What’s the point of a headphone amp?
If you’ve been following the world of headphones you may have noticed that headphone amplifiers seem to be cropping up more often than ever, but what’s the point? Do they just increase volume, or is there more to it?
Below are a few good reasons to upgrade your audio setup with a headphone amp.
Ability To Power ‘hard to drive’ Headphones
Some headphones are notoriously hard to power. A headphone amplifier gives your audio source a boost in output power, which gives the headphones a more full sound, improves bass kick and often makes trebles more defined.
Interestingly, many lower impedance headphones and earphones (normally the high end models) also appear to benefit from the use of a headphone amplifier. For example the low impedance Grado GS1000 or Grado RS1 can be easily be driven by a humble iPod, but add a headphone amplifier such as the Grado Slee Solo to the equation and the improvement in sound can be very satisfying.
Avoiding Cheap Headphone Outputs
The headphone output on many portable audio sources, such as iPods, iPhones and laptops, can be very poor indeed. The electronics used often leave much to be desired and are obviously designed with budget, rather than sound quality, as the major design factor. A headphone amplifier offers ways to avoid the noisy headphone output completely.
The iPod and iPhone headphone socket can be avoided completely by using a Line Out Dock (LOD) cable. These cables take the un-amplified line out signal from the 30 pin dock connector provide a way to drive a headphone amplifier with this better quality signal.
Laptop and computer owners can avoid the often breathtakingly bad headphone output with the addition of a Digital to Analogue Converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier. The DAC is connected to the computer’s USB port and the conversion to analogue audio signal is done well away from the noisy electronics inside the computer. Some products, such as the iBasso D2, combine a DAC and headphone amp into a single unit.