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Enough volume but not enough dynamics?

Jan 29, 2022
Hi everyone,

I'm relatively new to the audiophile world and I'm trying to understand the relationship between an amp providing enough volume and dynamics for power-hungry headphones. I tend to use a Topping L50 on my desktop setup, which drives my Drop 8XX (300 ohms of impedance and 103dB of sensitivity) just perfect. I'd like to listen to the 8XX when laying in bed, so I've been thinking of either getting an iFi Hip-DAC 2 or a Hiby R6 III dap. I've seen comments online stating both will provide more than enough volume but not enough dynamics.

Is this true? I've also seen people stating that if there's enough volume without distortion then there's no need for a stronger amp, and the rest are just people trying to justify the purchase of amps with tons of unnecessary gain. I'd like to understand what is the relationship between an amp's ability to provide enough volume, and the ability to provide enough dynamics.

Thanks a lot.


Senior Member
Sep 26, 2022
Assuming the amp has good performance up to clipping, there is no difference between peak volume and dynamics.

But audio content varies in dynamic range. For low average volume/high dynamic range content (movie sound mixes, for example), you could have enough power to cleanly reproduce the average volume of the material, but it may clip when there's a big explosion or something. There's a decent chance a portable device would not clip into 300ohms at any volume it can produce, but you'd want to confirm this with measurements.


Major Contributor
May 27, 2021
Headphones, speakers, and amplifiers are linear unless over-driven into clipping/distortion.... They don't change the dynamics of the recording.

Our perception of loudness is related to the short-term average and the frequency content. Short-term peaks don't necessarily sound "loud" so highly-dynamic music may not sound as loud as highly dynamically-compressed* music, so you may need more amplifier power with more-dynamic music so you don't clip the peaks.

Is this true?
Most of the audiophile community is nuts! (And non-scientific.) Audiophoolery may help you to recognize when "audiophiles" are using meaningless terminology, or using terminology inaccurately.

* Don't confuse dynamic compression with file compression like MP3. MP3 is lossy compression (data is thrown-away to make a smaller file) and it can "damage" the sound but it doesn't hurt the dynamics. In fact it gives you a better measurement of dynamics (a higher crest factor) without affecting the sound of the dynamics. Cutting & playing a vinyl record can also give you a better "measurement".

Musical dynamics (or program dynamics) are what I like to call "dynamic contrast" and it depends on the composition, arrangement, performance (the instruments and how dynamically the musicians play and how may instruments are playing at the same time) and the production (how much compression is used during mixing & mastering). Some people call that "dynamic range", but IMO, dynamic range better-applies to the equipment or the transmission format/channel, and it's the dB difference between the noise floor and maximum signal level. Usually we want enough dynamic range to go as loud as we want without distortion, and without hearing any background noise, regardless of the program dynamics. (Even with highly-compressed music we don't want to hear noise between tracks or during the fade-in/fade out.)
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Active Member
Mar 12, 2024
Vigo (Galicia, Spain)
Headphones, speakers, and amplifiers are linear unless over-driven into clipping/distortion.... They don't change the dynamics of the recording
At which point are completely linear?
I have an audio interface connected to a pair of active monitors, and the result of adjusting input gain to +6 dB (the minimum in the Genelec way of expressing as “dB input that produces 100 dB output”) sounds different as adjusting to -6 dB which is the highest sensibility. Of course I correct SPL with the volume knob of the interface, so average is the same. But still sound different, more brilliant the highest the sensitivity (even noisy at the maximum, despite lowering the output signal on the DAC)
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