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Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

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Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

Postby Wwhel21 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:52 pm

My rudimentary HW setup for the next few months (in the context of condo living) consists of a pair of UMX-610 Behringer keyboards, a 16GB RAM MacBook Air, and a pair of Sony MDR-V6 headphones connected via a Behringer UCA222 D/A converter and a Behringer HA400 headphone amp.

Both the D/A converter and the headphone amp are inexpensive items. The Sony headphones are studio monitors (impedance = 63 ohms) and are ancient, but they have received very good reviews in the past in audio circles.

I’m using the Armley-Schulze (love it!), which I use up north in a multichannel environment, and am wondering if an upgrade to any of my audio components here at the condo would enhance the sound experience using headphones. I’m not loving the sound right now!

My questions are:

    Are studio monitor headphones as good as studio monitor speakers for HW or should they be avoided?

    Has anyone used the MDR-V6 headphones with HW? Given the age of these headphones, would there be concerns about quality?

    Any thoughts on my current D/A converter and headphone amp? Any recommendations for an upgrade where I’d likely notice a significant improvement in sound quality?

    Is there any real benefit to a D/A converter given the MacBook’s high-quality Core Audio? Would the sound be just as good connecting a headphone amp and headphones to the Macbook’s analog audio output port?

    If I stay with the Sony headphones, would a headphone amp be recommended based on their 63 ohm impedance?

Thanks,
Bill
Wwhel21
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Re: Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

Postby dw154515 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:57 pm

I play under headphones and I think it’s way better than a pair of speakers (monitors) as I’ve also tried that (Behringer 20131s).

That being said, I have two pairs of headphones and I like each of them - AKG701s and AudioTechnica ATH-R70X, and they work great. They are both amazingly comfy! The AT’s are open-back, so they don’t block ANY outside noise but the fidelity is a little better in my opinion to the AKGs.

BUT...

You need a GREAT (not “good”) DAC with good headphones. Any part of that signal chain can become “muddy” and unclear in my experience. I’ve used M-Audio, PreSonus, and Behringer USB interfaces and hated them. I eventually settled on a hi-fi USB DAC (AudioQuest Dragonfly) and a Presonus Headphone amp and it made all the difference in the world. It sounds silly but honestly not all DACs are created equally.

I really enjoy playing under headphones because I find it easier to hear the finer details in the samples. It also makes for a good “live on location” aesthetic which is nice. However, those details are lost with poor quality digital to analog converter‘s. I would highly suggest going the hi-fi audio route over the pro audio route if you’re going to do headphones. There are lots of options out there. Peach tree Audio, Rega, Cambridge Audio, AudioQuest, etc. that will vastly outperform the pro-Audio (Behringer, MAudio, etc.) stuff.
Drew A. Worthen
Master of Music in Composition - Butler University
http://www.drewworthen.com
Director of Music - Greenwood UMC
http://www.greenwoodumcmusic.org
Field Engineer - Sensory Technologies
http://www.sensorytechnologies.com
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Re: Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

Postby OrganoPleno » Fri Jan 25, 2019 12:14 pm

Wwhel21 wrote:Are studio monitor headphones as good as studio monitor speakers for HW or should they be avoided?


Studio-Monitor Headphones can give excellent results. My own system uses Headphones by AKG, a professional-quality DAC by RME, and a Headphone Amplifier by PreSonus.

Lots of choices... but selecting for Quality will always be rewarded!

Also... without the Amplifier, the Headphones might always sound weak. Why limit yourself this way?
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Re: Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

Postby Wwhel21 » Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:08 pm

Thank you very much Drew and OrganoPleno for your helpful responses

I would highly suggest going the hi-fi audio route over the pro audio route if you’re going to do headphones.


Interesting perspective, as this goes counter to what I've thought about pro vs hi-fi audio; maybe headphones are an exception to the general thinking that pro audio is always better for HW.

I did some research on the Audioquest Dragonfly and the comments are for the most part very positive. One of the comments was from a person who uses the Sony MDR-V6 headphones with this device who noticed significant improvement in the sound, but I'm still curious if anyone has used these headphones with HW.

Drew, which version of the Dragonfly do you use (black 1.5, red 1.5, or an older model?). It looks like I can stick with the black/ less expensive version given the rather low impedance of my current headphones. I can buy the Dragonfly through Best Buy and then return it if I'm not satisfied.
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Re: Headphones, D/A converters, and headphone amps on iOS

Postby dw154515 » Sat Jan 26, 2019 5:53 pm

I actually have generation 1 - their very original model, and I had to pay a whopping $250 for it when it came out 7-8 years ago! I have not owned the new models but have heard them and they are all awesome. Don’t skip on the headphone amp.
Drew A. Worthen
Master of Music in Composition - Butler University
http://www.drewworthen.com
Director of Music - Greenwood UMC
http://www.greenwoodumcmusic.org
Field Engineer - Sensory Technologies
http://www.sensorytechnologies.com
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