Do I need dedicated amplifiers for headphones?

Discussion in 'Soundgear' started by Doctor_Me, May 29, 2021.

  1. Doctor_Me

    Doctor_Me Platinum Record

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2016
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    159
    Hey guys, hope you're all fine
    I'm a Sennheiser HD650s user for almost 2 years now, but I aways used it plugged on my Focusrite Scarlett Solo interface without no problem at all, the volume is good, the sound is clear and everything works. But, I recently read somewhere that the 650s really need a dedicated headphone amplifier to sound the best they can, honestly I never have heard about headphone amplifiers before, so I don't understand nothing about it.

    My question is, do I really need a dedicated headphone amplifier? Which differences I should expect by using it instead of the Scarlett Solo headphone output? And the most important, wich headphone amp do you guys recommend me to buy to fit my HD650s?

    Thanks in advance for your help :bow:
     
  2.  
  3. BEAT16

    BEAT16 Audiosexual

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Messages:
    9,082
    Likes Received:
    6,987
    You don't need a headphone amplifier. You heard everything with your headphones for 2 years and it was okay.
     
    • Agree Agree x 3
    • Like Like x 2
    • List
  4. BigM

    BigM Guest

    It won't be a problem unless the sound is too quiet.
    I think hd650s are 300ohms, absolutely they will get a little advantage from a headphone amp.But if you are okay with current sound ,it will be fine.
     
    • Agree Agree x 2
    • Like Like x 1
    • List
  5. Olymoon

    Olymoon MODERATOR Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jan 31, 2012
    Messages:
    5,798
    Likes Received:
    4,448
    Adding a device in the listening chain while unnecessary can only bring problems.

    Headphones amps are meant to add power if your audio interface don't have enough. If it was your case, you would have enter in the chase of the most transparent headphone amp, which is a headache and result relatively expensive.

    So, consider yourself lucky not to need it, and keep on with your working setup.
     
    • Agree Agree x 7
    • Like Like x 2
    • List
  6. clone

    clone Audiosexual

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2021
    Messages:
    5,697
    Likes Received:
    2,416
    I was using a Scarlett and I thought the headphones output was on the loud side. but not that desirable of a loud side using it with a pair of 250hm dt990pro. for me, it was piercing and/or distorted, and muffled. a 50$ headphones amp made them sound like a different pair of headphones. and at 300 ohms it should be even more noticeable. the 650s are nice, you will notice a big difference, in my personal experience with a Scarlett. I am assuming the 18i20 is the same as yours just with different connections. you can always come up with a reason for return.
     
  7. No Avenger

    No Avenger Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2017
    Messages:
    8,826
    Likes Received:
    6,061
    Location:
    Europe
    No, because
    You'd only need a separate HP amp if this would not be the case.

    But I must admit that I'm surprised that this HP works with this interface because it's not known for having a high output.
     
  8. Smoove Grooves

    Smoove Grooves Audiosexual

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2019
    Messages:
    5,209
    Likes Received:
    1,980
    Sometimes, in a small rehearsal room environment and for onstage IEM.
     
  9. Adam Ford

    Adam Ford Producer

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2017
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    108
    It's not a matter of volume only but how the headphones perform at a given impedance.



    As shown in this video, some audio interfaces drive headphones differently according at the power impedance of the interface itself and the impedance required from the headphones.

    If the power offered from the interface doesn't match your headphones, they will sound low in volume or worse, with a frequency response that doesn't correspond to the real declared from the manufacturer.

    For example I have a dynamic pair of HD600 which have like yours 300 ohm of impedance and not all audio interfaces drive them well.

    An headphone amplifier might come handy in the case you want a dedicated gear that gives the headphones more power than required at the lowest noise floor, harmonic distortion and frequency response flatness.

    Unless you got super high impedance headphones like Beyerdynamics this is not an issue, most of them will be fine, but if you plan to go on planar magnetic headphones a dedicated amp like Topping A90, Audio GD19 or SMSL or Bricasti if you're rich, might give you the highest fidelity results.
     
  10. BEAT16

    BEAT16 Audiosexual

    Joined:
    May 24, 2012
    Messages:
    9,082
    Likes Received:
    6,987
    I have beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro headphones with the impedance: 250 ohms. I used it for 8 years and it was OK. and never too quiet ..! My PCI sound card also has enough power "ADC: 113dB dynamic range (up to 24-bit / 192kHz) and DAC: 115dB dynamic range.
     
  11. Doctor_Me

    Doctor_Me Platinum Record

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2016
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    159
    Yeah, I've been googling it for a while and if I understood correctly the first gen of the Scarlett interfaces really had the issue of quiet output on the HD650s, but seems like they solved this issue for the second gen (which, luckyly, is the one I'm using)... Honestly, for me, it can even get uncomfortably loud if I turn the knob a little bit more than half it's maximum position.
     
    Last edited: May 29, 2021
    • Like Like x 1
    • Interesting Interesting x 1
    • List
  12. fadiawwad

    fadiawwad Newbie

    Joined:
    Jan 3, 2014
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    1
    My advice is use an amp and dont think about this twice. And if you get the amp and you are mixing, dont mix in low volume (unless you are doing a low level check) give the headphones the power they need. You will hear the instruments full and separated when you listen at a good volume. A bonus tip is adjust ure headphones position (try tilting them forward) according to ure head and u will get a better soundstage.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  13. Doctor_Me

    Doctor_Me Platinum Record

    Joined:
    Oct 16, 2016
    Messages:
    344
    Likes Received:
    159
    Thank you for your replies guys, you really helped me out a lot, will keep my current setup for the time being, even because I'm really used to how it sounds, and, take the time to learn more about this topic and think about a future upgrade.

    Thanks again for your help guys :bow:
     
  14. Ŧยχøя

    Ŧยχøя Audiosexual

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2020
    Messages:
    1,098
    Likes Received:
    765
    Location:
    Neverland
    If in the end you need to use an amp, SPDIF/TOS is your friend..

    Going Digital directly from your interface to the Amp/Dac will take out one Analog path out the way,
    and make it cleaner/more balanced.

    Alternatively if you're not recording or using other audio outputs/inputs, you could even use the Amp/Dac as an Interface on its own..
    (given the unit it's capable of doing so ofc..)
     
  15. Howard Carpendale

    Howard Carpendale Platinum Record

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2021
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    Location:
    .de
    sls told me once it brings more detail but he used not a cheap one
     
  16. Strat4ever

    Strat4ever Rock Star

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2019
    Messages:
    473
    Likes Received:
    306
    Do you think everyone listening to your music will buy the same headphones, pre-amps and everything else you have in your audio chain just to listen to the sound you want them to hear, it's a lot of marketing BS to empty your wallet, next they'll tell you what speakers you need (but every Brand has a sound of its own, are you going to buy them all?). If it was OK for 2 years for you with your headphones then it is just fine. The only one that has to be content with what you hear is yourself, everyone's hearing is not the same regardless of if with or without headphones, so just think about this fact.
     
  17. Howard Carpendale

    Howard Carpendale Platinum Record

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2021
    Messages:
    594
    Likes Received:
    247
    Location:
    .de
    cool so i mix on cheap earpods only now , didnt knew its so easy
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2021
    • Funny Funny x 2
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  18. Smoove Grooves

    Smoove Grooves Audiosexual

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2019
    Messages:
    5,209
    Likes Received:
    1,980
    Yes. I don't think it was every really "solved" though. Because they still sound harsh to me still.
    And the fact you say this below maybe confirms we feel the same too?
     
  19. clone

    clone Audiosexual

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2021
    Messages:
    5,697
    Likes Received:
    2,416
    the Scarlett 18i20 I have is 2nd gen. it will not drive the dt990pro at 250hms correctly. well, it benefits a lot with use of the amp. but so does my Motu. I only start checking on headphones though when I'm about 90% done with a track. I rather work with monitors, but headphones kind of let you "zoom in" on your mix. I really don't see the point in buying good (and expensive) headphones that you aren't hearing right. It almost sounds similar to using a TRS cable when it should be TS.
     
  20. Dread_J

    Dread_J Kapellmeister

    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2016
    Messages:
    159
    Likes Received:
    66
    Location:
    Peru, Indiana
    everybody knows that when your snare drum or your mix sounds dull, the answer is buy stuff.
    watch another yt video to convince yourself
     
  21. BeatsNFreakz

    BeatsNFreakz Member

    Joined:
    Nov 26, 2014
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    9
    The answer to this is purely subjective. I used to mix using my monitors & sub before I moved to an apartment where that was no longer a possibility unless I wanted to piss of my neighbors and the management. So, like you, I started researching for quality cans and was unaware of an entire community based on a passion for headphones and amps to get the best sound possible. I read all the forums and I bought my first pair of planars and ran them with a focusrite 2i4. Sure, it gets the job done and you can produce on it just fine. However, I felt the volume was just not enough for when I really wanted to crank it. Adding a headphone amp made all the difference in the world. I bought a JDM labs O2 for $100 bucks and the difference was night and day. Headphones only sound as good as the source signal you give them. Once you add a decent headphone amp you can crank up the volume much further without distortion (depending on the headphones), the bass will be fuller and the mids will just smack you in the face. Did it make me produce #1 hits overnight? No. But it did make me notice flaws in my mixing/production that I hadn't heard before and now I can identify them easier. Since then, I upgraded to a pair of Audeze LCDs and I strictly mix on headphones, even if I had the luxury of being able to blast my monitors.

    Some enthusiasts collect headphones/amps (look up Z reviews on YouTube) and it can be an expensive hobby to "chase the perfect setup". Especially once you get into the $1000 dollar headphone range. However, if making or listening to music is your passion then you won't regret an investment of say $1500 for a nice amp and a "high end" pair of cans (audeze, etc) Unlike other tech, quality high end headphones last for decades and no matter what changes in music, quality cans will always be able to play music at its highest potential . So, basically It's not "necessary" but I've never met someone who bought a headphone amp and thought it sounded "worse".
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2021
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • Useful Useful x 1
    • List
Loading...
Similar Threads - need dedicated amplifiers Forum Date
Spire users: I need somebody (a Cyberpunk Help!) how to make "that" sound Friday at 3:13 PM
Simple AI video tool? (No need for overkill) Working with Video Thursday at 3:31 AM
Help Needed: Beatles 1965-1966 Lead Guitar Riffs Guitars Wednesday at 4:57 PM
Why do you need Waves plugins? Software Wednesday at 4:10 PM
Need help with voice seperation of 8 seconds. Working with Sound Feb 17, 2024
Loading...