Hifiman he-400i Impressions and Discussion
Jun 9, 2021 at 4:56 PM Post #14,341 of 14,355

AJZ0

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Thank you!
Welcome.
I've always heard about balanced but am not so sure what it is. Is that better SQ than single-ended?
It's a way to get you to buy much more expensive cables and get confused about 2.5 mm TRRS, 4.4 mm TRRRS "pentacon" and XRL which gets worse when things which claim to be balanced aren't really. You don't need to bother with it until long from now when it becomes relevant to you and your equipment.
Balanced involves the left and right stereo channels having their own independent signal paths.
And I think I could move up to $150 for a hybrid if it exists.
It doesn't sound like you understand my clarification of how the term hybrid is used. Don't bother with tubes yet.
Do you agree that at least 2W per channel @ 32 ohms is needed for driving the HE400i?
I do not.
My hybrid xDuoo TA01B puts 2.1 W into an unbalanced output and I can barely turn the volume dial before every headphone I have owned - including the planar HE400i and Fostex T50RP Mk. 2 - is way too loud. My HE400i ran on every DAC/amp combo I own(ed) including the SMSL M3, Micca OriGen G2 and the aforementioned ES100. The only device which could not power it to listening levels was the tiny FiiO μBTR.
You should look at the published specs for each of these, particularly the power output into the nominal impedance of your HE400i. This number is less important that it seems and the general advice that big planars need big power is true, but lacks important nuance about impedance matching and current. There are other factors to consider such as distortion, but at your budget this is unlikely to be a significant differentiator.
I am having trouble figuring out how to convert mW to W, volts, etc. Not sure about what high and low gain is either.
SI units and prefixes and the relationship between the units Volt, Amp and Ohm is your simple homework. Understanding things like impedance as a function of electric potential, current and frequency at multiple junctions is way more advanced and you don't have to bother with it since to a very good first approximation your amp either can or cannot adequately drive your headphone - especially at your budget.
High (and medium) and low gain switches change the range of signal output for the positions of the volume knob. This is most useful when changing between headphones of varying sensitivity. The rule of thumb is to choose the setting which allows the greatest range of listenable volume.
 
Jun 11, 2021 at 7:19 AM Post #14,342 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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Welcome.

It's a way to get you to buy much more expensive cables and get confused about 2.5 mm TRRS, 4.4 mm TRRRS "pentacon" and XRL which gets worse when things which claim to be balanced aren't really. You don't need to bother with it until long from now when it becomes relevant to you and your equipment.
Balanced involves the left and right stereo channels having their own independent signal paths.

It doesn't sound like you understand my clarification of how the term hybrid is used. Don't bother with tubes yet.

I do not.
My hybrid xDuoo TA01B puts 2.1 W into an unbalanced output and I can barely turn the volume dial before every headphone I have owned - including the planar HE400i and Fostex T50RP Mk. 2 - is way too loud. My HE400i ran on every DAC/amp combo I own(ed) including the SMSL M3, Micca OriGen G2 and the aforementioned ES100. The only device which could not power it to listening levels was the tiny FiiO μBTR.
You should look at the published specs for each of these, particularly the power output into the nominal impedance of your HE400i. This number is less important that it seems and the general advice that big planars need big power is true, but lacks important nuance about impedance matching and current. There are other factors to consider such as distortion, but at your budget this is unlikely to be a significant differentiator.

SI units and prefixes and the relationship between the units Volt, Amp and Ohm is your simple homework. Understanding things like impedance as a function of electric potential, current and frequency at multiple junctions is way more advanced and you don't have to bother with it since to a very good first approximation your amp either can or cannot adequately drive your headphone - especially at your budget.
High (and medium) and low gain switches change the range of signal output for the positions of the volume knob. This is most useful when changing between headphones of varying sensitivity. The rule of thumb is to choose the setting which allows the greatest range of listenable volume.
This is a lovely response, thank you so much. I have about decided on the JDS Atom stack. My main concerns at this point are using EQ with Amazon Music HD on a Chromebook, along with DAC driver installation. I am also concerned about not being able to plug both the amp and DAC directly into a wall outlet. It'll probably have to be a power strip, which seemingly goes against JDS' instructions.
 
Jun 12, 2021 at 12:05 AM Post #14,343 of 14,355

AJZ0

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This is a lovely response, thank you so much.
Welcome.
I have about decided on the JDS Atom stack.
Excellent choice and most impressive that you managed those devices on your budget.
My main concerns at this point are using EQ with Amazon Music HD on a Chromebook, along with DAC driver installation.
Driver issues are almost exclusively an issue for approximately one platform which isn't running on your Chromebook. I've yet to find a DAC which hasn't just worked when plugged into a USB port on any of my devices running a Linux platform. The Atom DAC+ also takes optical input if for some reason you don't want to use USB.
For EQ I suggest not using the limited fixed band one which a single media source provides, but looking into a sophisticated tool like PulseEffects (available as a Flatpak). Since ChromeOS is a constrained platform I can't make a specific recommendation. Getting into things like PipeWire and CRAS is off-topic here, but I expect everything to be plug-n-play while also offering the ability to perfectly configure the entire audio chain from player to DAC.
I am also concerned about not being able to plug both the amp and DAC directly into a wall outlet.
It's not a problem. JDS doesn't want you to return their products because you plugged them into a faulty device which creates sufficient electrical interference that you can hear it. It's not a subwoofer which draws more peak current than a power strip can handle. Plug it all into the UPS which protects the rest of your electronics.
 
Jun 12, 2021 at 1:02 AM Post #14,344 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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Welcome.

Excellent choice and most impressive that you managed those devices on your budget.

Driver issues are almost exclusively an issue for approximately one platform which isn't running on your Chromebook. I've yet to find a DAC which hasn't just worked when plugged into a USB port on any of my devices running a Linux platform. The Atom DAC+ also takes optical input if for some reason you don't want to use USB.
For EQ I suggest not using the limited fixed band one which a single media source provides, but looking into a sophisticated tool like PulseEffects (available as a Flatpak). Since ChromeOS is a constrained platform I can't make a specific recommendation. Getting into things like PipeWire and CRAS is off-topic here, but I expect everything to be plug-n-play while also offering the ability to perfectly configure the entire audio chain from player to DAC.

It's not a problem. JDS doesn't want you to return their products because you plugged them into a faulty device which creates sufficient electrical interference that you can hear it. It's not a subwoofer which draws more peak current than a power strip can handle. Plug it all into the UPS which protects the rest of your electronics.
My budget was initially $200 for the entire system, and I will be ending at about $400. But you only live once, right? Might as well do it. I think what I am concerned about with Chromebook is that you can't install .exe programs, so some work-around has to be done. I am unsure how this work-around might affect audio quality of the EQ or the DAC driver. Do you believe the DAC will automatically work? That would be the best case scenario of course. I appreciate the recommendations.
 
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Jun 12, 2021 at 9:45 PM Post #14,345 of 14,355

AJZ0

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I think what I am concerned about with Chromebook is that you can't install .exe programs, so some work-around has to be done
While this is not the thread in which to address this, you appear to be deeply confused about software which runs on your platform. Just plug in your DAC to a USB port and play audio using any program on your Chromebook. Leave the .exe files for the unfortunates and try to avoid imagining solutions to problems you don't have.

As I type, I'm playing FLAC audio in Audacious, YouTube videos in a web browser, system and any other sounds (concurrently), all of which are fed to PulseEffects which I have configured to provide no EQ (despite it handling practically unlimited bands of parametric EQ), Cmoy crossfeed and a harmonic bass enhancer which outputs to my E1DA PowerDAC V2 which provides EQ configured by a smartphone app and delivers a balanced signal to my Thieadio Phantom. Both the PowerDAC V2 (which is a DAC which doesn't need a separate amp) and my xDuoo TA-01B are connected to USB ports on the PC running Fedora 34. I choose which one I want to use in the desktop configuration tool. There is no compromise in the digital signal path from the flac to the DAC.
At no point did I do anything with drivers or install software other than the audio clients for playing the sounds and the optional PulseEffects to provide processing (EQ, crossfeeed, etc.).
 
Jun 21, 2021 at 4:38 PM Post #14,346 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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While this is not the thread in which to address this, you appear to be deeply confused about software which runs on your platform. Just plug in your DAC to a USB port and play audio using any program on your Chromebook. Leave the .exe files for the unfortunates and try to avoid imagining solutions to problems you don't have.

As I type, I'm playing FLAC audio in Audacious, YouTube videos in a web browser, system and any other sounds (concurrently), all of which are fed to PulseEffects which I have configured to provide no EQ (despite it handling practically unlimited bands of parametric EQ), Cmoy crossfeed and a harmonic bass enhancer which outputs to my E1DA PowerDAC V2 which provides EQ configured by a smartphone app and delivers a balanced signal to my Thieadio Phantom. Both the PowerDAC V2 (which is a DAC which doesn't need a separate amp) and my xDuoo TA-01B are connected to USB ports on the PC running Fedora 34. I choose which one I want to use in the desktop configuration tool. There is no compromise in the digital signal path from the flac to the DAC.
At no point did I do anything with drivers or install software other than the audio clients for playing the sounds and the optional PulseEffects to provide processing (EQ, crossfeeed, etc.).
That's intense. Well, I now have bigger issues than EQ. When using the Atom stack, voices with HE400i sound congested/flat/faint/disconnected/faulty/recessed. Strangely the bass, air, imaging, highs, etc are all perfect. Switching to the computer headphone jack, all is well with the mids. I've no idea what is going on. This is with no EQ, both gain levels, and all cables properly plugged in. I am very disappointed because this was a Father's Day present, and it's basically screwed up.
 
Jun 23, 2021 at 8:41 AM Post #14,347 of 14,355

diracas

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That's intense. Well, I now have bigger issues than EQ. When using the Atom stack, voices with HE400i sound congested/flat/faint/disconnected/faulty/recessed. Strangely the bass, air, imaging, highs, etc are all perfect. Switching to the computer headphone jack, all is well with the mids. I've no idea what is going on. This is with no EQ, both gain levels, and all cables properly plugged in. I am very disappointed because this was a Father's Day present, and it's basically screwed up.
Do you have any other headphone to connect to the amp and test it? Because it sounds to me like some faulty output at the mid range frequencies...
 
Jun 23, 2021 at 4:30 PM Post #14,348 of 14,355
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Do you have any other headphone to connect to the amp and test it? Because it sounds to me like some faulty output at the mid range frequencies...

Was going to suggest the same thing. I'd check both the amp and cans (with other cans and amp if possible) and see which one messes things up.
 
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Jun 23, 2021 at 11:21 PM Post #14,349 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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Do you have any other headphone to connect to the amp and test it? Because it sounds to me like some faulty output at the mid range frequencies...
Unfortunately I only have headphones that were not made to be used with an amp. I don't think any difference can be detected with them, right? I now have a firm grasp on the sound difference between the computer headphone jack and stack. There is significantly less presence to the left channel when using the stack, along with lower resolution, faintness, etc. I have been communicating with John of JDS Labs, and his main suggestion is to buy a nice Sennheiser 1/4" adapter to try. I am in the process of doing that now. I have used two computers with the stack, different USB cable, different RCA cables, without rocker bar, without DAC, etc. It MUST be the headphones or amp, and I don't know how to tell which. It's that or the adapter, which I will know probably by tomorrow or the next day.
 
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Jun 23, 2021 at 11:24 PM Post #14,350 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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Was going to suggest the same thing. I'd check both the amp and cans (with other cans and amp if possible) and see which one messes things up.
Unfortunately I don't have another amp. The headphones are all intended to be used without an amp, so they probably won't help, right?
 
Jun 24, 2021 at 3:46 AM Post #14,351 of 14,355

diracas

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Unfortunately I only have headphones that were not made to be used with an amp. I don't think any difference can be detected with them, right? I now have a firm grasp on the sound difference between the computer headphone jack and stack. There is significantly less presence to the left channel when using the stack, along with lower resolution, faintness, etc. I have been communicating with John of JDS Labs, and his main suggestion is to buy a nice Sennheiser 1/4" adapter to try. I am in the process of doing that now. I have used two computers with the stack, different USB cable, different RCA cables, without rocker bar, without DAC, etc. It MUST be the headphones or amp, and I don't know how to tell which. It's that or the adapter, which I will know probably by tomorrow or the next day.
When connecting them to the amp you use the adapter but when connecting them to the pc no? If that's the case and you only detect problems with one channel then yes the adapter is a strong suspect.

Also even if the headphones do not demand amplification, if you connect them to a faulty amp it's highly likely you will listen to some distortion, so test the amp with them...
 
Jun 24, 2021 at 3:37 PM Post #14,352 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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When connecting them to the amp you use the adapter but when connecting them to the pc no? If that's the case and you only detect problems with one channel then yes the adapter is a strong suspect.

Also even if the headphones do not demand amplification, if you connect them to a faulty amp it's highly likely you will listen to some distortion, so test the amp with them...
Yes, correct. I am just doubtful an adapter can solve all of this, as I've used four different ones now. Still, apparently these are very often deficient.
I don't hear distortion with the HE400i and amp; it's more just significant weakness and channel imbalance to the vocals.
 
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Jun 24, 2021 at 9:21 PM Post #14,353 of 14,355

jamess71

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Yes, correct. I am just doubtful an adapter can solve all of this, as I've used four different ones now. Still, apparently these are very often deficient.
I don't hear distortion with the HE400i and amp; it's more just significant weakness and channel imbalance to the vocal

If you have used 4 different adapters already I really doubt that is the issue. Good luck figuring it out and keep us posted.
 
Jun 25, 2021 at 4:36 AM Post #14,354 of 14,355

sennheiserhd485

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If you have used 4 different adapters already I really doubt that is the issue. Good luck figuring it out and keep us posted.
Thank you very much. I used the Sennheiser adapter today, and it didn't really help.
 
Jun 26, 2021 at 4:20 AM Post #14,355 of 14,355

diracas

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Yes, correct. I am just doubtful an adapter can solve all of this, as I've used four different ones now. Still, apparently these are very often deficient.
I don't hear distortion with the HE400i and amp; it's more just significant weakness and channel imbalance to the vocals.
Well some imbalance in output can manifest itself in different ways in different headphones, so use any other headphone you have and try to find anything out of the ordinary...
 

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