Are you having trouble getting enough volume from your headphones?
Maybe you just can’t get a satisfyingly loud volume when you play music, movies, videos, or audiobooks, or maybe you can’t get hardly any volume at all, and can just barely hear your ‘phones.
Whether you are using normal over-the-ear headphones or in-ear buds, wired or Bluetooth wireless, there are some basic reasons why you may be getting very low volume when using them, and some simple things you can check and easily fix.
So let’s go through all of the possible causes and problems that might lead to your headphones playing too quietly, and ways you can make them play louder, with Speakergy’s list of:
Ten Things to Try to Make Your Headphones Louder
1. Check Volume
Pretty obvious, right? But what may not be obvious is that there may well be several different volume controls between you and your music!
Back in the good old days, it was simple – a big old knob that you turned one way for louder, the other way for softer.
But now, especially on computers, you may have lots of different programs and processing software, as well as the operating system itself, that can and do control the output volume.
So if you are experiencing very soft volume, or it just won’t get as loud as you think it should, you should make sure that the volumes are set at the right levels on:
- The main operating system – whether it be Windows, Apple, Android, or whatever – with phones it can be a simple physical button, usually on the side, but even with computer and phone operating systems the main system volume is really easy to find.
- And though this is a bit more advanced, if you are running Microsoft Windows operating system it is even possible that you have your web browser, or your music or movie playing software, muted separately from the main volume control. To check this – and also as another way to check the main system volume, go to Settings, search for the Sounds page and click on Advanced Sound Options.
- Media player – even if you have the system volume all the way up, the program you are using to play your music, movie, video, or other media may have its own volume – which should be right on the program itself and easy to see – and you should make sure that it’s at a high enough level (and that the program’s mute is not selected).
- Internet – a web page can also have a volume control, and if the volume is low on YouTube, Spotify, Pandora, or other web-based music or video playing sites, or it is muted, you will get low or no volume from your headphones.
- As a general rule, I always keep all of the volumes controls on maximum except for the main operating system volume, which I use to turn the sound up and down.
- Finally, the headphones themselves may have physical volume control. This is more common these days with Bluetooth wireless headphones, but normal wired headphones and earphones can also have volume control.
2. Check Connection
Whether it is physical or electronic, the connection between your headphones and your PC, television, stereo system, or whatever else you’re using must be secure.
- Sometimes low, or not, the volume comes down to the physical connection. If the headphone jack is not securely seated in the socket, you may experience very low, and sometimes, crackly and distorted, sound.
Simply unplug the headphones and re-insert them firmly until you feel a definite physical click – just don’t press them in too hard!
- Also, make sure that your headphones are not plugged into the PC’s microphone socket – on older PCs especially there may be both headphone and microphone plugs, which are the exact same size and usually right next to each other. If they’re not clearly labeled, just unplug the headphones from one and try the other.
- And if you’re using Bluetooth, make sure it’s connected, and even break and re-establish the pairing to make sure.
3. Clean Your Headphones
Dirty headphones can cause a low and muted sound, and in-ear earphones or earbud types are especially prone to this.
- With normal over-ear headphones you can dust and clean the cloth or other material that covers the inner workings – that is, the material that is between the sound-producing driver and your ears – but you should use a lot of caution, not pressing too hard, not removing the material, not using any kind of vacuum and not using any liquids.
Honestly, though, this will probably make little or no difference…
- But if you’re using in-ear headphones, they have a canal that leads back to the sound driver, and this small cavity can easily get so gunky and clogged with ear wax that it can not only greatly reduce volume, it can even completely mute the sound.
Here too you have to be very careful, not sticking anything into the canal so far that it comes into contact with that inner sound driver, not pushing the gunk in even more deeply until it becomes even harder to remove, not using a vacuum or any suction, and definitely not allowing the insides of your earphones to become wet with any kind of liquid.
- I very carefully insert a toothpick and pull gunk out of my earbuds, and then wipe the outsides with a very lightly alcohol-moistened cotton ball, but you can also get a nifty and safe earbud cleaning kit, like the excellent Aispour Cleaning Kit, which also works great with a lot of other electronic gadgets.
4. Clean Your Ears
Not to get too personal, or sound like your mom, but this is an important point and an often-overlooked factor.
If you don’t regularly clean your ear canals (and this time, really, really carefully!), or if you use cotton swabs to clean your ears (which can push more ear wax in than they clean out), the wax buildup can have a huge impact on your hearing.
- About once a month I lie down on my side, and with a syringe I put a few CCs of hydrogen peroxide into the upward-facing ear, allowing it to completely fill the ear canal and most of the outer ear. Then I lie and wait, about twenty minutes, not moving or doing anything at all.
You’ll hear all kinds of weird noises, as the peroxide breaks through and cleans out ear wax, but don’t be alarmed – it just means it’s working!
After twenty minutes, cover that ear with a cloth and roll to the other side, allowing the hydrogen peroxide, and all the gunk, to flow out, gently massaging the ear for thoroughness.
Then do the other ear in exactly the same way.
- This method is safe and effective, but if you are concerned at all you can check with your doctor to make sure it is ok for you.
5. Try Headphones on Another Source
The problem may not be with the headphones themselves, but with the device, they’re plugged into, but this is super easy to check.
- Simply take your headphones to another device – a different computer, a CD or MP3 player, TV or tape deck, or anything that has a headphone jack, and plug them in.
Make sure the volume on the new device is not too high, and try to play something.
If you are still getting very low volume or no volume at all, it is most likely time for new headphones.
6. Get an Amp
It may turn out that the real problem here is that you’re one of them closet metal-heads, who simply needs your music loud, louder, loudest.
Fair enough – it has always been our experience here at Speakergy that the headphone amplifier in most phones, tablets, or computers – whether they’re desktops or laptops – is pretty weak. Not only can they sound kind of harsh and unmusical, but they rarely push headphones to even moderately high volumes.
- A high-quality headphone amplifier can change your life, with extreme clarity, tons of detail, low distortion, huge dynamics and frequency response, and a sweet, musical, and often ravishingly beautiful sound that no computer or other device can come close to.
The best headphone amplifiers can range from super-cheap to painfully pricey, but most are quite affordable. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Douk Audio U3 Mini Class A Headphone Amplifier – a small and inexpensive amp with true audiophile sound and lots of power.
- Audioquest DragonFly Black – an enormously popular and award-winning amp, tiny and totally portable, that sounds amazing and will play really loud.
- iFi Zen V2 DAC / Headphone Amplifier – a premium product at a great price, with absolutely unmatched sound quality and tons of power.
Just remember that you’re on the next level now, and use your new power responsibly! Seriously, these and other top headphone amplifiers can play really loud, so don’t overdo it, and take care of your ears and your hearing.
7. Get a Different Media Player
A less expensive, even free, way to get more volume is to get a media player software program that will play louder than the average maximum output volume of most other players.
- The easiest and most popular choice, and one that will work for Windows, Android, and Apple, is VLC Media Player, which you can download for free at the official Videolan Download Page.
This nice, basic media player will play all kinds of music and movie files and has a volume control that goes up to 200% and plays significantly louder than almost any other player software.
If you want to get all technical, VLC is one of the most advanced, configurable programs going, but the basic user interface is as simple and easy as it gets.
8. Replay Gain Volume Normalization
A more technical solution may lie in activating the Replay Gain option in the program you are using to play (especially) music files. This option basically averages out the volume level of all the songs you are playing, so if you are hearing some music fine, while other music may be too quiet to hear, activating Replay Gain Normalization can solve your problem.
- Every media player has a different way to do this (and many don’t have Replay Gain at all), so please check your music player’s manual or online documentation for more assistance.
- If you want a good program for playing music that has replay gain normalization, iTunes on Apple and Foobar2000 on Windows work great, as does the Winamp media player, which is available for any platform.
9. Noise Canceling or Noise Isolating Headphones
It’s possible that outside noises are so audible and distracting that they are messing with your ability to hear music, movies, audiobooks, or videos clearly. If this is the case you should consider getting really good quality noise canceling or isolating headphones.
- Noise-canceling headphones have active electronic circuitry which senses and removes external noises and leaves nothing but the music or audio you’re trying to listen to. They are enormously effective, and the very best are from Bose and Sony.
- Noise-isolating headphones don’t use active electronics, but simple physical design to block out outside noise, and in their way can also be extremely effective. Our favorites are the cheap but wonderful sounding over-ear Koss UR20 headphones, the great value 1MORE Triple Driver in-ear audiophile earbuds, and the amazing Ultimate Ears Fit – the undisputed champions of physical noise isolation. But really, any tight-fitting in-ear or closed-back over-ear headphones can do a good job of keeping noise out.
10. Have Your Hearing Checked
If none of the above works, or if you are worried something might be wrong with your hearing, don’t mess around – go see your general practitioner or an ear specialist right away.
If you are experiencing hearing loss, and it is degenerative over time, the sooner you get in the better. And hearing loss can be symptomatic of other health issues as well.
Of course, if nothing at all is wrong, the trip to the doctor will be totally worth it just for the peace of mind you’ll feel.
Either way, don’t take chances with your hearing or your health!