question about portable amps
Oct 25, 2009 at 11:46 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 5


Headphoneus Supremus
Oct 22, 2008
Hey everyone,

I guess the point of this thread is just to obtain more information about portable amps so this is not one of those suggest me an amp threads :p

In terms of the head-fi world I've only been involved with iem's and just being introduced to headphones in terms of audio equipment. Something I do want to know more about is the portable amps and more towards driving iem's and seeing if its worth it or not to me. If it is worth it maybe in the future lead towards getting something for headphones but that probably won't be in the portable section unless the amp has a lot of power

The way that I understand it the benefits of an amp is to drive the earphones if they are hard to drive and maybe provide a little boost in the low end. Now the question I want to ask is that if that is pretty much what an amp will do? I may be totally wrong or just partially right..I honestly have no idea. If someone could explain what the amp do better that would be just great. Also, I have read something about a usb dac while I was looking at the ibasso amps and the way I got it was that it bypasses your computer's sound card (mine is crap anyway so that doesnt matter) and theres a sound card inside the amp and then you can connect it to ur headphone/earphones and then it will sound better? I'm actually more specifically looking at the T4 and the D2+Boa from that site which is why I'm also asking about usb dac.

I'm just really confused so if someone could point me in the right direction ;p

To get ahead of myself...I'm currently thinking about getting an cowon D2 or S9 so I'm guessing if I was to get an amp the stuff that I will need to get eventually outside of the amp itself is pretty much just a mini to mini cable? I'm not sure if they have line out docks for cowon or if it is really necessary for them.

If you read all of this, thanks for reading and sorry that its pretty long but I just want to see if I should start going into more than just earphones/headphones
Oct 26, 2009 at 12:23 AM Post #2 of 5


1000+ Head-Fier
Feb 5, 2009
There's literally been hundreds of these threads. The T4 is just an amp, not a DAC. Most Cowons have LO functions, a mini to mini is dual amplification as it provides an amplified signal to the amp. A line-out will provide an analog, un-amped signal to the amp, which is better. A line - out will not provide digital, and can therefore not be DACed, as that stands for Digital - Analog Converter. If you want to listen to audio on your computer an external DAC and amp is the way to go.

To put it simply, you can think about it in the speaker way. Floorstands are dependent on their amplification. If they dont get that amplification they need, the drivers will simply not move as much and fast as they can. This will make the sound they make both low on volume and sound quality. Amps make headphones sound the best they can sound. Some headphones don't need amplification, especially portable ones, so save money instead of investing in something "cool - looking". A portable amp is one of the last tweaks when it comes to a portable setup. IEMs don't need amps at all, atleast not the ones with BA drivers, most on ear some over ear portable headphones don't need it, but benefit, and some full size home cans really need one, or they will sound worse than headphones at lower prices.

iPod + Westone3 = OK
iPod + ESW9 = OK
iPod + HD800 = NOT OK

To get the best sound out of your ipod...Spend all your money on IEMs unless you feel like things are perfect, but could be a tad better. Never think about buying a portable amp before you have your easy to drive headphones and DAP in your hands.

Good Luck
Great source, DAC etc. + Superb, high end desktop amp, like the B52 + HD800 = OK, or, pretty darn good.
Oct 26, 2009 at 1:30 AM Post #3 of 5


Headphoneus Supremus
Jul 26, 2008
The Cowon D2 doesn't have a line out. It only has a headphone out which you can plug into a headphone amp input using a mini-to-mini cable. I'm not sure about the S9 since I'm not familiar with it.

About the HP/IEM amp, it is beneficial to use a separate amp because it has its own case and its own power supply (battery) that it doesn't have to share with the player. The battery in a DAP, like an iPod or Cowon D2, has to supply voltage and current to all the components inside it and it has limited voltage and current.
Oct 26, 2009 at 4:44 PM Post #4 of 5


Member of the Trade: Twisted Cables
Jun 18, 2008
I really get sick of seeing these matter of fact generalized statements about IEMs not needing or improving with an amp. some do, some dont. low impedance loads actually require quite a bit of current and multiple driver IEMs are an even more difficult load to drive properly. making these generalizations is akin to simplifying it down to loud = good. I will agree that money should be put into headphones first though
Oct 28, 2009 at 6:54 PM Post #5 of 5


Headphoneus Supremus
Jun 5, 2003
I'm finding the lowly Klipsch Image S4's to take amplification rather well with my Mustang from the S9's HO.

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