Author Topic: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread  (Read 120416 times)

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Offline uncola

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #100 on: Tue, 12 November 2013, 03:39:15 »
I went through a long audio journey this year.. First I was skeptical headphone amps did anything.  Then I started out with an aune t1 amp/dac and sennheiser hd595, very good entry level and really all I needed.
Got a maverick audio a1 amp, does both speakers and headphones, has hybrid operation for speakers, pure tube for headphones.. good the knob is stepped, not linear which was annoying.. so I got restless and upgraded.  This is the only amp I didn't sell because it's really great for bookshelf speakers.
Endgame setup.. Schiit Mjolnir balanced amp, balanced Fostex T50RP modded headphones from zmfheadphones.  Using a hifimediy sabre 9023 cheap dac, but has great sound quality.




Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #101 on: Tue, 12 November 2013, 05:50:01 »
hifimediy dac with a mjolnir? Seems very disproportional... get yourself a better dac! xD. Preferably a balanced one so that you can take advantage of the mjolnir's fully balanced build.

I'd like to try a mjolnir with my hd800s. But I think I'll wait for the ragnarok :D
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Offline tjcaustin

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #102 on: Tue, 12 November 2013, 12:29:15 »
Such big.  Many loud.


Love my lyr/uber bifrost stack.  Wish ALO didn't send me only 1 hd800 connector, though.

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #103 on: Fri, 22 November 2013, 16:52:01 »
So I was checking out this thread and I was a little bummed I didn't get them just because the price was so good. But I haven't tried them yet so I won't buy. But there was one post that got me thinking:

Really sick deal for these, they however need a bit of amping to perform to their best.

Just out of curiosity, would a Magni amp be enough to drive these? They seemed to be fine for the HD600s. Is there a calculation to figure out what you amperage/wattage/voltage/electrical stuff would be ideal for a pair of headphones?

So it totally just clicked these are the 650s and not the 600s, which I haven't seen for this price, save used for a desperate seller.

Biggest difference between the two is the drivers are matched better for the 650s vs the 600s.  Because of that, the 650s are a more engaging, but less "neutral" sound, which to my ear and brain is more enjoyable as I like a bit more emphasis on the things on the edges of my hearing range with a supreme level of detail.  I'm also one to go for a more warm sounding headphone as well. The downside of this is you get to hear goofballs call 650s "more veiled" or whatever.  As to the rest, they're comfortable, light and well built if not a little silly looking in terms of their paint job.

Point of fact, I've always wanted to love the 6xx line, but for the prices, I felt the competing planar options from hifiman and mr speakers were more my style.  Then, I got a pair of hd800s and now I'm sennheiser only.

And damn you TJ for making me feel regret at not getting these :(.

Offline tjcaustin

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #104 on: Fri, 22 November 2013, 17:02:16 »
I think you'll like the hd600 equally if not a little more.  You seem to have a different preference/hearing signature than me anyways.

The magni should be fine.  It's not zomg amazing like it can be for lower ohm headsets, but it does work.

From what I've been able to see, balanced and OTL tube amps are the hd600/650's bread/butter.  So stuff like the cth you're building, the speedball crack that halverson has and similar are going to match better.  I think the audiogd piece that thegunner has is a good option as well.  Personally, I'm resisting getting the mjolnir to replace my lyr.  Fortunately, there's not enough landscape on my desk to facilitate the want.

Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #105 on: Fri, 22 November 2013, 17:16:59 »
The differences between the hd600 and 650 are over exaggerated on head-fi. The hd650 has just a little less upper mids and slightly more bass comapred to the hd600. I think you would prefer the 600 over the 650 but really, not a huge difference between the two.

The magni will be fine for the hd6xx. Wait for the Vali imo, orders are supposed to be available on Monday. I think I will get one to try with the hd800s, since Purrin and Anax have said good things about it over at changstar. Speedball/crack if you want a really smooth sound signature (have not personally tried). If you have a bit more money, the nfb-10es3 is a great all in one unit but you will need a balanced cable for the senns to get the most benefit out of the a-gd unit. If you want something cheaper, the nfb-11.32 is a great option for single-ended. I personally feel that the strong point of the a-gd products are its dacs, so perhaps a 11.32 + vali combo might be nice for you.

In summary, OTL tubes for smooth/warmer sound. Balanced solid state for detail, clarity, dynamics. At least for the units mentioned.

@tj, based on what i've read on changstar, the vali outperforms the lyr. And of course the mjolnir outperforms both of them.
« Last Edit: Fri, 22 November 2013, 17:18:35 by thegunner100 »
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Offline tjcaustin

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #106 on: Fri, 22 November 2013, 17:33:16 »
I totally forgot the vali was a thing when I made my list for some reason.

That's impressive to hear that the Vali is actually better than the lyr. I'd seen a bunch of the first impressions posts that purrin and anax did and fell for the head-fi anti-hype. I'm still resisting going mjolnir for the time being.

Offline Moosecraft

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #107 on: Fri, 22 November 2013, 18:45:54 »
TJ just said what you need to know about amping HD6xx, basically to get that luscious lovely sound you need some nice tubes :)
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Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #108 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 10:52:18 »
Vali ordered! I hope I made the cut for the first orders.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #109 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 11:27:35 »
Vali ordered! I hope I made the cut for the first orders.

ditto-  Says they were in stock... so... I'm hoping.
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Offline Melvang

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #110 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 12:09:30 »
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Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #111 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 13:07:44 »
Would be interesting to see a review one these 2 pieces.

http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=443&area=en

http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=444&area=en

Silverstone eh? Would be nice to at least see some specs on them like output power and impedance on the headphone amp so that potential buyers could see if it'll work with various headphones
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Offline tjcaustin

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #112 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 13:08:16 »
Even though I have a lyr, I'm tempted.  Too bad it would look goofy on top of my bifrost.

Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #113 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 13:14:52 »
Even though I have a lyr, I'm tempted.  Too bad it would look goofy on top of my bifrost.

The NFB-10es2 is going to dwaf the Vali unfortunately >.>. If the vali sounds better than the balanced outputs on the nfb-10es2, I'm going to be a little bit sad that I'll only be utilizing its dac section.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #114 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 13:39:38 »
Even though I have a lyr, I'm tempted.  Too bad it would look goofy on top of my bifrost.

You can borrow mine if you want to do an A/B comparison.

btw I may need you for some cables.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #115 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 13:58:01 »
60% keyboards, 100% of the time.

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Offline Melvang

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #116 on: Mon, 25 November 2013, 16:18:29 »
Would be interesting to see a review one these 2 pieces.

http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=443&area=en

http://www.silverstonetek.com/product.php?pid=444&area=en

these are quite pricey :3

Neat find though.

Yeah I didn't look at the epeice and have no idea what other common units go for.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #117 on: Fri, 29 November 2013, 11:51:06 »
I received my Vali/Modi combo right before the holiday and decided to bring it with me while I was visiting family.


Just to preface:  I waited to even look at these because,
When I got to my family's house after enjoying a meal with the fiancee's parents my father and his brother were toying around with a home made synth/controller they have been developing for the past two years.  I hopped into the fray with the new schiit toys and I explained the marketing/target demographic of the products.

Together we popped open the cases and my father, the EE, took the time to explain to me the design.

His first comment was, "this is some of the best commercial packaging (referring to the boxes, jacks, boards, soldering) I've seen in a product.  Great design."

Modi,

Looking at the modi is really just a matter of looking at the part numbers of the ICs on board.  We didn't sit down and source each of the parts, but most DACs/usb audio codec controllers of the quality of the modi are between 10-20 USD each in low quantities.  They sacrificed no expense with this device, and what they have is at the forefront of digital to analog.  The device is split into three sections. 

On the back of the board, what is facing down when you open the case, there is the USB audio codec chip, a memory controller, DAC, and basically all of the thinking parts of the board.  On the front of their device there are stamped (2) and (3) markers which designate which part of the boards are responsible for analog (2), and digital (3).  Nothing really of note on the back of the board.  In all it is a significant markup for the buyer if you were to consider the component cost, but the stamped construction of the case adds a rigid and aesthetically pleasing barrier between the superbly designed board and your cats.

Vali,

Taking apart the Vali for me was really fun.  I have a background in tinkering with tube guitar amplifiers.  With guitar amps the gain characteristics of the tube stages are where you get signature sounds.  Without the acoustic coloring of tubes most guitarists sneer and roll their eyes at the sounds of their instrument.  This is mostly because there is nothing grand about the raw sound of an electric guitar... well not most of them.  The amp plays as much of a roll in the sound of your music as your pickups and ability to play.  As interesting as all of that is- headphone amplifiers are a different story.

In theory the recorded music is your source.  In this day we have our digital sources which are loss-less.    From our source, which is pure, we need to create an acoustic response from the transducer, speaker, driver... whatever you want to call it.

People have a lot of misconceptions about drivers and the devices used to drive them.  I don't want to touch on those misconceptions unless they apply to the Vali, so I will save that ranting for another time.  For the most part as a lover of hi-fidelity the objective of an amplifier is to take a source and allow for linear volume gain and distortion-free representation of the source.  Every interconnect has an effect on the audio in terms of impedance.  If the power of the signal over the interconnect is great enough... the less loss of the high end across the cable.  So what does all of this mean?

A great sound will come from a great source, low distortion amplification, interconnects, and a transducer of leading quality.  Out of all of the components in this chain the areas which should be of the greatest concern for the listener should be the transducer.  That is where the most loss can occur.  There is no reason amplification or interconnects should impede the source.

The circuit of the Vali takes an RCA L/R line in and preamplifies the signal with subminiature pentode tube amplifiers.  The raytheon tubes which are used in this amplifier are relatively inexpensive, but offer superb characteristics at low voltage.  A 16V AC transformer comes with the Vali.  This power is doubled and the "doubling" method our engineers at Schiit used creates a plate voltage to the preamp tubes of about 46V.  If I may reach pretty far in my memory and understanding this could be because of an AC>DC conversion.

At this point in the path of the signal we have gone from source (DAC), to amplifier... the pre-amp stage.  The pre on this device is a fixed voltage.  They have made a rather ingenious and clean power supply to prevent irregularities in the plate voltages.  The pentode tube is rated for iirc 67V to the plate.  By operating the plates at this "sweet spot" voltage they are effectively pre-amplifying the line signal across the tubes to a meaty 46V without any gain and therefore a negligible amount of distortion.  The low voltage operation also extends the life of the tube.  Huzzah!  This tube should last for an amazing amount of time :)

It was explained to me that the way the Vali's preamp is designed is a class A amplifier which is great because our little tube is handling the entire signal waveform and there is no possibility for crossover distortion which is a distortion that can occur when the waveform crosses the X axis.  On that note we move to what I will refer to as the power section of the amplifier. 

The power stage in a guitar amp is where the REAL power is made to drive your transducers.  In a 100% tube amp the objective is to filter your audio through your tube gain and hear the characteristic tube sound with all of its micro-harmonics and yadda mojo yadda.  I get it with guitars, but with headphone amps I feel like Schiit did the right thing in making this a transistor based (solid state) amplification stage.  With the solid state components there is more control over the THD across the available level of amplification.  I was told the transistors are in a push-pull configuration with a biasing LED (class A/B) which make up the power to drive das headphones.  The two transistors handle half of the total wav-form which is problematic in terms of distortion.  This is much more power efficient than a class A solution and it is VERY important we consider that the power supply of the device would have to be much larger and would require more engineering if this was a class-A amplifier.  Without being too critical of their decision I would like to point out that this is a class A/B-- there is significant gains in quality over a class B.  Schiit has biased the two transistors in push/pull with an LED.  This will simulate a class A amplifier's low distortion characteristics up until the amplification is too large for the bias to regulate the push/pull of the transistor amplification.   Most industry engineers have designed the A/B amplifier bias to work up until human hearing could not possibly understand the crossover distortion.  This is because the volume of the device has become so great we would not be able to comprehend the effect with our hearing.  I'm not saying that everyone is this sensitive/lacking sensitivity, but I want to stress that this solution is elegant and I would assume Schiit provided plenty of headroom with their bias for normal listening.

With that I am pretty certain I've explained what I know about the engineering behind this shiny Shiit stack.

As for my feelings on it... well I've listened to one song on this amp.  It is a song I am very familiar with and I use it to demo a number of headphones.  It is Imogen Heap - Aha!  There is a fantastic mix of hi-fi and lo-fi sounds.  With a poor setup or transducers the song feels interrupted at points by the mixing of samples.  With the Vali and Modi running a pair of HD650s... I have not heard my 650s sound as clear.  The low end of these headphones are not normally as defined as I have heard from this amp/dac combo.  With that I will say I am going to keep these headphones because of this stack.  After hearing them in this light I am more than satisfied with them and they outperform the HD600 for me.

The reason I was only able to listen to one song was that after I listened to Aha! I passed my HD650s over to my father... he promptly listened to the song, talked about how insane people are if they think they can hear 16 bit vs 24 bit audio, took out my mad dogs (which he loves), mumbled something, said something to my mother to have her distract me, and sat down with the stack to listen to the entire Cat Stevens, year of the cat, master recording which was available on Mog.  I was finally able to leave my parents house at 11 PM, my father grinning like an idiot, and hopes of grinning similarly this weekend.

If anyone is without an amplifier right now- I would recommend it.  The thing draws more power than most solid state amplifiers, but it is a class A(preamp) to A/B(power amp) solution instead of A/B(preamp) to A/B(power amp) which, by definition, is a more pure signal with lower distortion in the amplifier.  They picked the right tube device for this project, and I'm satisfied especially after hearing about how clever Schiit was in developing the little devil.
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Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #118 on: Fri, 29 November 2013, 14:04:48 »
Excellent read, thanks for the technical explanations behind the Vali. I'm looking forward to trying the vali with my nfb-10es2 (dac-only) and the hd600s + hd800s.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #119 on: Fri, 29 November 2013, 22:24:36 »
Posted this here and on head-fi,

Demoing right now with Mad Dog 3.2.  PC>Modi>Vali... No special cables or mods.  I like a lot of Jazz, R&B, Rock, and Electronic.  Genres that may be a close relative are all fair game.  I am by no means a pro, I have done some recording in a studio environment, and I do play a few instruments.  When I do recordings and most listenings I use a reliable interface the Roland Tri-Capture.  The tri-cap is my go to interface for ultra low recording and listening latency with great fidelity.  It is well within the performance of similar solid state headphone amp solutions at three times its price.


Playlist

Queens of the Stone Age - The Vampyre of Time and Memory
Imogen Heap - Aha!
Lotus - Nematode
Hot Chp - The Warning
Indego Children - Puscifier
The Budos Band - Unbroken, Unshaven

The Vampyre of Time and Memory, 2013 was a good year for QOTS.  When I first listened to this on my default setup during the first 15 days of owning my Mad Dogs I knew I had to keep the headphones.  There are a few synth effects, the standard dirty guitar, a piano, a bass line which carries the tune and multi-tracked lyrics which ride on top of the bass line with grace and melancholy.  With the Vali I remember the synth having less dimension.  There just seem to be more harmonics with that sound and I can't quite decide if I like it better with the tri-capture or the Vali.  It's more like the bitey hum has grown several sets of extra teeth and I could wince at the effect with a good volume.  This sound is pretty prominent in the song, so most of the other instruments either cut through it or play along with the sound.   What I love is that even with the tubes all of those key instruments in the song remain characteristic and cut the mix in their own right.  The audio remains spectacular and haunting.  My enjoyment is not halted with any of additional dynamic I experience in the synth effect.

Aha! 2nd to Nematode this tune has a ton of presence with airy sounds.  Vocals are punchy at times and then suddenly whispered evoking an increased sense of suspense. At 1:40 and going to 1:55 there is a vocal backtrack I have a hard time placing each time I listen to this track, but when I do I grin because the play is enchanting.  The vali misses none of the articulation at this part and more.  Clear separation of the samples used in her song remains true to the recording.  There is a bit of extra punch in the drivers when the bell sounds decay, and some of the synthesized percussive effects have a bit more impact than I remember.  There is also more presence to the cello without destroying any other part of the mix.

Nematode, Great piece, exceptionally smooth by nature, and captured live.  There is a huge scene painted with this tune.  The guitars sound as sublime as ever.  There was a noise which I picked out some new rhythmic hiss and crackle new tonight which was the effect of the compressor the guitarist was using throughout the song.  To hear it at all with the solid state amp I had to turn up things a bit louder to an uncomfortable level, but not with the Vali which seemed to keep it all and all of the rest of the instruments/effects admirably in the forefront of the stage. Almost 9 minutes into the song there are some bass frequencies which subtly roll into the song before things start to get more and more energetic.  They rolled in without any lack of subtlety as they should.  No over accentuated details so I am starting to think although the tri capture is admirable there is just a bit more low end definition that I could get out of a higher end SS amp.  I only assume this because the color is not disproportional... just the separation of the details between the two setups.

The Warning, I've listened to this song a million times between the car, portable solutions, youtube, and every now and again.  It has a bunch of percussion and lyrics which ever so gently keep in time.  Nothing really complex here, nothing lost, clear and crisp representation of the recording.

Indego Children, This song became growly without remorse and I believe that was intended.  My desk speakers get most of the power I'm now hearing from the Mad Dogs.  From the songs I've listened to earlier in the list I can say that there is much more low end definition between the Vali and my Tri-Capture.  With the presence of the low end separation I do not get a sense that there is extra coloring.  Nothing seems more recessed and remains just crystal clear and punchy.

Unspoken, Unshaven, Like Nematode this song is more relaxed and just sounds larger.  The horns are one reason I come back to The Budos Band aside from the grooooooovy tunes.  I feel the vali handles these sounds with care and the echo effect to the lead horn really creates notable depth.  In previous songs it looks like I mention without fault my feelings regarding clarity of the low end and the mix.  Bass is one of those things that not all genres inject via IV into their recordings.  In fact the lower midrange can often overpower or meld with a bass line.  The Budos Band's range is a bit darker with a clear balance resting in the crashes, shakers, and horns used.  A lot of times this muddies with darker or warmer gear.  I get none of that sense from the Vali..  If I can cite one more song Nature's Wrath also by The Budos Band I must stress that the power behind these songs is low end clarity and separation.  Bass presence is one thing and a warm/dark sound is another.  There is definitely the string quality to the bass guitars, and the tin of any slap is present and balanced.

I've nothing but praise for the Vali as a $119 amp.  That being said... I don't think it should be run(demoed) without a DAC.  The tubes of the Vali will do wonderful things with a pure source and with anything less I fear might give the wrong impression of this neat device.  Earlier I had used it on my HD650 and immediately noticed the veil on that set of phones seemed lifted.  Thanks Schiit for making such a cool piece.
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Offline CPTBadAss

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #120 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 15:11:30 »
Really enjoyed that read Binge :D. Maybe you could send that Vali over to me to do some A/B testing against a Magni? :P

Offline tjcaustin

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #121 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 16:27:27 »
Only after I try it against my lyr

Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #122 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 16:39:59 »
A small tour may be in order.
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Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #123 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 17:17:39 »
Or just buy it and resell for a small loss if you don't like it :P
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Offline stancato9

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #124 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:17:06 »
Guys, should I buy the vali or magni. Such a tough call.

Amping Q701s and HE-400s.
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Offline noisyturtle

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #125 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:27:50 »
Guys, should I buy the vali or magni. Such a tough call.

Amping Q701s and HE-400s.

Lyr, nothing beats tubes. Nothing.

Offline stancato9

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #126 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:38:54 »
Guys, should I buy the vali or magni. Such a tough call.

Amping Q701s and HE-400s.

Lyr, nothing beats tubes. Nothing.

I would if I had the money. I don't know if I want a tube anyway. The distortion turns me off. Even though it may sound warm, is that real?
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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #127 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:51:27 »
The Vali has a very slight warmth to them. Check the head-fi vali thread for more impressions. For me, it's great with the hd800 but mediocre with the hd600s. Also, you definitely need a good dac to get the most out of the vali.
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Offline noisyturtle

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #128 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:53:37 »
Guys, should I buy the vali or magni. Such a tough call.

Amping Q701s and HE-400s.

Lyr, nothing beats tubes. Nothing.

I would if I had the money. I don't know if I want a tube anyway. The distortion turns me off. Even though it may sound warm, is that real?

The warm sound tube amps produce is real, and I've never gotten any distortion from mine. Sometimes some static due to the way the tube sits or dust settling on it, but a light tap on the offending tube with a pen fixes it straight away. I've owned a bunch of amps in the past and the sound from a tube is, imo, vastly superior to that of a solid state amp. The Lyr is actually a hybrid amp so you get the best of both worlds.

Offline stancato9

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #129 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 21:56:46 »
The Vali has a very slight warmth to them. Check the head-fi vali thread for more impressions. For me, it's great with the hd800 but mediocre with the hd600s. Also, you definitely need a good dac to get the most out of the vali.

What do you think about the Vali with Q701s and HE-400s? The Q701s are very analytical and bright which is nice for gaming. I wonder if the warmth from the vali would detract from that.

@noisyturtle: The total harmonic distortion with tube amps is a lot higher than solid state. That's what I meant. I am pretty sure (not completely) that the higher THD level with tube amps is what gives the sound that "warm" feel.
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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #130 on: Tue, 03 December 2013, 22:04:05 »
What do you think about the Vali with Q701s and HE-400s? The Q701s are very analytical and bright which is nice for gaming. I wonder if the warmth from the vali would detract from that.

@noisyturtle: The total harmonic distortion with tube amps is a lot higher than solid state. That's what I meant. I am pretty sure (not completely) that the higher THD level with tube amps is what gives the sound that "warm" feel.

I don't own either of those headphones, so I can't really tell you. There are positive impressions for those two headphones on the Vali thread though. Don't read too much into the THDs of amps, they're not really a good indication of how an amp sounds, unless the THD is ridiculously high for some reason.
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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #131 on: Wed, 04 December 2013, 14:28:41 »
Guys, should I buy the vali or magni. Such a tough call.

Amping Q701s and HE-400s.

Lyr, nothing beats tubes. Nothing.

* Binge exits thread never to return again.
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Offline eisenhower

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #132 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 18:04:50 »
I don't own either of those headphones, so I can't really tell you. There are positive impressions for those two headphones on the Vali thread though. Don't read too much into the THDs of amps, they're not really a good indication of how an amp sounds, unless the THD is ridiculously high for some reason.

Amps aren't supposed to sound like anything. That is exactly why THD needs to be low.


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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #133 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 18:28:36 »
I don't own either of those headphones, so I can't really tell you. There are positive impressions for those two headphones on the Vali thread though. Don't read too much into the THDs of amps, they're not really a good indication of how an amp sounds, unless the THD is ridiculously high for some reason.

Amps aren't supposed to sound like anything. That is exactly why THD needs to be low.



Oh please. Don't post stuff like that just to get your post count up.
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Offline eisenhower

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #134 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 18:40:32 »
Oh please. Don't post stuff like that just to get your post count up.

Opposed to useful posts like this?

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #135 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 18:41:55 »
Oh please. Don't post stuff like that just to get your post count up.

Opposed to useful posts like this?

I don't need to up my post count. But hey, why not while we're at it?
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Offline eisenhower

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #136 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 18:56:59 »
Oh please. Don't post stuff like that just to get your post count up.

Opposed to useful posts like this?

I don't need to up my post count. But hey, why not while we're at it?

Why do I need to up my post count? I think you're upset that I know more about amplifiers than you (for example, I have never purchased anything by audio-gd).

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #137 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 19:28:34 »
Why do I need to up my post count? I think you're upset that I know more about amplifiers than you (for example, I have never purchased anything by audio-gd).

You're right... i'm probably just upset that you're more informed. Lets end it on that so that you can be satisfied.
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Offline MonoSky

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #138 on: Thu, 05 December 2013, 19:28:55 »
Currently have a Aune T1 DAC with a Bravo V3 Tube Amp. I can't tell you much right now of what I feel, but when I got the Bravo V3 the trebles were too much for me. Luckly it had a built in equalizer. After some tuning it's sounds pretty good right now. With only the Aune T1, I felt that sounds were much more distinctive. I haven't tried any tube rolling yet. Maybe in the future. Also I am using the Ultrasone 780s right now. I really like the sound stage on it.
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Offline eisenhower

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #139 on: Tue, 10 December 2013, 16:39:40 »
Currently have a Aune T1 DAC with a Bravo V3 Tube Amp. I can't tell you much right now of what I feel, but when I got the Bravo V3 the trebles were too much for me. Luckly it had a built in equalizer. After some tuning it's sounds pretty good right now. With only the Aune T1, I felt that sounds were much more distinctive. I haven't tried any tube rolling yet. Maybe in the future. Also I am using the Ultrasone 780s right now. I really like the sound stage on it.

The output impedance of those amps is too high for your headphones. Basically your Ultrasone's are sapping too much current from the amps.
A cmoy or a cheap FiiO  amp would would likely be an improvement in sound quality.

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #140 on: Tue, 10 December 2013, 19:00:02 »
Currently have a Aune T1 DAC with a Bravo V3 Tube Amp. I can't tell you much right now of what I feel, but when I got the Bravo V3 the trebles were too much for me. Luckly it had a built in equalizer. After some tuning it's sounds pretty good right now. With only the Aune T1, I felt that sounds were much more distinctive. I haven't tried any tube rolling yet. Maybe in the future. Also I am using the Ultrasone 780s right now. I really like the sound stage on it.

The output impedance of those amps is too high for your headphones. Basically your Ultrasone's are sapping too much current from the amps.
A cmoy or a cheap FiiO  amp would would likely be an improvement in sound quality.

would you be able to explain this statement with some facts and broken down equations?  I know I would appreciate it!
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Offline dorkvader

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #141 on: Sun, 15 December 2013, 23:55:54 »
currently using an audioengine D1 feeding a torpedo.

It's generally awesome and being transformer coupled avoids a lot of issues most OTL tube amps suffer from. There are also LEDs inside biasing the heater supply, which is a neat effect.

I built it mainly because there was a lot of very interesting design in this amp, and it sounds good too!

Sadly I couldn't use it with some of my headphones due to not having a mini to 1/4 adapter, so I made one.


I get some thermal microphonics when it turns on, which is pretty cool too. Haven't tried the E90CC computer tubes yet, but I have the mullards shown in the photos (and was the first to purchase and receive them)
You can see my tubes (those exact ones) in the product photos below:
http://beezar.com/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=42&products_id=156

So: about output impedance of the amp, it should be at most 1/10 the impedance of the load it's driving. Haven't looked up the specs of listed products though.

Impedance matching is one reason I advocate building a buffer instead of an amp. For most headphones, there is enough voltage available to drive them at any reasonable loudness. Lots of DACs, especially modern ones run pretty hot. A big issue you run into though is lots of sources (especially DACs) can't deliver enough current for sensitive headphones, also impedance matching can be an issue (some headphones are harder to drive loads, etc.) A buffer will separate the source from the load. It presents an easy to drive load to the source, and can output pretty much whatever the HP needs (or many speakers). A buffer has unity gain (well, usually .95 or better). it also performs pretty much "perfectly" as an amplifier. Finally, they can deliver whatever current the HP needs.

This is primarily due to how transistors work as a material. A buffer or current gain stage is usually included as part of an amplifier design (they most often do voltage gain then feed it into an output stage that's a buffer to deliver the necessary current, though designs vary greatly).

So I advocate the following as an "ideal" system.
DAC -> attenuator (volume control) -> buffer -> headphones.

To see if you really need an amp (voltage amplification) or not, check what level your DAC outputs on the line out. Line level is usually 1.5V or 2V. My headphones have a sensitivity 100 DB/mW which translates to 100 dB at about half a volt (the headphones in question have an impedance of 35 Ohms)
Even AKG's K702 (notoriously low sensitivity) can deliver more than 105 DB for one Volt.
Even a high impedance headphone, like the Sennheiser HD650 will output 102 dB /V. They are high impedance, so impedance matching is required, but they are sensitive to make up for it.

What will not work are older headphones from the 1980's and 1970's with low sensitivities. Piezo headphones are a good example.


Back to impedance matching:
Here's a relevant RANE note on the topic. RANE makes excellent guides for understanding things, so if I even have a question, I just look at their list and see if they've answered it
http://www.rane.com/note124.html
« Last Edit: Mon, 16 December 2013, 00:03:48 by dorkvader »

Offline RickyJ

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #142 on: Fri, 27 December 2013, 00:31:30 »
I've been itching to upgrade from my Fiio E10 lately, to use with my DT990Pro 250ohm headphones.  I've been reading a fair bit recently, but not enough to make an easy decision.  I can assemble a kit quite readily (EE degree, multiple Megasquirt EFI builds and installations, etc), just don't have a huge bank of time to delve too deeply into forums.  I would enjoy building a kit much more than premade, but don't want to cut out good choices to have that.

Main use would be single-player gaming (I enjoy story and immersion), as I find I have less time to listen to music these days (though I did melt while listening to the new NiN album on release day).  The E10 and my DT990's made a huge difference over onboard audio and my old 32ohm Sennheisers, but I'm thinking it might be time to move on from the Fiio.

Music: Variety of electronic, rock, some rap, some classical (I rip my grandma's vinyl to CD)

What I've been looking at:
Schiit Modi/Magni or Vali (for fun!), if the Modi is enough of an upgrade from the E10's DAC (I think it might be?)
Matrix M-Stage (new version, Massdrop has it but drop might not go through)
Torpedo (amp only, use with E10 as DAC?)
...any other suggestions in the <$300 range?
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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #143 on: Fri, 27 December 2013, 06:54:00 »
Go for the Vali. Grab a titanium HD if you want a good dac as well as surround sound simulation for gaming, otherwise get the modi for mainly music.
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Offline KangarooZombies

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #144 on: Sat, 28 December 2013, 04:17:06 »
Question for you guys really quickly.

My current setup is a Audioengine D1 + HiFiMan HE-400

If i wanted to add a dedicated amp to this setup, what would be my best option?

Or is it best to keep with the onboard D1 amp?

Thanks dudes

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Offline thegunner100

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #145 on: Sat, 28 December 2013, 06:52:00 »
Question for you guys really quickly.

My current setup is a Audioengine D1 + HiFiMan HE-400

If i wanted to add a dedicated amp to this setup, what would be my best option?

Or is it best to keep with the onboard D1 amp?

Thanks dudes

_kangaroo

Depends on how much money you're willing to spend.
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Offline Binge

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #146 on: Sat, 28 December 2013, 14:01:49 »
I think it really depends on what you want added to your sound or if you want nothing at all "added".  The amp on the D1 is not spectacular.  The manufacturer's website offers no spec for the amp, but says it can drive headphones with impedances as low as 20 ohm... that is good.

Do you feel as if the headphone is not performing up to its measured specifications, or that you've heard a song you enjoy with more clarity on a different setup?
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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #147 on: Sat, 28 December 2013, 14:07:55 »
I think it really depends on what you want added to your sound or if you want nothing at all "added".

Do you feel as if the headphone is not performing up to its measured specifications, or that you've heard a song you enjoy with more clarity on a different setup?

Yeah... that's pretty important too xD.
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Offline KangarooZombies

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #148 on: Sun, 29 December 2013, 00:58:14 »
I think it really depends on what you want added to your sound or if you want nothing at all "added".

Do you feel as if the headphone is not performing up to its measured specifications, or that you've heard a song you enjoy with more clarity on a different setup?

Yeah... that's pretty important too xD.

Good questions:

1. Budget, Id feel comfortable keeping it under 300, but ill consider if something is better, but slightly over that.

2. I feel that my setup has good clarity, but it is difficult for me to tell if there is more to be had.
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Offline Sniping

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Re: Headphone Amp/DAC Thread
« Reply #149 on: Sun, 29 December 2013, 02:18:51 »
AGD is great value if you want to go balanced which gives you a lot more power. http://www.audio-gd.com/Pro/Headphoneamp/NFB6/NFB6EN.htm

Alternatively, the Schiit Lyr is considered to be top notch for the HE-400, but it's more expensive than the NFB 6 ($380+shipping atm). Tube amps like the Lyr provide much less power but most people tend to agree that tube amps pair better with the HE-400. Try looking around to see if you can get a used Lyr though, I think that would be your best option.
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