Do 250 Ohm Headphones Need An Amp? (Answered!)

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Are you considering buying professional-grade headphones? Have you bought 250-ohm or 600-ohm Headphones and realized that you might need an amp?

Well, if you’re trying to figure this out for yourself, the bad news is: it’s complicated.

The good news? This article will simplify everything for you. 

Do 250 Ohm Headphones Need An Amp? 

Most likely, you will need an amp using 250-ohm headphones. If you use 250-ohm Headphones without an amp, then the sound quality will likely suffer from muddiness, distortion in the low frequencies, and a very low output volume.

This is because most computers do not have the power output to support 250-ohm headphones

However, you can use headphones without an amp if your power source (such as your computer) has a high power output.

A good way to tell is to try it without an amp first and see how it sounds.

If it does not sound right, i.e. there is distortion in the low frequencies/increased muddiness, or if it simply does not get loud enough, then you will need an amp.

What Is A Good Amp For 250 Ohm Headphones?

For a 250-ohm pair of headphones, we recommend an amp with an impedance level of about 30-ohms. This will ensure that the frequency response is optimal.

The target is to get a damping factor between 2.5 and 8. An amp with an impedance level of anywhere between 30-100 ohms will suffice for 250-ohm headphones, with 30 being the most optimal.

Do You Need An Amp For DT 990 PRO 250 Ohm? 

Yes, you almost definitely need a headphone amp with the DT 990 PRO 250-ohm headphones. I actually owned a pair of these headphones and I definitely benefited from having one.

However, it was as simple as using my audio interface’s built-in headphone amp and connecting it through there.

Most modern audio interfaces have in-built headphone amps, which will suffice for the DT 990 250 PRO ohm headphones and most other 250-ohm headphones for that matter.

What Is Impedance? 

Impedance is electrical resistance measured in ohms. The headphone’s electrical resistance level determines the output voltage that an amp will require to generate one milliwatt of output power.

So, a higher impedance will require more power from the amp that it’s connected to. In the case of headphones or other sound devices.

The impedance level measured in ohms will need to correspond to the impedance level of the device it is connecting to. 

How Many Ohms Does My Amplifier Need To Be? 

It’s common to have the impedance level of your headphones anywhere between 2.5 to 8 times that of the amplifier or other power source that is connecting it.

Eight times is considered the ideal ratio. So if your headphones have a high impedance of 600 ohms, then it will sound best to have your amp be 75 ohms.

What Is Damping Factor With Speakers? 

Damping factor is your source impedance divided by amplifier output impedance.

If the difference between the two is at least eight, then you likely will not hear too much disruption, but if it is any less than eight, the loudspeaker will not sound as good.

A damping factor above 10 will sound better, though, and a damping factor between 100-200 will sound even better than that.

This is because the frequency response will be much less affected negatively with a higher damping factor.

For example, with a damping factor of 10, the 119 Hz frequency is boosted about 2dB above normal, while at 100, it is only boosted by .2dB.

What Damping Factor Do I Need For My Headphones? 

The ideal damping factor for headphones is different than the ideal damping factor for loudspeakers.

The reason is that loudspeakers change the frequency response negatively with lower damping factors while headphones do not.

At least a 2.5 times damping factor is acceptable, but something closer to 8 is more ideal for headphones.

What Impedance Level Requires An Amp?

Generally, an impedance level above 50 ohms will have a higher likelihood of needing an amp.

Car stereos are usually between 2-16 ohms, speakers are typically between 4-8 ohms, and day-to-day headphones are typically around 35 ohms.

High impedance headphones and sound output devices above 50 ohms will usually require an amp. 

What Is Impedance Matching? 

Impedance matching is arguably the most crucial aspect of deciding which amp to buy for your headphones.

Impedance matching will be quantified by the damping factor, or by the ohms of your headphone or other output device divided by the ohms of the amp.

You don’t want to get a ratio too low or too high. For headphones, consider about 2.5x-8x with 8 being around the best spot for headphones. For loudspeakers, you will want a damping factor of at least 20x for a better overall sound. 

Are High Ohm Headphones Better? 

The short answer is, yes. Typically headphones that are higher quality will have at least 50 ohms, while headphones that are compatible with every smartphone and laptop will have around 35 ohms.

The reason is that higher impedance headphones, for example, 250-ohm and 600-ohm headphones, have lighter and smaller coils which are more efficient for producing a higher quality of sound.

The higher ohm headphones have a smaller diameter coil which allows the wires to fit tighter, creating less air between the winding and making the electromagnetic field stronger. 

Is A Headphone Amp The Same As An Audio Interface? 

No, they are not the same, but if you have an audio interface with a headphone output, then that comes with a built-in headphone amp and will work just fine with headphones unless you are connecting multiple pairs of headphones at the same time. 

Is Headphone Impedance The Same As Headphone Sensitivity? 

No, headphone impedance is not the same as headphone sensitivity.

The two are related. If a pair of headphones has more ohm it will likely be louder, but impedance is measured for AC (alternating current) which makes it more complex.

There are plenty of headphones with a low impedance and high sensitivity, or high sensitivity and a low impedance.

Do 80 Ohm Headphones Require An Amp? 

The answer will depend on what device you are using to power the 80-Ohm headphones.

To put it in perspective, most commercial headphones such as iPhone headphones or beats headphones are around 35 ohms, and obviously do not require an amp.

So, it is ambiguous that 80-ohm headphones will not need an amp, it depends on the power source and it is definitely worth a test with whatever device you are using as it’ll be a close call. 

Do Headphones Sound Better With An Amp? 

It depends on the impedance matching between the amp and the headphones. If the damping factor, or the ohms of the headphones divided by the ohms of the amp, is 2.5x-8x, it will sound better than anything besides that.

So, the short answer is no, it depends. But typically the headphones that REQUIRE an amp also have a higher impedance (ohms) and will have a better sound quality just because of the headphones you bought, not the amp. 

Do I Need An Amp For 16 Ohm Headphones? 

No, you do not need an amp for 16-ohm headphones. Most commercial day-to-day headphones are around 35 ohms and do not require an amplifier.

Any pair of headphones above 50 ohms will need to be thought of pairing with an amplifier. 

What Do Headphone Amplifiers Do? 

A headphone amplifier will provide enough power to use professionally-graded headphones which most devices cannot support.

So, buying a headphone amplifier will allow you to use, for example, 250-ohm headphones and get a quality sound.

Headphone amplifiers are especially useful when connecting more than one headphone to a device simultaneously, which requires a lot of power. 

What Is The Difference Between Low Impedance Headphones and High Impedance Headphones? 

Low impedance headphones are below 50 ohms, typically. 

High impedance headphones above 50 ohms will usually require an amp. 

How Do I Choose The Right Amp For My Headphones? 

You should find out two things: the impedance (ohms) and the efficiency rating of the headphones (also called sensitivity rating). Once you know these, then all you need is a basic understanding of headphone sensitivity and impedance.

Common headphone sensitivities range from 90db-105db with anything above or below being extreme examples. Try and get a damping factor of around 2.5-8, with 8 being the ideal number.

A headphone sensitivity around 90db-105db is most common but it should suffice to get higher or lower than that, as long as it is not above 110db. 

Is Efficiency Rating And Sensitivity Rating The Same Thing?

Efficiency and sensitivity ratings are the same, however, efficiency rating is measured in milliwatts while sensitivity is measured in volts.

Wrapping Up

In the world of pairing headphones with amps; things can go down the rabbit hole quickly when thinking about ohms, drivers, sensitivity, damping factor, and other complex jargon.

However, to keep it simple for most users, it is best not to go down the deep rabbit hole and just try to understand some key points.

If the impedance level of the headphones is above 50 ohms, you will have to consider an amp.

At that point, just making sure that the impedance level (ohm) of the amp is around 2.5-8x lower than that of your headphones is the only critical part.

Before you go, check out our guide to the best budget studio headphones!