1. I just purchased H6 2nd Generation headphones. Very comfortable to wear and nice sound.
    I use it with iPhones, Macbook and PC. When would an external ampliier be necessary?

    Does it depend on the device’s output in Volts?

  2. Hi Jan,
    I use my 1st-gen pair with my iPhone and my Mac’s headphone output. However, they certainly sound better with an external headphone DAC (I have an old Fiio E17 Alpen that I use as a DAC and as a headphone amp).

    This is not because the headphones “need” the amp – it’s just because a “real” DAC+amp has a better-quality output than an iPhone, for example – and this difference is noticeable on the H6’s.

    Note that different devices have different maximum output levels – so your headphones will be able to reach a different maximum output level accordingly. For example, my old Mac Book Pro (2011, 17″) could deliver 2 V RMS at the output. My new MBP that I just got last month can only deliver 1 V RMS max at its output – a 6 dB difference. Most of the iPhones can deliver 1 V RMS max. However, I have measured a Lenovo laptop that only delivered 300 mV RMS maximum – a considerably lower maximum level than the old 17″ Mac…

    – geoff

  3. Thanks Geoff! Is there any problem with the DAC in a portable device, or is it rather the amplifier/analog circuitry that we want to sidestep?

  4. It’s usually both. Painting with a very large brush: in a typical case of a portable device, the components are selected primarily due to cost, weight, and power consumption. Audio quality is not on the top of the list (of course, there are exceptions…). For example, plug a pair of headphones into your computer, and don’t play any sound. Wait for a little while (say, a couple of minutes) and then start playing some audio (playing with the various rings and pings in the Sound Preferences is a good way to do this). Right before the sound plays, you’ll probably hear some background noise turn on.

    That noise is usually muted when there’s no sound playing, and the hope is that it’s masked by sound when it is playing.

    However, if either the DAC or the analogue circuitry (or both) were better, the signal-to-noise ratio of the system would be larger, and the noise floor would be lower. Therefore, you wouldn’t be able to hear it when the DAC un-mutes – it would be just too quiet to hear.


  5. Went out and bought an Asus Xonar. Big difference with my PC! Have a good day, Jan

  6. Cool! I have an old Xonar here that I used to use to test multichannel audio on the BeoSystem 3 (back in those days, the Mac couldn’t send multichannel audio out its DVI/HDMI output). It was a great card to have on hand, and certainly a step up from the built-in components in that PC.


  7. Martin Krencey says:

    Dear Geoff,

    I would like to kindly ask, how would you rate – on pure sound quality if all are connected via a cable – the difference between H6 1st gen, H6 2nd gen and the just announced H9?

    I heard the H7 and they are nice for a BT headphone, very “fun” sounding for sure but when connected viac cable the H6 sounded just that much better.

    Would you say the H9 is H7+ANC? Or is it rather H6+ANC? -> if we talk about pure sound quality and signature.

    I really appreciate your insight!

    I am considering an upgrade from my H6 1st gen (usually connected to an iPhone 6S Plus).
    And am wondering which may be a better alternative. Add a Chord Mojo to my H6? Get the H6 2nd gen?
    Get the H6 2nd gen AND the Mojo? Get the H9? :D

    Best regards,


  8. Hi Martin,

    I’m unable to answer most of your questions. Certainly, there are differences (primarily in magnitude response, but in some cases, also in sensitivity) in all of the combinations you list, however, I won’t make public the specific details of the actual differences in dB in the various frequency bands. Your assessment that some models are tuned to be more “fun” than others is a fair one, though. This is partly because of the use case where the listener is in a noisy environment and some bass and treble boost are helpful to combat background noise, thus reducing the need for a higher listening level. This is also one of the reasons why there are differences in the sound design of our ANC headphones when ANC is turned on and off.

    This means that the real answer to your question regarding the differences between different headphones is really up to you. I am happy to see that you are removing the differences between a cabled option and a wireless connection in your question. If you do make a back/to/back/to/back comparison of the models, I would highly recommend that you stick to this – just to be fair.

    That said, I can certainly say that I have a pair of H6G1 at home (I don’t upgrade anything very often, so don’t make any assumptions based on this fact… I drive a 10-year old Honda Civic….) but when I use them with my iPhone 4S (I told you I don’t upgrade often…) I also use a headphone amp (a Fiio E17 Alpen – which also doubles as my USB Headphone DAC for my Mac). And THIS, I can recommend. The headphone output of most telephones and computers is quite bad. Of course, there are exceptions – but since you already mentioned the iPhone 6S, I’ll assume that you’re not replacing that…

    Sorry that I cannot be more helpful with respect to the comparison between the different headphone models.


  9. Martin Krencey says:

    Thanks Geoff! I appreciate it. I am patiently waiting for my local B&O store to update their H6 display unit to G2 and for the arrival of H9. :D It seems to be a general consensus now that H6 G2 are better sounding so I am anxious to see for myself.

    I was wondering if the difference between G1 and G2 diminishes or is enhanced when used with a headphone amp in your experience?

    Would you say the “sound signature” was greatly changed from H7 to H9 or rather kept the same?

    Best regards,