Are you curious about how well your iPhone pairs with different headphones? Today, we’ll explore the world of impedance and its impact on your device’s sound quality.
Without getting too technical, you’ll understand what you need for that perfect audio experience. Stay tuned, and let’s rock your audio world!
In a hurry? We care about your time, so here’s a quick answer to the question you’re looking for!
Like other smartphones, the iPhone is designed to handle a wide range of headphones’ impedance levels, typically between 16 and 300 Ohms. However, it operates most efficiently, with headphones having an impedance of around 32 Ohms. High-impedance headphones may require an external amplifier for the best sound quality.
What Is Impedance?
To understand why you must follow headphone rules, you must first know what they are. In a nutshell, Impedance is the resistance to the flow of alternating current.
A high impedance rating means electricity will have difficulty passing through your cans. On the other hand, low Impedance means that the headphones will allow electricity to flow through them more freely.
We measure Impedance in Ohms. Headphones come in all varieties – from low impedance ones going down to 8 Ohms to high Impedance, which starts at around 100 Ohms. High-end audiophile headphones can even have a rating as high as 600 Ohms.
What if the Impedance Is Too High or Low?
Tech jargon aside, high-impedance headphones require a more powerful amplifier to work correctly.
Therefore, if we assume you’re using the same phone, the higher the Impedance, the lower the output signal. So, for example, 600 Ohm headphones will not produce sufficient volume with most phones and iPhones, even if you set it to the max.
A meager impedance rating can also be a bad thing. Theoretically, if your can’s Impedance is lower than your iPhone can handle, its amplifier will get too hot and, at worst, burn.
However, this should be fine with modern iPhones, as they can drive most if not all, low-impedance headphones.
What Impedance Is Right for an iPhone?
Nowadays, most mobile phones have an amplifier that works best with 32-ohm headphones. Luckily, most consumer-grade headphones also fall into the 32 Ohm category.
That means you should be able to choose your next pair of cans. However, better-quality ones sometimes come with a higher rating.
What is the Highest Impedance an iPhone Can Handle?
Right off the bat, you can forget about using 600 Ohm studio cans with your iPhone or any other phone. Their built-in amplifiers must be more powerful to drive such complex audio gear. However, there are a lot of solid choices that fall below that Ohm rating.
Some of the most famous enthusiast-grade headphones fall into the 250-ohm category. While that’s still a very high rating, our tests show that iPhones have little trouble driving the average pair of 250 Ohm headphones.
That goes for the last couple of generations; the iPhone 8 and all newer iPhones are perfectly capable of putting out adequate sound levels when matched to a 250 Ohm pair.
The iPhone 8 has a beefy headphone amplifier; sometimes, it drives a couple of 600 Ohm cans.
What About Low Impedance Headphones?
As with most mobile phones currently, on the market, the low Impedance is rarely a problem for the iPhone.
Current iPhones can quickly drive any headphones down to an 8-Ohm impedance. We don’t know if they can go lower, but that’s because no such headphones are currently available.
However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful. There’s a reason why Apple recommends that you stay around 32 ohms. If you plug 8 Ohm headphones into your iPhone, it will probably drive them to painfully loud levels.
Be especially careful with in-ear headphones; high sound pressure levels delivered directly into your ears might cause permanent damage to your hearing.
What if I Want to Use Large Studio Headphones With My iPhone?
Most large studio headphones have a level of around 600 Ohms; some even go higher. Such a high rating means that your iPhone will not be capable of driving them on its own, and even if it does, it’s bound to introduce some distortion to the sound.
If you’re using headphones that are hard to drive, you will need a dedicated headphone amplifier.
An amplifier is an external device that sits between your iPhone and your headphones, giving the phone’s signal a power boost. This device does the job usually done by the iPhone’s internal amplifier.
Headphone amplifiers are available in a variety of sizes. Mobile, battery-powered ones are probably the best choice with an iPhone; that way, you can listen to your high-end headphones on the go.
However, if you want a high-quality listening experience, a desktop amplifier will do an even better job.
1. Is it possible to damage anything by choosing the wrong Impedance?
Not really. If you plug a pair of ultra-high headphones into your iPhone, the worst thing that can happen is a muted response.
On the other hand, as we mentioned earlier, extremely low headphones can burn an amplifier. However, that shouldn’t concern you, as the latest iPhone models can quickly drive the lowest-impedance headphones available.
2. Does higher Impedance mean better sound quality?
Not at all. As we explained, Impedance is a way to describe some of the properties of an electrical circuit and is not directly related to sound quality.
Most studio headphones have higher impedance ratings because of their more robust drivers, making it harder for current to pass through.
The market offers a wide selection of 32 Ohm headphones, and many of them produce excellent sound quality. Since mobile audio is so popular, many manufacturers make low-impedance versions of some of their studio headphones.
3. Is Impedance the only thing that controls how loud my headphones are?
One more thing to think about is how sensitive your headphones are. One definition of this quality is increased decibel levels per watt of supplied electricity.
As a result, even if two headphones have identical impedance ratings, they can deliver different proper output levels. Because you need to know if you’ll get enough sound, you should test your cans if you’re unsure before buying them.
The last few iPhone models do an excellent job driving 250-ohm headphones. Unless you choose the least sensitive ones, your iPhone will quickly move them to comfortable listening levels.
If you want to use headphones with an even higher impedance, you can—you only need an external headphone amplifier. You can choose between mobile devices and desktop editions based on your needs.