MacBook Pro headphone jack quality questions

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by DustinT, Mar 3, 2011.

  1. DustinT macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #1
    So, there's no audiophile grade headphone amp inside a MacBook Pro unfortunately. Still, there can be tremendous variation between the quality of the headphone output on a laptop.

    What did you think of the sound when you tried your headphones on your MacBook Pro? How about if you connect a pair of high impedance cans?
     
  2. PAPO macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2009
    Location:
    Australia
    #2
    if I remember my stuff (but I could have forgotten A LOT) all higher impedance will do is make it quieter, but that being said is there really that much difference in impedance with headphones? I've got an old pair of AKG K301's and they are similar in volume to the apple earbuds (but obviously lightyears better)
     
  3. paolo- macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2008
    #3
    Basically, it doesn't sound too good. It might sound better with high impedance cans. I have some akg k77 and the output on my macbook sound pretty bad compared to my external soundcard.

    I don't think you'll get trouble with getting enough volume out of it with high impedance headphones as the output can go ridiculously high so I don't think that would be a problem even with high impedance cans.
     
  4. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

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    Feb 26, 2011
    #4
    The impedance affects more than just the volume it also affects the quality of the sound pretty significantly.
     
  5. paolo- macrumors 6502a

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    Aug 24, 2008
    #5
    From what I understand, high impedance headphones came about in old studios. The main advantage is that you can run many headphones in parallel (on tube amps). I guess it would all come down to power transfer, the amp acts as a load in itself in a way, and if the headphone impedance is really low, you won't get a good signal as most of the power will be dissipated in the amp.

    But most modern D/A end with an opamp, or at least I'm guessing the one in the macs do. It's certainly not tube. As much as opamps probably don't have the sound quality of tube, their output impedance is very low. So there shouldn't be a power transfer problem. So I'm guessing that noise shouldn't be a big problem. Sure the voltage in the high impedance will be higher, thus there should be a bit less noise, but really, that's nothing compared to having a cheap D/A stuck inside a computer. Also there shouldn't be a problem with the frequency response.

    From what I understand, tube amps have a higher output impedance, so they can have a hard time with certain low impedance headphones.
    Apparently, there's could be a difference in sound as there's a bigger magnetic field, so possibly better control over the diaphragm. But I somehow doubt that high impedance headphones will make a macbook pro sound magically good.


    I could be totally be off, I never came across high impedance headphones. Kind of a cool thing to think about.
     
  6. TMRaven macrumors 68020

    TMRaven

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2009
    #6
    A lot of the times if you don't properly drive a high impedance can, a lot of its sound won't be as tight and crisp as it should, so it's not just the volume output. I remember the first time I heard a high quality tube amp on a HD650 in a store, it was the first time it made a song I really know and like have a bass that sounded like an actual kick drum rather than a soft boom boom noise, I was pretty amazed.
     
  7. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #7
    Yup, I was really surprised when I started using a headphone amp for the first time. Its a powerful difference.

    Anyway, back to the topic at hand. Have you plugged your hd650's into a mbp? How did it sound?
     
  8. TMRaven macrumors 68020

    TMRaven

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    Nov 5, 2009
    #8
    I can't comment on the HD650 with a macbook pro personally, as I do not exactly have one. Of the few times I've tried it out, it was at a friend's and at local music stores. I'm an audio technica kind of guy, so I tend to stick to their products. I know the lower impedance audio techncia cans sound pretty good on my brother's macbook pro and my iMac via their intel hd integrated card and headphone jack.
     
  9. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #9
    Well, thanks for the posts. I am a bit surprised how quiet this subform seems to be, I was hoping for a wider range of opinions. Or, do I just need a shower?
     
  10. lkeagle macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Nov 6, 2011
    #10
    Audio engineer here. I record classical ensembles, and was very excited to buy a new MBP with the expectation that I could listen to my mixes in bed at night with a pair of good cans. I can honestly say that the headphone output in my late-2010 MBP is horrific. I suppose it's possible that I just had bad luck and my laptop has some sub-standard components, but it seems others have complaints as well.

    The background noise is practically deafening if you're trying to listen to quiet mixes. I'm fairly certain it's the D/A that is suspect, because after the file I'm playing ends, there is a long delay after which the hiss/noise disappears. I suspect this is the point where the audio driver puts the headphone amplifier into a low power mode to save battery life (every bit counts!). The fact that the hiss can come and go indicates that they have some kind of muting available at the hardware level.

    When I'm processing my mixes with certain effects, I hear all kinds of bizarre. When I pause playback, it sounds almost like some phasing, or some kind of frequency shifting is happening immediately after playback stops. I know it is not the fault of my audio software, as it sounds phenomenal anywhere else. It's almost as if the clock that drives the D/A is allowed to drift when there is no playback.

    I ended up purchasing a cheap, refurbished M-Audio FastTrack mini, and use it solely for a headphone amplifier. I can't bear to listen to the MBP output any longer.

    Wish I had a solution for you. Instead, I thank you for giving me a place to rant for a little bit. All I can recommend is to use outboard gear. I wish there was an ExpressPort sound card that I could purchase. Unfortunately, that technology seems to have died as soon as I bought my laptop.
     
  11. DustinT thread starter macrumors 68000

    DustinT

    Joined:
    Feb 26, 2011
    #11
    I'm not an audio engineer, but I do like a solid headphone amp. Are you satisfied with the FastTrack Mini? Anything else you like for the price?
     
  12. torana355 macrumors 68020

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    Dec 8, 2009
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #12
    I know this is an old thread but i just got a MBA and the headphone output is pathetic. Makes my Sennheiser cans sound tinny. My old 2008 iMac actually outputs decent sound though the headphone jack.
     
  13. PAPO macrumors 6502

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    Aug 24, 2009
    Location:
    Australia
    #13
    do you really expect anything that good out of a laptop that size? of course the iMac sounds better even if it is a bit dated
     
  14. torana355 macrumors 68020

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    Dec 8, 2009
    Location:
    Sydney, Australia
    #14
    I didn't expect much was just commenting that the new MBA sounds very average.
     
  15. bwhli macrumors 6502a

    bwhli

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2012
    Location:
    Boston, MA
    #15
    Awful with low-impedance earphones. I have a pair of Shure SE535's, and all I hear so many beeps when listening to music. Problem doesn't persist with high-impedence headphones. An attenuator fixes the problem, but that means reduced sound quality. Best bet is to get an external interface like the Duet.
     

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