How to Make Headphones Louder

Turn up the volume, with both software and hardware

This article covers methods you can use to make your headphones louder, including checking the compression, cleaning your headphone, adjusting the knobs, installing an equalizer, and more.

Check the File Compression

Over time, headphones can lose their oomph. Yet sometimes you just want to turn up the music. Here's how to bring back the music.

The key to solving these issues is to understand the "chain" between you and your preferred listening material. First, you have the music itself, then the playback device, then your headphones. Each of these can add or subtract to the volume of what you're listening to, using both hardware and software. So, all you need to do is start at one end, and find the weakest link, or add a stronger one.

"Compression" raises the volume on the soft parts of an audio file, while bringing the loud parts down. This doesn't actually change how loud the file is, in terms of physics, but it does create the illusion that it's louder, because there's less contrast.

As a result, when you switch from a podcast or other talk-heavy type of audio, which may be heavily compressed to make voices clearer, to a high-quality music file, the latter may sound a bit muted. Similarly, if you're used to an MP3 of a song, which is highly compressed, and get a high-quality version, it may seem quieter.

Clean Your Headphones

Dirt mucks up everything, and your headphones are no exception. Check your headphones closely for dust, grit, earwax, and muck. Use "dry" cleaning methods like a soft cloth or a toothpick to remove stubborn dirt, and particularly earwax.

This is also a good time to check for damage, such as loose connections in wires, or batteries that are beginning to fade. Inspect the jack or port on your device as well, and if you see dust or crud, clean it out.

Turn up All the Knobs

Another issue may simply be that your phone or player is turned way up, and your headphones are turned way down. Check your volume controls by turning them both down as far as they can go, and moving them each up in increments.

Don't Forget the App Settings

If you're using your phone, don't forget individual apps like games may also have volume controls, and your phone may have different audio settings for different apps. Check the app's settings and your volume control panel on your phone, especially if an app seems too quiet while others come through clearly.

Check Your Device's Settings

Your device may be configured to keep the volume down via software controls.

  • iOS: Go to Settings > Sounds & Haptics > Headphone Safety. If the Reduce Loud Sounds switch is on, turn it off.
  • Android: Go to Settings > Sound > Volume. You'll see four sound sliders for Ringtone, Notification, Touch Feedback, and Media. You can also set the volume keys to either turn up the volume across all apps or in individual media apps, by enabling the switch Volume Keys for Media.
  • Windows: Open the Settings app and search for Sound Mixer Options. This will show you the master volume, which you can configure by pressing the Volume Up and Down keys as well, and if apps have volume enabled, you'll be able to set the volume there.
  • MacOS: From the Apple menu, choose System Preferences > Sound > Output and then choose your headphones from the menu. You can turn up the individual volume of all your audio devices here.

Install a Third-Party Software Equalizer

If all this isn't giving you enough oomph, consider downloading a mixer or equalizer app if one's available. These apps add another layer of volume between your device and your headphones, making it easy to turn it up.

That said, be careful; these apps are strictly use-at-your-own-risk when it comes to your hearing, and they may remove software blocks on some devices designed to protect your ears, or the device itself.

Use an Amplifier

Amplifiers aren't just for living rooms. Portable amps can be used to both increase the volume and switch to a louder pair of headphones. They generally will run on battery power and add some weight, however, so if you're on the go, it may not be an ideal solution.

Upgrade Your Headphones

Finally, you may simply need new ones. Like anything else, eventually your headphones will wear out.

If you're upgrading, consider features that cut down on background noise. For example, if earbuds are letting in too much noise, using noise-canceling earbuds or closed-cup, over-ear headphones will block noise and help the music shine through. Be careful, however, and make sure you know how noise-canceling headphones work. It may not be ideal for protecting your hearing.

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