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Is an amp's output important to YOU when choosing a DAP?

Discussion in 'Headphones, Earphones & Portable Music' started by shadowritten, Sep 2, 2005.

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  1. Yes - "If it doesn't have the power to loosen ceiling joists, I'm not interested."

    55.6%
  2. No - "I used to be the sound engineer for Iron Maiden, so huge amps frighten me these days."

    40.7%
  3. Don't know - "What's an amp, anyway?"

    3.7%
  1. shadowritten

    shadowritten
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    There's been some healthy discussion in here today about the relative merits of having a more or less powerful amp in a DAP. Whatever the technical advantages, I'm not convinced people care about amp output when buying a player (it certainly doesn't influence my purchasing decisions).

    But what do all of YOU think?
     
  2. eviljohn2

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    I don't find it enormously important but the digital amp in my minidisc player far outperforms the headphone socket on my TV and mini-system. It follows that I can use my MD player with my fairly power-hungry HD570s without an external amp but do need an external amp when using the other sources.

    How about a Not too fussy if the other features are good enough but it's certainly nice to have option? :)
     
  3. shadowritten

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    Nice touch ... and a sentiment with which I agree :smashin:
     
  4. Steven

    Steven
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    Hmmm....errrrrrr....ummmmm...no
     
  5. mcfarfs

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    Wahey LFC, 1000 posts!
     
  6. HD3

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    Amps output is never a issue for me, HD3 is too loud even with the limit On. Anyone that upcaps the volume and listens to the player louder are almost certainly damageing thier ears.

    Something amp related- its VERY VERY important when i buy a DAP that it has a line level output. (without buying supid docks which have to be carryied round)
     
  7. DaveA

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    Low powered amps are simply unlikely to reproduce music as well as an amp with 'more in reserve'. Essentially the amp is pushing/pulling the earphone mechanism, so with more power it can do this more effectively without straining.
     
  8. extremelydodgy

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    I'll go with an amp which provides high quality and more than 'just enough to get the job done' power. Sony's HD3/HD5 cannot even power it's own flagship headphnes properly (admittedly not everyone will be using these semi-portably). Every other player I've had recently does.


    There's no need to go overboard, but a decent amount of power in reserve, especially if it doesn't compromise the sonic capability of the player, is good.
     
  9. shadowritten

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    What would be a fair general output, in your opinion? To drive most cans, I mean ...
     
  10. extremelydodgy

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    About 15-20mw/channel should be sufficient for most uses.
     
  11. shadowritten

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    And the Sony HD5 only achieves 5mw, is this correct? Why so low? Size of unit a restriction?
     
  12. extremelydodgy

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    Presumably the pursuit of battery life and as a side maybe lawsuit prevention. Sony's units have always been low. The HD5's battery life, while nicely long, is actually not hugely impressive with 'real-life quality' bitrates. I would imagine that when you're on a level playing field as others (the same HDD) then there are limited areas in which you can squeeze power. Claiming that ATRAC3+ 48K equals 128K MP3 (which nearly everyone else uses to measure battery) is a nice con too since you only have to fill your buffer less than half as often as anything else.
     
  13. shadowritten

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    I agree - 48kbps is awful. Quantity versus quality, for sure. Having said this, I find that Sony's claim for ATRAC3Plus 64kbps sounding as good as MP3 128kbps to be somewhat compelling ... but then, as you know, my phones are low grade. The advantage is that I get 28-35hrs of battery life on a single charge, and I've so far squeezed 3338 tracks into 6.9GB ...

    Returning to topic, if the Sony's amp is so comparatively weak, how do you explain the fact that with line out switched on, my HD5H seems to blast out so much 'power' that I barely need to touch the volume knob on my home hifi?
     
  14. Sasso

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    Is there a program to boost the power output of the HD5, or any other hacks for that matter? The ipod has a power boosting program doesn't it?
     
  15. extremelydodgy

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    I've tried to explain this before. The amp is hardware. The volume limitation is firmware or software. You have the Euro-decrippling option for both iPod and Sony. If you're done both, then that's all you can do. The iPod has a cleaner and more powerful amp than the Sony... that's all there is to it.
     
  16. HD3

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    Is the HD5 output of 5mw with the EU limit on?

    Also is the I-pods output 10+ mw or is it the output of the whole unit?
     
  17. extremelydodgy

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    With the EU limit on it's even lower. Without, it's 5mw. The iPod is about 7mw effective with the EU cap on, and 30mw without. All figures per channel.
     
  18. DaveA

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    Which other DAPs are you comparing with?

    Are you sure you're not plugged into the Phono stage!?!? :D

    Could be the Sony output has an impedance that allows the input of your hi-fi to take a higher voltage signal from it. As your driving an amp input, it's not really a problem because they don't suck power in the same way as a large pair of cans.
     
  19. HD3

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    I have a very small background of studio, PA and lighting etc.....Voltage, Current and Amp and ratings are often confusing and mis understood.

    There must something we are not taking into account. Where are these figures from? as DaveA has said, why such a highpower with line out on....................far more powerful than the I-pod.
     
  20. Sasso

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    I see. So how does the power output affect the sound? So its not volume? What exactly is it?
    Since the ipod is 6 times more powerful, should it sound 6 times better? on a normal set of headphones it certainly does not, even if the numbers say it should, i know what I hear and the HD5 sounds much more alive. Maybe thats what sony do well, maybe they can have a good sound but with less power. (kind of like having a newer car that has less power than an old one but can do the 0-100kph quicker)
    Does the power only affect high end headphones?
     
  21. extremelydodgy

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    The line out is actually quite a bit more powerful on the iPod too.
     
  22. HD3

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    So taking into account that Line level is a standard level (well, almost) this would suggest that the max output for both players is pritty much the same. Which also means both have the same level of power and most likely the same or very similar amps. (which may not be the case when playing back music to listen via earphones)

    Or is the i-pods line out amp in the dock its self?

    Who knows.
     
  23. eviljohn2

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    The volume is related to the output voltage although naturally this will vary between headphones.

    The current output is the relevant figure when comparing power outputs as the voltage range should be fairly similar between all of the models as that's the figure of merit related to the amplitude as I opened with. :)
     
  24. DaveA

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    :D Erm...... without getting too technical.

    Imagine a high revving motorbike capable of really fast speeds (in this case substitute volume) when only having to power a light load (ie. bike and rider).
    This is the NW5.

    Now imagine a fast V8 powered saloon, not quite as fast as the bike when powering just itself. But pretty fast anyways. Volume in this case is loud, but not as loud as the iPod example.

    Now attach a caravan to the back of both machines! The bike is suddenly incapable of accelerating fast (the equivalent of being able to reproduce sound accurately with a heavy set of cans), while the V8 car is quite responsive still (producing sound more accurately through the headphones, as it can keep the magnets moving in exactly the right way with less straining).

    Hope that made sense. :D
     
  25. HD3

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    Correct, Very good point,

    Wattage is the measurment of the output power of a device or in this case it will be the headphones.

    Which doesn't make sence as something Cannot have the wattage measured without something in this case earphones connected to it. And each and every earphone is different, one might produce more heat or the other one might lose more energy vibrating at a non audiable sound.

    Wattage is a sales point,

    The only way to test "volume" is with db decibels, although techincally db is NOT a measure of volume just sound pressure
     
  26. extremelydodgy

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    No it's not. There is a recognised minimum line out level, and the Sony meets that level. The iPod goes beyond it, as do a couple of other players. Modern decks go quite a long way beyond this minimum level.


    It's in the iPod. And I know :p
     
  27. Sasso

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    So What is an example where I can hear the power limitations of the HD5?
    So far it sounds better, but it doesn't go as loud. According to the car explanation (hehe it makes interesting) then the motorbike will be slower but that was an indication of volume, so basically the HD5 will have less volume? To me the ipod still sounded lifeless (bass improved a bit) with its headphones, even with mine it actually sounds alright, but still distorts, so does the HD5, does that have anything to do with power?
     
  28. eviljohn2

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    A very low geared motor bike so it has loads of torque but not so much top speed. :)
     
  29. HD3

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    I didn't know there was a minimum; I only knew that they vary as a wrote "(well almost)".

    I’ve done a little test; I was at a mate’s house earlier, we plugged both players into his mixer and tested the difference (ran EQ flat) (he doesn’t have a dock, but a lead which plugs into the underneath of the I-pod, so it is still using the lineout). There was no great difference. The track we played made the most difference. Although not a science lab I think it was fair; all music on CDs doesn’t tend to vary more than 3 db. We also played the same track and cross faded between them. What did have a higher line level than the I-pod and the HD3 was his professional CD deck. – It killed them both in quality and output.

    I personally don’t think there’s a difference to rave about in terms on line-out level!

    Conclusion: There’s almost no different. (In line-out level)

    However, the I-pod may still have a better earphone output (Original topic), (we didn’t as far to test that). Thing is I’ve never had an issue with volume, my HD3 is too loud as it is, I can’t bare it at max volume, if you can your most likely damaging your ears.

    Anyway after all this- going back to the ORIGNAL point; the amp in the HD3 must be capable of higher levels higher than this term “5mw”. We can prove that the HD3 must be able to output a level as high as the “20mw” I-pod as when we plug phones into the HD3 they distort with line out switched on, and at max volume on the I-pod they may little.

    This is NOT to say that the HD3 or I-pod has more power, if anything I would say that the I-pod potentially has more power (but I have never made any comments against this, just that the output of HD must be more capable of 5mw). Weather that ever gets used or not is another matter.

    But forget the I-pod Vs HD contest; I personally think they both have a great output.
     
  30. KiNeL

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    Is an amp's output important to YOU when choosing a DAP?

    Surely the only question here is "is it loud enough" and the answer to that is fundamentally dependent on 2 basic things (assuming your hearing is average of course!)

    1. The available power output from the DAP
    2. The impedence and efficiency of your particular earphones.

    There is a third influencing factor which is the volume at which your files have been ripped which can vary enormously but that is generally under the user's control so doesn't rightly belong in the discussion. We'll also forget the line out for a moment because that should be a standard level and I think what we are really interested in is headphone volume.

    Without listening to your own music through your own headphones it's sometimes going to be extremly difficult to judge whether a device will be loud enough for you because manufacturers have different ways of expressing their outputs and simply claiming xx mW or xx dB or whatever is somewhat meaningless unless the reference impedence is also quoted which it often isn't. The Sony NW-HD5 which blandly states 180mv but doesn't say if that is in headphone or line out mode and makes no mention of impedence or whether that is before or after the well know hack to increase the volume.

    Someone earlier on stated "Wattage is the measurment of the output power of a device or in this case it will be the headphones"

    Hmmmm...close but not quite right. Watts are measure of heat or dissipation and are a product of 3 factors, the voltage the current and the resistance.

    As an example let's take something everybody will understand, a 3kw electric kettle. In the interest of simplicity I'll take a small liberty by assuming that the mains voltage is not 240v but 250v.

    According to Ohms law Watts are the product of volts times current so, knowing that our kettle is rated at 3000w and the voltage is 250v, it's a simple matter to work back and say the current is Watts divided by Volts which is 3000/250 or 12amps. Now we know this we can also work out the resistance of the kettle element. Resistance is Volts divided by Current so 240/12 gives us 20 Ohms.

    So, now we know that our kettle has a resistance of 20 Ohms and with 250 volts applied it will draw 12 amps and produce 3000 watts of heat.

    Now lets imagine that the mains supply is adtually a DAP and the kettle a pair of headphones. I'll take one further liberty here by the way and assume resistance is the same as impedence which it isn't but it will be near enough for our example.

    We now have a DAP which gives out 250v into our 20 Ohm headphones producing 3000w of power. Lets now change the voltage output and see what happens (all in round figures). Lets reduce it by 20% to 200v.

    Using Ohms law again 200v driving 20 ohms now produces 2000 watts so immediately you see that a drop of just 20% in voltage has reduced the wattage by 33%, you'd certainy notice that!

    Once you start fiddling with more than one element in the equation, as it would be in the real world, things can start to change quite dramatically.

    For instance, all else being equal, a dap with just 10% less output voltage (225v) driving a pair of headphones with 50% higer resistance (30 Ohms) would only give 1700w, almost half, and so on and so on.

    This is all a gross simplification but in terms of illustrating how complicated it is to quantify how loud a device might be simply from the makers figures I think it is useful.

    Probably the best thing you can do is choose your headphones carefully and look for the ones with the highest sensitvity, usually quoted in dB micro Volts, and I would be wary of anything under about 95.
     

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