If you're new to audio but are trying to learn, you've likely run across the terms "high and low impedance."
When it comes to headphones, impedance is one of the most important factors that differentiate high-quality headphones from cheap ones, but its one of the factors that's often ignored by consumers because it sounds too technical.
In this post, we're going to make it easy. We're going to explain exactly what headphone impedance is, and how it should play a role in what headphones you buy.
Let's get started!
What Is Impedance in Reference to Headphones?
Without getting too technical, headphone impedance levels determine the amount of amplification a pair of headphones requires. Low impedance headphones require less amplification to produce sound.
Because of this, low impedance headphones (under 50ohm) generally are easier to blow out. Since they get louder with less amplification, they aren't protected from blowouts.
If you connect a pair of low impedance headphones to a high-output amplifier, the headphones won't be able to handle it.
Generally speaking, lower impedance headphones don't sound quite as good and cost less.
High impedance headphones (50ohm+) require more amplification in order to be louder. These types of headphones are much better suited for use in the studio or at home since you don't want to carry around an amplifier.
While high impedance headphones may seem less convenient, what they lack in convenience, they make up for in sound quality. High impedance headphones almost always sound crisper and more clear than their low impedance counterparts.
The reason for this is that high impedance headphones have thinner wires in the driver's voice coil. Thicker and heavier wires are easier to produce but can sound distorted and unclear, especially at higher volumes.
The low-impedance thin wires can be more tightly packed, allowing less air and distortion in the electromagnetic field of the voice coil.
Put simply, low impedance headphones are built primarily for quality, but because of their design, they lack the ability to output high volume by themselves. That's where an external amplifier comes in.
Should You Buy Low or High Impedance Headphones?
The type of headphones that are best for you is really determined by how much of an audiophile you are, and what you're going to be doing with the headphones.
You can't argue that high impedance headphones are going to sound better, but the question is, rather, will untrained ears notice? And is it worth the higher price tag?
If you're just looking for a pair of headphones to use while commuting or listening to music casually on your phone, low impedance headphones will do just fine.
They can be manufactured cheaply, while still producing decent sound output.
If you're looking for a high-quality pair of headphones for use at home or in your home studio, consider high impedance headphones. You'll notice a difference if you're really analyzing the sound.
It's best to mix on high impedance headphones since everything else will be a dumbed-down version of what you hear.