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IUseWeirdPkmn t1_iuhyfit wrote

If my headphones get loud enough out of my laptop, I'd really like to know what the justification is for getting an amp. I hear arguments like "you'll get more out of your headphones" or "it scales better", but I'm never told concretely what's better about amping my headphones. How does it change the sound?


ChipsAhoiMcCoy t1_iujhyr4 wrote

I’m going to be honest with you, ignore basically everyone who tells you to get expensive amplifiers or DAC. You really truly don’t need them. There are, however, a few benefits to getting a amplifier and DAC which I will list below for you.

If set up correctly, the sound you get out of them is isolated from the other noisy parts of your PC, which is ideal because you will get less distortion overall. This distortion can come in many different shapes, and sizes, and in some cases this distortion can be terribly bad if you have a slow PC. There is something called DPC, latency, which, if too high can lead to some pretty annoying, pops, and cracks that constantly play in your audio stream, But usually it Hass to be pretty bad for something like that to happen. If you have even a remotely, decent gaming, PC, or a remotely decent laptop, you’ll be perfectly fine. I can imagine you would probably see this happening on some cheap Best Buy, Toshiba laptops, or something along those lines. In other cases, you experience, crackling and pops, it may be an indication that your amplifier, or dock is not properly set up.

Which leads me to my next point, getting an external amplifier, and DAC allows you to properly set up your listening experience, compared to using an onboard system. I see this topic debated online from time to time, so take this with a grain of salt or do your own research to see what conclusion you come to, But from what I’ve heard reducing the volume in the Windows, operating system, and other operating systems reduces the bit depth leading to a hissing or audible noise floor. I think back to when you were in high school when you used some cheap iambs and you heard that annoying hissing sound while there was no sound playing, and that’s what that is. This is a debated topic though, because some people online do mention that windows actually outputs sound at 32 bit internally, so this may not be an issue anymore and may have been a problem with the older windows, operating systems, but generally the consensus you see online is that you should get an amplifier or DAC and if you do, you can raise your windows volume to 100% and do finer adjustments with your amplifier itself. I’ve actually messaged amplifier and the AC manufacturers and this is exactly what they tell you to do every time to get the most out of the hardware is to raise your windows volume to 100% and reduce the amplifier volume.

Another important detail to keep in mind is that on windows, there are a couple of settings you want to change in order to get the best experience out of your external amplifier and DAC to give you the biggest difference. You’ll want to write click your volume control button on the bottom right of your taskbar and had into the sound control panel. After entering this menu, off to the right hand side, you’ll see another hyperlink button you can click that says sound control panel again. Click this, heading to playback devices, right click your DAC, head into properties, make sure that the enhancements are all turned off by going into the enhancements tab, and toggling that button that says disable, all enhancements, Head to your levels, tab, and max that volume slider out and reduce the volume on your amplifier, and then head into the advanced tab and set your sampling rate and a bit depth to 44.1 kHz with 16 bit. This is because if you have it set to 48 kHz or higher, most content online is 44.1, so you’ll be getting some nasty recompression going on. This also seems to be the case with services like Spotify.

So, in conclusion, expensive amplifiers, and DAC do absolutely nothing, but in my opinion, you should absolutely purchase an external amplifier or DAC even if it’s a cheap one. A nice cheap hybrid amplifier, and the AC will give you the biggest bang for your buck, and the most noticeable difference compared to getting a super expensive amplifier, or DAC. If you already have one, and it has the features that that you need, there’s absolutely no point in getting one more expensive. it is important to know, however, that if your headphones don’t get loud enough with the power that your amplifier outputs, then you should get an amplifier or a new pair of headphones for sure. But as far as sound quality goes, it’s absolute bogus. Get yourself a nice, decent amplifier, and the AC or even a highbred and set it up how I told you in this comment and ignore it after that. But again, I do encourage you to look this stuff up yourself as well to fact, check some of it because I have seen it debated online in the past. All I know is that I’ve spoken with amplifier and the AC manufacturers about this as well, and they themselves also admit that some of it is bogus, but as far as setting up your amplifier and the AC the comments I listed here above, seem to be the general consensus of what you should do to get the best sound out of your system. You’ll avoid crackling and hissing, you’ll have a pretty, damn good noise floor, and it will give you the peace of mind, knowing that you’re getting the best of the best as far as sound quality goes.

Let me know if any of this doesn’t make sense and I’ll be happy to explain further. Also, sorry for any typing errors. I’m currently using Siri to dictate this on my phone.


iwasjusttwittering t1_iuivwar wrote

It might sound better at certain frequencies, depending on the headphones.

I collect vintage headphones (so generally higher impedance, and often rather low sensitivity). Most of them are alright even with a modern on-board sound card, but a few aren't: in that case, the bass is either muddy, or outright missing, and sibilance tends to be worse.

My desktop amp is some $150 Chinese DAC&amp combo, Audinst mx1 iirc. It's been enough for everything but a pair of AKG cans.


musselkid t1_iuj0haf wrote

If you get satisfactory volume I don't think there's any reason to add an amp specifically, but an external dac/amp combo could still be beneficial since you can have a better quality dac that's also isolated from the other circuitry within the laptop (which can add noise). It depends on the laptop though, some have quite good sound cards that are relatively well isolated whereas others I've used have sounded crappy without an external dac/amp.


Pskinned t1_iuj962m wrote

Go to your local audio shop and ask to try out some amps. This way you can decide for yourself. You might hear a big difference or you may find it hard to notice. No two sets of ears are identical.

I’m happy with the headphone amp built into my separates integrated amp, it sounds way clearer than listening directly from my CD player or IPad and the bass feels fuller and punchier. Personally I don’t hear enough of an improvement from anything I’ve tried compared with my current setup to justify dropping cash on a dedicated amp but to each their own. Maybe you’ll find one that makes sense for you.


audioen t1_iujr419 wrote

Output impedance is one possibility. It becomes a problem when it is either frequency dependent, or if the headset's impedance is frequency dependent, as it adds an extra resistance that lowers the voltage seen by the headset in the parts of the frequency response where its own impedance is also low. Good gear has roughly 1 ohm output impedance or less, where it is considered no longer to matter.


Butterking15 t1_iuio1sc wrote

apart from powering the headphones it also adjust the sound slightly which helps with richer bass or finer highs. Its not necessarily about volume, loud doesnt always mean good , If you are happy with your setu no need to change but if you want to try something new then I would say get an amp. My favorite so far has been the Fiio Q5s


crod242 t1_iui6tk1 wrote


suppaboy228 t1_iui9w3z wrote

That's nonsense.

I mean the explanation is so badly out of touch, that it will be a complete bullshit for anyone remotely understanding the principles of amplification.


untidy_scrotsman t1_iuibc1o wrote

Yep. He's just talking out of his ass. It's laughable.


suppaboy228 t1_iuibpfn wrote

I'm amazed at how many people are buying into that bullshit. Like I'm not an engineer and my grades weren't good at school, but I can smell bullshit right away.


crod242 t1_iuiagfz wrote

How so? I'm not pretending to be an expert, but I thought it seemed more plausible than some of the other claims that are often made. What does he get wrong specifically?


suppaboy228 t1_iuibhu3 wrote

There isn't such thing as voltage swings being abrupt or smooth. The amplifier amplifies the signal that is fed to it.

If you run it within the headroom range, then it will be the same. If you will overdrive the amp, it will compress and sag. In more extreme cases you will be able to hear audible distortion (like in guitar amps).

If the source sounds loud enough at 80% of the volume, then you don't need an amp. If it's lacking in volume and you crank it full, then it's probably a time to buy an amp.

You will not hear a difference in a blind test between a hi-end and budget amplifier unless there's some DSP or filtering involved. If you have any of those expensive amps, you can sell them right now unless you're emotionally attached to them and make you feel good.


audioen t1_iujxe26 wrote

This guy sounds like he is totally wrong, but he is roughly correct in that you need low output impedance amplifier to drive variable impedance loads correctly. I am parsing this is what he is talking about, though he doesn't use the right technical terms. He talks about "voltage swings" and "amplifier power", and these are pretty awful ways to describe the problem. Low output impedance is unrelated to having lots of power, or "high" voltage in output side.

Audio is not actually demanding application for electronics. Circuits can switch states at gigahertz rates, and audio is very, very slow signal in comparison, so electronics can trivially follow and reproduce it without ever having to care about real high frequency stuff such as signal path lengths. Power requirements of headsets are also trivial, usually milliwatts or so before they get so loud that your hearing is at risk, and this is still less than would be used by a standby LED of a random home appliance. The voltages needed are similarly on the low side, for a typical lower impedance headset it is probably less than 0.2 V, and this translates to current demands that are a few milliamps, so again, barely anything. Therefore, good enough amplifiers do not need to be large or expensive, but more like finger-nail sized and cost a few bucks to put together. The existence of these external usb soundcards that are often called DAC dongles (but they actually can have dozens of milliwatts of output power) is the proof of what I am saying here.


crod242 t1_iujz4wo wrote

Then what explains the difference most people report between solid state and OTL amps with the HD 600?

I'm sure some of it can be attributed to placebo and justifying the investment in expensive gear, of course. But enough people who otherwise know what they're talking about seem to be convinced, so it's hard to dismiss entirely. I'm not saying you have to spend thousands, but there must be at least some differences between solid state and tube amps.

Are you saying that in this particular case, the sound from the 600 at equal volume would be completely indistinguishable when plugged into either a JDS Atom or something like a Bottlehead Crack?


eckru t1_iuk24d2 wrote

>Then what explains the difference most people report between solid state and OTL amps with the HD 600?

Output impedance.


crod242 t1_iuk3avm wrote

What specific effect does that have on sound quality at similar volume levels? How does that account for warmth, clarity, and other characteristics that people frequently associate with different amp types?