High-impedance headphones are usually considered to have an impedance of 100Ω or higher. In general, they will provide superior audio quality compared to low-impedance headphones and therefore are coveted among audio enthusiasts and professionals. High-impedance devices will have thinner voice coils surrounding the driver, making more snug windings, resulting in a stronger electromagnetic field and reduced audio distortion.
While higher impedance doesn’t necessarily mean better audio quality, it has some merit.
Beyerdynamic and Sennheiser are two prominent brands that provide most of the high-impedance headphones these days. Also, Beyerdynamic is the only company that offers the same model of headphones with different impedance options.
Audio-Technica, another renowned name in the headphones niche, offers high-impedance headphones of their own: Audio-Technica ATH-R70x with impedance as high as 470Ω.
AKG used to produce AKG K240 headphones with 600Ω impedance, but these have got discontinued long since and a 55Ω version is now sold instead. You might find a vintage AKG K240 with 600Ω impedance used on eBay.
Headphones with high impedance:
High-impedance headphones require an appropriate headphone amplifier to drive them. Most headphones have low impedance and can be driven by an integrated amplifier within your computer’s motherboard or a phone. However, the headphones mentioned in this list will require a dedicated amplifier to run them. You might be using DAC (Digital audio converter), audio interface or a high-quality dedicated sound card to drive your high-end headphones.
It’s worth noting that your high-impedance headphones will work without a dedicated amplifier; however, they will probably be too quiet for your liking even at the maximum volume and you’re very likely to notice distortion and lower audio quality. Both of these ruin the purpose of using high-impedance headphones in the first place.
Regardless of the higher quality audio provided by high-impedance headphones most consumers don’t own a DAC or audio interface to run them. Therefore, headphones will often have low impedance, making them pairable with any electronic device and more accessible to general users. High-impedance headphones are primarily used in studios for audio editing or home setups by enthusiast users.
Low-impedance headphones have become significantly more popular with the influx of portable devices such as MP3 players, smartphones and laptops. These devices can’t drive high-impedance headphones to their full potential, however, are perfectly capable of handling low-impedance headphones up to the 64Ω range. The 60-100Ω is more of a grey area and you’ll find varying opinions on whether you need an amplifier in this range.