Headphone Impedance And Sensitivity Explained

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Headphones have gradually become a vital part of human existence. They’re with you when you want to escape a situation and help you pretend that you’re listening to your friend’s usual practice song when you’re actually listening to other songs. It even assists you when you’re sitting alone, and most importantly, it helps you escape when your mum is scolding you.

Plugging in the headphones and playing the right track to lift your mood is all we know about headphones but has it ever happened that you plug in your headphones and the sound output is relatively lower than expected?

Ever wondered why this happens? There could be several reasons, but today we’ll be discussing Impedance.

Yes, Impedance is something that we tend to miss out on most often.

What is Impedance?

What is Impedance?

Impedance quantifies how much an electronic device impedes the flow of an alternating current, basically a measure of how well something resists electricity. And it is measured in Ohm’s (Ω).

An Ohm is derived from Ohm’s law which states that the current through a conductor between two points is directly proportional to the voltage across the two points—introducing the constant of proportionality, the resistance.

For a simpler understanding, Ohm’s are units of resistance; the more Ohm’s you have, the more resistance there is. Higher impedance or higher Ohms headphones need more power or voltage to generate a better sound.

FYI, your regular wired earphones usually come in 16-32 ohms. Oh, did I say regular? Sorry, your regular is your over-ear headphones because who wears wired earphones these days, except me?

So, getting back to where we were, these basic 1- 32 ohms will give you more than enough of and good-to-go music experience when plugged into a smartphone, but when you plug a headphone with 33 ohms or more, the sound generated is quite low.


High-impedance headphones require more power or voltage to produce the same sound quality that a low-impedance headphone can produce without requiring those extra powers.

It’s just a game of “Ohms and impedance.”

So, when using a headphone with 1-32 ohms headphone, you can use a low impedance amp or normal mobile devices or laptops, WHEREAS, when you’re using headphones with 33 ohms or more, try not to use the low impedance amp because, as I’ve mentioned earlier, it requires more power and voltage and might as well lead to overheating of the amp.

Connecting high-impedance headphones to your mobile will give you very low sound output and drain the device’s power, which isn’t very attractive, at least not to me.

Therefore, it’s better to connect high-impedance headphones with high impedance headphone amp and low-impedance headphones with low impedance amp as these serve as the best ways for a smooth listening experience.

How Does Impedance Affect The Sound Quality of Headphones?

How Does Impedance Affect The Sound Quality of Headphones

Impedance highly affects the sound quality of the headphones, and one should always consider this before going for a pair of fresh headphones.

So, impedance affects the sound quality of headphones in 3 different ways:

1. Volume

Since high-impedance headphones require more power to play at higher volumes, they are usually quieter than low-impedance headphones.

Low-impedance headphones can easily achieve high volumes even with low-power output devices.

2. Frequency Response

High-impedance headphones come with flat frequency responses since they are not affected by the audio source’s impedance and hence can produce more precise and detailed sound across different frequency ranges.

Talking about low-impedance headphones, they can generate bass-heavy or brighter sound as their frequency is easily affected by the output impedance of the audio source.

3. Distortion

Distortion is quite common and might even happen when your headphones are not correctly plugged in, but since we are discussing impedance, remember that if the power delivered by an audio source does not match the power a pair of headphones can handle, the generated sound is distorted.

Since high-impedance headphones require more power than lower-impedance headphones to produce the same volume, there might be little to no distortion.

In contrast, low-impedance headphones require less energy to be driven to their full potential, therefore, if they receive more power from the audio than needed, they can produce sound distortion.

What is Sensitivity?

What is Sensitivity?

In general, headphone sensitivity is how loud or how efficient a headphone can sound with the given audio signals.

It is measured in ‘Decibels.’ The higher the sensitivity of the headphone, the lesser power it requires to reach a certain level of sound. Headphones with higher sensitivity readings tend to produce higher volumes of sound even at low power inputs.

However, the sensitivity rate is usually rated by the manufacturer itself.

For a rough idea, a sensitivity rating of 75dB is considered relatively low. In contrast, a sensitivity rating of 110 dB or anything above is considered hazardous for ears (if you keep listening to it for more than 10 minutes). Nope, I’m not joking. Look it up for yourself here.

Nevertheless, higher-sensitivity headphones will give you just the right amount of sound even at lower inputs.

How Does Sensitivity Affect The Sound Quality of Your Headphones?

How Does Sensitivity Affect The Sound Quality of Your Headphones

Unlike Impedance, sensitivity is unlikely to have a noticeable impact on sound quality by itself. Still, it does have an effect on the volume of your headphones which in turn hampers the overall sound quality.

1. Accuracy

Headphones with high sensitivity are known to produce more accurate sounds as compared to those with low sensitivity.

2. Compatibility

High-sensitivity headphones are compatible with a wide range of devices, making them easy to use.

3. Ease of Use

As mentioned earlier, headphones with higher sensitivity are easy to use since they are compatible with a wide range of devices. Additionally, they even use less power or voltage to produce the desired sound output without a headphone amp, making them even better.


Is higher sensitivity better for headphones?

Yes, higher-sensitivity headphones are more efficient than lower-sensitivity headphones.

Yes, they are better at listening but are harmful to your ears, so it’s recommended to use low-impedance headphones.

A sensitivity range of 75dB to 110dB is considered a safe range.

Yes, it does mean better and more accurate sound.


Impedance and sensitivity go hand in hand and should definitely be taken into consideration while you’re out to buy a new pair of headphones.

And now that we’re well aware of how these two affect the sound quality of your headphones, it should be a must to scroll the page until you find them in the specifications.

To conclude, you should go for headphones with high impedance and low sensitivity for a seamless music experience. Only if you’re a person who enjoys extremely loud music, you should go for high impedance and high sensitivity headphones, which again, are harmful to your ears.