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Sennheiser HD800: What type of amp do I need?, [was “HD800 Amp query?”/TOS #6]
GSARider
post Dec 23 2012, 22:40
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Hi all, came across the site and thought I'd join up. Based in the UK and have been getting into Headphones more & more due to more travel by train as well as the fact that my wife doesn't like me blasting music of an evening... laugh.gif

Anyhow, I've got a set of HD800's arriving in the new year at a really good price via a friend who is getting them for me at a wholesale rate. I've always bought Senn's as they've always been reliable and give decent sound. I recently bought a set of Amperiors and love them for travelling. I bought a Fiio E17 followed by an e09K for use at home with my MacBook Pro Retina plugged in via optical cable.

Now having looked at various reviews / sites I'm getting more confused as folk keep saying you need a 2k plus amp to drive the Hd800's and that they're somehow 'picky' when it comes to amp / dacs?

I use the E17 on a daily basis and love the sound it gives me , not sure that the E09K makes much difference for me with the Amperiors or a set of Ie80's that I also have, but I was putting that down to the low impedance of the headphones ...would I be correct in this?

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saratoga
post Dec 23 2012, 22:47
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 17:40) *
I bought a Fiio E17 followed by an e09K for use at home with my MacBook Pro Retina plugged in via optical cable.


This should be fine.

QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 17:40) *
Now having looked at various reviews / sites I'm getting more confused as folk keep saying you need a 2k plus amp to drive the Hd800's and that they're somehow 'picky' when it comes to amp / dacs?


Don't listen to stupid people.

QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 17:40) *
I use the E17 on a daily basis and love the sound it gives me , not sure that the E09K makes much difference for me with the Amperiors or a set of Ie80's that I also have, but I was putting that down to the low impedance of the headphones ...would I be correct in this?


THe difference between amps is more pronounced with low impedance headphones. If the amp works well with your low impedance devices, that means its well designed. If you switch to higher impedance headphones, you'll present a smaller load and thus work the amp less hard. Generally good amps aren't needed with high impedance headphones (since they're closer to line in impedance) until the sensitivity gets very low, in which case you might want more voltage to make sure they're loud enough.
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GSARider
post Dec 23 2012, 23:42
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Thanks for the reply. Spec of the E09K is as below, does this seem okay?


Dock Designed for Connecting Fiio E17
Output: 1W/16 Ohms or 80mW/600 Ohms
Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
Two-Channel Output for 1/4″ & 1/8″ Plugs
Texas Instruments Main Power Amp IC
Dual Audio Outputs & USB Interface
E17 Dock Facilitates Charging & Syncing
Internal Audio Buffer Amplification
Built-in Power Converter Module
LED Power Indicator Light & Gain Switch
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 00:14
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 18:42) *
Thanks for the reply. Spec of the E09K is as below, does this seem okay?


I would basically never trust the published specs, but if they're true that amp has pretty high output voltage, but fairly crappy output impedance at ~ 34 ohms. That means it'll be loud with higher impedance headphones and won't drive low impedance headphones all that well.

If the specs for the HD800 are accurate (also questionable), then you basically have no use for the E09K as it has worse output impedance and you won't be able to use the extra voltage without blowing out your ear drums.
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 00:26
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So a no go with the E09K then chaps?

Any other recommendations that won't break the bank? Something with an Amp/ DAC and optical link?
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 00:37
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 19:26) *
Any other recommendations that won't break the bank? Something with an Amp/ DAC and optical link?


Yes, use the Fiio E17 you already have. Its better suited for the task, at least assuming those specs aren't off by a huge amount.
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 00:46
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Ok we'll as I have both I will give them a go, didn't consider the E17 to drive them, as on head fi it's been said they'll sound crap.
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 00:59
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 19:46) *
Ok we'll as I have both I will give them a go, didn't consider the E17 to drive them, as on head fi it's been said they'll sound crap.


If someone tells you something unreasonable, like that a high quality amp will sound like "crap" in a situation its designed to operate in, its probably best to ignore them.
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extrabigmehdi
post Dec 24 2012, 01:04
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 23:26) *
Any other recommendations that won't break the bank? Something with an Amp/ DAC and optical link?


I run the hd800 from a Xonar STX, thanks to the advices I got from this forum too.


This post has been edited by extrabigmehdi: Dec 24 2012, 01:09
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 01:17
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 23 2012, 23:59) *
QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 19:46) *
Ok we'll as I have both I will give them a go, didn't consider the E17 to drive them, as on head fi it's been said they'll sound crap.


If someone tells you something unreasonable, like that a high quality amp will sound like "crap" in a situation its designed to operate in, its probably best to ignore them.


However I didn't consider the E17 to be high quality at £99, or am I wrong to equate the low cost with quality in this instance?
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extrabigmehdi
post Dec 24 2012, 01:45
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 24 2012, 00:17) *
However I didn't consider the E17 to be high quality at £99, or am I wrong to equate the low cost with quality in this instance?


Well, if all you need is a transparent source, you don't need to spend huge amount of cash.
Otherwise, there's some confusion regarding expensive amps on the market, and ignorance from consumers allows big prices.
You might look at this other thread too:
http://www.hydrogenaudio.org/forums/index....showtopic=95106

This post has been edited by extrabigmehdi: Dec 24 2012, 01:47
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 01:57
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Yes I saw that earlier.
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 02:03
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 20:17) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 23 2012, 23:59) *
QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 23 2012, 19:46) *
Ok we'll as I have both I will give them a go, didn't consider the E17 to drive them, as on head fi it's been said they'll sound crap.


If someone tells you something unreasonable, like that a high quality amp will sound like "crap" in a situation its designed to operate in, its probably best to ignore them.


However I didn't consider the E17 to be high quality at £99, or am I wrong to equate the low cost with quality in this instance?


The total of all the components in an amp is maybe $25 or 30 plus assembly and design costs, so looking at cost doesn't really tell you much about quality. Throw in 7 or 8 for a good USB + DAC IC. All of these devices cost essentially nothing in terms of components, you're mostly just paying to cover the cost of designing it, which can be quite high if the market for the device is really small. Conversely, the more popular a device is, the lower the cost because volume greatly reduces the portion of fixed costs each device must cover.
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extrabigmehdi
post Dec 24 2012, 02:18
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 24 2012, 01:03) *
The total of all the components in an amp is maybe $25 or 30 plus assembly and design costs, so looking at cost doesn't really tell you much about quality. Throw in 7 or 8 for a good USB + DAC IC. All of these devices cost essentially nothing in terms of components, you're mostly just paying to cover the cost of designing it, which can be quite high if the market for the device is really small. Conversely, the more popular a device is, the lower the cost because volume greatly reduces the portion of fixed costs each device must cover.


Well, this argument won't be enough to explain the price of 2000 euros for the HDVD 800 (amp done by Sennheiser) . 5000$ is by the way, for most expensive amp I've seen in the market (it was indicated for the stax 009, at head-fi ).
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 02:21
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QUOTE (extrabigmehdi @ Dec 23 2012, 21:18) *
5000$ is by the way, for most expensive amp I've seen in the market (it was indicated for the stax 009, at head-fi ).


haha well, thats more then I pay for some RF amps with incomparably better specs then anything you get in audio. I guess thats mostly just about people with more money then sense.
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 02:37
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We shall see... biggrin.gif should hopefully get my hd800's in 3 weeks time and I'll give them a whirl with both. The issue is that you're never sure whether better sound can be achieved with another amp dac and trying them out is difficult without purchasing first.

I saw a YouTube movie with a chap trying the hd800's + e09k and said it worked well.

Btw saw more info on the hd800's and a test that says the impedance is a lot higher than 300 oms.

This post has been edited by GSARider: Dec 24 2012, 02:39
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extrabigmehdi
post Dec 24 2012, 02:56
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QUOTE (GSARider @ Dec 24 2012, 01:37) *
The issue is that you're never sure whether better sound can be achieved with another amp dac and trying them out is difficult without purchasing first.

The other issue, is that placebo effect is too much underestimated.
Your expectations will have an impact on your listening experience.
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IgorC
post Dec 24 2012, 02:59
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I have E17 and HD800 here. E17 does a good work. Without miracles nor issues. Just enough good.
What bother me is that E17 supports 44.1 kHz, 16 bits and 96 kHz, 24 bits but not 44.1kHz, 24 bits. 24 bits decoding makes sense for CDs. So to get 24 bits I use SoX resampler (lvqcl's foobar plugin) with best quality, 44.1 kHz -> 96 kHz. Lucky we that SoX is a transparent resampler with high speed for realtime playback.

I've tried to compare it to EMU Pre Tracker. It sounds different.
During first day I was impressed by E17 with gain setting at +6 dB. It was punchy and put a lot of energy on phones. But ears become tired more quickly with this gain setting.
And nothing comes for free. The next day I've already noticed that 6dB gain puts more energy but at cost of a bit higher distortion levels. That's why I think You can't just try for 15 minutes a device and then make decision to buy it or not. You're gradually getting into all advantages and disadvantages of it from day to day.

I prefer EMU Pre Tracker for critical listening and generally for all kind of music and sometimes E17 with 6db gain (or without it) for loud metal.
AFAIK a designers decides how much gain to put to amplifier for default setting. So when gain's setting is set to 0dB an amps still can have some moderate amplification of source (gain +1 to +3dB)
It's question of a balance, more/less energetic/punchy at cost of a bit higher distortion levels.

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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 03:09
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QUOTE (IgorC @ Dec 23 2012, 21:59) *
AFAIK a designers decides how much gain to put to amplifier for default setting. So when gain's setting is set to 0dB an amps still can have some moderate amplification of source (gain +1 to +3dB)


Well yes, the output volume you actually listen at is completely arbitrary, so the gain is arbitrary as well. Thats why we have volume knobs smile.gif

QUOTE (IgorC @ Dec 23 2012, 21:59) *
It's question of a balance, more/less energetic/punchy at cost of a bit higher distortion levels.


No, if distortion is going up that implies that you're running out of voltage and need a higher voltage amp. If you just listen at 44.1/16 and set gain to 0dB with no processing at all, is the volume too quiet?
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IgorC
post Dec 24 2012, 03:43
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QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 23 2012, 23:09) *
No, if distortion is going up that implies that you're running out of voltage and need a higher voltage amp. If you just listen at 44.1/16 and set gain to 0dB with no processing at all, is the volume too quiet?

No, I don't get such noticeble distortion with gain at 0 and it can be as loud as one could wish.
While it sound really different with enabled gain.

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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 03:53
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QUOTE (IgorC @ Dec 23 2012, 22:43) *
QUOTE (saratoga @ Dec 23 2012, 23:09) *
No, if distortion is going up that implies that you're running out of voltage and need a higher voltage amp. If you just listen at 44.1/16 and set gain to 0dB with no processing at all, is the volume too quiet?

No, I don't get such noticeble distortion with gain at 0 and it can be as loud as one could wish.
While it sound really different with enabled gain.


Do you mean the digital gain then? You shouldn't be changing that at all if its already loud enough, as digital volume control will introduce clipping.
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IgorC
post Dec 24 2012, 04:08
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Should investigate more if it's a digital gain but afaics it is.

Then it would pretty crappy situation for e17 and all its users because each time when the device runs out of battery it will reset my previous set of gain to 0dB to default +6dB. And there are a bunch of reviews of people talking about how they use e17 with gain +6dB no matter what.

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~Sephi~
post Dec 24 2012, 06:06
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Is it ok to run the hd800 without an external amp? As in directly plugging it in to my ipod nano 7g? From this review here the measured output impedance is 1.1Ω and maximum headphone voltage stated as being nearly 1.9 Vrms. Is that enough power to sufficiently drive the 300Ω impedance SPL 102dB Senn's?
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saratoga
post Dec 24 2012, 07:05
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QUOTE (~Sephi~ @ Dec 24 2012, 01:06) *
Is it ok to run the hd800 without an external amp? As in directly plugging it in to my ipod nano 7g? From this review here the measured output impedance is 1.1Ω and maximum headphone voltage stated as being nearly 1.9 Vrms. Is that enough power to sufficiently drive the 300Ω impedance SPL 102dB Senn's?


If those specs are correct, the Nano 7G would be comparable to the e17 in terms of output, and probably better then most external headphone amps.
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GSARider
post Dec 24 2012, 11:04
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Fiio give the specs here for the E17 and say drive ability from 16 to 100 ohms...

http://www.fiio.com.cn/products/index.aspx...enuID=105026002
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