Using a stereo receiver as an amp/dac

I’ve wondered about this for some time and figure I’ll just drop the question here. Bare with me while I work up to it.

I own several headphones, but have never invested money in an amp and dac setup for them. I have a FiiO Q1 Mark II and that’s it. I almost never use the Q1, because on my desk I have a Yamaha receiver with a headphone jack and a “music enhancer” setting, which is basically a big ass EQ. I don’t care about neutrality even a little bit. All of my headphones have warmer sound signatures. I like my music to be fun. When I compare any of my headphones sound in the Q1 vs the Yamaha, I always pick the Yamaha. It sounds bigger, more powerful, more full. Given that these are the qualities that I desire in my music, and pretty much everything else I listen to, is there any reason to look into other amps and dacs in the future?

I’m sure this must be some kind of blasphemy because I NEVER hear about audiophiles using anything but actual headphone amps and dacs, but the positive experience that I’ve had with my setup makes me question why that is. Is there something I’m missing that only more expensive amps can offer? I’ve never been able to test one so I don’t know. Just looking for some opinions.

I have never heard your receiver, but I also had the q1 and thought it sounded terrible in comparison to my Dragonfly Black as a dat plus my 02 Amp. Also you might enjoy a Tube Amp.

Apparently, the THD on most stereo receivers and/or AVRs is high. Higher than even 100$ amps and dacs. Also, you can’t use some headphones because they’re too hard to drive.

Still, I’m using a Denon AVR-1312 as my amp/dac. Computer HDMI cable going straight into it, and the Denon can even read 24bit/192khz files from it. And I can hear it. I also have an Edirol FA-66 24bit/192khz sound card (400$-ish audio interface for recording etc). The Denon sounds better. A lot better.

So, shrugs.

For 30+ years most people used stereo receivers for their headphones. Dedicated head amps for the masses is a rather new thing over all. Like another said, just make sure it handles your impedance load. They have tons of juice tho typically. Also don’t use iem on one, to sensitive for the giant power amp on board for the speakers. I use my Sony when I watch TV after work at 4am.

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I would hope there are enough survivors on Earth that still CARE enough about this topic, because frankly, I’m too afraid to ask, but I’m a teenager trying to piece together a makeshift quality headphone/stereo setup (This entire reply is essentially my in-depth explanation of me being a wannabe audiophile-) and I recently got my hands on an Onkyo TX SR-303 5.1 Channel A/V Receiver to substitute as a decent Amplifier and DAC until I have a stable enough income to purchase a dedicated device. If I were to use this specific receiver with a pair of Sennheiser HD 58X Jubilee headphones, would I, in turn, have an impressive sound? (Decent, at the least) Or should I continue saving for a better piece of equipment?

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Hi! Welcome to HFGF! And also welcome to the hobby, my young friend.

The most direct answers to your questions, I think, are:

  • you’re not doing anything wrong

  • compared to plugging the headphones directly into a phone or similar, your approach will not suck.

Sennheiser and Beyerdynamic started making hi-impedance headphones because at the time most headphones were plugged into the headphone output of a receiver or preamp. Most speaker amps have way too much power for a headphone and will blow them up if you’re not careful. So manufacturers put a resistor on the headphone output to reduce the amount of power that comes out. These resistors create what’s called a high output impedance, though. If at any point you plug a dynamic-driver headphone into an amplifier with an output impedance that is higher than the impedance of the headphone, weird physics things start happening that mess with the sound. So Senn and Beyer pushed the impedance of their headphones really high so that they would not be affected by these large output impedances. All of that is a fancy way of saying, you’ll be fine. Enjoy the sound you’re getting. If you ever earn that steady income or have a chance to get some sweet gifts, let us know what kind of sound you like and we’ll help steer toward the appropriate upgrades.


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Thank you so much! This was extremely helpful and educational, your assistance is much appreciated :smile:

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