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# What Is Output Impedance?

## The output impedance can explain why headphones sound better.

If your headphones are muffled, your guitar looks muffled, or your home stereo is muffled, you may have an output impedance issue. Here’s what you need to know about output impedance and why it puts a strain on your stereo.

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## What is the output impedance?

To understand output impedance, we need to explain some electrical engineering fundamentals. When passing electricity from one place to another through a wire or other conductive material, not all energy passes through it. Imagine pouring hot water over coffee grounds and a filter in the morning. Most water passes, but not all.

Therefore, you often lose some of your energy in the form of heat. It’s called resistance.

The next thing to remember is that you can force too much current into each material. It is like water flowing through a pipe. Big or small, there comes a point when you need to drain the water from the line before more water can get in. This is called capacity.

To keep the pipe analogy, water tends to flow in one direction. It takes some time for the water to back up to change this direction. The same is true for current, also known as inductance, which is especially important for AC devices.

Impedance is the sum of these factors and requires complex math. Output impedance is the impedance at the “output” end of a system, such as a headphone jack or cable connection.

## Why is output impedance important?

Let’s go back to our whistle analogy. Suppose you want to connect a well-functioning pipe system to another pipe system that has a sufficiently stable water flow. Welding even a small pipe there can put enormous pressure on the system and cause the pipe to rupture. On the other hand, if you weld to a larger pipe, the water only comes out a little when you turn on the faucet.

In electronics, this shows up as no sound from the speakers or no sound at all, or anything connected to the system being overloaded. For this reason, high-end audio systems often include amplifiers. An energy boost is required to properly match the impedance.

## Do I need to calculate the output impedance myself?

Unless you custom design your own circuit, the heavy work is already done. Any device that involves output impedance, such as an amplifier or speaker set, has an output impedance and an input impedance as part of the overall specification of the device. You can easily find it online or in the user manual. In most cases, inexpensive devices such as earphones have a lower impedance than expensive sealed headphones.

However, it must “match” the entire device chain. For example, if you have a set of audio players, cables and speakers, the player output impedance must match the cable input impedance and the cable output impedance must match the speaker input impedance.

What Is Output Impedance?

Output impedance may explain why one set of headphones sounds better

If your headphones sound dull, if your guitar feels lifeless, or your home stereo sounds muddy, you might be dealing with output impedance. Here’s what you need to know about output impedance and why it’s such a drag on your stereo.

What Is Output Impedance?

To understand output impedance, we need to lay out some basic electrical engineering. When you transfer electricity from place to place via a wire or another conductive material, not all of the energy gets through. Think of it like pouring hot water over coffee grounds and a filter in the morning; most of the water gets through, but not all of it.

Thus, you’re going to lose some of the energy, often in the form of heat. This is called resistance.

Next, you have to consider there’s only so much electricity you can force into any material. It’s like running water through a pipe; big or small, there comes a point where the water in the pipe has to flow out before more can come in. This is called capacitance.

Sticking with the pipe analogy, the water tends to flow in one direction. If you want to change that direction, it’s going to take a little time for the water to flow backwards. The same is true of electrical currents, called inductance, and it’s particularly important to alternating-current devices.

Impedance is the sum of these factors, which involves a little complicated math. Output impedance is simply how much impedance is at the “out” end of the system, like headphone jacks or cable connections.

Why Is Output Impedance Important?

Let’s go back to our pipe analogy. Let’s say you want to connect your well-running pipe system, with plenty of smooth water flow, to another pipe system. If you just weld a small pipe in there, it’ll put massive pressure on the system and possibly burst the pipe. Conversely, if you weld a bigger pipe in, you’ll get just a trickle of water when you turn on the faucet.

In electronics, this is either reflected by, for example, muddy sound or no sound at all from speakers, or whatever you plugged into the system overloading. This is why high-end audio systems often include an amplifier; they need the boost in energy to properly match impedance.

Do I Need to Calculate Output Impedance Myself?

Unless you’re custom-engineering your own circuits, the heavy lifting has already been done for you. Any device where output impedance is relevant, such as an amplifier or a set of speakers, will have the output impedance and input impedance as part of the overall specifications of the device. You can easily find these online or in the user’s manual. In most cases, cheaper devices, like earbuds, will have lower impedance than expensive closed-cup headphones.

However, remember that this will need to “match” across the entire chain of devices. For example, if you have an audio player, a cable, and a set of speakers, the output impedance of the player should match the input impedance of the cable, and the output impedance of the cable should match the input impedance of the speakers.

#Output #Impedance

What Is Output Impedance?

Output impedance may explain why one set of headphones sounds better

If your headphones sound dull, if your guitar feels lifeless, or your home stereo sounds muddy, you might be dealing with output impedance. Here’s what you need to know about output impedance and why it’s such a drag on your stereo.

What Is Output Impedance?

To understand output impedance, we need to lay out some basic electrical engineering. When you transfer electricity from place to place via a wire or another conductive material, not all of the energy gets through. Think of it like pouring hot water over coffee grounds and a filter in the morning; most of the water gets through, but not all of it.

Thus, you’re going to lose some of the energy, often in the form of heat. This is called resistance.

Next, you have to consider there’s only so much electricity you can force into any material. It’s like running water through a pipe; big or small, there comes a point where the water in the pipe has to flow out before more can come in. This is called capacitance.

Sticking with the pipe analogy, the water tends to flow in one direction. If you want to change that direction, it’s going to take a little time for the water to flow backwards. The same is true of electrical currents, called inductance, and it’s particularly important to alternating-current devices.

Impedance is the sum of these factors, which involves a little complicated math. Output impedance is simply how much impedance is at the “out” end of the system, like headphone jacks or cable connections.

Why Is Output Impedance Important?

Let’s go back to our pipe analogy. Let’s say you want to connect your well-running pipe system, with plenty of smooth water flow, to another pipe system. If you just weld a small pipe in there, it’ll put massive pressure on the system and possibly burst the pipe. Conversely, if you weld a bigger pipe in, you’ll get just a trickle of water when you turn on the faucet.

In electronics, this is either reflected by, for example, muddy sound or no sound at all from speakers, or whatever you plugged into the system overloading. This is why high-end audio systems often include an amplifier; they need the boost in energy to properly match impedance.

Do I Need to Calculate Output Impedance Myself?

Unless you’re custom-engineering your own circuits, the heavy lifting has already been done for you. Any device where output impedance is relevant, such as an amplifier or a set of speakers, will have the output impedance and input impedance as part of the overall specifications of the device. You can easily find these online or in the user’s manual. In most cases, cheaper devices, like earbuds, will have lower impedance than expensive closed-cup headphones.

However, remember that this will need to “match” across the entire chain of devices. For example, if you have an audio player, a cable, and a set of speakers, the output impedance of the player should match the input impedance of the cable, and the output impedance of the cable should match the input impedance of the speakers.

#Output #Impedance

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