Are Headphone Amps Worth It? – Switch and Click

If you’ve been investing more in audio and trying to improve your audio setup, you may have been looking at amplifiers.

Headphone amps can be a great way to improve sound quality. for high-fidelity audio setups, amplifiers are often required.

Reading: Do headphone amps work

Amplifiers generally won’t change the sound signature of your device, but the extra power will bring out sounds that were previously missing. although in certain situations, amplifiers may not provide an improvement in quality depending on the rest of your setup.

Let’s see if an amplifier could improve your audio setup and if it’s a good investment for you.

Do amplifiers improve sound quality?

Headphone amps are a device that amplifies the sound from a DAC, either external or integrated into your system. An amp can improve the sound of your headphones.

amplifiers will deliver more power to make your audio device sound louder. if you find that you are using most of the sound volume scaling on your device, an amplifier will solve this problem.

Headphone amps won’t improve the clarity or accuracy of your headphones, but they will give them the power needed to make your headphones sound closer to the experience they were designed for.

power could allow sounds that were more muffled or recessed in the headphones to be more present so you can help your headphones reach their full potential.

Another way amplifiers will improve sound is that at higher volumes, the amplifiers found in a tablet, phone, computer, and other devices will distort the audio.

most likely an external headphone amp won’t have this problem and will provide you with enough power.

amps won’t improve the sound of a cheap pair of headphones and won’t have much of an impact on headphones that need more power.

Some headphones need this extra power, and without an amplifier, the sound quality won’t be great. with an amp, they’ll sound much better than without, so you’ll be able to hear all aspects of the sound at a good volume.

Different amplifiers provide more or less power to your headphones depending on how good they are.

The amps themselves shouldn’t change the sound signature of your headphones but they give them the power to have the correct sound signature.

bass or treble that may not have been present will not be heard to the extent that it was designed to be heard.

In general, a headphone amplifier will improve the quality of your audio device.

do you need a headphone amp?

A headphone amp is a great way to improve a setup but in some situations, amps are not needed.

There are a few things you need to know and understand so you can make a more informed decision based on your situation.

Two things you need to know to know if you’ll need an amplifier are impedance and sensitivity.

impedance tells us how much power your headphones or iems need. sensitivity is related and tells us how loud the headphones can get in decibels per millivolt of power.

Headphones with low impedance and high sensitivity are efficient and may not be very powerful. this means they don’t need an amplifier, but could potentially benefit from the extra power.

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Typically, headphones with an impedance greater than 32 ohms could have improved the audio from an amp, but you won’t need one until you start using 60-80 ohm headphones, but that’s not always the case.

If you find that you don’t need to turn the volume up to 70-100%, then you don’t need an amp, as the main purpose of amps is to give you more power or volume. at higher volumes, an amplifier built into a phone or computer will start to distort the audio.

If you have a cheap pair of earbuds or headphones like the pair of earbuds that came with your phone, then an amp won’t help you see any improvement.

Audiophile hi-fi headphones in higher price ranges above $200 to $300 will generally need an amplifier.

There are lower priced headphones that can be greatly improved with an amplifier, but most can work just fine with audio from your computer or even your phone.

Not everyone will need an amp or see any benefit from having an amp, so it’s all based on your situation.

It is recommended that you research the impedance and sensitivity of your headphones, and if you want your headphones to be louder, you need an amplifier.

what does a headphone amp do?

The job of an amp is to take a low power audio signal from a DAC, and ultimately an audio source, and then increase the power of that signal to a level that is strong enough that your headphones can turn that information into sound waves.

after the amplifier increases the volume of that information, the headphones will be connected to it.

A dedicated amplifier will give your headphones more volume and more power. Depending on how good an amplifier is, it can give more or less power. also, the worst amplifiers will give a more distorted sound at higher volumes.

amps have three main parts. an input, the amplifier components themselves, and the output. there are two types of amplification using transistors or tubes.

  • solid-state or transistor amplifiers: this style of amplifier, as its name suggests, uses transistors to amplify information. there are multiple negatively and positively charged silicon transistors manipulated to properly boost the sound.
  • tube amps: instead of using transistors, tube amps use vacuum tubes. They work similarly to light bulbs in that these tubes will burn electrons from a filament and these electrons will be used to amplify sound.

general amplifiers increase the volume of the information from your audio source, which can be an external dac or from your pc.

Both amplifier operating methods are different and may provide a slightly different experience.

recommended headphone amps

There are a variety of amps at different price points and for different situations. Headphone amplifiers can cost upwards of $500 and less than $100. There are also amps for portable solutions.

best portable amplifier: fiio q5s

If you are looking for the best sound experience in a portable situation to upgrade your phone or laptop audio, fiio q5s is the best option for $250 to $350.

This portable headphone amp delivers excellent audio that is much better compared to audio from a laptop and especially a phone. Not only is the audio much better, but this amp is also bluetooth compatible which means you don’t need to connect a cable from your device to this amp.

There are a variety of inputs and outputs that allow you to use this as a desktop amp if you wish, but for that situation, there are better options.

Included with the amp is also a dac which improves the clarity of the sound but also enhances it.

The device comes with a variety of accessories, has minor RGB accent lights for the gauges, has 9-25 hours of battery life, supports Hi-Res Audio, and is generally a great way to make your phone look cool. sounds amazing.

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the best portable amp on a budget

If you still want to use your premium headphones on the go but are on a budget, the fiio a1 for around $30 is probably one of the best options, if not the best.

unlike the q5s, the a1 is not wireless but only supports one input and one output. this is still enough for most people. Compared to the q5s, the a1 is also about half the height. the audio is a step up compared to the built-in audio on a laptop and especially on a phone.

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The a1 supports different EQ modes, has buttons to change the volume, and has around 9 hours of battery life. There’s also a removable clip on the back of the A1 to further help with portability. this is a great way to upgrade your audio setup on the go, especially if you want to use a premium pair of headphones.

best value

Whether you’re building an audio setup or just trying to use more powerful headphones, the schiit magni 3+ and the schiit magni heresy are some of the amps to get if you want the most for your money.

The two sound slightly different with the magni 3+ having slightly more punchy bass. they process the sound a bit differently but deliver the same amount of power, have the same inputs, outputs and overall shape.

the main difference you will notice between the two is that the magni 3+ has a silver casing and the heresy has a black casing with small red accents.

for around $100 to $120 they offer great performance. you won’t find anything that significantly exceeds these returns until you start spending twice as much.

best amp under $200

at a higher price point, schiit still has the best amp for the price with the magnius for just under $200.

The Magnius provides plenty of power for most headphones and delivers performance that outperforms most of the competition for the price and even rivals higher priced amplifiers.

The sound stage it offers is perfect, without distortion and with great precision. allows a lot of separation and provides a balanced and clean sound.

best amp under $500

the monoprice monolith thx aaa amp and dac combo offers the best performance of any amp under $500.

offers a lot of power that is also very clean. for the vast majority of headphones, this amp delivers phenomenal performance. It has a lot of results and, in addition to great performance, it has a number of features.

the thx aaa has a small screen on the front and on this screen, you can change the equalizers and edit the dynamic range.

Changing the equalizer isn’t as deep as something like peace software, but it’s nice that you can do it on the device itself. editing the dynamic range allows you to compress the highest and lowest part of the range.

Another thing you can do is enable a dirac setting to feel more immersed in the music you’re listening to as if you were in the middle of the music instead of watching people play it. the soundstage will be wider, but on the downside, you’ll probably hear less bass and there will be a slight boost in treble.

Overall this is a great amp with a number of features you may or may not use. Regardless of whether the amp had these features or not, the performance is one of the best in the price range.

conclusion

Headphone amplifiers can improve the performance of your headphones so you can get the most out of them. they take a low power input from your audio source and then boost the power of that for your headphones.

Amplifiers can improve the sound quality of your headphones or items and are even necessary for them to function properly. an amplifier will allow you to hear parts of the music more clearly because they may have been recessed before.

Depending on your situation, an amp is worth it unless you’re using a cheaper pair of headphones or earphones. they are especially worthwhile and a great investment if you have hi-fi headphones.

Most people won’t notice a substantial difference and an amp won’t be worth it to them unless their headphones need extra power.

If you’re building a high-quality headphone setup and shopping for a headphone amp, you should also consider a dac to further enhance your sound.

There is a wide range of options for different price points and situations. on the one hand there are large and expensive amplifiers that support power-hungry headphones and on the other hand there are compact amplifiers

towards a future of better audio.

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