What do they do? What do I do?
Dec 19, 2008 at 10:21 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 16

Hung0702

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I'm getting a pair of Shure E4 (SCL4) from GuitarCenter ($80!). The most expensive buds I've ever gotten are $70 iM616. I'm 18, a student, and have never been one to spend frivously. Thus, my experience with quality audio equipment is extremely limited. My financial aid check is still plenty fat, and I figured that having saved so much on a great deal, I'd get an amp and/or attenuator.

Herein lies the problem: I don't know how either affects the sound. An attenuator makes the buds harder to drive and reduce sibilance. An amp strengthens the signal and makes stuff louder... ...ok, so what do that mean in terms of treble, mids, and bass? What about clarity and response? How are they affected?

I'm not a basshead, but I definitely prefer a bit more bass than the E4s have, both in quality an quantity. Can an amp or attenuator make the sound warmer or fuller? What kind of setup would you recommend? I'd prefer to leave the equalizer on neutral to cut down on distortion.

What kind of mods do most people make with the E4s? NOTE: I won't change the cables, and have no experience in soldering.

I'd appreciate any tutorial or articles links as well! I looking for information more about the theory and science behind audio equipment more than actual product reviews. Take your time, I don't get the buds until after New Years (backordered)!
 
Dec 19, 2008 at 12:46 PM Post #2 of 16

Tornado

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E4 performs good enough when pluged in ipod classic or some CD player.

If you are using computer and DAC as sources, add an amp is the perfect choice. Otherwise, ipod, for instance, directly plug-in is good enough, amp could not give what you want for spending so much more money.
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 1:20 AM Post #4 of 16

tintin47

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Apparently. ALO sells something called the imod, where they bypass everything to get only the line level sound out of the ipod, so you can amp it at will.

In all honesty, though, I don't really believe in portable amps. They are super expensive and not a great change in quality. I would go for some full-sized cans and an amp. They can be had for not too much if youre willing to buy used and be patient.
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 2:11 AM Post #5 of 16

Hung0702

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I said I'd appreciate any advice, but I probably should have been more specific. Perhaps people don't understand. I know that amps and attenuators affect sound. I've been around the forums for quite some time and am aware of all kinds of mods, but my financial status has prevented me from indulging in such products. Many of you have probably discovered the effects of amps and attenuators on your own with your own gear. I have not.

NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO POST UNLESS THEY CAN ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

How does an amp AFFECT BASS, MID, AND TREBLE LEVELS? How does an attenuator affect those three?

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO POST IN THIS FORUM UNLESS YOU FIRST ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS.
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 2:33 AM Post #6 of 16

Tornado

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we are trying to tell you the experience about amps.
but your attitude is so horrible that i believe no one would give you further help.
who do u think u are?
such a geek!
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 4:06 AM Post #7 of 16

Hung0702

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I'm sorry if I sound like an ass, I think it's only valid that I ask you to answer the questions I actually asked. If you want to tell me about you experience, tell me about how they sound. I know that's not too much to ask.
 
Dec 20, 2008 at 6:43 AM Post #9 of 16

Hung0702

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Ok, that's sounds reasonable. I usually listen to music from my computer (no fancy soundcard though). I'm assuming that listening through an amp will yield some quality degradation? Is the same true of an attenuator?
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 1:19 AM Post #10 of 16

dclancy

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Hung0702 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I'm assuming that listening through an amp will yield some quality degradation?


The only way I would see this happen is if you use really cheap (radioshack) interconnects. Phork is on the money though, portables don't usually need amping to get the next level of sound. If you're curious, get a Fiio from Head-Direct (link in margin). It's $10 and sounds pretty good.
Overall, differences vary from headphone to headphone, but I wouldn't expect a night and day difference.
PS, folks here (overall) are very nice and knowledgeable, but I would recommend working on your bedside manner. It's one thing to insist on posters stay on topic and answer specific questions, but there's a better way to do it.
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 1:44 AM Post #11 of 16

Tridacnid

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Like the above have said, IEMs generally don't need an extra amp. If you were using high impedance cans, like the Sextett, then amping would be beneficial, even if only to make it louder.

If you are listening to the 'phones through a cheap computer soundcard, I would say that no matter what, you're going to have degradation. Onboard sound isn't very good, unless it yields a sound that you prefer, as I remember a couple of our members discovered.
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 2:00 AM Post #12 of 16

Uncle Erik

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Hung0702 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO POST UNLESS THEY CAN ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

How does an amp AFFECT BASS, MID, AND TREBLE LEVELS? How does an attenuator affect those three?

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO POST IN THIS FORUM UNLESS YOU FIRST ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS.



Alright, I'll take a shot at it.

First, the attenuator has a lot to do with what gets into the amp circuit. They will add grain, noise and distortion if you don't have a good one. They work by increasing or decreasing the amount of power that goes into the amp circuit. The least expensive ones use a resistive disc that increases/decreases resistance as you turn it. More expensive ones switch between actual resistors. Those are called stepped attenuators. They're pretty good. Another way to control volume is with a series of relays. That's more expensive than a stepped attenuator, but has very good sound. They're not cheap, either. Yet another way to control volume is with transformers. There are special ones with multiple taps; you turn a switch to select which pair of taps you use to let power into the amp circuit.

What's important to note here is that good resistive disc potentiometers, stepped attenuators, relays, and transformers will not fit into a portable case. You're not going to get a high quality attenuator in a portable system.

Second, keep in mind that anything with a headphone jack has an amp in it. Maybe a cheap, not very powerful one, but there is an amp on the other side of the jack.

How the amp behaves depends on what it has to push. If you're using IEMs, then you don't need much of one. IEMs are very efficient and are engineered to be driven fully by an iPod or a pocket radio. You can, of course, use a bigger amp, but that's like hiring a dumptruck to move a shovel full of dirt. Some people would find that mighty impressive, but it's unnecessary and I think it's a waste. If you have something easy to drive, then use the amp in your iPod.

On the other hand, a difficult to drive headphone, like an AKG K-701, is not to have enough power to sound good plugged into an iPod. It's like trying to pull a freight car with a bicycle. One of the important things about how a transducer (e.g. speaker, headphones, IEMs, etc.) works is how fast it starts and stops. If you have a weak amp, the starting and stopping won't be good. You'll hear smeared notes, clipping and a flat sound. A good amp will push, pull, start, and stop the transducer well. That doesn't exactly translate in terms of bass, midrange and highs, except that they will be reproduced as the headphone designer intended them to be reproduced. Imagine holding a 10lbs. greased watermelon in one hand. Then imagine holding a 10 lbs. suitcase that's dry and has a handle in one hand. They weigh the same, but one is a lot easier to control. That's why you need control over what you're driving.

In my opinion, you don't need a portable amp for IEMs. I just plug my IEMs directly into an iPod and so do many other users here. If I were you, I'd just enjoy the new IEMs right out of an iPod or your DAP of choice. You don't need to buy anything more. When you decide to pick up a full-sized headphone (and you probably will
evil_smiley.gif
), then start looking into a good desktop amp.
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 2:05 AM Post #13 of 16

LeonWho

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Quote:

Originally Posted by Hung0702 /img/forum/go_quote.gif
I said I'd appreciate any advice, but I probably should have been more specific. Perhaps people don't understand.

NO ONE IS ALLOWED TO POST UNLESS THEY CAN ANSWER THE FOLLOWING QUESTIONS:

How does an amp AFFECT BASS, MID, AND TREBLE LEVELS? How does an attenuator affect those three?

YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO POST IN THIS FORUM UNLESS YOU FIRST ANSWER THESE QUESTIONS.



Dude, calm down a bit. This is a community, not your personal headphone butler.
smile.gif
 
Dec 21, 2008 at 3:20 AM Post #14 of 16

Hung0702

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Quote:

Originally Posted by dclancy /img/forum/go_quote.gif
The only way I would see this happen is if you use really cheap (radioshack) interconnects. Phork is on the money though, portables don't usually need amping to get the next level of sound. If you're curious, get a Fiio from Head-Direct (link in margin). It's $10 and sounds pretty good.
Overall, differences vary from headphone to headphone, but I wouldn't expect a night and day difference.
PS, folks here (overall) are very nice and knowledgeable, but I would recommend working on your bedside manner. It's one thing to insist on posters stay on topic and answer specific questions, but there's a better way to do it.



Yeah, good call. I thought that what I wrote wasn't malicious or douchey, but I guess a lot of people got that impressions.
 

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