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Headphone amp suitability for 600 ohm DT880s vs HD800s?

Blake Klondike

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#1
I was just running a pair of 600 ohm Beyer DT880s through a Headroom "The Max" amplifier and noticed that I have to turn it up almost all the way to get even moderate volume out of it. My HD800s were considerably louder. Does this indicate that the Headroom is not putting out enough to drive 600 ohm cans well? I can't find relevant specs on the amp, unfortunately. It was a $1500 amp in 2001, so my assumption was that it would drive anything well, but it would not be the first time I have been wrong about something.

https://www.stereophile.com/headphones/261/index.html

Makes me think I have not heard the DT880s shown to their full advantage-- any suggestions re: a SS amp that will drive these well? Will the same amp drive the HD800s equally well?

Thanks!
 

StevenEleven

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#2
I use this (for any number of things):

https://www.amazon.com/BEHRINGER-MO...b&qid=1567827875&s=musical-instruments&sr=1-1

It costs $140 in 2019. ; ) I’ve had it for a good while. It’s probably a piece of junk but it does everything I want, and I’m not discerning enough to know the difference. Seems like it would drive just about any headphone beyond reasonable levels. I’ve got a pair of DT880s (250 ohms though) and an old pair of Senn HD580s (300 ohms) that it drives with great ease. Also has continuously variable crossed for the two headphone outs, which I really like. It’s also a USB DAC. Purportedly balanced ins and outs (though again, I’m no expert, not by a long shot). Since it’s Behringer you get zero bragging rights. But it makes my headphones (and active speakers) sound just fine. To me. : )

Edit: Here’s some brief discussion of it on a pro audio forum—some folks mention, the quality, low noise, and substantial volume of the headphone outs, and the usefulness of the variable crossfeed.

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/1085174-behringer-monitor2usb-anyone.html (see post 22 for example)
 
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JohnYang1997

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#3
Firstly some things to remember.
Higher the impedance higher the voltage swing it needs.
Whether it's driven well or not is not defined by how loud it's driven.
Power =/= voltage swing.
Voltage swing of an amplifier is mostly decided by the supply rail. And how loud it gets is decided by the gain. So there is chance that the gain is low that when you turn it up it's still lower than the supply rail. The input level is also part of the equation.
The volume control is controlling the voltage output of the amplifier, not the power. So it's very common to see it's quieter with higher impedance. Also keep in mind sensitivity is more accurate way to describe it but generally higher impedance is quieter.
While high impedance needs higher voltage swing, it's actually lighter load( lower impedance is heavier load). Lighter load means easier to drive and low distortion.
So what you can do is to try out some other amplifiers to see if you can hear a difference. Mostly you won't, unless it's actually not loud enough (at max volume).
 

solderdude

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#4
I was just running a pair of 600 ohm Beyer DT880s through a Headroom "The Max" amplifier and noticed that I have to turn it up almost all the way to get even moderate volume out of it. My HD800s were considerably louder. Does this indicate that the Headroom is not putting out enough to drive 600 ohm cans well? I can't find relevant specs on the amp, unfortunately. It was a $1500 amp in 2001, so my assumption was that it would drive anything well, but it would not be the first time I have been wrong about something.

https://www.stereophile.com/headphones/261/index.html

Makes me think I have not heard the DT880s shown to their full advantage-- any suggestions re: a SS amp that will drive these well? Will the same amp drive the HD800s equally well?

Thanks!
The DT880/600 needs double the voltage (6dB) as the HD800 to go equally loud.
There is no info available about 'The Max'. What I was able to find is that it (most likely) has +/- 15V supply rails which means it can put out a respectable 10Vrms into high impedance cans = 0.33W in 300 Ohm and 0.16W in 600 Ohm.
The HD800 is rated at 0.5W and thus can handle more than the amp can provide.
The DT880 is rated 0.1W can already be overdriven by THe Max.
The HD800 is known for its linearity, The Beyers not so, these start to compress at their max. rating already.

The DT880/600 has an efficiency of 96dB/V, the HD800 is 102dB/V
This means that on The Max the HD800 can reach 122dB and the DT880 116dB, averagte around 105dB (which is quite loud)


Now everyone will say... that is extremely loud but we are talking about peaks in music so the average levels will be much lower.
This will depend on the music.

So in short... You could buy an amplifier that has a bit more power in 300 Ohm and it will make your HD800 marginally louder but the DT880 will still be 6dB softer and at max. power will be not as dynamic sounding due to compression and may even be damaged at very loud levels.

In short: you reached the max. you can get out of the the DT880 on The Max but not yet reached the max. of your HD800.
Something tells me the HD800 goes loud enough for you on The Max.
 

JohnYang1997

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#5
The DT880/600 needs double the voltage (6dB) as the HD800 to go equally loud.
There is no info available about 'The Max'. What I was able to find is that it (most likely) has +/- 15V supply rails which means it can put out a respectable 10Vrms into high impedance cans = 0.33W in 300 Ohm and 0.16W in 600 Ohm.
The HD800 is rated at 0.5W and thus can handle more than the amp can provide.
The DT880 is rated 0.1W can already be overdriven by THe Max.
The HD800 is known for its linearity, The Beyers not so, these start to compress at their max. rating already.

The DT880/600 has an efficiency of 96dB/V, the HD800 is 102dB/V
This means that on The Max the HD800 can reach 122dB and the DT880 116dB, averagte around 105dB (which is quite loud)


Now everyone will say... that is extremely loud but we are talking about peaks in music so the average levels will be much lower.
This will depend on the music.

So in short... You could buy an amplifier that has a bit more power in 300 Ohm and it will make your HD800 marginally louder but the DT880 will still be 6dB softer and at max. power will be not as dynamic sounding due to compression and may even be damaged at very loud levels.

In short: you reached the max. you can get out of the the DT880 on The Max but not yet reached the max. of your HD800.
Something tells me the HD800 goes loud enough for you on The Max.
We also don't know the input level and the voltage gain of the amplifier. I am not sure whether he hits the rail or not. It needs 14db gain to amplify 2V input to the rail. +-15V shall be enough.
 

solderdude

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#6
That is a good point.
Its gain was measured at 12.3dB = 4.1 x so a 2V DAC output would 'only' create 8.2Vrms at max. volpot setting.
A DAC with 2.5Vrms FS would be able to make the amp clip at max volpot setting.

A 2Vrms output DAC would reach 1.7dB under the max output level of The Max with the volpot turned fully open.

Of course, when the source is a phone or a tablet or a USB dongle as a source he will be quite a few dB off from maximum power capabilities.
 
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Blake Klondike

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Thread Starter #7
Thank you guys for the help! It is loud enough for my listening-- my concern was that headroom and low-end reproduction might be suffering on the 880s. The amp was a gift, so was wondering if it made sense to look for something better-suited for my headphones. The headphone out on my NAD 7600 is considerably louder than the Headroom amp-- This stuff is filled with so many pitfalls for people like me with no EE knowledge!
 

solderdude

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#8
When you can turn the volumecontrol up all the way and it is just loud enough your input voltage to the amp is probably too low.

The headphone out of the NAD is simply the speaker output terminal voltage via a 470 Ohm output resistor.
This means that there will be more warmth/bass/lows compared to the 'The Max' and it can play a LOT louder
+1.3dB more lows for DT880 and +4dB for the HD800 via the NAD.
Given the fact that it can easily produce 60V on its output terminals means that it is capable of delivering 33V to the DT880 which is specified to handle 8V (= 11dB headroom)

For the HD800 (370 Ohm) it can put out 26V which is specified to handle 12V continuous (7dB headroom)

So yes... the NAD can play a LOT louder but is capable of destroying the DT880 drivers.
The Max. is a safer option but you may need to have a higher input signal for it and will sound less bassy.
For both the HD800 and DT880 some extra lows won't hurt though.
 
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Hipper

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#9
The Headroom Max has a 'Gain' switch. Have you tried this?
 

solderdude

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#10
Headroom 'The Max' is not the same amp as Headroom 'Max'. ;)
The 'Max' has a gain switch the 'The Max' doesn't.
The naming of these amps is a bit confusing.
 
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Blur

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#11
What DAC are you using? Is your player volume set to max?
 

Blur

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#12
In the end isn't it more about sensitivity than impedance when trying to get to a specific loudness?
 
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#14
Side question about
Firstly some things to remember.
Higher the impedance higher the voltage swing it needs.
Whether it's driven well or not is not defined by how loud it's driven.
Power =/= voltage swing.
Voltage swing of an amplifier is mostly decided by the supply rail. And how loud it gets is decided by the gain. So there is chance that the gain is low that when you turn it up it's still lower than the supply rail. The input level is also part of the equation.
The volume control is controlling the voltage output of the amplifier, not the power. So it's very common to see it's quieter with higher impedance. Also keep in mind sensitivity is more accurate way to describe it but generally higher impedance is quieter.
While high impedance needs higher voltage swing, it's actually lighter load( lower impedance is heavier load). Lighter load means easier to drive and low distortion.
So what you can do is to try out some other amplifiers to see if you can hear a difference. Mostly you won't, unless it's actually not loud enough (at max volume).
Side question, from the measurement of 4xx and 650 by Innerfidelity
https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/MassdropHiFiMANHE4XX.pdf
https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/SennheiserHD650.pdf
VRms to reach 90dB SPl are 0.271 VRms & 0.205 VRms respectively. From what I heard before, 650 is harder to drive compared to 4xx. However, based on what you said, along with the measurement, 4xx should be harder to drive. Did I understand it correctly?
 

solderdude

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#15
The 'hard to drive' stuff is nonsense.
It probably comes from people connecting some voltage insensitive headphones directly to the output of a phone or folks trying to power low impedance headphones from OTL tube amps or so.

Headphones are rather easy to drive unless they are electrostatic, or called the SR1A.
Also the likes of HE-6, K1000, MyST and some very high impedance headphones require an amp with a higher output voltage.
They are not hard to drive but simply require a suitable amplifier.
Only the SR1A requires a bunch of power.
 
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#16
The 'hard to drive' stuff is nonsense.
It probably comes from people connecting some voltage insensitive headphones directly to the output of a phone or folks trying to power low impedance headphones from OTL tube amps or so.

Headphones are rather easy to drive unless they are electrostatic, or called the SR1A.
Also the likes of HE-6, K1000, MyST and some very high impedance headphones require an amp with a higher output voltage.
They are not hard to drive but simply require a suitable amplifier.
Only the SR1A requires a bunch of power.
I get what you are saying now. Aside from that, am I correct to say something like this "To reach the same SPL on the same power source, 4xx needs to be played at Volume level 5, while 650 only needs level 4 based on the measurement because 4xx requires more power."
 

solderdude

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#17
I get what you are saying now. Aside from that, am I correct to say something like this "To reach the same SPL on the same power source, 4xx needs to be played at Volume level 5, while 650 only needs level 4 based on the measurement because 4xx requires more power."
Well the difference in efficiency is just 2.4dB and probably only at 1kHz (Tyll). The tonal balance of both headphones is not the same and midbass on the HD650 is about 2 dB higher in level than at 1kHz so will be perceived louder than expected.

Some numbers (not Tyll based):
The HE400i = 40 Ω, 93 dB/1mW = 107dB/1V
The HD650 = 300 Ω, 101 dB/1mW =105dB/1V

This means on the same volume setting they differ only 2dB in loudness at 1kHz but they are not tonally the same. In this case the volume control (which is log type) will be at a slightly higher position when the HD650 is playing. So it would appear that the HD650 is 'harder to drive' as the volume control has to be turned up when looking at the volpot position.

Yet it is also clear that the efficiency in power is drastically different between these 2 headphones. At the same volume level (lets say the HD650 is turned up 2dB to achieve this) and we play pretty uncomfortably loud at say 110dB SPL (at 1kHz) then we need 1.4V for the HE400i and 1.8V for the HD650.
These are low voltages right ? not really hard to reach unless it is a phone or something reaching barely 1V or so.

The HD650=11mW (6mA) and the HE400i=49mW (35mA). Both are very low power ratings correct ? Not that difficult to reach. But the HE400i clearly requires 4.45X more power and based on these numbers it is clear that the HE400i requires more power and would be 'harder' to drive.

So depending on what one finds 'hard to drive' (volpot setting = output voltage / voltage efficiency) or current capabilities (lower impedance/power efficiency) this sets apart those headphones.
In either case 2V is not that difficult to reach and 50mA is not 'difficult' to reach either nor can this be called 'hard to drive'.
 
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