In the event that you already have excellent headphones that seem to convey the sound of your favorite tracks in a way that no other device can cope with, then you should think about purchasing an amplifier for these headphones in the kit.
What for? Because even the most expensive and high-quality headphones that you have can start working in a completely new way, if you connect even one of the most budgetary options of the best headphone amp to them. Surely, after purchasing and connecting an amplifier to your device, you will understand what it is about and will definitely not regret the money spent.
Music lovers from all over the world, both professionals and amateurs, prefer to listen to music, even with high-quality headphones along with an amplifier with a built-in DAC, because this makes the sound really very clear and beautiful.
All thanks to the latest technology, including the best sound cards and circuits, allowing you to get the best experience when listening to your favorite track. If you still have doubts about this, then the headphone amp review will be able to dispel them to the end, as well as help you choose the best amplifier that is right for you.
Best Headphone Amplifier Reviews
Depending on this, this or that device may be more suitable for you. So, all headphone amps in this review are divided into different categories, depending on such important factors as price and type of amplifier.
Best Headphone AMP Under $100 Reviews
Amplifiers in this category are the most budget-friendly models that can be found on the market today. As for their technical characteristics and improving the sound quality, then with their help you can slightly increase the sound of your headphones, nevertheless, even for that kind of money, the difference will be noticeable.
Amplifiers in this category are perfect for skeptics who are not yet sure that it is worth buying a headphone amplifier in order to immerse themselves in the world of high-quality music and will be able to prove that this is really so and the difference before and after is enormous.
AudioQuest DragonFly Black – best under $100
This budget headphone amp is suitable for all beginners to listen to really high quality music. For its relatively low cost, it will perfectly cope with both increasing the volume of your headphones, and will make the sound transmitted by them much cleaner and more juicy.
This is due to the built-in DAC of this amplifier, the bit width of which is 24 bits.
Audioquest has always been committed to creating only very high quality products, and the dragonfly is no exception. Very small and compact portable amplifier that you can easily take with you just by putting it in your pants pocket. Works with any music from MP3 to hi-res audio.
The amplifier is designed for laptops and computers, in order to get started, you just need to insert it like a USB flash drive into any convenient connector, and then connect the headphones from the back to the only connector that is present on this amplifier.
It is so small that it would be simply impossible to place such controls as volume control on it, which is both a plus and a minus.
- Excellent amplifier design, very compact and portable device, which will serve you for a long time without any failures
- The built-in DAC can save you even more money on buying a separate unit
- A very simple design is both a plus and a minus of this amplifier, because there is no volume control
- Stringed tracks don’t sound as good as we would like
Cambridge Audio DacMagic XS
Another headphone amp under 100 will charm you.
This thing is simply irreplaceable in the everyday life of a modern music lover. It is already larger than the previous model considered, and also, on the front panel of the amplifier, you can find two round buttons, which are responsible for adjusting the volume of the amplifier.
This bass headphone amp is equipped with a 24-bit DAC to enhance the quality of your music. The maximum DAC frequency is 192 kHz. For convenient connection of most headphones, there is a 3.5 mm output here, and to connect the device itself to your laptop or computer, you just need a USB cable.
If you even want to amplify your sound up to 10 times compared to an average laptop, then this device is perfect for you.
- It copes well with amplifying the sound of absolutely any headphones, both expensive and budget models
- Easily configurable for work, no need to download additional software or drivers to your computer or laptop
- All the same, the amplifier, which is positioned as portable, should be less overall
- Over time, many users have a problem with the 3.5 mm output, which begins to play, the connection occurs every other time
Best Headphone AMP Under $200 Reviews
In this price segment, you can already find much more interesting models, both in terms of technical characteristics and in the rest.
All amplifiers in this price range can be characterized by an excellent price-quality ratio, they are suitable for more experienced users, but they will cope with improving music much better than previous models.
Audioengine D1 – best under $200
This headphone amp under 200 from Audioengine, a company dedicated to making the finest home speakers and amplifiers, is a great choice for everyday use at home or work.
What about outputs? Firstly, it is an optical output, there also two analog outputs, right and left, and in addition to this, a USB input, which is used to connect this device to a computer or even a TV.
There is a volume control on the front of the amplifier, as well as a 3.5 mm headphone jack, you cannot bypass the power indicator, which lights up when your amplifier is turned on and working.
As for the sound card, a 24-bit DAC plays its role. It copes with its work at frequencies from 10Hz to 25 kHz. It needs 200mA power to work, which is quite enough from your computer, since no other power source is used when this desktop headphone amp is running.
- If you have a computer with a bad audio card, this amplifier can fix the situation easily and simply.
- It is used not only to work with computers and laptops, but can also be connected to a TV
- After a while, some interference may be noticeable when the amplifier is operating at minimum volume
- If you turn on the amplifier to the maximum, then the sound becomes quite clean and very loud, but at the same time machine and electrical
Little Dot MK2
AIMPIRE is not as famous as other representatives from our review, but their Little Dot amplifier is a bestseller and there are many reasons for this, including the unrivaled technical characteristics of this device.
In addition, this is the first tube amplifier in our review, which makes it unique in its own way. This amplifier works according to the OTL class A circuit and its distinctive feature is the ability to use different tubes so that the sound in your headphones can be further adjusted to the desired effect.
This amplifier delivers incredibly dynamic and musical sound of tracks in all genres from rock to hip hop.
In addition to all the advantages listed, it can also be connected as a preamplifier to your main amplifier.
In the standard set, two lamps are used – the master 6JI, as well as the generator 6N6.
The output power is 100 mW / 32 Ohm, 200 mW / 120 Ohm, 300 mW / 300 Ohm, and the amplifier can operate in the frequency range from 20 to 50 kHz, the maximum value is more than twice that of other amplifiers in this price category.
At the same time, the output impedance is up to 600 Ohm, which is quite a lot.
In this price segment, quite expensive models are provided that are more suitable for professionals or experienced music lovers who have already used similar devices before. The headphone amp under 500 can truly take the sound quality of your favorite tracks to levels never seen before.
- High power + technical characteristics that can compete even with more expensive models
- Everything you need is also included with the amplifier: mini Jack cable – 2 * RCA, 3.5 mm – 6.35 mm adapter
- In long-term operation without rest, even with such excellent anti-overheating circuitry, the amplifier can get quite hot
- Do not connect low-quality lamps to the amplifier, otherwise the work may be disrupted
Best Headphone AMP Under $500 Reviews
AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt – best under $500
We have already considered one budget device from the AudioQest at the very beginning of the headphone amplifier review.
Now we will consider a more expensive device that costs almost 3 times more than its predecessor. It uses the latest 24 bit ES9038Q2M audio chip.
The maximum DAC frequency is 96 kHz when operating in the USB 2.0 mode, which is an average result compared to all other. Although the country of origin of this device is China, it is really well-made, both the design and the dimensions cannot be better.
The device operates at a frequency from 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz, which is also a fairly average value among the products of this price range.
Amp also comes with an adapter that will allow you to enjoy excellent music not only using your computer or laptop, but also using your mobile phone. There is also an indicator that shows in which mode your amplifier is currently operating.
- Do an excellent job with its daily task
- Unlike other portable USB amplifiers, it can be used not only with a computer, but also with a phone, while the adapter is included
- It is impossible to use the microphone while listening to music with this amplifier, for this you need to turn it off after that to answer the call
- Insufficient strength of the structure, if you carry it with you, then over time, the output begins to loosen
Little Dot MK III
This is the bestseller among headphones amplifiers. The Little Dot MK III is a very nice 30W tube headphone amplifier. This device offers excellent audio performance. It is surmounted by two GE5654 tubes for its input circuit and two 6H6 tubes for its output circuit. Little Dot MK 3 is implemented on high-quality components such as the ALPS-16 potentiometer, Rubycon capacitors, WIMA (Germany), and ERO.
Its internal design allows it to provide comfortable power to accompany most headphones models available on the market while revealing a beautifully soft and round signature without neglecting precision. The device has a sturdy aluminum housing over which the tubes protrude.
The amplifier’s advantages include the fact that Little Dot MK III sounds smooth, soft, and without a hint of dynamic compression, even at high volumes. In its sound, you will hear well-defined mids, for which many tube amplifiers are not predisposed to. Snappy lows and airy highs finally shape the amp’s character.
- Users can flexibly configure the amplifier as it supports a huge list of tubes
- It can also work as a preamplifier
- Tubes protrude from the body and do not have any protection
CHORD Electronics Mojo
Immediately striking is the incredible design of this amplifier. A lightweight aluminum case that will keep all the internal parts and circuitry of the amplifier safe, in addition to which you can find three indicators that indicate the sampling level and volume of the track – this is truly what any high-quality and expensive device should have.
Still, despite the rather perfect design – the design of this amplifier is too bulky for use in everyday life. Also, this amplifier is very powerful, which is undoubtedly its plus, but at the same time, it requires recharging every two hours, which is very inconvenient.
This may be enough for a walk, but no more.
This device is equipped with many inputs. There is an input for charging and an optical, micro USB, as well as an input for headphones themselves.
The output power is up to 720 mW with an output impedance of 75 Ω. In addition to all the above, it is worth considering the dynamic range, which will be 125 dB.
- Great design with three indicators that show the most important information
- Many additional modules to improve the device
- Not the best optimization of work with Windows, to work you may have to download additional drivers from the official website of the company
- For some users, this device may seem too bass, which is not very good when listening to some genres of music, so download the equalizer
Best Portable Headphones AMP Review
What’s the best portable headphone amp? First and foremost, it should be small enough to fit easily into the user’s pocket. Also, he must not have an external power source, or have one, but at the same time he must be confident enough to have enough active work time.
Such devices are mainly used to work with various players and phones, so the optimization should be good enough.
A truly unique device that not only does an excellent job of making listening to your tracks as enjoyable as possible, it can also make your headphones wireless by simply plugging them in using the built-in 3.5 mm output.
In addition to this, this device can also be used to answer calls in wireless mode, as it has a built-in microphone.
14 hours of continuous work while listening to tracks and talking on the phone is another significant plus of this amplifier.
The main characteristics can be quickly configured from your mobile phone in a dedicated application.
It has 3.5 mm and 2.5 mm inputs, as well as a volume control and a built-in 24-bit DAC. Product dimensions: 2.54 cm × 1.27 cm × 5.08 cm while it weighs up to 20 grams!
- Makes your headphones wireless, also has a microphone for talking
- Simplicity of design, the latest version of Bluetooth and at the same time high technology makes it a unique product
- During long-term operation, there may be problems connecting to the phone via Bluetooth
- Also, although the applicant is that it can work with two devices at once, there are many problems during operation, such as departures and reconnections every minute
Best Tube Headphones AMP Reviews
Many people prefer tube amplifiers, which produce a much warmer and livelier sound compared to discrete ones, but at the same time they have much weaker bass.
Dared MP-5BTHIFI – best tube
This tube headphone amp is quite expensive, but also a very functional device.
It can be used as a main amplifier, but can also be connected as a pre-amplifier.
Operates at a frequency of 20 to 25000 Hz, which is usual for such devices. Distortion: 0.1% which is actually quite a lot for such an elite tube amp.
It has outputs for working with both headphones and speakers, it also has a special output to be connected as a preamplifier.
Maximum power consumption is 110W. For high-quality operation of the amplifier, tubes such as 6N1, 6N2, 6E2 are used.
It will be most convenient to use this best headphone amplifier as a desktop one, since it weighs 4 kg and it will certainly not be comfortable to take it with you for a walk.
- A versatile device that works great both as a main amplifier and as a pre-amp
- The use of the best lamps makes the sound very lively and high quality
- Many users complain that there is not enough bass when listening to hip hop music
- It would be nice to add a 32 bit DAC as well for better sound
This headphone amp has a pretty bold design. And besides, it combines a solid-state amplifier and a tube amplifier in one design. With this design, sound transmission is richer, and it is easier to get more satisfying sound from a variety of supported sources. It is based on four 70W lamps for richer and more balanced sound from your speakers. The lamps on the device are raised and protected by a protective casing so that the lamp can be burned or mechanically damaged.
This amplifier comes with a Universal Serial Bus (USB) 2.0 port. With this port, you can easily receive songs from your flash drive through the amplifier to your speakers. Moreover, Rockville Blutube is equipped with Bluetooth. You can wirelessly connect it via Bluetooth to a speaker, home theater, or any other device within 33 feet. This feature is still rare in tube headphone amplifiers, making the Rockville Blutube a very profitable purchase considering its wide connectivity and combination design.
- Fast charging is available, the power of which is quite enough to charge modern devices
- The 2-band EQ sets the tone for those sounds that enhance the bass in your surroundings
- There are problems with volume control, which differ depending on the source
Best Headphones Dac Review
A DAC is a digital to analog converter that is used in any device that can reproduce sound. Without his help, it is not possible to hear the sound, because it is he who is responsible for converting the digital signal into analog, which is audible to our ear.
Some advantages of solid-state DACs, which are sold separately, are incredible sound quality compared to those found in your phone or laptop.
iFi Micro iDSD Black Label
Best headphone amp, preamp with MQA and DSD, it’s all about this device.
An excellent device with many built-in features such as bass enhancement and 3D sound can become irreplaceable in your life for a relatively small amount.
The downside is that even though this device was presented by the company as a portable one, it will be difficult to use it this way with a weight of 300 grams and rather large dimensions, it will definitely not fit in your pocket. But it is not a desktop one either, although it can be used as such.
In DAC mode, this amplifier can work from 6 to 12 hours without any problems, the operating time depends more on the volume at which the amplifier is used. So it may be the best DAC amp combo
Output impedance: 0.34Ω with IEMatch off, 4.1Ω with IEMatch High Sensitivity, 0.95Ω Ultra Sensitivity.
Of the main controls: headphone output (only 6.3 mm), Xbass + and 3D + function switches, I note that the toggle switches are very cool, they are nice to click, line-in as 3.5 mm jack, volume control combined with a switch. Of course, there is also a USB connector.
- One of the most powerful amplifiers on the market, has as many as three power modes for ease of use
- Can be used while charging
- Charging takes at least 6 hours, which is long enough for this type of device
- If you use your device frequently while charging, the battery life and performance may be reduced
Why do I need a headphone AMP?
If you really want to feel bass, high and low frequencies and enjoy your favorite tracks the way professionals do, then the headphone amplifier is an indispensable device in your arsenal that can cope with this task very simply.
Regardless of what price category this device is, you will immediately feel a noticeable difference, after the first turn on the sound will become much clearer, while the volume range will also expand, so if you lacked volume even at maximum speed, then now this problem will probably disappear.
What speaker Impedance means and why it matters?
Headphone impedance is an important factor when choosing the right speaker for you. Depending on their resistance, stationary amplifiers or portable ones may be better suited to you.
Low-impedance headphones are conventionally considered headphones with an impedance of up to 100 ohms. For ordinary portable equipment, headphones with an impedance of 16 to 32 ohms are recommended, maximum 50 ohms. However, if the headphones have a high sensitivity, then a higher impedance can be used.
In any case, the impedance has a direct effect on the quality of the sound obtained, and you need to select an amplifier for this factor too.
Portable vs desktop headphone AMPs
The difference between portable and desktop headphone amplifiers is huge. It mainly lies in the power of these devices and their purpose. Portables are often used with phones, various players and sometimes laptops and computers. So, such devices should be much smaller, easily fit into a person’s pocket and have a good battery in order to work without recharging for a long time.
As for desktop amplifiers, they are much more bulky, but they also improve the sound much better, requiring much more power to operate. There are also different types of desktop amplifiers, including tube amplifiers.
Do more powerful amplifiers sound better?
Quite a difficult question, which still has an answer. It depends not only on the amplifier itself, but also on your headphones. Not every headphone can cope with a very powerful amplifier, and this aspect does not affect the quality of the reproduced sound as much as its volume.
What is the difference between a DAC and an AMP
The difference is that a headphone amplifier is more about boosting volume, while a DAC is a device that is designed to improve the sound quality of your headphones. The better the DAC, the better the output quality you get. Nevertheless, the modern market offers the opportunity to buy headphone amp DAC, which will also save you money and make the sound incredibly loud and melodic.