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Does the Axe-Fx III work well as a DAC/amp to drive high impedance headphones?

Fenderbendr

Inspired
I’m looking to get some high impedance headphones like the HD6xx, which everyone says needs a dac/amp to run it properly. I’m just wondering if the axe fx iii can work as well as a dedicated headphone amp/dac when using music from the computer via USB.

Does anyone have any experience with this?
 

chumbucket

Inspired
I’m looking to get some high impedance headphones like the HD6xx, which everyone says needs a dac/amp to run it properly. I’m just wondering if the axe fx iii can work as well as a dedicated headphone amp/dac when using music from the computer via USB.

Does anyone have any experience with this?
I've got the HD6xx and the Axe III drives them just fine. I typically only go halfway up max on output 1.

They sound great BTW. I prefer open to sealed phones on the Axe.
 
I use Sennheiser HD580s. Axe FX III can drive them just fine. Usually I play with the output knob between 12 - 2 o'clock. Sounds fine to me, but I also don't have serious audiophile DACs or amps to compare with.
 

Deaj

Experienced
The headphone out on the AxeFX III is capable of driving the 250ohm beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro sufficiently well. This headphone sounds subjectively better through my dedicated headphone DAC->amp setup but I'm splitting hairs.

I no longer own a HD650, and I sold more than a year before I purchased the AxeFX III, so I can't speak to how they'll sound through the Axe3's headphone out. That said the HD650 sounded good through the AxeFX II's headphone out so I expect them to sound good through the AxeFX III as well.
 

Perdikament

Power User
If you like loud, then no, imo you’re going to want an amp, especially for high impedance headphones. However, loud is a subjective term, ymmv.
 

Deaj

Experienced
I've got the HD6xx and the Axe III drives them just fine. I typically only go halfway up max on output 1.

They sound great BTW. I prefer open to sealed phones on the Axe.
Agreed. I use both open and closed headphones with the AxeFX. Closed when Isolation is necessary (when everyone else has gone to bed) and open otherwise. My closed headphone is a 250ohm beyerdynamic DT250. The beyer DT 1990 Pro is a semi-open can that I use for mixing. I listen to music with both beyer headphones on occasion.

The headphone I use most with the AxeFX is a custom Grado-type headphone using Narra wood cups with dimensions very similar to Grado RS2 cups, and drivers from Symphones, a Canadian company that makes custom drivers for Grado headphones (I have one headphone each using their Magnum V8 and V9 drivers). I have a few more headphone builds using other aftermarket Grado drivers in Narra wood cups of the same internal dimensions (different external shapes).

Building custom headphones is a hobby I dove into mid-2018 after braking both ankles (boredom sets in pretty fast in a wheelchair). After some trial and error (and a parade of wood cups turned from a fair variety of wood species) I lucked into the right combination of cup dimensions and a wood species that diffuse frequencies in such a way that yields a very balanced sound. They're the closest thing to a good 2-channel speaker system I've yet heard in a headphone. They're also ridiculously easy to drive, and resolve an astonishing level of detail at even very low volume. The only downside to this type of headphone is that the ear cushions aren't particularly comfortable. I've grown accustomed to them and I can now wear them for several hours without discomfort (due in part to the earpads softening as they break in).

They're not cheap to build and I can't do much more than to recoup the cost of parts when selling a completed build. In this way the hobby will have all but paid for itself saving for the two headphones I'll keep when I'm done, and two I gave away as gifts last year - one to a very close friend and audiophile, and one to my son.

Here's a fairly recent picture of some recent builds along with a modified Grado SR325, and some beyerdynamic headphones (the modded SR325 and beyer Amiron Home have since been sold, and the two empty headphone frames in the top-center of the picture have since been completed...
Ysud2iu.jpg

Here are a few recent builds....
20191023_094600~01~01.jpg

...and hear is my favorite headphone hanging on my home-brew 'super strat' (USA Custom Guitars wood, 25" scale length conversion neck, neck profile is a copy of my '87 PRS Classic Electric' s neck, Lindy Fralin pickups, Hipshot hardware).
Angsana-V9-headphone.jpg

I may have a headphone problem. Is there a support group for this sort of thing?
 
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Perdikament

Power User
If the Axe III's headphone output isn't loud enough for you then you're either making patches with very low output levels or your ears are shot.
I assure you my patch levels are right where they’re supposed to be. I certainly don’t question the fact that I have some hearing loss from years of playing out a few nights a week. It takes a toll for sure. But even with that, like I said, it’s still subjective. Some people will definitely find a need or a want for the benefits of a separate headphone amp.
 

Deaj

Experienced
If the Axe III's headphone output isn't loud enough for you then you're either making patches with very low output levels or your ears are shot.
Agreed.

The headphone out on the AxeFX III drives the 250ohm beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro to an adequate listening level with the 'Output 1' volume control set to 10 o'clock. By 12 o'clock on the volume control the DT 1990 is too loud for safe listening. I expect that the AxeFX III's headphone out could easily push the 300ohm Sennheiser HD6XX/HD600/HD650 series and the 600ohm beyer DT 770/880/990 headphones past a safe listening volume.
 

Deaj

Experienced
I assure you my patch levels are right where they’re supposed to be. I certainly don’t question the fact that I have some hearing loss from years of playing out a few nights a week. It takes a toll for sure. But even with that, like I said, it’s still subjective. Some people will definitely find a need or a want for the benefits of a separate headphone amp.
Also true.

W+Ile I find no particular fault with the AxeFX III's headphone out I almost always route the Axe3 to one of my dedicated headphone amps (most often I use a Schiit Audio Lyr 3 hybrid tube/SS amp with a 1952 tall bottle Philco 7N7 tube currently installed). Subjectively, this is a much better sounding headphone compared to the Axe3's headphone out.
 

Perdikament

Power User
Agreed.

The headphone out on the AxeFX III drives the 250ohm beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro to an adequate listening level with the 'Output 1' volume control set to 10 o'clock. By 12 o'clock on the volume control the DT 1990 is too loud for safe listening. I expect that the AxeFX III's headphone out could easily push the 300ohm Sennheiser HD6XX/HD600/HD650 series and the 600ohm beyer DT 770/880/990 headphones past a safe listening volume.
Just for clarification, I definitely didn’t make any claim as to being within safe listening levels. Again, loudness = subjective ≠ safe 😉
 

Jarick

Experienced
I have the HD6xx and I barely get above 10:00 on the volume control. For me it’s plenty loud. I have other headphones that are higher impedance and again I’m never crossing 12:00 on the knob. I think you’ll be fine.

Now I don’t have an audiophile headphone amp, but the Axe 3 headphone sounds better than my standalone Mackie USB audio interface.
 

Tiger1016

Member
Also true.

W+Ile I find no particular fault with the AxeFX III's headphone out I almost always route the Axe3 to one of my dedicated headphone amps (most often I use a Schiit Audio Lyr 3 hybrid tube/SS amp with a 1952 tall bottle Philco 7N7 tube currently installed). Subjectively, this is a much better sounding headphone compared to the Axe3's headphone out.
Are there any particular recommendations for routing the Axe out to an external amp for best results? I was thinking of going with a RCA Female to 1/4" TRS Male Adapter on Output 1 then using a good quality RCA audio cable into my headphone amp. I had tried using the SPDIF out from my Axe III into my DAC/amp years ago, but the latency on the guitar side was unusable (obvious result in hindsight).

I have a pair of Audeze LCD 3 (pre fazor) that I was about to sell but decided to keep after giving them one last spin. I had been exclusively using a pair of JH Audio Roxanne IEMs instead but want to start using the LCD 3's more often now. I also have a Chord Hugo v1 DAC and headphone amp that I just listed to sell today. The thing is my only desktop listening these days is when I am jamming out to my favorite songs as backing tracks with the Axe, and I want to give the Hugo one last shot to see if there is a justification for keeping it vs. just using the Axe.
 

trancegodz

Power User
I’m just wondering if the axe fx iii can work as well as a dedicated headphone amp/dac when using music from the computer via USB.

Does anyone have any experience with this?
Yes. It works great. The Axe FXIII drives my Byerdynamic 250 ohm headphones with no problems. No external headphone amp needed at all. It's as loud as I can stand it with the volume set half way up.
 

IronSean

Inspired
Honestly, the "You need a DAC/amp" thing with high impedance headphones is overblown.

You only need an amp if your current amp can't go loud enough for the listening level you want. Higher impedance headphones produce less volume for the same level of signal, so a high enough impedance headphone with a weak enough amp can cap out. My laptop is fine at 10 for 16-32 ohm earbuds, 20 for 300 ohm HD-6XX headphones, and needs to be around 50 for my 600 ohm Beyerdynamic DT-880 cans.

A phone or iPod would dedicate even less power to their headphone amp and you might not be able to get enough level or have distortion at full volume.

But the Axe has a powerful enough headphone amp you'll be fine unless you use really high impedance headphones at really loud level.

Now, the other reason people say this is because they mean to say "You might want a separate amp/DAC because you spent however much money on these high end headphones, do you really want the dirt cheap amp/DAC in your phone/laptop to limit the audio quality you can get with them?" Most products not designed specifically for audio quality just tick the box by putting any old headphone setup that works and meets their power and cost requirements. LG made some phones specifically with better audio quality, but it involved combing a few DACs and reducing your battery life. You can buy a dedicated sound card for a desktop, but the motherboard will just have as basic realtek chip on it to tick the box. So in a lot of peoples minds if you buy really nice headphones, your constraint is now at the amp/DAC.

The Axe has taken more care than that. A dedicated external DAC/amp might sound better. Or it might just sound different in a way people prefer. (Or it might just be slightly louder which honestly tricks your brain big time into hearing all sorts of improvements to the sound). But it won't be as night and day as using one to get your cell phone's cheapest possible amp to perform at a reasonable level.
 

Ronrad

New Member
I drive Beyerdynamic T1 600 ohm headphones with it. I don't particularly like loud but for me they do just fine at about 10 o'clock on the level and the quality seems comparable to some of my dedicated headphone amps / dacs in driving them.
 

yek

Moderator
Moderator
Don't overlook the fact that headphones level is also dictated by the setting of the Output Level in I/O (nominal output level). Changing that from -10 dB to +4 db, makes a world of difference for high impedance headphones.
 
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