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Point of AMP in Low impedance Headphones?

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
I've been planning to get a sound card and have been looking at the Asus Xonar DX and Creative Sound Blaster Z cards. One of the most important differences is that the Z has a headphone amp. But the headphones I have are low impedance (AD900X). So should I bother with the amp, or would it do little for these headphones?

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.
post #2 of 15
Many headphone will benefit from a more cleaner power coming from a good amp.
This is what I use.
Audiotrak prodigy cube http://audiotrack.net/en/usb/4009 $100 US
    
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post #3 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Sp33d Junki3 View Post

Many headphone will benefit from a more cleaner power coming from a good amp.
This is what I use.
Audiotrak prodigy cube http://audiotrack.net/en/usb/4009 $100 US
Would that fare well for audio in video games? I will be listening to video games far more often than music.
post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Draulius View Post

I've been planning to get a sound card and have been looking at the Asus Xonar DX and Creative Sound Blaster Z cards. One of the most important differences is that the Z has a headphone amp. But the headphones I have are low impedance (AD900X). So should I bother with the amp, or would it do little for these headphones?

Thanks in advance for any information you can provide.
Headphone & Amp Impedance
SBZ output impedance is ~20 ohm. Xonar DX output impedance is ~100 ohm.

http://en.goldenears.net/17542
In a nutshell: (Click to show)
Quote:
All you really need to know is most headphones work best when the output impedance is less than 1/8th the headphone impedance. So, for example, with 32 ohm Grados the output impedance can be, at most, 32/8 = 4 ohms. The Etymotic HF5s are 16 ohms so the max output impedance is 16/8 = 2 ohms. If you want to be assured a source will work well with just about any headphone, simply make sure the output impedance is under 2 ohms.

If you are not going to use the virtual surround that comes with the cards (SBX and Dolby Headphone), you could take the 3rd choice and go for external DAC/amp combo like Schiit Fulla.
Edited by Tiihokatti - 5/12/15 at 7:03am
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post #5 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiihokatti View Post

Headphone & Amp Impedance
SBZ output impedance is ~20 ohm. Xonar DX output impedance is ~100 ohm.

http://en.goldenears.net/17542
In a nutshell: (Click to show)

If you are not going to use the virtual surround that comes with the cards (SBX and Dolby Headphone), you could take the 3rd choice and go for external DAC/amp combo like Schiit Fulla.

Thanks, I didn't realize how important output impedance ratio was until now. And that Fulla seems like a good DAC/Amp combo at a cheap price. Are there any other DAC/Amp combos worth mentioning that aren't overly expensive?

Secondly, why do DACs have such high output impedance while amps do not? That leads me to believe an amp is almost always required, or maybe I am not understanding something here.
Edited by Draulius - 5/12/15 at 3:48pm
post #6 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Draulius View Post

Thanks, I didn't realize how important output impedance ratio was until now. And that Fulla seems like a good DAC/Amp combo at a cheap price. Are there any other DAC/Amp combos worth mentioning that aren't overly expensive?

Secondly, why do DACs have such high output impedance while amps do not? That leads me to believe an amp is almost always required, or maybe I am not understanding something here.
What pops to my head:
Fiio E10k
Dragonfly 1.0 and 1.2
Aune T1

Soundcards are basically DACs that have a "it's something" amplifier. Pure DACs are not made for stand-alone usage, they always need amplifiers.
Think about the power needed to make the headphones and speakers produce sound:
- DACs have so little output power that they can only tickle headphones (or sound crappy).
- Headphone amplifiers can amplify the signal enough to drive headphones, but when it comes to speakers they can only tickle them.
- Speaker amplifiers can amplify the signal enough to drive speaker elements, and on occasion they can also be used to drive monstrous headphones like Hifiman HE5-LE.

Like the name tells, DACs only handle the conversion of the digital signal to analog signal. Amplification is handled separately.
Edited by Tiihokatti - 5/13/15 at 8:05am
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Silent Hawk
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post #7 of 15
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tiihokatti View Post

What pops to my head:
Fiio E10k
Dragonfly 1.0 and 1.2
Aune T1

Soundcards are basically DACs that have a "it's something" amplifier. Pure DACs are not made for stand-alone usage, they always need amplifiers.
Think about the power needed to make the headphones and speakers produce sound:
- DACs have so little output power that they can only tickle headphones (or sound crappy).
- Headphone amplifiers can amplify the signal enough to drive headphones, but when it comes to speakers they can only tickle them.
- Speaker amplifiers can amplify the signal enough to drive speaker elements, and on occasion they can also be used to drive monstrous headphones like Hifiman HE5-LE.

Like the name tells, DACs only handle the conversion of the digital signal to analog signal. Amplification is handled separately.

I'm torn between the Fiie10k and Schiit Fulla. I see you can switch the gain on the Fiio10k so maybe it'd be better for my headphones, AD900x, which are quite sensitive?
post #8 of 15
Having a headphone amp for headphones with a lower impedance of 32ohms or lower will help a bit but it will be much more noticeable with 64ohms headphones and up I don't know if I'd spend $100 for a small difference in the sound quality. But it's your money and you might get cleaner audio quality. Edit: I jost noticed that you said you have pair of AD900x headphones it would probably help those headphones more than the other ones.
Edited by coldroll - 5/14/15 at 12:16pm
post #9 of 15
Thread Starter 
I decided to get a Schiit Fulla. No problems so far. Quick question, is it usually safe to use the USB ports on the front of the computer case? I have a decent case so the ports shouldn't be bad. Or is it generally better to plug directly into the motherboard?

Thanks.
Edited by Draulius - 5/20/15 at 5:25pm
post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Draulius View Post

I decided to get a Schiit Fulla. No problems so far. Quick question, is it usually safe to use the USB ports on the front of the computer case? I have a decent case so the ports shouldn't be bad. Or is it generally better to plug directly into the motherboard?

Thanks.

Should be fine. The front ports are wired to the motherboard too.

If it were audio ports, there could be some interference, but USB cables, even internal ones, should be sufficiently shielded.
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