Do High Impedance Headphones Sound Better?

When searching for good-quality headphones, you’ll most certainly come across the word “high impedance” in the product’s description. 

Impedance is the term commonly used to measure how well your headphones or speakers can resist an electrical current. 

High impedance headphones deliver superior sound quality and are better suited for professional use, such as audio recording.

On the other hand, low impedance headphones are best for casual listening on laptops or smartphones. 

In this article, you’ll discover everything you should know about impedance and how it affects your listening experience, as well as the differences between low and high impedance. 

What is impedance?

According to Ohm’s Law, impedance is the measurement of resistance to electrical current that produces voltage. 

Impedance measures how much power can be delivered from a source to an output device and how much of it is required to adequately power that device.

Impedance has a direct effect on the sound produced by an output device.

Generally, the impedance of headphones ranges from 8 to 600 ohms, and the standard impedance value for headphones is around 32 ohms, which is a fairly common parameter. 

Do high impedance headphones sound better?

Compared to 32-ohms and some lower models, high impedance headphones produce better sound since their voice coils are lighter and have a lower moving mass. 

The mass of these headphones is the main reason they sound better. More so, because the mass is lower, distortion is minimized, and sound quality is improved.

The terms high and low impedance are generally used to indicate which power sources are compatible with them.

How does impedance affect sound?

Impedance mainly affects sound by determining how much power an audio player or amplifier requires to play sound at a decent volume. 

This means that you won’t have a problem using 25-ohm headphones on your computer or phone.

However, you might not get any sound if you plug in a 600-ohm headphone to your phone jack. 

But, if you use this device on a proper amplifier, the headphone will produce far superior sound than the 25-ohm headphones. So, the quantity of power matters the most.

What are the differences between high and low impedance headphones?

Headphones with impedance between 16 and 32 ohms are low impedance headphones, while headphones over 100 ohms are considered high impedance headphones.

Note that you’ll likely find these terms online in a headphone’s product description. So, to ensure you make the right choice, it’s best to know the difference between these terms. 

Low impedance headphones

Low impedance headphones are better suited to devices that come with a not-too powerful amplification, such as PCs, smartphones, and portable music players. 

However, note that low impedance headphones are easily affected by blowouts, and this is particularly true when they are connected to heavy amplifiers.

High impedance headphones

High impedance headphones demand more power and are better suited to powerful amplifiers. 

These headphones provide far better sound quality than low-impedance headphones and are not susceptible to blowouts. 

Also, high impedance headphones are compatible with a broader range of audio equipment.

High/low Impedance – What headphones should you buy?

Choosing between a high or low impedance headphone largely depends on your need – whether it’s for personal listening or professional use; it also depends on your video source. 

If you plan to use your headphone on your smartphone or other portable music players, you can go for a 20-40 ohms headphone. 

On the other hand, high impedance headphones are more suitable for professional settings such as music production.

High-impedance headphones also deliver louder, crisper, and more polished sound than low-impedance headphones. 

Mobility is another crucial factor to consider when choosing a headphone. 

Low impedance headphones are popular among mobile listeners because they are light, comfortable, and portable, making them ideal for listening on the go.

Best high-impedance headphones to buy 

If you’re unsure what high-impedance headphones to purchase, the following are our top recommendations. 

Best low-impedance headphones to buy

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

How do you choose headphone impedance?

As a rule of thumb, the headphone impedance should be at least eight times the amplifier’s output impedance. 

For instance, if a headphone has an impedance value of 24 ohms, a 3-ohm amp will be more suitable. This ratio is also known as the damping factor.

Can your phone drive 80 ohms headphones?

Smartphones are not powerful enough to handle headphones with such high impedance. There’s a chance you won’t hear anything, and if you do, it’ll be barely audible. 

You can, however, get a headphone (Amp/DAC), which are purpose-built and will provide far superior sound.

What is the best impedance for headphones?

An impedance of 20-40 ohms is suitable for casual music listeners, while 64 ohms or above is best for audiophiles.

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Conclusion

High impedance headphones deliver better sound than low impedance headphones, and we recommend you always consider the type of device you’ll be connecting with the headphone. 

While headphones with an impedance of 20-40 ohms are great as smartphone listening devices, aim for headphones with an impedance above 64 ohms if you plan to use them on powerful amplifiers or systems.

Note that impedance is only one of the many important factors to consider when choosing headphones. The impedance of a listening device should not discourage you from purchasing durable headphones. 

Jude is a music and headphone lover. He has tested and reviewed several audio listening devices and enjoys writing helpful tips and information for readers like you.