If you’ve landed on this piece, you probably care a lot about your wired headphones. You are looking for solutions on how to power them up and improve their performance. Depending on your headphones, there’s a good chance a quality headphone amp — or a headphone amp/DAC (digital-to-analog converter) can breathe new life into your music. But what is a headphone amp? How do they work? Do you need one? I’ll help you understand this and more.
What is a headphone amp?
A headphone amp is a relatively low-powered amplifier that raises the low-voltage audio signal from a source device (be it a turntable, PC, or smartphone) to a sufficient level such that it can be converted (or transduced) into sound waves by the speakers inside your headphones. It works like the amps used to power full-sized speakers but operates at a lower scale.
Wanna pump up your music? Not getting the required volume levels? An amplifier is what you need. In simple words, an Amplifier multiplies the amplitude of your sound. It makes your output louder.
There are numerous technologies with which amps are made. Basically they consist of a transistor circuit that multitudes the audio and makes it louder with a circuit to control it.
Impedance and Amplification
You must have come across the term impedance quite often. Impedance, when referring to headphones, is the resistance to current that flows as an audio signal. Most In-ears and Over-ears have impedance in the range of 15 to 32 ohms. These headphones will definitely be able to play your music to the proper volume levels.
So when does your headphone require an Amp?
Headphones having impedance levels above 35 ohms, cannot be driven by your source directly, as they may not be able to provide sufficient power. From 35 ohms to 600 ohms, headphones have high impedance levels to protect them from damage when plugged into a high power source. Impedance levels are also kept high at par to provide better power response to high quality materials used in the driver.
What Amplifier do you need?
Most Headphone amplifiers are able to drive headphones up to 100 ohms and above. Do check the impedance of your headphone while getting an Amp. Also check the compatibility of the jack that your headphone has and how you can connect it to the Amp.
Most Audio companies make Headphone Amplifiers bundled with DACs or they make a single device that consists of both. To increase your output manifold, you also need the quality to make it louder. That's where a DAC comes into play. A Digital to Analog Converter can be used to access music from your source and convert it without loss and make it sound as it should be. The DAC in your mobiles or laptops is not sufficient to produce the original quality of the music.
The DAC accepts music from your Source like your laptop or mobile and converts it to the best rate possible, which the Amplifier then multiplies to required volume level. You can control your volume level mostly with the control knob or crossfader provided on the amp.
Check the compatibility of your Amp with your DAC and also with your headphones. Get the perfect power companion for your headphones after doing that. From cables to accessories, check your requirement list that allows you to create the perfect setup for music.
My top picks for integrated DAC/Amp combo that money can buy are Chord Mojo 2, FiiO K5 Pro ESS, iFi Audio NEO iDSD, and TOPPING DX7 Pro. If you're looking for amplifiers, the TOPPING A50s, Chord Anni are the best in business.
If you’re on the lookout for portable DAC/Amp solutions that can be connected with your smartphone, you should check out our collection of Portable DAC/Amps here.
For better guidance on how to power your cans, get on chat with our Headphone Gurus. They’re always glad to help.