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Could the output impedance of the headphone amplifier together with the headphone dynamic impedance behavior (i.e., how impedance changes with frequency) be the cause of some or the audio quirks described above?

A while ago I perused a highly technical article about the stability of some operational amplifiers and the authors point was one should be careful with the load placed on the amp. ops. output because of its internal circuitry; there are protection circuits and compensation networks that may not play nice with some loads unless careful design measures are taken. Otherwise one could get an unstable (i.e. oscillating) circuit.

I am far from a specialilst but I believe headphones are not well behaved as loads (ideally they would be like resistors, except they are not) so some amplifier-hedphone combinations may work better (or worse) than others.


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I'll add my two cents.

I spent a fair amount of time years ago researching a headphone amplifier to boost the level of the output of my AvantGrand N3.

Instead of buying a headphone amplifier, I bought an inexpensive four channel Mackie mixer. My thinking, if you buy a headphone amplifier, you're buying a one trick pony; with a small four channel mixer, I have a great little device that can be used many different ways.

I bought mine primarily to adjust the level of my tablet which resides on the N3 and provides me with videos while I practice as well as practice tracks.

Just a thought.


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Originally Posted by Dave Horne
I'll add my two cents.

I spent a fair amount of time years ago researching a headphone amplifier to boost the level of the output of my AvantGrand N3.

Instead of buying a headphone amplifier, I bought an inexpensive four channel Mackie mixer. My thinking, if you buy a headphone amplifier, you're buying a one trick pony; with a small four channel mixer, I have a great little device that can be used many different ways.

I bought mine primarily to adjust the level of my tablet which resides on the N3 and provides me with videos while I practice as well as practice tracks.

Just a thought.

Lotsa approaches, yours is a good one. Only issue I have with this, is sound quality. In general, a multi-purpose device will have compromises to keep the costs down. Further, mixers are a tool, not a high-fidelity device so there is an assumption that the headphone amplifier in a mixer is better than the one in a digital piano... I am not so sure if this is true.

In general, if you buy a dedicated headphone amplifier, it is assumed that the unit is designed for high fidelity, not as a tool...... yes an assumption. So if you are concerned about sound quality, a dedicated headphone amplifier is generally a good idea. In my rig, I have both... but I have multiple line outs on my DP.

Peace,
Bruce in Philly

Last edited by Bruce In Philly; 03/30/21 11:22 AM.

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It's possible that a dedicated headphone amplifier provides better audio results, but it there's a difference, I doubt I would hear it.

I'm 70 and have tinnitus.


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Originally Posted by Bruce In Philly
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
I'll add my two cents.

I spent a fair amount of time years ago researching a headphone amplifier to boost the level of the output of my AvantGrand N3.

Instead of buying a headphone amplifier, I bought an inexpensive four channel Mackie mixer. My thinking, if you buy a headphone amplifier, you're buying a one trick pony; with a small four channel mixer, I have a great little device that can be used many different ways.

I bought mine primarily to adjust the level of my tablet which resides on the N3 and provides me with videos while I practice as well as practice tracks.

Just a thought.

Lotsa approaches, yours is a good one. Only issue I have with this, is sound quality. In general, a multi-purpose device will have compromises to keep the costs down. Further, mixers are a tool, not a high-fidelity device so there is an assumption that the headphone amplifier in a mixer is better than the one in a digital piano... I am not so sure if this is true.

In general, if you buy a dedicated headphone amplifier, it is assumed that the unit is designed for high fidelity, not as a tool...... yes an assumption. So if you are concerned about sound quality, a dedicated headphone amplifier is generally a good idea. In my rig, I have both... but I have multiple line outs on my DP.

Peace,m
Bruce in Philly

It depends on the mixer, obviously. Some have better than average headphone output stages. If you are playing or layering more than one sound engine, you need to monitor downstream from the mix. You could route an output of the mixer to a separate headphone amp, and many studios do that, in part to have say 4 or 8 headphones monitoring the mix simultaneously, but also sometimes for quality purposes.

If you have a -10dBV output to use to connect to a high quality consumer stereo headphone amp, or digital output to connect to a DAC, you can get a headphone amp of better quality at any given price point than getting one with +4dBu input sensitivity. But if you connect a +4dBu output into an amp with -10dBV input sensitivity, there is no escaping the dynamic range compression that will result, so that any improvement in amplifier audio quality will be a tradeoff.

Probably the cheapest way to get a fairly high quality headphone amp with +4dBu input sensitivity is to find an old silverface era late 1970's stereo integrated amp that has a transformer or resistor tap off the main amp for its headphone output rather than a separate op-amp. It is likely that the input sensitivity is established by a resistor at the inputs. This could be replaced with a resistor that achieves the voltage drop needed for +4dBu input sensitivity.


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Well... looks like I misjudged all my previous DPs. Nord Piano 4 arrived today. And it sounds better when headphones (Beyerdynamic DT 990 250 Ohm) are in my Roland Quad capture audio interface, that is connected to Nord thru line outs. When headphones are stuck directly in the piano, the sound is worse. Quad Capture is pretty cheap device, though. With better amps sound can be even better, I suppose.

But I never used external devices with my previous pianos. I guess some of them could make much better impressions on me. Some may be not that much. Especially cabinet ones (since people buy cabinets as "all-in-one" option). I believe LX 706 has good built-in amp...


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You could try DT 770 Pro (80 ohms), which should sound fine connected to your Nord any other studio equipment as well.


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Why preamp and not amp? Preamp usually implies amplifying a weak signal in an intermediate stage before passing it over to the next gain stage, e.g. a phono or microphone preamp whose output is further amplified by the main amplifier.

Last edited by CyberGene; 04/08/21 04:14 AM.

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Originally Posted by JoeT
You could try DT 770 Pro (80 ohms), which should sound fine connected to your Nord any other studio equipment as well.

Impedance is not the only issue. It is if it is high and the problem is insufficient volume, simply due to low voltage. But often the volume is loud enough, but the sound isn't good. With the FP90, my old Senn HD545 ref (150 Ohm) are fine, but IE40 (low Ohm) are not (I even tried adding resistors but it didn't make a difference). While IE40 are not nearly as bad with the laptop.

No experience with Beyer, but they declare somewhere that their 80 Ohm versions are designed for high-volume studio use, whatever that means.

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Driver impedance needs to match amplifier output impedance, otherwise it sounds bad. Volume is just a function of amplification power. It's just that low impedance drivers are usually (not always) more efficient.


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I am not a specialist on this subject (far from that) but I believe these results (psych acoustic wink issues aside), but I believe the impedance of the drivers in the headphones are not constant with frequency (not purely resistive). I did a quick search and found only some pages on speakers (links below). Look how impedance vary with frequency. I believe headphone drivers have similar (not equal - probably not as drastic variations as they are much smaller) impedance behavior with frequency. Add to that the impedance output of the amplifier and one can explay the reason why some headphone outputs show a suboptimal response.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electrical_characteristics_of_dynamic_loudspeakers

https://audiojudgement.com/speaker-impedance-curve-explained/


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Sure the phones impedance is freq dependent, and seeing the coil inside there must be some inductive component, hehe.

The FP90 has two phone outs. When I had the HD545 on and plugged the low-impedance IE40 into the other one, I've noticed the signal level in the HD545 dropped a lot. Meaning that the output impedance of the amp probably isn't very low. According to the damping-factor rule of thumb that might mean this amp might not like low-impedance phones. The volume was not an issues, vol slider was at 1/4. That's why I tried adding resistors in series. Expectedly I needed to raise vol above 1/2 for suitable volume, however the sound quality didn't improve.

> (psych acoustic wink issues aside)
This isn't like audiophile poetry of subtle differences when comparing one set of 25k quid speakers with another 30k quid. When something is really wrong, anyone can hear the difference.

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In order to overcome the variable impedance of headphones, a constant-current amplifier should be used. Most amplifiers are constant-voltage, so a constant-current amp is a rare exception. I have one such USB-headphone amp, the Apogee Groove, however it's not an audio-amplifier, meaning it doesn't have audio-in. But I used it on my Mac with Garritan CFX and HD650 and it could deliver just enough power to them, while at the same time "equalizing" the bass-loss that comes with the variable impedance. Not a big deal though smile

Last edited by CyberGene; 04/08/21 10:05 AM.

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Originally Posted by _sem_
Sure the phones impedance is freq dependent, and seeing the coil inside there must be some inductive component, hehe.

The FP90 has two phone outs. When I had the HD545 on and plugged the low-impedance IE40 into the other one, I've noticed the signal level in the HD545 dropped a lot. Meaning that the output impedance of the amp probably isn't very low. According to the damping-factor rule of thumb that might mean this amp might not like low-impedance phones. The volume was not an issues, vol slider was at 1/4. That's why I tried adding resistors in series. Expectedly I needed to raise vol above 1/2 for suitable volume, however the sound quality didn't improve.

> (psych acoustic wink issues aside)
This isn't like audiophile poetry of subtle differences when comparing one set of 25k quid speakers with another 30k quid. When something is really wrong, anyone can hear the difference.

I wonder if the pair of DP + headphones made by the same company is the best choice? Roland headphones should be set up for Roland pianos, in theory. Or Yamaha for Yamahas. But what's in reality?


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Well, looks like I just should dig a little bit deeper into the Nord's manual and instrument features smile Got really good sound in phones.

Was surprised by Nord users forum, by the way. If asked "What should I do if I have not got enough money for equipment?" they can give you some reasonable advices, not just "kill yourself".


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Originally Posted by PianoStartsAt33
Well, looks like I just should dig a little bit deeper into the Nord's manual and instrument features smile Got really good sound in phones.

Was surprised by Nord users forum, by the way. If asked "What should I do if I have not got enough money for equipment?" they can give you some reasonable advices, not just "kill yourself".

Well what did you do to get really good sound in phones? With the FP90 and IE40, rising the highs eq sliders did help a little bit, but sure didn't miraculously fix everything.

> I wonder if the pair of DP + headphones made by the same company is the best choice? Roland headphones should be set up for Roland pianos, in theory. Or Yamaha for Yamahas. But what's in reality?

I wouldn't expect this theory to work universally. I mean, I hear Nord monitors are overpriced something, and I'm not aware of their headphones. As for others, they could hypothetically at least pick somehow matching headphones to rebrand them. But I understand they use different amps in different DPs and I don't expect the same rebranded phones would go well with all their DPs. Though, a Roland or Yamaha dealer may be able to offer their phones models (and possibly others) to test in store.

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Originally Posted by _sem_
Originally Posted by PianoStartsAt33
Well, looks like I just should dig a little bit deeper into the Nord's manual and instrument features smile Got really good sound in phones.

Was surprised by Nord users forum, by the way. If asked "What should I do if I have not got enough money for equipment?" they can give you some reasonable advices, not just "kill yourself".

Well what did you do to get really good sound in phones? With the FP90 and IE40, rising the highs eq sliders did help a little bit, but sure didn't miraculously fix everything.

The piano has an interesting feature called "Amp models" - amp/speaker simulations. Don't now how it works, but I like the effect it produces on sound.


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I’m sorry, I never heard of using line out to headphone amp and I did dozens of experiments w my Beyerdynamic 770 and headphone amp w a Kawai digital ES 110 for $699 and it sounds really superior than many outside configurations-
In fact, after 3 years, I loved how much it sounds, I bought an acoustic and the digital rig sits alone in the other side of the room.
Recommend the whole ear cup kind so you can live in a tomb —except be careful of getting interrupted.
Very heart stopping.

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