Do Headphone Amps Improve Sound Quality? 7 Ways

Anyone who’s got even an ounce of interest in improving the persona audio that they experience has gone out to buy themselves some amazing headphones. However, most premium headphones simply cannot attain their full potential without an amplifier.

So we’ll answer the question you’ve asked several times online and to yourself, do headphone amps really improve sound quality?

The answer is a resounding yes. Headphone Amps tremendously improve the sound quality of most headphones, but especially that of premium headphones. And we’ve listed seven unique ways in which they can achieve this.

If you have wireless headphones, then an amplifier might not be as essential for someone like you. But in the case of most headphones or even premium setups, an Amp can be incredibly effective in improving sound quality and sound volume. So let us explore all how they add to your experience.

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Do Headphone Amps Improve Sound Quality?

Before we discuss how a headphone amp improves sound quality, we first have to understand what it is that a headphone amp does in the first place. You see, a headphone amp is essentially a relatively low-powered amplifier that is attached to your headphones.

The headphone amp’s primary function is to increase the low-voltage auditory signals that are being sent from your device, i.e., computer and laptop, and boost it to a sufficient level.

You might have noticed that certain headphones will feel like they have drastically lower sound or volume, even though they are especially expensive or high quality. Then that means those headphones require an amp to allow them to access sound signals properly.

Often the discrepancy of output strength can cause relatively good headphones to perform poorly compared to cheaper headphones. Thus the headphone amps are utilized in order to increase the output strength of your everyday computer, laptop, and smartphone in this fashion.

The conversion of digital information into sound waves requires a sufficient amount of power, and headphone amps ensure that you are listening to the highest quality sound that your premium or expensive headphones can produce.

This functionality is very similar for headphone amps as it is for amps for full-sized speakers. This is why they can be especially necessary if you’re trying to raise your audio output to the next level.

Ways In Which Headphone Amps Improve Sound Quality

Multiple factors directly affect the sound quality of your headphones. A headphone amp can affect almost all of these factors. Let’s discuss the seven ways in which your headphone amps will improve your overall experience.

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1. They Match Your Device’s Impedance With Your Headphone’s Impedance

If you’re confused after reading the first title and don’t know what impedance is, then don’t worry we’ve got you covered. The precise definition of impedance often confuses people, but we shall aim to break it down to be as simple as possible.

Essentially Impedance can be understood as two separate things. The first is the output impedance that is derived from an audio source, which means your device of origin. The second is the load impedance which may be considered the impedance of the headphones you are using.

With that said, the standard impedance of most headphones is ranged between 8 to 600 ohms. And most accounts like to cite that the most basic level of this is precisely 32 ohms of impedance. Thus it can be especially difficult for smartphones, laptops, and computers to keep up with this high demand for impedance.

This is especially true if you look at the most common levels of output impedance for these devices. An average estimate of their impedance output will net them around less than 4 ohms each. Which is lower than the standard impedance we’re aiming for to get the best sound quality.

You might ask why is the impedance on these devices so low. Well, the simple answer to that question is that these devices are often limited in how they can distribute their power. And it is because of that that they usually have very little power left over to give to the audio output and their respective impedance levels.

So with headphone amps, you can increase your device’s output impedance and can essentially allow it to reach the values that are required to get better quality, performance, and volume. Because when there is a complimentary amount of impedance, it naturally boosts the sound quality of the audio that is being produced.

2. Improves Audio Performance Of Your Headphones

It’s pretty straightforward how headphone amps improve the performance of the audio within your headphones. However, there is certain terminology that can be confusing. The main terminology that you need to understand is Signal Path or Signal Chain.

Signal Path or Signal Chain refers to any components that make contact with the audio signal as it is being transferred. In this particular instance, this means that the signal chain goes from the source to the DAC, to the Amp, to the headphone pair, and then finally to your ears.

What’s brilliant about this process is that the higher the signal path quality is, the higher the overall quality of the sound will be.

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3. Sound Quality Amplification Through Current Isolation

By manipulating Signal Path or Signal chain, you can virtually improve the audio output for practically any pair of headphones. However, amplification plays a key role in how headphone amps can specifically improve the quality of sound to headphones that they are attached to.

Although the exception of wireless headphones is omnipresent, if a headphone amp can operate properly, then there is a variety of other effects that it can have on the production and experience of the audio.

What happens is that a good headphone amplifier has the particular ability to isolate currents within the device that it is attached to and can manipulate it effectively. This often limits or removes crosstalk altogether from the audio that you are listening to at the moment.

Moreover, what would once have been a muddied final product, now turns into clear, pristine audio output that will be a pleasure for you to listen to. And it is often in these ways that a headphone amp can drastically increase audio and sound clarity, balance, warmth, and richness.

4. Headphone Amps Increase The Sensitivity Of Headphones

Two aspects that severely impact the level of volume of the audio on your headphones are going to be; your impedance and the sensitivity of your headphones. In general terms, sensitivity, or some might even call it efficiency, is the measure of a specific headphones volume at a particular power rating.

Sensitivity is usually measured at a specific frequency, that being 1 mW of power. These ratings usually range between 90 to 105 dB. However, some outliers might exist based on whether they are extremely sensitive or insensitive.

For highly dynamic classical music, often the recommended dynamic range can drastically vary. This often means that less sensitive headphones will require a lot more energy to deliver the same quality and efficiency of audio quality.

To combat this issue, we may use Amplifiers. Amps will generally produce more distortion as the power requirement increases; however, even so, they would be able to increase the sensitivity of the headphones and thus be able to make an overall crisper audio quality available to you.

It’s easy to understand then that if all other factors remain constant, the more sensitive the headphones are, the louder their audio output will be. This means using Amps directly improves the quality of the audio output.

Related: 7 Reasons Why Wireless Headphones Are So Expensive

5. Headphone Amps Can Boost The Bass Of Your Audio Output

For many musicians and even casual music enjoyers, the bass of a song is extremely important to them. This is because certain pieces of music are accentuated in their audio fidelity if experienced with headphones able to demonstrate significant bass output.

You will need to read the specs of your specific amp to ensure that it raises the bass of your headphones to your requirements. And ensuring that the systems are compatible is also necessary.

Nonetheless, it goes without saying that if you truly want to improve the quality of your audio or the music you listen to, then getting yourself an amp that boosts the bass in your headphones is vital. And a headphone amp can precisely do that for you if your current setup does not allow for this to happen.

Bass Boosting is a feature that you will find in many external amplifiers, but nowadays can also be found within some of the top-tier headphone amps on the market. Their entire premise is to boost the bass performance of the sound signal, and this greatly improves the overall listening experience.

6. Reduces Audio Distortion In Some Instances

Let’s first understand what distortion is in the first place. Essentially, distortion is caused due to powerful signals that your device can’t cope with because they are too strong. If the audio signal passes a threshold level, then it is found to be too high.

In these situations, you will hear very hoarse or distorted sounds in your headphones. However, we did say in a previous section that distortion is often increased with an increase in headphone amp power. However, several caveats exist within that earlier statement that will be explored in this section.

First of all, when you connect a dedicated headphone amp, you will obtain better results than using just any other regular amplifier for this situation. The amp will provide you with more volume by virtue of the fact that it has increased the amount of power that your device is able to output to your headphones.

There is more to this, however, as the main thing we need to realize is that depending on how good the amp itself is in that particular situation. It might be able to stabilize the higher amount of power with the amount it is specifically outputting to your headphones.

And if the headphones do not require a massive power gap, then it often can clear up the distortion that might have otherwise been caused by an arbitrary increase in power of the audio signal.

Which is absolutely the only thing that we need in this situation to ensure that there exists a negative effect of the headphone amp against the distortion within the audio signal. Thus the distortion oftentimes is mitigated with the use of a good headphone amp with the right equipment.

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7. You Can Now Travel With Better Overall Quality

One of the major issues that a lot of audiophiles will report is whenever they travel somewhere else, they can’t obtain the audio output that they are used to within the comforts of their own homes. This has a lot to do with being away from your power computer, your entire audio setup, and many other devices and gadgets that improve the quality of your audio.

However, despite this, we believe that you should be able to experience good quality audio wherever you go, and it should not be something that you can only experience if you have the perfect setup constructed within your home.

With how rapidly the world is changing and evolving, it has become necessary to have more portable, on-the-go systems that can shift gears and travel with us but retain a lot of their power and efficiency when doing so. This is probably why we suggest using headphone amps when you’re on the move.

This is because headphone amps can work with a relatively small amount of power and can give a sizeable benefit to anyone that is going to be wearing them and using them for their audio experiences. Whether you’re traveling between cities or between countries, headphone amps directly improve your overall audio experience by a tremendous amount.

These were all the ways in which we believe that headphone amps can improve the sound and audio quality of your audio setups. We hope that this information will shine a new light on headphone amps for you and give you the ability to make an informed decision regarding them.

They are an extremely versatile and capable form of amplification and are relatively more cost-effective when compared to some of their external counterparts. Nonetheless, the decision is up to you regarding what you think about them specifically.

Let us know what else you’d like answers on. Till next time! Ciao.

Audiophile Haven

AudiophileHaven is a site dedicated to Hi-Fi audio, and helping others learn more about premium quality sound equipment.

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