Feb 9, 201968 views

Do we need a DAC/Amp for low-impedance headphones?

I have a Phillips Fidelio X2. I've used it with my Ipad Pro 10.5 (2017) for listening to music on Spotify for a long time. Because of its low impedance, I never need a DAC/Amp for a decent loudness. Honestly, when I use another pair of IEMs, Sony MH750, which is much cheaper than Fidelio X2, I couldn't distinguish their sound quality or realize any significant improvement. Now when I decide to invest in a new pair of IEMs about 200-300$, I'm really confused whether I need to pay attention to a DAC/Amp also. Because I don't plan to bring the DAC/Amp everywhere, I'll probably choose low-impedance ones.
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Duncan
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Low impedance can present a difficult load to drive for some sources. The X2 is both low impedance as well as fairly efficient. This presents a relatively easy load to drive for the ipad based on Ken Rockwells measurements. It's THD doubles at that load but it's still at or below audible thresholds.
While low impedance is a great way to just tell how much power a headphone will require at a quick glance, there are definitely other things you need to take into consideration. Sensitivity is one such thing and how loud you want to drive them. There are various calculators online to tell how much power you'll need and when you'll need it depending on your preferred listening levels.
When I had an HD 600 and DT 990 250 ohms to compare side by side I could clearly distinguish their differences. Comparing my bluetooth Anker Soundcore Liberty lite to my DT 990 is easy too. Before this though I couldn't between an HD 600 and HD 598. If you get the loudness(amp purpose) right and you don't hear any sort of hissing(dac purpose) in the background I would really doubt you would need a dac or amp. I know comparing my HD 600 and DT 990 250 ohms with and without amps/dac I couldn't hear a difference that would be meaningful to buy one. I don't have much experience with IEMs but in terms of headphones I feel like you won't benefit from a DAP or a dac/amp until you really get into the high range of headphones. Something like an LG phone with a hifi quad dac really beats out a lot of DAPs(a lot are really overpriced imo) too if you ever want to bring harder to drives headphones outside too so you could consider that for your next phone purchase. A budget phone seems to do the job too with my headphones. I know X2 is supposed to be bassy, have a decent soundstage, and imaging capabilities(seems pretty good for FPS gaming and bassy genres like HipHop). I'm not too familiar with the MH750 though.
Mist_x
Thank you for your information. I went to the store yesterday and tried some DACs/Amps they have with my X2 as well as the IEM I plan to buy, Final Audio E3000. However, I still couldn't distinguish any difference of sound quality with and without DAC/Amp with my ears. Finally, I just bought that IEM and I think I'm fine with that.
This is just my experience, but a DAC goes along way for improving sound quality, especially on more expensive audio gear, no matter the impedance. You definitely don't need a high power amp however, but any extra amplification wont hurt. You can get loud without being fully powered, you just loose some low end generally. I'd suggest a good DAP, portable and built for IEMs unless volume is your only concern