Headphone Amp with Volume Limiter

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers' started by albroun, Oct 14, 2011.

  1. albroun

    albroun Well Balanced

    Oct 14, 2011
    I am looking for a headphone amp with some means of restricting the maximum volume and / or overload protection.

    It would be for use with a hifi system - at present my amplifier is far too powerful for the headphones I have - Sennheiser HD555 and 380Pro, and I have to keep the volume only just above zero! Portability for use with an iPod on the go would be useful too, but mainly it is for use with my main amp.

    At present I have an iPod Classic (through a Cambridge Audio dock), and also a Cambridge Audio CD player. They both go through a pretty old 1980's Technics amp - nothing special but the sound quality is much better than listening through the iPod directly.

    I have tried the well-known B-Tech headphone amp but this did not have a good overall tonal balance - too much bass in relation to treble. Also the maximum volume was too high, and no means of limiting it other than making sure the volume control was kept down. Dont know if it has any overload protection.

    I have also tried a portable headphone amp - the Fii0 E7 (through their L3 dock cable). This does have a volume limiting system and using the L3 dock cable with its standardised output enables good volume limitation (with my headphones anyway), but I could not detect any significant improvement in sound quality over simply using the normal iPod headphone socket. It was certainly inferior to using my full-size amp.

    Any help appreciated.
  2. dalethorn

    dalethorn Obsessive Auditor

    Jul 3, 2011
    Charleston South Carolina
    Volume limiting

    I'm not sure about your current gear exactly, so will have to guess somewhat. Generally speaking, if I have two devices, each with separate volume controls (example: an amp or digital player, and separate volume on the headphone), lowering one and raising the other to get the same volume may produce a different quality of sound. In my example where I have a headphone with an actual volume potentiometer, I keep the headphone control at maximum and set the volume from the source digital player. That gives the cleanest and least colored sound.

    I also think you might have some sound quality problems already due to volume controls not operating in a desirable range, but that's just speculation.

    I have a good headphone amp and an iPod Touch, and the sound quality is better with the amp, but not that much different actually. There's more "air" and spaciousness with the amp, but you have to be tuned in to that - it's subtle to most people who aren't expert in detecting those differences. I mention this last point only to say that if you're experiencing a really big difference between iPod only and iPod-plus-amp, you may have some kind of impedance mismatch or other problem.

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