What is headphone sensitivity and why is it needed?

Headphones as an electronic acoustic device have certain technical parameters that inevitably affect the playback quality. The buyer, as a rule, singles out loudness of sound, sensitivity in the technical lexicon from all characteristics.


The main parameters that determine the volume and quality of the audio signal:

  • Power;
  • Frequency range;
  • Sensitivity;
  • Impedance;
  • Nonlinear distortion.


The average power rating ranges from 1 to 5000 mW. To listen to high-quality sound from portable devices, 10 mW is enough. High power will drain the battery quickly and cause significant signal distortion. When using stationary sources, powerful speakers should be used.

What is headphone sensitivity and why is it needed

Frequency range

Human hearing organs are able to perceive sound vibrations with a frequency of 16 to 20,000 Hz. These boundaries can vary depending on age, anatomical features and ear sensitivity. The upper limit usually changes with old age due to a decrease in the elasticity of the tympanic membrane.

But there are people who have an increased perception of the sound frequency spectrum. Typically, these professions are associated with music – sound engineers, composers, artists, vocalists and music lovers. To cater to this group of consumers, the speaker frequency response needs to be tuned from 5 to 42,000 Hz. Only professional headphones have such characteristics.


The impedance of the loudspeakers must be matched to the output characteristics of the sound reproducing device. For portable equipment (tablet, phone), the output voltage is limited. This means that the use of low-impedance headphones is justified. For stationary equipment, where the signal is much more powerful and the voltage value changes, it is preferable to use high-impedance acoustics.

Distortion degree

In the characteristics of acoustic devices, distortion is indicated as a percentage. A deviation of 0.5% indicates a high quality product, while values ​​up to 2.0% indicate an average sound quality.


This parameter is directly related to the sound volume and reaches a threshold of 100-120 dB. Depends on the design of the emitter and the magnetic core. Hence the direct dependence of the sensitivity on the dimensions of the device. Miniature speakers have a small speaker size. Therefore, you have to compensate for the sensitivity with earbuds. The loudness of the playback is felt due to the proximity of the speaker to the eardrum.

What is headphone sensitivity and why is it needed

Selecting headphones by sensitivity

The volume is necessary for a more complete perception of the sound range and the ability to use the device in places with a high background noise, for example – in public transport, near motorways.

The optimal headphone sensitivity is 100%. This parameter is suitable for mini-speakers connected to mobile sources – phones and tablets.

Are your headphones 100% sensitive?

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