How is a $1,000 Headphones Amp Better Than a $100 Amp?
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Redcarmoose

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And then you touch another similar topic - can firmware affect sound.

I personally owned wm1a and all of the available firmware versions. And i did hear the difference on each. It seemed like a lot of sony owners did. But when i moved to ibasso and got a custom rom, which to my ears had improved sq. There were a lot less people convinced that it can affect sq.
So go figure..


Btw @Skycyclepilot are people here helping to decide on choosing amp? Lol.
A120136C-7949-4A34-B938-84CFA99C5FDF.png


?

Title is asking a question though it doesn’t say “help me chose an amp”

https://www.head-fi.org/threads/sony-walkman-os-fw-mods-non-android.943661/

Go to this thread and you can read about lots of people hearing FW mods. It’s a pretty big deal. In fact it’s probably been the most enjoyable part of my journey? The early modification firmwares were just alternate tunings. In the old days; 7 months ago you could get the Rockbox region changer and change your Walkman region. All over the world Sony sells different players which offer a slightly different sound? Maybe like fast food places offering local examples designed for the indigenous customers?

Anyway MrWalkman with the DMP-Z1 MK1 and MK2 is not offering just a retune of 3.02 or 3.01. It’s a whole new firmware which emulated the DMP-Z1 desktop. Though your right many don’t hear firmware, though there is no right or wrong, the thread is filled with converts. :)
 
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A Jedi

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I just wonder what parameters a person like Amir at Audio Science Review could test that would prove those differences.
Ok, here is something simple: measure stereo separation across the entire spectrum. Two amps with exactly the same frequency response will sound different if one has 6db (or any audible amount (for reference, +-3db = twice as loud/soft)) more stereo separation at some frequency than the other amp. This is one reason most amps have measurably flat frequency response but have characteristics like "bright", "forward", "laid back", "warm", "neutral", etc. I've haven't seen him (but maybe he has) measure square waves, impulse response, phase characteristics, THD and SINAD of complex musical passages, etc.
 
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MRC001

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... Someone on YouTube just questioned me about using a $100 JDS Atom amp to drive my $1,600 Arya headphones. Here is my reply, and I've love to hear what some of you have to say on the topic...
... The question beckons: if most amps have distortion numbers well below the threshold of our hearing and furthermore come with a flat frequency response...what else is there to ‘colour’ the sound outside of magic and placebo? ...
The key areas that separate a well engineered and built headphone amp, from others, are:
1. S/N ratio at low volumes
2. Channel balance (especially at low volumes)
3. Output impedance

Most amp specifications are measured at full output, which is misleading for 2 reasons. (A) nobody actually listens at full volume, and (B) the specs are less impressive at low volumes. Taking the above 3 points...

1. Most headphone amps have a fixed gain ratio with a volume pot to attenuate. So the S/N ratio drops roughly 1:1 with volume level. For example, suppose the amp's max output voltage is 4 V and S/N is rated at 110 dB. If we actually listen at 50 mV, that is 20*log(.05/4) = 38 dB quieter, so the S/N ratio will drop by 38 dB, and it is only 72 dB at your actual listening level. That's still pretty good, but we can hear noise at -72 dB and some very wide dynamic range music may approach this.

2. The analog volume pots used in most headphone amps, even very good ones, don't have perfect channel balance. And the channel balance gets worse the further you turn down the volume. Since we typically listen below 1/2 volume, those channel imbalances may become audible (say, exceeding 0.5 dB).

3. The impedance of headphones has been gradually getting lower over the years. If the headphone's lowest impedance isn't at least 10x higher than the amp output impedance, frequency response variations may become audible.

So you can have 2 amps that both look "perfect" on paper. But if you dig deeper you will typically find limitations in one of these areas. This is the difference between a "good" amp, and "great" amp.

That said, a "great" amp that excels in all of these areas doesn't have to cost $1000. In fact, the JDS Atom excels in all 3 of these areas, surpassing amps costing several times more. PS: I'll also give a shout-out to Jan Meier's Corda Jazz, which also excels in these 3 areas.
 
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I agree with most of what you say although the masking effect takes care of 1. It’s just common sense to turn up the volume pot so as it isn’t down around 8-9 o clock where imbalances often show themselves. 3 is just a matter of doing one’s homework:)
Still not a whole lot that supports the many colourful stories we’re told about amps on a daily basis...
 
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Redcarmoose

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Probably still a giant mystery is why there can be measured graphs of headphones that don’t look the way they sound. We simply accept that the graph is accurate, especially done by multiple people.

Then...............

We simply write-off that with some headphones they may show a measured graph response which we don’t hear. Say we think we see a giant lower midrange bump that sure looks like it’s going to clutter the midrange with a fog. Yet upon listening all is well and it never becomes an issue ever.

It is sad that the state of events has now reached ridiculous levels where people look at graphs, trust graphs and don’t give the headphone the time of day due to graph documentation. As somehow this graph represents reality, when it’s simply a measurement in the end.

Graphs should be a tool to try and discover elements we hear. We hear a mid-range peak then see it on a graph and know we ARE hearing the headphone correctly.

What does this have to do with headphone amps?

There are a few nuts who actually believe all amps sound exactly the same. These types to try and substantiate their delusions with graphs as somehow the graphs prove the whole picture?

And we have to give them credit that Audiophiles are susceptible to expectation bias and psychological effects in listening. Yet some really don’t hear a difference in amps and the graphs show no difference at times so they come to their own belief system. There have been giant blind tests at times that show all amps sound exactly the same.....so it’s confusing. Yet if we were to make a bell curve it would maybe represent 20% believing little difference, 60% thinking it matters, and 20% being totally focused on amps. Though one of the biggest variables is listening volume. Higher listening volumes change the entire landscape. There are pages written about what various listening volume means and how the one variable has an influence on people’s subjective opinion.

What we do know is listening volume is at the basis of almost all the subjective ideas of sound quality. People don’t realize that the human ear and brain connection generates it’s vary own inner ear-brain distortion numbers.

So to make a list of how a group of people could end up in conflict and confusion over this subject would look something like this.

1) volume listening levels vary per individual
2) distortion levels vary with that volume level with the same equipment due to self generated (human hearing) distortion
3) volume levels affect how much damping factor is needed
4) headphone impedance affects how much power/damping factor is needed
5) people gravitate towards different amp color as correct and natural
6) people gravitate towards detail levels and “musicality” considered natural
7) there are always synergy concerns and activities
8) there are always price per purchase constraints
9) there is advertising hype
10) there is group pressure
11) there are scientific measurements

12) there are long standing methodology expectation bias ideas

And Finally..........
13)...................that volume levels create frequency differences bio-mechanically...........and psychologically, along with the fact that actual headphones do not respond with a linear frequency response to begin with.
 
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MRC001

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I agree with most of what you say although the masking effect takes care of 1. It’s just common sense to turn up the volume pot so as it isn’t down around 8-9 o clock where imbalances often show themselves. 3 is just a matter of doing one’s homework:)
Still not a whole lot that supports the many colourful stories we’re told about amps on a daily basis...
Masking may or may not take care of (1), depending on the sensitivity of the headphone and the kind of music you listen to. And setting the volume above 8-9 o'clock may not be an option; depends on amp gain and headphone sensitivity. My point is, these issues separate the good from the great with headphone amps. With a great headphone amp, no homework or mitigation is needed. You don't need to worry about them because they aren't issues.

Put differently: my definition of a great headphone amp includes the following requirements: S/N > 90 dB at 50 mV output, channel imbalance < 0.5 dB to at least -40 dB on the volume knob, and output impedance < 1 ohm. Very few headphone amps meet this definition. Many headphone amps that look "perfect" on their spec sheet fail to meet this definition.

Of course, this is above and beyond the basic requirements of any good headphone amp: having flat frequency response, enough clean power to drive the headphones, etc.
 
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You’re basically driving at the same thing I’ve come to learn over the last few years: it’s all about pairing the right headphone with the right amp...not in the way that most on Head-Fi mean when they talk of pairing..but more to do with impedance matching and of course making sure the amp’s got enough uumph to drive all of one’s coconuts.
I guess you must’ve plowed through a whole lot more amps than I’ve ever tried/tested. I fx haven’t tried a lot of the Asian makes outside of Aune..but that was a good while before I started listening to gear blind.
Anyhoo I second your Atom recommendation. That is a great little amp..and pretty much all anyone will ever need..maybe with the exception of HE-6/Susvara/K1000 owners:p
 
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If you watch the rest of the video, he says that the rag 2 provides a more tonally balanced sound compared to the jotunheim which means that he believes there is a difference besides just power between his amps.
He said the difference between the Magni and Jotunheim is "a lot more power, basically" and modularity.

He said the difference between Jotunheim and Raganarok is that Raganorak is more "tonally rich".
 
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He said the difference between the Magni and Jotunheim is "a lot more power, basically" and modularity.

He said the difference between Jotunheim and Raganarok is that Raganorak is more "tonally rich".
Yep. Tonally rich. Seems like they believe that there are sonic differences between their budget and higher end offerings.
 
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Yep. Tonally rich. Seems like they believe that there are sonic differences between their budget and higher end offerings.
He said that's the difference between Jotunheim and Ragnarok, not Jotunheim and Magni. He clearly said power and modularity are the difference between Magni and Jotunheim.

Tonally rich is also up to interpretation imo, ie reference vs colored sound.
 
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Amir "the idiot" was a VP of Engineering at Microsoft. He knows more about audio technology than you do, whoever you are,
This hobby has no shortage of amateurs that rely on meaningless metaphors to describe and understand sound, yet quick to discredit others with opposing views or observant of consistent data. I'm starting to believe audiophiles should be used as a derogatory term. Gotta love hifi.
 
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Redcarmoose

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He said that's the difference between Jotunheim and Ragnarok, not Jotunheim and Magni. He clearly said power and modularity are the difference between Magni and Jotunheim.

Tonally rich is also up to interpretation imo, ie reference vs colored sound.
People have become overly concerned with transparency. The fact that color comes in many different forms from many different amps. But besides color.........amps can offer completely different soundstage personalities. Different amps offer different Pace and Timing also.

I’m not saying that a $100 powerful amp could not be endgame at all. I’m simply saying that if someone thought all amps were the same and thought all ideas of color are bad they would sell themselves short. There is also no definitive idea of neutral for that matter. These words to describe amp character only go so far. And while many amps perform close to the same; many respond different; if they are better is purely subjective.
 
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People have become overly concerned with transparency. The fact that color comes in many different forms from many different amps. But besides color amps can offer completely different soundstage personalities. Different amps offer different Pace and Timing also.

I’m not saying that a $100 powerful amp could not be endgame at all. I’m simply saying that if someone thought all amps were the same and thought all ideas of color are bad they would sell themselves short. There is also no definitive idea of neutral for that matter. These words to describe amp character only go so far. And while many amps perform close to the same; many respond different; if they are better is purely subjective.
There is a definitive "neutral" tho. That's the most basic quality that can be measured. You can argue that you dont prefer neutral, but it is what it is.
 
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Redcarmoose

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There is a definitive "neutral" tho. That's the most basic quality that can be measured. You can argue that you dont prefer neutral, but it is what it is.
Realistic as a term obviously has many interpretations. And the crazy part is many somehow think the word “color” is the antithesis of detail?

Color and detail and realistic can co-exist. And no I’m pretty sure there is no absolute definition of neutral?. No one has been able to define it, and I’ve been looking here since 2006?

But remember I’m someone that doesn’t like closer to whatever neutral could maybe be, so I’m actually not maybe the best person to answer the question. I’m not looking for it?

Again measurements don’t really give the whole picture. Obviously they are helpful but I’ve never seen a measurement of soundstage? Lots and lots of things can’t be fully measured yet they are important. IMO
 
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