Phones & Ohms The Hidden Perils Of Headphone Impedance

Phones & Ohms

The frequency response of your headphones probably isn’t neutral, but at least it’s always the same. Or is it?

Two decades ago, headphones were a secondary listening peripheral. Today, they’re the means by which most music is consumed, and they’re an ever-more important part of the production process too.

Compared to monitor speakers, headphones provide numerous advantages, such as freedom from room effects, portability and isolation from external sound. Yet they also present unique challenges. One is the lack of meaningful standards in tonal response targets and measurements, which has led to a very Forrest-Gumpian chocolate–box situation. Another is that of properly providing them with an electrical signal, which is the main theme of this article.

Impedance Impediment

The sound quality or fidelity of a headphone generally is determined by its physical design, and as with every loudspeaker, there are thousands of factors that determine its performance. Every headphone designer worth their salt has put a lot of effort into designing drivers and earcups that are free of unwanted resonances and reflections. Yet there remains a factor outside the designer’s control that can alter the frequency response of most headphones: their load impedance interaction with the circuit of the amplifier that’s driving them.

Passive loudspeakers generally come in three flavours, load impedance-wise: 4Ω, 8Ω and, rarely, 16Ω. Headphones, however, are way more varied, starting at 4Ω and spanning a range up to 800Ω. The key specification for determining how loud a pair of headphones will go is sensitivity. Expressed in dB/V, this measures the output level for a given voltage swing. This is related to impedance, which determines the power generated for a given voltage swing, and also to efficiency (dB/mW), which measures how much of this power is delivered as sound.

Usually, high-impedance headphones are meant for use in studios or with high-end hi-fi systems, where good-quality, mains-powered audio interfaces and dedicated headphone amps should have no trouble providing the higher voltages needed to drive them. As battery and USB-powered devices take over the market, however, lower headphone impedances have become the norm. Impedance is a useful shorthand for determining whether a headphone will play nicely with a smartphone but, as for most rules, there are exceptions.

This plot shows how the impedance of the Sennheiser HD650 headphones varies with frequency. This sort of shape is typical of moving-coil dynamic headphones, with a  large peak at the resonant frequency and a  smaller impedance rise in the high frequencies.This plot shows how the impedance of the Sennheiser HD650 headphones varies with frequency. This sort of shape is typical of moving-coil dynamic headphones, with a large peak at the resonant frequency and a smaller impedance rise in the high frequencies.Technical specs usually list headphone impedance as a single ‘nominal’ number, like 300Ω for the Sennheiser HD650, or 32Ω for the low-impedance version of the Beyerdynamic DT770. In reality, though, impedance changes with frequency. For most headphones that use a standard moving-coil driver, the impedance can rise to more than 1.5 times its nominal value at the self-resonance frequency, which is typically around 100Hz. Usually the impedance also increases slightly at higher frequencies, due to the inductance of the voice coil.

A special case in this regard is in-ear monitors, which often employ a passive crossover filter feeding multiple balanced-armature drivers.


MODE – NE1 / MODE – NE EP / Central Dogma

“MODE – NE1 / MODE – NE EP / Central Dogma”

La imagen puede contener: 1 persona, noche, cielo, primer plano y exterior

MODE is a Spanish producer and
musician. Dedicated to music since
he was 15 years old and acting since
he was 18, he has gone through great
stages of the best clubs and festivals
in his city and country.

Lover of analog sounds, his sets are
characterized for being mainly live

Influenced by artists such as Jeff
Mills, Florian Meindl, KiNK, Robert
Babicz or Hannes Bieger among
many others.

He has worked for labels such as
INFINITY Records. The first
reference to his Mexican friends
means a new way of making music.

“MODE – NE1 / MODE – NE EP / Central Dogma”


Resident Advisor:


With Terrence Parker remixing the classic Jeff Mills track ‘If’

  • 3 JUNE 2019
Jeff Mills revives his Purpose Maker label after nearly a decade

Jeff Mills has revived his Purpose Maker label, releasing two Terrence Parker remixes of his classic track, ‘If’.

The original track, also released on Purpose Maker in 1999, has been a standout of Mills’ more house-driven productions. The original version of ‘If’ was re-released last month, as a part of The Director’s Cut project recently started by Axis. Purpose Maker was initially launched as a house-outlet for the parent label Axis, in housey contrast to their more techno-centric releases.

The A-side of the EP features a new “Vox Soul Mix” by Merachka, a Detroit artist who collaborated with Parker on the track. The B-side remix features the original vocals by Anna F, with a driving revision of the arrangement. The 12” is currently available.

Listen to the original release, watch the new trailer and view release artwork below.

Ryan Baesemann is an Editorial Contributor to Mixmag. Follow him on Twitter.

Human Robot – Subliminal Doctrine EP / Central Dogma

RELEASE DATE 2019-06-02
LABEL Central Dogma Records

Hailing from Brazil Human Robot delivers an outstanding ep for his second release to Central dogma Records, Subliminal Doctrine will get an edgy perspective to your sets including remixes by True Anomaly and Binaural makes a complete pack hot and ready to the dance floor…


Resident Advisor:

Luis Flores: El nuevo rey del techno

Luis Flores: El nuevo rey del techno
Pocos pueden llegar a ser los mejores en su género

Cuando uno escucha la palabra techno de inmediato se traslada a ciudades como Detroit o Berlín, pero realmente a donde deberían voltear es a la ciudad de Guadalajara, la cual ha sido hogar por mucho tiempo de Luis Flores, DJ y productor que ha sido más que un simple músico, ya que él fue uno de los encargados de manejar una disquera que seguro mínimo conoces de nombre, estamos hablando de Nopal Beat Records, la cual en algún momento de la historia hizo que el mundo entero volteara a ver lo que se estaba gestando en la calles de aquella ciudad.

Luis, al igual que muchos jóvenes de todas partes del mundo sintió la necesidad de compartir y expresarse a través de la música electrónica y sin duda éste es un claro ejemplo de que el trabajo hecho #ALaMexicana te puede llevar a conquistar cualquier sueño. Para él no importó haber nacido en una ciudad de México, él persiguió un sueño de volverse una de las figuras internacionales más importantes de la música techno y lo logró de muy buena forma.

Hoy en día al mencionar a Luis Flores en cualquier ciudad de vanguardia es sinónimo de fiesta y calidad. Su música ha sido publicada por algunas de las disqueras más prestigiosas del género como Droid Recordings, CLR o Silent Steps. Su estilo es único e inigualable, por lo mismo se ganó el respeto y admiración de muchos artistas de la música techno en todo el mundo.

#ALAMEXICANA es un proyecto colectivo nacido de manera viral. Las marcas y personajes que aparecen en las notas o espacios en donde se utiliza el hashtag del proyecto, aparecen de manera meramente ilustrativa o como ejemplo de las cosas bien hechas por mexicanos. La aparición de una marca o persona en una nota o sección ligado al hashtag del proyecto no implica su participación directa o su respaldo al proyecto por lo que ninguna de las notas o contenidos publicados deberán interpretarse en el sentido de estar patrocinadas, asociadas o reflejar las opiniones de quienes en ella aparecen, sino únicamente de el autor de la nota o contenido que corresponda



How To Import MIDI Drum Loops Into Hardware Drum Machines

The latest loopop video takes a look at importing MIDI drum loops into hardware drum machines.

Video Summary:

As drum machines and sequencers get more advanced, one of the most requested features I see people ask for is the ability to import MIDI clips. Yet still most drum machines and sequencers don’t support this feature, which is a shame because there are plenty of MIDI clip/loop libraries out there with excellent content, many played by real drummers with obvious human groove and feel, which is quite hard to program manually.

This video offers a workflow to “import” MIDI clips into practically any modern drum machine and sequencer using a DAW and a simple MIDI transposition effect. It then shows how you can quickly find loops in at least one large database – using the “tap to find” feature in Toontracks’ products.

Topics Covered:

0:00 Two problems: Lack of MIDI loop import support and finding loops in large clip libraries
1:00 The trick: How it works
1:50 Figure out the notes in the source MIDI loop
4:00 Create a translator
5:05 Record the loop on your drum machine/sequencer
5:50 Getting timing right
6:40 Another example – using the digitakt
7:45 Quantization
8:20 Finding loops fast with EZ Drummer

Roland System 500 vs Vintage System 100m, SH-5

In this video, Alex Ball takes a look at the new Roland System 500 Eurorack modular system vs a classic System 100m modular and the SH-5 keyboard.

Video Summary:

“I’ve been leant a Roland System 500 for a video and so the first thing I wanted to try with it was a side-by-side with the System 100m (1978) and SH-5 (1976) as these are two of the heritage synths that inspired it. The third synth it’s based on is the System 700, but I’m sure you can forgive me for not getting that one in there too! All-in-all I think the System 500 is excellent, has the Roland family sound and stands up well against the classics that inspired it. Trying to be as impartial as possible, there are a couple of comments I had about it that could be improved which I also mention, but I genuinely think it’s a great sounding and accessible modular synth.”

If you’ve used the Roland System 500, leave a comment and share your thoughts on it!


Carlos Pires – Go Back LP


Carlos Pires – Go Back LP

Carlos Pires – Go Back

Carlos Pires – Solar

Carlos Pires – Alien Flute

Carlos Pires – Defect

Carlos Pires – Morte

Carlos Pires – Ask

Carlos Pires – Raw Heart

Carlos Pires – Autum

Carlos Pires is back to the Central Dogma and he delivers one of his most complete works to date, check it out and pre order this great LP with 8 previously unreleased tracks by this brilliant producer hailing from Brazil….

Get it now:

Mexico City & Playa del Carmen, Mexico.
Mexican Techno Label .
Central Dogma sello Mexicano de Techno.
Resident Advisor:

This Is Central Dogma


Various Artists This is Central Dogma is the latest release on Central Dogma Records.

Carlos Pires – First View

Carter Walker – Clockwork

Cult Tour – Bug

Dj Mito – Coldness

Doctor Boom – Doha

Ed Whitty – Man In Black

JC The Bear – Get Here

Criss Narvaez – Doom

Moyo Brothers – Fuck

Segio Ghan – Elder´s Tape


Tap Newo – Work Materials EP


Tap Newo – Work Materials EP 

Tap Newo  – SirAmicc

Tap Newo & Doctor Boom– Siccamore

Tap Newo – Nylon

Tap Newo & Carter Walker – Granite

Tap Newo – Work Materials EP / Central Dogma