What is a earpiece amp, and does one actually need one? You’d be stunned

From analog turntables to digital streaming, the method we have a tendency to get our music has remodeled mightily over the years. As our music has gone progressively mobile, headphones, too, have evolved into a daily obsession. Today, there’s a glut of cheap, superior choices on the market, promising to complement our lives with sweet, superb music all over we have a tendency to go.

If you’re reading this text, there’s a decent probability you care a good deal concerning those precious cans you born a reasonably penny on, and area unit currently inquisitive if you’ll be able to improve their performance with a shiny new phone amp.

The short answer is: affirmative. affirmative you’ll be able to. reckoning on what reasonably headphones you employ to inject your daily sound recording, there’s a decent probability a top quality phone amp — or a phoneamp/DAC (digital-to-analog converter) — will breathe new life into your music. however what’s a phone amp? however will it work? And additional to the purpose, what quantity does one got to deal out to lift your phonegame? We’re aiming to answer all those queries and plenty of additional.



WHAT IS A earpiece AMP?

A earpiece amp may be a comparatively weak electronic equipment that raises the low-tension audio signal from a supply device (be it a turntable, PC, or smartphone) to a decent level such it is born-again (or transduced) into soundwaves by the speakers within your headphones. A earpiece amp is just like the amps wont to power massive speakers, however operates at a lower scale.


Most modern earpiece amps additionally embrace AN electronic part known as a DAC (digital to analog converter). A DAC’s job is to convert digital audio data into a low-tension signal that AN electronic equipment will use.

Analog elements sort of a turntable or electronic equipment don’t want a DAC – they already place out analog low-tension signals – however any digital audio device sort of a computer, smartphone, iPod, or tablet, want each a DAC and earpiece amp so as for you to listen to sound together with your headphones.

WHY DO i would like A earpiece AMP?

All those digital devices we have a tendency to simply mentioned have already got a DAC and earpiece amp engineered right in – that’s why you’ll be able to simply plug your headphones in and listen to sound. Why, then, would you wish a distinct earpiece amp?

Unfortunately, the standard of these constitutional elements varies greatly from device to device, and, therefore, therefore will the sound quality. A MacBook professional includes a tight DAC and earpiece amp in-built, therefore it sounds … tight, however several laptops, just like the recent hollow Inspiron N5110 for instance, have terribly caliber DACs and earpiece amps in-built, in order that they sound pretty unhealthy. identical goes for phones: Some sound terrible, some ar tight, and a few – just like the LG V30 – sound excellent.

Frankly, if you don’t have a decent quality combine of headphones (read: higher than a combine of $30 earbuds), you won’t take pleasure in a earpiece amp. however because the quality of headphones will increase, therefore will the potential advantage of employing a earpiece amp.

Does anyone want a earpiece amp? That’s questionable. however may you would like one? If you dig nice sound, the solution may be a ringing affirmative.

Impedance (aka, the numbers game)

There ar bound sorts earpieces that basically do want a headphone amp to perform properly: we have a tendency to decision these high-impedance headphones. electrical resistance refers to the resistance of AN electrical signal, and is measured in Ohms – the upper the electrical resistance, the additional resistance a combine of headphones or speakers can provide to AN electrical signal.

For headphones, electrical resistance will vary wide, from around sixteen Ohms on the low finish to as high as around 600 Ohms. (There ar some headphones, just like the insanely costly Sennheiser HE1 mythical being, with electrical resistance way higher than that range however they sometimes associate with AN amp.) the upper the electrical resistance, the additional amplification power is required to drive the headphones, and also the additional doubtless a earpiece amp would be helpful. If you’re interested by the electrical resistance on a combine of headphones, you’ll notice it within the manual or specs section on-line.

Classic headphones just like the Sennheiser HD800 (300 Ohms) and also the Beyerdynamic DT880 (600 Ohms) were originally designed to be used in listening rooms and recording studios with powerful audio gear. Therefore, a earpiece electronic equipment with additional voltage than what’s accessible within the common smartphone is required to induce these headphones to play loud enough and perform properly. trendy styles like Audeze’s LCD-3 (110 Ohms) and LCD-4 (200 Ohms), that use coplanar magnetic drivers rather than additional ancient dynamic drivers, additionally need the facility of a fervent amp for best performance.

Not all superior headphones ar high-impedance, power-hungry monsters, though. As our audio sources have shriveled, earpiece designers have adjusted. New technology makes superior headphones with low electrical resistance doable, and these work well with low-power devices. Audeze’s EL-8 (30 ohms) and circular function (20 ohms) coplanar magnetic headphones ar nice examples.

Most in-ear headphones — that naturally utilize smaller drivers that need lower voltage — additionally typically work fine with moveable devices.

While there are not any arduous or quick rules, if your headphones have AN electrical resistance of, say, fifty Ohms or higher, a earpiece electronic equipment is maybe a decent plan – we might contemplate you to be within the want camp. If your cans ar below thirty two Ohms, they’ll work fine with nearly any client audio device. therewith aforementioned, you may still be within the wish camp.


Most commonly documented in skilled audio circles, the signal path — or signal chain — refers to any and every one elements that create contact together with your audio signal. In our case, that doubtless includes a digital supply, DAC, amplifier, a combine of headphones, and at last, your ears. the upper quality the signal path is, the upper the sound quality are going to be. And tho’ you can’t replace the last stop on the list (yet), the remainder ar tired play.

You may have landed here to find out regarding earpiece amplification, however we have a tendency to’d be delinquent if we didn’t imply that the DAC is a particularly necessary stop on the great train audiophile. That’s as a result of the DAC is such a crucial portal between you and your sound because it changes from digital data — straightforward code of 0s and 1s — into electrical current. the higher that transference purpose, the higher the sound.

Quality amplification may improve sound quality for nearly any combine of headphones from round the $100 worth purpose up; essentially any model engineered for sound quality over colorways and cute styles. once matched up with a decent combine of headphones (and a decent DAC), quality amplification will do some terribly cool things. It will lend additional or less color to the sound as desired. It will create your sound clearer and additional balanced, or on the opposite finish, warmer, richer, and power tool. a decent electronic equipment may have an effect on the sound in different ways in which, as well as analytic this running within your device to limit XT, or interference between stereo channels, which may grime the tip product.

The best amplifiers and DAC solutions produce a purer, clearer, and fewer distorted signal. and also the higher the signal that reaches your headphones, the higher your sonic expertise are going to be.

WHAT reasonably earpiece AMP/DAC ought to I BUY?

Ok, therefore you’ve set to cough up and get yourself a fervent electronic equipment or amplifier/DAC dance band. which means it’s time to live that Apple stock, right? Not essentially. There ar variety of the way to up your earpiece game, at variety of worth points. We’ll bear a couple of to assist get you started.

Going mobile

There ar a good kind of quality mobile earpiece amp/DACs to settle on from. On the high finish (though {they go|they ar going|they’re going} abundant higher) are product like Shure’s glorious SHA900, which may push nearly any combine of headphones you’ll be able to notice (up to 600 ohms), offers versatile input affiliation and four-band constant quantity exploit, and high-resolution support at up to 24-bit/96kHz. If the $1,000 selling price is just too wealthy for your blood, there also are way more reasonable choices just like the $60 FiiO A3, that gets high marks from reviewers and may push headphones from 16-150 ohms.

DAC attack

A relative newcomer to the earpiece amp game, the USB DAC/headphone amp or DAC stick is one amongst the best ways in which to induce higher quality sound directly from your computer’s USB output. whereas they need a laptop computer to require them on the road, they represent a supremely straightforward and reasonable thanks to raise your signal chain game. our favourite at this time is that the snake feeder Red, that prices $200 and is claimed to be ready to drive nearly any combine of headphones you’ll be able to throw at it, even the “lowest efficiency” models like those we have a tendency to documented higher than. There’s additionally the snake feeder Black ($100) for your medium- to low-impedance cans. an alternative choice we have a tendency to like is that the Cambridge Audio DACMagic XS, which is able to additionally run you around $100 or less.

Desktop call

The desktop earpiece amp may be a staple within the trade that ought to not be unnoticed. whereas typically expensive and ponderous, these devices ar something however out of date or vogue for true audio fans, and lots of represent absolutely the best thanks to take your daily audio to consequent level. There ar way too many varieties to stipulate here, however we’ll re-examine some of terribly completely different solutions that stand among our favourite.

The first and additional trendy of the 2 is that the Oppo HA-1, a stunning category A amplifier/DAC that matches a healthy mix of digital and analog options for improbably clear and swish sound. Loaded with options, as well as everything from digital VU meters and analog volume management to Bluetooth affiliation and high-resolution audio support at up to 32-bit/384kHz, the HA-1 brings each feature you may wish to nearly any combine of headphones you’ll be able to render one beautiful, hi-res package.





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