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View Full Version : Distortion Harmful for Headphones?




djtech42
Sep 14, 2013, 12:43 AM
I have been playing Yeezus through my Beyerdynamics DT770 pro 80 headphones amplified through an Audioengine D1. This album has the most distortion I have ever heard in an album. It's not just clipping distortion though. Each component of the instrumental is distorted individually for the Chicago acid house sound. I have been creating an instrumental in Logic Pro X simulating the sound of the album, although I think I exaggerated the distortion effect (using overdriven bit crusher and distortion plugins).

Now I am worried that I could be damaging the headphones. The idea of so many overdriven sounds mixing together sounds dangerous. Each track is literally at a constant amplitude. I'm new to the whole headphone amplifier setup, so I'm confused about "amp clipping." How would you know if the amp is clipping? I know this is the most dangerous thing to the headphones, but I'm not sure of how to be careful of it. Is clipping distortion dangerous too? And would this type of music be especially dangerous because it has many more distorted sounds than your average song? (Most loudness war songs clip in general, but the tracks aren't necessarily individually distorted)

One thing that makes me doubt that it could damage the headphones is the fact that you can safely play a square wave, which is the most distorted signal possible, at normal volume. I have been listening to music afterwards and everything sounds OK. However, I am still paranoid that there is damage I am not identifying. :(



ChrisA
Sep 14, 2013, 10:50 AM
I have been playing Yeezus through my Beyerdynamics DT770 pro 80 headphones amplified through an Audioengine D1. This album has the most distortion I have ever heard in an album. It's not just clipping distortion though. Each component of the instrumental is distorted individually for the Chicago acid house sound. I have been creating an instrumental in Logic Pro X simulating the sound of the album, although I think I exaggerated the distortion effect (using overdriven bit crusher and distortion plugins).

Now I am worried that I could be damaging the headphones. The idea of so many overdriven sounds mixing together sounds dangerous. Each track is literally at a constant amplitude. I'm new to the whole headphone amplifier setup, so I'm confused about "amp clipping." How would you know if the amp is clipping? I know this is the most dangerous thing to the headphones, but I'm not sure of how to be careful of it. Is clipping distortion dangerous too? And would this type of music be especially dangerous because it has many more distorted sounds than your average song? (Most loudness war songs clip in general, but the tracks aren't necessarily individually distorted)

One thing that makes me doubt that it could damage the headphones is the fact that you can safely play a square wave, which is the most distorted signal possible, at normal volume. I have been listening to music afterwards and everything sounds OK. However, I am still paranoid that there is damage I am not identifying. :(

It is still just an audio waveform. The concept of "distortion" is a human created concept that headphones don't understand. The headphone just see an audio signal and as long as the voltage stays within limits the headphones are fine.

When they become damaged you will know. an open coil means no sound in one or both sides.

djtech42
Sep 15, 2013, 12:56 PM
It is still just an audio waveform. The concept of "distortion" is a human created concept that headphones don't understand. The headphone just see an audio signal and as long as the voltage stays within limits the headphones are fine.

When they become damaged you will know. an open coil means no sound in one or both sides.

Thanks. I keep reading everywhere that people think it can damage the headphones though.
Would distortion increase the overall power of the waveform?

monkeybagel
Sep 15, 2013, 03:43 PM
Thanks. I keep reading everywhere that people think it can damage the headphones though.
Would distortion increase the overall power of the waveform?

I used to think the same thing at one time. The iPod connector in my E320 would sometimes overdrive the COMAND system/navigation system in the vehicle and was afraid of the exact same issue - that the "unclean" signal that was traveling to the speakers and having them reproduce it would cause damage. Then someone pointed me to an article (I think from Richard Clark of the Alpine 7909/Buick Grand National professional car audio scene) that stated the same thing the poster stated above. That if the signal is distorted it is just any other sounds. If the speakers cause the distortion and the amp can't keep up, it is something to be concerned about.

Thinking more into this, almost any rock or metal music would fall into this category, so if that were the case a Def Leppard audio disc would damage any speakers, and it does not.

EDIT - I was curious and went to iTunes to see what you were talking about. I CAN see where that would damage your speakers! ;) j/k

ChrisA
Sep 16, 2013, 02:08 PM
Thanks. I keep reading everywhere that people think it can damage the headphones though.
Would distortion increase the overall power of the waveform?

I think you get the most power with white noise. The distorted waveform only has power in certain narrow frequency bands. White noise has power over the entire audio range. Power is the area onder the curve. The spike are tall but narrow so have less area. White noise is broad and can be tall if the amp has enough power.

Well, I'm assuming al along that there is a low pass filter same place. A digital system has to have one to remove everything above 1/2 the sample rate. So assuming a filter the power is contained only in the audio range. In an analog system with veryhigh bandwidth, yes clipped signals can have energy way up in the ultrasonics and has been known to blow up tweeters in HiFi speakers. So if you allow this then it could happen to headphones too. But there are filters.

Also what saves headphones is the low power amplifier. Few headphone amps can supply more than about 100 mW. But if you were to try listening to a 100W amp with headphone, I'd think it would be easy to break the headphones.