Can you connect a headphone amp to an audio interface? (Answered)

By Bob •  Updated: 11/13/21 •  4 min read

Yes. You can connect a headphone amp to an audio interface.

A headphone amp sits between your headphones and the audio interface, boosting the signal before it goes to your headphones.

This makes it easier to get high enough volume levels on your headphones, which are often lower-powered than speakers.

Audio interfaces with headphone jacks usually have a built-in headphone amp that is of lower quality compared to dedicated headphone amps.

If you want better sound quality for your headphones, hook up a separate amplifier to your interface’s main outs instead of using the built-in headphone amp in the interface.

Use TRS (stereo) or XLR (mono) cables that can carry balanced signals for this purpose. Balanced connections prevent noise and interference from getting into the signal path.

Balanced connections typically yield much better sound quality than unbalanced ones, but take care to ensure that both the interface and the headphone amp you’re using are compatible with balanced connections.

Be sure to turn down the output channel (or master channel) of your audio interface when headphones plugged into the separate amplifier are in use.

How To Connect Headphone Amp To Audio Interface

1. Hook up the line out of your audio interface to the amplifier’s first input.

2. Connect a speaker cable from the output of your headphone amp to one of your interface’s main outputs

3. Connect another pair of speaker cables from another interface output to one side of a 1/4″ jack, then connect the other end of that jack into the amplifier’s second input.

4. Finally, plug your headphones into the 1/4″ jack connected to the amplifier’s second input and enjoy high-quality sound!

What is Mono and Stereo on Headphones?

Mono sound is just one channel of audio sent to all speakers. Mono means it comes from one position or direction.

Some amps have both mono and stereo inputs. If you are using a mono output for your headphones, you’ll get the same thing in each ear: exactly the same audio that came through during the mixdown!

This also works on two channels (stereo). The left and right channels will be split through the left and right of your headphones.

If you’re using a mono output, but want a stereo sound in your headphones, you’ll need to split the signal into two channels before it goes into your headphones.

You could do this by processing the input through an external effect that has stereo outputs and then routing that signal into two inputs on your amplifier.

In general, mono signals are much more common than true stereo because it requires less hardware to make them.

How Do I Know Whether My Headphones Are Mono or Stereo?

Your headphone cable should have three rings on it – one for the left channel and one for the right.

If you only see two, then chances are they’re actually just hooking up both audio cables to the left channel, meaning you’ll only hear the same thing in both ears.

What Is Balanced cables?

An XLR cable has three cables (plus a ground wire) while an unbalanced 1/4″ TRS cable only has two.

An unbalanced TRS connection is the most common type of headphone output on audio interfaces, but it’s also much more susceptible to noise and interference compared to balanced connections.

When you connect your interface’s main outputs to a headphone amp via an unbalanced TRS connection, both sides of the connection will carry the same signal, meaning there’s twice as much chance for noise and interference to get into your signal chain!

A balanced connection carries a stereo signal on three wires instead of just two. The third wire is for a ground connection which keeps electrical interference from being carried into your headphones.

Balanced connections are much more expensive to produce than unbalanced connections, so they’re usually only found on studio-grade equipment such as external headphone amps and studio monitors.