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Definition: headphone amp

(1) A device that drives multiple headphones from a mixing console for studio recording.

(2) An amplifier designed to output the required wattage for headphones. The sound in low-end headphones can be improved; however, music lovers claim that a headphone amp is essential when high-quality headphones are used. Headphone amps can be analog only, boosting the stereo signal from any preamp output or from the headphone jack of a music player. However, they are often combined with a DAC and accept digital audio from computers, providing support for higher resolutions than the built-in sound card (see DAC/headphone amp and USB DAC).

A High-End Headphone Amp
Accepting analog and digital inputs, OPPO's HA-1 is a Class A amplifier for headphones. It also accepts digital output from iPods, iPhones and iPads. Resting on top are OPPO's Planar Magnetic headphones. (Image courtesy of OPPO Digital, Inc., www.oppodigital.com)

Portable Headphone Amp
OPPO's HA-2 was designed for PCs, Macs and mobile devices with USB On-The-Go (see USB OTG). It includes two gain settings to match the headphones. (Images courtesy of OPPO Digital, Inc., www.oppodigital.com)