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How to Connect Headphone Amp to Audio Interface: Full Guide

How to Connect Headphone Amp

Do you want a headphone amp for your audio interfaces, but you’re at a loss on how to set it up?

You’ve come to the right place!

We’ll not only walk you through one method but four of them! We’ll also review each method’s possible side effects and other important information you should know!

Let’s dive in!


  • Connecting a headphone amp to an audio interface will guarantee higher-quality audio and sound.
  • If done right, the headphone amp will function well, but the sounds of audio will not feel the same due to the high quality it promises.
Table of Contents

Connect Headphone Amp to Audio Interface

There are many headphone amps available today with several input connections. Here are a few different methods how to do it:

Method 1: Headphone Output to Headphone Amp’s Input

Method 1

Take your headphone amp and look at the back. You’ll see one input channel and four output channels.

Now take your balanced cable and connect one end to the headphone jack of your audio interface and the other end to your headphone amp’s input.

Then, connect your headphones to your headphone amp by plugging them into headphone output 1.

If you have more people listening, link them to the headphone amp according to the headphone output numbers.

Everyone plugged into the headphone output gets the same audio signal, but they can also individually adjust the volume on the headphone amp while listening to their recording.

Here are things to consider when connecting the headphone out to the headphone amp’s input:


While listening, you might notice that the headphone amp picks up hiss as you increase your volume.

Many audio interfaces pick up unnecessary sounds as the audio signal approaches 60% to 70%. But don’t worry too much about this.

The noise and hiss you hear from your headphones DON’T make it into your recorded audio and will not affect the sound quality.

You hear it while you work because of the audio interface’s headphone output. You’ll see that the sound quality is truly CLEAN when you listen to your recording.

However, if the hiss is still bothering you, here’s what you can do:

  • Because the hiss comes from your audio interface’s headphone output, you can lower the volumes on the audio interface.
    • To make up for that low volume now, increase the volumes on your headphone amp instead.
  • It may take a little trial and error to adjust volumes on both the headphone amp and audio interface since both ends will generate a bit of hiss.
    • You just have to find that sweet spot that makes the least hiss.

Headphone Amp

Another downside of connecting the headphone outputs to the amp’s input is that the audio gets amplified twice.

The audio signal amplified by your audio interface will go through the built-in headphone amp again, which is NOT advisable for professional music creation.

Method 2: Line Outputs

Method 2

This method requires a cable with two unbalanced TS line outputs; one for the left channel and one for the right channel.

You’ll see that it has different colors; Red is always right, while black is always left. These two will MERGE in the wire into one unbalanced stereo signal.

Now, on the back of your audio interface, you’ll see the line outputs for connecting studio monitors. Connect the cable ends to their respective line-level output channels.

After that, take the other end of your wire and connect it to your headphone amp.

However, one downside to this method is the lack of loudness control.

When you connect a headphone amp to an audio interface, you won’t be able to control the loudness while you work, even on the headphone output.

You’ll have to adjust it on your digital audio software instead.

Method 3: Stereo Auxiliary Cable

Method 3

Take your stereo auxiliary cable and connect one end to monitor output 1, found at the back of your audio interface.

Now take the other end and link it to the mono input of your headphone amp.

Method 4: Balanced Line-Level Signal Outputs to an Unbalanced Headphone Amp

Method 4

For this method, link your audio interface’s headphone output to the input on the headphone amps.

You need 2 TRS or RCA cables, one RCA cable per channel.

Next, link the TRS adapters to your audio interface’s Left and Right TRS outputs jacks.

Link each RCA cable (the positive end for each) between the two adapters and the RCA inputs of your headphone amplifier.

Whatever method you use, your audio interface needs to be connected directly to your computer and its power supply.

Here’s how to do it:

  • USB to Computer: You’ll see a plug labeled USB cord on the back of your audio interface. Take your USB cord, connect it, and the other end to your USB port.
  • Power Supply: You will also see a plug for the power supply at the back of your audio interface. Take your power supply cable and connect one end and the other end to your wall plug.

What Is the Best Method of Connecting Headphone Amps to Audio Interfaces?

Best Method of Connecting Headphone Amps

Feeding line-level signal outputs to headphone amps will give you the HIGHEST sound quality for your music production.

How is it the best?

First, the headphone amplifier receives a line-level signal from your audio interface using TRS, XLR, or RCA connections.

The headphone amplifier amplifies the music and sends the output to one or more headphone outputs.

Many headphone amps take line-level inputs, so you’ll have a lot of choices!

But again, if you’re looking for the equipment that will give you the highest sound quality, go for pro audio quality monitoring headphones.

Why Connect A Headphone Amp to an Audio Interface?

Why Connect a Headphone Amp

So, now you know how to connect your headphone amp to your audio interface. But why do you need to do it in the first place?

More Headphone Outputs

There are a few reasons, but the first and most obvious one is that you want to split the sound and connect more headphone outputs.

With a headphone amp, you take one copy of the audio signal and copy-split it to feed it to multiple headphone outputs.

More than one person can monitor the audio recording from the audio interface with more headphone outputs.

Max Volume

Another reason could be that you simply want MORE volume on your headphones.

Headphone amps can also re-amp the audio signal, producing a louder sound for your headphone output.

Higher Quality Headphones

You might use a high-end tube or solid-state preamplifier for your higher-quality headphones with high impedance because you want more coloration or power.

Most audio interfaces have enough power to drive headphones with high impedance without any issues.

However, if your audio interface is not powerful enough to drive headphones with high impedance, you can get dedicated headphone amps that are powerful enough.

Audio Interface vs. Headphone Amp: What’s the Difference?

Audio Interface vs. Headphone Amp

Audio Interface

Usually coming from a microphone or musical instrument, an audio interface is a device that transforms analog audio signals into a digital format for computers.

They can now be played through studio monitors or headphones when they transform digital signals into analog audio signals.

It is a device which you plug your microphone, other instruments, and sound equipment into.

The audio interface sends everything you record on the device to your computer.

After sending it to your computer, this device allows you to edit your recording on your digital audio workstation.

Audio interfaces are built to accept BOTH balanced outputs and inputs.

Headphone Amp

Meanwhile, a headphone amp increases a low-voltage audio signal to a high enough voltage, giving it more power for headphones to work.

A headphone amp is also a device with MULTIPLE headphone outputs, allowing multiple people to simultaneously listen to the sound being produced.

Headphone amps and headphones are made for unbalanced connections.

Can You Use an Audio Interface as a Headphone Amp?


Audio interfaces are made with a built-in headphone amp, so yes, audio interfaces can be used as a headphone amp.

However, using audio interfaces as headphone amps will not give you the same quality as you would expect dedicated headphone amps to give you.

You will learn more in the following sections.

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cables

Before you link a dedicated headphone amp to your audio interface, you first need to choose which kind of cable to use.

But how do they differ?


Let’s start with the unbalanced 1/4-inch cord.

First, let’s look at the bottom end. It has two different sections, the tip and the sleeve.

It’s also known as the TS or the instrument cable. It’s unsuitable for sending out a stereo signal or a mono signal for more than 15 feet.

If you do, you will get unnecessary hiss or noise, which can even pick up interference from radio stations.


Meanwhile, the balanced cable has three sections, the tip, the ring, and the sleeve. It is also known as the TRS cable.

An easy way to tell them apart is that the balanced cable has 2 lines, while the unbalanced has only 1 line.

A balanced 1/4-inch cable can be used in 2 ways…

Unbalanced Stereo

First, you can use it for an unbalanced stereo signal where it shows left, right, and ground. This is good for headphones connected up to 15 feet.

Balanced Mono Signal

You could also send a balanced mono signal.

One of those signals will get a tip signal, and it will have a phase inversion on the second one, resulting in a second copy of the same signal.

Now, these two will work together to cancel out hiss in the cable.

This makes the balanced connection more PRACTICAL to be used with powered speakers connected to an audio interface for a long run of up to a whopping 100 feet.

It cancels out noise better and gives you higher-quality audio and more reliability if you link your studio monitors to your audio interface.

Can You Use Audio Interfaces as Headphone Amps?

Can you use audio interface


As mentioned earlier, you can certainly use your audio interface as a substitute for your headphone amplifier.

Most audio interfaces have a headphone output and a headphone amplifier built into them anyway.

Your audio interface is also equipped with direct monitoring, where you can link the audio interface input and then listen to the sound you’re working on through the headphone output.

Direct monitoring lets you listen to your work and monitor its quality as it goes through the input channels.

How Do You Use Your Audio Interface as a Headphone Amplifier?

First, link your source to the audio interface’s input channel.

Afterward, send the audio input to the headphone output using the direct monitoring capability on the audio interface.

Next, link your headphone through any of the headphone outputs on the audio interface.

Is It Good to Just Stick To Using Your Audio Interface as a Headphone Amplifier?

It’s fine to use your interface as a headphone amplifier.

Audio interfaces are designed to be an ALL-IN-ONE device, so you shouldn’t have any issues with them.

Not to mention, this option is budget-friendly!

However, getting a dedicated headphone amplifier is always better.

Since everything is packed within an audio interface, its components and quality easily get compromised.

Manufacturers also attempt to make interfaces more budget-friendly to appeal to the market, resulting in the quality being more compromised.

So if budget is not an issue, getting a separate headphone amplifier is your best bet!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Got more questions about the audio interface and dedicated headphone amps? You can refer to the following section for some answers!

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

One way to check this is by the channels.

Mono headphones only have one channel because all speakers in the system receive the same sounds.

On the other hand, there are often two channels when using stereo headphones.

Thanks to a stereo system using two or more channels, each speaker will receive a different audio track from each channel.

What Should the Gain Staging Look Like?

For gain staging, it’s best to aim for 18dBFS as your average.

You want to continue using the same idea of optimal gain staging that you did while recording.

Do Most Audio Interfaces Have a Built-in Headphone Amp?


Most audio interfaces that have a headphone jack already have built-in headphone amps.

But getting dedicated headphone amps will give your music a much better sound quality than just settling with what your audio interfaces are equipped with.

Audio interfaces are equipped with an output for when you use them with headphones, so yes, it IS capable of powering a headphone.

Can You Connect XLR Outputs From a Digital Analog Converter Into Headphone Amp RCA Inputs?

Not always.

Connecting an unbalanced output to a balanced input is fine, but connecting balanced RCA inputs to unbalanced output channels isn’t always safe.

When in doubt, it’s best to check with the creator of your Analog to Digital Converter about what they recommend.

On the other hand, can you link to the headphone amp using RCA cables?

Yes! You can connect RCA cables to your headphone amp’s input.

Can You Use an Amp as a Monitor?

You CAN use your amp, like a JDS Labs atom amp, as a monitor.

However, make sure you utilize the headphone output to convert the left and right channels to mono.

Can I Link a Headphone Out to an Amplifier?


Linking a headphone out to an amp won’t cause issues or damage any devices, but you won’t get great audio quality.

You can even use that output channel as a line-out as a headphone out can send out a line-level signal.

Just ensure it isn’t too loud or doesn’t distort your work!

Do You Lose Quality When You Use an External Amp With Your Audio Interfaces?

No. Using an external amplifier with your audio interfaces should not lower the quality of your work.

With that being said, Getting a headphone amp will greatly improve the quality of your work.

If your audio interface has low ohms and insufficient gain, a headphone amp can remedy this dilemma and provide you with better sound quality.


And that’s all! We hope this article was helpful and informative to you.

Connecting your headphone amp to an interface can be practical and can really BOOST your musical experience!

About the author


After becoming obsessed with the beats that were the soundtrack to his youth, Nick became a student of hip hop, digging for vinyl records, looking for the perfect break. Before he got his hands on an MPC sampler, he would mash these records, beats, and breaks into mixtapes and live DJ sets.