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Samson Q5

Article from The Mix, June 1995

Miniature headphone amp

Until mixing desks provide more headphone outputs, the humble headphone amplifier will remain essential for foldback mixes. Nigel Lord finds his cans cueing up with the dinky Samson Q5...

A few years ago, one of the larger mixer manufacturers had the bright idea of including a second headphone output on one of their new designs. In doing so, they gained the unanimous approval of reviewers and users alike. Soon, other manufacturers had jumped on the bandwagon, and were proclaiming dual phone outputs as an innovation on their products too.

I remember thinking at the time, that it could only be a mixer designer who has never actually sat in on a recording session that would deem such an obvious inclusion a revolutionary feature. Of course, what was really needed was an additional two pairs of sockets, for the other musicians in the room that may need to listen to a recording without the monitors turned up.

Needless to say, these never arrived — and worse, manufacturers started slipping back to their old ways of including only a single 'phone socket. Yamaha's otherwise excellent ProMix 01, for example, is blessed with but one socket, despite the fact it is the type of mixer destined to end up in smaller, digital studios without a separate control room, where monitoring has to be carried in the same area that microphones may be in use.

For anyone working in such an environment, with two or more musicians, there is, I'm afraid, only one solution — to buy a separate headphone amplifier capable of driving several pairs of cans simultaneously. Unfortunately, such units are rather thin on the ground, and choice is somewhat limited.

Fortunately, the designs that do exist — such as the five — channel Samson Q5 — are quite affordable, and while perhaps not very sexy, they can help to make life much easier for the hard-pressed recording engineer.

In actual fact, US manufacturers Samson are as guilty as anyone, for only including single phone outputs on their range of mixers and mixer amplifiers. But at least they do include a multi-channel headphone amplifier in their range.

First impressions

A 1U half-rack unit, the Q5 provides up to 500mW audio output per channel, adjustable via individual level controls, with a master input control to optimise levels from a wide range of audio equipment. The inputs themselves are balanced, using 1/4" stereo jacks, but will also accept signals from unbalanced gear, should this be necessary. A front panel button switches globally between mono and stereo operation, and there's a facility for connecting additional Q5s together via stereo jack links, should further headphone outs be required.

Powered by an external supply (included), the Q5 will drive virtual any headphones with an impedance between 8 and 600 ohms — although of course, the lower the impedance, the louder your phones will be. This is one of the reasons the individual controls for each channel are necessary. Outside of professional studios, few people are likely to have — or even want — five identical pairs of headphones. This is not a problem with a Q5. The excellent instruction booklet actually carries details of most of the popular makes of phones, giving you an idea of what sort of SPLs you can expect from each.


In use, I found it hard to quibble with the quoted specs; the Q5 is sadly (or happily) one of those pieces of audio gear which is remarkable for being unremarkable. After setting up controls to offer similar output levels to my Studiomaster and Yamaha desks, I found it impossible to tell the difference between listening to them through their own internal headphones outs, and listening via the Q5. Unspectacular as this test may be, it's all you need to know before buying such a unit.

Not everybody will need the Q5. If you work alone or with just one other person, the chances are your desk will provide all the monitoring options you require. If, however, you regularly record with a band, and each member insists on hearing what's going down, the Q5 could be just the ticket.

The essentials...

Price inc VAT: £169
More from: Sound Technology, (Contact Details)

Spec check

Inputs Balanced, 1/4" stereo jacks
Input impedance 10k ohms
Max input level +18dBV
Outputs Balanced, 1/4" stereo jacks
Output impedance 160 ohms (typical)
Max output level 24dBm/600 ohms
Frequency response 20Hz - 20kHz ±1dB
THD 0.003% (1kHz, 0dBm, 600ohms)
Signal to noise ratio 95dB

The Q5 is one of those pieces of audio gear which is remarkable for being unremarkable

Previous Article in this issue

Loop scoop

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Red devil

Publisher: The Mix - Music Maker Publications (UK), Future Publishing.

The current copyright owner/s of this content may differ from the originally published copyright notice.
More details on copyright ownership...


The Mix - Jun 1995

Donated by: Colin Potter

Coverdisc: Mike Gorman

Control Room

Gear in this article:

Studio (Misc) > Samson > Q5 Headphone Amp

Review by Nigel Lord

Previous article in this issue:

> Loop scoop

Next article in this issue:

> Red devil

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