Headphone amp/DAC + sound card for surround sound.

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by Kol12, Aug 14, 2017.
  1. Kol12

    I'm just having to catch up with some of the terms your throwing around. So ok, integrated amps have crappy headphone amplifiers, are big/bulky and aren't designed to run nearfield speakers, got that. I don't think I said that I wanted to buy an integrated amp and passive speakers I was just trying to understand the differences and it's clear passive speakers aren't suitable for nearfield listening. So is the idea of having the Schiit Sys between nearfield speakers essentially just for the volume control?


    I don't know, I don't know how to compare the DAC/HP amp of the AE-5 to other external offerings. I'm getting the impression that you don't think an external DAC/HP amp is even necessary with the AE-5 unless you have a lot of cash to burn... Maybe I should state what headphones I have because your convincing me they're an essential part of the chain but not that I would disagree. I have Takstar Pro 80's recommended to me here on Head-Fi and are quite well liked but I'm sure there are better headphones. Would these be worth considering upgrading? I just brought the speakers up because I wanted to know what was available/suitable should I want them but they would probably be the last thing I considered at this stage. Couldn't you just use the pre out of a DAC/HP amp to control nearfield speakers like the Schiit Sys? Then you really have everything in one box...
     
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2017
  2. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Not totally. Some nearfield speakers are passive, and some speakers can do well enough nearfield.

    What I'm saying is that

    1) Nearly all nearfield speakers are active/powered monitors

    2) You might as well get an active/powered monitor than gamble on some speakers on whether they'd do well nearfield

    3) Not to mention that if you're using headphones, and if you need an amp for them, it's easier to find a headphone amp or DAC-HPamp with a preamp output to control powered monitors than one with a fixed level line out to an integrated amp, or run that preamp to control a large, pure power amp (or a compact but expensive fullrange Class D power amp).


    I presented them as an option when you started with receivers, which would be an even worse problem, as already discussed in prior posts.


    Yes. Convenient volume control. If you want to use the nerfield speakers direct to the soundcard no problem, but $50 for easily twisting a knob rather than, at best, hot keys isn't a bad expenditure.

    And again you can use a headphone amp or DAC-HPamp with preamp output if you also need that to drive the headphones, but if you're trying to get speakers and headphones within a budget while having virtual surround for the headphones, it's easier to just drive easier to drive headphones with a soundcard then use the Sys or jsut the line out to the monitors than get a cheap DAC-HPamp-Preamp that might not even be any better than the soundcard. Not to mention that apart from the Schiit Magni3 (headphone amp, no DAC) at $99 most other HPamps either don't have preamps, cost a bit more, or they're DAC-HPamp-Preamps with amps that aren't better than this new soundcard's specs and usually only work via USB, bypassing the soundcard.


    The AE-5 produces more power with a lower output impedance than any other internal soundcard out there. it's practically a DAC-HPamp except it's not running off a large power supply surrounded by fat capacitors. If you're trying to squeeze in both headphones and speakers into your system as soon as possible but you're going to need a DSP anyway then might as well just use the AE-5 to drive the headphones and feed a signal to the speakers.


    AFAIK that runs well enough on even older soundcards that still had a few issues with their amp circuit design.


    Yes but again depending on how you'll set up the entire system the safer bet is to get a relatively easy to drive headphone and drive it with just the AE-5.


    If you can wait and build the system slowly then get a DAC-HPamp-Preamp one box or stacked DAC and HPamp-Preamp that can drive a headphone that might benefit from more and more importantly, likely cleaner power, even if you get the headphones first, then get the speakers last.


    You can but again I started suggesting the Sys because you weren't making it clear earlier that you'd build it slowly rather than have both headphones and speakers at the soonest possible time.
     
  3. Kol12
    Right, well what we've talked about has given me a clearer path on where to go with the setup and it will be a build slowly approach. I should have clarified that speakers would probably be last in the setup, it's not at all a must right away. Your hinting that I should consider upgrading headphones. Can I ask why and what sort of headphones your thinking of? Depending on that it might be the second part of the build after the AE-5.

    Getting to the external DAC/HP amp situation and what I'm gathering, is that it would have to be something of considerable quality/clean power etc to be worth using with the AE-5, otherwise you get something that's not much better than the AE-5 anyway... So is a dedicated DAC/HP amp worth it? Surely for an audiophile... but I am not sure how good the amplifier is on the AE-5 and what to compare it to to make decisions... So we have some time do decide on that anyway as I surely won't be rushing into an expensive DAC/HP amp. What do you think the AE-5 will compare to in terms of external DAC/HP amps and what do you think would actually be worth pairing with the AE-5 to have something meaningful? Do you know much about the AE-5 amplification circuit, it's quality and what it compares to etc?
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2017
  4. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    I can't speak for your preferences without any specific requirements but if it was me I'd get the HE400S; HE400i, HD6x0, K702 if I'm sure I'd get an amp.


    It should roughly compare with everything near its price. Except for the Magni3 - Schiit just managed to get 3watts per channel out of a $100 amp, making it capable of driving even low efficiency planars.

    You can get that since Creative says all DSP functions work with the FL-FR line output, so virtual surround can work with it. Otherwise you can get a Modi2 Uber with it and get a digital signal out of the AE-1.

    Alternately if you want a low noise amp that errs on warm-ish sound when pushed rather than leaning bright, look into the VIolectric V200 and the optional SPDIF DAC module.
     
  5. Kol12
    What sort of preferences/requirements do you mean? The HiFiMan's look nice, more so the HE400i but getting pretty pricey. What is special about them? Is HD6x0 is not an official Sennheiser model is it? I think you were intending HD600 or HD650 models? So these are all open headphones, is that your preference for an all rounder headphone? The Sennheiser HD600 are a whopping 600 ohm vs the HiFiMan 30 and 60 ohms, so is higher not necessarily better anymore? Why would these headphones still benefit or be necessary with an external amp vs the AE-5's?

    You sound like your a big fan of Schiit? I think we've had some of their stuff in NZ but nothing currently. Same for the Violectric V200, looks like we had it but not currently. Is there anything that sticks out to you on our local site?

    https://pricespy.co.nz/category.php?k=602

    probably something in here too: https://pricespy.co.nz/category.php?k=36

    Still waiting for the freakin AE-5 to land in NZ but not too much longer I hope.
     
  6. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    I like headphones that measure as closest to flat as possible, so HD600, HD650, and HE400i, with a little corrective EQ - peak cut to flatten out peaks (HD600) or bring out a little bit of where it nosedives (HE400i) or a wideband cut to get the overall balance right on something that otherwise has no sharp and narrow deviations from a relatively even curve (HD650).

    But then you have people who think the HD650 is too dark; the HD600 is still dark, or it's bright; the HE400i is boring or it lacks bass or it has midrange that isn't pushed forward. Or that the K701 is what counts for "flat" when it has a peak in the treble and a relatively early bass roll off. Some people prefer a jagged curve and think the sound is due to magic as opposed to those upper bass and midrange bumps coupled with high efficiency which means the headphone doesn't stress the amp driving it (ie, Grado).

    I'm not sure where you stand in there so I can't speak for your preferences.


    They're planar magnetic drivers which tend to have a smoother response. And by this generation they're even smoother - response is almost totally flat from 1000hz down to 10hz. Above 1000hz it's more jagged but no severe peaks that go too far above 1000hz, which means there won't be a totally skewed response where you crank it up and get a face full of cymbals and higher pitch vocals. The sensitivity is also much higher than older planars, but at 93dB/1mW, it's still not all that high. It's just that you don't need a huge amp with a huge power supply surrounded by fat capacitors to get them loud before clipping and distortion.

    Planars are also less affected by damping factor loss due to a high output impedance on whatever they're plugged into compared to dynamic drivers, which relies a lot on it to keep driver distortion low due to how they pump in and out more to move air.

    HE400S has a response more similar to a good dynamic driver like the HD600 but still lower driver distortion, plus its low impedance won't be as big of a problem if you're not using a decent amplifier, as well as its high sensitivity at 98dB/1mW.


    Lower case "x" is a placeholder, a variable. Like in Algebra where you go and find "x." Like X = 650 - Y.

    Lower case x is either 0 or 5. HD600 or HD650.

    Upper case and it's the Massdrop version of the HD650 - the HD6XX.


    Depends on what you mean by "all rounder."

    I buy headphones that sound similar but I have a headphone for listening at home, and two IEMs for outside, with one being the "beater" that goes with me to the gym, rougher public transport or locations (like the kinds of places where having a camera would be nice, but you'd have to watch it or you'll lose the camera, the phone, the IEM...everything....I understand you might not have such places over there though).

    If you mean everybody else on this forum who either buys one headphone for each music genre or buying one that plays all, I just don't get that. Either a headphone plays to one's hearing weaknesses like older people who need Stax so it doesn't roll off at the top end (not to mention they are more likely to be able to afford it) or preferences like if it has a lot of bass; or jsut get one that is realtively smooth so it doesn't alter whatever the sound was like to the engineers who mastered the tracks, which if you have one with low driver distortion and an amp that won't clip too soon and can keep the drivers under control, can take a lot of bass boost EQ for when you switch over to music that needs a lot more of that. I don't even boost the bass to rumble on the HD600 - I just boost 35hz so the 20hz to 40hz range can catch up closer to how loud 1000hz is.


    The HD600 is 300ohm. The Beyer T1, some alternate versions of other Beyer headphones, and the old AKG K240 version are 600ohms.

    Higher impedance can mean less stress on the amp driving it. Not absolutely though. But it means higher damping factor (ie more control) and less need for more extreme current performance. Look at how most speaker amps are only stable down to 8ohms nominal, and "hard to drive" speakers have low sensitivity and either have a nominal impedance of 4ohms or swing down to 2ohms on some frequencies even if the nominal is 8ohms. They might squeeze out more power at 4ohms nominal or when they swing below, but even some amps that push out more power there either pile on too much heat (if not also distortion) or some actually start leveling off power delivery and can't keep up with the lower sensitivity. Headphone amps don't go too low as to cause this problem but there's still the matter of output impedance, but more modern amps generally do not have this problem.

    The thing about high impedance, high sensitivity cans though is that they'll be easier to drive than a low sensitivity, low impedance counterpart. A 32ohm headphone might squeeze more power out of nearly all amplifiers (OTL tube amps deliver more power at 300ohms and lower as load impedance deviates, but still has more power at 600ohms than at 32ohms) but if its senstivity is more than 3dB/1mW it would have to be an amp that severely drops voltage output as to have drastically lower output at 300ohms for it to not get the high impedance headphone to the same volume output.

    HE400S deals with that since it has a 98dB/1mW sensitivity while its 22ohm impedance isn't as big a problem as 32ohm on dynamic drivers. Although again if you get a fairly modern amp from most manufacturers - or in this case the AE-5, which already has a low output impedance for an internal soundcard - you'll get more power to it at 22ohms while having the same sensitivity as an HD650.


    AE-5 is still an internal soundcard. Low sensitivity headphones need a fair bit of current (the AE-5 still isn't running with a large power supply not running anything else, and while PCI-E delivers more than 75watts, it's still not the same as having its own, good quality power supply), and high impedance headphones need more voltage (and compared to a Magni3 or Vali2 the AE-5 drops more in output at 300ohms). With these and the AE-5's otherwise good specs it might be hard for you to tell the difference, so as long as you have a high sensitivity headphone, I wouldn't strongly recommend getting a separate amplifier or DAC-HPamp.

    Lower sensitivity (or very high impedance, ie, over 300ohms) is another matter though. But that's also why I'm not pushing you to get any such headphone.


    Not really that much of a fan of Schiit. Yes, I admire what they bring to the table; yes, I admire how they made the business model work. However for amps I'd use myself I'm more into spending a bit more on an amp that errs on getting very slightly warmer when pushed than brighter like Meier and Violectric. Of course, there's one thing Schiit does that they don't - the Asgard is a full Class A design and I love it. Not necessarily what I'd recommend you get over the Magni3 or Vali2. I can hear subtle differences worth the increased price to me but not necessarily for you.

    However they're easier to recommend because of the cheaper price. And how they can be ordered internationally more easily than AudioGD, which some people find either confusing or sketchy. Meier is a great amp manufacturer since they package Crossfeed, but even with worldwide shipping factored into the price, 1) you don't need it when you have a DSP and 2) the two DACs they make are a portable USB DAC-HPamp (that you can't use with the soundcard) and a $600++ DACcord that goes with their $600++ Classic amp, which, while you can use with any other amp, I wouldn't spend that much on the DAC if you'll spend a lot less on the amp.


    https://pricespy.co.nz/product.php?p=3595050

    https://pricespy.co.nz/product.php?p=2500943

    https://pricespy.co.nz/product.php?p=3105595

    https://pricespy.co.nz/product.php?p=1739993

    ---

    Or order from Australia:

    https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/collections/headphone-amplifiers/products/auralic-taurus-preamplifier

    https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/coll...audio-conductor-v2-plus-headamp-preamp-dsddac

    https://www.storedj.com.au/mayflower-arc-headphone-amp-and-dac-w-usb-rca-and-optical-connections

    https://addictedtoaudio.com.au/coll...ucts/schiit-audio-magni-3-headphone-amplifier


    You can get a Soundblaster Z and just use a headphone amp or DAC-HPamp with SPDIF optical input with it. Or just wait for the AE-5 and choose the right headphone it can drive without an amp.
     
  7. Kol12
    Well flat response is the general rule for any serious audiophile... I'm into car audio as well so learnt a bit their but I'd like to focus my attention back to home audio. How do you measure the frequency response of a headphone? Do you own all of those headphones or just had the chance to listen to them? Is the HD600 your current headphone?



    Does the price of the HE400i really net you more from a headphone compared to the others mentioned? The HE400S and HD600 are priced about exactly the same, does planar magnetic still win here? I suppose it comes down to preference on that one? Does that mean you would not be doing the HD600 justice with the AE-5's amp?


    Right I see.


    Well you'd be surprised :/

    No, I meant that open headphones should give you the most accurate sound reproduction, being the ideal "realistic" headphone. That's why they're used for mastering etc.

    In terms of closed back headphones was the real purpose to them professionally for isolation in recording situations? Why did they become necessary for consumers?



    My mistake. Oh so higher impedance requires less amplifier power? I really need to go to school on impedance it's still something I haven't grasped, probably sensitivity of a headphone speaker too. Can you link me to anything to better understand what your talking about here and how the headphone and amplifier impedance interact?

    Edit: No pressure on that, I will do some homework.


    I can see what you mean and how power supply is big part of things. What do you mean the AE-5 drops more in output at 300 ohms? Does that mean your suggesting a headphone that won't require a HP amp at all or is something that can evaluated afterwards? Are you doing this from a budget/cost point of view?


    Nice one on the shipping from AU, definitely allows for more options. And speaking of shipping, I emailed Creative to thank them for their reply to my inquiry and said I was now just waiting for AE-5 stock to reach NZ. They said the AE-5 can be ordered off their website with free shipping to NZ! Wow, I've been putting money aside for this so almost ready to pull the trigger...
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2017
  8. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Just note that flat on speakers will have more perceptible bass than flat in headphones, since the latter won't throw the bass notes everywhere to make for a sensation of getting pounded on the chest.


    You don't, not without significant expenditure. They use mannequin heads if not ballistic material (the kind cops and documentaries use to simulate trauma and weapons) with mics inside simulated ear canals. The head is necessary for simulating seal and clamp, plus position of the drivers relative to the ear canal, something you don't get if you just measure free-air with a mic in the middle of headphones hanging on a rack.

    You can check Headphone.com and InnerFidelity for measurements. If they're not there just google "(headphone name) response graph." Not comparable if the graphs aren't from the same set up an on the same graph scale but better than not having any real idea what the sound is like.


    Nothing is that flat out there that gives you as much (and not more) 20hz as it does 1000hz. It's still not perfect though, considering it drops significantly at 2000hz. Considering that headphones don't pound the room with bass, a bump at the upper bass can be more important to some than deep bass response, since there isn't much information that low anyway.

    I listen in a quiet room at night so I'd much rather have a bit more at 20hz to 50hz matched to 1000hz. But I don't mind a relatively flat curve as on the HD600 and HE400S.


    Yes. I discussed the differences up there. Dynamic headphones have damping factor as more critical, so some brands go with high impedance. Planars don't have as much of a need for it so they can go a bit lower (not that this is really a problem with a decent amp, or a proper amp circuit on a soundcard like the AE-5) but you'd still be at the meat of the powerband of most amp circuits. You're getting more power at the same sensitivity levels as the HD600.


    The problem is that you can have six people talking about the most realistic sound and chances are you'd have them in tag teams arguing over which three sounds are the most realistic.

    HE400i for example has 10hz to 1000hz nearly totally, absolutely flat, but then nosedives at 2000hz. To some, that's not a problem since human hearing is biased for midrange anyway, but others need to have the vocals moved out front, like on Grados and the HD600.

    Then you have people not liking the K701 because they think it's "too flat," when the reality is that it rolls off too early. Amplification requirements just make that worse (ie on my Meier amp it wasn't bad, just that it clearly was no HD650).

    In short, I can tick off a list of what generally would be the most realistic, but even if I rank them, I'd put out a list instead of picking one over all of them.


    Studios have no noise. They just use closed back headphones to avoid feedback from the mics in the room.

    Homes have more noise, and that's what closed back headphones are for, especially those that use gaming rigs with a relatively noisy cooling system. And unlike a studio, or speaker set ups, people who go with headphones at home tend to do so because they can't dedicate an entire room just for it - ie, at the very least, it's where the gaming desktop PC or work laptop is - so there will be ambient noise. And for those that use certain computers, even if they seal that room to block out noise from outside of it, all that will do is make the noise from the computer more audible than to lower perceptible noise.


    NO, NO, NO, NO, NO. Higher impedance by itself does not mean it will require less power automatically. You have to pause and read what I actually write down. There are two factors involved - impedance and sensitivity. High impedance will require more voltage, however many higher impedance hi-fi headphones tend to have a higher sensitivity/efficiency than their lower impedance counterparts, like the HD6xx/HD800/HD580/DT770 vs the K7xx/HE400i/HE500. Higher sensitivity/efficiency can compensate a lot for the power requirement and get as loud as a lower impedance headphone getting more power but has markedly lower sensitivity/efficiency.

    Think of how a BMW M5 has more power than a Lotus Evora or Ducati 1299 Panigale, and yet the Evora and Panigale will beat the M5 (unless the M5 has a really aggressive driver and the guy in the bike knows he'd lose in a collision).


    I mean you can have several amp circuits that deliver the same or comparable amount of power at 32ohms and yet those three amps will have very different output levels at 300ohms.

    Or even when they're not comparable at 32ohms and not necessarily that one amp just has a less capable power supply design. Look at how the Schiit Asgard makes a little over 1w per channel at 32ohms vs the Schiit Lyr that makes 6watts per channel, and yet, at 300ohms, the Lyr makes only around 100mW more than teh Asgard. It's not that the Lyr's power supply sucks, it's just designed to really pour a lot of power into a 32ohm load more than anything else. Not to say what it does kick out at 120ohms will not be enough for an LCD-2 (it still makes a lot more than the Asgard) or the HD600 at 300ohms (still more than the Asgard), but you really have too wide variances in headphone impedance vs speakers.


    I've been saying HE400S.


    Well if you don't listen loud enough to clip or even distort and you already like the sound, then it's possible.

    But my point is you might as well get a combo that numbers say will work well enough rather than second guess if maybe you need an amp to drive it better (whcih, even with improvements, won't necessarily be a drastic difference like it will sound like something else entirely) or you just don't like the headphone's sound to begin with.

    If you start with the AE5 and HE400S and like it, then good. if not, then get an amp, it not, then try another headphone with that amp.


    Yes.
     
  9. Kol12
    Most of these headphones your talking about appear to have already flat responses which is a great start and can be tweaked to personal preferences. I can't say I have any preference to the characteristics of each headphone you've mentioned without comparing them. Ultimately any of these headphones sound ideal. Would the HE400S still the first on the recommendation list though? Boy I would love to stretch to the HE400i, the brushed chrome finish on the cups looks very sharp. It sure is a small fortune for these though! There is guy selling a pair second hand for NZD $600 and may be selling his Schiit Modi, yes the one you've mentioned so much, must be a popular combo. I'm not sure picking this up for a bargain (Shiit Modi) would be the right move at this stage, what would you suggest?

    So how do open headphones fare in a gaming environment? Is it a given that computer fan noise will leak more?


    Impedance and sensitivity are not easy subjects to grasp but I'm working on it, please go lightly... Believe me I want to understand this stuff and not be the guy who can afford to buy it but not know how it works!



    I think I see what you mean. So this is all dependent on the power supply design or quality and what loads they're most optimal at? Are you able to measure this stuff? How do you know the AE-5's power output drops at 300 ohm?


    This sounds good and you've definitely given me those numbers but what would I be looking for in deciding for DAC/HP amp combo at that stage (after evaluating an AE-5 and HE400S combo)? The amplifier shapes the overall sound as well. Could it be a lack of power with the AE-5 like you've mentioned or other characteristics? What are the main things that might be noticeable?
     
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2017
  10. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Just note that boosting has limits, especially the bass, since that will force the driver to pump harder, especially dynamic drivers, which increases driver distortion if not get you to over-excursion that will damage the driver suspension.

    That said, I have a +4dB wideband boost low bass boost on my HD600, but it's really more to get 20hz to 50hz more or less level with 1000hz.

    Also, falt here is highly relative. Headphones I'd pick for generally smoother curves can still sound different. hey might generally be the smoothest graphs, but they're not non-linear in the same ways. Similar at best, like the HD600 and HE400S.


     
  11. Kol12
    I will need to check that. He is selling the HE400i separately and there is actually another used pair for sale also but I think it would so rude to buy these and plug them into the motherboard before getting the AE-5 don't you think? I can only hope that the HE400i come up second hand from time to time and that I wouldn't miss out from not acting now. Most sellers appear to be headphone enthusiasts selling to test their next headphone. There is also what looks like like an older HE400 in blue for sale, are they worth considering?



    I'm a silent PC enthusiast so know all about this stuff but a few more suggestions worth considering.



    Ok, I think we are concluding that the HE400S or HE400i are the best headphone to pair with the AE-5 that could still benefit from an external amplifier later down the road, I'm pleased that we are this far...
     
  12. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    Just note that the AE-5 will do a lot better - waaaaaay better - driving the HE400S. HE400i at 93dB/1mW isn't really all that efficient compared to the 96dB/1mW of the HE400S. That 3dB of difference can mean roughly that the HE400i can already require as much as double the power at the same listening level.

    That said, if you happen to like the sound anyway, then it's just a matter of getting an amp if you want to go louder and cleaner.

    You can get it now if it's a good price, just mind the condition especially the cable and earpads. If you end up importing the amp check if the same dealer sells HiFiMan Focus pads even if the earpads are still good, this way you basically get free shipping on the pads as you're already paying for the larger item (the amp).


    That's the old HE400 before the "i" version and AFAIK it also has the cable issue of the earlier HE400i. If they're working fine then just order another cable later on, or with the amp, just to have one ready and save on shipping.

    Response above 1000hz is also different. AFAIK it doesn't have a rise at 3500hz and basically has a deeper and wider drop between 1000hz and 5000hz. The vocals will be relatively not as pushed forward as in the HE400S much less the HD600.

    Note also that Massdrop reintroduced that as the HE4XX for under $200, and AFAIK with improvements to the cable+socket design (others are saying it's the HE400i with leftover HE400 headbands though, but the graphs look more similar to the HE400 than the HE400i, with some minor tweaks, unless manufacturing variances are that bad for HiFiMan planar drivers).


    Just note that for critical music listening a desktop PC that still needs to dissipate more heat, even at idle, will still have a relatively high noise floor.

    As for case choices, I'd still much rather go with one that has a closed front panel that has acoustic lining (and a closed top panel, preferably also with acoustic pads). As much as the fans (especially the intake) will work harder to keep the components at the same temps under load, that front panel still helps there, and more importantly, at idle it will be quieter especially since many motherboards only allow the fans plugged into the CPU fan socket to run lower than 50%.
     
  13. Kol12
    I've been reading more to better understand sensitivity so can relate to what your saying now. I think if I can grab the HE400i at a good priced used I probably will. I need to read more but some discussions I've read so far here on Head-Fi are saying that the HE400i and HE400S are two very different sounding headphones with the HE400i not necessarily better but different... I don't know if we are exactly concluding but I'm better understanding what to look for.


    I really think I should try to get the AE-5 first as the mobo audio for gaming is really bad, I don't think I could plug such a nice headphone into it... I'm pretty sure it's interference noise from the GPU, pretty terrible actually. Which HE400i is known to have this cable issue? Will keep that in mind about the earpads. Are the focus pads an upgraded pad?



    Is that a plus or a negative for the HE400i?


    I'm only just finding out about Massdrop, was looking for an ifixit toolkit. What are they exactly? What do you mean Massdrop reintroduced that as the HE4XX?


     
  14. ProtegeManiac Contributor
    HE400 basically refined and now defined what planars sound like. Prior to that the only headphone anywhere near as flat was the LCD-2, and that one had one problem overall: response from 800hz down was stronger than 1200hz up. It was relatively flat on either side, but the variance between each range made for an overall warm sound that made some people think it lacked treble (you had to crank it up to hear more of it). Basically a planar HD650, ie, flatter on either side, with the left side stretching all the way down to 10hz.

    HE400S is more like older planaars, or rather, more like a dynamic driver. It's like an HD600 without the 3500hz peak. Pretty smooth among dynamics, but relatively jagged compared to the HE400i and LCD-2.2.

    Depending on the quality of amplification driving either though it's much easier to get the HE400S to go loud with less distortion, so effectively, it can sound more musical with less power applied.


    If you have coil whine I can't guarantee to any extent that a soundcard, internal soundcard, or a soundcard with an external DAC-HPamp will rectify that problem.



    The first versions of the HE400i. I can't remember how to tell the difference other than the new ones come with the focus pads (which he might have put on there after wearing out the stock pads), but you can ask the seller. If the seller is an honest guy he'd tell you if it's the one with the relatively easy to break cable.

    That wouldn't stop me from getting it if the price is good, and either way if you're getting an amp from Australia and the dealer has HE400i cables, you might as well save on shipping and get a spare cable as well. Even if what the headphones come with last long enough you'd still have one lying around just in case.


    They're asymmetrical earpads. Used to be an upgrade option that you order from HiFiMan and their dealer network (they still come separately, not like a car where you tick options at the dealer) and then mount them on. The asymmetrical design helps simulate speaker toe in angles for the drivers relative to the ears, which reduces imaging glare of the cymbals (ie if they're firing direct into the ears the cymbals sound like they're just outside your ears).


    That results in less glare on the vocals on the HE400, but that also has a tendency to make the vocals seem weak or buried in the rest of the instruments..


    Massdrop is a different kind of middleman that basically arranges bulk orders as a group buy. Manufacturers won't have to overproduce, since basically all that they'll make are technically already sold, kind of like how Italian companies already have the cheques for every car they'll make each year and anyone who happens to just walk into a Ferrari dealership and manages to drive out in one basically 1) bought one that the dealer paid the factory for as initially with them on the order form as the owner instead of facilitating the order or 2) a canceled order (in which case Ferrari kept the deposit), like how some people stumbled into shooting brake body 456GTs that were canceled by Prince Jeffry.


    It means they came out with the <$200 HE4XX as something you can only get from Massdrop (produced by HiFiMan), but the graphs look like HE400 and so does the headband.
     
    Last edited: Oct 16, 2017
  15. Kol12
    So basically or essentially the HE400 are the best or some of the very best headphones out there and are still your number one recommendation? At this level I realise similar headphone choices are going to come down to personal listening preferences but because I am not yet an experienced listener I don't think I could go wrong with any of your recommendations. I would be more than content with a Hifiman series headphone and will likely try to get a HE400i at good used price and I have a feeling I will be happy...

    Edit: Do the HE4XX fit right over the ear? This could be an interesting change, more comfortable perhaps?


    This is not great news. Most of the time it is a very low volume buzzing in the left earphone which is irritating but occasionally also responds to panning movements from the Xbox 360 controller which I believe is characteristic of coil whine. At this stage it is a matter of wait and see how the AE-5 responds to it and will have to take it from there...



    So this is the cable that breaks and not the cable inputs on the headphone? I will keep this in mind.



    I will keep this in mind also.


    I am probably more interested in the HE400i. Would you be aiming for the HE400 no matter what or would you consider these older versions?


    So these are official HifiMan headphones just underspec'd?
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2017

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