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Do I Need A Headphone Amplifier? - Buying Guide

"One question we get asked a lot is 'do I need a headphone amplifier?' This article will inform you of the benefits of adding an amplifier to your existing setup, or buying an amplifier with your new headphones."

What's the point of a headphone amplifier?

One question we get asked a lot is 'do I need a headphone amplifier?' This article will inform you of the benefits of adding an amplifier to your existing setup, or buying an amplifier with your new headphones.

audeze deckard

When you're buying some new headphones it's always good to think about what your source will be; whether it's an iPhone, Laptop, DAP (Digital Audio Player), your home HiFi or a bit of everything, figure out which has the lowest output and if it can drive your chosen headphone. So if you use a mobile phone as your main source and you've decided on some Shure SE535 earphones which are hard to drive, you will need a headphone amp to add some extra power so you can get the most from your new purchase.

There are plenty of headphones designed to be used with mobile phones and other low powered portable devices; these headphones generally have low impedance (up to 32ohm) and high sensitivity (100db and over) so they are very easy to drive. This doesn't mean that you won't benefit from an amp; not only do amps add extra power but they can also change the sound by improving sound stage, separation and depending on the amp add warmth or brightness.

fiio e12

Another benefit of getting a headphone amp is that some of them have EQ settings on them, so you can adjust the amount of bass you want depending on what you're listening to.

If you have decided to go for a headphone amp you now need to decide which one to go for, there are many to choose from and they go for anything between £20 and £1500. Amps can be split into two main groups, portable and desktop. If you are going for a portable amp then you could go for something like the FiiO E12 which is powerful enough to drive most portable headphones, it is a good size and has a bass boost setting. If you require more power then you could go for the OPPO HA-2 or the Cypher Labs Picollo. Both of these amps can drive most headphones and they will also improve the sound quality, with the HA-2 being slightly warmer than the Picollo. For the harder to drive headphones there is the Cypher Labs Duet. This amp has adjustable gain settings and provides a less distorted, more accurate sound with plenty of power.

cypher labs duet

If you only use your headphones at home then you should go for a desktop amplifier as they are generally more powerful. There is a much larger range of desktop amplifiers and you really should know what headphone you will be using before choosing the amp, for example if your headphones have a warm/bassy sound then it's a good idea to go for a brighter/detailed amplifier. This also works the other way around; a warm sounding amp will compliment bright headphones and balance the sound out.

If you have any questions about choosing the right amplifier then give us a call at Hifi Headphones on 01903 768 910 or you can send an email to support@hifiheadphones.co.uk - we will be more than happy to help.

sennheiser hdva600

About Shaun Gostelow

Shaun is co-founder of hifiheadphones.co.uk and spends most of his time dealing with the business side of running the store, but still loves listening to music with headphones just the same as ever.
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