Do Higher Impedance Headphones Sound Better?

Find out if there’s anything special about high-impedance headphones. What makes them different from other types of headphones? They may be worth checking out!

Dog wearing headphones

In the past, when shopping for headphones, I would test them out, and if the music sounded great, I was good to go. That was until an audiophile friend of mine talked to me about higher-impedance headphones. Since then, my headphone shopping experience has taken a bit of a turn. So, do higher-impedance headphones sound better?

Higher-impedance headphones generally sound better. They produce higher quality sounds due to the way they’re constructed. Especially when used with devices of the same impedance level.

What Is The Impedance On Headphones?

When shopping for headphones, it’s important to understand how certain specifications affect your listening experience. And in the case of impedance, your listening experience is connected to how the headphones fit with your device.

Headphone impedance is the measurement or degree of resistance to an electric signal. It’s often expressed in ohms. A higher impedance rating means the headphones need more voltage to provide audible sound levels.

Man wearing headphones on yellow background

How Does Impedance Affect Sound Quality?

Impedance by itself won’t directly affect sound quality. But also, headphones will sound different based on their impedance. What does this mean?

Headphones with varying impedances need different amounts of power. And for them to produce a quality sound, they require a power level that matches them.  

Consider the relationship between a vehicle, its acceleration, and combustion. Cars designed to go faster have powerful engines. A car can have a V6, V8, or V12 engine. While regular cars will do well on the road with a V6 or V8 engine, high-performance cars require a V12 engine.

That same principle applies to headphone impedance. High-impedance headphones need a powerful signal from the amplifier. This helps to produce better sound quality.

But that’s not the only way impedance affects sound quality in headphones. How these devices are constructed contributes as well. That is their dimension, weight, and materials. All these things contribute to different impedance characteristics.

How Headphone Construction Affects Their Impedance

Every material, including headphones, has impedance properties. These devices are made using different materials like plastic, PVC, memory foam, synthetic leather, rubber, copper, and ceramics. How these materials are placed will affect the impedance of the headphones.

The basic build of headphones includes a voice coil connected to a membrane. That voice coil causes the membrane to vibrate when responding to audio signals. The vibrations create sound waves in the air, which carry sounds to our ears.

These voice coils are made of tiny strands of copper wire wound thousands of times. The number of coils, how thick these wires are, and how tightly they’ve been wound will affect the headphones’ impedance.

Thicker wires have less impedance and can only allow fewer windings in voice coils. In addition, they are heavier, which increases the total weight of voice coils. Ultimately, this makes them less responsive to audio signals. This means that:

  • Headphones whose voice coils have thicker wires have fewer windings, lower sensitivities, and lower impedance.
  • Headphones whose voice coils use thinner wires have more windings, higher sensitivities, and higher impedance.
Fixing inside headphones

What Are The Differences Between High And Low Impedance Headphones?

Modern headphones are available at both high and low impedance. And as someone who values sound quality, it’s good to know the difference between the two.

High Impedance Headphones

If headphones have an impedance of more than 100 Ohm, they are considered high-impedance headphones. Such headphones demand a lot of power because they produce high audio levels. Also, these headphones have minimal risk of blowouts, and you can use them with a wide range of audio equipment.

Low Impedance Headphones

Low-impedance headphones have an impedance of less than 25 ohms. These headphones work well with phones, portable music players, and other devices that don’t have powerful built-in amplification. Such headphones are at a higher risk of blowouts. This is particularly true when using devices with a powerful amplifier.

Interesting read – Why Does Music Sound Better With Headphones?

Is Higher Impedance Better For Headphones?

Headphones with higher impedance don’t always sound better.

Instead, what matters is whether the impedance suits the source you have connected the headphones to. Also, keep in mind that it isn’t just impedance that matters. The headphones’ construction, that is, the materials used, tuning, and general design, will contribute to the sound quality.

What Are the Benefits of High-Impedance Headphones?

One of the reasons we love high-impedance headphones is that they have better sound quality. The voice coil has more layers combined with a lower moving mass, allowing you to listen to music with impressive sound clarity.

The voice coil wires have a smaller diameter and fit snugly together, leaving very little air between the windings. This design creates a strong electromagnetic field around the voice coil, leading to stronger and clearer audio. Such headphones also have very little distortion than low-impedance headphones.

Headphone amp dac

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Impedance Affect Volume?

Impedance is a significant determinant when it comes to volume. Generally, your headphones have been designed with a particular impedance level so that you can enjoy high-quality audio with little or no distortion. An extremely low or high impedance level can distort that sound.

For a great audio experience, get the right headphones and then adjust the volume accordingly. People using headphones with low sound output or those with low-sensitivity ears might not hear faint sounds. Therefore, they require headphones with higher impedance.

Why Do Headphones Have Different Impedances?

Headphones come with different impedance levels to accommodate different needs. Lower impedance levels are ideal for people who want to watch videos or listen to music on the go. They don’t need an amplifier to enjoy the quality of sound.

On the other hand, headphones with higher impedance are perfect for audio enthusiasts as they provide better sound quality.

Which Impedance Best Suits My Situation?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to impedance.

The perfect impedance level will depend on your preference, the source of the sound, and other factors. But generally, there’s no point in getting higher-impedance headphones if you’re just using them for portable devices. These devices don’t have enough power that high-impedance earphones need.

What Happens When You Don’t Pair Your Headphones Well?

What happens when you use high-impedance headphones on a low-power source? You’re likely not to get as much volume from the headphones, and you may have to turn up the source of the sound to the highest. It also means the headphones won’t sound as good as they should.

On the other hand, if you use low-impedance headphones on a high-power source, be careful not to turn the volume too high. Doing so can distort sound quality or, even worse, damage the headphones.

For a great listening experience, use headphones whose impedance level is close to the source of the music.

What To Consider When Buying High-Impedance Headphones

Generally, most consumers use headphones with lower impedance. These are what we use with tablets, phones, laptops, and computers. But when buying higher impedance headphones, it becomes a different case.

People who purchase high-impedance headphones use them on high-end devices. That’s because these headphones need a dedicated headphone amplifier in order to produce a quality sound output.

If you’re buying headphones for your PC, tablet, or phone, then anything with an impedance of 25 and below will do you good. But if you own a device containing a headphone amplifier, you should buy a high-impedance headphone.

With that said, aside from impedance, here are a few other things to consider when buying higher-impedance headphones.

  • The formation: Buy comfortable headphones, allowing you to wear them for longer without feeling like your head hurts. The earmuffs need to be soft and comfortable and have the ability to retain minimal heat to prevent discomfort.
  • Noise cancellation feature: This is another important feature to consider. High-impedance headphones with noise-cancellation properties will give you seamless and high-quality audio.
  • Tangle-free headphones are great to prevent you from dealing with tangled cables all the time.

You may also be interested in 6 Best Bose Headphones For Bass & Buying Guide.