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Topic: I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air and a Magni 3 + Hifiberry DAC+ (Read 977 times) previous topic - next topic
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I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air and a Magni 3 + Hifiberry DAC+

This will likely come as no surprise to the folks on this board, but ... In some of the headphone enthusiast communities which I frequent, there persists the belief that certain high impedance, low efficiency headphones like the Sennheiser HD 600 benefit from additional power in amplification and/or that there are audible differences between DACs. The counterpoint to this would be that all properly implemented amplifiers with sufficient power to drive a headphone to listening levels will sound the same and that all properly implemented DACs sound the same too.

Well, I wanted to see for myself so I ran an ABX test. In short, I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air's headphone out and a Schiit Magni 3 fed by a Hifiberry DAC+. I've got a more detailed writeup on Reddit.

Re: I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air and a Magni 3 + Hifiberry DAC+

Reply #1
High impedance == small load. If an amp is going to help, it'll be for a larger load. High Z is usually easy to drive, even with cheap devices. If people don't realize this, link them to Ohms law.

Re: I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air and a Magni 3 + Hifiberry DAC+

Reply #2
High impedance == small load. If an amp is going to help, it'll be for a larger load. High Z is usually easy to drive, even with cheap devices. If people don't realize this, link them to Ohms law.
Not wishing to be confrontational but that's not the whole story. High impedance also requires more voltage for a given power, which *might* be a problem for some portable devices, as they're often driven from low-voltage supplies. Just pointing it out, it can be a reason to need an external amp.

In terms of the OP, I'm not surprised at all.

Re: I can't tell the difference between a Macbook Air and a Magni 3 + Hifiberry DAC+

Reply #3
Hi, somebody on reddit already gave you a very good reply. I want to add:
1. Apple's MacBooks and iMacs have very good headphone outputs. The iPad 2 and iPhone 4 remain among the best portable sources yet, though also succeeding products have never completely failed. Apple usually has extremely low noise floor, so if you have enough power (headroom to avoid clipping), there is not much to expect.
2. The Schiit Magni 3 is known as a good entry-level amp. It's a budget focussed solution. Should your headphone need more power than your MacBook can provide, I'd try to tip you over to go for an Objective o2 or similar.
3. Personal opinion: DACs are overrated. IMO this is the part in the audio chain we have to worry about the least in 2018 because jitter, THD and IMD are usually far out of our hearing range. The hifi community likes to overdramatize this, maybe because they try to search an explanation for their mood swings. However, there are some useful DSP functions in some DACs, like crossfeed or equalizers, but if your source is a MacBook you best handle it via software and save some money.
4. If you want to hear a difference with the HD 600, add a 75 ohms resistor. It will significantly boost the bass because these Senns are not stable to the impedance. However, that's not what they were intended to sound like. If you came from a less optimal source, for example a low or mid-tier A/V receiver, you'd perhaps now perceive the HD 600 as much faster and cleaner (as they'd have a more linear bass response). But that brings us back to point 1.
headphone aficionado, tech fan, realist

 
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