What Is Headphone Impedance?

Impedance is one of the specifications that are listed on the packaging of every headphone you buy. However, it can be rather technical for the average buyer. If you have ever wondered how it affects your listening experience, read on to find out more about the role impedance plays.

What Exactly Is Impedance?

In the context of headphones and earphones, impedance refers to the resistance of the product to the electric current that is transmitted by the amplifier. This is generally measured in ohms. This combined process of reactivity, resistance, and the transmission from your amplifier to your headphones or earphones is what is referred to as impedance. 

Very simply put, impedance is how much resistance your headphones will put up to the power that comes from your amplifier. The higher the impedance of your headphones or earphones, the more power the amplifier needs to have in order for the headphones to produce audio of decent listening levels.

Headphone impedance can be broken down into three main categories – 32 ohms and under, 32 to 99 ohms, and 100 ohms and over. If your headphones are under 32 ohms, it does not require any amplification. Chances are that if you use an amp, the large amount of power would cause a blowout and resulting damage to your headphones.

For any headphones between 32 to 99 ohms, amplification is generally optional. It may benefit from a carefully adjust amp, but you can also do without. The higher in the range your headphones is in, you  may need more power from your amp or device in order to get decent listening quality. Anything above 100 ohm will require an amp majority of the time. Without an amp, you might have to turn the volume to the maximum just to hear anything at all.

Is Low Or High Impedance Better?

High impedance would generally refer to anything above 100 ohms. These are mostly professional headphones that will require specialized equipment to take advantage of its full potential. However, the average consumer will be using their headphones for commercial mobile devices like laptops, tablets, or mobile phones which will not be able to produce enough transmission.

Headphones with very low impedance are also low quality as they will be susceptible to blowing out or distortion when used with your device. However, headphones of very low impedance are not common as most commercial headphones are commonly around 32 ohms. This is the best balance of impedance for mobile device usage. In essence, the choice between headphones with impedance between 32 ohms to over 100 ohms will depend on the consumer’s preferences and the quality of the materials and technology used.

Distortion and Impedance

Distortion, commonly known as blowing out, is when a user starts hearing a rattling or crackling sound instead of the music chosen. This is caused when your source of music is providing more power than your headphones can reasonably accept. When faced with this issue, it is important to do impedance matching so that your source impedance is lower than the load impedance of your earphones. 

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