If you have a set of headphones and you're hoping to get better performance out of them, then you'll want to invest in the best headphone amp. To get the best sound quality, you need to ensure that the headphones are sufficiently powered.
While finding the best amplifier can be a simple process to some, it can be a difficult process for many people because of the wide range of models that offer unique features and prices. In addition, many new models are also hitting the market, which makes it even more complicated.
To help you find the best headphone amplifiers, we have curated the five best headphone amps in the market today, their pros and cons, as well as the factors you need to consider before buying a headphone amp.
- 5 Best Headphone Amplifiers
- 1. FiiO Native DSD256 Hi-Res Bluetooth5.0 Receiver Headphone Amp
- 2. AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter
- 3. Schiit Magni Heresy 100% Op-Amp-Based Headphone Amp and Preamp
- 4. ART HeadAmp6 Pro 6 Channel Professional Headphone
- 5. iFi Micro iDSD Black Label DAC / Headphone Amplifier/Preamp
- Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Headphone Amp
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Headphone Amps
5 Best Headphone Amplifiers
1. FiiO Native DSD256 Hi-Res Bluetooth5.0 Receiver Headphone Amp
- Including Hi-fi DACs(ES9218P*2) for extremely detailed reproduction of sound and...
- CSR8675 Bluetooth 5.0 receiver designed to deliver studio-quality sound through your ears...
- For greater power and detail resolution,the BTR5 features both balanced 2.5mm and...
- Can be remotely controlled via FiiO Music app to swtich channel balance,8 different DAC...
- FPGA precision clock management+OLED Displaying+9 hours battery life+2 microphones with...
The FiiO Native DSD256 Hi-Res Bluetooth5.0 Receiver Headphone Amp is the best headphone amp especially for people who are in search of a portable one. It provides a well-balanced sound and lightweight housing, which is quite portable. Moreover, it comes with a number of excellent features and a great BTR range.
It comes with Bluetooth 5.0 and full app control that you can easily pair to your smartphone. It also comes with an excellent DAC chip that produces an extremely detailed sound and independent control for the ultimate decoding performance. In addition, the Bluetooth receiver is designed to deliver good quality sound to your ears wirelessly.
This BTR5 headphone amplifier features both single-ended 3.5mm outputs and balanced 2.5mm. The battery gives 9 hours of battery life and has two microphones that feature a CVC 8.0 noise cancellation technology. The 10 band EQ and 8 different DAC lowpass filters also help to produce an amazing sound.
2. AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter
- Native Resolution up to 24-bit / 96kHz
- DAC Chip ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with minimum-phase slow roll-off filter for more natural...
- Plays All Music Files: MP3 to MQA and Hi-Res
- Compatible with iOS Mobile Devices (requires Apple Lightning-to-USB adaptor) and Android...
- Dimensions: 57mm (l) x 19mm (w) x 12mm (h)
The AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter is one of the few portable headphone amplifiers with a portable solid-state type. This is because it comes in size similar to a USB thumb drive that you can easily plug into the side of your smartphone or laptop, which in turn boosts your audio quality.
It features the new ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip, resulting in high dynamic contrast and a great signal-to-noise ratio. The 2.1-volt output makes it compatible with a wide range of headphones, including those low-efficiency models. It comes with a 2.1-volt output that makes it compatible with many headphones, even the low-efficiency types.
The AudioQuest has intentionally limited the Hi-res support to 24bi/96kHz PCM, which makes it one of the widest possible ranges of host device compatibility. It is one of the few native MQA renderers that make it incredibly versatile. Although it is small, the device doesn't compromise on sound performance.
3. Schiit Magni Heresy 100% Op-Amp-Based Headphone Amp and Preamp
- Magni Heresy is a 100% op-amp-based headphone amp that delivers spectacular measurements...
- Utilizes super high quality parts, including a multiple paralleled output stage with...
- From IEMs to hard-to-drive planar designs, Magni 3 Heresy has the power, performance, low...
- Includes preamp outputs that you can connect to your desktop powered monitors for a...
- With its built-in time-delayed start-up and instant shut-down, there’ll be no glitches...
Schiit is a popular company that was founded by audio engineers in 2010 who made DACs and headphone amplifiers. The Schiit Magni Heresy 100% Op-Amp-Based Headphone Amp is an op-amp-based headphone amplifier with a desktop solid-state type, exceptionally low noise, tremendous power reserves, switchable gain, and low distortion.
Furthermore, it is made of high quality, which includes multiple paralleled output stages. It comes with a built-in time-delayed start-up and instant shut-down that ensures no pops or glitches on both the headphones and speakers. The versatility and the quality of this headphone amplifier are unmatched.
It comes with preamp outputs that you can easily connect to the desktop-powered monitors to achieve a complete system or can also be connected to a speaker power amp and use it as a preamp. However, the product will only work in a 110-120V US power supply and may not work for 220-240 countries.
4. ART HeadAmp6 Pro 6 Channel Professional Headphone
- 6 independent channels
- Bass and treble EQ
- Dual function pan mix control
- Multiple monitoring settings
- Front panel main jack insert
The ART HeadAmp6 Pro Professional Headphone is a 6 channel headphone amp that features a rack mount style. Its auxiliary inputs come in handy to give the popular More-Me function for each headphone mix. It comes with a 6-channel auxiliary input section, with each output having a dual function balance control.
This balance control provides you with flexibility and freedom, especially when you're recording live in the studio with a group of people. Moreover, the bass and treble controls are included on each output channel to help you tweak the tone further. The outputs include a stereo 1/4-inch TRS jack on the back and front panels for quicker patching and easier installation.
There are also two mono-select buttons for each channel. All the outputs for the front and rear panel can be used at the same time with the headphones connected to the unit. Moreover, the LED level indicators are available for every input to give great visual feedback for each channel, including the mains. It comes with a frequency response range of 20 Hz to 50 kHz.
5. iFi Micro iDSD Black Label DAC / Headphone Amplifier/Preamp
- HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO - Playback any hi-res audio format natively with our signature Dual...
- POWERFUL AMPLIFIER - Experience the full dynamic range of high impedance headphones with...
- UNIVERSAL DESIGN - Constructed with a stylish black matte finish and a durable but...
- TECH PACKED - 3D Matrix Plus and XBass Plus performance tuning delivers an incredible...
- EASY CONNECTIVITY - Connect directly to your iPhone or Android, Digital Audio Player (DAP)...
The iFi Micro iDSD Black Label DAC / Headphone Amplifier/Preamp is another great headphone amp that offers a great value of money, especially when it comes to the sound quality. It is a desktop solid-state type that is capable of producing this best sound, and it is also quite portable.
This battery-powered DAC and headphone amp can produce a maximum output power of 10V/4000mW at 16 Ohm. Unlike other common headphone amplifiers, this one has no issue driving the high impedance headphones.
The DAC in the Micro iDSD Black Label is quite good and can also perform native playback in DSD and MQA, which is mostly a feature not in many amplifiers. Furthermore, its optional XBass+ and 3D+ ‘sonic enhancements’ to bass and spatiality will help boost the audio setup.
Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Headphone Amp
1. Type of Amplifier
There are many types of amplifiers, including solid-state amplifiers and tube amplifiers. Each of the different types has different construction, different circuitry, and provides different sonic characteristics.
Solid-state amps are known to be more transparent in giving a clear sound that is not colored. On the other hand, tube amps have a warmer sound and color the audio in a very attractive way. Sometimes, it has a slight distortion either through excitement.
2. Headphone Connection
Another important factor to consider when choosing the best headphone amplifiers is the type of headphone jack you will need to use the jack adapter. Most headphone amplifiers will need a 1/4-inch jack or 3.5mm jack to correctly connect it to the pair of headphones.
3. Headphone Impedance
Impedance is used to describe how much power the headphones will need to give a great performance. While low impedance headphones will need less power from the amplifier, higher ones might require more power. For this reason, it is important to choose depending on the impedance level of your headphones.
4. Battery Life
Many portable amplifiers are powered by batteries, which is why you need to consider the battery life of amplifiers. Ensure the battery lasts long enough to match your needs.
5. Audio Source Connection
It is important to confirm that the headphone amp you buy comes with proper connections that you can connect to your phone, soundboard, computer, or any other device you want to receive audio from.
If the amp you decide on has a DAC (Digital Audio Connection), it simply means that you will need a digital cable, either a USB, coaxial or optical cable. On the other hand, if you're using an analog connection, a mini RCA cable or a stereo RCA is required.
If you're hoping to listen to music on the go, you will need a portable headphone amp that you can easily carry wherever you go. While there is a larger-sized amp that sits on a computer desk, there are more portable ones that are lightweight and compact in size.
However, the portability is based on the use and preference since headphones amplifiers come in different shapes and sizes to allow one to choose an option that fits perfectly.
7. Selectable Impedance or Gain Switch
Some headphone amps may come with either a selectable impedance or gain switch control to allow the user to properly match up the power being used to power the headphones. If you're looking for flexibility, an amp with a gain switch feature is recommended because they are more versatile and can work with more headphones.
8. Number of Channels
Headphone amps will have channels ranging from two to eight and sometimes even more. Most of the time, the size of the amp determines the number of channels it comes with. Your choice of the number of channels should be entirely based on your needs and preferences.
The sensitivity is one of the simplest ways to determine if the headphones will benefit from the amp. The sensitivity is commonly indicated as DB (Decibels) levels per 1mw (Milliwat) of power supplied. Ideally, anything that is over 100DB at 1mw will be driven to ample volume without the need of getting an external amplifier. However, some headphones will need additional power to reach the 100DB figure.
You want to ensure that the best headphone amp that you settle for has durable parts. Buying a headphone amp is a great investment and it is crucial to ensure the parts are made from high-quality materials that will last long.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on Headphone Amps
1. Are headphone amps worth it?
Most people are always worried about whether or not the best headphone amps are powerful enough to drive their headphones. In most cases, these amps are totally a great option, especially for those people looking for volume levels that might cause hearing problems. In addition, a good amp will help the headphones sound much better.
2. What headphone amp should I get?
The best headphone amp for you is dependent on a number of factors, including the headphone, use, needs, preferences, etc. Our favorite and recommended choice would be the FiiO Native DSD256 Hi-Res Bluetooth5.0 Receiver Headphone Amp, which provides a well-balanced sound and lightweight housing that is quite portable. Moreover, it comes with a number of excellent features, including Bluetooth 5.0 and full app control that you can easily pair to your smartphone.
3. Are tube headphone amps better?
A tube headphone amp is a better choice if you're looking for a warmer sound and color the audio in a very attractive way. However, some tube amps will require you to fully understand what the power tubes do, how the different tubes affect the sound, and why some tubes will work and others won't. Thus, a tube amp can be demanding but also rewarding amp.