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Purpose of a headphone amp.

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Are the portable headphone amps supposed to be used in a desktop PC environment?

I am a noob at audio, and I am trying to figure out why so many audiophiles reccomend a portable headphone amp, and if they are reccomending it for a desktop pc.

I appreciate any help.

-Brien
post #2 of 3
Portable Amps are generally cheaper than a full-sized / "desktop" amp.

An Amp has a simple purpose; to take the output source and increase it's range through amplification so it will not sound distorted when you increase the volume past a certain threshold.

So to put it more simply:
Say your headphones get sound distortion around 70% volume (coming from the source, which is pretty common.) With an Amp you are able to only raise the Source to say 50% Volume, but it will sound like 70% volume coming out of your headphones, because while the Source is only at 50%; your amp is amplifying that sound to a greater volume without increasing the distortion which you would normally experience coming from a source.

A source can be your MP3 player (these easily get distortion above 50% volume) or a CD Player (in your car or at home) or even a sound card in your computer.
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TTTbox
(15 items)
 
 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
Core i5 3570K  Biostar TZ774XE Power Color AX5770 1GB 4x4GB 1866Mhz 9-10-9-27-2T 
Hard DriveHard DriveHard DriveHard Drive
Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 1TB Western Digital Green 2TB Samsung Spinpoint M4 500GB 
Hard DriveOptical DriveCoolingOS
Intel X-25M G2 80GB Lite-On BluRay Drive Arctic Cooling Freezer 13 Pro Windows 7 Ultimate 
MonitorKeyboardPowerCase
Dell U2212HM Deck Legend Frost Tactile Silverstone Strider Plus 750w Custom Acrylic Test Bed 
MouseMouse PadAudioAudio
Logitech G500 Cooler Master Storm Tactics FPS Beyer Dynamics DT-990 600ohm Samson MediaOne 3A 
AudioAudioOtherOther
FiiO E09k QOGIR FiiO E17 ALPEN Microsoft Lifecam Studio Blue Yeti Pro Microphone 
CPUMotherboardGraphicsRAM
AMD A10-A5800K ASRock FM2A85X-ITX Radeon HD7770 1GB 2x8GB 1866mhz C9 
Hard DriveHard DriveOptical DriveCooling
SanDisk Ultra Plus 128GB 2TB 5400 RPM  24x DVD Drive Noctua L9A 
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post #3 of 3
Portable amps can be used in a "desktop" environment. Yes. As Tator Tot explained, they are generally less expensive, but some of the higher end models rival their bigger brothers too.
An amp also helps drive higher impedance (ohm) headphones. When selecting an amp, make sure you look at its ohm recommendation. If an amp has a driver rating for say 300ohms, then you would not want to use it for a 600ohm headphone. Then you start getting into the distortion factor again, as you have to over "drive" your amp to push the volume on the headphones. Hope that makes sense. These might help also.

http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/what-is-a-headphone-amp.php
http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/why-do-i-need-a-headphone-amp.php
http://www.headphone.com/learning-center/how-do-i-know-if-my-headphones-need-an-amp.php
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