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How good is the SBZ headphone amp?

Discussion in 'Sound City' started by IvanDobskey, Aug 3, 2018.

  1. IvanDobskey

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    Having just shelled out a fair chunk of change for some nice Shure 1540 headphones, I'm wondering if I'm getting full potential from them via the SBZ headphone jack?

    Would it be worth buying an amp?

    I was looking at the audioengine N22, which has speaker outputs and headphone jack. No optical in though unfortunately.
     
    Last edited: Aug 3, 2018
  2. Marsman

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    SB Z doesn't really have a headphone amp, not in the same way the ZxR does and STX/II at least. I'm not talking about quality, just what might be referred to as a dedicated headphone amp.

    Creative claimed when the Z was released that it had a headphone amp that could drive 600 Ohm headphones. If you look at the Z specs now, they have removed the claim that it can drive 600 Ohm headphones and there is no mention that it has a headphone amp.

    The Z has a weirdly high output impedance of 22 Ohms though, which would be fine for higher impedance headphones, except it's output is not enough for such headphones. :/

    Looking at the 1540 specs they look easy to drive at 46 Ohm. I doubt they are weirdly harder to drive than the impedance suggests, like AKG K702 for example; but the SB Z is not the best source if you have high quality headphones, so I'm certain the headphones can benefit from something better.

    I wouldn't look at something like the N22, unless you need an amplifier for passive speakers as well. Buying that because it has a headphone socket for just headphone use would not be good idea.

    Do you use the headphones for gaming? If yes and you want the whole positional sound thing provided by SBX prostudio, then you'd be best getting something like an SMSL M6 and connecting that to the SB Z optical out, which can then pass on SBX prostudio to the external DAC/amp.
     
  3. IvanDobskey

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    Thanks for the feedback :)

    I use my headphones for a mix of music and gaming really. I'm not sure if I'm even using the positional functionality though.

    I was considering an amp capable of driving my 2020i's which I currently have downstairs. Thinking of buying some floor standers and moving the q acoustics upstairs for my pc.

    I'd like a compact amp capable of driving the 2020i's and my headphones.
     
  4. EsaT

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    If you would like all in one device with amplifier for smaller speakers there's Sound Blaster X7.
    There just aren't many such devices.

    And anything with power to drive more than tiny speakers isn't exactly very compact.



    They're rather easy load with ~0,11 Vrms/0,26 mW enough for 90 dB.
    https://www.innerfidelity.com/images/ShureSRH1540.pdf
     
  5. IvanDobskey

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    There just doesn't seem to be many such devices, which is a little odd.

    The NAD D3020 looks good, but very expensive. Also maybe the Denon PMA-30/50 looks a possibility.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  6. EsaT

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    It's not really so weird considering amplifier powerfull enough for bigger spekears needs space.
    And also lot stronger power supply to feed that amplifier than just DAC/headphone amp.
    So no wonder that signal source devices are usually separate from "output amplifier".

    NAD has "optimistic" output power ratings for 50W input power rating.
    While those Denons have 35W input power rating.
    I mean just like computer PSUs also those PSUs have losses.


    Makes SB X7's power supply with ~70W output look beefy...
    Limited Edition's 140W PSU is very beefy in comparison.
     
  7. IvanDobskey

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    I think the 2020i's are 70w? So maybe I do need something with more guts.

    After doing a bit of research, it seems the NAD D3020 punches well above its specs and has plenty of power to drive a pair of 2020i's. However, it is above my budget unless I can bag one second hand.

    Edit: What about the SMSL AD18? Quite a bit cheaper at around £120.
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2018
  8. EsaT

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    Speakers don't really have any power rating.
    What they have is maximum power rating they can handle, before giving up the magic smoke.
    How much power is actually needed depends lot on size of room and distance to speakers.
    From close range in small room you don't need that much of watts for high volume, while speakers in big room need more power.
     
  9. IvanDobskey

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    Very correct and put better than I could explain :)

    I'll be using them in a small room and up close, so they won't need to be overly loud.
     
  10. Marsman

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    Looking at the N22 a bit closer, I doubt the headphone output compares to the D1, it is good though according to one owner's thoughts on it. Drove his AT AD700's very well, but his 250 Ohm Beyer's were not quite as good. That suggests it's a perfectly good choice for easier to drive headphones. The Beyer's are not that hard to drive though, despite are 250 Ohm impedance; just more so than the AD700 and Shure 1540.

    22W is more than enough for near-field use, but connecting it to your SB Z, you'd ideally have to use the speaker output, which means no positional sound from SBX prostudio. You really need optical input to make use of the sound card's features for headphones. That really does limit the choice to either the aforementioned Denon, NAD etc; or maybe SMSL AD18.

    I've got a SMSL Q5 pro downstairs connected to some floorstanding speakers and it does a great job. No headphone out on that though, just speaker amp. SMSL AD18 headphone output doesn't have a lot of power though at 53mW into 32 Ohm. Should be enough for easy to drive headphones though.

    Just noticed now your edit above, asking about the AD18. :p
     
  11. IvanDobskey

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    I have been measuring up my desk space and I probably do have enough room for a normal size amp, so I may go down this route :)

    I'd get a much better unit for my money I would say.

    Any suggestions? Must have optical in and a headphone jack. Preferably no more than £200.
     
  12. Marsman

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    Only one that I've seen for £200 or less is Yamaha AS301. Stereo amps with a DAC aren't overly common and very few for £200 or less. Gets good reviews though, so worth considering if you can fit it in. Has sub out too, should want to add a subwoofer at any point.
     
  13. IvanDobskey

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    Cheers, I'll take a look at the Yamaha :)
     
  14. IvanDobskey

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    Noticed the audiolab m-one reduced from £800 to £400. Is that worth paying out the extra for?
     
  15. IvanDobskey

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    Bought the Audiolab M-One, couldn't resist at the current discounted price.

    Next to get some nice floorstanders for downstairs and move my 2020i's upstairs.
     
  16. Marsman

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    Sorry, I didn't see post #14 until now. :o

    M-One for £400 looks good. It's £800 RRP is partially down to more power that it outputs compared to similar amps from Denon and NAD, etc. More power costs more money, especially when it comes to compact amps. I doubt a £400 compact amp is much better than a full size £200 amp. You're paying a certain amount extra for the compact design.

    Still a good choice though if it can be afforded.
     
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2018 at 4:27 PM
  17. IvanDobskey

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    I did prefer to go with a compact design for desktop use. A full size amp would look a little silly taking up all that desk space. The Audiolab gets great reviews and is currently half price. So I feel I'm getting decent value for money. The built in DAC and headphone amp are supposedly top notch too.

    I was keeping an eye on eBay for second hand amps, but they were all going for two thirds of the price of a brand new superior product. So I just bought the Audiolab brand new instead.
     
  18. Marsman

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    Yeah, I know what you mean about a full size amp looking silly on the desk. I was considering getting one years ago, but they just take up too much space. I probably would have gone for active speakers if I hadn't come across the existence of small Tripath amps. :D
     
  19. hornetstinger

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    Just have a bigger desk. Got 27", two keyboards a full size avr, flight stick/throttle, two nas's, large pair of standmount speakers and still plenty of space.

    As for amplifier power and actual dB output it depends as well as speaker sensivity. Those q acoustics will need 2-3x the power that larger more efficient speakers need to reach the same dB level.
     
  20. IvanDobskey

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    I have as big a desk as I can fit in my spare room :p