Old 02-03-2015, 02:49 PM   #1
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Default Headphone amplifier to improve sound quality?

I'm curious whether a headphone amplifier would serve any purpose with my DT 880 Pro's. They're 250 ohm, but they output plenty volume when I set my interface's playback volume moderately. So I'd figured a headphone amplifier would serve no purpose. But now I read:

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Quote:
... is there a noticeable increase in sound quality when you plugged in your DT880s into the Schiit vs the Focusrite? I currently own a Steinberg UR22 audio interface and it can drive my 250 ohm DT880s just fine, but I am wondering if investing in the Schiit Modi/Magni is worth it for the increase in sound quality.
Quote:
Yeah, there is a very noticeable difference.
http://www.head-fi.org/t/258751/dt770-vs-dt880

http://schiit.com/products/magni-2

How could a headphone amp improve sound quality? Is it just adding distortion? Sometimes distortion sounds good, but I want to minimize it in my mix-monitoring system. School me about headphone amps, please.
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Old 02-03-2015, 03:57 PM   #2
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stay away from any "hifi" or "audiophiles" forums.

they talk bullshit ...
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Old 02-04-2015, 07:49 AM   #3
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stay away from any "hifi" or "audiophiles" forums.

they talk bullshit ...
I believe it.
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:15 AM   #4
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A good headphone amp can make a huge difference in sound. But you have to listen, it's hard to buy based on reviews.
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:41 AM   #5
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That Schiit amp doesn't have symmetrical inputs, imo that's a nogo for studio use.

The only right thing you can do is test it yourself. And with testing i mean a proper volume matched abx blind test. if you can pick the better amp significantly more often that 50%, go for it. If not, send it back.

people on forums hear a lot of "huge differences". most of them are not aware of (or just ignore) things like expectation bias and abx testing.
it makes them feel special to hear things others can't hear without realizing they're only making themselves look ridiculous.
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Old 02-04-2015, 08:59 AM   #6
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people on forums hear a lot of "huge differences". most of them are not aware of (or just ignore) things like expectation bias and abx testing.
it makes them feel special to hear things others can't hear without realizing they're only making themselves look ridiculous.
And the ones that have heard of it are suddenly masters of the philosophy of science and are able to debunk nearly all logic, rational thought and scientific method at the drop of a hat, in favour of 'Well I heard it, it must be true'
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Old 02-04-2015, 09:22 AM   #7
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And the ones that have heard of it are suddenly masters of the philosophy of science and are able to debunk nearly all logic, rational thought and scientific method at the drop of a hat, in favour of 'Well I heard it, it must be true'
Doctorates of Philopastry don't count?

You have to break things down also, and look at what you're asking.

You want a headphone amp to IMPROVE sound quality. That means altering it from what it already is in some objectively better way. To do that you first have to confirm that your current setup is flawed in some way, and one can't just do that by listening because you know nothing about the internal differences between your device and any potentially purchased devices or other one's you've tried.

Confirm that your own gear is not clean using things such as a loopback test to test audio degredation (you'd be surprised how little of this happens even in cheap devices such as the Rane MS1B).

Only then can you know that a new device will 'improve' your audio. Otherwise, if you know your device is clean, then anything else is either worse or subjectively better - but not more accurate, so you'd infact be introducing distortion intentionally.

That's my view on friggin Tube Headphone amps too. WTF is the point? If you use it at low volume as one does when mixing, it does very little. But what little it does is distortion, that's not even ending up on the final mix (unless you record the output when you're done).
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Old 02-04-2015, 10:26 AM   #8
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Just like an electric guitar, or loudspeakers, a headphone (driver) is just an electromagnetic device that's sensitive to impedance, efficiency, transient/impulse behaviour etc. of an amplifier. Is there any reason why it should sound the same when connected to different sources?

There's huge differences between headphone amplifiers, and the ones you usually find in interfaces are amongst the worst. Depending on the headphone drivers, a lot of "juice" might be required in order to make them sound "right" (frequency distribution, transient fidelity, THD etc.).

I go berserk when I hear my cans amplified by an insufficient amp (and I'm pretty much the contrary to the "Hi-Fi voodoo" type of guy).
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Old 02-04-2015, 10:47 AM   #9
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You tell us what headphone you are using, but don't tell us about the interface. Some low cost interfaces may have difficulty driving high impedance devices, so you could hear a distinct benefit when using a high quality headphone amp.
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Old 02-04-2015, 11:31 AM   #10
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You tell us what headphone you are using, but don't tell us about the interface.
I'm about to get a new interface, but I don't know which yet. (Currently using my computer's soundcard.)

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Some low cost interfaces may have difficulty driving high impedance devices, so you could hear a distinct benefit when using a high quality headphone amp.
By "difficulty driving", you mean the result is too quiet, or the result is loud enough but messed up other ways? I'm getting loud enough results without a headphone amp.
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Old 02-04-2015, 12:56 PM   #11
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Better off thinking long term
A monitor speaker or stereo monitors will serve you much better.
Treat your room too.
Save you a lot of stress.

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Old 02-04-2015, 12:57 PM   #12
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The most important thing is a flat and accurate mix. Anything that gets in the way of that (an underpowered card, non-flat headphones, or even a tube amp that gives you a really sweet sound) is bad.

Caveat: if you know your gear well enough, it might not be an issue. But if you mix your music on that really killer-sounding headphone amp and only listen to it on that really killer-sounding headphone amp, then you might be very shocked when it sounds not so killer when played back on your friend's cell phone or home stereo.

If you are getting that clear and accurate mix right now, then don't try to fix what ain't broke.

EDIT: grinder +1. There really is no substitute for hearing a mix over monitors in a real room... as long as you're getting a flat and accurate mix!

Quote:
I'm about to get a new interface, but I don't know which yet. (Currently using my computer's soundcard.)
An external sound interface makes a big difference and is a definite upgrade from the standard sound card and should have more than enough power to drive whatever headphones you have.
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:02 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by grinder View Post
Better off thinking long term
A monitor speaker or stereo monitors will serve you much better.
Treat your room too.
Save you a lot of stress.

Grinder

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I wish, but the neighbors wouldn't go for that.
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:03 PM   #14
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If you are getting that clear and accurate mix right now
not even close
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Old 02-04-2015, 01:27 PM   #15
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The Flavor
You don't need greater volume through your monitors to get good mixes at all
They give you great results low volume far better than can's.

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Old 02-05-2015, 12:22 AM   #16
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You don't need greater volume through your monitors to get good mixes at all
Indeed. Low level near field monitoring has several advantages, staying friends with the neighbors is only one of them
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Old 02-05-2015, 12:25 PM   #17
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I was hoping someone with monitors could tell me what to adjust in the mix, and I'll make the changes here.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B5Z...ew?usp=sharing
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