High Impedance Headphones vs Low Impedance: Must-Know Features Before Buying

Impedance? Most of us have only ever glanced at that word in our headphone specs sheet. Like every other specification, we assume that the higher it is, the better. 

But this is not necessarily true.

That’s why we need to take a look at the experience of using high impedance headphones vs low impedance. 

It is somewhat complicated to look at, but we simplify it here so you are better equipped to choose the right headphone for your purpose. 

Let’s see what this is all about. 

What Is Headphone Impedance?

Impedance can be understood as the quality that affects the loudness of a headphone. In technical terms, it is the headphone’s resistance to the electrical current that passes through it. 

Let’s look at it another way. 

Most headphones use dynamic drivers in their speaker system. These types of drivers have three parts: a permanent magnet, the voice coil, and the diaphragm. 

You know that audio is transferred through the headset in the form of an electrical signal or electric current. When this current passes through the voice coil, it creates a magnetic field. 

The permanent magnet interacts with this magnetic field, causing the voice coil to move or vibrate. This vibration is what causes the diaphragm to produce sound. 

Clear so far? Good. 

We see that the voice coil is the part that moves. Every headphone has this voice coil, but different companies make it with different thicknesses. 

Suppose the coil is thinner. This means more of its length can be used inside. Thus, with increased length, the electrical current has to travel more, which builds up the resistance. 

This resistance is called the impedance of that headphone. It is measured in the unit “ohms”.

Why is Headphone Impedance Important?

The higher the headphone impedance, the more powerful the electric current needs to be to produce better vibration in the voice coil and the diaphragm. 

That is, as impedance increases, more power is needed to produce better sound.

But battery-operated devices like smartphones or tablets are comparatively smaller in power than an amplifier, which is directly connected to an AC source. 

Thus, high impedance headphones seem too quiet when paired with battery-operated devices. 

And that is why it is important to know how high impedance headphones work when compared to low impedance headphones. 

Where are High Impedance Headphones Used?

High impedance headphones are studio-quality devices. Headphones with an impedance higher than 100 ohms are generally considered high impedance. The upper limit is 600 ohms. 

They require an amplifier to boost the audio signal. So, if you connect them directly to your smartphone or tablet, the audio will be too low to hear. 

It might even look as if the headphone is not working at all. 

But it can connect to a laptop if you use a DAC (Digital to Analog Converter) with it. 

Where are Low Impedance Headphones Used?

Low impedance measure anywhere between 8 to 32 ohms. 

These are the headphones you can use with your battery-operated devices like smartphones, tablets, or laptops in general. 

High Impedance vs Low Impedance Headphones: A Quick Comparison

  • High impedance is between 100 ohms and 600 ohms, while low impedance is between 8 and 32 ohms. 
  • High impedance headphones are used in studios, as they require an amplifier for effective use. Low impedance headphones are good for your every day smart devices. 
  • High impedance headphones give better soundstage, loudness, and bass response, but low impedance headphones are not very far behind. 

Final Verdict

Buying a headphone is a lot more complicated than looking at the ear cup and driver size, isn’t it?

If you neglect the documented high impedance of your headphone, you could connect it to your smartphone to realize that it doesn’t work at all! 

On the other hand, the manufacturer would make the case that its impedance was clearly marked, which means they have no liability if it does not work with your audio device. 

Do you see the issues arising from such a situation? That is why you need to look at this specification and determine whether your intended device is compatible with it!

Hopefully, our high impedance headphones vs low impedance comparison helped you make the perfect headphone choice!

Vitaly Fedorov

Vitaly Fedorov is a seasoned audio technician and writer. After spending ten years in a studio team, I have decided to spread my knowledge to people in this domain. On this site, I work for headphone fixing or repair issues, that you’re thinking about fixing. Click on any article on my site and read the complete answer about that issue. I am excited to read your feedback.

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