Samson QH4 Four Channel Headphone Amplifier
An affordable headphone amp that can grow with your needs
by Phil O'Keefe
If there's one thing every recording musician (and recording studio) needs, it's a way for musicians (and engineers) to monitor what's going on while recording. This almost always means "headphones" - but the problem is, most computer audio interfaces only have one, or at the most two, headphone output jacks. That's fine if you're working alone, but not nearly enough for the whole band. Of course there are high-dollar solutions available, but if you're on a budget, what are your options? One interesting one was recently released by Samson. Let's take a closer look at their new QH4 and see how well it can do the job.
- The Samson QH4 is a headphone amp that can drive four sets of stereo headphones at once.
- The unit is made of plastic and weighs 0.88 pounds, so it's pretty light, but it seems substantial enough that I wouldn't worry obsessively about it getting the occasional bump in the studio.
- The color scheme is two-toned, with the sides of the QH4 being a metallic silver while the top is a mirror-like glossy black, which looks cool but shows fingerprints like crazy. The lettering for all of the controls and I/O jacks are contrasting, with black lettering on the silver ends and white lettering on the top.
- A non-skid rubber pad on the bottom of the QH4 really does help keep it from sliding all over your desktop.
- There are four headphone output jacks, labeled CH 1 - CH 4 and mounted on the QH4's front end. The QH4 works with headphones from 16-600 ohms, so just about anything you have around your home or studio should be compatible.
- Each headphone output has 282mW per channel of power available at 0.5% THD when using 32 ohm headphones.
- On the opposite end of the QH4 you'll find the remainder of the QH4's connections. The QH4 has individual left and right inputs on 1/4" balanced TRS jacks (20 kOhm input impedance), along with Aux In and Aux Out jacks - these use 1/8" TRS connectors wired as unbalanced stereo jacks, and allow you to cascade multiple QH4's when you need to power more than 4 headphones at once.
- Aux Out impedance is 100 ohm, and maximum level from the Aux Out is +14 dBu at 1% THD.
- The jack for connecting the provided external 15V DC 800mA power supply is located near the inputs. The plug uses center pin positive wiring.
- Audio specs are generally quite acceptable, especially at this low of a price, with a claimed frequency response of 20 Hz - 20 kHz +/- 0.5 dB, -114 dBu, 22k bandwidth noise floor, 122 dB 22k bandwidth dynamic range, and a 96 dB re 1 mW signal-to-noise ratio with a 32 ohm load.
- Each headphone jack has its own Volume control, which you'll mounts on the unit's top surface. There's also a Master Volume control with a built-in on/off switch, along with Mute and Mono pushbutton switches.
- A white LED on the top serves as a power indicator.
- There's no mic stand adapter on the underside, and as of this time, no add-on clip or adapter for mounting the QH4 on a mic stand.
I was pleasantly surprised when I first powered up and listened to the QH4 with a variety of headphones. Given the price I didn't have the highest of expectations regarding build quality, but this is a surprisingly solid unit for such an inexpensive multi-channel headphone amp. It's also great that it has plenty of power on tap - even enough to make the drummer happy. Noise levels are low too, and you're not subjected to a ton of hiss in your cans when you're using a QH4.
While I do wish that there was some way to mount the QH4 to a microphone stand to get it up off the floor when it's being used in the tracking room, it works really well as a tabletop unit, which is how most people will probably use it. The ability to cascade additional QH4's to expand the number of channels available does give you the ability to continue to use it even if your needs change later, which is another welcome feature.
Best of all though is the solid sound quality - again, especially at this price - and that there is plenty of level available from the QH4 to drive most headphones to very loud listening levels (so use caution like they advise in the well-written QH4 manual. and monitor sensibly!). If you're on a budget - and even if you're not, but you need a small, good-sounding, four-channel headphone amp, give the Samson QH4 a listen - I think you'll like what you hear. -HC-
Do you have questions or comments about this review? Then be sure to check out this thread in the Studio Trenches forum, right here on Harmony Central.
Samson QH4 four-channel headphone amplifier ($114.99 MSRP, $69.99 "street")
Samson's product web page
You can purchase the Samson QH4 four-channel headphone amplifier from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.