An all too common headphone question is, “Do my headphones need an amp?” While this is a bit of a loaded question, the answer can be quite simple. However, you’ll first have to understand how your headphones work, how an amp works, and what the two can accomplish together.
Do My Headphones Need An Amp?
Your headphones are like cute mini speakers for your ears and all speakers need an amplifier. What you may not realize is that your cell phone, tablet, and other smart devices all have built-in amplifiers. Obviously, these units are small so the internal amplifier can only be so big and provide so much power. That being said, how do you understand if your smart device is a suitable driver for your headphone? By the impedance, which is measured in ohms. It is essentially the measure of power needed to adequately drive the headphones and deliver the cleanest audio at peak volume.
Most headphones, especially those for commuters, are at or under an impedance of 30 ohms. These headphones are easily driven by mobile devices and don’t need an external amplifier to provide you with pretty good sound. But, as headphone.com explains, “very low-impedance headphones lower the damping factor between the amp and headphones and actually require more current.” This means even though your cans are performing just fine with your smart device, the addition of an amp may help to improve the sound quality because it is now working at its full potential.
To note, if you are using an earphone (which measure at very low impedance ratings), you do not require an amp. If the impedance is around 16 ohms or so, be careful as there is potential to blow out your headphones. It’s just too much power trying to course through the little pair of headphone’s veins (or cables).
There are headphones that have a higher impedance hitting about 80 ohms. These headphones can in fact be driven by smart devices, but are also suited for studio use. They can be used without an amp, but the volume will be lower than what you would hear with a lower impedance headphone.
Then, there are headphones that have a much higher impedance and require much more power to be driven and deliver clear audio at peak volumes. These headphones are usually audiophile-grade, open or closed back, and meant for listening at home or in a studio set-up. These headphones definitely require an additional source of power as the impedance usually measure about 250 to 300 ohms.
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.