The Headphone Amplifier


Since Sony’s re-imagining of the portable cassette player, portable audio has seen a huge upswing in popularity; a popularity which has among other things, created a new monster: the portable audiophile. This new breed of hi-end user demands the best sound quality for on-the-go listening, a problem which is only mostly satiated by purchasing a good headphone like Earsonics’ SM2. A higher quality headphone is the most immediate upgrade a portable audiophile can experience, but often, is the gateway drug to real audio debauchery.

Most off-the-shelf audio players are basic marketing products that utilise the same, or very similar innards whose main focus is efficiency and battery life. No matter the company’s ‘audiophile’ marketing, the meagre internal amplification circuits of portable players from companies such as Apple, Cowon, Meizu, Creative, Sansa, and Sony are underpowered and lack quality circuits. For instance, over 90% of the digital audio player market has cobbled together outputs which lack capacitors for both the left and right channels. The outcome is deficient, thumpy, low resolution bass for most earphones, earbuds, and inner earphones. Large headphones make different demands on portable players’ output circuits which are also mostly satiated by the use of a headphone amplifier.

Headphone amplifiers unload a portable audio device’s internal amplification circuit, thus restoring definition, tone, bass, and clarity from modern, underpowered DAPs. Modern headphone amplifiers are efficient, have very low noise-floors, can power both inner earphones and power-hungry headphones, and some, can even interface with computers to double as an outboard audio circuit.

TouchMyApps will be looking at a variety of headphone amplifiers, digital to analogue converters, and boosters to complement our headphone reviews.

As always, headphone-related articles will be updated in our headphone section.

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