Headphones are essential for monitoring and mixing, but they can also be frustrating when the sound is too low. Let’s consider he most common reasons why headphones might be too quiet, and how you can remedy the problem.
1. Make sure the jack is plugged in correctly
Check that you don’t have a loose connection in your wired headphones. It can be tough to tell, but if you plug and unplug them a few times while listening to them, that might do the trick.
If this doesn’t fix your very low volume problem or it only mutes one side of the sound, then there is an issue with either the wires inside or in the headphone jack. Check that the headphone connector is properly plugged in.
If you’re an Apple user with a lightning cable, then try connecting the headphone plug to your computer instead of directly into the phone and see if that fixes it.
2. Check you don’t have incorrect audio settings on your device
Make sure that your device settings are turned up. Check your volume on whichever device you’re using as the output to the headphones and make sure it’s not too low. If you are monitoring the output from a mixer and your headphones sound low, make sure all the levels on your audio settings are turned up.
3. Turn up the sound volume
This is maybe stating the obvious, but check the volume knob on your headphones and make sure it’s turned up. If you don’t have a headphone volume control, turn the headphone all the way up in whatever device you’re using (phone, computer etc).
Sometimes volume controls can get dust or dirt in them, making it hard to push down the volume. Try moving the control up and down a few times to loosen any dust particles that might be in there.
The only downside to max volume is that it can affect the sound quality. This is why you should be using your volume control to find the sweet spot between sound quality and volume.
4. Try a different pair of earbuds or headphones
If the other suggestions above don’t work, try swapping your headphones out for a different pair. You could also try the headphone causing you problems on another device or with a different sound source. This may help to figure out what’s causing the problem and solve it. If you need new headphones, check out my other post about monitoring headphones
5. Check your ear fit
Whether you are using over-ear headphones or earbuds, you may find that the fit isn’t right. Make sure your headphones are seated in or around your ear canal rather than just on top of it, as this will help block out external noise and allow you to hear more clearly.
If they are too big and loosely seated in your ears, the sound waves will be muffled and you’ll need to turn up the volume.
If they are too small or tight, you may feel pressure against your eardrums due to a lack of space for air circulation. In this situation, try inserting some cotton or other material inside the ear cups to provide more space.
6. Turn off any noise-cancelling features
Double check you don’t have any noise-cancelling features turned on. This can mute the sound coming from your headphones and make them seem quieter than they are.
Turn off any noise-cancelling feature you might have in the settings of your device, or switch to a volume where you hear ambient sounds like cars passing by or people talking on their phone nearby for reference. You may want to check out my post about headphone static problems.
7. Check your Bluetooth connection
If you have Bluetooth headphones, the volume might be low because of a weak connection. The audio signal is transmitted through Bluetooth and can affect audio quality. Check your battery level to see if it’s at 100%. If so, try changing positions or turning them off and then on again. If that doesn’t work: Try switching Bluetooth sources — usually these are found in the settings menu for your device or Bluetooth transmitter.
8. Make sure your ears are clear
This can be easily overlooked, but if you have wax in your ear it will sound like the volume is turned down. You can blow into one of your ears to see if this helps, then use a cotton bud with some water and gently clean the inside of the ear canal. If there are any excess bits left over from cleaning, try using baby oil or olive oil.