Ever since Beyerdynamic launched their DT 770 PRO series, people have been asking questions. Why? it comprises high-end headphones priced slightly differently with all features in common but one—impedance.
It is not that the other headphone manufacturing company does not specify impedance with their products before, but the fact that not even a single one of them has used it as a criterion to differentiate between their products. The difference in prices by Beyerdynamics, though slightly, compels us to think whether high impedance headphones sound better?
There is no simplified, definitive answer for it. Just give this short article a read, I hope you will get the idea of why it is not so simple.
First, we will define the impedance in the most simplified words, and especially in the headphones. Next, we will differentiate the key differences between high impedance and low impedance devices.
Impedance matching will come later, where we will decide which devices are suitable for high impedance headphones. Also, whether they are worth the money or not. We will discuss the benefits of high impedance headphones and will objectively illustrate their drawbacks.
Lastly, we will discuss the top three high impedance headphones with their most suitable purposes.
What Is Impedance In General, Impedance In Headphones?
Impedance, in most simple terms, is the resistance an electric circuit offers to the current.
Jargon, Jargon, and Jargon. We will try not to throw at you more scientific concepts in the upcoming section.
What does impedance in headphones mean? The same it means for the other electric circuit: the resistance offered by headphones for an audio signal. Impedance is measured in ohm. The higher the impedance, the higher the resistance offered by the headphones.
Consider that the headphone circuit is a pipe, and the pressure of water flowing through it is the sound quality. The width of the headphone at a critical point is the impedance. Now, the narrower the width of the pipe (high impedance), the higher the pressure of the water (high sound quality).
In other words, high impedance headphones when connected to a compatible device deliver crystal clear sound and a high definition bass. Keep in mind the phrase “when connected to the compatible device.” we will discuss it in detail in the comparison between high impedance and low impedance headphones.
Headphone impedance varies from 8-600 Ohm. A great majority of headphones in the market has an impedance of 32 ohm which is considered a standard.
How Impedance Is Enhanced In The Headphones?
The critical three components in the headphones are the diaphragm, voice-coil and the magnet ring. The high impedance has much to do with the voice coil of the headphones.
In the voice coil, hair-like wires are wound into several layers. The thinner the wire is the more tight the winding will be and therefore there is less air between the windings. Tight windings, in turn, leads to a strong electromagnetic field of the coil and therefore more resistance to incoming current signals. It helps to significantly reduce distortion in high impedance headphones.
The lightweight nature of the thin wires in the voice-coils also leads to the high impedance of the headphones.
High Impedance Vs Low Impedance Headphones, What Is The Difference?
There is no clear cut distinction between the high impedance headphones and low impedance headphones. As discussed earlier, the impedance varies greatly in the headphones (form 8 ohm to 600 ohm). Many experts have used 32 ohm as the distinctive criteria to differentiate between the two.
Headphones with impedance lower than 32 ohm are low impedance headphones, whereas those with an impedance greater than 32 ohm are high impedance headphones.
But whether low impedance headphones are inferior in quality? Not necessarily. They just have a very different purpose to serve. They are made for low-powered media players and popular consumer electronics including, but not limited to, mp3 players, smartphones, PCs, and laptops.
What Devices Are Suitable For High Impedance Headphones?
Due to the high impedance, a powerful source amplifier is needed to drive the audio signal through the voice coil of the headphone. The source has its own impedance and it usually lies between the 8-14 ohm. Essentially, the source has to overcome its own impedance and that of the headphone.
An impedance mismatch usually occurs, when the source amplifier doesn’t have enough power to drive the audio signal, or where it is so powerful that it blows out the sound.
For high impedance headphones, only those devices are the right fit which have powerful amplification capacity. For others, they are expensive metal junk.
Do High Impedance Headphones Worth The Money?
For on-the-go devices like a smartphone, laptops, or Mp3 players, buying a high impedance headphone will be an absolute waste of money. They will be able to drive the audio signals through the voice coil of the high impedance headphones. Result? They won’t be able to get any sound out of it, even if they turn up the volume to the maximum.
Those interested in powerful sound dynamics and can stretch the pocket, get a high impedance headphone. Even with low-powered devices, like PCs inbuilt amplifiers, you can use an external amplifier to fire up these headphones.
Lastly, DJs and Studio professionals can shell out the most from high impedance headphones. They usually have high-powered amplifiers which, in turn, blow out the sound if connected low impedance headphones.
This article is not our final word on the impedance of the headphones. Rather, consider it as a live document which we will keep on updating as we glean more, and credible information, about the topic.
To sum it up, high impedance headphones sound better but are suitable for only professionals and special equipment.
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Kevin is a Tech journalist for over a decade. He writes on Wearables, Headphones, and Laptops. When he is not glued to his laptop, You will find him working on exciting projects that include Unboxing new Gadgets, comparing them, and tweaking their hardware.