A headphone amp is an electronic device, for increasing the amplitude of low-voltage electrical signals, from a source device ( Laptop or smartphone) to an adequate level for the best listening experience.
In this article, we answer whether a headphone amp improves sound quality or not.
How Does The Headphone Amp Work?
The work of an amplifier is to increase the volume (amplify the signal). The problem with amplifiers in smaller devices such as the smartphone is that it lacks adequate power to drive high impedance headphones.
Which negatively impacts the amount of loudness and sound quality.
What is Impedance in Audio?
Impedance is the measure of total resistance to the flow of current in a circuit. Impedance can be divided into two; Low and High, and it is measured in ohms.
Low impedance ranges between 4-20 ohms, which means that headphones and speakers within this range have minuscule resistance to an electric signal.
High impedance is usually above 150 ohms, and this means headphones and speakers with such impedance, are very resistant to electric signals which flow through.
Most headsets with high Impedance come equipped with a dedicated amplifier from the factory.
The impedance generated by an audio output has little to no effect on the quality of the sound which is propagated.
What is a DAC? And Why Do You Need it
DAC is an acronym that means digital-to-analogue converter.
A DAC receives a digital signal and converts it to an analogue signal, and sends the information through an amplifier and sound is produced through your headphones and speakers.
Currently, the DAC is used on your average devices, such as laptops or even speakers.
Although some devices DAC are not suitable for high-quality audio, most of the devices in the market can keep up, no problem.
Just like the headphone amp, the DAC was introduced as a result of the poor sound quality, of consumer products.
The early years after the introduction of digital audio had mediocre audio sources, which affected the quality of the rendered output.
A DAC is a device you would need if your current system/setup has the following issues:
- Poor sound filtering and increased audio distortion
- DAC cannot support high bitrates
What is Audio Bitrate?
Bitrate defines audio fidelity. It’s considered as data stored in a digital sound, and every audio has Bitrate in it.
The quality of audio improves with increasing Bitrate, and the format for digital audio is MP3. The following are a classification of bitrate ranges:
- 32kbit/s – only for speech
- 96kbit/s – low-quality streams
- 128/160kbit/s – midrange
- 192kbit/s – medium
- 256kbit/s – high quality
- 320kbit/s – highest level supported by MP3 format
Does A Headphone Amp Improve Sound Quality?
Long story short, headphone amps improve the sound quality of your high impedance headphones a-lot, and getting yourself one is definitely worth it, whether its for professional use or casual day-to-day usage.
You can use high impedance headphones but would experience a terrible audio quality, because most audio sources do not have the power output to drive them.
Headphone amps provide that power output for your headphones to sound great making them a worthwhile equipment.