Amateur Radio

Behringer HA400 Headphone Amplifier: It’s a teaching tool!

Are you a new ham? An experienced ham mentoring a newcomer? If so, you need this box: the Behringer HA400 Headphone Amplifier.

When the goal is becoming a better operator, there’s nothing more effective than on-the-air experience itself. Making a QSO, experiencing the thrill of hearing someone come back to your CQ, is what the magic is all about. But, there is always a first time. How do you learn? How do you get it right?

By far, the best way to learn operating technique is under the watchful eye of an experienced mentor. A mentor’s job is to advise you on new techniques, and then to help you dive in and try them yourself.

While you are making those first efforts to learn that new skill, its helpful if your mentor can be there to see and hear everything you do, say and hear. Since using headphones is the norm for most copy-by-ear operating modes, having your mentor listening alongside you with her own headset is definitely a best practice.

Yes, you could just grab a passive Y-adapter and both of you can plug your headphones into the main headphone jack in parallel. But, this isn’t without its drawbacks. Two annoyances can arise when you do this:

  1. Interactions
    Plugging or unplugging either set of headphones can cause a change in volume in the other set. That’s because the output of the radio’s audio amplifier changes when you change the headphones.
  2. Independent Volume Control
    Volume level cannot be adjusted independently for each set of headphones. That means the mentor will probably listen at the volume that’s most comfortable for the student operator. Sometimes, due to headphone differences, one set of headphones will be at a significantly higher or lower volume than the other. This can be an uncomfortable situation

Thanks to Marty Sullaway NN1C, I learned about the Behringer HA400 HeadPhone Amplifier. For only about $25, this little box solves all these problems. You just plug the HA400 input into the main headphone output of the radio. Then, each listener plugs a set of headphones into one of the HA400’s four independent outputs. Each op has a dedicated volume control, and can set it to his or her liking.

The HA400 has other uses, as well. If you want to run a contest with a second op helping you copy a deep pileup, the HA400 is the perfect solution. If you need to feed a recording device with a constant level, the HA400 can do the job while allowing other outputs to be adjusted to the perfect level as needed for each individual operator.

A great way to spend $25.