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Headphone amps, external power supplies: what difference do they make?, was: "First post here, Hi."
1096bimu
post Dec 7 2012, 00:35
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Ever since I was told that it is possible to tell 320kbps CBR from loseless, I've had some interest in hi-fi, and that was a few years ago. Today, I use an ASUS Xonar Essance sound card and an AKG Q701 headphone. I am pretty confident that it sounds better than all the cheaper alternatives I've had before, and I am quite proud of my own ability to eliminate biases without blind testing (because of lack of equipment). However, 320kbps MP3 is still transparent to me. The absolute best I can do is tell 128kbps, and it is extremely difficult as I have to go through the samples multiple times to try and spot one or two obvious distortions, and tell from that. If I couldn't find any than they sound identical to me. I have read through many of the FAQs, compilation of test results and older posts so I know this isn't uncommon and isn't what I am worried about. I keep everything loseless even though I can't tell the difference because I don't have that many music, only a few gigs which isn't a problem for today's mobile devices (exported selected few from CD images).

The biggest problem is I keep running into this claim that headphone amps are supposed to make ginormous differences, especially with the AKG Q701. Some people say there is more difference with the K701 but aren't they identical except the colors? Of course nobody could show any blind test results and they are nothing more than testimonies. I am not a hard core audiophile I don't have any audiophile friends so it's not possible so it is not possible for me to try out stand alone amps. It just seems to me that many of these audiophiles believe in some kind of mystical superiority of external boxes. You gotta have an external DAC, and an external amp and you have to connect them together. I mean today they are just intergraded circuits why do they have to be external? The Xonar Essance says "Headphone amp card" and it does have an amplifier chip as well as those small ones that you can swap out and everything, so What's the difference?
In fact, I tried the Q701 on my cell phone, iPad, on-board intergraded audio, and even an iPod shuffle. They sound slightly worse I would say, the difference is quite subtle when compared to the Xonar. And I could not tell any difference between my phone, iPad and iPod shuffle.

I've also heard that you have to use an external power supply (it has a port that plugs into the computer power supply) for the Xonar to "bring out its full potential". Again, what's the difference? are computer power supplies not stabilized? I guess I also count as an overclocker so I know how voltages in the computer are set to two or three digits after the decimal, it is really sensitive stuff. I mean maybe the computer with its variable power requirement will destabilize the power source, but I don't listen to music while playing games or anything, I leave the computer idle for that. Also being a fairly high-end spec, the -12V power supply has a capacity of 650W (for 12V alone) , isn't that enough head room for small fluctuations?

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skamp
post May 11 2013, 08:34
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psgarcha92: this isn't head-fi, you have to abide by certain rules. Specifically, TOS #8.


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db1989
post May 12 2013, 02:17
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 11 2013, 08:34) *
psgarcha92: this isn't head-fi, you have to abide by certain rules. Specifically, TOS #8.
The OP would have done well to pay more attention to that, too. For reference to readers, saying you have a lot of faith in your own ability to be unbiased in non-blind tests and have read a lot are not get-out-clauses to render you exempt from the rules that all members are expected to follow.

QUOTE (skamp @ May 11 2013, 10:28) *
Graphs and measurements are actually not accepted here as evaluations of (audible) sound quality, either. The only accepted metric is a properly conducted double-blind listening test (ABX).

FWIW, "soundstage", "instrument separation", "detail", "impact", "control", "depth", "realism", "natural", "musicality", "analog sounding", etcÖ are all audiophile terminology that rarely accurately describes what is actually heard.
Thanks for doing this so I donít have to. wink.gif

QUOTE (psgarcha92 @ May 11 2013, 04:56) *
[Ö] u wont be able to un-hear what u are going to hear.
Is there some reason that you are seemingly unable to type the extra two letters that should be in the word you, despite apparently having no such problem with larger words? TOS #10 is relevant here.
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skamp
post May 12 2013, 10:21
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QUOTE (db1989 @ May 12 2013, 03:17) *
Thanks for doing this so I donít have to. wink.gif


I blame head-fi prose for making me nauseous.

Of interest, is Ethan Winer's description of 4 parameters that affect sound quality: "noise, frequency response, distortion, and time-based errors.". Incidentally, those are measurable. I don't know if it has been done already, but I wonder if anyone's ever conducted a battery of double-blind tests to match their thresholds of audibility with measurements. That would be very interesting (though I can't be arsed to do it myself).


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Arnold B. Kruege...
post May 12 2013, 14:31
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QUOTE (skamp @ May 12 2013, 05:21) *
QUOTE (db1989 @ May 12 2013, 03:17) *
Thanks for doing this so I donít have to. wink.gif


I blame head-fi prose for making me nauseous.

Of interest, is Ethan Winer's description of 4 parameters that affect sound quality: "noise, frequency response, distortion, and time-based errors.". Incidentally, those are measurable. I don't know if it has been done already, but I wonder if anyone's ever conducted a battery of double-blind tests to match their thresholds of audibility with measurements. That would be very interesting (though I can't be arsed to do it myself).


While Ethan's list lacks some rigor (the better words are IMO noise, nonlinear distortion, and linear distortion), the idea is very good.

The problem with testing the thresholds of hearing for those things is that things can get real complicated fast as soon as your tests engage things like masking.

Arguably the first well-known tests for such things resulted in the Fletcher Munson curves which are interesting because they were done in such as way as to pretty much avoid masking. The general rule is that since masking is so endemic, Fletcher and Munson's numbers are usually highly optimistic, IOW too sensitive. But they are indicative. Perceptual coders would have never worked out if we thought that Fletcher Munson were the be all and end all.

One thing that can be said is that if you get all forms of noise, nonlinear distortion, and linear distortion more than 100 dB down, you need to move on for sure.

The actual thresholds for specific things are mostly in the 30-60 dB range, depending. There are a few cases where 20 dB down can suffice.
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Posts in this topic
- 1096bimu   Headphone amps, external power supplies: what difference do they make?   Dec 7 2012, 00:35
- - DVDdoug   QUOTE The biggest problem is I keep running into t...   Dec 7 2012, 03:05
|- - 1096bimu   QUOTE This could be a voltage issue. I don't r...   Dec 7 2012, 05:19
|- - Nessuno   QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Dec 7 2012, 03:05) But, ...   Dec 7 2012, 09:04
||- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 7 2012, 03:04) QUOTE...   Dec 7 2012, 14:44
||- - bennetng   QUOTE (Nessuno @ Dec 7 2012, 16:04) QUOTE...   May 11 2013, 09:42
||- - Nessuno   QUOTE (bennetng @ May 11 2013, 10:42) QUO...   May 11 2013, 11:00
||- - bennetng   QUOTE (Nessuno @ May 11 2013, 18:00) In b...   May 11 2013, 13:51
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Dec 6 2012, 21:05) QUOTE...   Dec 7 2012, 14:40
|- - CSMR   QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Dec 6 2012, 18:05) If yo...   Dec 14 2012, 02:06
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (DVDdoug @ Dec 6 2012, 22:05) I don...   May 13 2013, 17:33
- - arward72   http://www.stereophile.com/computeraudio/a...ards/...   Dec 10 2012, 21:48
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (arward72 @ Dec 10 2012, 15:48) htt...   Dec 11 2012, 01:03
- - arward72   The external power connector for the ASUS Xonar is...   Dec 10 2012, 23:23
- - J.Philippe   Doesn't the Essence card already have a headph...   Dec 14 2012, 08:36
- - psgarcha92   Ok, so i was going through the forums, looking for...   May 11 2013, 04:56
- - saratoga   ^^^Amping a fuze to use with iems makes zero sense...   May 11 2013, 06:48
|- - psgarcha92   QUOTE (saratoga @ May 11 2013, 11:18) ^^^...   May 11 2013, 07:59
|- - Nessuno   QUOTE (psgarcha92 @ May 11 2013, 08:59) Q...   May 11 2013, 09:20
- - skamp   psgarcha92: this isn't head-fi, you have to ab...   May 11 2013, 08:34
|- - psgarcha92   QUOTE (skamp @ May 11 2013, 13:04) psgarc...   May 11 2013, 08:40
||- - skamp   QUOTE (psgarcha92 @ May 11 2013, 09:40) T...   May 11 2013, 10:28
||- - bennetng   QUOTE (skamp @ May 11 2013, 17:28) FWIW, ...   May 12 2013, 06:17
|- - db1989   QUOTE (skamp @ May 11 2013, 08:34) psgarc...   May 12 2013, 02:17
|- - skamp   QUOTE (db1989 @ May 12 2013, 03:17) Thank...   May 12 2013, 10:21
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (skamp @ May 12 2013, 05:21) QUOTE ...   May 12 2013, 14:31
- - psgarcha92   Skamp, How am i supposed to ABX Headphones? My Re...   May 11 2013, 19:52
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (psgarcha92 @ May 11 2013, 14:52) S...   May 11 2013, 20:51
- - psgarcha92   Respected Moderators, I am sorry that i did not r...   May 12 2013, 20:55
- - saratoga   ^^ unless something is really screwy with that amp...   May 12 2013, 22:36
- - saratoga   Any sound card will use a regulated voltage anyway...   May 13 2013, 22:41
- - Klipspringer   Hi Folks, This is my first post and I'm very ...   Jun 14 2013, 20:28
|- - saratoga   QUOTE (Klipspringer @ Jun 14 2013, 15:28)...   Jun 14 2013, 20:47
|- - Klipspringer   QUOTE (saratoga @ Jun 14 2013, 11:47) QUO...   Jun 15 2013, 00:57
|- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Klipspringer @ Jun 14 2013, 19:57)...   Jun 15 2013, 14:42
- - Klipspringer   Thanks Arnold for the thorough reply. I can't ...   Jun 16 2013, 08:47
- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Klipspringer @ Jun 16 2013, 03:47)...   Jun 16 2013, 10:23
- - Klipspringer   QUOTE There's not a lot to understand. Making ...   Jun 16 2013, 18:54
- - Arnold B. Krueger   QUOTE (Klipspringer @ Jun 16 2013, 13:54)...   Jun 17 2013, 12:32


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