means more power due to the nature of a balanced output. The 3.5mm out of the ZX507 is no slouch tbh.

Sadly, the H9i will not manage a balanced signal at all. The single 3.5mm connection to the headphone will not pass a balanced signal. Passive headphones can be modded to manage a balanced signal but not bluetooth headphones.
Well, I tend to use the cable with my H9i, but still, thanks for clarifying. I think I've decided to get the HE-35X and maybe later down the line get a balanced cable for it. So thanks for the help!
 
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