New and old music lovers alike are rediscovering the joy of listening to music on headphones. The downside? Listening to music through headphones is nowhere near as exciting or immersive as listening to it through speakers, which is why so many music fans also own a pair of high-end headphones. As much as we love our speakers, there are times when wearing them feels like overkill. For example, if we want to listen to music while working at our desk or while traveling on public transport.
A headphone amp is an additional device designed specifically for increasing the volume (and quality) of audio streams coming from a smartphone and other devices with small integrated speakers. Whether you’re looking for an upgrade from your existing headphone amp or you’re buying your first one, this article covers everything you need to know about the different types of headphone amps available, their pros and cons, and what you should keep in mind while shopping for that perfect model.
What’s the difference between a headphone amp and a DAC?
A DAC (Digital-to-Analog Converter) is a device that’s used to convert digital audio signals into analog audio signals. It can be a standalone device, built into your computer, or integrated into your receiver/soundbar. A headphone amp is a device that provides additional volume and sound quality to audio coming from a smartphone, computer, or another digital audio player.
A DAC is used to convert the digital sound of a music file into an analog signal, which is then sent to your headphones or speakers. If you’re not using headphones, you can’t use a DAC to boost the volume of your music. A DAC is designed to be plugged into a computer or receiver, so you can’t plug it into your phone or another digital audio player.
In-Built Headphone Amps vs. Standalone DACs
Headphone amps and DACs are incredibly similar pieces of hardware. Apart from the fact that DACs are compatible with speakers and headphones, they have almost identical functions. Both devices perform the same task (converting an audio signal from digital to analog), and both can also be used to boost volume.
The only difference between headphone amps and DACs is that DACs can be used to connect to speakers, whereas headphone amps cannot. In-built headphone amps are usually found in high-end smartphones, laptops, and computers. If you have a high-end device, you may already have a headphone amp built-in without even knowing it. If you’re not sure whether your device has an in-built headphone amp, you can check your device’s user manual.
The Benefits of Using a Headphone Amp
- Better Fidelity:
The main reason why it’s worth purchasing a headphone amp is that they produce a more natural sound. When you plug your headphones into your smartphone, their internal amplifier isn’t powerful enough to provide a sufficiently rich sound. Using an external headphone amp boosts the volume of your headphones, enhancing the overall sound quality.
- Better Volume:
A headphone amp can increase the volume of your music by 100 decibels (dB), which is four times more than most smartphones can provide. The good news is that you don’t have to crank up the volume to achieve a satisfactory sound. Using a headphone amp at a moderate volume level will give you the same rich sound as if you were listening at a high volume level.
3.- Better Sound Quality:
The difference in sound quality is most noticeable when you’re playing music without any vocals. When you listen to instrumental music, you’ll be able to distinguish different instruments with ease.
How to find the best headphone amp for your needs
- Consider your headphones: Before purchasing a headphone amp, you should make sure to read the product reviews to find out the compatibility of the model. If you have wired headphones, you can use an amplifier with a 3.5 mm jack, whereas if you have wireless headphones, you can use a model with a USB connector.
- Think about your listening habits: If you want to use your headphone amp with a computer or a high-end smartphone, you can choose a model with an in-built DAC and amplifier. If you want to enjoy music with high-end speakers or an old music system, you can get a standalone DAC.
- Keep your budget in mind: You can find headphone amps and DACs for as low as $15 and as high as $1,500.
- Read customer reviews: Look for products with a minimum of 4.5/5 stars, but also consider reading the negative reviews to understand what people don’t like about the product.
How long should you use a headphone amp for?
You can use a headphone amp for as long as you want. Most audiophiles use them all the time, but it’s also worth noting that you don’t need to use an amplifier to enjoy music. You can plug your headphones into your device and leave them there. The only time you need to unplug them is when you want to make a hands-free call on your device.
If you start experiencing audio quality issues when using headphones with your device, you should plug them into an amplifier to see if that solves the problem. Headphone amps aren’t the solution to all sound quality issues, but they can help improve the sound of low-quality headphones.
Speaker AMPS Vs Headphone AMPS: Which one should you buy?
Speaker AMPs are designed to be plugged into a receiver or a soundbar to boost the volume, whereas headphone AMPs are designed for individual headphones. Speaker AMPs are usually larger, and louder and provide higher quality sound (thanks to their DACs), but they’re not portable, so you can’t use them with your headphones when traveling.
If you want a device you can use both at home and when traveling, you should get a headphone amp. It’s important to note that headphone AMPs are usually smaller than speaker AMPs, which means they provide lower-quality sound. The good news is that headphone amplifiers are designed to work with headphones, whereas speaker amplifiers are designed to work with speakers. If you have high-end headphones and you want to boost the volume while traveling, you should get a headphone amplifier.