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View Full Discussion I believe my 4XX arrived broken.
Sounds ok at low-med volume, but when I raise volume, the bass gets all distorted as if they are blown. It sounds as if the headset volume is lower then it should be overall. Off the bat all my other cans sound far superior compared to them which they shouldn’t.
Does anyone have this issue?
Edit: My 4XX are not broken. As @jaydunndiddit pointed out, they weren't getting enough power. I bought the LCX + SDAC and solved my distortion issue. Now they are one of my favorite cans that I own. Incredible value, it's quite silly.
How are you powering them? This is a very inefficient headphone and it is really power hungry.
$1600 AVR (at the time-MSRP) Pioneer Elite SC-65. I was thinking it was that, but my 6XX and 7XX run perfectly fine. My AVR is pretty powerful.
Yeah, but these are planars and they're very inefficient at 93 dB compared to the Senns at 103/104 dB and the 7XX at 105 dB. I use my Yamaha AVRs for the same but the amp sections from an AVR are not made for headphones (very few are nowadays). So essentially, they're wiring the amps for your loudspeakers to try and double as a headphone amp and it just isn't ideal. Not to mention the crazy impedance from the AVR itself but they tend not to send enough voltage or current through the headphone jacks and don't supply as much power as you'd think. I can definitely say my 4XX sound very very different out of my AVR vs my desktop amps.
Since you're experiencing low volume that's more than likely why. They need gobs of current and a good amount of voltage to really be at their best. If you do a search for sensitivity here many others break this down as well.
I agree with Jaydunndiddit; they need power! I believe they are even more power hungry than my HD650s.
I just received the HE4XXs today and tried to drive them with my iPhone 7 with the stock dongle.....same problem you described. Then tried them with a Earstudio ES100 BT DAC/AMP; it was a little better. Then I tried them on a FiiO X7 Mark ii DAP and they played much better. Just for giggles I plugged them into my Bottlehead Crack-Speedball Tube Amp and they were awful. I finally tried them on my FiiO Q1 Mark ii portable DAC/AMP yet, they sounded good, just ran out of volume on many of my HiRes files. I will have to end up getting something with some better amperage output to power the HE4XX's. Interesting though the HE4XX's had a fuller sound than the HD650's on my FiiO X7 Mkii. I want to use the HE4XX's as portable headphones so if anyone has a Rec for a higher output portable DAC/Amp or AMP I'd appreciate it.
WHAT you mean I can't trust what the advertisment says O_o
"Massdrop x HIFIMAN HE4XX: a pair of high-efficiency, open-back planar magnetics that don’t need a fancy amp to sound amazing."
Nice to see others using these tools. Small note: Senn and AKG report their numbers in dB/V (sensitivity). AKG 7xx has nearly the same efficiency as HE4xx.
Really wish Massdrop would stop being lazy and actually put the correct units and terminology (efficiency vs sensitivity).
Thank you for help everyone. So what do you guys suggest for a good amp that won’t break the bank.
I would like a neutral sound
Are the Massdrop collaboration amps good, just as their headphones are (bang for buck)?
I was thinking more of a amp/DAC combo if they’re any good?
I don’t need a portable since I have Dragonfly Red.
Budget is $200-$300 I guess.
Edit: Missed that you own a Dragonfly Red. That should be able to power HE4xx. Not effortlessly, but sufficiently. If your headphones sound like crap still using that I'd say it's the headphones.
TLDR: I wouldn't rule out that the headphones are not defective. Try the headphones in other devices and see if you can get them any louder without distortion. Perhaps try and contact whomever covers the warranty. `
To be clear from what I said, if your K7xx sound fine/great on your current amp, HE4xx should also at moderate listening levels. HE4xx does take about 35% more current to achieve same loudness of k7xx (which is what everyone is suggesting the issue is).
So if K7xx works fine, I'd expect you could get nearly the same loudness without distortion (blown bass) on HE4xx.
The amp your're using is a beast but I couldn't determine if a premium headphone out was ever intended. If all they have is a tiny op amp chip/ic used to power headphones I could see that as a potential issue. If it sounds like crap when the headphones are at 105dB loudness (I think I listen to music below that) it only requires 16mA rms or 23mA peak. Most respectable audio op amps can provide 23mA peak fairly well (I think w/o much distortion - current max is 35 to 70mA for op amps - expect distortion at those levels).
Try your headphones in many other devices you may have. See if you can get it any louder before hearing that distortion. If you can, headphones fine and the amp is the issue. If the issue persist equally among all your devices, it "might" be the headphones. You'd need a premium amp to verify.
Side note: the amp I'd suggest is aune x1s $200 (rated 10x the power you'd need) or x7s if you dont' care for another dac and might use balanced output one day, but it doesn't come with a warranty...Objective 2 is a nice budget option that I hear nice things about usually. not sure what else I can recommend.
I don't think I'd consider the DFR a beast as it's output power is only 2.1V max. Even most budget portable amps are around 3-4Vrms. The 02 is over 7V and will pretty much power anything well sans a few outliers. Especially for the 6XX, that extra voltage will push them to their intended limit.
and @jaydunndiddit: I will see where else I can try and power the 4xx. Would these amps be powerful enough for high-end headsets like LCD-2 Classic or Sennheiser HD-800 S? I would prefer an amp that would also be capable for future sets (end-game).
My last question is: I use my Apple TV to stream music through my AVR. Would I connect these amps to my AVR or Apple TV through optical? I think that’s the only advice I would need, I’ll do the rest of the home work. Thank you! ☺️
LCD-2 is really easy to drive. It's one of those things where you spend so much on headphones you'd want to maximize everything it's worth to get the ultra fine details -> good amp and DAC.
HD-800 takes less current but a fair bit of voltage which portables would struggle with.
Objective 2 and Aune x1s both could easily drive the headphones you listed. It's my belief that Aune is a step up from O2 but I could be wrong since I don't own both. Aune is less expensive on massdrop than the JDS Labs O2/DAC combo.
Aune is rated to deliver a small more max power - but perhaps at a cost to distortion (0.1% at the max rating is very audible). For the DAC side of things Aune has optical as an option for input and Odac doesn't (I think). Technically the Aunes DAC is superior in like all ways (supports higher sample/freq sizes) but that's mostly marketing or for the top 1% of 1% golden ears. O2 amp/dac combo kind looks ghetto.. the list goes on. Odac is just getting old and can't be updated for copy right issues.
Testing numbers can often be fudge to make a product look better than it is. So... Aune looks better now but might not be with proper testing / comparison. Aune doesn't list the output impedance which can be a big deal for planar headphones if it's too high. So that's also a huge problem.
With all that said, I'd say they're both good products. Aune is for less through massdrop (just no warranty). If you just want the amp, O2 is probably the better choice. Would I say they're endgame products, close but no. Other headphones exist that benefit from insane effortless power. NFB -11.28 from audio gd is recognized to be damn good and damn powerful but in the 300-400 dollar range. That's the extent of my end game knowledge. Anything beyond that is just silly.
As far as how to connect them, I assume optical from the apple tv to aune is best (no chance of interference) - if that's' even an option. Running the signal through as few devices as possible is best (especially in analog). RCA cables kept short length work okay.
Your HD800's are going to need a beefy amp. One which I don't think you will find in your price range sadly. On top of having a healthy voltage requirement (I believe it's somewhere around 9Vrms), they have some pretty big impedance swings compared to a lot of other headphones. Your LCD2C is actually pretty easy to drive. For 120dB it would need ~2.4Vrms which even something like a Fiio A3 could provide. Your HE4XX and HD 800S are much more power hungry and would need something beefier to push them as they were intended to. Also, many folks recommend tube amps for the 800S. On the cheaper end, the Darkvoice 336SE is a solid choice with some tube rolling. Otherwise, it gets pretty pricey. I enjoyed the HD 800 out of an iFi Pro iCAN using it balanced and thought it was a marvelous pairing. And I don't normally enjoy the 800 due to its treble quirks (for my ears).
In the $200-300 range, there isn't much as far as amp/DACs go but you could find some powerful amps that would fit the bill and worry about a DAC later since you already have the DFR. If your budget was higher, I would recommend the iFi iDSD Micro Black Label or the Chord Mojo. Both of which new are close to $600 but used prices you can get closer to $400. Both have quality DACS, and are portable (battery powered) and their amps would power all the cans you have with aplomb. They both take just about every modern file format and the iFi unit also does MQA (if you were to ever use Tidal). If you're still wanting to mind your budget but overstep a bit, JDS Labs The Element could fit the bill at $350, is a DAC/amp, and has a voltage output of up to 9.4Vrms and can push 600 ohm cans (which would go well for your HD 800S). It's rather neutral and clinical sounding so be aware of that. The iFi and Chord are much more musical sounding and are shy of neutral (in a good way).
I can't recommend the Aune X1S as it is using a rather dated DAC chip, and doesn't have the power levels for what you need. You would end up needing to buy something more powerful so it would make more financial sense to just spend a bit more and not have to worry about upgrading any time soon. The Aune X7s amp would make more sense but only if you were using balanced connections with your headphones. Otherwise, I don't think they would all be powered properly.
Hopefully, that helps a bit and gives you some added context.
@jaydunndiddit If the Aune's DAC is so dated, why does it support 32bit/384k sampling while the JDS Labs The Element best is 24bit/96k sampling? With that said, do I believe there's a benefit to 32bit 384k sampling ? No, absolutely not that's ludicrous. x1s 10th anniversary is the sixth generation model->it gets updated. And side not: it has optical and usb digital input while JDS Labs The Element only has usb digital input. USB potentially picks up interference that's audible -> optical doesn't.
I think you and I have different ideas what power is required nessassry. 120 dB can cause immediate hearing loss. I used to also compare headphones at that SPL because it's sort of the absolute loudest you'd ever want to consider until I realized you'd never want to loose hearing.
I look at 110dB SPL of a headphone and check an amp can reach at least double the V peak to peak (determined usually by looking at the power brick) to avoid distortion. And anything above 3x Vpp has no benefit. Similarly, I do the same thing for current; or power if I can't figure out max current estimates. 110 dB SPL is still louder than you'd want to listen to something for a long period of time. Thus, it's still a good maximum to use.
Sennheiser HD-800S has the same power requirements as HD-650. Plenty of people are content using an objective 2 amp to drive them. Can you squeeze more detail out of them with better gear? Yes, but it gets expensive quickly and the gains are unnoticeable for the average consumer.
If Megazine budget is closer to $400, I'd recommend audio gd nfb 11.28. It has more power and input options than JBS Labs The Element significantly off the top of my head. The only downside is long shipping times and you may have to communicate with customer support that doesn't speak English fluently or as well as you'd like.
My recommendations are simply what I feel is sensible. I don't consider Aune x1s to be the greatest thing ever. I consider it to be an amazing deal at $200 that's within Megazine's budget. And I never said DFR was a beast. It is however adequate to determine if his HE4xx headphones are defective and need to be replaced. Which was the OP main objective.
Sampling rates have nothing to do with the old, mobile/DAP DAC inside the X1S: 9018K2M. Truthfully, this DAC has no business inside a mid-grade product such as this. Let alone, this amp/DAC has the same Vrms as the DFR--2.1V. Thats disappointing out of a desktop unit and is not suitable for the HE4XX or the HD 800s. The element puts out ~9Vrms. That will push damn near every headphone with gusto. That's what matters here. He would have a proper desktop unit, that is neutral as he requested, and it would power all his current equipment for $50 more than he mentioned. To me, that makes much more logical sense monetarily and meets his aforementioned goals.
What you seem to be missing about volumes hitting 120dB is just part of any dynamic piece of music. Obviously, no human would listen to 120dB without permanent hearing loss. However, when listening at typical volumes, it's normal for impedance and the voltage to swing much higher depending on the source and the song. While 120dB is considered typical when listening to music, when watching movies or gaming this spike can go much higher. That's why having an amp to accommodate for this is important to ensure the drivers are always being properly powered.
To say that the HD650 and 800 S have the same specs is quite misleading. The 650 has the higher sensitivity and the 800 has much higher impedance and voltage swings (over 9Vrms). The 650 is 7Vrms at max. The 02 outputs well over 7vrms so it's easy to suspect they'd be content as the power output is close and would be music dependent. To say one would not notice is rather condescending. One doesn't spend the money on something like an 800 S to not pick out details in music. This is a very analytical headphone.
The point still stands that the OP stated the volume was low on the 4XX compared to his other headphones. It would be reasonable to think they're being underpowered and it really does sound like that is the case as the DFR doesn't have the power for them. The Aune, while budget friendly, would be a waste of his time and money. The JDS amp/DACs I mentioned are VERY neutral as the OP requested and have more than enough power while still being in his budget.
First of all, thanks for the neutral response. I still feel like I can learn a thing or two and constructive discussion is the only way to get there.
Aune x1s spec page does say 2.1Vrms but I'm 99.9% sure that's DAC's line output not the amp. The amp has -12 to 12 Volts to work with - > 24 / 2*sqrt(2) = 8.4 Vrms but that doesn't include headroom. Using power equation of a rating 0.2 W = Vrms^2 / 300 -> I estimate it has 7.75Vrms (very near O2).
You're right I shouldn't be so condescending.
The source I looked at showed HD-650 and HD 800S with the same 102dB/V sensitivity @1k Hz. On closer examination it was just a user's post and not all that official. Innerfedilities website (using his testing rig) both headphones took about 0.13mW to achieve 90dB BSPL. You are correct that HD800S impedance does climb a bit higher at ~100 Hz. So I was over simplifying a tad. HD800 could use a little more juice in the lower frequencies. I'm afraid though I still disagree with ever looking at the specs @ 120dB. To each their own and not a big deal.
I'd say it's hard to say the extent Megazine's distortion when he used his HE4xx with just his descriptions thus far. My impression is it sounded like total garbage vs hearing some distortion/loss of clarity when played a little louder. If some of the distortion clears up using the DFR, I'd say amplification is the issue. Not saying all the distortion when played loudly would disappear on DFR. I'm just saying he should beable to get HE4xx louder before hearing distortion. If it still sounds like the same garbage slightly louder than before, I'd say it's a good chance they're defective headphones and he should take proper steps in getting a new pair. At the very least contact the warranty/returns department and see what they have to say. (before spending $400+ on new gear)
@jaydunndiddit...This is awesome. So much information I'm learning. Sorry I was away for 2 days. On my DFR I cant replicate the distortion issue, but that could be due to volume being maxed out using my iPhone X. Please continue discussion, it's very productive.
The CTH with integrated Grace DAC option as sold here by Massdrop is currently $319, and works great with these (I have both). I also found that these 4XXs really benefited from about 20 hours of burn-in at medium- high volume. The bass came alive while the highs and mids got clearer. I use Jriver and run them with some EQ. A very pleasing combination that is pretty well price-matched as a system. Would buy again!
Grab a balanced cable for your Q1 you will have enough power to drive your ears to bleeding.
I just made a balanced cable for my HD650’s and now my FiiO X7 Mkii wiill drive then on High gain. Next I will be making a set for the HE4xx’s And I’m hoping they will work as well too. Thanks
Hi, I too am interested in making a balanced cable for the HE4xx's. If you've already made yours, could you share information on how you determined what wire was what (R+, R-, L+, L-) after cutting off the existing connector?
I’ve done two cables for the HE4xx’s. First one I cut the existing cable and soldered in a 4-pole Tiny XLR connector. I don’t remember the existing colors. I just used a meter in continuity mode and matched everything up based on the industry standard for 2.5mm TRRS plugs.(See attached pic) The wires in the existing cable are lacquer coated for separation. Not your typical plastic wall insulation. So you don’t strip them back. You have to burn the lacquer off with a solder iron and then tin them. I then heat shrinked each wire separately before soldering them into the Tiny XLR male and female connectors in order to insure good separation. The second set I just mirrored how the 2.5mm earcup connectors were wired and wired the TRRS source plug based on Int’l. STD. Modding the factory lacquered cables does require some soldering skill, so if you’re not experienced at soldering I would not recommend trying it.
Rob Robinette has a fantastic web page on building balanced cables. It’s a great resource/reference, especially when you don’t build cables everyday.
Great information. Thank you!