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synthtel2
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:46 pm

Valve guitar amps were actually the example I had in mind where high output impedance isn't clearly bad. There's a lot that the higher impedance designs in that space can do that the ones with nicer spec sheets can't, and the speakers are often set up to make high impedance work better. It is a bit of a weird space though, since arguably the best feedback is no feedback at all (single-ended with non-ridiculous gain).

It's definitely possible to design a good speaker for pretty much whatever source (or vice-versa), it's just a whole lot easier and more consistent when you can assume the source is low impedance. Apparently I thought that assumption was more standard in the modern day than it actually is.

I don't think the voltage rails are a big limitation in the first place. Looking at those datasheets I linked earlier, it's 205mV RMS to drive HD650s to 90 dB, which means 100 dB should be easy on a phone's Vbat. It'll be less under musical loads, but that's still a lot of noise from tough-to-drive cans. The Audio-Technicas should be able to ride that to more like 115 dB, which is just excessive.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 8:52 pm

Is there a "coalescence" in today's portable world of which op-amp will drive the headphone output? If so, a datasheet might be interesting.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:00 pm

synthtel2 wrote:
Valve guitar amps were actually the example I had in mind where high output impedance isn't clearly bad. There's a lot that the higher impedance designs in that space can do that the ones with nicer spec sheets can't, and the speakers are often set up to make high impedance work better. It is a bit of a weird space though, since arguably the best feedback is no feedback at all (single-ended with non-ridiculous gain).

Since I think that an overdriven tube (OK, UK, valve 8) ) amp with even-order distortion is the reason Eric Clapton became God (at least in late 1960's England), I think that Fender & Marshall got it right. Remember, those amps weren't driving a crossover network, just one single driver.

As for feedback, single-ended tube (is there a single-ended solid state) amps are the absolute worst for allowing a speaker's impedance curve to modify its output curve. The only config more out-there is the late '80s/early '90s zeal for a tube amp without output transformers (Futterman).
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:03 pm

I have the audio technica ATH-M50 (pre - "X") -- supposedly about the same sound as the newer -M50x version but without the replaceable cord. They sound great.

But the best I've personally heard, and for about half the price, are these: https://www.costco.com/1More-Triple-Dri ... 96621.html - my review is somewhere in there under "Huntsvillian" (last page in the 39-45 reviews range as I look just now)
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:25 pm

My office cans are a set of Oppo PM-3s (planar-magnetic & closed-back, A/K/A office-friendly) driven by a iFi Micro iCan sourced from an Audioquest Dragonfly 1.2 (USB DAC) hanging off the work lappy (story available upon request). Yes, the Oppos are low-Z, but the amp takes control of the sound in a way that the op-amp chip in the Dragonfly never could. The amp also has variable gain settings for the time when I can afford proper high-Z cans.

The travel cans are Shure SE500 IEMs driven by a BitHead Total BitHead sourced from my Zune (Yes, Zune. Deal with it).

Both of my sets of cans are low-Z and can be driven by any portable. I've done the amp/no amp test many times and have concluded that amp always beats no amp, even at low-Z.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:29 pm

Single-ended is what's needed to get those even harmonics in large quantities (though it doesn't necessarily have to be the power stage). Symmetrical distortion is odd-order distortion, valves or no.

Why do you think SE is so crazy? It does have some oddball characteristics, but I wouldn't call it the absolute worst at that. It's inefficient, but at moderate power levels it doesn't matter much, and it can be more efficient in guitar amps (distortion intended) than hi-fi amps (which need to avoid the output stage's limits).

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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Mon Mar 13, 2017 9:45 pm

SE has the sweet even-order distortion, but home audio SE amps double as space heaters. I grok that some hear the "aha", but I'm not ready to deal with the associated issues (i.e. daily removal of cat hair from simmering tubes).

I'm also quite fond, on occasion, of excessive volume. SE just don't do that at prices below Bill Gates levels.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 9:16 am

Captain Ned wrote:
The travel cans are Shure SE500 IEMs driven by a BitHead Total BitHead sourced from my Zune (Yes, Zune. Deal with it).
That Total BitHead was made by the company I mentioned earlier in this post. I listened to an original BitHead about a decade ago while I was in college. I really wish I could have spent the $300 total for that and the set of Sennheisers I purchased at the time. By the time I had enough saved up again, I killed my headphones by stretching the cord...
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 11:40 am

Captain Ned wrote:
(5V max, and I don't see portables running switching power supplies to trade current for voltage for their audio outputs).

They sure can, if necessary.. A complete buck or boost converter using relatively low input and output voltages can fit in a 6- or 8-pin IC smaller than a pencil eraser, and that's if you need an amp or two of output. For smaller jobs it may disappear into another control ASIC, or in the case of audio, become a Class D circuit.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:54 pm

ludi wrote:
Captain Ned wrote:
(5V max, and I don't see portables running switching power supplies to trade current for voltage for their audio outputs).

They sure can, if necessary.. A complete buck or boost converter using relatively low input and output voltages can fit in a 6- or 8-pin IC smaller than a pencil eraser, and that's if you need an amp or two of output. For smaller jobs it may disappear into another control ASIC, or in the case of audio, become a Class D circuit.

Sure, they can... but I doubt many do.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 12:57 pm

just brew it! wrote:
Sure, they can... but I doubt many do.

And even if they did, low-Z cans would be consigned to the first 10% of the volume range unless there was a gain-matching switch (my office amp has a 4-pin DIP to add gain for high-Z cans if needed).
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:04 pm

just brew it! wrote:
ludi wrote:
Sure, they can... but I doubt many do.

Now you've got me wanting to scope the output of my Nexus next weekend. But in any case, there's already some sort of de facto power conversion taking place because the audio output is a symmetrical signal. For a typical mobile device, all of that hardware to drive the headphone jack is already integrated into the a/v codec, unless you bought an iPhone 7.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:10 pm

ludi wrote:
just brew it! wrote:
ludi wrote:
Sure, they can... but I doubt many do.

Now you've got me wanting to scope the output of my Nexus next weekend. But in any case, there's already some sort of de facto power conversion taking place because the audio output is a symmetrical signal. For a typical mobile device, all of that hardware to drive the headphone jack is already integrated into the a/v codec, unless you bought an iPhone 7.


I think you have a 5X, ludi?

http://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Googl ... 108/page/3

Speaking of audio quality, its single front-firing speaker is a bit on the tepid side, where it musters up 69.2 dB of power. That tally is undoubtedly under-powered in contrast to the competition, but at least there’s no strained output when it’s at the highest volume setting. Yes, it’s a bit weak on the bass, making for a performance that lacks substance.

Things don’t get any better either going with the headphone jack, which sadly churns out 0.287 V of output.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:18 pm

Just in case the OP (or anyone here) is thinking of getting the Sennheiser HD 598 Cs (note the "Cs" denominator)... don't.

I picked up a deal on these back during Black Friday and ended up returning them. They're a low-impedance variant of the regular 598s, but they sound like butt. To be fair, they're still pretty good-sounding considering they're 16Ohm and meant to be carried around, but still, I found the sound pretty darn poor, and I put them back in their case literally after 3 minutes of listening, and returned them. They were the most comfortable set of cans I ever had on my noggin, tho.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:19 pm

DancinJack wrote:
I think you have a 5X, ludi?

http://www.phonearena.com/reviews/Googl ... 108/page/3

Speaking of audio quality, its single front-firing speaker is a bit on the tepid side, where it musters up 69.2 dB of power. That tally is undoubtedly under-powered in contrast to the competition, but at least there’s no strained output when it’s at the highest volume setting. Yes, it’s a bit weak on the bass, making for a performance that lacks substance.

Things don’t get any better either going with the headphone jack, which sadly churns out 0.287 V of output.

Interesting, and yes, it's a 5X. I haven't used the headphone jack much yet as I haven't been at the gym much since the baby arrived, just lunch walks in the park.

In any case, if vendors aren't optimizing the headphone output, it isn't because the 5V battery source is a limitation, they're just cost-optimizing (or in Apple's case, throwing it out completely).
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 1:48 pm

ludi wrote:
Now you've got me wanting to scope the output of my Nexus next weekend. But in any case, there's already some sort of de facto power conversion taking place because the audio output is a symmetrical signal.

Well there are ways to get a symmetrical signal without using a negative supply rail. DC blocking caps are one way. Alternatively you can hold the return at 1/2 of the supply voltage instead of 0V (there are potential gotchas with this if the charging cable and audio cable are both connected to the same external device though).

Edit: Looks like there are headphone amp chips with built-in negative supply voltage generators, e.g.: http://www.analog.com/media/en/technica ... SM2932.pdf
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Tue Mar 14, 2017 3:39 pm

Plenty of good recommendations here and I'm not going to disagree with any of them, because I've used most of them and they deserve to be on your shortlist. However, since there's no "perfect headphone" and everyone's tastes are different, you should definitely add the Sony MDR-1A headphones to your shortlist. They're about €150 including tax at 20% so I'd expect them to be priced comparably in the US.

I find them as good as my old HD580s in terms of sound, perhaps a slight bias toward bass but I'm saying that as a hardcore flat-EQ, calibrated studio person, not as a leyman. They're deffinitely flatter and more neutral than some of the other recommendations here, if you're looking for that.

My main love of these headphones is the comfort. They are remarkably light and easy to wear for hours on end, yet do not feel cheap or flimsy in the slightest.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri May 19, 2017 12:24 pm

I've had more headphones than I'd care to admit. My current favorite are the Plantronics Backbeat Pro. They have a "fun" sound. If you like a flat sound like the AKG Q701, these are not for you. IMO, for $150 you won't find anything better.
 
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri May 19, 2017 12:35 pm

yakapo wrote:
I've had more headphones than I'd care to admit. My current favorite are the Plantronics Backbeat Pro. They have a "fun" sound. If you like a flat sound like the AKG Q701, these are not for you. IMO, for $150 you won't find anything better.


Now I'm curious, because of some really terrible (phone) headsets from Plantronics I've run into recently. Sadly, I don't have a pair to bake-off with the Monoprice 9927's I got for $9.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri May 19, 2017 1:02 pm

You can have my Oppo PM3s at the price of an arraignment. 'Tis up to you to set the charge.
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Re: Headphone upgrade advice

Fri May 19, 2017 8:34 pm

It's no secret that I'm a Sony fanboi, and while my beloved MDR-V6 has been discontinued after a 30 year run there's still a lot of them on the market for around $100 and the newer MDR-7506 should be a good replacement. I was at Prince's recording studio not too long ago, and noticed that they had a lot of Sony MDRs scattered around; I'm not hugely familiar with the guy's music but he clearly had good taste in audio equipment. :)

Come to think of it, I should get another set of MDRs while I'm thinking about it. I don't like keeping things at work that I'm not afraid to lose, and the Audio-Technica cans I got for that haven't been as comfortable as I had hoped.

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