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Old January 18, 2012, 12:11 PM
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Default Question for Linus about "Headphone & Headset Shopping Guide" episode

Headphone & Headset Shopping Guide Featuring Sennheiser HD 800 NCIX Tech Tips - YouTube

Your recommendation is that one should pair a sound card with amp for headphones like PC350's and up. My question is about the necessity of a sound card with an amp. I own a pair of 595's and I have been using a Xonar DG. For my PC speakers I use Altec Lansing MX-5021 2.1 speakers. Now when I want to use my headphones I plug them into the wired desktop controller of the MX-5021. It was my thinking (perhaps erroneous) that the MX-5021 is acting as my headphone amp therefore I would see no benefit from a sound card that has its own amp. Linus what do think? There was no mention of this scenario in your buyers guide and it is something that have wondered about for a long time. Thank you

EDIT: as well is my Xonar DG a little to crappy for 595? I try to listen to FLAC whenever possible.
EDIT: umm (egg on face) the Xonar DG has an amp ... Please answer this post as if it did not...

Last edited by Phill; January 18, 2012 at 12:26 PM.
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Old January 18, 2012, 01:08 PM
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A headphone amp doesn't really do much to sound quality. It merely amplifies the signal and can in some cases make details more noticeable. You don't need one with the 595's, but you could benefit from a good amp.

I'd also take this buyer's guide with a huge grain of salt. A few minutes into the video and most of what I hear is retailer marketing and few hard facts. He also claims that open headphones often give more bass than closed headphones. Most audio experts would disagree with that statement. Aside from the PC350's most closed cans typically have more bass.
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Old January 18, 2012, 04:01 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ilya View Post
A headphone amp doesn't really do much to sound quality.
Yes but that is not what my post is talking about. I am asking for headphones that need an amp is the amplification done by my MX-5021 sufficient if the sound card has no amp.

Last edited by Phill; January 18, 2012 at 04:08 PM.
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Old January 18, 2012, 04:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phill View Post
Yes but that is not what my post is talking about. I am asking for headphones that need an amp is the amplification done by my MX-5021 sufficient if the sound card has no amp.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ilya View Post
You don't need one with the 595's, but you could benefit from a good amp.
Meaning yes, the headphone port on the MX5021 should be sufficient. At least in the case of the HD595's. If you find that you can't hit the high volume levels that you want, then it's not enough for your needs. (which I highly doubt)

If you're looking to get more out of your current cans, then yes a better amp would most likely net a noticeable difference.

If you're also wondering about your DG, yes you can benefit from a different sound card. The DG has an unusually high output impedance unsuitable for lower impedance headphones.
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Old January 18, 2012, 05:07 PM
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Thank you for the reply.

Please explain
Quote:
The DG has an unusually high output impedance unsuitable for lower impedance headphones.
What are the ramifications of this?
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Old January 18, 2012, 05:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phill View Post
Thank you for the reply.

Please explain What are the ramifications of this?
Nothing dangerous, just degraded sound quality due to some complicated electrical issues.

Easy way to find out is to just blind test the DG against your onboard sound at a similar volume level. If the DG sounds noticeably worse, it's a bad match for your 595's.

I haven't found any exact measurements on the DG, (which I also use myself, but with 150ohm PC350's) but most people agree it has an output impedance similar to the other Xonar cards based off similar designs. (about 10ohms) Which means you probably will begin to notice degraded sound quality on headphones with impedance levels lower than 80ohms. The 8:1 ratio isn't an exact rule though, just a good guideline.
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Old January 18, 2012, 05:53 PM
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Doesn't the DG allow one to select between three settings for headphone output?

<32ohms
32~64ohms
>64ohms
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Old January 18, 2012, 05:58 PM
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I just bought a HS1A headset that claim to be rated at 32ohm but man they seem hard to drive... do not like.
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Old January 18, 2012, 07:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phill View Post
Doesn't the DG allow one to select between three settings for headphone output?

<32ohms
32~64ohms
>64ohms
The first one is actually a low volume setting, the second a high volume setting, and the third one is a higher gain setting. Output impedance doesn't change.
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Old January 19, 2012, 01:35 AM
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It doesn't help that the HS1A is a low end pair of headphones. It's not that surprising that you are not getting the performance you were hoping out of them... If you're looking for a gaming headset that actually sounds very decent, the Steelseries 7H is the only one that I have encountered.

I haven't used the PC 360s yet though.
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