Dec 19, 2018188 views

Do planar headphones scale with the amount of power they get?

I am thinking of getting an audeze lcd2 but I am unsure of the amp I wanna get . For right now I'm thinking of the HPA-3u+ dac/amp from matrix audio that outputs 2800mW at 33ohms / 420mW at 300ohms / 210mW at 600ohms at THD+N=0.01% and maybe pair it with an external dac in the future. Originally I was planning on getting either the jotunheim with balanced dac or massdrop THX AAA linear AMP with a topping d50 or smsl su8. However the latter has a more inconvenience size for me and I have no balanced cable right now .Do planar headphones sound more better if they receive more power?

To a certain extent, yes. If you can drive them to 120dB SPL or more you're probably not going to notice huge advances in sound quality by driving more.
You also didn't specify which version of the LCD-2 you were planning on buying. So that could also be a determining factor in which amp or DAC/Amp combo you were thinking of getting. Most high quality headphone amps will be able to drive them as they're only 70 ohms. Now the question remains is what are you planning on using them for. Home use? Studio reference? That can be an influence on which amp or DAC/amp combo you should get. IMHO if you're willing to spend upwards of $995 on a pair of LCD-2's then a good DAC/headphone amp like the RME-ADI-2 will drive those with no problems. They even come with a dedicated EQ so you can tailor the sound to your liking. As far as scaling goes, most hi end headphones do, but just like almost every other headphone, as you increase the volume you will encounter distortion. However, the difference I have noticed with the higher end headphones over the years is that most sound great at any volume. So if that's what you're looking for then yes, the Audeze's will be perfect for your needs.
Load 14 more comments
1) You are the one who brought up an $1150 list pro audio AD/DA into a post about mid-priced amplifiers and planar magnetic cans. 2) For the budget of $1150 I was asserting there are much better options for powering planar and I continue that assertion. 3) I paid 1058 for my Teac UD-501 and Cayin iHA-6, with more than twice the power of the RME and whatever the hell they did with that current switch I feel confident the OP could buy any planar made to date without power concerns. 4) Poster makes no mention of recording audio or digitizing vinyl/tapes, why would I assume they need the A to D functionality? 5) Gonna Mark Twain out of this one... unless @Azeendeen asks me a question I'm done in this thread.
1:Where did he post mid-priced DAC's and amps? He never specified price. You did. 2:Bye, C-ya!!
All electrical loads scale with delivered power, some just do so more linearly than others. Unlike dynamic headphones that have a magnetic coil and complex impedance (resistance, capacitance and inductance), planar magnetic headphones are just a lossy conducting strip, almost a perfectly flat resistive load at the frequencies for audio. Look at the 'Electrical Impedance and Phase Plot' from Innerfidelity for the LCD2, it's ruler flat at ~46 ohms: Now compare with a pair of high impedance dynamics, Beyer DT880 600 ohms (, the impedance variation across the measured band is ~120 ohms! Not only that, but this impedance is a complex sum (partially imaginary, don't worry electrical engineers are TOTALLY sane), rather than a pure simple old resistor load. This means that planars scale almost exactly linearly with power, certainly more so than any other type of driver I am aware of. Reports of bass gnomes emerging from the headphone enclosure when a magical power threshold is exceeded should be regarded with skepticism then. I think much of the confusion and resulting mystique in driving planars is due to the fact that they are relatively insensitive compared to dynamics (they need more watts per ohm than we are used to) but also require higher current for power rather than voltage. Something like the Fostex T50RP is the classic example, it is 50 ohms but they require quite a high level of power to drive. . . I would definitely say they compare to my DT880 600 ohms as a power load. Amps that are attempting to be clever with power efficiency can really be caught off guard, my otherwise quite capable LGV20 for instance outputs the same moderate level to the T60RP regardless of the impedance sensor / gain setting lol. None of this is to say the character of the headphone in anyway changes. The virtue of a linear load such as these is that the spectrum is exactly quieter or louder depending on the delivered power level.
Thank you for the insight
Most planars scale in this regard, some really don't. The HE-6 might be the poster child in this regard, as it just seems to keep scaling until you hook it up to some speaker amp. The HEX hardly changes, from portable amp to high-end. Post-2016 LCD series headphones, with the sole exception of the LCD-4, are pretty easy to drive. My Magni 3 has no problems driving my 2016 LCD-3 on my bedside rig, and the LCD-3 has a higher impedance than the LCD-2 that you're looking at (110 ohm vs 70 ohm for the LCD-2). This may not be the case with older models. That being said, LCDs, much like most other planars, seem to love amps that deliver articulation, clarity, control, and dynamics to go along with strong power delivery. Spending more on an amp seems to really bring the best of these headphones out. However, they will stop scaling at a certain point, which at that point changes will be sidegrades (nothing wrong with that; just recognize it and be cognizant and honest with yourself). Every LCD -# I've tried has been no exception to this rule. To address your thoughts on getting a Jot or a THX, my advice is don't unless you're going to use the balanced-out (the SE on both amps are a**). If you don't want to buy a balanced cable right now and want something SE that has plenty of power for the LCD-2 and will bring out its better characteristics I suggest a Lyr 3 (I advise you to save money and either get the AKM DAC in it or a Massdrop SDAC + Wyrd if you can swing it). A Magni 3 is also plenty and is much cheaper, although not as good as a Lyr. Once you start thinking about source gear, be cognizant of the fact that the LCD-2 will stop scaling with sources after a while; it's an unfortunate/fortunate drawback of its timbre and slight lack of ultimate detail/clarity in the treble. This is one of the reasons why I keep a HD 6XX around; it scales like mad (although it's never pleased me like my LCD-3 even on really, really high-end gear). Sorry about my essay-itis, but tl;dr to your quesion: generally yes with some exceptions.
Thx for the info