Dedicated headphone amp ?

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone amplifiers,
which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser HD600's the way nature
intended..and give far better results than the typical op amp fed headphone
circuit in mixers, cd players, etc ? An example of the species I'm referring
to would be the Musical Fidelity X-Cans.
Any (on topic) input appreciated.......
Thanks,
Ray


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16 answers Last reply
More about dedicated headphone
  1. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Ray Thomas" <rthomas@chariot.net.au> wrote in message
    news:41a30dae_4@news.chariot.net.au
    > Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone
    > amplifiers, which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser
    > HD600's the way nature intended..and give far better results than the
    > typical op amp fed headphone circuit in mixers, cd players, etc ? An
    > example of the species I'm referring to would be the Musical Fidelity
    > X-Cans. Any (on topic) input appreciated.......

    Since you mentioned "the way nature intended", I must question why there
    would be anything wrong with the use of appropriate op amps for headphone
    amplifiers. After all, the active components in the audio paths of mixers,
    CD players, and etc. are almost always op amps.

    Since you mentioned the Sennheiser HD-600s, you should know that these are
    among the easiest of all headphones to drive in a audio production
    environment, due to their high impedance (300-600 ohms). They have almost
    enough additional power sensitivity, so that it does not a great deal more
    voltage to drive them than most far lower-impedance (16-32 ohms) headphones
    such as the Sony MDR 7506s.

    This family of Sennheiser headphones (HD580-650) can be useful for
    attachment directly to some of the more robust line outputs around, without
    the use of any headphone amplifier at all. Their impedance is high enough
    and flat enough that being driven by say 75 ohm impedance sources only adds
    a few dB of response variation which pales in comparison to their natural
    frequency response variations. This contrasts with their reputation for use
    with portable audio gear, where they are a bit shy of sensitivity when
    driven by audio gear that is straining to put out even 1 volt RMS. Most
    audio production gear is capable of 2 to 6 volts RMS, in comparison.

    The headphone amps that seem technically interesting are those that include
    response tailoring and cross-feed circuits to make the psychoacoustic
    experience of listening to headphones more similar to that of listening to
    speakers.

    The major difference between headphone listening and speaker listening is
    the effect of Head-Related Transfer Functions, which are well known to exist
    and be of a magnitude that is clearly audible.

    As a practical matter, many listeners seem to learn how to mentally
    translate their headphone listening experiences so that they can perform
    more like they are listening to speakers.
  2. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    In article <41a30dae_4@news.chariot.net.au>,
    Ray Thomas <rthomas@chariot.net.au> wrote:
    >Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone amplifiers,
    >which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser HD600's the way nature
    >intended..and give far better results than the typical op amp fed headphone
    >circuit in mixers, cd players, etc ? An example of the species I'm referring
    >to would be the Musical Fidelity X-Cans.

    Sure. They are a good idea. Krell used to make a really wonderful one, and
    I think Bryston still does. I did one as a DIY project in Vacuum Tube Valley
    magazine a few years back.

    If you have to drive a whole lot of cans, using a regular power amp
    designed for speakers into a distribution panel is probably a good idea,
    and cheaper than most dedicated headphone amps.
    --scott

    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  3. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    Assuming, after reading the other posts, you still want or need an amp, I
    found an outstanding one from the German outfit, Pro-ject, available from
    Music Direct, an audiophile retailer in Chicago (www.amusicdirect.com/). I
    think it cost $250. I use it with Sennheiser 600s.

    "Uncle Russ" Reinberg

    WESTLAKE PUBLISHING COMPANY
    www.finescalerr.com
    WESTLAKE RECORDS
    www.westlakerecords.com


    "Ray Thomas" <rthomas@chariot.net.au> wrote in message
    news:41a30dae_4@news.chariot.net.au...
    > Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone amplifiers,
    > which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser HD600's the way nature
    > intended..and give far better results than the typical op amp fed
    > headphone
    > circuit in mixers, cd players, etc ? An example of the species I'm
    > referring
    > to would be the Musical Fidelity X-Cans.
    > Any (on topic) input appreciated.......
    > Thanks,
    > Ray
    >
    >
    > ---
    > Outgoing mail is certified Virus Free.
    > Checked by AVG anti-virus system (http://www.grisoft.com).
    > Version: 6.0.799 / Virus Database: 543 - Release Date: 19/11/2004
    >
    >
  4. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    Arny Krueger <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote:
    >
    >Since you mentioned "the way nature intended", I must question why there
    >would be anything wrong with the use of appropriate op amps for headphone
    >amplifiers. After all, the active components in the audio paths of mixers,
    >CD players, and etc. are almost always op amps.

    Because you cannot get high voltage monolithics any more, not at any decent
    price. The OPA604 will run on +/-24V rails, and TI and Apex make some
    nasty-sounding higher voltage ones, but there are just no decent high voltage
    monolithic parts at all. You cannot drive 600 ohm headphones with a 48V
    voltage source without clipping.

    There is a cute discrete op-amp based power amplifier that Opamp Labs sells.
    It's somewhat 1975ish, but it's better than you'd expect given that.
    --scott


    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  5. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote in
    news:cnvidm$893$1@panix2.panix.com:

    > You cannot drive 600 ohm
    > headphones with a 48V voltage source without clipping.

    What exactly do you mean here?

    You can generate 48 VRMS clean at the output, but the minute you connect
    the load, it clips?

    It can't generate 48V clean?
  6. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    Drily Lit Raga <faultline1989SPAMMIT@yahoo.com> wrote:
    >kludge@panix.com (Scott Dorsey) wrote in
    >news:cnvidm$893$1@panix2.panix.com:
    >
    >> You cannot drive 600 ohm
    >> headphones with a 48V voltage source without clipping.
    >
    >What exactly do you mean here?
    >
    >You can generate 48 VRMS clean at the output, but the minute you connect
    >the load, it clips?

    I mean 48VRMS isn't anywhere enough voltage to get high output level from
    those phones. You need to be able to drive more voltage into the load.

    >It can't generate 48V clean?

    That's the problem with LOW impedance phones. Now, you put a pair of 15 ohm
    phones on one of those outputs, then the level starts to sag and the current
    drive ability becomes the issue.
    --scott
    --
    "C'est un Nagra. C'est suisse, et tres, tres precis."
  7. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Ray Thomas" <rthomas@chariot.net.au> wrote in message
    news:41a30dae_4@news.chariot.net.au...
    > Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone amplifiers,
    > which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser HD600's the way nature
    > intended..and give far better results than the typical op amp fed
    > headphone
    > circuit in mixers, cd players, etc ? An example of the species I'm
    > referring
    > to would be the Musical Fidelity X-Cans.

    Are HD600s les than 100 Ohms ? If not, what's the problem with 'normal'
    headhone amps ?


    geoff
  8. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    Scott Dorsey wrote:

    > Arny Krueger <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote:
    > >
    > >Since you mentioned "the way nature intended", I must question why there
    > >would be anything wrong with the use of appropriate op amps for headphone
    > >amplifiers. After all, the active components in the audio paths of mixers,
    > >CD players, and etc. are almost always op amps.
    >
    > Because you cannot get high voltage monolithics any more, not at any decent
    > price. The OPA604 will run on +/-24V rails, and TI and Apex make some
    > nasty-sounding higher voltage ones, but there are just no decent high voltage
    > monolithic parts at all. You cannot drive 600 ohm headphones with a 48V
    > voltage source without clipping.
    >
    > There is a cute discrete op-amp based power amplifier that Opamp Labs sells.
    > It's somewhat 1975ish, but it's better than you'd expect given that.

    TI specs the 5532 at +/- 22V max rating btw. I think that the 22V parts used to
    be only industrial/military grade and commercial were +/- 18V max but I may be
    mistaken.

    http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ne5532a.pdf

    Graham
  9. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    > Because you cannot get high voltage monolithics any more, not at any
    decent
    > price. The OPA604 will run on +/-24V rails, and TI and Apex make some
    > nasty-sounding higher voltage ones, but there are just no decent high
    voltage
    > monolithic parts at all. You cannot drive 600 ohm headphones with a 48V
    > voltage source without clipping.


    I've built four headphone amps with very high gain & four output current
    buffers in parallel. In two of them I used a +/- 18V split supply & it
    drives my 600 Ohm AKG and Senheiser headphones to extremely high levels with
    no clipping. From what I've actually measured on the bench, I'd observe that
    as long as you have enough current capacity & aren't going into current
    limiting at high gain settings, then you won't clip into 600Ohm phones at
    usable levels with a 36V supply.

    Skler
  10. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Scott Dorsey" <kludge@panix.com> wrote in message
    news:cnvidm$893$1@panix2.panix.com
    > Arny Krueger <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote:
    >>
    >> Since you mentioned "the way nature intended", I must question why
    >> there would be anything wrong with the use of appropriate op amps
    >> for headphone amplifiers. After all, the active components in the
    >> audio paths of mixers, CD players, and etc. are almost always op
    >> amps.

    > Because you cannot get high voltage monolithic any more, not at any
    > decent price.

    The OP's post did not seem to restrict discussion to just monolithic op
    amps. Discrete op amps are still pretty common in higher powered
    applications. Almost every discrete SS audio power amp takes the form of an
    op amp.

    > The OPA604 will run on +/-24V rails, and TI and Apex
    > make some nasty-sounding higher voltage ones, but there are just no
    > decent high voltage monolithic parts at all.

    Agreed, however the OP we are discussing seems to want to eliminate the use
    of op amps as components of equipment that would add addtional parts in
    order to reach higher voltages.

    > You cannot drive 600
    > ohm headphones with a 48V voltage source without clipping.

    Of course, everything with a voltage limit can be abused to the point of
    clipping. However, are there really headphones that require what, 18 volts
    rms to achieve reasonble volume levels?
  11. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Pooh Bear" <rabbitsfriendsandrelations@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    news:41A3E3D0.B9906474@hotmail.com


    > TI specs the 5532 at +/- 22V max rating btw. I think that the 22V
    > parts used to be only industrial/military grade and commercial were
    > +/- 18V max but I may be mistaken.
    >
    > http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ne5532a.pdf

    I've used 5532s and 5534s with highly-regulated power sources at just under
    22 volts. IME over a period of time (years) the op amps measurably degrade.
    They lose gain and start producing moderate amounts of distortion. A
    semiconductor manufactuerer tech rep pointed out a known failure mode that
    seemed related to this, but I've forgotten the details. Bottom line, 18
    volts is a better choice.
  12. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    On Tue, 23 Nov 2004 11:27:11 +0100, Ray Thomas wrote
    (in article <41a30dae_4@news.chariot.net.au>):

    > Does anyone have direct experience with dedicated headphone amplifiers,
    > which are reputed to drive cans like the Sennheiser HD600's the way nature
    > intended..and give far better results than the typical op amp fed headphone
    > circuit in mixers, cd players, etc.?
    >---------------------------<snip>---------------------------<

    Yeah, the coolest-sounding (and heaviest-duty) headphone amps I've ever seen
    are the ones made by these guys:

    HeadRoom
    2020 Gilkerson Drive
    Bozeman, MT 59715
    (800) 828-8184
    http://www.headphone.com/

    Their headphone amps range in price from about $100 to well over $5000, with
    a couple of dozen different models.

    Coincidentally, I just bought a pair of Etymotic earphones from them, and
    they have great prices and fast shipping. Very nice people.

    --MFW
  13. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Arny Krueger" <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote in message
    news:_qedndDNNr49ijbcRVn-vg@comcast.com...
    > "Pooh Bear" <rabbitsfriendsandrelations@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    > news:41A3E3D0.B9906474@hotmail.com
    >
    >
    > > TI specs the 5532 at +/- 22V max rating btw. I think that the 22V
    > > parts used to be only industrial/military grade and commercial were
    > > +/- 18V max but I may be mistaken.
    > >
    > > http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ne5532a.pdf
    >
    > I've used 5532s and 5534s with highly-regulated power sources at just
    under
    > 22 volts. IME over a period of time (years) the op amps measurably
    degrade.
    > They lose gain and start producing moderate amounts of distortion. A
    > semiconductor manufactuerer tech rep pointed out a known failure mode that
    > seemed related to this, but I've forgotten the details. Bottom line, 18
    > volts is a better choice.

    Hmm. I do the same thing -- highly reguled 21V supplies. And I've found no
    degradation at all. They still measure very well.

    Were your chips Signetics or TI?

    Peace,
    Paul
  14. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Paul Stamler" <pstamlerhell@pobox.com> wrote in message
    news:apJqd.72112$7i4.8053@bgtnsc05-news.ops.worldnet.att.net
    > "Arny Krueger" <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote in message
    > news:_qedndDNNr49ijbcRVn-vg@comcast.com...
    >> "Pooh Bear" <rabbitsfriendsandrelations@hotmail.com> wrote in message
    >> news:41A3E3D0.B9906474@hotmail.com
    >>
    >>
    >>> TI specs the 5532 at +/- 22V max rating btw. I think that the 22V
    >>> parts used to be only industrial/military grade and commercial were
    >>> +/- 18V max but I may be mistaken.
    >>>
    >>> http://focus.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/ne5532a.pdf
    >>
    >> I've used 5532s and 5534s with highly-regulated power sources at
    >> just under 22 volts. IME over a period of time (years) the op amps
    >> measurably degrade. They lose gain and start producing moderate
    >> amounts of distortion. A semiconductor manufactuerer tech rep
    >> pointed out a known failure mode that seemed related to this, but
    >> I've forgotten the details. Bottom line, 18 volts is a better choice.
    >
    > Hmm. I do the same thing -- highly reguled 21V supplies. And I've
    > found no degradation at all. They still measure very well.

    I admit it, I pushed the margins closer - 21.9 or so volts. The circuit was
    a test oscillator that was steadily putting out > 10 v rms, and the load was
    low Z - generally under 1K.

    > Were your chips Signetics or TI?

    Signetics.
  15. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "Arny Krueger" <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote in message
    news:xOudnaufNf1yizbcRVn-og@comcast.com...
    > > You cannot drive 600
    > > ohm headphones with a 48V voltage source without clipping.
    >
    > Of course, everything with a voltage limit can be abused to the point of
    > clipping. However, are there really headphones that require what, 18 volts
    > rms to achieve reasonble volume levels?

    Probably more like 15V RMS, but still over 1/3W @ 600 ohms. That's pretty
    inefficient headphones! Even AKG's get by with less than that.
    Passive near field monitors maybe :-)

    TonyP.
  16. Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

    "TonyP" <TonyP@optus.net.com.au> wrote in message
    news:41abf782$0$8114$afc38c87@news.optusnet.com.au
    > "Arny Krueger" <arnyk@hotpop.com> wrote in message
    > news:xOudnaufNf1yizbcRVn-og@comcast.com...
    >>> You cannot drive 600
    >>> ohm headphones with a 48V voltage source without clipping.
    >>
    >> Of course, everything with a voltage limit can be abused to the
    >> point of clipping. However, are there really headphones that require
    >> what, 18 volts rms to achieve reasonble volume levels?
    >
    > Probably more like 15V RMS, but still over 1/3W @ 600 ohms. That's
    > pretty inefficient headphones! Even AKG's get by with less than that.
    > Passive near field monitors maybe :-

    Here's a wild idea:

    Drive the common side of the headphone jack with -0.5*(L+R).

    Drive the L terminal with L-0.5*R

    Drive the R terminal with R-0.5*L

    The L headphone element gets 1.5*L while playing the left channel source.

    The R headphone element gets 1.5*R while playing the right channel source.

    Op amps that can run on +/-24 volts develop headphone output comparable to
    op amps running on +/- 36. Seems like 15-20 VRMS or more is a slam dunk!

    Yeah, things can get a little strange if you play mono...
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