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How do you determine the sound of an amp?

Discussion in 'Portable Headphone Amps' started by Ripkabird98, Jul 20, 2018.
  1. Ripkabird98
    Not 100% sure this is the right section to post this but it seemed the best fitting.

    So, I’ve been able to find some information on how to determine if an amp can power a pair of headphones, but I haven’t been able to find much on how an amp effects sound (i.e. why some amps are good for bassy headphones, others for airy headphones, etc). For instance, looking at an amp for HA-Sz2000s. The Cayin C5 is highly recommended for these phones, but other than the fact that they can power them, what about this amp helps the bass so much, and conversely why would it be bad for other types of headphones? Can you look at the specs for an amp and infer it’s sound signature? For instance, I’m eyeing the Ceentrance Bluedac for the SZ2000s, and from what I can tell they’ll run the headphones find on a power/impedance level. But what do you look at to see if it’ll boost bass/some mids (and in the future, how an amp would effect another attribute)?
  2. natemact
    Great question and not an easy answer other than listening, but there are some things to consider when marching amp/transducer.

    Amplifiers are all designed to measure flat so you won’t find any hints at frequency response in graphs or specs but this is not to say an every amplifier will be a good match with every transducer.

    Factors such as amp output impedance and damping factor (more for spk but planar hps typically like it over 50), transducer input impedance and sensitivity, amount of gain (dynamic headroom and hiss) and of course power supply, circuit design, components, EMI/RFI shielding and vibration isolation all have their say in sound quality. I don’t have time to go into detail on each of these and possible effects on BA, dynamic, planar and e-stats but google/youtube has all your answers (save for PS, components etc. as this is an amp by amp basis)

    So after vetting the amps specs (everything I mentioned up to PS) to see if it’s a good match impedance and gain wise with your transducer, how do you determine the sound quality of an amp and whether it will match well with your transducer? You just have to listen to it or take someone’s advice who uses the same equipment as you and shares similar sound signature preferences.

    As you do your research you’ll start to see some general rules like:

    OTL tube amps pair best with high impedance dynamic hps as they require voltage. Planars tend to prefer solidstate and tube amps with ample gain and underpowering them usually will result in uncontrolled bass and harsh treble. Input impedance of iems should be at least 8x output impedance but mostly just a BA/multiple crossover issue and inconsistent across iems.
    tinger1 likes this.
  3. Ripkabird98
    Gotcha. That makes sense, and honestly I suspected as much, but I wasn't too sure if there were indicators to look at. Thank you for the detail!
  4. natemact
    Last edited: Jul 31, 2018

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