When I first jumped to the portable audio enthusiast train, my first pairs of headphones didn’t need a portable amplifier to sound great. I don’t say this in jest, it’s the truth.
Sure, my music players were mostly Sony Walkman’s at the time, so they had decent sounding inbuilt amplifiers, this was in 90’s so you can imagine the quality of mainstream amplifiers in the present day.
My need for a better audio amplifier happened very late in the game when I purchased more demanding headphones that were not built to be driven by a standard consumer amplifier.
Given my experience with budget dynamic and balanced armature headphones, I often dislike the idea of purchasing an amplifier if the one at hand is good enough to drive the gear.
I watch many newcomers worrying about what amplifiers should they buy to drive cheap and Mid-Fi headphones when they should really worry about finding the best headphones they can possibly buy with their current budget.
The community is often at fault here, new enthusiasts giving advice to newer enthusiasts, with opinions taken from Hi-End forums where people actually have headphones that need better amplification.
Uninformed enthusiasts often give space to hype, snake oil sellers and more uninformed opinions being shared around, the very same happens with the need for better audio amplifiers.
Don’t get me wrong a good audio amplifier is very important if you have a headphone that can extract every ounce of quality, that is not the case with budget headphones that are limited by design and specs.
What I want to make clear is that the most important piece of the audio chain is the headphones, doesn’t really matter the money you spend on the amplifier if you have shitty headphones no amplifier will solve that, so spend money where it really matters.
I don’t have a High-End amplifier so my Lake People G103-S is my reference when comparing mainstream amplifiers on motherboards, portable players, smartphones and Hi-Fi decks.
I only truly notice a true improvement when the headphones being tested have more demanding needs especially in terms of higher impedance and less sensitivity, that’s is not the case with cheap or Mid-Fi headphones with very low impedance and good sensitivity that can be driven by most mainstream amplifiers on the market today.
Some desktop motherboards are now claiming to drive up to 600 Ohms headphones, if that’s your case, try them before follow the hype train.
I will be probably frowned upon by most enthusiasts who read this, but this is my opinion based on experience, so deal with it. I’m not here to sell gear by making reviews like: “This great amplifier really made my cheap ass headphones sound amazing”. If you are into that, go visit the so-called biggest headphone forum in the world and be amazed at so many colors of bullshit! 🙂