Samson QH4 4-Channel Headphone Amplifier

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Product: Samson QH4 4-Channel Headphone Amplifier
Provided By: Samson
Price: ~$69.99 USD online at time of publication

 

Introduction:

If like audio as much as I do, you probably have considered or purchased a headphone amplifier. While I do love good audio and am disappointed with the low volume output of many devices today, I also have a limited budget and can't afford a crazy-expensive multi-tube headphone amplifier. That leaves me listening to much of my music tethered to my computer and mixer where I can tweak the audio and do some basic amplification and EQ adjustments as well. While this does work, it's not designed for the job and the mixer is much more bulky that the Samson QH4 which arrived at BCC Headquarters a little while ago. 

Samson QH4 Box

Samson QH4 Box

I've been enjoying this and the price tag means that after the review period is over, this may be the headphone amplifier I choose. It's priced right around the $70 USD mark and that makes it very affordable. Is it the warmest, richest sound you'll ever experience? Probably not, but you'll also save a bundle. In this quick and dirty review, we'll take a look at the QH4 and see if the tradeoff in ultra-quality for price is worth it. Let's face it, if it sounds horrible, $70 is still too much money.

 

First Look:

The QH4 is budget friendly and there are a few things that are missing from the bundle in order for them to keep the price down. There is no included 1/4-inch input cable and no 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adapters. While they aren't all that expensive, there are things that Samson leaves out in order to keep the price at a point where this is pretty much an impulse buy. What you do get in the bundle is pretty much everything you really need anyhow. You get the QH4, a power adapter, and the owner's manual. You have to provide the cable for the input, and adapters for the output. If you don't have these, you probably don't need a headphone amplifier anyway.

Samson QH4 Bundle

Samson QH4 Bundle

 

A closer look at the QH4 reveals some more details. The front of the unit simply has four 1/4-inch stereo output jacks for your favorite pair of high-quality headphones. If you don't have high quality headphones, you will still gain the extra loudness, but you are missing out on so much that Samson manages to keep intact. 

Samson QH4 Front

Samson QH4 Front

Samson QH4 Rear

Samson QH4 Rear

The rear of the QH4 contains 1/4-inch left and right inputs (left can be used as mono), as well as an 1/8-inch stereo input, a 1/8-inch auxiliary output as well as the power jack. The front and rear are pretty straightforward and you're going to get the best performance out of the 1/4-inch inputs on the rear.

 

The overall color scheme of the QH4 is almost nice. I like the black and silver body, and the chromed input and output jacks are nice. The grey/silver knobs are even quite nice, but then they ruin the look with some florescent green text and indicators on the controls. I know this is petty and a personal preference, but white - or even red would look better on the knobs in my opinion. The green looks like it cheapens the whole thing.

Front Profile

 

On the next page, we'll take a look at the features and specifications of the QH4 before we carry on with testing.


Features:

The information below has been taken from the Samson product page and posted here for your convenience. If you need any more information, product manuals and more, please check with the manufacturer.

Channel Your Sound.
You've positioned your microphones, set your levels and everyone's ready to record. Now, you need a way for each performer to hear themselves. That's where the Samson QH4 comes in... The QH4 is a 4-channel headphone amplifier designed to distribute your audio to up to four individual headphones, each with its own volume control. Its compact design is perfect for use with any studio or desktop workstation, as well as with your laptop or smartphone when you're recording on the go.

In Side... And Out
The QH4 features two balanced 1/4" inputs to connect with your mixer or recording interface, as well as a stereo 1/8" Aux input that's perfect for playing music via your smartphone or another line level device. In addition to the four stereo 1/4" headphone outputs, the QH4 provides a 1/8" Aux Out that can be used to daisy chain multiple QH4s together.

The four independent high-power amplifier channels deliver clean, crisp audio to up to four sets of headphones, operating between 16–600Ω. And power does not diminish even when all four channels are being used. Engineered with an ultra-low noise floor and wide dynamic range, the QH4 is a tremendous value compared to other headphone amplifiers on the market. Also, the QH4's Master volume control and Mute switch make controlling the overall level of your headphones a breeze.

Check Your Phase
Before bouncing your mix, you should always check to ensure that it's compatible with mono speaker systems. The QH4 features a global Mono button, which allows you to quickly check the mono compatibility of your tracks. If you notice that some of your audio is missing, you should check the phase of your recordings. This feature also allows you to take a split left and right feed from a stereo interview and send both tracks to each side of your headphones. This is great for quickly monitoring a podcast or recording with split tracks.

Whether you're tracking multiple performers in a studio, recording a podcast, watching a video with friends or just kicking back listening to some tunes, the QH4 provides great sound at an amazing value.

 

 

Other Features:

  • 4-channel stereo headphone distribution amplifier
  • Four independent 1/4" stereo headphone channels
  • Individual volume control on each headphone channel
  • Two balanced 1/4" input connectors
  • Stereo 1/8" Aux input and output
  • Master Mute and Mono-summing switches

 

Specifications:

  • Inputs: 2 x 1/4" balanced, stereo 1/8" unbalanced TRS
  • Outputs: 4 x stereo 1/4" unbalanced, stereo 1/8" unbalanced TRS
  • Controls: Master volume, master Mute, master Mono, 4 x Channel volume
  • Noise Floor: -114dBu, 22k BW unweighted
  • Maximum Output: 8.3 dBu, 1% THD+N, loaded 16R
  • Dynamic Range: 22dB, 22k BW
  • Frequency Response: 17Hz–47kHz (-3dB)
  • Power: 15VDC adapter

 

On the last page, we'll test out the QH4 and see how it performs as we draw some final conclusions.


 

Plugged In:

Once we unboxed and took pictures of the QH4, we plugged it into the wall and found a couple of different audio sources to use. During the weeks that I've had the QH4, I plugged in my laptop via a ASUS Xonar USB sound card, my iPod Classic and several other devices including mobile phones, media players and more. I used a couple different pair of over-the-ear headphones to check out the performance and to see if I could pick up any distortion or artifacts that weren't there with the raw audio without the amplifier. 

I have a few loss-less audio tracks from Thousand Foot Krutch and I was able to play these large files and they sounded very good indeed. My headphones of choice were the Sennheiser Momentum M2 as well as the Sennheiser Urbanites XL. While the Urbanites are geared more toward pop music with heavier bass, the Momentum M2's are very balanced and clean. Both worked equally well and the performance of these headphones was greatly improved over a standard connection to a laptop, phone or media player.

Both of these headphones do well when driven harder from an amplifier and the Samson QH4 does just that. It drives them harder, better and louder with great audio reproduction. While all of this section is really quite subjective, my experience with the QH4 was better than without it.

Samson QH4 Top-Down

 

The good news is that virtually everything from instrumental, to country, pop, rock and even some light metal sounded fantastic when played through the QH4. I noticed that some of my older MP3 that I encoded way back in the day didn't sound very good when pushed hard. I checked the file properties and they were encoded at 96kbps. That would explain it, but the poor quality remains unnoticed when using cheap headphones - or played at low volume without the QH4. 

The upside to the QH4 - or any other headphone amplifier for that matter - is that it magnifies the sound. It boosts the good stuff, but also showcases poor audio as well. The takeaway here is that you should always encode audio at a high-bit rate instead of trying to save space or cram more music on your media player.

Now for some bad news. While it's not a huge deal, I noticed that on every one of the volume control potentiometer's the sound reverted to a single channel at low volume. Granted, the volume was very low and this would only occur when you turned the knob off the lowest setting and started to turn it up, but that shows there is some inconsistency with the potentiometer. When listening at anything above the bare minimum, this problem immediately disappears, but it's something worth noting that probably wouldn't exist on a $1,000 headphone amplifier.

It certainly isn't a deal-breaker, especially considering the price, but it's worth noting. At the end of the day you can't really expect complete perfection for a $70 price tag when other amplifiers cost 3x - 10x the price. 

 

Final Thoughts:

Samson's QH4 is touted as a "high power, great sounding solution for stereo desktop headphone distribution," and it certainly is that. It works very well and gives multiple people control over the volume level of their headphones. This has come in handy during podcast recording sessions for WeeklyTechUpdate as we have different users, different microphones but had previously all been sharing the same headphone output via a splitter on my mixer. Now, there are more options and more control for each participant.

While there isn't a lot of times that I need four channels, it gives expansion and flexibility for a lot of different situations. Often I have two channels in use, but it's nice to know that if things get a bit more crowded around the podcast table, we still have headphone monitor options for each person.

For $70, the Samson QH4 should be on the wish list of pretty much anyone who enjoys music, creates content or monitors audio. Expensive headphone amplifiers also modify the sound to create a warmer, richer experience, but the QH4 is simply an amplifier. It does that job very well. The only real drawback I saw was the potentiometers are low volume, but if you're using a headphone amplifier, you probably aren't listening to audio at the bare minimum volume level. As I mentioned before, it's not a deal-breaker, but it is worth noting that this existed on all four channels.

Pros:

  • Affordable headphone amplifier
  • Four channels
  • Master volume control plus independent channel controls
  • Multiple input options
  • Mute and Mono switches for convenience and testing audio phase

 

Cons:

  • Bundle doesn't include 1/4-inch to 1/8-inch adapters
  • Channel 1-4 volume potentiometers are a little inconsistent at low volume

 

For the price, the performance is outstanding and while the product isn't perfect, it does a darn good job. It's probably one of the most affordable four-channel headphone amplifiers money can buy and it performs very well for an amplifier of twice the price.

If you have any questions, comments or general feedback regarding the Samson QH4 headphone amplifier, please feel free to comment and post in the forum right here.