cageymaru

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Audio Science Review has conducted a test of on-board sound from a Hewlett Packard Z series laptop and matched it against an external Topping NX4 DSD portable headphone amplifier and DAC to determine if it is an upgrade from the on-board sound. Although the on-board sound never distorted, the Topping NV4 DSD had a lot more drive power than the on-board sound in the laptop. The reviewer thought that while a DAC upgrade was unnecessary, a headphone amplifier upgrade was needed. It just so happens that the Topping unit supplied both.

Output voltage is a problem though with an anemic level of just 0.6 volts RMS. We like to see 2 volts for a DAC let alone a headphone amp. As to add insult to injury, it has a pretty high output impedance of 17 ohms, causing its output to drop considerably with lower impedance loads. The Topping NX4 DSD runs circles around it with 2 volts unloaded output and impedance of just 0.9 ohms.
 
Really interesting stuff here. It really shows how far large manufacturers have come with things like sound and proves good sound can come with basic things. Unlike my monitor... IM LOOKING AT YOU ASUS!!!!
 
An external dac isn't "needed", but definitely sounds better than onboard. Not sure why they even bothered testing this.
 
I understand why they'd do a test like this since the headphone industry seems to have made a huge comeback in recent years due to the latest versions of various mobile devices. I would, however, find it a bit more interesting to see some desk on board chips tested vs. external solutions. For Hi-Res music I usually just drop the files onto a hard drive and plug straight into my receiver for direct play back but for gaming I usually use either my NV card via HDMI to upsample to 24/192 to the receiver or an onboard chip if I don't have an available port.
 
I understand why they'd do a test like this since the headphone industry seems to have made a huge comeback in recent years due to the latest versions of various mobile devices. I would, however, find it a bit more interesting to see some desk on board chips tested vs. external solutions. For Hi-Res music I usually just drop the files onto a hard drive and plug straight into my receiver for direct play back but for gaming I usually use either my NV card via HDMI to upsample to 24/192 to the receiver or an onboard chip if I don't have an available port.
He's supposed to be conducting some tests in the future on motherboards. He did run some tests on his personal PC, but there is some type of oddity detected. The PC motherboard looks great until that point where everything goes haywire. Could just be something wrong with his motherboard, so I didn't mention it in the write up. I would like to see him test more motherboards though. :)
 
Hope he knows to keep track of which driver/OS combo he's using much like [H] does for it's game testing. In the past I've seen things get broken or altered depending on the combo.
 
Tiny wires in headphones wrapped many many times naturally have a very high resistence. Power is V*V/R. If you are limited to 1Vpp typical of most outputs, then your power is nothing short of anemic, especially if you have a low SPL/watt.

This is why many high end headphones amps have adjustable settings to match the headphone resistance. It makes them easier to drive to a loud volume without distortion.
 
I've found that, sometimes, the actual cable is a bigger factor in delivering shitty sound that the on-board sound card. Whilst expensive "audiophile" cables are definitely snake-oil, there is such a thing as crappy cables (also for VGA and other analog video).

I know several people that were prevented from replacing their "defective" equipment just by replacing such cables.
 
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Isn't the point of high impedance headphones to not damage them with high audio levels?

So why are they cranking up the voltage to kill them?

High Impedance headphones offer superior audio quality, but require more power to drive to the same output levels.
 
High Impedance headphones offer superior audio quality, but require more power to drive to the same output levels.
They don't need more power - just more voltage, depending on the impedance that can be an issue for solid-state amps.
 
I thought the catfight that started about "golden ears" vs objective measurements would have been interesting. But you hear what you hear, and if you like that that sound, what does it matter what the measurements are? No one has been able to quantify measurements with "good" sound to my knowledge. While numbers are useful, without being able to correlate them to YOUR perception, all it is is an exercise.
 
I understand why they'd do a test like this since the headphone industry seems to have made a huge comeback in recent years due to the latest versions of various mobile devices. I would, however, find it a bit more interesting to see some desk on board chips tested vs. external solutions. For Hi-Res music I usually just drop the files onto a hard drive and plug straight into my receiver for direct play back but for gaming I usually use either my NV card via HDMI to upsample to 24/192 to the receiver or an onboard chip if I don't have an available port.
Do you think the upsampling is actually doing anything worthwile? Not sure how it would make thew sound any better.
 
High Impedance headphones offer superior audio quality, but require more power to drive to the same output levels.
Yep

Definitely true for quality headphones.
"The lower moving mass of the 250- and 600-ohm headphones' voice coils is lighter than the 32-ohm models, and the lower mass is part of the reason high-impedance headphones sound better. The smaller diameter of the 600-ohm voice coil wires allows the wires to fit tighter, so there's less air between the windings, and that makes the electromagnetic field of the voice coil stronger. All of that reduces distortion for the high-impedance versions compared with the low-impedance headphones."​
https://www.cnet.com/news/headphone...d-to-know-about-low-vs-high-impedance-models/
 
I thought the catfight that started about "golden ears" vs objective measurements would have been interesting. But you hear what you hear, and if you like that that sound, what does it matter what the measurements are? No one has been able to quantify measurements with "good" sound to my knowledge. While numbers are useful, without being able to correlate them to YOUR perception, all it is is an exercise.

Golden ears are a joke. There is no such thing. Anyone in their 20's who knows what to listen for already have some hearing loss in the upper end where the higher sampling rates are supposed to help. Most self proclaimed "Golden Ears" can't tell the difference between 192kbps mp3 and uncompressed 24bit 192kHz sampled raw with anti jitter. They make all kinds of excuses. But the simple matter of fact is, they are full of shit.

The only area you can clean up in the transients present with higher frequency and breakup of the driver at resonance. As modern drivers can push the resonance (Breakup frequency) above 22kHz, and most golden ears are lucky they have good response to 16kHz, it's a non issue.

That doesn't mean speakers can't color or present different sound stage or response, or resonance issues. This is especially true of bass which typically has high THD. But source audio typically isn't the issue. Anything below 1% THD is hard to detect, and even then it's hard to tell if it was intentional or not compared to the original.
 
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Yep

Definitely true for quality headphones.
"The lower moving mass of the 250- and 600-ohm headphones' voice coils is lighter than the 32-ohm models, and the lower mass is part of the reason high-impedance headphones sound better. The smaller diameter of the 600-ohm voice coil wires allows the wires to fit tighter, so there's less air between the windings, and that makes the electromagnetic field of the voice coil stronger. All of that reduces distortion for the high-impedance versions compared with the low-impedance headphones."​
https://www.cnet.com/news/headphone...d-to-know-about-low-vs-high-impedance-models/

Partially true. It just means you get more wraps. More wraps means stronger field. A good lightweight magnet attached to a stiff dome (perfect piston with a linear magnetic gap) and good surrounds (perfect linear spring) are also critical.
 
Yep

Definitely true for quality headphones.
"The lower moving mass of the 250- and 600-ohm headphones' voice coils is lighter than the 32-ohm models, and the lower mass is part of the reason high-impedance headphones sound better. The smaller diameter of the 600-ohm voice coil wires allows the wires to fit tighter, so there's less air between the windings, and that makes the electromagnetic field of the voice coil stronger. All of that reduces distortion for the high-impedance versions compared with the low-impedance headphones."​
https://www.cnet.com/news/headphone...d-to-know-about-low-vs-high-impedance-models/
That's bullshit mumbo jumbo. Impedance has no inherent impact on sound quality.

32 vs 250 vs 600 Ohm:

graphCompare.png

graphCompare.png
 
My take on this is "cool".

And then I looked at the price tag of the laptop.

One of the things manufacturers cheap out is shielding the 3.5mm or isolating the power delivery.

I had one laptop where you could probably read the signal of the USB beside it based on the frequency distortion.
I also had desktop where the sound was actually great, but it took a nosedive when routed through the case's ports.

These experiences have basically taught me to use an external dac, E10K for my desktop and a E18 for my laptop, simply because I don't want to hunt for a computer/parts where they don't screw it up.
 
These experiences have basically taught me to use an external dac, E10K for my desktop and a E18 for my laptop, simply because I don't want to hunt for a computer/parts where they don't screw it up.

Yup. I have an older ASUS Z170-AR that actually put out pretty good sound, even with a newly-produced HD600 set at 300Ohms.

But I want this stuff air-gapped; currently using the optical out on my ASRock board, which is fed through a Reaktek 1220 by Creative's surprisingly functional Cinema software out to a Topping DX7s, which then feeds out balanced to either my JBL 5" monitors and 10" sub or a hybrid tube amp for cans.
 
This doesn't line up experiences at all.

Every system I've used, I can hear noise over the internal on board DAC. It gets a little bit better with a discrete sound card, but not much.

To fully eliminate it you need something external and electrically isolated so the gigahertz noise doesn't carry over to the amp.

That said, I haven't used many recent systems, so maybe they really have improved a lot in the last 5 years?
 
Yup. I have an older ASUS Z170-AR that actually put out pretty good sound, even with a newly-produced HD600 set at 300Ohms.

But I want this stuff air-gapped; currently using the optical out on my ASRock board, which is fed through a Reaktek 1220 by Creative's surprisingly functional Cinema software out to a Topping DX7s, which then feeds out balanced to either my JBL 5" monitors and 10" sub or a hybrid tube amp for cans.
That board let's you use creative's software? I was unaware that they did that. Their software is pretty solid nowadays.
 
That's bullshit mumbo jumbo. Impedance has no inherent impact on sound quality.

32 vs 250 vs 600 Ohm:
If you think frequency response and harmonic distortion are what we are talking about here than there's not much anyone can say to change your opinion.
 
Those graphs don't prove the quality of sound one way or the other.
They prove much more than someone's subjective interpretation and even directly refute the statement about distortion.
 
If you think frequency response and harmonic distortion are what we are talking about here than there's not much anyone can say to change your opinion.
I know, you are talking about audiophile unicorns and fairy magic dust, just not any objective and repeatable scientific measurement that would show the impact of headphone's impedance rating on the sound.
 
They prove much more than someone's subjective interpretation and even directly refute the statement about distortion.
Guess I should have read the whole post you quoted. Yes, you're right about the distortion. Though that doesn't prove which actually sounds better.
 
I've been running a cheap USB DAC for many years. Smokes the onboard sound on my EVGA board, there's no doubt about that.
 
Guess I should have read the whole post you quoted. Yes, you're right about the distortion. Though that doesn't prove which actually sounds better.
Thay may be, but when the same model of headphones with different impedance measures the same, there's not much left to give credibility to audible differences. People still swear by headphone burn in, when it's their brain that changes, not the drivers.
 
Thay may be, but when the same model of headphones with different impedance measures the same, there's not much left to give credibility to audible differences. People still swear by headphone burn in, when it's their brain that changes, not the drivers.
Driver burn in is most certainly real. We'll have to agree to disagree on that point.
 
Driver burn in is most certainly real. We'll have to agree to disagree on that point.

It can vary. Depends on type of capacitors used (capacitors on cross overs (multi driver) need reforming due to depolarization. But only certain capacitor types do this), aging of surrounds, and metal hardening through work hardening (usually not an issue unless you are overdriving).
 
That board let's you use creative's software? I was unaware that they did that. Their software is pretty solid nowadays.

Ships with it, actually, and this looks like a new solution. Board is the ASRock Z370 Professional Gaming, which I bought solely because it comes with an Aquantia 10Gbase-T NIC.

I had tried a Soundblaster Z previously, and the drivers appeared to shit the bed in realtime; tried my old X-Fi, but I could never get it to apply its software processing to the optical output. This new Creative stuff works, and has replaced other surround HRTF solutions such as Dolby Headphone for now.
 
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