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Grado SR80i, Audio Technica ATH-AD700, Sony MDR-XB500: Do I need a headphone amp?

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by funcrusha, Jul 5, 2012.
  1. funcrusha
    Hi there,
    So I've been using these three headphone sets plugged into my Creative X-Fi Go! external soundcard/DAC. Thus far I have been fairly impressed with the results; there is no shortage of volume. What I have been wondering about is how a headphone amp might improve other audio properties/qualities. And to be honest, I don't know; I'm just curious.

    Perhaps someone here who's had experience with these sets can advise?

    FYI, I am thinking of expanding my headphone collection in the near future, possibly picking up the Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pros (80 ohms) or the AKG K240s / Sony MDR-V6s (been struggling to get advice on these in the headphone forum).
    Anyway, assistance with my question about an amp would be appreciated.

  2. BrownBear
    A headphone amp isn't just about volume. It's about power and control. You might say, what's the difference. Well, the difference I'm talking about is the ability for the headphones and amp to interact well. What I mean is this. An amp does more than supply volume to a pair of headphones, it's working with the drivers in the headphones to control them to follow the signal as closely as possible, thus 'tightening' up the sound and possibly creating more detail, for example. Much depends on the drivers as well, all headphones won't react the same to a given amp. That's the thing, there really aren't set rules. It's up to you to decide what works best for you. All my headphones are low impedance, and I use a headphone amp and I think with certain sets it really makes a difference, others not so much. 
    When someone says a low impedance headphone 'doesn't need an amp', what they're really saying, in my opinion, is that you might not need an amp to achieve a desirable listening level. I believe most headphones can benefit from some sort of amping. Because while higher impedance headphones like a bit more voltage, lower impedance headphones want some current. With more power and control available to it, a headphone driver will be able to move more, stop better, and 'be in the right place at the right time' so to speak. What this means is better authority over the sound creating more accuracy and being closer to the signal being played.
    And what's important I think is that it's all subjective. You might listen to an amp and say, wow, what's the point of this. Or you might listen and go, wow, where have you been all my headphone life? Lol. It's important to experiment and discover. Anyway, this is just my explanation (very basic electrical knowledge lol) and opinions, I'm sure someone with a bit more knowledge will come along and further explain. 
  3. PurpleAngel Contributor
    My two cents & opinion.
    Getting something with a (much) better DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) would improve the sound quality of your current and future headphones.
    Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 80-ohm and AKG K240 (55-Ohm) might benefit from better amplification then what the X-fi Go provides.
  4. funcrusha
    Thanks for your replies. Your very thoughtful response confirms my sense that amping would not only increase volume but also other audio qualities. This said, what types or amps would be good matches for the headphones I have named?
    I hear that a better quality DAC might also serve me well.
  5. PurpleAngel Contributor
    What source(s) do you currently plug the X-Fi Go into?
    Do you use it for music? movies? or just gaming?
  6. funcrusha
    Sony VAIO VGN-CR415E laptop. Use it mostly for music and only occasionally for movies - no gaming whatsoever.
  7. PurpleAngel Contributor
    Fiio E10 USB-DAC-Headphone amp. ($80).
    Does not come with any surround sound processing for movies or gaming.
    But it should make movies sound good in stereo.
    Have you tried using Foobar for music?

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