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  1. #1
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    Smile Headphone Amps in Receivers Any Good?

    I just started using my receivers as headphone amps and I'm wondering if anybody has any clue whether receivers are considered good headphone amps. I currently am listening to the Quake 2 classic video game soundtrack (Rob Zombie did the music in a band called Sonic Mayhem) with my Creative MK II headphones and I swear the output on the Pioneer VSX 1016 headphone output sounds so much more powerful than the output on the Creative X-Fi Fatality sound card and there is no interference. (Front connection buzzes from the PC) I turned off all enhancements such as X-Fi Crystalizer and CMSS because I swear the headphones sounded like they were going to explode.

    I had so much older gear around I wound up using my old surround receivers as powerful stereo amps for 2 channel sound for PCs. Now I'm looking to save on the electric bill by using headphones. It is also great to be able to listen to loud music at the wee hours of the morning. Does anybody else do this?

  2. #2
    Suspended atomicAdam's Avatar
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    Hi RtR -

    Yes - typically out of a power receiver the sound will be cleaner and better than out of your PC.

    The receivers whole purpose in life is to deal with sound. Your PC's view of sound is - cheaper the better.

    So the noise you hear from your PC is from all the electronics interfering with the signal of the audio. It is pretty much a mess.

    If you want good sound from your PC you will need to get a USB DAC or a converter.

    You can find good USB DACs with headphone amplifiers for $200 that are really pretty good.

    If you go the converter route - you will need a converter - (USB->Coax) -> DAC/Headphone amplifier.

    Either way you'll get way better sound than what you get out of the headphone jack on your PC.

  3. #3
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    Smile Thanks For The Info. I have a question ot two.

    Quote Originally Posted by atomicAdam
    Hi RtR -

    Yes - typically out of a power receiver the sound will be cleaner and better than out of your PC.

    The receivers whole purpose in life is to deal with sound. Your PC's view of sound is - cheaper the better.

    So the noise you hear from your PC is from all the electronics interfering with the signal of the audio. It is pretty much a mess.

    If you want good sound from your PC you will need to get a USB DAC or a converter.

    You can find good USB DACs with headphone amplifiers for $200 that are really pretty good.

    If you go the converter route - you will need a converter - (USB->Coax) -> DAC/Headphone amplifier.

    Either way you'll get way better sound than what you get out of the headphone jack on your PC.
    I was wondering what you thought of this FiiO E9? It seems to get good reviews and has a very powerful amp. I would like to possibly try that before also adding a separate DAC. FiiO makes a USB DAC called the E7 but that says it limited to 16 bit 48khz and for me I want 24 bit 96hz at least. For 2 channel I would really like true 24 bit 192khz sample rate for gaming and DVD-Audio.

    I just want to note that my headsets are 32ohms and very sensitive anyhow in the Creative Labs MK II and Sennheiser HD 202. Both are basically entry level but for now I want to simply experiment before getting a higher impedance and/or higher quality set of headphones.

    The E9 at Amazon.com

    http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E9-Deskto.../ref=de_a_smtd

    The E7

    http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E7-Portab...5624654&sr=1-1

    The problem with the E7 is that if you buy the E9 and E7 the E7 comes with yet another fairly powerful headphone amp, too. I can't find the DAC by itself but anyway I probably wouldn't get it because of the limitations.

    What is a good standalone DAC that supports 24 bit 192khz audio? Am I looking at big money here?

  4. #4
    Suspended atomicAdam's Avatar
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    Unfortunately I've not heard either of those - there is a whole slew of DAC/headphone amps in the $100-200 range that are out there right now, someone really should get them and write up a comparative review.

    Anyways...

    Here is the thing about 24bit versus 16bit on entry level components and with source material. Sometimes - it makes no difference. Here is what I mean. DACs and processing chips can be great, but if the component design around those chips isn't very good you aren't going to get a lot of result from it. Also, just because something is recorded in 24bit doesn't mean it actually sounds a whole hell of a lot better than the 16bit version. And so much material is still in 16bit.

    If you go the headphone amplifier route - and you just amplify the noise from your PC's headphone out jack - you are just going to end up amplifying that already bad sound. If you go the USB to DAC route - you should - in theory - further separate yourself from the noise of the PC that you are picking up in the headphone out jack. But, it all also depends on how well everything is designed. Since the components share the same grounding, if something isn't designed well you can still get a high noise floor.

    Personally - if me - I'd go the DAC/Headphone amplifier combo. 16bit - when done correctly - can sound really good - 24bit - if not done correctly - can sound no different than 16bit.

  5. #5
    Romanticist Philosopher
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    Smile As for DACs How About Creative Labs USB Sound Cards?

    I have the X-Fi Surround that I'm currently not using and that supports 24 bit 96khz.

    Here it is at Newegg.com

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829102020

    They have a new model called X-Fi HD USB.

    http://www.newegg.com/Product/Produc...82E16829102032

    It says it has a headphone amp built in and has a better signal to noise ratio than the old model. Methinks the older X-FI surround with an amp like the FiiO E9 will sound better.

  6. #6
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    Smile Good Advice

    Quote Originally Posted by atomicAdam
    Unfortunately I've not heard either of those - there is a whole slew of DAC/headphone amps in the $100-200 range that are out there right now, someone really should get them and write up a comparative review.

    Anyways...

    Here is the thing about 24bit versus 16bit on entry level components and with source material. Sometimes - it makes no difference. Here is what I mean. DACs and processing chips can be great, but if the component design around those chips isn't very good you aren't going to get a lot of result from it. Also, just because something is recorded in 24bit doesn't mean it actually sounds a whole hell of a lot better than the 16bit version. And so much material is still in 16bit.

    If you go the headphone amplifier route - and you just amplify the noise from your PC's headphone out jack - you are just going to end up amplifying that already bad sound. If you go the USB to DAC route - you should - in theory - further separate yourself from the noise of the PC that you are picking up in the headphone out jack. But, it all also depends on how well everything is designed. Since the components share the same grounding, if something isn't designed well you can still get a high noise floor.

    Personally - if me - I'd go the DAC/Headphone amplifier combo. 16bit - when done correctly - can sound really good - 24bit - if not done correctly - can sound no different than 16bit.
    And you are probably right. Well, I guess I'll sit tight for now and have fun with the Pioneer Receiver output and I failed to mention that I've been using a FiiO E5 amp on another PC connected to the front headphone output using the Sennheiser HD 202. The soundcard in there at the moment is the mediocre X-Fi Xtreme Audio and sounds great with all enhancement disabled. It doesn't buzz unless you do something stupid like set the E5 at max volume. Of course at max gain it amplifies the noise, too. That PC doesn't have a noise issue. These little headphone amps are cheap audio enthusiast fun. Thanks again. Me, the nut who had 8 behringer EP 2500s is finally going small yet still very loud. LOL

    The little FiiO at Amazon.

    http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E5-Headph...5629289&sr=8-1

    A part of me wants 24 bit 192 khz with 130db noise floor for under $200. Somehow I don't think that will ever happen.

  7. #7
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    The Beresford is making the biggest waves right now.

    http://www.beresford-dac.com/

    Grant still have the DAC-09 going.

    http://www.grantfidelity.com/site/Gr...ty_Tube_DAC-09

  8. #8
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    24 bit

    Adam hit the nail on the head. You must assess your source material in order to decide if you NEED a 24 bit machine. Firstly, if the bulk of your files are NOT 24 bit, I would suggest a capable 16 bit processor. No, "24 bit mastered" Red Book CDs are not true 24 bit source material.

    If you find that you're using mostly 16 bit and insist on a 24 bit unit, make sure it's upsampling abilities are in order. Also make sure that it infact outputs in 24 bit. I have my digital at 16/96, and it sounds fantastic. Frankly, when you don't have a logical chain which considers your source materials true rate, you end up with needless upsampling and oversampling which introduces artifacts and noise. Most of the time it doesn't sound better.

    Good luck.

  9. #9
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    Smile Thanks!!!! I do use 24 bit

    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    Adam hit the nail on the head. You must assess your source material in order to decide if you NEED a 24 bit machine. Firstly, if the bulk of your files are NOT 24 bit, I would suggest a capable 16 bit processor. No, "24 bit mastered" Red Book CDs are not true 24 bit source material.

    If you find that you're using mostly 16 bit and insist on a 24 bit unit, make sure it's upsampling abilities are in order. Also make sure that it infact outputs in 24 bit. I have my digital at 16/96, and it sounds fantastic. Frankly, when you don't have a logical chain which considers your source materials true rate, you end up with needless upsampling and oversampling which introduces artifacts and noise. Most of the time it doesn't sound better.

    Good luck.
    I have a small collection of DVD-Audio and SACDs and I love to play my games with the highest fidelity I can output from my PC. As far as I understand it the best solution is to output optically from my Soundblaster X-Fi Fatality into the DAC basically making it a pass through of music or hardware accelerated gaming effects. I should disable any unnecessary processing such as 24 bit crystalizer as I set the Soundblaster to match the output of the source and the capability of the DAC. So in effect the external DAC is doing all the digital to analog conversion. That way I can get true 24 bit 96khz cababilities.

    For CDs I should set the sound card to output digitally the 16 bit 44.1khz frequency so no corruption of the source is done. This sounds like a lot of fun. Anyhow before the summer hits I want to execute this gameplan.

    The Grant DAC-09 looks like a great piece of equipment at a reasonable price.

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    I asked the same question on headfi forum and was told the headphone jack on my Marantz amp was a poor option for a good set of phones. I consequently ordered a dedicated head phone amp/DAC ( the Audio GD NFB -12 ). Quite a lot of excitement on headfi regarding the NFB-12

    Won a pair of Grado's for a great price on ebay so hopefully I'll be good to go.

  11. #11
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    The Beresford is making the biggest waves right now.

    http://www.beresford-dac.com/

    Grant still have the DAC-09 going.

    http://www.grantfidelity.com/site/Gr...ty_Tube_DAC-09
    hi poppa, thanks for posting these links, I'm in the process of pulling the trigger on this
    http://www.pacificvalve.us/AudiogdFUN.html ??
    the upgrade version "however after looking at the berresford TC-7520 for $259-shipping, its a- bit of a pickle cause its very attractive with all the bells of the audiogd-fun-dac and a lot more"for much less?

    you got a minute thanks
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    The Audio GD NFB-12 is $200 + shipping. It's got the acclaimed dual Wolfson DAC chips which you won't find anywhere at this price point. With a change of a single jumper it can be used as a preamp and can drive the most difficult cans.

  13. #13
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    The Audio GD NFB-12 is $200 + shipping. It's got the acclaimed dual Wolfson DAC chips which you won't find anywhere at this price point. With a change of a single jumper it can be used as a preamp and can drive the most difficult cans.
    hi poultrygeist, this is getting interested "I didn't run into it while I was browsing the pacific site, is the NFB-12 a new designed? as the shipping isn't before 2/15 on the pacificvalve web site price is $237+ shipping, I copied this little bit of specs.from the site>>>>>>

    (Audio gd dedicated DAC and headphone amplifier with no feedback design and dual Wolfson WM8741 chip)

    hey' I just now realized that you had talk about it in your previous post. I got all worked up after looking at the Beresford 7520. so did you ordered your NFB-12 from HK or pacificvalve?

    and thanks a bunch for the information
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    Although the NFB-12 is brand new, there's already a massive thread on it over at Headfi. I ordered mine from Audio GD HK and they seem to be great with their communication.

    I got the promo price which may still be effect and mine should arrive in the Feb. shippment. Last time I looked at the PV site I didn't see it.

    The NFB-12 looks like a no-brainer buy.

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    Back to the OP. I received my Grado SR125i's cans today and plugged them into my old Marantz headphone jack with a CD source and the sound was not good. I then tried my Dayton DTA-100 which has a full size jack ( 1/4 inch ) and the sound improved drastically. Also tried the Topping TP21 and the sound was also excellent. My only other piece of gear with a phone jack was a $10 thrift store RCA multidisc CD player which also has a volume control. With the Grado's plugged into the RCA the sound equalled the T-amps but with less volume and beat the headphone input on the Marantz 1150 integrated amp by a mile.

    Many of the older CD players had headphone inputs and I suspect that music coming directly from the source may sound better than running it through a receiver.

    When I get my first dedicate headphone amp/dac ( NFB-12 ) I'll post some impressions.

  16. #16
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    The FiiO E5 is amazing for so cheap

    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    Back to the OP. I received my Grado SR125i's cans today and plugged them into my old Marantz headphone jack with a CD source and the sound was not good. I then tried my Dayton DTA-100 which has a full size jack ( 1/4 inch ) and the sound improved drastically. Also tried the Topping TP21 and the sound was also excellent. My only other piece of gear with a phone jack was a $10 thrift store RCA multidisc CD player which also has a volume control. With the Grado's plugged into the RCA the sound equalled the T-amps but with less volume and beat the headphone input on the Marantz 1150 integrated amp by a mile.

    Many of the older CD players had headphone inputs and I suspect that music coming directly from the source may sound better than running it through a receiver.

    When I get my first dedicate headphone amp/dac ( NFB-12 ) I'll post some impressions.
    I've been experimenting with that little wonder with the Sennheiser HD 202 headphones which have great sensitivity of 115db and it is awesome. I swear that in watching Kickass Blu Ray last night with Cyberlink Power DVD 8 output from the headphone output of the X-Fi Xtreme Audio amplified by the FiiO E5 I was so mesmerized with the audio quality and volume and sense of being immersed with Dolby Headphone set. That little girl Hit Girl was awesome.

    http://www.amazon.com/FiiO-E5-Headph...6272931&sr=8-1

    I think for under $25 it is certainly worth the risk and is easy to work with. Just don't expect miracles and I'm using 32ohm headphones.

    I just want to add that in using the receiver's headphone output the receiver has all its processing functions off making it nothing more than an amp. I listen to the Pioneer in Direct Mode. I'll have to give it another listen and compare it to the FiiO. I just can't believe how good $30 headphones sound with a $25 amp. Anyhow pretty amazing stuff. The soundcard in the computer was only $30, too.

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    Here's Lampizator's take on the Wolfson WM8742/8741 as found in the Audio GD NFB-12 headphone amp/DAC. Will post some impressions when it arrives.

    http://www.lampizator.eu/LAMPIZATOR/...WM8742DAC.html

  18. #18
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    Last time I looked at the PV site I didn't see it.
    http://store.pacificvalve.us/agdnfb12.html
    This is where I got mine. Above link says usually ships in 2-3 days, but the home page states the first delivery date will be on 2/15.

    Quote Originally Posted by Poultrygeist
    The NFB-12 looks like a no-brainer buy.
    My NFB-12 hasn't arrived yet, but I am excited to hear it.
    I hope we'll both receive the amp in one piece.


    JRA

  19. #19
    Forum Regular frahengeo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jrhymeammo
    http://store.pacificvalve.us/agdnfb12.html
    This is where I got mine. Above link says usually ships in 2-3 days, but the home page states the first delivery date will be on 2/15.



    My NFB-12 hasn't arrived yet, but I am excited to hear it.
    I hope we'll both receive the amp in one piece.


    JRA
    Hi,

    Have you received your amp yet? I'm interested in this unit as well and would like to get your impression on it.

    Thanks
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  20. #20
    Vinyl Fundamentalist Forums Moderator poppachubby's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by winston
    hi poppa, thanks for posting these links, I'm in the process of pulling the trigger on this
    http://www.pacificvalve.us/AudiogdFUN.html ??
    the upgrade version "however after looking at the berresford TC-7520 for $259-shipping, its a- bit of a pickle cause its very attractive with all the bells of the audiogd-fun-dac and a lot more"for much less?

    you got a minute thanks
    Sorry about the delayed reply winny. To know which unit you should buy, you must look hard at your source material. Do you need 24 bit? Do you need USB?

    Right now I am using my Squeezbox, outputting to a Valab which then goes to my PA2V2. AKG K240 on my head. Gorgeous combo...lush and full sound. Tonally beautiful.

  21. #21
    Do What? jrhymeammo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by frahengeo
    Hi,

    Have you received your amp yet? I'm interested in this unit as well and would like to get your impression on it.

    Thanks
    Not yet. I'm not sure if PV just hasn't received it, or they are backed up on QC process on the unit. When I get it, I'll be sure to report back.

    JRA

  22. #22
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    Smile I will be trying this out

    Its called the Behringer AMP800

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...ef=oss_product

    I just got Sennheiser HD 515s and I'll be testing it with those when it arrives, and Creative Labs Fatality MK IIs as well. Messing with these little amps is a lot of fun. I'm actually having the most fun with the Behringer HA400. It cost only $21 and is pushing the Sennheiser 515s to amazing volume levels and the sound quality is awesome. If anything for such a low price you get a device that can output 4 independent stereo headphone outputs. It makes switching headphones really easy for different types of sources via my PC.

  23. #23
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    I'm still waiting on my NFB-12. Ordered it in early Jan. and shippment then was estimated around 2/15. With all the interest in the Wolfson/Sabre DAC chip they're no doubt flooded with orders.

  24. #24
    Forum Regular winston's Avatar
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    Post

    Quote Originally Posted by poppachubby
    Sorry about the delayed reply winny. To know which unit you should buy, you must look hard at your source material. Do you need 24 bit? Do you need USB?

    Right now I am using my Squeezbox, outputting to a Valab which then goes to my A2V2P. AKG K240 on my head. Gorgeous combo...lush and full sound. Tonally beautiful.
    hey pops, its better to be late than not at all!! thanks for the advise "on the 24 bit or USB preference, cause that's something I overlooked all the time!!

    I receive my DAC from Emo yesterday they gave me a really good deal on this new shipment "now I'll have the option to look into my source material preferences..... hey that's a cute little one A2V2P
    Respect Man.
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