high end headphones that sound great WITHOUT an exsternal headphone amp
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zombie medic

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hey guys I'm wondering if theres some really high end headphones/IEM's that don't really need any external amplification to sound great. iv heard that with some of the grado line you dont really need a dedicated headphone amp but i could be easily mistaken.
 
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TK277

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Grado are good non-amp choices. My first hi-fi headphones were the Sennheiser 598, which sound great without an amp (I speak from direct experience).
 
Most IEMs don't need amplification. Most people just use amps for them to reduce gain noise.  There are a few exceptions, of course, but any sub-300 and most $400 to $500 iems should be safe.
 
Any HP with a low impedance (50 or less) should be just fine without amplification. Most benefit from it, but a lot of headphones don't actually NEED it.
 
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whirlwind

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I second the Grado's
 
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brunk

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For IEMs the Hifiman RE-400 are an excellent choice.
 
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Jd007

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Quote:
 
Any HP with a low impedance (50 or less) should be just fine without amplification. Most benefit from it, but a lot of headphones don't actually NEED it.
Impedance does not determine whether amplification is needed (e.g. planar magnetic phones usually have low impedance but are hard to drive). A more reliable measure is sensitivity, but the most reliable way is to look at output power required to reach a certain volume.
 
here is a very good reference thread with many headphones on it: http://www.head-fi.org/t/668238/headphones-sensitivity-impedance-required-v-i-p-amplifier-gain
 
of course, sound quality is not guaranteed even when enough volume can be reached. as for suggestions, i agree with most grados, as well as most IEMs.
 
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Gnafu the Great

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It might also help to know what you consider "really high end".  It might be that what you consider high end includes a huge range of headphones that don't require amps, or your idea of high end may only include ones that really need an amp.  Do you have a price range in mind, or a certain style?
 
EDIT:
 
(I realize you mention Grados and IEMs, so you must not only be thinking about LCD-3 and Abyss type stuff :-D.)
 
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I think pretty much any IEM is a good way to go for something efficient. Maybe my limited knowledge, but i can't think of a single one that requires an amp to sound good. Single Driver IEMS can benefit from an amp. Multi-armature IEMs can have issues with distortion when driving too much power through them... from what I've read.

IEM is the way to go in this situation.
But there are some great, efficient closed-back headphones too... like the Sennheiser momentums, V-moda M100, and even Audio Technica ATH-M50.

If you go to the headroom website, you can check impedance response charts for a lot of headphones. Here's an example comparing the M50s to the Sennheiser HD 598.

You can see the M50s have a flat impedance of about 40ohms. Anything below 50 ohms can be driven well by most portable media players.
The Sennheiser HD598s are advertised and rated at 50ohms, but you can see from the chart, the require near 300 impedance output to get the proper Bass Response.... which indcidently would explain a lot of people's issue with the low-end on the HD 598s

 
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Quote:
Actually if you get HiFiMAN HM-901 with that upcoming U235 card, you could get away with anything without external amplification to sound great
even the HE-6? :pPP
 
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Quote:
The Sennheiser HD598s are advertised and rated at 50ohms, but you can see from the chart, the require near 300 impedance output to get the proper Bass Response....
 
It does not mean it needs "more output" (in fact, it needs less current, but the same voltage). It means that the headphone is affected more by the output impedance of the amplifier (higher output impedance = more bass resonance).
 
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Id consider the westone 4 iems very good sound that dont require an additional amp.

For full size...not sure. The old denon dx000 line was good for that. Some ppl here get very vocal about them not being "hi fi" though.
 
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asgiov

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It does not mean it needs "more output" (in fact, it needs less current, but the same voltage). It means that the headphone is affected more by the output impedance of the amplifier (higher output impedance = more bass resonance).
Thanks for the correction =S
 
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TK277

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Quote:
Impedance does not determine whether amplification is needed (e.g. planar magnetic phones usually have low impedance but are hard to drive). A more reliable measure is sensitivity, but the most reliable way is to look at output power required to reach a certain volume.
 
here is a very good reference thread with many headphones on it: http://www.head-fi.org/t/668238/headphones-sensitivity-impedance-required-v-i-p-amplifier-gain
 
of course, sound quality is not guaranteed even when enough volume can be reached. as for suggestions, i agree with most grados, as well as most IEMs.
Oh, thanks! I'm sorry for my misguidance!
 
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asgiov

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Oh, thanks! I'm sorry for my misguidance!

I wouldn't be so quick to suggest Grados. They are bright sounding... unless that is what you want.... I wouldn't go for it. I am personally not a fan.
 
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