Novice's Question on Sound Quality
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Hi - I am reposting this from the introductory thread as I think that was likely the wrong place for my question...

Hello and thank you for including me in this vibrant community. I am a 2-channel guy and have not before had any "serious" headphones. I have in the past been really impressed with the sound quality of headphones, even though they were not any brand/model worth writing home about. I believe that headphones can achieve something special without trying too hard and I am curious about what is possible with better hardware.

I just purchased the Drop HD-6xx and must say that my initial impressions is that they are ... fine. Just that, there is some detail but nothing exciting. If I unplug them, the 2 speakers in my office sound far better as far as the fun factor: rhythm and musicality, bass and responsiveness, and just something I want to hear. I added an extension cable that I bought cheap on Amazon. It takes the 3.5mm plug from the headphones, adds 6 feet of cord, and terminates with a 1/4-inch plug. Last night I removed the extension cable; I think the sound improved quite a bit and will listen some more soon, but the 6-foot cord on the headphones without the extension cable leaves me with no good spot for much listening. So if the cable is crud, then it can go.

I plug them into the 1/4-inch headphone jack on a Creek Evo 100A amp. I have really enjoyed the amp with speakers. I read good reviews about the integrated headphone amp within the Creek, so I wonder if it is all that good, am I missing something with this amp, is it the cheap cable extension, am I expecting too much from the HD-6xx. As this is a fun hobby, I look forward to reading any opinions that you all may be able to chime in with. :)
 
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Hi,

I don't have any experience with that amp so I looked for the specs and didn't find much specific info. I did see this:


HEADPHONE OUTPUTDedicated low impedance amp (<50 Ohms)


I cannot imagine it means the headphone amp output impedance is <50 ohms because that would suggest headphones with impedance of 500 ohms would be appropriately damped. amd there aren't any of those. So I understand it to say it will drive headphones that have less than 50 ohm impedance, which is what you would expect from a phone, laptop, etc. Sadly, this is more common than not with modern integrated amps and receivers.

The Sennheiser 600/650/6XX have a 300 ohm nominal impedance. They are reasonably efficient and not difficult to drive. They're difficult to drive well.

If you don't have enough voltage they will sound lifeless and thin. The best option is an OTL tube amp but a strong solid state amp that swings enough voltage also makes them sing.

First thing to do is listen to them out of an appropriate amp and without any questionable el-cheapo cable extension. Cables don't have to be expensive to be good but they can't be junk when the amp is weak in the first place. And give yourself time. The Sennheisers are beautifully musical but they don't hit you over the head. You'll know in a short time if they're for you or not.

Just found this http://www.theabsolutesound.com/articles/creek-evolution-100a/ which confirms my suspicion.
 
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I have yet to hear a better amp for the HD-6XX’s than a Bottlehead Crack . Granted I have not listened to them from every amp on the planet but quite a few and to me it has been the one I would pick as I think they designed the amp for them. The Cavalli Tube Hybrid from Drop is another that is very good with them as well and you don’t have to build it.
 
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Yep, high impedance, weak head amp, bad result. You need a dedicated headphone amp, and not just any, but one that can put a fair bit of power in to 300+ ohms.
 
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I just purchased the Drop HD-6xx and must say that my initial impressions is that they are ... fine. Just that, there is some detail but nothing exciting. If I unplug them, the 2 speakers in my office sound far better as far as the fun factor: rhythm and musicality, bass and responsiveness, and just something I want to hear. I added an extension cable that I bought cheap on Amazon. It takes the 3.5mm plug from the headphones, adds 6 feet of cord, and terminates with a 1/4-inch plug. Last night I removed the extension cable; I think the sound improved quite a bit and will listen some more soon, but the 6-foot cord on the headphones without the extension cable leaves me with no good spot for much listening. So if the cable is crud, then it can go.
I plug them into the 1/4-inch headphone jack on a Creek Evo 100A amp. I have really enjoyed the amp with speakers. I read good reviews about the integrated headphone amp within the Creek, so I wonder if it is all that good, am I missing something with this amp, is it the cheap cable extension, am I expecting too much from the HD-6xx. As this is a fun hobby, I look forward to reading any opinions that you all may be able to chime in with. :)
You can get a 10ft headphone cable for the HD6XX for around $22-$30.
Something like a Bravo Ocean tube headphone amplifier would be a low cost tube head amp to try.
https://drop.com/buy/bravo-ocean-amplifier
 
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I have yet to hear a better amp for the HD-6XX’s than a Bottlehead Crack . Granted I have not listened to them from every amp on the planet but quite a few and to me it has been the one I would pick as I think they designed the amp for them. The Cavalli Tube Hybrid from Drop is another that is very good with them as well and you don’t have to build it.
I agree with the above statement regarding the more affordable tube amps. Love my crack! That sounds weird, I know. Another amp to look at that i've used with a 6xx is the Darkvoice 336se. Good performance and no do it yourself building.

The 6XX will sound ok if paired poorly, like most headphones will. However, it ramps up better than most headphones when paired with the right amps. Its an amazing bargain for its price when utilized well.
 
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I agree with the above statement regarding the more affordable tube amps. Love my crack! That sounds weird, I know. Another amp to look at that i've used with a 6xx is the Darkvoice 336se. Good performance and no do it yourself building.
The 6XX will sound ok if paired poorly, like most headphones will. However, it ramps up better than most headphones when paired with the right amps. Its an amazing bargain for its price when utilized well.
Darkvoice 336SE is the $200 recommendation I would have suggested.
https://drop.com/buy/dark-voice-366se
 
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I'm really annoyed that drop screwed Europeans twice. When they opened their Euro shop we had to pay more for the same item than the American prices, even for goods made in Europe. And only about a third or less of the items listed on drop audiophile section were available for us to buy. Then they closed the European shop and said they would reopen it with better terms but nothing ever happened.
 
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I just purchased the Drop HD-6xx and must say that my initial impressions is that they are ... fine. Just that, there is some detail but nothing exciting. If I unplug them, the 2 speakers in my office sound far better as far as the fun factor: rhythm and musicality, bass and responsiveness, and just something I want to hear. I added an extension cable that I bought cheap on Amazon. It takes the 3.5mm plug from the headphones, adds 6 feet of cord, and terminates with a 1/4-inch plug. Last night I removed the extension cable; I think the sound improved quite a bit and will listen some more soon, but the 6-foot cord on the headphones without the extension cable leaves me with no good spot for much listening. So if the cable is crud, then it can go.

I plug them into the 1/4-inch headphone jack on a Creek Evo 100A amp. I have really enjoyed the amp with speakers. I read good reviews about the integrated headphone amp within the Creek, so I wonder if it is all that good, am I missing something with this amp, is it the cheap cable extension, am I expecting too much from the HD-6xx. As this is a fun hobby, I look forward to reading any opinions that you all may be able to chime in with. :)
There are a number of factors that can explain what might be wrong, and any number of them could be true for your case.

First, it could really just be the response of the HD6XX. It's fairly flat, not much in the way of accentuating the "presence range" ie the upper bass where the beat is the way that a Grado RS1i would for example. In speaker system terms, this is like wanting a Focal Chorus 706, but you picked up something more like a Wharfedale Pacific Pi10.

Second, it could be a power issue. You might have that Creek but from experience Marantz is the one that's generally reliable enough. I mean, sure, Creek used to make headphone amps, but there's a reason they died out in favor of Schiit, AudioGD, Meier, etc (note that even Schiit isn't a matter of using cheaper labour). Power into speakers is not an indicator of how much the headphone amp output can spit out. In speaker terms, this is like putting that Chorus 706 and Pi10 on a 10w amp. Sure the Chorus 706 can get a bit louder and get that livelier sound, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't bring in, say, a 35wpc NAD that also has very controlled, linear distortion, that way short of clipping cranking it up doesn't necessarily screw up the sound, at which point as long as both are cranked up don't sound as far apart in the low end presenting the beat save for if the top end difference is exacerbated by room acoustics and makes the Pi10 have deeper bass overall despite not having the eye-popping percussion on the Focals.

Speaking of distortion, there's another problem with power, this time with quality: reduced damping factor on lower impedance loads. So don't just grab an RS1 - as much as that doesn't need a lot of power to drive, the problem is it has a 32ohm impedance. My NAD 304 can get Grados loud as hell, but they sound like tin cans, same with the AKG K701; my Little Dot Mk2 made Grados bloat the low end, but was also making a tin can out of the AKG.

And while I'd worry about your cable it's not from it being cheap, but likely that it's altering the impedance in concert with the already 6ft long stock cable.

----

So what to do? Many will tell you the HD600 are simply not the sound you're looking for, but I'd start with amplification for two reasons.

1. Even if the HD600 doesn't improve enough with a good headphone amp, this allows you to get a headphone that might otherwise do worse with the Creek, like a lower impedance, lower sensitivity headphone. Assuming you don't get one that has very high output impedance (like Beyers and OTLs) or has flipped power delivery profile (ie OTL amps deliver more power into 300ohms).

2. Barring having long analogue ICs from a TT, you can use a DAC-HPamp(-Preamp) unit that you can hook up to your digital source and not have to worry about length of digital interconnects. If you can manage keeping that digital cable and power cable out of the way (like running it under the carpet) then you can put it on a small table near your chair instead of, say, a 15ft long cable made out of Canare Starquad that will have to use HD600 connectors at the headphone end and is just too freaking long to be easy to sell if you decide not to keep the HD6XX.
 
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Hi - I am reposting this from the introductory thread as I think that was likely the wrong place for my question...

Hello and thank you for including me in this vibrant community. I am a 2-channel guy and have not before had any "serious" headphones. I have in the past been really impressed with the sound quality of headphones, even though they were not any brand/model worth writing home about. I believe that headphones can achieve something special without trying too hard and I am curious about what is possible with better hardware.

I just purchased the Drop HD-6xx and must say that my initial impressions is that they are ... fine. Just that, there is some detail but nothing exciting. If I unplug them, the 2 speakers in my office sound far better as far as the fun factor: rhythm and musicality, bass and responsiveness, and just something I want to hear. I added an extension cable that I bought cheap on Amazon. It takes the 3.5mm plug from the headphones, adds 6 feet of cord, and terminates with a 1/4-inch plug. Last night I removed the extension cable; I think the sound improved quite a bit and will listen some more soon, but the 6-foot cord on the headphones without the extension cable leaves me with no good spot for much listening. So if the cable is crud, then it can go.

I plug them into the 1/4-inch headphone jack on a Creek Evo 100A amp. I have really enjoyed the amp with speakers. I read good reviews about the integrated headphone amp within the Creek, so I wonder if it is all that good, am I missing something with this amp, is it the cheap cable extension, am I expecting too much from the HD-6xx. As this is a fun hobby, I look forward to reading any opinions that you all may be able to chime in with. :)
I was completely 2 channel as well for 30 years, and now I have no speakers at all. Once I heard good headphones, which like you, my first headphones were the 650s, which were "fine", but nothing worth getting rid of my stereo for, but after I heard what I wanted in a signature, I liquidated my 2 channel rig to fund the headphone pursuit and I do not miss 2 channel gear whatsoever.
 
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I'm really annoyed that drop screwed Europeans twice. When they opened their Euro shop we had to pay more for the same item than the American prices, even for goods made in Europe. And only about a third or less of the items listed on drop audiophile section were available for us to buy. Then they closed the European shop and said they would reopen it with better terms but nothing ever happened.
I'm amazed at their prices here in Canada. I ordered the cavalli tube hybrid and with the conversion and duties it was still less than 300 CAD. What a steal as this thing is magical.
 
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There are a number of factors that can explain what might be wrong, and any number of them could be true for your case.

First, it could really just be the response of the HD6XX. It's fairly flat, not much in the way of accentuating the "presence range" ie the upper bass where the beat is the way that a Grado RS1i would for example. In speaker system terms, this is like wanting a Focal Chorus 706, but you picked up something more like a Wharfedale Pacific Pi10.

Second, it could be a power issue. You might have that Creek but from experience Marantz is the one that's generally reliable enough. I mean, sure, Creek used to make headphone amps, but there's a reason they died out in favor of Schiit, AudioGD, Meier, etc (note that even Schiit isn't a matter of using cheaper labour). Power into speakers is not an indicator of how much the headphone amp output can spit out. In speaker terms, this is like putting that Chorus 706 and Pi10 on a 10w amp. Sure the Chorus 706 can get a bit louder and get that livelier sound, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't bring in, say, a 35wpc NAD that also has very controlled, linear distortion, that way short of clipping cranking it up doesn't necessarily screw up the sound, at which point as long as both are cranked up don't sound as far apart in the low end presenting the beat save for if the top end difference is exacerbated by room acoustics and makes the Pi10 have deeper bass overall despite not having the eye-popping percussion on the Focals.

Speaking of distortion, there's another problem with power, this time with quality: reduced damping factor on lower impedance loads. So don't just grab an RS1 - as much as that doesn't need a lot of power to drive, the problem is it has a 32ohm impedance. My NAD 304 can get Grados loud as hell, but they sound like tin cans, same with the AKG K701; my Little Dot Mk2 made Grados bloat the low end, but was also making a tin can out of the AKG.

And while I'd worry about your cable it's not from it being cheap, but likely that it's altering the impedance in concert with the already 6ft long stock cable.

----

So what to do? Many will tell you the HD600 are simply not the sound you're looking for, but I'd start with amplification for two reasons.

1. Even if the HD600 doesn't improve enough with a good headphone amp, this allows you to get a headphone that might otherwise do worse with the Creek, like a lower impedance, lower sensitivity headphone. Assuming you don't get one that has very high output impedance (like Beyers and OTLs) or has flipped power delivery profile (ie OTL amps deliver more power into 300ohms).

2. Barring having long analogue ICs from a TT, you can use a DAC-HPamp(-Preamp) unit that you can hook up to your digital source and not have to worry about length of digital interconnects. If you can manage keeping that digital cable and power cable out of the way (like running it under the carpet) then you can put it on a small table near your chair instead of, say, a 15ft long cable made out of Canare Starquad that will have to use HD600 connectors at the headphone end and is just too freaking long to be easy to sell if you decide not to keep the HD6XX.
I have a pair of 600 which I like, but they are not my favorite, or that engaging sound signature that would make me want to give up 2 channel gear. And yes they do need power as, to me, they are the most hard to drive cans that I own for a decent experience. And I have 2 bryston amps, which to me, there is no better amp to get for headphones.
 
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I'm really annoyed that drop screwed Europeans twice. When they opened their Euro shop we had to pay more for the same item than the American prices, even for goods made in Europe. And only about a third or less of the items listed on drop audiophile section were available for us to buy. Then they closed the European shop and said they would reopen it with better terms but nothing ever happened.
This is sad, but you probably should not blame Drop. They already operate at slim profit margins. What Europe does to that situation is horrible. I constantly get questions from customers in Europe:
  • Can you declare the worth as $50 (no matter if it costs $2K and that means you falsify Government documents)?
  • I have to pay another 25% on VAT taxes, can you reduce your price?
  • Can you ship with FedEx, their customs get processed in Paris and I won't have to pay as much customs?
  • I have to multiply your selling price by 1.5 because of EU taxes/customs, can you reduce your price?
  • Can you build your product with all RoHS components?
  • Can you do a work-around without breaking the law?
I try not to be political - at all - but it's a wonder people in Europe can purchase anything anymore. Someone else is screwing Europeans ... and it's not headphone companies.
 
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This is sad, but you probably should not blame Drop. They already operate at slim profit margins. What Europe does to that situation is horrible. I constantly get questions from customers in Europe:
  • Can you declare the worth as $50 (no matter if it costs $2K and that means you falsify Government documents)?
  • I have to pay another 25% on VAT taxes, can you reduce your price?
  • Can you ship with FedEx, their customs get processed in Paris and I won't have to pay as much customs?
  • I have to multiply your selling price by 1.5 because of EU taxes/customs, can you reduce your price?
  • Can you build your product with all RoHS components?
  • Can you do a work-around without breaking the law?
I try not to be political - at all - but it's a wonder people in Europe can purchase anything anymore. Someone else is screwing Europeans ... and it's not headphone companies.
Well it's either you buy stuff and then suddenly have to sell them to pay off hospital bills, or just save up cash for stuff a wee bit longer.
 
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Wow ... terrific! Thanks so much for all the insights.

So it sounds like I am shopping for a headphone amp. A small amp I could place on my desk and use the 6-foot cable that came with the HD-6xx. I would need to get a signal to the amp, however. I have some options... I have an extra RPi Roon endpoint with built-in DAC (HiFiBerry DAC is ok not great, but could be a starting point). Or since the PC is nearby so I could look for a small DAC like a Topping or Schiit.

The Cavalli on Drop seems like a reasonable choice at 175. The Darkvoice is no longer at Drop but can be found online for 260.

Looks like there is quite a bit I need to read about to make sense of all the talk about impedance and power requirements. Thanks again for all the help.
 
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