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Experiment: 600 Ohm HPs + Topping Amp & Old Interface - Possible?

audiofilet

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Hi everyone!

I recently got a very good deal on the DT 990 600 Ohm Version and finally found a reasonably priced amp that I hope will drive it.

Here's what I got:

HP: DT 990 Edition 600 Ohm - ( As new / 90$ )
Amp: Topping A50s ( Used / 105 $ ) - Haven't bought this one yet.
Old Interface: Steinberg UR22 mk2

According to this detailed review, the Topping A50s can output 3 Watts, which is hopefully enough to get the 990s as loud as possible. https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...opping-a50s-headphone-amplifier-review.16290/
View attachment 152294

Here's the experiment:

I have owned the Steinberg for a while and basically just used it with my Rhode NT1 for voice overs.
I'm trying to avoid getting an additional DAC and just wanna use the Steinberg with this Amp, if possible.

Here are the Inputs/Outputs:

View attachment 152295
View attachment 152296
View attachment 152297

I can think of two 3 ways to accomplish this:

1.) 2x 1/4 TRS to 2x RCA Cable - LINE OUT on the Steinberg - into the Topping's RCA in
I'll have to check the Steinberg's output voltages for Line Out. (updating shortly)
View attachment 152298

2.)
Same thing, just that here I'd connect the 1/4 directly into the Steinberg's Headphone Out and then into the Amp via RCA. Possible issue could be that the Steinberg's built in headphone Amp already amplifies the signal and in conjunction with the A50S there might be some extra noise or distortion?
I have researched this a bit and according to this guy it should be ok:
61FPnjzRTqL._AC_SS450_.jpg


3.)
Out on the Steinberg's Midi and into the amp via RCA:
AVimg_25851.jpg


Lastly, if I understand correctly, through the A50s's Balanced Headphone Out the output voltage and wattage is doubled.
Would it be possible to use a 3.5mm to 4.4mm adapter on the DT 990 and take advantage of that higher output through balanced?
HIFI-4-4MM-Balanced-Headphone-Adapter-Audio-Cable-4-4-to-3-5mm-2-5mm-6.jpg_Q90.jpg_.webp


I'm fairly new to this stuff and hope I could demonstrate the problem without too many errors.

Would be very cool if you guys could help me out

Thanks!
 
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solderdude

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A50S will drive 600 ohm headphones under conditions.

The DT990 has a fixed cable so unless it is modified you can only use the 6.3mm output and balanced is not possible.
Max. output level = 7.4V = 90mW (0.09W) in 600 ohm.
However, to reach that you need a source that provides 3.8V and gain has to be set at +6dB.
A DAC with 2V out will get you up to 3.9V = 25mW in 600 ohm
96dB/mW means that peak SPL of 110dB SPL can be reached (this means about 90dBA)

The Steinberg = +10dB out so 2.4V but is a balanced voltage. A50S input is SE so will only put out +4dBu = 1.2V this means 2.4V out with A50S gain set at +6dB = 10mW= 106dB peak.
The headphone out is not going to be higher in voltage nor gain.

Midi out is not analog so cannot be used.

Perhaps look for an amplifier that has gain settings around +12dB to +15dB at least when the Steinberg is used... and you want to play loud.
When you only want to use it at sensible listening levels the A50S will do but you won't get more than 10mW out of it in the DT990
 
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NTK

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Looks like the 1/4 inch line outs in the back are single ended (source: manual). The 1/4 TS to RCA cable (option 1 in post #1) should work best.

UR22mkii_p19.PNG
 
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audiofilet

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A50S will drive 600 ohm headphones under conditions.

The DT990 has a fixed cable so unless it is modified you can only use the 6.3mm output and balanced is not possible.
Max. output level = 7.4V = 90mW (0.09W) in 600 ohm.
However, to reach that you need a source that provides 3.8V and gain has to be set at +6dB.
A DAC with 2V out will get you up to 3.9V = 25mW in 600 ohm
96dB/mW means that peak SPL of 110dB SPL can be reached (this means about 90dBA)

The Steinberg = +10dB out so 2.4V but is a balanced voltage. A50S input is SE so will only put out +4dBu = 1.2V this means 2.4V out with A50S gain set at +6dB = 10mW= 106dB peak.
The headphone out is not going to be higher in voltage nor gain.

Midi out is not analog so cannot be used.

Perhaps look for an amplifier that has gain settings around +12dB to +15dB at least when the Steinberg is used... and you want to play loud.
When you only want to use it at sensible listening levels the A50S will do but you won't get more than 10mW out of it in the DT990

First of all, thank you guys so much for the quick replies.

Wow, what a detailed post, thank you man! :oops:

So the A50s' max output = 7.4V, and in order to achieve it you'd need a DAC that provides at least 3.8V.

I checked the Steinberg's manual and it says "Output Voltage: 4.8V - 5.2V".
I'm not quite sure if that refers to the Line Output voltage, though.

Steinberg UR22 Mk2 Manual
Screenshot_2021-09-09 UR22mkII Operation Manual - ur22mkII_en_om_a0 pdf.png
 
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solderdude

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That's the range for the input voltage for the UR22 power supply so the DC input port.
The used power adapter used thus should have an output voltage between 4.8V and 5.2V.

The numbers I gave before are the correct ones. In short the output voltage is a bit low (+4dBU) = 1.2V
 
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audiofilet

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OK, I understand, thank you.

Can you think of an amp with around +12dB in that same price range of 150 - 220$? (used or unused)

I could also get my hands on a JDS Labs EL Amp which outputs 1.1W / 32 ohm.

I wanted to get the A50s because reviews were saying it's both extremely powerful and clean, which most amps fail to do. Even Zeos says that it's on par with the A90, yet costs less than half.

You mentioned that the Steinberg and A50s combo could achieve 106dB peak.
Now I've heard that 120db would be the point which most people consider uncomfortably loud. Would it be fair to say that 106db is quite loud in it's own right?
 
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NTK

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Amplifier gains in high gain mode.

JDS Labs Atom+: 13 dB
JDS Labs EL Amp II+: 13 dB
Topping L30: 9 dB
Schiit Magni: 15 dB
SMSL SH-8S: 17.5 dB
Geshelli Archel 2.5 Pro: 15.5 dB

(Reference: Topping A50S is 6 dB)
 
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audiofilet

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Hey, thanks for the reference values!

So my immediate options are the following:

JDS Labs EL Amp (Distcotinued)
https://jdslabs.com/product/el-amp/
  • Max Continuous Output, 600Ω 140 mW (9.4VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Output, 150Ω 505 mW
  • Max Continuous Output, 32Ω 1.1 W
  • Peak Output Power, 32Ω 1.5W
JDS Labs Atom
  • Max Continuous Power @ 600Ω 136mW (9.05VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 150Ω 545 mW (9.04VRMS)
  • Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω 1 Watt (5.66 VRMS)
FiiO K5 Pro
  • Max Continuous Power @ 32Ω 1.5 Watt
I just checked how to calculate the gain.

ratio = output power / input power
gain = input power * log ratio

So according to that, the JDS Labs EL Amp should provide the highest gain out of all the amps available to me, including the A50s, with 12.8db.
Closely followed by the JDS Labs Atom, which is surprising, since it's significantly cheaper.

I'll check how the EL Amp does noise wise.

Bummer that the A50s doesn't actually provide enough power, after watching this Zeos review I was positive I had found a winner lol.

 
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audiofilet

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OK, I could pickup the JDS Labs EL (Retired Model) or JDS Labs Atom tomorrow.

It has lower output than the A50s, but there are actual reviews of it with the DT 990s 600 ohm saying it drives them perfectly.

Ditch the A50s for the EL?
 

NTK

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The EL will give you 7 dB SPL more than the A50s (single ended output) with the same input. The output voltage level from the UR22 is not sufficient to push either the EL or the A50s to their maximum output, so the max power ratings of the EL and A50s are not very relevant in your case*.

I've missed that the A50 has balanced output. If you used the balanced out, the gain will double to 12 dB (= 4X). If you are using balanced connection for your headphones, the A50s will give you almost equivalent dB SPL as the EL. Otherwise, the EL seems to be the better choice.

* Note: With high gain, the EL needs 2 Vrms input to drive to its maximum output of 9.8 Vrms. For the A50s, you'll need 3.8 Vrms input to drive to its maximum output of 7.5 Vrms (single ended) or 15 Vrms (balanced). The UR22 can output a maximum of only 1.2 Vrms (+4 dBu).
 
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audiofilet

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Thank you, I guess I'll try to return the DT 990 600 Ohms and get the 250 Ohm version instead. They are just too freaking hard to drive, especially in my situation. With 250 Ohm I could also pick the cheapest amp out of all the options, which would be a used JDS Labs Atom for around 50$.

Thank you @NTK and @solderdude for your superb advice and endless patience. This is an incredible forum with even more incredible members!
 
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audiofilet

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One a side note.
After some digging I found this e-mail correspondence between a Youtube reviewer of the DT 880 600 Ohm and Beyerdynamic, where they recommended their Beyerdynamic A2 Amp to drive these particular 600 ohm headphones.

Now the A2 produces 100 mW / 600 Ω single ended, which would be ~4.7db. Why do they recommend it? Both the EL and the A50s would beat it, even with my UR22's super low output voltage.
Screenshot_2021-09-10 The Beyerdynamic DT 880 (600 Ohms) Does Not Need The Power You Were Told...png

Screenshot_2021-09-10 The Beyerdynamic DT 880 (600 Ohms) Does Not Need The Power You Were Told.png
 

artburda

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Now the A2 produces 100 mW / 600 Ω single ended, which would be ~4.7db. Why do they recommend it?
Because It‘s USD 1‘299.- and they would make a nice profit out of it.

Edit: However, the specs look decent for high impedance headphones, but you can do much better for that price.
D8F34AC7-0BAB-455B-828A-6398BDCF9C01.jpeg
 
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AnalogSteph

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Now, it does also feature a higher-than-usual gain of +18 dB, so there's that - but you could probably have that substantially cheaper, too (maybe some Lake People / Violectric model).

JFTR, the 600 ohm DT880 needs maybe 3-4 dB higher levels than the 250 ohm one (much like you'd expect), so I'd expect much the same from the DT990 - hardly a night and day difference. The DT880-600 needs about 0.5 V for 90 dB SPL, so when shooting for 110 dB you'd want about 5 Vrms.

UR-22 MkII specs indicate that the line output is impedance-balanced, so maximum output level is +10 dBu (~2.4 Vrms) both balanced and SE. This should be quite sufficient to drive both JDS amps into clipping. Even the A50s would still make it to ~4.8 Vrms, the L30 with its higher gain of +9.5 dB to ~7.2 Vrms.

How loud does the Steinberg go "barefoot" for you right now? It can do about 1.4 Vrms into 600 ohms, which should usually get the job done but may get a bit tight with dynamic recordings depending on how loud you listen. You would gain more than 10 dB over that in any case (even with the A50s), up to 16 dB and change for the JDS amps. The latter would also still provide enough level (over 6 Vrms) when plugged into the Steinberg's headphone output.
 
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audiofilet

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JFTR, the 600 ohm DT880 needs maybe 3-4 dB higher levels than the 250 ohm one (much like you'd expect), so I'd expect much the same from the DT990 - hardly a night and day difference. The DT880-600 needs about 0.5 V for 90 dB SPL, so when shooting for 110 dB you'd want about 5 Vrms.

UR-22 MkII specs indicate that the line output is impedance-balanced, so maximum output level is +10 dBu (~2.4 Vrms) both balanced and SE. This should be quite sufficient to drive both JDS amps into clipping. Even the A50s would still make it to ~4.8 Vrms, the L30 with its higher gain of +9.5 dB to ~7.2 Vrms.

How loud does the Steinberg go "barefoot" for you right now? It can do about 1.4 Vrms into 600 ohms, which should usually get the job done but may get a bit tight with dynamic recordings depending on how loud you listen. You would gain more than 10 dB over that in any case (even with the A50s), up to 16 dB and change for the JDS amps. The latter would also still provide enough level (over 6 Vrms) when plugged into the Steinberg's headphone output.

Hi, thanks for the input!

Surprisingly, connecting the DT 990's directly to the Steinberg's HP Out actually sounds decent from a volume perspective. However, the low end definitely appears hollow and distorted at times.

I'm really grateful for all of the sound advice I'm getting here, honestly.

Audio professionals on other platforms are usually not this welcoming and helpful, it's really a pleasure to be a member here.

I think @solderdude said above, that the Steinberg would be unsuitable with the Topping or JDS Amps.
You think the output voltage of the Steinberg will be sufficient?

A50S will drive 600 ohm headphones under conditions.
The DT990 has a fixed cable so unless it is modified you can only use the 6.3mm output and balanced is not possible.
Max. output level = 7.4V = 90mW (0.09W) in 600 ohm.
However, to reach that you need a source that provides 3.8V and gain has to be set at +6dB.
A DAC with 2V out will get you up to 3.9V = 25mW in 600 ohm
96dB/mW means that peak SPL of 110dB SPL can be reached (this means about 90dBA)

The Steinberg = +10dB out so 2.4V but is a balanced voltage. A50S input is SE so will only put out +4dBu = 1.2V this means 2.4V out with A50S gain set at +6dB = 10mW= 106dB peak.
 

solderdude

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I think @solderdude said above, that the Steinberg would be unsuitable with the Topping or JDS Amps.
You think the output voltage of the Steinberg will be sufficient?

Unsuitable with the A50S.

Usable with JDS or Schiit amps (IEMagni) as they have higher gain.

The headphone SE out of the Steinberg won't cut it. (0.5V in 40 ohm, 1.2V in higher impedances)
 

AnalogSteph

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Surprisingly, connecting the DT 990's directly to the Steinberg's HP Out actually sounds decent from a volume perspective. However, the low end definitely appears hollow and distorted at times.
Try generating a bass test tone of e.g. 50 or 100 Hz - Audacity will do fine (sine, amplitude 0.999). Play it back, turn up the volume (you may want to take off the cans) and note at which point things clearly start clipping. The onset of buzzing tends to make this fairly obvious. Then compare this setting to your typical listening volume. If your digital levels are normally lower, reduce generator amplitude correspondingly. I suspect the output amp may have plenty of gain and can be driven well into clipping fairly easily. With bass often being the loudest component, you'd notice it there first.

At least I hope that the output will clip before the cans fall apart - they do definitely have their level handling limits down there, too...
 

solderdude

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The Beyerdynamics do fall apart quickly in the bass.
Before the power rating is reached.
The exception being the 80 ohm DT770 and DT770M they are designed to handle a lot of power.

1631392406627.png
 
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audiofilet

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Try generating a bass test tone of e.g. 50 or 100 Hz - Audacity will do fine (sine, amplitude 0.999). Play it back, turn up the volume (you may want to take off the cans) and note at which point things clearly start clipping. The onset of buzzing tends to make this fairly obvious. Then compare this setting to your typical listening volume. If your digital levels are normally lower, reduce generator amplitude correspondingly. I suspect the output amp may have plenty of gain and can be driven well into clipping fairly easily. With bass often being the loudest component, you'd notice it there first.

At least I hope that the output will clip before the cans fall apart - they do definitely have their level handling limits down there, too...

Thank you for the suggestion!

A website was recommended to me that supposedly does these kind of tests, especially with regards to bass response.
https://www.audiocheck.net/soundtests_headphones.php

I did these tests with the 990 connected to the Steinberg's HP out at max gain and again I am surprised to say that it did pretty ok. I could here the suuuper low frequencies almost all the way to the last ID.

The Spectral Flatness test gave me bad anxiety lol.

I like the 990s but I've decided to send them back and get something around 250$, possibly used. Edit: thanks for that contribution @solderdude, one more reason for me to kick them haha.

What's important to me is a detailed treble, very good sound stage and strong low end. I primarily listen to high quality audiobooks, orchestral movie score, classical, rock, type beats and movies.

Any recommendations? :)
 

solderdude

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If you like the DT990's get the DT990 Edition in 32 ohm and you won't have issues driving it with the A50S.
or buy an amp instead that has higher gain. That'll work too and is cheaper than another headphone.

Only headphones with 2.5mm TRRS or 4.4mm Pentaconn, or XLR-4pin can be used balanced.
One can convert a 6.3mm SE to the 4.4mm Pentaconn but that won't be balanced, it will be using the SE option of the 4.4mm Pentaconn.
 
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