Audio-Technica ATH-E50 Question

#1

I am just getting started in ‘serious listening’. My primary output device is a Dell XPS laptop with a ‘RealTek Hi Def Audio’ system and the MusicBee player (Windows 10). Plus I have a Line6 external guitar amplifier simulator and can use their headphone output as I can, if I choose, use that USB attached sound card instead of the RealTek set. This is not a cheap device, BTW.

My listening sources are a set of JBL 305 monitor speakers (5 inch, front port, and appropriate for this small room and near field listening - they are literally shoved onto a busy/full set of closed bookshelves), Skullcandy Hesh 3 headphones, and a pair of ATH-E50 IEM’s that I just received. My questions are:

  1. There is a very small background hiss (typically un-noticed but it is there at moderately high volumes when the music goes suddenly quiet) when the E50’s are driven by the Line6 output. I don’t hear that anywhere else in any other combination. Is this just the result of a dramatic impedance mismatch?

  2. The bass is REALLY understated vs. the (admittedly Bass Booming) Hesh 3’s and my monitor speakers. This is dramatic and not obviously fixable (if you want it fixed) via the EQ in MusicBee. Just was interested in perspective here.

Thanks.

dave

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#2

Without knowing specifically which of the Line6 products you have, nor specifically which Dell laptop, it’s impossible to say what’s going on. But it is not beyond the realms of reality that the op-amp driven output on the Dell has lower hiss/noise levels than the Line6 box’s output.

Hiss isn’t a direct product of impedance mismatching, though often raising the impedance of the transducer will result in it being less audible. Devices like “iEMatch” will usually fix it either way if the issue only occurs with sensitive IEMs (like the E50).

I’ve not heard the E50 so can’t speak to their sonic profile, but I would not generally expect anything but a bass-head tuned IEM to have bass on a similar level to anything from Skullcandy. And single-BA driver based IEMs, like the E50, are not generally known for their thumping bass delivery.

With IEMs the most critical factor in getting proper bass performance is that they are correctly, and fully, sealed in the ear-canal. If they’re not, you’ll get no bass.

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#3

Torq, thank you for your very helpful response. For completeness the Line6 product is the POD HD500x ( https://line6.com/podhd/ )and the laptop is a Dell XPS L702x.

dave

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#4

The headphone output on the POD HD500x is not really the focus of the unit and is, according to the manufacturer, intended for use with higher impedance headphones. So while the hiss is probably just down to the way the internal amplifier is implemented, it’s going to exhibit a tonal shift with headphones under about 200 ohms (which is where an impedance mismatch would apply).

Adding an iEMatch might resolve the hiss with it and your IEMs.

Your Hesh 3, driven wired, are lower impedance than those IEMs, but also much less sensitive, which will tend to a) exaggerate bass out of the POD and b) make hiss MUCH less audible.

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#5

Thanks, again. Very useful information (yet again). dave

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#6

The focus on the line 6 products are really about being effects and altering the base sound rather than focusing on getting the most out of the DAC and headphone amp portions of the device. My guess is it is little better than the built in realtek in that respect.

Chances are, the realtek is a passable if not great dac, but the impedance mismatch of the headphones and the output on the dell laptops (I have 3 myself) is usually a problem and may well be the source of your problems.

Bass is the first thing lost when a headphone is under driven and you may find that simply adding an amplifier in line between the laptop and the headphone will go a good way toward improving the sound.

If you have an interest in upgrading, I’d give the Burson Playmate a serious look. It packs a very good dac and solid amp in the base configuration and lets you swap op-amps for more tuning options later should you decide to. If you want to go a step further you can add the Burson Bang to run you 305s and connect it to the pre-out on the play. I use mine with KEF LS50s and it drives the hell out of them even though it is rated at 40 watts. I have even tried the Bang with Magnepans and Heresy IIs and it was able to drive them so it wont have any trouble with the 305s at all.

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#7

Thanks for the comments, AF. When I started this thread I was considering the possibility of the Line6 device subbing for a traditional external headphone/DAC combo. For a variety of reasons that is now off the table.

I think that much of my reaction to the bass response was twofold:

  1. Bias caused by comparison to ‘bass thumping design’ headphones (Hesh 3)

  2. Improper seating of the IEM’s. I had never used them before.

dave

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