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Headphone Systems Everything to do with Headphones

Best Headphone Amp IC today?
Best Headphone Amp IC today?
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Old 5th September 2019, 11:16 PM   #1
drizdraz is offline drizdraz  United States
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Default Best Headphone Amp IC today?

I've been out of the loop. Is there a consensus on the best headphone IC made today?

Parameters:

Properly drives all common headphones, from 32ohm to 600ohm, all sensitivities
Bipolar supply at least +/-8V (or more)
Ultra low noise (not obsessive about THD)
Minimal external parts preferred
Would prefer no external transistors

I know, loaded question. But all opinions appreciated.

Last edited by drizdraz; 5th September 2019 at 11:21 PM.
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Old 5th September 2019, 11:20 PM   #2
ubergeeknz is offline ubergeeknz  New Zealand
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What impedance do you want to drive?
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Old 6th September 2019, 12:08 AM   #3
drizdraz is offline drizdraz  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ubergeeknz View Post
What impedance do you want to drive?
Properly drives all common headphones, from 32ohm to 600ohm, all sensitivities
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Old 6th September 2019, 06:53 AM   #4
OlegSh is offline OlegSh
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From the modern parts my favorite is OPA1622 with OPA1642 as a buffer... For a single IC solution have a look at OPA1688.

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Old 6th September 2019, 07:02 AM   #5
weissi is offline weissi  Austria
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BUF634A is new in town. Meets a lot of your criterias.
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Old 6th September 2019, 02:36 PM   #6
drizdraz is offline drizdraz  United States
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Thanks. I will take a look at all of them. The +/-250mA output current of BUF634A is attractive.
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Old 6th September 2019, 05:38 PM   #7
sgrossklass is offline sgrossklass  Germany
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BUF634A is just a buffer though, so no voltage gain out of this one. Plus, minimum output impedance is 5 ohms, much like it's been for previous similar parts. Mind you, two of them would make for a splendid composite circuit with your dual opamp of choice, The Wire style. There are some neat ones with very good input impedance nonlinearity despite their nominal FET frontend (e.g. OPA1652 if memory serves), though LM4562 / LME49720 would also do a good job.

What you are looking for is pretty much a niche application, and IC manufacturers are not exactly rushing out to provide suitable single-chip solutions.
OPA1622 and OPA1688 are pretty neat as far as "opamps with some more grunt" go (power dissipation on the VSON package parts even is surprisingly high with the integrated thermal pad, though soldering these is not a trivial exercise for the hobbyist), but these will merely provide normal output power as in 150 mW / 32 ohms max, not several watts as you may need for an HE-6.
The last higher-power part was the trusty TPA6120A2 @ up to 700 mA per channel, but it tends to appreciate 10 ohms of output series resistance for stability, which is a bit of a no-go for impedance-critical cans (mostly IEMs, but even for some of Sennheiser's 50 ohm fullsize models it's a bit above optimum). Presumably that's a result of its past as a DSL line driver. It also sort of requires a previous stage to drive it.

There definitely are multiple ways of skinning this proverbial cat. Even the medium-power chipamp LM1876 (a 2x 20 W / 8 ohm part) has been used with external compensation (draining open-loop gain) to get its gain down to 8 dB safely. (The entry-level Lake People amps are doing this.) Possibly not the last word in finesse but presumably near-indestructible. The O2 amp parallels two of the trusty NJM4556As (the earguably earliest headphone driver opamps, now 35 years old) for a good 0.5 W into 32 ohms.

Your list of requirements still needs some work.
How much output power do you consider enough to "properly drive" your loads?
How much noise is "ultra low", output referred? 5 ÁV? 2 ÁV? 1 ÁV or even less?
How much voltage gain is required, if any (or what input levels are expected)? Covering a wide range of headphones often necessitates a choice among several different options.
How much source impedance is expected, and how constant is it going to be?
What sort of IC packaging can you deal with?
What is your power budget?

I would very much suggest making a list of "black box" specifications first. The key to high performance is not necessarily using the latest, most fashionable parts, but rather getting the overall system design right and using appropriate parts. ICs can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you but performing magic is not generally a standard feature.

Last edited by sgrossklass; 6th September 2019 at 05:45 PM.
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Old 6th September 2019, 09:43 PM   #8
drizdraz is offline drizdraz  United States
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sgrossklass View Post
I would very much suggest making a list of "black box" specifications first.
I don't need gain, plenty of swing hitting the HP amp.

Really, if my solution drove 98% of common headphones properly, I would be happy.

Low self-noise for me is -110dBu broadband (20-20k), unweighted. Which I believe is roughly 2.5uVrms BB/UW.

THD doesn't really matter, as long as it's less than .01% or so into most loads and most levels.

Iq (quiescent power) isn't an issue.

QFN no problem -- just don't recommend a BGA. i ----HATE---- BGA.

Last edited by drizdraz; 6th September 2019 at 09:46 PM.
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Old 7th September 2019, 01:57 AM   #9
jcx is offline jcx  United States
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the TPA6120 output Cload isolation can be an inductor, R||L or lossy ferrite bead core:

OPA2227 + NE5532 Composite Headphone Amp

CFA like the TPA6120 can be used unity gain but still require a feedback R to set bandwith for stability
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Old 8th September 2019, 03:26 PM   #10
xrk971 is offline xrk971  United States
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Best Headphone Amp IC today?
OPA1622 is very nice. I believe it is the state of the art in headphone amp ICs.

Here is a parallel 8x OPA1622:

Cheap as Chips OPA1688 Low-THD Muscle Amp
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