Headphones do require some sort of power to run, depending on the type and the device they are connected to.
History fact: Headphones were invented in 1919, originated from the earpiece, and they were the only means to listen to electrical audio signals since there were no amplifiers at that time. Later, in the year 1937, in Germany, the first dynamic headphones were invented that are still made till this day.
With so many brands, sizes and shapes, it is often difficult to choose the right kind of headphones for you. Even at the same price range, options can vary a lot. Depending on your needs and expectations, after reading this article, among other things, you should be able to better understand how they work and what works best for you.
There are several types of headphones available on the market: regular audio headphones, earbuds, Bluetooth headphones and USB headphones. Each type is different and has some different characteristics, one among them being power consumption.
Where do wired headphones get their power from?
Wired headphones get the power from the device they are plugged in. Headphones are in fact, small speakers. When they are plugged into a device, they are powered through their audio jack that has an amplifier that transforms audio waves into electricity that powers headphones.
Depending on the type of headphones, it will require more or less power.
Headphones are in their form a smaller version of speakers and they function pretty much the same way. When you plug in a speaker into your audio device or PC, it gets powered through the amplifier that is placed on the audio jack.
Speakers require much more power to run, so connecting them to jacks that do not support their power requirements could result in burning the amplifier. That does not happen with headphones, however. There are different types of headphones, and each consumes a different amount of power, but that power does not vary much.
How does it work? Headphones use an analog signal to operate, and when we want to use them on our phones or similar devices, we plug them in audio jacks. Our phones and computers have a digital-to-analog converter which converts a digital signal from the device to analog that gets passed through the amplifier to the headphones, and then we get the sound.
When you want to record audio or video on your phone, the signal goes through the analog-to-digital converter and it gets recorded to your device in digital format.
How much current do headphones typically draw from an audio source?
Headphones do not draw too much current from an audio source. It depends on the sound level, so if the sound level is low, like with earbuds, it goes around 10-20mV. If you have bigger headphones that feature heavy bass sound and that are set on loudest setting, it could go as high as 1500mV, which is still not considered as too much power.
When using wired headphones, there is no power consumption just by means of connection. You have to be using them for audio reproduction for power draw to happen.
Headphones that are commonly used, cheaper and widely distributed on the market, usually draw less power than headphones used by professionals. Those headphones can be quite expensive and offer better sound quality and features that standard ones can’t deliver.
Professional headphones are usually larger in size and shape, but they also exist as earbuds. Some of them have additional batteries that are necessary for noise cancellation and other features.
The power that headphones drain is clearly stated with every unit you purchase, so you can know in advance how much power consumption to expect.
In more scientific words, the power needed for headphones depends on the resistance (impedance) rating of the device. If the device has a lower impedance, which is the case with speakers, for example, then the power (current) goes up.
When a device has a higher impedance, such as headphones that usually rate at 32 ohms or more, then the current consumption goes down.
With 32 ohms of impedance, most of the headphones will draw around 10mV to 20mV, with 3V-3.4V peak operating voltage.
If you connect a headphone to your phone, does it drain the battery?
Headphones act as small speakers, so when you connect them to your phone, they will drain some battery charge. Headphones that are commonly used and shipped with mobile phones are very light in power consumption and they barely drain any battery by themselves.
It is the apps you are using for reproduction that drain most of the battery charge. Quality headphones that provide clean sound and less distortion need more power and they can drain the battery a bit faster, depending on sound levels, as well as the app that is used for sound reproduction.
There are many misconceptions about battery drain and usage out there. One of them is that everything drains the battery just by being plugged in or turned on. Most of the mobile phones and operating systems today are designed to recognize when certain features are not used and to stop powering them up.
You can leave your headphones connected to your phone, it will not drain the battery. However, if you actually use them to listen to music or watch a video, you will see battery percentage dropping, sometimes quite fast. This has to do with applications you are using.
If you are using apps to watch the video, for example, it will consume quite a bit of battery power. If you plan to use your phone for listening to music, it is more efficient to use apps that consume less battery and offer more play time.
Do Bluetooth headphones drain their battery faster when connected to other devices?
Just by connecting Bluetooth headphones to a device it does not mean the battery will be drained faster. However, if you at the same time use your headphones and listen to an audio, there will be some battery consumption. Again, the sound level determines how much power will be consumed. Lower sound levels consume less power compared to loudest settings and bass-heavy settings.
Bluetooth headphones are nice and convenient and everyone prefers them over wired headphones. There are no cables to mess with, you can move away from the device from which audio is playing and you don’t have to put away your headphones to get up and do something.
There are many brands and types of Bluetooth headphones, some cheaper, some more expensive. Bluetooth headphones come with their own batteries built-in. If you connect them to PC, the PC will have to power up Bluetooth module that is connected to headphones.
If you connect your Bluetooth headphones with your phone, however, then the phone will have to power its Bluetooth module, which will, in turn, drain some power from the phone’s battery. There are Bluetooth headphones that offer more play time than others.
That means that headphone’s battery should last for that many hours of active usage. Playtime does not apply to standby time, which does not drain the battery. That means that you can leave your Bluetooth headphones on, and if you were not playing any music, the battery percentage should remain more or less the same. Different brands offer different quality headphones, so some will work better, some worse.
Which headphones use more phone battery; wired headphones or the Bluetooth ones?
Bluetooth headphones consume more phone battery compared to wired ones. Bluetooth headphones require phones to power Bluetooth modules, which in turn consumes more battery. The difference between power consumption between wired headphones and Bluetooth ones can be significant.
When deciding which type of headphones to use, your battery charge level should decide. If you have less battery charge and you need more actual play time, then it would be better to use wired headphones.
If you just need the convenience of wireless headphones, then Bluetooth headphones should be your choice. Have in mind that every manufacturer clearly states how many hours are estimated for battery life for their Bluetooth headphones.
Also, bear in mind that battery capacity decreases over time and that it is affected by your sound settings, environment and the way you use it. Mid-range Bluetooth headphones have about 20 hours of battery life, which should be sufficient for music reproduction during a long journey without needing to recharge them.
The convenient thing about wired headphones is that you do not need to charge them at all, making them ready and available whenever you need them. It is not rare that a person forgets to charge their Bluetooth headphones, and when they need them, they cannot be used.
Overall, you should always have at least one pair of wired headphones, if not for smaller power consumption, then for the backup which you will most certainly need.
Which headphones use more phone battery; headphones or earbuds?
Headphones are worn on top of the head, while earbuds are fitted inside the ear. While being smaller, earbuds are sitting closer to the ear canal, therefore they are usually used on a lower sound setting.
Headphones, sitting on top of your head and covering your ears, usually need higher sound setting. Higher volume means more power consumption, which implies that headphones are the ones that will consume more phone battery.
There is another side to this story. Earbuds, being so close to the ear canal, when played on higher volume setting, can cause hearing problems, or even loss of hearing. Cheaper earbuds, the ones that are commonly used by a majority of the population, do not have good if any, noise cancellation.
Therefore, one has to turn the volume up while being in a loud environment. Long periods of exposure to loud sound ultimately leads to hearing problems.
It is generally advised to use 60% of maximum volume setting at any time, to avoid problems. That setting will also preserve battery life for longer.
Do USB Headphones drain more power than audio headphones?
USB headphones/headsets have become increasingly popular in recent years due to various perks they offer to users. USB headphones connect to devices via USB ports and USB cables. Those headsets offer better noise cancellation feature, at a cost of bigger power consumption.
They are usually easier to connect (everyone has experienced at least once in their lifetime that audio inputs on their PC stop working for no apparent reason).
When it comes to power consumption, compared to regular audio headsets, USB headphones need additional power for USB interface that is used to provide additional features.
Bigger power consumption is not an issue when connecting to PC, but when connecting the device to laptop or a phone (there are phones that have such functionality), that could mean shorter battery life.
There are many variables that could affect power consumption and battery life for any device. By being smart and using only optimal settings, we can prolong battery life and shelf life of any product.
When it comes to headphones, try to use them on the lowest sound level that feels good for you, and whenever possible, use wired headphones and focus on apps that do not drain the battery.
For convenience, Bluetooth or wireless headphones are the best choice. They do cause bigger battery drain, but with using optimal settings and apps it can be adjusted to last long enough.
There are many brands out there, some are cheaper and some are more expensive. If you prefer better sound quality, it is absolutely worth it to pay a little extra for a good pair of headphones. If you are looking for the cheapest possible solution, you can expect to get a decent quality of sound, and better battery life at a cheaper price.