Does your Helix sound bad on your headphone or good otherwise?
If that is the case, welcome to the world of low vs high impedance, the reason why we get poor quality sound from our beloved Helix.
In summary, Helix requires high impedance headphones (I will explain this in a later section if you are interested) and if your current ones are not high enough, the audio quality will be bad.
My recommendations for headphones that are best for line6 helix amp are:
- Sennheiser HD-650
- Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro
- Neumann NDH20
- Sony MDR-7506
Why does impedance matter for Helix
When we talk about impedance, there are 2 things to keep in mind:
- output impedance: comes from the source of the sound, which in this case in Helix
- headphone impedance: tells us the amount of power needed to deliver audio levels. A high impedance headphone means a large amount of power is need to deliver high volume audio.
In general, the rule is to keep output impedance and headphome impedance to the ratio of 1:8
Helix has an output impedance of 12 ohm. Your headphone, therefore, should have at least 96 or more headphone impedance.
What happens if your headphone is less than the desired ohm?
The voltage drop significantly when a high output impedance meets a low impedance load (i.e. your headphone). This drop in power might be drastic enough to under deliver the power necessary to hit the high audio levels.
Top headphones brands for Helix
Now that we understand how impedance can affect our audio quality with Helix, here are 5 models that have sufficient high impedance to avoid this problem.
The Sennheiser HD-650 is a 300 ohm headphone so it can meet the impedance requirement very well. When I first listen to a Helix through these headphones, the quality shocked me as it was much better than my previous experiences with other headphones.
If price is not a factor, this would be my definite recommendation but it is not cheap. Still it is a very compatible headphone with the Helix.
The Sennheiser is an open back headphone so there is no noise isolation. However, you can still hear the details very well, in a way that does not take away the star of the music. By this, I mean the details are sitting pretty much in the background. It is there if you want it but does not compete with the main focus of your music.
This is why some said the sound from the HD650 sounds more natural.
Due to the above, the Sennheiser HD650 will make a better purchase for those who not using it for professional mastering reasons. It offers a better relaxing experience, rather than forcing you to listen to all the tiny details that can sometimes make the listening experience tiring.
Only complaint I have is not with the headphone but the cable it came with. It is rather flimsy and a sudden jerk is all that is need to pull it from the jacks. They can be replaced though.
2. Beyerdynamic DT-770 Pro vs Sennheiser HD650
Price: A cheaper alternative is the Beyerdynamic DT 770. It retails for half the price of the Sennhesier HD650 but is also able to prove 250 ohm, which is sufficient than the Helix’s required 96 ohm..
Open or closed: Closed
Sound Quality: The sound quality for the Beyerdynamic DT 770 is excellent but is geared towards studio monitoring. This is why the design is closed and focuses on hearing the highs and lows. It definitely has a better bass and bass impact (for studio monitoring purpose) than the HD650 but the latter has a more natural sounding experience.
If you are using it more for casual listening, rather than studio work, you might find the details to be tiring after extensive use, especially the constant thumping of the bass.
Editor’s note: There are 4 favors to the Beyerdynamic DT 770 , which is 32 ohm, 80 ohm, 250 ohm and 600 ohm. I suggest the minimal to tbe the 80 ohm although I prefer the 250 ohm. The latter has more precision in its lows and the brights are more rounded rather than sharp.
3. Neumann NDH 20 vs Sennhesier HD650
Price: A more pricey alternative is the Neumann NDH 20. It debuted in the 218 Winter NAMM Show and received many positive reviews. It costs about $500 and has a 150 ohm.
Open or closed: Closed
Sound Quality: The details you can hear from this headphones is simply ridiculous. It feels like you are hearing the sound directly, without any headphones. The highs are very very crisp and the bass is not muddled. Some of the notes seem to float on air!
However, the downside is they reveal everything. Every note, good or bad, can be listen with very deep details. For studio work, I think it is worth the money. For others, I am not sure if you need this kind of details.
When connect to the Helix, I can tell the difference in the clarity almost immediately. To be honest, I feel the NDH 20 beats the HD650 in all departments on first hearing. Whether the same feeling carries on for long hours depends on your preference. Sometimes, sound that is too precise doesn’t sound good for long hours of listening.
4. Sony MDR-7506 vs Sennheiser HD-650
Price: The cheapest option listed here. It has 63 ohm, which is short of the recommended 96 ohm but not by a lot.
Open or closed: Closed
Sound Quality: The Sony MDR-7506 is a good headphone giving out a balanced audio experience. It is definitely not as precise as the others in this list but that is not saying you get muddled bass or bright highs.
It is more like these extreme sounds have been smoothed over to make for a comfortable listening experience. For causal users, this makes for a good enough ear piece, especially considering its lower price point.
Among the 4 models listed here, I recommend the Sennheiser HD-650 as my top pick. It is a balance between price and sound quality.
For absolute audio quality, the Neumann NDH 20 is unbelievable but carries a high price tag.
The other 2 models offers cheaper alternatives but if you are willing to spend too much on your music gear.