How are you not blowing your ears off?
Jun 10, 2013 at 10:20 PM Post #5 of 14

Brendo09

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First post here, so don't hold back.
 
headphones are the final stage in the chain. You have your source files, your player, your DAC, your amp, your headphones, in that order (generally speaking).
 
Each of these elements will add it's own 'flavour' to the end sound. Just the same as two different headphones will sound different, so to will two different amps. 
 
The amp isn't just used for volume (though it is effective used this way), it's main use is to present the music to the headphones in the most suitable way, to complement the headphones, and to 'spread' the sound so it's clear, precise, and detailed, rather than loud and lumpy. 
 
I'm struggling for words, but when you put the two methods side by side (amp v ampless), with decent equipment (and that's not high $$ stuff either, just good quality) you'll notice the difference. It just makes things better. 
 
Headphones, like speakers, need power to run. An under driven speaker sounds like muck. Headphones are similar. An amp will provide enough power to make the speakers inside your headphones work the way they were designed to work - to drive them properly. 
 
Jun 10, 2013 at 10:38 PM Post #6 of 14

stacker45

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Quote:
First post here, so don't hold back.
 
headphones are the final stage in the chain. You have your source files, your player, your DAC, your amp, your headphones, in that order (generally speaking).
 
Each of these elements will add it's own 'flavour' to the end sound. Just the same as two different headphones will sound different, so to will two different amps. 
 
The amp isn't just used for volume (though it is effective used this way), it's main use is to present the music to the headphones in the most suitable way, to complement the headphones, and to 'spread' the sound so it's clear, precise, and detailed, rather than loud and lumpy. 
 
I'm struggling for words, but when you put the two methods side by side (amp v ampless), with decent equipment (and that's not high $$ stuff either, just good quality) you'll notice the difference. It just makes things better. 
 
Headphones, like speakers, need power to run. An under driven speaker sounds like muck. Headphones are similar. An amp will provide enough power to make the speakers inside your headphones work the way they were designed to work - to drive them properly. 

 That is a very good first post, welcome.
 
Jun 10, 2013 at 11:40 PM Post #7 of 14

jackwess

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Well said Brendo, you explained well. 
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 1:57 AM Post #9 of 14

Brendo09

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Jun 11, 2013 at 8:45 AM Post #10 of 14

paddycrow

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Electrically speaking, all an amplifier does is boost a signal. It should not add or subtract anything (that would be distortion). Modern amplifiers have gotten to the point that distortion is so low, it can be argued that the human ear is incapable of discerning the differences. This has been proven many times by blind testing. The reason for adding an amplifier is that the amplifier in most source hardware is fairly low capacity. When amplifiers are over driven, they clip and distort a signal. This can even happen at relatively low volume levels depending on the dynamic content. By adding a booster amp, the source amp is not overtaxed so distortion is minimized.
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 8:59 AM Post #11 of 14

White Lotus

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Quote:
Electrically speaking, all an amplifier does is boost a signal. It should not add or subtract anything (that would be distortion). Modern amplifiers have gotten to the point that distortion is so low, it can be argued that the human ear is incapable of discerning the differences. This has been proven many times by blind testing. The reason for adding an amplifier is that the amplifier in most source hardware is fairly low capacity. When amplifiers are over driven, they clip and distort a signal. This can even happen at relatively low volume levels depending on the dynamic content. By adding a booster amp, the source amp is not overtaxed so distortion is minimized.


You should pop over to the sound science sub-forum, you would be a welcome addition.

Impedance matching is important.

And let's not forget that many people prefer the "line out" from their source, and use an amplifier to actually adjust the volume down to a comfortable level. 
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 9:38 AM Post #13 of 14

White Lotus

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Quote:
Yep, I was thinking more along the line of portables that lack a line out.


Well, if the impedance isn't correctly matched to the headphones, then it will require amplification. If the player just doesn't have the power to drive the headphones to an appropriate level, then an amplifier is required.

For low impedance cans (including IEMs), and using a source that does not have a line-out, I believe it's a matter of the amplifier providing a colouration that the user enjoys. 
 
Jun 11, 2013 at 3:52 PM Post #14 of 14

Hoagie

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perhaps the ideal amp only boosts the volume, but by this standard most amps are not ideal.  They add their own signature just like different headphones add their own sound signature to the music.
 
For me an amp provides more detail and makes the different instruments and notes distinct.  think about the difference between a sharp knife, and a dull one.  they both cut, but the cuts are different.
 
An amp also should add some degree of fullness to the music.  I think of the difference between a good German beer, and a bud light.
 
These factors may not be important when you listen to something like Hendrix where distortion is intended as part of the music, but it is important for jazz and classical
 

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