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Topic: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power (Read 441 times) previous topic - next topic

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Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Hi all,

Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.

My newest edition is a Creative Soundblaster X7 Limited Edition and I have a query about its headphone amp, well headphone amps in general.

I am using it to drive Beyer Dynamic DT1990's 250Ohm and my 990's 250Ohm. The amp has 2 settings 'Normal Gain' and 'High Gain'.

Normal Gain is supposedly for 32-300Ohm headphones, whilst high gain is for 300-600. However I have to run the volume at near 100 to get a good loud listening volume when in normal gain mode. When using high gain mode, the same level can be achieved at volume 25-35.

So question time:

A. Are these 'gain modes' just there to give a more usable volume range by limiting max power? Therefore high gain just removes the limit?

B. Am I likeley to damage my 250Ohm cans by using 'high gain mode' even though im keeping the volume down just to achieve the volumes I need?

Thanks
Tom

Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #1
Hi all,

Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.

My newest edition is a Creative Soundblaster X7 Limited Edition and I have a query about its headphone amp, well headphone amps in general.

I am using it to drive Beyer Dynamic DT1990's 250Ohm and my 990's 250Ohm. The amp has 2 settings 'Normal Gain' and 'High Gain'.

Normal Gain is supposedly for 32-300Ohm headphones, whilst high gain is for 300-600. However I have to run the volume at near 100 to get a good loud listening volume when in normal gain mode. When using high gain mode, the same level can be achieved at volume 25-35.

So question time:

A. Are these 'gain modes' just there to give a more usable volume range by limiting max power? Therefore high gain just removes the limit?

B. Am I likeley to damage my 250Ohm cans by using 'high gain mode' even though im keeping the volume down just to achieve the volumes I need?


No, but this comment is not offering any kind of warranty on the equipment or you.  ;-)

IME the impedance settings on headphone amps relate to gain, as your post seems to suggest.  If the gain is increased by one gain setting (the impedance switch) and reduced by another (the gain control), the net effect on the amp output is about the same. The higher impedance setting can be expected to notch up the distortion by a tad, but this is usually the difference between two inaudible levels of distortion. If you clip the amp, there might be a change in the spectral contents of the signal applied to the 'phones, but you seem to have promised to not go there.  Just because an amp clips a little usually doesn't significantly change the spectrum the output signal.

One would expect 'phones from a reputable vendor to take nominal abuse.
  • Last Edit: 26 October, 2017, 09:01:13 AM by Arnold B. Krueger

  • DVDdoug
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #2
Quote
Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.
For listening, you might consider a "USB DAC" or a "USB headphone amp" rather than a "soundcard".      Although, a regular-cheap soundcard (or motherboard sound chip) can often be "good enough" (better than human hearing)...   I wouldn't recommend upgrading unless you're hearing excessive noise or some other defect or if you're not getting enough volume in your headphones, etc.   

If you're also recording, look for a "USB audio interface"   (sold where they sell musical instruments and sound & recording equipment).      Most audio interfaces have headphone outputs.  

Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #3
Quote
Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.
For listening, you might consider a "USB DAC" or a "USB headphone amp" rather than a "soundcard".      Although, a regular-cheap soundcard (or motherboard sound chip) can often be "good enough" (better than human hearing)...   I wouldn't recommend upgrading unless you're hearing excessive noise or some other defect or if you're not getting enough volume in your headphones, etc.   

If you're also recording, look for a "USB audio interface"   (sold where they sell musical instruments and sound & recording equipment).      Most audio interfaces have headphone outputs.  

This is a USB DAC. One of the best sounding ones ive ever used.

  • saratoga
  • [*][*][*][*][*]
Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #4
The gain switch  typically just enables a software volume cap. It is meant to keep you from accidentally blowing out your ears if you set the volume to 100% using iems.

If you don't need a volume cap just leave it on high.

Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #5
The gain switch  typically just enables a software volume cap. It is meant to keep you from accidentally blowing out your ears if you set the volume to 100% using iems.

If you don't need a volume cap just leave it on high.

This was what I thought, thanks.

Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #6
Quote
Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.
For listening, you might consider a "USB DAC" or a "USB headphone amp" rather than a "soundcard".      Although, a regular-cheap soundcard (or motherboard sound chip) can often be "good enough" (better than human hearing)...  I wouldn't recommend upgrading unless you're hearing excessive noise or some other defect or if you're not getting enough volume in your headphones, etc.   

If you're also recording, look for a "USB audio interface"  (sold where they sell musical instruments and sound & recording equipment).      Most audio interfaces have headphone outputs.

USB audio interfaces that are pressed into service as headphone drivers need to be looked at skeptically because so many of them have relatively high output source impedance, and low output voltages, especially when used with the typical 15-32 ohm 'phones. I always look for confimation of say a 1 ohm or less source impedance before clicking the "buy" button.

Re: Soundblaster X7 Headphone amp power
Reply #7
Quote
Im no stranger to sound cards, having had every high end internal card made in the past 10-15 years. However I am now riding the 'external sound card' wave.
For listening, you might consider a "USB DAC" or a "USB headphone amp" rather than a "soundcard".      Although, a regular-cheap soundcard (or motherboard sound chip) can often be "good enough" (better than human hearing)...  I wouldn't recommend upgrading unless you're hearing excessive noise or some other defect or if you're not getting enough volume in your headphones, etc.   

If you're also recording, look for a "USB audio interface"  (sold where they sell musical instruments and sound & recording equipment).      Most audio interfaces have headphone outputs.

USB audio interfaces that are pressed into service as headphone drivers need to be looked at skeptically because so many of them have relatively high output source impedance, and low output voltages, especially when used with the typical 15-32 ohm 'phones. I always look for confimation of say a 1 ohm or less source impedance before clicking the "buy" button.


The X7 limited edition has an output impedance of 1ohm apparently. Vs the 2.2 of the standard edition.