Beginner's Guide

Why you need an amplifier for your Headphone or IEM?

An amplifier is a crucial component in any audio system, serving the purpose of
boosting the signal from the source and driving it through your IEMs or headphones. While some devices have built-in amplifiers, they are often limited in power and performance, especially when it comes to driving high-impedance headphones or demanding IEMs. Today we are going to try and help you think about this the right way with this particular video and help you decide that for yourself.


Hi guys this is Raghav from Headphone Zone. Do you really need a headphoneamplifier to go along with your brand new headphones or in your monitors? I'mgoing to try and help you think about this the right way with this particularvideo and help you decide that for yourself. 

Why you need an amplifier for your headphone or IEM 

Now With most headphones and IEMs which are out there, you'll find thatpeople just tend to plug them into your smartphone or your laptop and hit playand they can sound reasonably loud. Typically these are headphones whichmay have an impedance of 32 ohms. What is impedance? Impedance simplyput is an electrical term that you may have learned in high school whichdescribes the amount of resistance that is there in electrical circuit and in thisparticular case simply tells you that how much of power does the headphoneneed for it to function at the right level. 32 Ohms is pretty much an industrystandard and you'll find that most headphones that you and I may have listenedto are at 32 ohms. Let's say this particular headphone gives you 100 DB ofpower output which is the sensitivity of the headphone at 32 ohms, 100 db ispretty loud, you don't really need a headphone going much louder than that soit's a simple plug-and-play. There are headphones which use very verypowerful magnets these are headphones which need a lot more power andtherefore may have an impedance that's higher than 32 ohms. So typically youwill find that these are the kind of headphones that absolutely need aheadphone amplifier. Why because your smartphone or your laptop simply willnot have the adequate power output to be able to drive these headphonesproperly. Headphone amplifiers output power can be sometimes measured inmilliwatts, so sometimes 100 milliwatts, 200 milliwatts, 500 milliwatts isdescribing the amount of output power that these headphone amplifiers cangive and typically the higher the headphone power output the louder theheadphones can get with the same amount of impedance. Another way to thinkabout it is if you have a headphone which has a high impedance, let's say 300 ohms, now this is a headphone that's going to need a lot of power so you wantto go for a headphone amplifier that's pretty powerful and is able to drive this. Iwould typically pick something which is at least 1 thousand milliwatts or higherto drive that headphone. I want to use a very simple example of how to thinkabout this, you have three different headphones from a brand, take for exampleBeyerdynamic, they make the very very popular biodynamic DT770 Pro in threedifferent variants 32 Ohms for people to use when they're on the go to plug intothe laptop or the smartphones, the 80 Ohms which is really meant for people touse in studios along with professional studio equipment and 250 ohms which isreally meant for audiophiles who want to sit back and listen to music at thehighest quality possible. The idea is using a more powerful driver and thereforecan produce higher levels of detail as compared to the 32 ohms variant and the250 ohm variance uses the highest possible driver quality and it produces a lotmore details as compared to even the 80 Ohms period. But the trade-off is thatthe 80 ohms needs a lot more power and therefore needs a headphoneamplifier to drive it and the 250 ohms needs an even higher amount of powerand needs the best possible headphone amplifiers to drive it. When you aretypically thinking about which headphone to go for you'll find that audiophileheadphones will almost always use high quality drivers and magnets andtherefore should always be paired with a headphone amplifier.

 Choosing the right amplifier

 The right one really depends on the budget that you have in mind and thepower output that the headphone needs for it to sound really really nice. Nowthere are some of us which may think of a headphone as sounding loud enougheven without using a very powerful amplifier and this sometimes happens.When you take some of the highest end headphones that we have, headphoneswhich are really top grade headphones and you're plugging them into relativelycheap or relatively low power output amplifiers this is a little bit of a mismatch.The headphones can sound loud but they will often sound very very thin, veryvery tinny, not very very natural and full body and this is a symptom of yousimply plugging your headphones into a amplifier that isn't loud enough, thatisn't powerful enough. Here's how you should think about it - a Maruti 800reaches 100 kilometres an hour so does a Range Rover. You'll find that bothcars reach 100 kilometres an hour but the Range Rover just gets thereeffortlessly. You'll find that just a touch on the accelerator and you're at ahundred. Powerful amplifier does that. Headphones can sound loud but onlyone sounds effortless it's the one which has a proper amplifier paired alongwith it so if your headphones are sounding too thin or sounding like the bass ismissing, one of the reasons is you're probably not giving it enough power, soconsider upgrading your amplifier.