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A nice auditory experience comes from

  • high quality music files
  • good earphones
  • a powerful audio player

Sometimes I feel I need to evaluate the quality of an audio player since it makes a world of difference. For example, listening to music on the computer and through an iPod: When I am wearing high power headphones I always find my music player (iPod) is not strong enough. It sounds a bit dry.

What elements affect the performance of an audio player? And why do sine relatively poor earphones fit well with some audio players and the better ones don't?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

This is down to a lot of factors like:

  • The impedance of the headphones, measured in Ohms. Lower values normally mean louder headphones. Some cheap headphones can sound much louder than more expensive ones.
  • The quality and power of the amplifier in the audio player
  • The frequency response curve of both the headphones and the audio player can vary (depending on quality of the hardware) and may not match up well.
  • If you are from the EU then there are legal restrictions introduced a few years ago that limit how loud MP3 players can be. These limitations can sometimes be removed by setting your location to the US but that probably won't work with iPods.

For best results, use brands that gets consistently good ratings, e.g. Cowon. You could also try an external headphone amplifier. You connect your device as the input and your headphones as the output and it will boost the sound level (good for high impedance headphones). I believe some headphone amplifiers can use the line-level output from the ipod dock connector to bypass some of the ipod's own circuitry and provide better quality.

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