Champion Sound
November 1, 2009 3:57 AM   Subscribe

Why does music on my MP3 player sound better with small earphones than with big headphones?

I have a Samsung YP-U5 MP3 player. Music on it sounds great when I listen with the earphones that came with the player, but if I connect my large Philips (SHP2000, if it matters) headphones to the player, music sounds quite poor. Why is that?

(There's nothing wrong with the Philips headphones, just to be clear.)
posted by murtagh to Technology (10 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Power. You don't have enough wattage to drive the bigger cans with the same efficiency as the earbuds.
posted by fourcheesemac at 4:09 AM on November 1, 2009

Best answer: The internal amp on the MP3 player is extremely weak. It's easy for it to drive tiny phones, but it can't really drive cans.
posted by selfnoise at 4:09 AM on November 1, 2009

PS if you are really hardcore about driving those cans, google "headphone amp".
posted by selfnoise at 4:10 AM on November 1, 2009

Nth-ing the amp/power problem. Usually with headphones, you'll need a decent amplifier, which most MP3 players do not have.
posted by titantoppler at 5:40 AM on November 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thank you for your answers! :)
posted by murtagh at 5:53 AM on November 1, 2009

Does it sound distorted and "crunchy"? Do you have to turn up the volume to get the same level of sound out of the large 'phones?

Or is it that you can hear things in the headphones better than in the earbuds, and you are hearing the limits of mp3 or the decoder? Could be that the earbuds have a lower frequency response and hide all the mp3 artifacts?
posted by gjc at 5:55 AM on November 1, 2009

Best answer: To add a bit of detail, headphones need both voltage and current in adequate supply. If the sound is simply too quiet, you need voltage boost. If the sound is soft, mushy, uncontrolled and weak, though it may be loud, you probably need an output transistor stage that can supply more current.

To take a commonly known example: Big Sennheisers don't need much current, but need quite some voltage, relatively. Grado headphones don't need much voltage, but they suck a lot of current, comparatively. I would guess that your Philips model is close to Grado headphones in specs.

You can change headphones, get a new player, or add an amp.

If you want a headphone recommendation, Koss Porta-Pro headphones are cheap, sound great, look great if you like the style, and are very easy to drive.
posted by krilli at 7:55 AM on November 1, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: I guess I'll stick to using the Philips headphones with my computer/music system. Thank you for the enlightenment :)

And yay, I get points!
posted by murtagh at 9:03 AM on November 1, 2009

The Porta-Pro's are good and easy to drive. So are the Sennheiser PX100's.

Headphone amps can get (very) expensive, but you it might be worth it for you to try one of the cheap Fiio amps (E3 and E5). For under $20, they'll make your full-size cans usable with your digital music player.

Oh, and here's the obligatory link to the head-fi forum, where any of your headphone questions will be answered in exhaustive detail.
posted by paulg at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2009

Response by poster: Thanks for the info + links, paulg.
posted by murtagh at 1:35 AM on November 3, 2009

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