Help Understanding High Gain vs. Low Gain
Mar 26, 2007 at 12:36 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 17

terance

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The more I listen to my total bithead the more i love it, recently have fallen in love with the gain switch. I think that my Shure e500s take on a different life when i turn the gain switch to high.

I am more than willing to accept the background fuzz when my e500s sound as good as they do with the high gain switch on, but what i don't understand is WHY they sound so different?

thanks again head-fi

-mk
 
Mar 26, 2007 at 2:09 PM Post #2 of 17

Balisarda

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I think high gain just increases the voltage gain in the amplification stages. It's for high-impedance headphones, which need greater gain to achieve a given volume than low-impedance headphones. Higher gain can cause higher levels of noise in sensitive low-impedance headphones, though, which is why IEMs and Grados usually use the low-gain setting. I think distortion also gets greater as voltage gain climbs.

I'm not sure why the Shure sounds better with the high-gain setting. Does the high-gain setting deliver more current, too?
 
Mar 26, 2007 at 2:26 PM Post #4 of 17

immtbiker

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Sometimes volume can be perceived as sounding better. When doing side by side comparisons of 2 amps, if you don't have them set exactly to the same volume, if they are of similar quality, usually the louder one sounds better but isn't, in reality. Higher gain can can yield the same results.
 
Mar 26, 2007 at 2:50 PM Post #5 of 17

Awk.Pine

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More gain means higher volume. From the Total Bithead website: "Use the low gain setting (the position where the volume is lower) unless it won’t get loud enough for you." And slightly increased volume will always sound better; a slight, even 0.1dB, volume increase will be perceived not as being louder but as having more clarity, detail, etc. This goes for slightly turning up volume knob, for amps that produce different gains, for DACs or CD players that have different line-out levels, or anything of that ilk. Just because we hear better sound doesn't mean that what's actually going on is all that complex.
wink.gif
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 8:33 AM Post #9 of 17

feifan

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Quote:

Originally Posted by kramer5150 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Theres a little paragraph on tangents site, as it pertains to the cmoy...

Tweaks



Interesting. Thanks for the link. Can we assume that the info holds true for cmoy amps but not necessarily for Headroom and other better quality amps? I seldom listen at high gain with my HR amps. They're usually set at medium. But when I do use high, I don't hear any noise. I've never used low but would assume that the entire range would have been designed for no noise. Am I assuming wrong?
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 4:58 PM Post #10 of 17

wolf18t

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Quote:

Originally Posted by feifan /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I seldom listen at high gain with my HR amps. They're usually set at medium. But when I do use high, I don't hear any noise. I've never used low but would assume that the entire range would have been designed for no noise. Am I assuming wrong?


Yes, some amps are quieter by design and/or construction quality than others. But your exemple is not necesarly a proof since you didn't mention what are you headphones. Lower impedance/high sensitive headphones like IEMs, Denons and Grados may show some noise or hiss in your amp with the gain set to high.

Except for the lower the noise floor, there is second small advantage to use the lower gain setting. It's the full range usability of the volume pot. You get a more precise desired volume level and, in many case (depends first if your amp use a standard volume pot or a step attenuator), you have a better volume stereo tracking: often, on a standard volume pot you can get more resistive value mismatch on the lower volume positions (e.g. like 8 or 9 o'clock position) between the left and right channel that cause a slight channel imbalance. At the higher volume positions this mismatch generally much less significative.
 
Sep 3, 2009 at 8:41 PM Post #11 of 17

feifan

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Quote:

Originally Posted by wolf18t /img/forum/go_quote.gif
Yes, some amps are quieter by design and/or construction quality than others. But your exemple is not necesarly a proof since you didn't mention what are you headphones. Lower impedance/high sensitive headphones like IEMs, Denons and Grados may show some noise or hiss in your amp with the gain set to high.

Except for the lower the noise floor, there is second small advantage to use the lower gain setting. It's the full range usability of the volume pot. You get a more precise desired volume level and, in many case (depends first if your amp use a standard volume pot or a step attenuator), you have a better volume stereo tracking: often, on a standard volume pot you can get more resistive value mismatch on the lower volume positions (e.g. like 8 or 9 o'clock position) between the left and right channel that cause a slight channel imbalance. At the higher volume positions this mismatch generally much less significative.



Thanks for the comprehensive explanation. With the HR Desktop amps, I usually use the HD650 or HD800. They both have stepped attenuators. With the GS1K, HF-2, and K-701, too, I don't get noise at medium gain. I haven't tried high gain with all of the 'phones, but IIRC, there was no noise or hiss.

You're right about lower gain providing a finer tuning range. At medium, I find comfortable listening between 11 o'clock and 3 o'clock. At high, anything above 9 o'clock is painful, which gives me only 4 clicks to play with.

I also have an HRD portable, an older amp with a standard volume pot. I use it primarily for TV audio and sometimes as a quick way to access music from the soundcard in the computer. Noise in this case is a given because of the environment.
 
Aug 22, 2015 at 2:24 PM Post #12 of 17

isi isiwi

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Low Gain: deeper sound, better for long sessions (decreases ear fatigue), diminish crisps therefore more suitable for "noisy" music (rock/metal/folk...).
[Designed for low impedance earphones]

High Gain: better layers separation, surround/soundstage, isolates details (become a bit more noticeable), funnier - dynamic, use for "effects" music (electronic/alternative/symphonic...).
[Designed for high impedance earphones]

It all depends on what u want
 
Nov 26, 2016 at 7:28 PM Post #13 of 17

HeretixAevum

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Low Gain: deeper sound, better for long sessions (decreases ear fatigue), diminish crisps therefore more suitable for "noisy" music (rock/metal/folk...).
[Designed for low impedance earphones]

High Gain: better layers separation, surround/soundstage, isolates details (become a bit more noticeable), funnier - dynamic, use for "effects" music (electronic/alternative/symphonic...).
[Designed for high impedance earphones]

It all depends on what u want

Why people don't take this website seriously in a nutshell. 
 
Nov 26, 2016 at 7:51 PM Post #14 of 17

Peti

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Low Gain: deeper sound, better for long sessions (decreases ear fatigue), diminish crisps therefore more suitable for "noisy" music (rock/metal/folk...).
[Designed for low impedance earphones]

High Gain: better layers separation, surround/soundstage, isolates details (become a bit more noticeable), funnier - dynamic, use for "effects" music (electronic/alternative/symphonic...).
[Designed for high impedance earphones]

It all depends on what u want


 

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