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What Is a Portable Headphone Amp?

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  • Written By: Geisha A. Legazpi
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 28 October 2016
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A portable headphone amplifier (amp) is a device that drives a headset specifically designed for private listening. An amplifier is a device that increases the level of sound signals. A portable headphone amp is an amplifier with adjustable gain or volume so that the sound material can be experienced more closely at the desired level and tonal preferences. It may be used to improve the experienced sound for portable music players that may not fully drive a given set of headphones.

Different people have different audio listening habits. Some people prefer to play audio material through a speaker system. The speaker system may be referred to as an open-air mode of listening, while using headphones is a closed-air mode of listening.

One of the reasons why people use headphones is to listen to audio in a noisy environment. There may be situations wherein a person is in an environment where there are other sounds whose levels may have to be lowered in order to listen to interesting sounds. For instance, monitoring equipment allows a musician to listen to his or her own instrument’s amplified audio. This ensures that the quality of music being played live is up to expectations.

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At home, a portable headphone amp may be used for many reasons. Most personal computers with a sound card may drive a headphone directly, while some applications may require an additional amplifier for headphones. For instance, listening to audio transcripts may require adjustments on frequency equalizer equipment that may require added gain for best result. Home stereo equipment uses integrated amplifiers that usually drive a headphone directly. In integrated amplifiers, the preamplifier used for microphones, broadcast tuners, and disk players come together with a pre-power and power amplifier to drive stereo or other speaker systems.

Portable music players are electronic devices that may drive a speaker system through a booster amplifier. They may also drive headphones to a certain extent. If the levels are not high enough, portable music player outputs could be connected to a portable headphone amp for desired levels of audio in the headphones. Using headphones to privately listen to news and music or watch movies maximizes the audio because of the near total absence of noise. Sound quality may also be enhanced by improving the audio frequency response using a combination of an audio equalizer and a portable headphone amp.

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