Headphone amp for HD650s - do I need one?
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paolo99

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Hello chaps, I'm new here so expect some stupid questions. Here's my first.
I've just purchased some Sennheiser HD650s. I have a Cambridge Azur 640a amp. Do I need to buy a headphone amp to drive the 650s or will the amp be up to the job?
Please be aware that I'm about as techno-competent as a blind caveman so I'd be grateful if you could keep the explanations simple. Thanks very much.
 
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dknightd

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You probably do not "need" a headphone amp. But, likely to take full advantage of your new 650 you will want one. I don't know the specs of the headphone output on that amp, but, likely it is high impedance (since usually integrated amps just put a resistor network across the speaker outputs to drive the headphone output). Does your amp owners manual specify the output impedence of the headphone jack? The 650 sound best to me driven from a very low impedance jack (less than 30 ohms should be OK, closer to zero is better).
I'd use what you have for now, and, consider getting a dedicated headphone amp if you feel the need or desire for cleaner sound.
Oh yea, welcome to headfi, sorry about your wallet. And don't forget you have to use the 650 for at least 200 hours before you decide if you like them or not...
 
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Andrea

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dknightd
And don't forget you have to use the 650 for at least 200 hours before you decide if you like them or not...


Wow! You beat me to it.
j/k

No, in my opinion you don't need an amp at all as long as it sounds good to you with your Cambridge integrated. It's the sort of reasoning I've done for myself, at least.
 
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paolo99

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dknightd
And don't forget you have to use the 650 for at least 200 hours before you decide if you like them or not...


Good heavens! 200 hours? Why so long?
 
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Wayde

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Paolo, nice amp! I love CA gear too, I have the Azure DVD player. I also have Arcam receiver and Mission speakers, I guess I just have a thing for English made hi-fi gear.

I'm too much of a noob to say whether or not you should use a dedicated headphone amp but I wouldn't think so. It depends on how much work CA put into their headphone output.

When I first got my Grado SR60s I went around testing the headphone jacks of all my audio gear. My Arcam receiver sounded great, but because of its placement in my HT room I wouldn’t use it for headphones.

I have an old school two channel amp I thought would have a nice headphone output. It was horrible, weak and anemic. Then I dug up an old NAD preamp that was in my basement, not expecting much because it wasn’t even an amp but it happened to have a headphone jack. Lo and behold this NAD preamp sounds great, really fills my headphones with power.

So, it's really hit or miss I think. Using standard audio components as headphone amp is really a question of whether or not they put much detail into their headphone out. With CA it's a good bet they put every effort into making a nice headphone listening experience, so I’ll bet you need no additives there. But it’s ultimately up to your ears and whether you feel your new Senns are being adequately powered.
 
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Patu

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Quote:

Originally Posted by paolo99
Good heavens! 200 hours? Why so long?


It's called burn-in time. You must drive your 650s for at least that time to get the best sound out of them. You'll see the differences even after 50 hours of listening.
 
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dknightd

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Quote:

Originally Posted by paolo99
Good heavens! 200 hours? Why so long?


I don't know. Really makes no sense. I guess the 650 really takes a long time to losen up and perform as designed.

When I first got mine I thought they sounded very good. Then after a day they didn't sound so good. The sound seemed to change over the next few days. I thought maybe I was getting sick and my ears were messed up, but, I'd had good experience in the past with breaking in new speakers and headphones so I just let them play all the time, and listened when I was around. After about 10 days the 650 sounded even better than it did the first day. If I had passed final judgement on the second day I'd likely not still own them. But after 10 days of playing music they just sound so wonderful.
(see link near the top of this forum about break in - it really does happen, and it is not just your ears changing. Some things break in faster than others, I guess the 650 are on the slow side)
 
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maarek99

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Could you guys describe the changes? I'm burning my hd650's in and at the moment I prefer my old 580's. Just something like 7 hours of burn yet.

Biggest difference? No treble, airiness gone, lots of grain! I can hear the potential though. Still burning. I have a faint memory my hd580 didn't sound very good either at the beginning.
 
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dano1122

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the senns 580,600, 650 benefit from an amp all across the board. it is a major difference. it's like listening to them with a wall in between without an amp.
 
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h3nG

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You dont NEED one, but they sound like a pair of $80 headphones without one (which is still very good). So why spend $300 dollars on them? Better off getting a lower impedance headphone if you dont plan on getting an amp to match it.
 
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Kirosia

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If you have a really really good headphone jack (not that high of a chance on lower end cd players I think), then you're fine. But I never tried a cambridge, so I dunno. I need to stop talking outta my butt. =)
 
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The HD650 needs a really powerful headphone amp with high quality components that will both drive them loud enough and produce no artifacts in the sound - you're dealing with a truly great headphone, and need to power it sufficiently. Listen to it for yourself with your current setup. If the sound is boomy, muddy, dark, or conversely brittle, thin, grainy, or lacking detail, and especially if the sound is very "veiled," you need a better source/amp. Good recordings are also something nice to have with the HD650s, as they are extremely picky phones.

For the record, the HD650 is my favorite headphone and they will sound good even if powered by a relatively low ned setup - it's just that you will get more out of them if you really drive them hard. The sky is the limit, I think they sound better out of a headroom blockhead than a headroom max, so you can go hog wild.

I'm still saving up for the CD source player that I will eventually use with this setup. I expect to lay $4000. I think that it's reasonable to spend $4000 on a source, $1500 on an amp, and $500 on the HD650s.

Cheers,
Geek
 
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Hi paolo99,

Welcome to head-fi, IMHO, you owe yourself and the HD650 an audition on a dedicated headphone amp to see what the phones is capable of. If you don't like to sound you can always fall back on the intergrated amp.

Used to own HD650, I found an headphone amp is a must try/have for them.

Best of luck,
Overlunge
 
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mintyfresh

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How do people feel about the Music Fidelty XCAN3?

Also, when your HD650 burns in, it's like a small pool become deeper and deeper.

 
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gpalmer

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Quote:

Originally Posted by maarek99
Could you guys describe the changes? I'm burning my hd650's in and at the moment I prefer my old 580's. Just something like 7 hours of burn yet.

Biggest difference? No treble, airiness gone, lots of grain! I can hear the potential though. Still burning. I have a faint memory my hd580 didn't sound very good either at the beginning.



Sounds like you've described things pretty well. They are maddening during break in, they go from sounding good to god awful and back and forth and... Just give them a good long time before judging them.
 
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