Is An Audio Interface A Headphone Amp? No. Audio interfaces and headphone amps have some similar features but are fundamentally different. Read on to know more.
Audio interfaces have entirely changed the recording studio. They are easy to access and allow musicians to create their recordings anywhere.
An audio interface and a headphone amp share certain similarities and traits but are different products. This is why people have this question: Is an audio interface a headphone amp?
Usually, you don’t require a headphone amp with an audio interface. Audio interfaces have one built-in headphone amp, and you can control its volume. Let us explore more in detail.
In this article, let us further look at
- Can an audio interface be used as an amp?
- Do audio interfaces have a headphone amp?
- How do you use a headphone amp with an interface?
- Does Focusrite work as a headphone amp?
An audio interface is a multipurpose device that people use in recording studios. It allows you to record as well as play music to and from your equipment. It has an audio input that receives audio signals from any music equipment or mics. Audio interfaces combine various components that include DAC and ADC chips, preamps, and headphone amps.
When you want to record any music, an audio interface comes with audio input to connect to your instrument. This means you can record your music using your mic and plug it into your interface.
Nowadays, almost all audio interfaces have a built-in amp that boosts low sound into line-level signals. It is ideal to use in recording studios.
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Headphone amplifiers make weak audio signals strong and make them sound loud. A headphone amp usually takes an audio signal from a digital audio converter or audio interface and sends it back to the 3.5mm headphone output. This further uses the loudspeaker’s drivers.
Which One Should You Go For?
If you want to choose between an audio interface and a headphone amp, first, you need to know your budget and needs.
When Should You Buy An Audio Interface
If you want an all-in-one box audio system and want to create music, an audio interface is a good option. Just look for an audio interface having a built-in headphone amp.
When Should You Buy A Headphone Amp?
If you love music and like to listen to loud music using high-end headphones, buying a headphone amp is a better option. Having a separate headphone amp gives better sound quality.
So if you just want to use your headphones, you don’t require an audio interface that comes with microphone preamps, MIDI I/O hardware, and other things.
If your interface sounds quite noisy when you connect your headphones, then having a separate amp is a better option.
Can An Audio Interface Be Used As An Amp
In some audio interfaces, you may find a direct monitoring feature. With this feature, you can hear the audio interface sound in real-time via headphones or loudspeakers.
This means you can plug in your guitar with an audio interface directly and listen to it. It will sound similar to a mixer or an amp.
So yes, if your audio interface comes with direct monitors, you can use it as an amp. Most of the audio interfaces have a built-in amp. You just need to plug your interface into your headphones or speaker.
To use an audio interface as an amp, you need to
- Plug your audio equipment into the audio interface input.
- If you have a direct monitoring feature, use it to connect audio input to your amp output.
- Now you can listen to the music using your headphones that are connected with the amp output.
One of the best audio interfaces in the market is the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 having direct monitoring feature. With its high-performance converter, you can record music at up to 192kHz.
So if you want to learn the guitar and listen to it via headphones, this is an excellent option for you. These audio interfaces come at a pretty reasonable price, and many professional musicians chose this.
But do you know most of the musicals love the sound of headphone amps? This is because when they play their musical instruments through an amp, it gives unique tones that you may not find in any audio interface.
Though every headphone amp will have a different sound depending on the electronics, circuit, and choice of speaker, some amps even have built-in sound effects. It helps you to give different sound effects that you like.
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How Do You Use Headphone Amp With An Interface?
You can use your headphone amp with an interface through the audio interface line output. Connect it to the amp’s input channel. One easy way to do this is to connect your audio interface’s output channel to the amp’s input via an RCA cable.
Nowadays, a lot of headphone amps are available, having different input connection options. Some may have a ¼” stereo input or TS mono input or come with an RCA cable.
You just need to find a suitable audio cable for your device and connect it.
Sometimes connecting a headphone amp to your device can be a bit tricky. Let us look at the step-by-step guide on how to connect the headphone amp to the audio interface.
#1 Firstly, Decide Whether You Require An Audio Or Mono Connection
You need to decide what type of connection you want and get the correct lead for your system. Generally, mono connections are relatively easy to set up. You just need a patch lead to connect the mono cable. However, you need to look at the length of the wire, and that depends on how you are going to use your amp.
But if you want to go with a stereo option, it may be somewhat difficult to do. You need to look at the connecting leads. There is a possibility that your audio interface may connect to an RCA cable, and your amplifier connects to patch leads or vice versa. Look at the leads and buy your equipment accordingly.
Usually, the audio outputs are on the backside of the interface, and you need to connect the amp input.
#2 Insert The Cable You Want To Connect To The Interface
If you are using a mono connection (usually, a patch lead), insert it in the output available in the interface. If you are using a stereo connection, insert the end lead to “R” and “L” output. If you are using the RCA cable, make sure to connect it to a suitable cable.
#3 Now, Insert The Cable To Your Amp
When using a mono connection, you need to insert the patch lead into the mono input of your amp. Usually, you will find the “mono” labeled in the socket. When using a stereo connection, insert the cable or lead to the input socket.
#4 Place The Amp Correctly
You can put your amp wherever you want to. Just keep the cable straight and connect the two devices correctly.
#5 Enjoy Your Music
You can switch on your divide and listen to your audio and enjoy the experience. Connecting a headphone amp to your audio interface will give a better listen option and quality.
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Benefits Of Using A Headphone Amp Along With an Audio Interface
If you are a musician, you will need a high-quality sound set up at your studio. So getting a headphone amp will benefit you. But if you are just starting up your studio, having a headphone amp is not necessary. When you want to upgrade your studio, you can think of getting an amp.
However, adding an amp to your studio will give you better quality, clarity, and detail of the sound when you listen. It further improves the audio quality of the headphones that have high or low impedance.
Answers To Frequently Asked Questions
Do I Require A Headphone Amp With Audio Interface
Mostly, you will find an audio interface with a built-in amp. But if your audio interface’s amp cannot drive your headphones, or if you need more output for your headphones, you need an amp.
Usually, the audio interface does not have a powerful amp that can drive high impedance headphones. If you want a good sound quality for your equipment, you will need a dedicated headphone amp that is loud enough and drives your headphones properly.
Does Focusrite Work As Headphone Amp?
Focusrite 2i2 does work as a headphone amp. Most of the musicians and recording studios listen in high volume in their headphones. You can increase the volume to 100% and enjoy listening to music.
Can An Interface Be Used To Plug My Guitar?
If the interface has an input labeled as “instrument,” you can connect your guitar directly to the interface. You can record and listen to the sound from the guitar. If you want a more amplified tone, you can use an amp modeler.
So Is An Audio Interface A Headphone Amp? Not Really, But You Can Use One As An Amp Most Of The Time
Both are fundamentally different products. However, most audio interfaces have a built-in headphone amp. But they may not be as good as a dedicated headphone amp. So if you want a better quality sound, you can have a separate headphone amp.