Headphone amp for Sennheiser 555s and mp3s--worthwhile?
January 28, 2014 9:31 AM   Subscribe

I've been thinking about building this little Altoid tin headphone amp kit for listening with my Sennheiser 555s. Granted, the point of building the kit is, well, building the kit--but given the limitations of a (cheap) kit-built design and the fact that I listen exclusively to mp3s on my iPhone or Mac, will there be a perceptible improvement in sound from the cans? Is there more to the sound of my mp3s that I might not be hearing just driving the Sennheisers with the juice from the iPhone's or Mac's headphone jack that would merit stepping up the signal with the little amp?
posted by Admiral Haddock to Media & Arts (8 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have those particular Sennheisers, but I have an older pair that seem similar (HD 545). I was pretty underwhelmed with the headphones until I made a CMoy. I wouldn't say it revealed more detail, but it made the sound fuller and also made the headphones far less fatiguing to listen to for long periods.
posted by zsazsa at 9:48 AM on January 28, 2014

I didn't go home-brew (my Fiio E6 was cheaper) but having an amp does make a difference.
posted by scruss at 10:00 AM on January 28, 2014

I too can't speak to the particular amp you're looking at, but I have the same headphones paired with a Fiio E10 and it's made a noticeable difference.
posted by jeffch at 10:33 AM on January 28, 2014

Surely if you take a signal out of the headphone jack and amplify it you are just boosting a poor quality source (especially on the iPhone)? I would doubt that amplifying the headphone output would produce any improvement in quality just make it louder.
posted by epo at 10:45 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I bought one of these (an Altoids case CMoy amp) to power my Grados. I use a 20 pin to 1/8" cable from the iPod to the amp (from eBay). The overall sound is much better, but the bass response is waaayyyy better. The built-in iPod amp obviously could not power my headphones properly, and the extra power made all the difference.
posted by Don_K at 12:07 PM on January 28, 2014

Yes, it will help quite a bit, but it'll also help to reveal the limitations of your MP3s.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:25 PM on January 28, 2014

Another yes. I built a pimeta and it makes a huge difference. (It even makes my computer sound better, and I'd have thought that sound cards would have decent audio drivers...)
posted by phliar at 3:54 PM on January 28, 2014

The simple answer is yes, it will improve the sound of your Senns. The amp built into the iPhone/iPod does what it's supposed to do, but not nearly as well as a standalone amplifier. Overall, the sound may be a little louder, but more importantly you should hear cleaner details, tighter midbass, and fuller low-end bass. And like zsazsa, you may also find that listening to your headphones becomes less fatiguing over extended listening.

The one drawback, as destructive cactus points out, is that you may also hear the limitations of your mp3s. I would suggest ripping at a higher bitrate, such as 256 or 320, instead of the "standard" 128kbps.
posted by nickthetourist at 8:15 PM on January 28, 2014

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