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Master Mi

High-end headphone amps for optimal use of high-impedance studio headphones

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High-end headphone amps for optimal use of high-impedance studio headphones like Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro and accurate mixing/mastering via headphones
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This one might be interesting for all those who live in ordinary flats and who want to compose or just listen to music and other media most accurately at all thinkable times of the day at which you can't listen to your studio monitors without annoying your neighborhood.

When I started mixing music and listening to several audio stuff with my first high-impedance headphones Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro some time ago, I still had my very first Steinberg UR22 USB audio interface at which I had connected these headphones.
The listening experience with this combination of audio equipment was really not that bad.

But for accurate mixing and mastering I was afraid that the DT 880 Pro wouldn't get enough electricity just from the USB connection to work properly at their full potencial.
The first things which might indicate I should be right with my assumption was the fact that the legendary DT 880 Pro obviously couldn't handle the bass and lower mids that well at this USB audio interface.
It felt like the bass and lower mids lacked a bit in definition or as if there had been some kind of damping curtains at the lower frequencies - while the reproduction of the mids and higher frequencies seemed to be pretty good, compared to the sound reproduction of my studio monitor system or my Sony MDR-7506 studio headphones connected to the UR22 audio interface.

And since I've read some comments of obvious Beyerdynamic DT Pro series users, in which they mentioned that these high-impedance headphones might not get enough electricity from most of the ordinary audio interfaces (guess they have especially meant all those audio interfaces which don't have one of those larger IEC/C19 socket connections for getting much more electricity into the electronic device), I thought about getting an additional high-end headphone amp.

After gathering some information about good headphone amps for a few months, I finally decided to go for the G109-P from the German company for professional high-end audio equipment Lake People. It's also the company behind the legendary Violectric and Nimbus audio stuff.

>>> https://www.lake-people.com/product-page/phone-amp-g109-p

It's one of the headphone amps which can reproduce a very large frequency range from around 0 Hz to 150 kHz, while many other headphone amps seem to start with their frequency response at around 10 or 20 Hz.

So, it should be a great device for reproducing the deepest sub bass frequencies.

The Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro can technically handle a frequency range from 5 to 35000 Hz - so, it would be a pretty nice combo for the full listening experience with even a much larger frequency range than ordinary listeners might perceive.

And with the stylish black colour and sturdy design it was like perfectly made for my small but totally decent home studio which already has a pretty stylish black design (don't like it if the studio looks like a happy rainbow - already have a beautiful and colourful little forest in front of my flat - but for the studio stuff I prefer the modest, spartan and uniform style).

Don't worry too much about the technical information about the frequency response "0 Hz - 150 kHz (-3 dB)".
I've phoned an employee from the company Lake People and he told me that the divergence within the frequency range from about 0 Hz to 50 kHz is just around 0,5 dB (just like the HPA series, the F series and the other products from Lake People) - so, it's a pretty linear frequency response.

At first, I wanted to go for the G103-P - but after the employee told me, that the G109-P can reproduce still a little bit better sound quality with a slightly better definition than the other G models below the G109 and together with the fact that the G109-P (not the G109-S!) is one of the only G models which has a safety relais with power-up delay (with these you can leave the studio headphones always connected to the headphone amp without risking technical damage when turning on the headphone amp - although the employee mentioned that even the other headphone amps from Lake People wouldn't damage my permanently connected headphones), I finally decided to spend a few more money and bought the G109-P - as well as some TRS-to-XLR cables for balanced audio.

According to the information of the employee, this headphone amp won't need much more than 6 W - so, you could say it's a kinda energy-saving electronic device as well.

But for connecting this headphone amp to my home studio in the best possible way, I also had to buy a larger audio interface with more line output ports than my good ol' Steinberg UR22 USB audio interface had to offer.
And before buying the headphone amp, it took me also a few further weeks to make a good decision for an appropriate audio interface.
It was a pretty close battle between some several audio interfaces from the companies Roland, Tascam and Steinberg.
But since Steinberg (belongs to Yamaha in these days) has an excellent reputation and a long history of German & Japanese cooperation/development in things like producing professional audio interfaces and software, I decided to stick with the Steinberg audio interfaces and went straight for the bigger brother Steinberg UR44.

It has more than enough possibilities of connections, a completely separate power supply, furthermore 2 separately volume-adjustable headphone outputs and it's pretty well-known for its flat frequency response reproduction and its ultra-robust build quality.

Of course I've tested the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro studio headphones also with the Steinberg UR44 - especially in direct comparison to the UR22 USB version.

Although there shouldn't have been too much differences between the UR22 USB audio interface and the UR44 audio interface (both supposed to have the same transducers), I could perceive a few differences.
Besides the fact that you have to turn up the headphone output volume knobs at the UR44 a bit more to get the a similar volume as with the UR22, the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro seem to perform slightly better at the UR44.

The bass and lower mids sound a bit more defined and cleaner on the UR44 with these headphones - and also the higher frequencies seem to have a perceivable wider range and obviously sound crispier as well.
And even my studio monitor system sounds apparently a bit clearer in connection with the UR44.

I'm not quite sure - but it could really be because of the better power supply of the UR44.

But after connecting the Lake People G109-P headphone amp to some of the line output ports of the Steinberg UR44 and finally putting the Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro into the new G109-P headphone amp, some kind of desired dreams and audio miracles started to happen.

In one of the worst case scenarios I thought the headphone amp would only boost the original signal from the Steinberg UR44 interface just as an employee of a nearby music store told me.
But that doesn't seem to be fully right - there's obviously much more audio magic going on.

With the help of the G109-P the formerly perceived effect of damping curtains at the lower and lower mid frequencies vanished completely.
The reproduced bass of the DT 880 Pro headphones doesn't only sound crystal-clear now.
It also seems to drive the sub-bass at much deeper levels.

The mids and higher frequencies seem to be even more crispier and much better presented at the DT 880 Pro in connection with the G109-P headphone amp.

And yeah, the stereo panorama is kinda a (freshly polished) stage now.

All this could really be because of the massive power supply of the high-end headphone amp that seem to drive the DT 880 Pro quite optimally.

So, if you don't already own a professional headphone amp or one of those really expensive high-end audio interfaces with integrated high-end headphone outputs (as audio interfaces like Antelope Goliath HD or several RME audio interfaces are supposed to have) and if you want (or you are forced) to compose lots of stuff with high-impedance studio headphones or if you just want to enjoy audio with those headphones on a new, much clearer and more detailed level, don't hesitate to intensely inform yourself about several high-end headphone amps und get one.

For composing via headphones, I'm really sure I'll get excellent mixing results in the future with my new trinity of professional audio equipment, consisting of:

1) Steinberg UR 44 audio interface
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>>> https://www.thomann.de/gb/steinberg_ur44.htm

2) Lake People G109-P high-end headphone amp
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>>> https://www.thomann.de/gb/lake_people_g109_p_highend_phoneamp.htm

3) Beyerdynamic DT 880 Pro studio headphones
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>>> https://www.thomann.de/gb/beyerdynamic_dt_880_pro_black_edition.htm
>>> https://www.thomann.de/gb/beyerdynamic_dt880_pro.htm


If you additionally want to connect your studio monitor speaker system with an external high-end headphone amp as well, just have a look at the products from SPL (Sound Performance Lab), for example the SPL 2Control:
>>> https://www.thomann.de/gb/spl_2control_black.htm

If you are unsure about which audio equipment you want to buy, make sure to find a professional music store where you are allowed to order, check out and compare different audio equipment in a silent atmosphere by yourself.

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PS:

And always make sure to primarily invest in vital food and life force before making investments in good audio equipment.
There is absolutely no reason to starve for high-end audio stuff.

But you can sell your expensive car and get a nice bike or season ticket for public transport instead.
And of course you can flee from those mostly unnatural, noisy and unhealthy environments of big city centres with paradoxically some of the highest rental costs and pay much less for a cosy flat at the more natural outskirts, smaller towns or romatic villages instead.
Anyway, most of those shady rent sharks, racketeers and big profit-over-life investors which make your easy 'n' carefree life usually harder without any meaningful reason, seem to shun the vital areas close to the forests and wild nature - you might increase the effect by creating urban legends with all the dangerous wild animals, nasty monsters and cannibalistic tribes, that might dwell in those lovely natural environments.

In this case, you might be able to enjoy high-end audio equipment as well as a pretty modest, healthy and joyful life close to vital nature (including free tickets for high-quality and truly realistic philharmonic bird sound orchestras which might become your enhanced and naturally well-timed alarm clock).

Good luck. ))

Edited by Master Mi

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