The higher the load, the harder the output circuit must work – and the more distortion it generates! Therefore, most modern headphones are low impedance models, typically ranging between 16 and 100 ohms. I’ve met Dan Clarke of MrSpeakers a number of times of the years, mostly at the Tokyo Headphone festivals where one year, […], Danny from DITA Audio tipped me off that I should check out Soundaware’s products so I contacted them and they provided me […]. The interplay between headphone and headphone amplifier also affects the sound quality. High-impedance cans usually need more voltage to get up to a solid listening level, so they can benefit from a headphone amp especially with portable players that have limited voltage available from their internal batteries. High impedance headphones will often require a dedicated headphone amplifier to achieve adequate listening levels. To use the headphone calculators, you’ll need to know the sensitivity of your headphones, either in dBSPL @ 1 milliWatt (more common) or dBSPL @ 1 Volt. Does not apply to special-order, open-box or sale items. Whether a device can drive the headphones is one thing. The real issue is, you rarely know what kind of output impedance is baked into that integrated headphone out. Due to advances in technology, modern headphones tend to be “louder” than older models. An amplifier’s job is to increase the output of your source to the level you want, and if whatever you’re using to listen to music can do that on its own: a lack of power isn’t one of your issues.

If your eyes just glazed over, don’t worry: it’s not just you, this can be boring. High-quality materials and interconnects are only needed if you’re planning on exposing them to the elements. High sensitivity, medium impedance headphones (100 – 250 ohms), such as the Neumann NDH 20, are the least finicky: They will deliver enough volume on the vast majority of audio interfaces and other devices, and most headphone outputs will have a low enough driving impedance for optimal sound.

I hope this introductory article to understanding headphones was helpful and answered your question “Do My Headphones Need An Amp?” If anything is unclear of your have a little advice to give, go ahead and leave some keys in the comments section. For every 6dB increase, the sound level doubles, so the danger comes fast! Impedance is the combined resistance and reactivity the headphones present to the amp as an electrical load. As well, many headphones have a treble peak 5-10dB louder than the other frequencies, doubling, to quadrupling the danger to your hearing. For every 10 dB you want to decrease the volume, you need to reduce it to 1/10th the power. If nothing else, the coat hanger cable experiment is entertaining, and demonstrative of the fact that you don’t need to shell out for expensive cables to get rock-solid audio quality. DISCLOSURE: We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com, affiliated sites and sponsors. That being said, how do you understand if your smart device is a suitable driver for your headphone? A few select audiophile models may even require a headphone amp to reach listenable volume levels and sonic performance, especially if connected to portable devices. Loudspeakers, by comparison, only range from about 4 ohms to 16 ohms. Some manufacturers’ figures are misleading, in that they may state an amp is Class A, but give the maximum output power when the amp has gone into Class AB and/or the distortion is a lot higher. Professional engineers appreciate them as an additional perspective, while home studio users enjoy the convenience of being able to work on their tracks anytime, anywhere without disturbance. If you’re unlike me (and you have a life), you could use this tool and be done with it… but wouldn’t you like to at least understand what’s going on? Many people think that Ohms measure how hard headphones are to drive, but this is incorrect. But the phones outputs on audio interfaces are often around 20 ohms – too high for adequate electrical damping with low impedance headphones, which may result in muddy mids and a “floppy” bass response. What you may not realize is that your cell phone, tablet, and other smart devices all have built-in amplifiers. But very low-impedance cans lower the damping factor between the amp and headphones and actually require more current. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, especially with very low impedance headphones, which, accordingly, would require a super low driving impedance to achieve proper damping. It’s a measure of how powerful a sound (or signal) is. Secure payments with Credit Card, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay and Cryptocurrency. You do not need a headphone amp when using noise-cancelling headphones, as they essentially already have a built-in headphone amp inside. Electronics & Wearables . If you’re combating a noisy headphone output, be sure to not hook up the amp on the same noisy output. With a portable device, use a “line output” when available to connect to a headphone amp. Editor’s note: This is gonna get really dry and textbooky so if you just want some common examples, skip to the last two paragraphs of this section. If you love headphones, you'll love our emails. Driving a headphone well requires ample amounts of both. By using Ohm’s law and applying what we know about decibels, we can figure out the current needed to get a certain volume level. All rights reserved, Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pocket (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window), Click to share on Telegram (Opens in new window), Click to share on WhatsApp (Opens in new window), Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window), Ultrasone Performance 840, 860 and 880 Review, FiiO Q3 – The Portable DAC/amp with THX amplification, MYSPHERE – The AKG K1000 successor is like speakers on your head, Final D8000 Pro – Japan’s Answer to Sony, Meze, Focal, Sennheiser HD820 – Closed Dynamic Headphone Review, Apogee: Unfiltered and straight from the source, Audeze – Interview with Sankar Thiagasamudram, Headphone sensitivity (dBSPL @ 1 milliwatt), Headphone sensitivity (dBSPL @ 1 volt RMS). There are some things you need to keep your eye on.

Unfortunately most manufacturers don’t specify all of output power (mW or W), volts (V) or milliamps (mA) for their amps.

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