Home Amp/DAC Guides How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Complete Guide]

How to Choose a Headphone Amp [Complete Guide]

by Stuart Charles Black
The Best Audiophile Headphones Under $500

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This is part 2 in a series on various studio equipment, what it does, and how to choose!

  1. How to Choose Studio Headphones (Coming Soon!)
  2. How to Choose a Headphone Amp (You are here)
  3. How to Choose a Microphone
  4. How to Choose a MIDI Keyboard
  5. How to Choose a Turntable (Coming Soon)
  6. What are Studio Monitors?
  7. What does an Audio Interface Do?
  8. What does an Audio Mixer do?
  9. What is a Soundcard?
  10. What is a USB DAC?

Make sure to pin this Infographic if it helped you, and/or you think it would help someone else!

Hi friend and welcome!

How to choose a headphone amp is such a great question, and it comes up often.

Many times we don’t really think about when or why we need one. We just sort of choose based on reviews, or what’s popular.

Today I want to really dissect the process from start to finish, and hopefully give you some insight on different scenarios in which you may or may not need one!

So grab a snack, sit back and relax because…

You’ve come to the right place!!

How To Choose A Headphone Amp

Decisions, decisions.

What I will bring you in this guide

  1. Introduction
  2. How to choose a headphone amp
  3. Portable vs. Desktop
  4. Power Considerations
  5. Output Impedance of the Amp
  6. Sensitivity & Impedance
  7. Some Amp recommendations
  8. Final Word

So without further ado, let’s get started!

Introduction

In your research for the best studio headphones for mixing, the best headphone under $500, etc. you probably came across an unexpected caveat: Needs proper amplification.

Oh no!

One of the things that discourages me most in my research is finding out that I have to do…

MORE RESEARCH.

Lol.

Luckily for you, proper amplification doesn’t need to be such a chore.

There are some really affordable, versatile, and quality options out there that consistently come up in reviews.

Today I will attempt to concisely lay out some of my favorite options, inform you on when and how you should choose, as well as enlighten you on some of the most logical pairings.


How to Choose A Headphone Amp

It goes without saying that most of the low-end models, earbuds, and generally sub-par offerings don’t need an amp at all.

They are just meant to boost certain frequencies and provide a good listening experience for a low price.

Sadly, most of the time they completely fail.

Have you ever purchased a $20 pair of headphones from CVS pharmacy and been utterly disappointed when you finally got home and put them on?

Me too.

It’s an unfortunate fact of life. These consumer-grade cans are the worst of the worst.

On the flip side, you may have been satisfied as well. I remember my very first Sony MDR-V150s.

They were, and still are a pretty decent set, but the headband is famous for snapping under pressure.

Sort of like Henry Hill in Goodfellas πŸ˜€

 

When you get into some of the decent entry-level models,  you still won’t need an amp.

The Sennheiser HD 202s are a similar price, but they are solid. They don’t need one.

The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is an entry-to-mid-level pair, and they don’t need an amp either.

The same goes for the Sennheiser HD 280.

Keep in mind: An audio interface, while not a headphone amp per se, does function as sort of an all-around Amp/DAC for your studio monitors, microphone, headphones, etc.

Just don’t purchase one specifically as a headphone amp.

We’ll get into what a DAC is in a bit if you aren’t aware!


Portable vs. Desktop


JDS ATOM HEVI Review

Pictured: JDS ATOM (HEVI)

The first question you should ask yourself is this:

Do my headphones need an amp?

The simplified answer:

If the Impedance is High and/or The Sensitivity is low, you will probably need an amp.

There’s no concrete answer for “high”, but I would say anything over 100 Ohms probably needs something.

Even a headphone under 100 Ohms may need it depending on the situation.

The K701 and K702 are both great examples of headphones that have a low Sensitivity (around 91db/mW, not to be confused with the 105db/V that you often see listed), and need quite a bit of power to reach their peak.

The thing to keep in mind is that most pairings will sound just fine. Don’t get too fancy about it.

“If you wanna be fancy, hold your pinky out like this.”

As far as Sensitivity, anything around 97dB and lower generally needs more power from the Amp to reach optimal loudness (around 110dB is the standard).

The second question is:

Do I need a portable amp or a desktop amp?

FiiO K9 Pro Review

Pictured: FiiO K9 Pro + HD600

Obviously, if you spend a lot of time in an isolated studio or home environment, a desktop amp is essential.

What’s nice is that you could instead purchase a portable amp and it functions in the same way.

You can leave it on your desk as you’re listening, or take it on the go.

A perfect example is the Oppo HA-2 or FiiO E10K. It’s incredibly versatile and powerful.

The third question is:

Do I need a DAC? (Digital to Analog Converter)

Put simply, a DAC converts the 1’s and 0’s from your computer (the digital realm) into the analog sound that you hear and vice versa.

In the recording, you scream obscenities (analog) into the microphone, and your computer makes sense out of it digitally for you to edit and EQ later.

There’s also an internal DAC in your phone, mobile device, and pretty much anything that outputs sound.

Your PC has an internal Soundcard that functions in the same way.

In this case, a Soundcard is just another way of saying DAC.

All that said, only invest in a DAC if your Soundcard or existing DAC is poop. You’ll know because the sound will either:

  • Not be loud enough.
  • Sound like poop.
  • Make lots of unnecessary noise/crackling, etc.

Because poop.

For instance,

my laptop’s internal Soundcard does not output at a listenable level.

For me to achieve the volume that I’m looking for, some sort of DAC is required.


Amp/DAC combo

Portable


Hidizs S9 Pro Review

Pictured: Hidizs S9 Pro

(Digital to analog converter)

What’s great about these is that they provide your headphones with a built-in digital-to-analog converter + amp.

The problem with computers is that the manufacturers rarely make audio the main concern.

The result?

The internal Soundscard does a sub-par job of converting signal and amplifying that signal to a listenable level (Discussed above).

In recent years, however, I would say it’s definitely gotten better.

I used to have an old Lenovo T510 and I would never plug my headphones right into the 3.5mm jack.

It sounded awful. My newer X1 Extreme sounds, well, extremely good.

For folks with newer technology, an Amp/DAC may not even be needed!

For me and my T510, an Amp/DAC was mandatory for the following:

  • Loud enough volume
  • A quality digital-to-analog conversion

For instance,

if I were to plug my headphones into the 3.5mm jack on the side of that laptop, I would be in for a world of pain like Smokey from The Big Lebowski (mark it 8, dude).

Well, not so much a world of pain as a really bad listening experience.

Noise, latency, interference, and low volume levels can run rampant here.

A good way to know is just to try it out!

If you’re not satisfied with the internal DAC on your various sources (PC/Laptop/Phone/Tablet), then a good separate Amp/DAC will definitely improve everything across the board.

You’re provided with an exceptional sound card (DAC) and amp at a reasonable price (in most cases).

Be aware that some headphone amps can reach the thousands.

Today we’re going to focus on some entry to mid-grade ones, however.

The FiiO E10K is a good example of a nice budget option. I’m really enjoying this amp right now actually with my Sennheiser HD600s!

Review & Comparison to K3

Don’t forget to like, comment, share, and subscribe to my growing channel! Any support is much appreciated

Generally speaking, the better your DAC is, the more accurate the sound will be. This doesn’t necessarily mean the sound itself will be better, but the representation of that sound will be.

If the source of your music is bad, then your sound will still be bad.

But, if you’re playing music from a good source, a good DAC will improve upon all of the qualities of your music.

A good DAC:

  • Takes care of the clarity of the sound.
  • The definition of the sound.
  • Takes care of the noise.
  • Effectively interpolates gaps left in digital media.

A good example of a Standalone DAC that excels in all areas is the Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100.

Cambridge Audio DAC Magic 100

Hooray!

I found the A/D conversion absolutely pristine, to the point of extreme excitement like Arnold when he relates the Gym pump to climaxing. πŸ˜›

If you plan to use it on the go, a lot of the portable models can also run off of battery power in addition to being plug-and-play USB!

As of late, the portable DAC craze seems to really be taking off.

Maybe I had been out of the loop a few years back, but all sorts of brands continue to pop up, and now more than ever before it’s extremely affordable to invest in one.

A great example of a portable Amp/DAC combo is the Audioquest Dragonfly Red.

This tiny Amp resembles a USB thumb drive and effectively bypasses your crappy internal Soundcard. Just plug it into a USB port and you’re done.

Note: I’m not recommending the DragonFly Red anymore, and if you’re interested in why just click that link.


Desktop Amp/DAC


JDS Labs Element

JDS Labs Element

These boys are pretty nifty as well, but are a little bulkier and are meant to be used in the studio only.

They sort of resemble audio interfaces actually. Well, some do. The one above looks like a mini turntable!

The difference is they have a lot fewer knobs and buttons overall, as they aren’t meant for plugging anything else into (i.e. your mic or studio monitors). What are Studio Monitors?

However, a lot of the newer Amps that have come out are also preamps, meaning they have RCA outputs and can hook up to separate speakers.

Pretty cool. Examples would be the iFi Zen, JDS ATOM, and FiiO K5 Pro.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Amps and DACS are standalone.

They need to be hooked up to each other before you can listen to music.

The setup would look something like this:

Computer/laptop > DAC > Amp > Headphone.

This is a relatively simple way of illustrating it.

Amps such as the Magni paired with the Modi DAC sort of “stack” on top of each other.

An amp always needs a digital-to-analog converter so that your brain can make sense of the numbers.

It functions much like an audio interface.

The sound is a jumbled mess until it is converted to a signal that we can process.

This signal is meant to be of a much higher quality than your standard built-in DAC that comes with your laptop or CPU (as previously discussed).

Here’s an infographic I did explaining how to hook up an Objective 2 from JDS Labs (Standalone) to a DAC and then to your PC.

So how does this relate to the headphones themselves? Let’s find out!


Power Requirements


As an example, a headphone like the 300 Ohm HD600 requires 20mW of power to perform optimally.

The Schiit Magni 2 provides 260mW of power into 300 Ohms. You can see why it’s such a valuable piece of equipment.

It can effectively power nearly any headphone, and in reality, provides much more than is needed in most cases.

The newer Magni 3 provides 430mW into the same 300 Ohm load. Wow! That’s a bit of overkill, no?

The takeaway here is to simply make sure that the power output of the Amp in question is sufficient for the headphone’s Impedance.

You can do this by checking out the specifications of the amp, as most spec sheets will give a rundown of how much power each Ohm rating can receive. For the Magni 3, the list is as follows:

  • Maximum Power, 16 ohms: 3W RMS per channel
  • Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 2W RMS per channel
  • Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 1.3W RMS per channel
  • Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 430mW RMS per channel
  • Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 230mW RMS per channel

So the Magni 3 actually provides even more power than the 2.

RMS Power vs. Peak Power

Another thing that newbies and veterans alike can easily miss is the distinction between Peak power vs. RMS (continuous power).

A lot of audio companies don’t specify this clearly enough in their spec sheets which not only confuses people, but it’s also incredibly deceiving and unethical in my opinion.

Just know that peak power isn’t power available all the time. Look for continuous power numbers.

If a company doesn’t specify these or displays peak power numbers but doesn’t specify that they are such, I would steer clear of that company.

Topping has been guilty of this and I’m becoming wary of even recommending their products now because of it.


Output Impedance of the Amp


Another way to determine if your amp will suffice for the headphones in question is to check the output impedance of the amp.

A good rule of thumb is to choose amps that have a number as close to zero as possible.

A simple formula is as follows:

  • Take the Impedance of the Headphones. In this case, we’ll use the HD600, which is 300 Ohms.
  • Divide 300/8 to get 37.5.
  • Next, check the output impedance of the amp. We’ll use the Schiit Magni 3, which is less than 0.3 Ohms.
  • To ensure that the amp in question will work, make sure that the output impedance never exceeds the Headphone Impedance. In our case, it doesn’t. 0.3 Ohms is astronomically less than 37.5. We’ve got a winner!

Why does the number 0 even matter?

Simply put, a number close to zero ensures that the amp will always deliver the same (or roughly the same) output into any load.

This ensures that the amp is a consistent performer with a variety of headphones.


Sensitivity & Impedance


iFi’s Zen.

Do these things even matter? Of course!

Impedance

Impedance is a great indicator of how much your headphone will resist an electrical load from the amp.

When you have a headphone with a high impedance, it’s basically saying, “I don’t WANNA play loud enough!” Lol.

So what do we do? Cower away in the corner and hide?

Nah homie. We slap those headphones in the face and make them receive power.

Just make sure your amp has enough! Most Amps & DACS will have these numbers on the back of the box.

“It’s just a box.”

Sensitivity

Sensitivity matters because it’s an indicator of the current ultimately making the diaphragm inside the driver move, resulting in sound.

But Sensitivity is also critical because it indicates how much power will be required from the amp to drive any given headphone to adequate listening levels (discussed previously).

So the lower the Sensitivity of the headphone, the more power it will require from the Amp to reach loudness.

The HD600s at 97dB need 20mW to perform at their peak.

A headphone with 105dB needs much less; about 2.5mW. Pretty big difference!

A lot of entry-level closed-back models have relatively low impedance ratings and don’t need one but can benefit from one.

The Audio Technica ATH-M50x is a good example.

In general, the higher the impedance, the more likely you will need an amp to raise the volume to a listenable level. Why? Because it needs more power.

  1. less than 100 Ohm: An Amp is not mandatory, but depending on the headphone, could improve the sound a little or a lot.
  2. greater than 100 Ohm: An Amp is highly recommended, if not outright mandatory for optimal listening.

Remember: Sensitivity (how efficient the headphone is) is also hugely important, perhaps even more so than Impedance.

If your headphone has an Impedance greater than 100 but the Sensitivity number is also fairly high (above 97) you can probably get away with either

  1. An amp/dac that provides less power.
  2. No amp/dac at all.

The best way to determine what’s what is to just try your headphone out with your phone.

If you can get to a comfortably loud volume and still have some headroom left over, that’s really the ideal scenario that all audiophiles strive towards. What is an Audiophile?

What is impedance anyway?

To put it simply, there’s a lot of math involved when you really get down to it.

And since I’m no Mathematician, we won’t talk about it. Lol. Here’s a video if you’re really interested.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you πŸ˜›

Seriously though, impedance is simply the combined resistance and reactivity the headphones present to the amplifier as an electrical load.

High-impedance cans:

Need more power to reach an acceptable listening level. They often benefit from an amp.

Low-impedance cans:

They may require more current to lower the damping factor between the amp and headphones.

Will be driven loud enough from your portable players.

The quality of the sound may be dramatically improved with an amp.

Just be aware though that pairing a very low impedance can or earbud with an amp is more susceptible to a blowout in certain instances.

In other words, you won’t even have to turn the dial past 9 or 10 o’clock in most cases.

Tube amp vs. Solid State

Some headphones like the H800 will sound better with tube amplification. Check out this article: Tube amp vs. Solid State for more information!


Some Amp recommendations


Rather than giving you a whole slew of different amps, I’m going to name off a few popular audiophile headphones and then give sort of a “great option” for each.

Keep in mind that this is highly subjective, but we’re also dealing with entry-level, as well as mid-fi gear.

These are Amps/DACS that I’ve come across time and again as solid options.

You won’t really need a high-priced amp unless you have a high-priced can on your hands!

Sennheiser HD 600/650/6XX/58X

Pancakes go really well with the 6XX.

  • Impedance: 300 Ohm
  • Used for: mixing/reference/casual
  • Amp required: Yes.
  • Amp picky: No
  • Great options: FiiO K5 Pro, JDS ATOM.

Helpful Article on How to Choose:


AKG K701/702/612/712/Q701

AKG K612 vs. K712 vs. K702 vs. K701 vs. Q701

Helpful article on How to Choose:


Final Word


Choosing a headphone amp isn’t really that complicated of a process.

Don’t be overwhelmed by the countless Amps & DACS out there.

iFi, JDS Labs, and FiiO brands will more than suffice for the majority of headphones that you’ll be in the market for.

The difficulty comes when you’re purchasing expensive headphones like the Sennheiser HD 800.

A set like that is more than amp finicky. It has the potential to sound completely different from amp to amp!

A scary thought indeed.

Luckily a lot of these entry-level to mid-level audiophile headphones do well with a lot of the same gear.

With that, I would say that the differences from amp to amp aren’t as astronomically large as some people like to claim.

There are subtle differences, sure.

But Choosing an Amp/DAC should never be a stressful process.

Find out the Impedance and Sensitivity of your cans, look at the power output on the Amp, and then just go for it.

One amp isn’t going to make your music sound that much better than another. The differences are just too subtle.

Trust me, I’ve demoed over 60 at the time of this writing.

Most companies use really good DAC chips so it’s not really a big deal.

I would say that for most people, the FiiO K5 Pro is going to do extraordinarily well due to its versatility and value.

Interested?

Learn More:

 


Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you have a better idea of how to choose a headphone amp and came away with some valuable information. Speaking of,

Did I provide enough information? Did this help? Let me know!

If you have any other questions or felt that I left something out, leave a comment below or contact me! I very much look forward to speaking with you.

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Can’t decide which headphones to purchase? Interested in a complete buyers guide outlining over 40 of the best options on the market? Click on over to the best audiophile headphones to learn more!!

Be sure to also check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

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38 comments

Alex June 2, 2016 - 4:05 pm

Nice reviews on this website!
I see that you have used both HD201 and HD202 from Sennheiser. I have HD201, and planning on buying HD202 model, as it is definitely better by many’s opinions.
But.. As I am almost always listening music from my mid-level Asus laptop or Nexus 5 phone, would buying a headphone amp (or building one) would make a difference, as HD202 are only 32ohm?
Also, my laptop’s 3.5mm output is total crap with lots of noise and not that clear sound, would there be a difference with using some kind of DAC instead of on-board sound output?

Reply
Stu June 4, 2016 - 2:44 am

Hey Alex!

That’s a tough one. I wouldn’t buy an amp for the 202’s, but because your laptops 3.5mm jack is crap, I may consider it. Do you plan on upgrading to a better headphone in the future? If so, the FiiO E10K would be a great place to start as far as a great starter combo amp/DAC. It works well with a lot of different headphones, and because you’re starting out in the entry level range, you have a lot of wiggle room as far as upgrading and still keeping the E10K around.
Hope that helps! If you have any other questions let me know!
Blessings,
-Stu

Reply
Mr Mirza August 22, 2016 - 10:15 pm

Would the Magni 2 Uber be a good amp for the Audio Technica ATH-R70X? my DAC will be my sound card (Creative X-FI Titanium HD) and I will also use the amp to plug in my Razer Mako speakers.

Reply
Stu August 23, 2016 - 3:44 am

Yeah the Magni will do just fine with the R70x. You may also look into the Valhalla 2, since it is capable of more than double the power output into high impedances (>300 Ohms). The Valhalla was made for higher impedance cans, and the R70x comes in at 470 ohms. At the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with a Schiit amp, so I wouldn’t stress too hard about it. The Magni 2 is a really good amp.

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions..

Blessings
-Stu

Reply
mosincredible October 18, 2016 - 4:56 am

I know you can’t go off of power alone but what so you think about 39mW at 600ohm powering an HD600? 64mW @ 60ohm and 101 @ 30. Talking about the Audient iD14 if you were curious.

Reply
Stu October 28, 2016 - 1:46 am

I think that’s an excellent choice. I may just have to pick that baby up; I’ve heard a lot of good things about it! It has a ton of features and would more than suffice to power the 600’s.

Reply
mosincredible January 15, 2017 - 3:38 pm

Finally found this page again. I’ve found with the HD600 that I never go any higher than -20 volume with the id14. I did a little test with the headphones away from my face and it plays cleanly at 0. Upgraditis hits me every once in a while but then I talk myself out of it. More power clearly isn’t what I need.

Reply
Stu January 21, 2017 - 3:15 am

Yeah man, I too like my music really loud so I’m kind of having to get used to the 600’s sound signature. Really like them but find that they don’t really need to be pushed to the max. Also I heard burn in time is important can you speak to this? I too like to upgrade a lot and have to just chill out lol. How are you liking the id14?

Reply
Cmahesh December 2, 2016 - 11:17 am

I am using HD 598 for classical music together with Modi 2 DAC and Little dot 1+ which has Mullard M8161 tubes. Will I get significantly better outcome in term of details, sound stage if I use Schiit Asgard 2 or Valhalla 2 as amp (Considering the fact that LD 1+ is not a pure class A amp where as other 2 does)? If so which one of the two will be better (for classical music)?

Reply
Stu December 5, 2016 - 1:58 am

I may actually go with the Magni + Modi, which is a knock out combo..

Let me know what you think..

Blessings,
-Stu

Reply
Victor March 28, 2017 - 4:40 pm

Hi i wanted to ask if a FiiO E10K Olympus 2 would be great for AKG K612 pro

Reply
Stu March 28, 2017 - 11:57 pm

Yes! It will work just fine. Check out this article on What is Headphone Impedance for more information! In a nutshell, the output impedance of the E10K is less than 1.04. To figure out if your headphones will pair up well, you divide the Impedance of the 612’s (120) by 8, giving you 15. The output impedance of the E10K does not exceed 15, so you’re golden!

Reply
barry July 19, 2017 - 1:05 am

Hi
So, is a decent audio interface can be used as an amp? Or is it just ‘better than nothing’ but still need an amp for best quality? I have a steinberg ci2 thinking about buying an AKG K701 or Sennheiser HD 600 or something on that range.
Thanks.

Reply
Stu July 20, 2017 - 7:15 pm

Hey Barry!

It all depends on the output impedance of the interface in question. Basically you divide the impedance of your headphones by 8, and that resulting number should always be higher than the output impedance of the amp or interface. A simple example is the HD600. It has an impedance of 300 Ohms. Divide that by 8. Get 37.5. This number should never be less than the output impedance of an amp or interface. The Focusrite 2i2’s is around 10, while the Schiit Magni’s is less than 0.1. This is why it can drive most headphones without a problem. The problem with the K701 is that it’s amp picky, and there are a select few that will work with it. The 600’s do well with the Magni, as well as the Bottlehead Crack. The K701’s off the top of my head do very well with the Vioelectric V200.

To answer your question, even with the 1/8th rule in effect, a headphone like the M50 still sounds decent to my ears out of an interface, even though it technically shouldn’t. But a headphone like the HD600 as well as the K701 absolutely needs its own separate amp. What is Headphone Impedance?

Let me know if that helps!

-Stu

Reply
barry July 26, 2017 - 4:13 pm

Thanks. It must be my fault, but i don’t get that logic..:) My CI2 interface has 40Ξ© for the phone output impedance. That would mean that it only good for (40X8=) 320ohms or HIGHER (?) impedance headphones? That’s clearly not the case, right? πŸ™‚ (right now i’m using a Senhesier HD 555 it has 50 ohm impedance)

Reply
Stu July 26, 2017 - 7:09 pm

Hey Barry!

You don’t multiply, you divide. So divide the impedance by 8, and get 5. That number 5 should always exceed the output impedance of your amp, or put another way, the output impedance of the amp should never be greater than that number (5), or whatever number you get depending on the headphones. What is headphone impedance? That article goes a little more in depth, but you get the basic idea. πŸ™‚

Hope that helps! Let me know if you have any other questions.

-Stu

Reply
barry July 26, 2017 - 11:03 pm

That 40ohm I mentioned is the impedance of my amp/interface, you don’t want to divide that, you want to divide the impedance number of a headphone right?
Let me ask about my problem through an example:

My amp output impedance is 40 ohms. It’s too high to drive an HD 600 (300/8=37.5 and it is less than the output impedance of my amp)
Then it can not drive for example a pretty cheap, low impedance HD201 (24ohms imp.)? Because 24/8=3 and its even less than the amp’s 40 ohms.
But i guess anything can drive that cheap headphone even simple phones or ipods, right?

Stu July 27, 2017 - 2:58 pm

Yes, divide the impedance of the headphone. Sorry for the confusion.

Yeah, your amp isn’t sufficient to drive any of those headphones with reasonable accuracy and clarity. Also, a headphone like the 201 doesn’t really need amplification, and will work fine from your mobile devices.

Generally speaking, the closer to zero that your headphone amps output impedance is, the better. For example, the Schiit Magni that I have has an output impedance of less than 0.1. This makes it ideal for nearly all headphones within the entry level to mid-level price range.

Let me know if that helps!

-Stu

Dewbest April 20, 2018 - 6:48 am

Is the Audio Technica ath-r70 470 ohm juxtaposed with fiio e10k strong enough?

Reply
Stuart Charles Black April 21, 2018 - 12:10 am

Hey Dewbest!

I would invest in something more substantial to be honest. At 470 Ohms and 99dB Sensitivity for the R70, the FiiO E10K is just scraping by. Their recommended impedance ranges from 16-150. Well out of the R70’s territory. I would recommend it if not for the 470 Ohm impedance. I’ve never heard of a headphone that requires that much power. As an example, current wise, the E10K handles an HD600/650 just fine, but it’s kind of the ceiling as far as power and current output. I find myself using the gain switch a lot of the time although it’s not absolutely mandatory. The 600’s Sensitivity sits on the cusp of being low (97dB), and it requires a bit of power at 300 Ohm. For that headphone I may suggest something a bit more powerful given it’s ridiculously high impedance. I would suggest at minimum something like the Magni 2 or 3 for the R70, or a JDS Labs Objective 2.

Let me know what you decide!

-Stu

Reply
Gustavo August 20, 2018 - 3:52 am

Hi i wanted to ask if a FiiO E10K Olympus 2 would be good for AKG K702, (62 ohms)

Reply
Stuart Charles Black November 3, 2018 - 2:26 pm

Hey Gustavo!
My last reply didn’t take into account that the 702’s actual Sensitivity is 91dB/mW. The number I cited was 105, but it’s in db/V. Huge difference. Not sure why AKG lists that number when the K702 is similar to a K240 as far as Sensitivity and power requirements.

The E10K did very well with the 97dB HD600, but the K702 is going to need more power from the amp to reach acceptable levels.

I know this was from August, but let me know if you’ve already purchased something or need a hand.

-Stu

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June September 20, 2018 - 2:36 pm

Is the ‘micro iDSD Black Label’ a good choice for the Sennheiser HD 600?

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Stuart Charles Black September 20, 2018 - 7:09 pm

Hey June!!

Should be more than enough power. The Black Label provides 100mW into 300 Ohm and the HD600 only needs 30. The amp also has an output impedance of less than 1 which means it will work with the vast majority of headphones. Sounds like a great product! Please let me know how you like the amp and if you would be willing to lend it to me someday down the road when you’ve gotten “amp”le time with it. Haha! Have you heard about the Chord Mojo? Best Amp/DAC combo I’ve heard so far.

Best regards,
-Stu

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Mike July 5, 2021 - 12:33 pm

Hey man, could you suggest a wired overear headphone that has great sound isolation for commuting? I wanna get away from ANC and bluetooth…

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Stuart Charles Black July 6, 2021 - 8:36 pm

Hey man! I would definitely look at the K371 or Meze 99 Classic. I’m still demoing the 99, but check out my 371 article. Perfect for commuting and isolation! AKG K371 review.

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MIKE July 13, 2021 - 7:48 am

Thanks man! You are right, I got the 371 and I love the comfort, and the sound is good enough. Not as good as ANC but good enough in that respect as well. Cheers

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Stuart Charles Black July 13, 2021 - 12:57 pm

Thanks man! Keep me posted on it. The 371 is a perfect headphone outside of the bass shelf IMO. And this is coming from a former bass head lol. I’m sure you read the review, but for others who may see this: AKG K371 Review.

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Valentin Gheorghe October 12, 2022 - 6:57 pm

Your comment about Topping headphone amplifiers power ratings being false, doesn’t hold up!
I own multiple Topping headphone amplifiers and all are performing as specified their manufacturer.
One simply has to learn how to read and interpret the specifications and, also, how to make calculations based on input sensitivity and gain.
Topping headphone amplifiers, like many others, ussualy have fixed gain values and may require different input levels in order to achieve their rated power specifications.
Please, don’t blame Topping for the failure of the home audio equipment industry to adopt and adhere to established international standards for nominal input and output levels of audio equipments.

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Stuart Charles Black October 13, 2022 - 2:12 pm

My point was that they advertise peak power ratings and not continuous which is deceptive. I don’t know if they do this on all models, but the ones I demoed did.

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Jun park April 22, 2022 - 7:22 pm

hello?

I am a Korean who listens to YouTube and Tidal sound through headphones (DT990 pro) connected to a mobile phone.

I am impressed with your YouTube and website.

I don’t currently have a bow, but I really liked the comparison between Dragonfly Cobalt and Red.
​
When using the DT 990 pro on a mobile phone, the DT 250 is 250 ohms, so I’m wondering if the Dragon Fly Red will lack a bit of output.
​
The listening environment is planned to be used at home

I’ve been thinking a lot about combinations of your opinions.
The summary of my thoughts is as follows.

1. Dragonfly red (but wouldn’t it be lacking in output?)
2. Dragonfly red + Atom pro
3. Fiio K5 pro
4. Fiio K5 pro + Atom pro
5. Another Better Way

I’m curious about your opinion.

thank you very much!

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Stuart Charles Black April 23, 2022 - 2:21 pm

Hey Jun!

Thank you for the kind words.

No, the DragonFly Red would not be lacking in output and I’ve never had an issue driving any headphones with it. The combo of 990 + Red may be a tad metallic for you (as the Red is very, very clear/neutral sterile), so I might suggest the K5 Pro!

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Pramod PV May 4, 2022 - 9:53 pm

Hi,
Pramod here.Currently using Audeze Isine 10 and ATH r 70x along with Chord Mojo. Is the Chord Mojo enough to drive ATH r 70. If not, what are your suggestions for a desktop amp? My source is Macbook/ I phone….16 bit / 24 bit FLAC files. I am planning to get the audeze LCD2C soon.My doubt is should I go for a more powerful desktop amp before getting LCD2C? Your inputs are much awaited .

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Stuart Charles Black May 5, 2022 - 10:00 pm

Hi Pramod!

The Mojo is just fine for the LCD-2C as it’s very efficient. You’re referring to the Classic I presume?

I have not heard the R70x but I think it’s 470 Ohms, correct?

I mean, what are your personal thoughts because that’s all that really matters at the end of the day if you have the Mojo and R70x.

Let me know!

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snaz January 18, 2023 - 1:54 pm

Aren’t you now saying the Hidizs S9 Pro has bumped the Dragonfly for value these days ?

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Stuart Charles Black January 18, 2023 - 3:13 pm

Hello!

Yes, and there are a lot of articles on this site so inevitably some will have not been updated yet to reflect the change. Thank you for the heads up.

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Yuri May 27, 2023 - 1:30 pm

Hey man, hope everything is well over there. I think you can help me to understand, I have read all your articles but still some doubt in my mind. I’m willing to buy an dt880 600oms and by the calculation I think its gonna be well to drive with my presonus 22vsl audio interface. Just need a second opinion to know if I’m getting it right.
The presonus have the maximum power of 30 mW/ch @ 60Ξ© load. The dt 880 have (600/8) 75 oms of need. Should be fine to listen to it in a good level right ? The presonus have a S/N Ratio 90 dB also. Should be fine to power the thirsty dt 880 good or do I need to maximize my headphone output with an amp or different audio interface?

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Stuart Charles Black May 30, 2023 - 1:25 pm

Hey Yuri!

Thank you for the comment. I think you’re probably going to need something a bit beefier with those. In normal circumstances and with most amps you’re pretty much fine using them to drive the vast majority of headphones, but in my experience, 600 ohm cans generally need more.

I have an AKG K240M (600 Ohm) and it needs quite a bit more than any other headphones I have here. So at minimum, I’d probably look to invest in a K5 Pro or ATOM, and if you plan to run balanced, the K7.

The ATOM is going to give you a huge bang for buck as it’s supe affordable and packs a ridiculous amount of power. Plus it’s clean and neutral with low output impedance which ensures consistency across various headphone impedance loads. So just pair it with the ATOM DAC if you plan to go that route.

Hope this helps. Keep me posted.

-Stu

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