Headphone Amp

Discussion in 'Ask The Experts' started by Keth, Jul 5, 2011.

  1. Keth

    Keth New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2011
    Messages:
    2
    Hi there,

    I'm looking to buy a headphone amp to power my Sennheiser PC 350's for use in gaming.

    I'd like to be able to use them in conjunction with my xbox and have the necessary convertor (Steelseries). I have a few questions because my knowledge of sound equipment is very limited.

    If I get a Headphone amp then it runs straight from the audio out (of my monitor in the case of the Xbox), to the amp and then the headphones are plugged into the amp. Is this correct?

    Do I need a DAC? Or are independant DAC's not necessary and only used to further enrich the sound?

    I guess the last question is which headphone amp do you recommend? Budget of around £100. I have been looking at the Fiio E5, the Fiio E9 and the Pro-ject HeadBox II.

    I realise the Fiio E9 has a docking point for the Fiio E7 DAC, but I don't fully understand DAC's yet!

    Thanks in advance all!
     
  2. RobinHiFi

    RobinHiFi Super Moderator

    Joined:
    Apr 28, 2010
    Messages:
    1,325
    Hi Keth

    If it is mainly for use with the Xbox then there is probably no reason to get a DAC as you cannot access the setting of the Xbox to use an external DAC, more on DACs in a moment.

    It is common these days that headphone outputs are not powerful enough for decent full size headphones. Not 600ohm power hungry monsters but in many cases not powerful enough for reasonably easy to drive 50-60ohm headphones. Often AV files or Acoustic and Classical music are quieter than contemporary music, which is produced for a sensational, pressed up against the limiter type sound which can lack subtlety and dynamics. Many find not quite enough headroom for these types of tracks or games with very film like sound effects. The answer is a headphone amp!

    The way I would pick a headphone amp is based on practicality - Where are you going to use it and how? In this case it sound to me that a battery powered amp will not be used fully as your Xbox and TV are stationary. An Fiio E9 would work really well and it means if you wanted a portable amp in future you would have a reason to buy the excellent Fiio E7 with its built in DAC. The Pro-Ject Headbox amp does not have this advantage but is a capable, if a little basic, mains powered amp.

    So what is the advantage of an amp with a built in DAC? DAC stands for Digital to Analogue Convertor, this is the chip which converts information from your MP3 or Lossless files, CD and other digital formats into audiable sound. These chips vary greatly in their accuracy of reproduction and price, in most devices they are cheap and not well thought out, in laptops the chain of components from here onwards are in proximity to some very loud and things like your CD/DVD drive, Hard drive and CPU. A USB external DAC (like that in the E7) by being external and better designed can greatly improve the sound output from a computer, the iBasso D10 also features a Coaxial input and an Optical input so it can be used with CD players and AV amps.

    A DAC helps improve the Audio Source (if it is digital and has the right connections and properties) which is really the most important bit of your signal path as no amount of equipment which comes after a bad or distorted Source will sort it out.

    Hope that helps:)
     
  3. Keth

    Keth New Member

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    Jul 5, 2011
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    That's a great help, thankyou very much.
     
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