Best Headphone Amps

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Best Headphone Amps

If you own a pair of great quality headphones, the next thing you’ll need is an equally impressive headphone amp to make the most out of what you’re listening to.

Without a headphone amp, you struggle to listen to anything whatsoever.

A lot of Hi-fi equipment in your house or on the market doesn’t include headphone jacks.

Best Headphone Amps

A good headphone amp can conquer this problem. Headphone amps can work as an effective desktop hi-fi system but in a far more compact way.

Many headphone amps can fit easily into your jacket or jeans pocket and if you have the correct wires and cables, they can be paired up with your mobile phone. This way, you can listen to anything while on the move.

If you are looking for more freedom of choice, I am here to help you. I have done over 20 hours of research into the best headphone amps on the market so you can just sit back and decide which is the best one for you.

Before long, you’ll be able to enjoy music from all kinds of spaces for an enhanced listening experience.

If you’re in a hurry, let take a look at my top pick now:

Top 5 Best Headphone Amps

OUR TOP PICK

Chord Mojo Black DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Providing exceptional sound prowess, the Chord Mojo headphone amp is a budget-friendly yet highly sophisticated piece of equipment. Its compact size means it will fit into any pocket easily without any fuss for added convenience.

That is not to say it is lacking in features or specifications as it sports a good range of connections including a micro USB for certain devices and a 3.5mm headphone jack to plug in your headphones and listen to music clearly.

Its construction is excellent with aircraft-grade aluminum casing adding durability and protection. It looks and feels exquisite with a high-quality finish. Not only will it look great when you’re walking around but it will last a long time too.

When fully charged, this Chord Mojo headphone amp will last around 8 hours. Of course, this varies depending on your volume levels and the headphone types you use.

Bursting with detail and insight, the sound this generates is excellent. It is able to organize an abundance of information from what you’re listening to and generate crystal clear sounds.

Pros:

  • It has a dynamic yet subtle sound allowing you to hear details in music you may have never heard before
  • Has a very solid build which is full-bodied avoiding any added richness in sounds or low frequencies
  • Very versatile as this can connect this to your iPhone, Android, PC, or MAC for a wide range of listening possibilities

Cons:

  • It tends to heat up after some time which can be a little uncomfortable in the hands

EDITORS CHOICE

AudioQuest - DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

At number 2 is the award-winning AudioQuest DragonFly Red headphone amplifier. Offering a clear dynamic sound with added weight and body, this headphone amp is extraordinary and has everything you need to enhance your listening experience.

I loved how everything sounded more natural through this headphone amp. This is due to a combination of detailed design and outstanding low-level dynamics allowing you to hear the intricacies of sounds that are otherwise impossible to experience. The sounds are more subtle yet expressive which is an excellent combination.

I especially love the fact that this amp lights up different colors to inform you of which format the Red is compressing. Little added touches like this are some of the reasons it sits so high on my list.

Pros:

  • Offers a sophisticated and solid sound while remaining subtle throughout so you can enjoy the details of what you’re listening to
  • Highly compact and lightweight for added convenience and easy to take anywhere for when you need that musical boost
  • Compatible with smartphones so you can use it on the go in any environment

Cons:

  • Its stylish red finish tends to chip pretty easily 
  • It only supports high-resolution music up to 24-bit/96kHz so anything over this is not supported

BEST VALUE

iFi Hip-dac Portable Balanced DAC Headphone Amplifier for Android, iPhone with USB Input Only/Outputs: 3.5mm Unbalanced / 4.4mm Balanced (Unit only)

I absolutely love the design of this portable DAC/headphone amp. Looking at it, you can be forgiven for thinking it is a hip flask at first.

This looks especially fun when you take it out for use with friends and family. Not only does it offer a unique design, but it delivers high-quality sounds for when you are on the move too.

Out of all the headphone amps in iFi’s range, this is by far the most compact they have to offer so you can easily carry it around with you wherever you go.

Although it is quite small, it offers just about as much as iFi’s desktop-based Zen DAC only this time all the power comes in a smaller, battery-powered form.

Its aluminum case is solid and should last you a good amount of time. Little features such as a dampened metal volume control ensure the build quality is strong so you shouldn’t have to put up with parts breaking off easily.

iFi is renowned for producing headphone amps that produce good quality audio that is easy to listen to and refined. The dynamics of any music are expressed wonderfully through these headphone amps resulting in a clear sound.

For a high-quality portable headphone amp, it is hard to come across many better than the iFi Hip-dac.

Pros:

  • Produces an engaging sound that is clear, crisp, and refined
  • Battery-powered with up to 6 hours of battery life when fully charged meaning it is excellent for days out as well as walking around your home
  • Has a slim and lightweight design which is ideal for carrying around with you in your pocket, wherever you go

Cons:

  • Although compact, its hip flask design means it is a little wider than some other models

RUNNER UP

Mackie HM Series, 4-Way Headphone Amplifier Mixer Accessory 1-ch x 4 headphones (HM-4) , Black

If excellent sound quality is top of your list for headphone amps, then you should certainly consider the Mackie HM Series 4-Way headphone amplifier.

Its premium analog circuitry design ensures you receive an extremely low noise floor and high headroom so you won’t have to put up with unwanted noise signals coming through your headphones.

What stands out for me is the fact that this headphone amp can connect to four pairs of headphones. This fantastic headphone distribution means you and your friends can benefit from the amp and experience the same high-quality sounds at the same time.

This Mackie HM series is also built to last. It is constructed with a heavy-gauge chassis, long-lasting potentiometers, and robust switches that are all highly durable and almost resistant to wear.

With individual-level control for each of the 4 outputs available, the Mackie HM Series is a highly versatile and reliable piece of equipment.

Whether you work in a studio or just want to listen casually at home, this ultra-compact headphone amplifier will improve sounds wherever you are.

Pros:

  • Ideal for home use as well as professional use such as music studios when more than one person needs to listen
  • Helps cut out background noise allowing you to listen to what is in the mix precisely
  • “Built-like-a-tank” design to last many years and therefore, saving you money over time

Cons:

  • Tends to distort slightly when cranked all the way up

RUNNER UP

Fosi Audio Q4 Headphone Amplifier Mini Stereo Gaming DAC 24-Bit 192 KHz USB Optical Coaxial to RCA AUX Digital-to-Analog Audio Converter Adapter for Home Desktop Powered Active Speakers

Last but not least is the easy-to-set-up Fosi Audio Q4 headphone amplifier.

With no specific software, apps, or drivers required to get this up and running, it is one of the easiest headphone amps to come to terms with. Just plug in and play this digital audio adaptor and you’ll be listening with ease in no time.

You are able to fit most home studio systems to the Fosi Audio headphone amp thanks to its optical and coaxial S/PDIF inits and USB.

Its RCA output can be connected to an amplifier or through some desktop speakers in case you wanted to blast some sounds in other areas of the house.

You can control the bass and treble of what you’re listening to as a preamp or volume controller for your PC or MAC. This means you can achieve your desired levels every time.

Although it is built with a full metallic shell which ensures high quality and durability, this Fosi Audio headphone amp comes with an 18-month warranty in case you come across any problems. 

Pros:

  • This can act as a DAC converter with the ability to convert USB, Coaxial, or Optical Digital Audio Signals to analog L/R audio so you can use different devices with the amplifier
  • It is highly compatible with digital and HD televisions, satellite receivers, PS4/Xbox consoles, and CD/DVD/Blu-Ray players 
  • Extremely lightweight and compact so you can transport easily

Cons:

  • Can experience white noise if connected to some devices but this is usually because of the Dolby /DTS audio. Simply turn this off and on again if it occurs
  • Can take some time connecting to Windows at first

Best Headphone Amps Buying Guide

All of the headphone amps above are outstanding choices, especially if you want your listening experiences to reach new levels.

However, there are a few factors to consider when buying top-quality headphone amplifiers. 

Here is some more information so you can make that final decision in complete confidence.

Headphone connection

You need to know what type of headphone jack you will need without having to use a headphone jack adapter.

If you don’t take this into consideration, you will have to spend extra cash on an adapter which can also be time-consuming.

These adapters can affect the sound quality so it is best to ensure your headphone amp is compatible with your headphones, to begin with. 

Generally speaking, most headphone amplifiers need a 3.5mm jack (1/4-inch jack) to work properly when connected to headphones.

Headphone impedance

Impedance is the amount of power a pair of headphones needs to produce a good quality sound and performance. You can choose from low and high impedance headphones.

Low impedance headphones require less power from the headphone amplifier while higher impedance headphones need more power from the amp. It is important you choose which is right for you and know the levels of power you will need.

Finding out the impedance level of your headphones can be a bit tricky but if you’re unsure, simply search for this information on the manufacturer’s website.

Selectable impedance or Gain switch

When you use a headphone amp, it will either have a gain switch or a selectable impedance control. These allow you to match up the power used to power your headphone properly. 

Amplifiers with gain switches tend to offer more with added versatility allowing you to use them with more headphones. Those with a selectable impedance switch are not so flexible so one with a gain switch is recommended.

Connection of the audio source

It is vital your headphone amplifier has the correct connections and is able to connect to your various devices such as a computer, phone, or other devices you wish to receive audio from.

If a headphone amplifier has a DAC (digital audio connection), you will require a digital cable such as an optical, coaxial, or USB. Analog connections require a stereo RCA cable or mini to RCA cable.

Portability

Most of us like to listen to music when out and about whether it’s on a daily run or doing some shopping. If you like to listen to music on the go, you will want a headphone amplifier that is more portable than home-based, larger-sized amps.

Larger amps are best suited for computer desks and stay in one place at home. Fortunately, headphone amplifiers come in a wide range of shapes and sizes so you should be able to find an option to suit your specific needs.

Battery Life

If you do go down the portable route, your headphone amp will most likely be powered by batteries.

It is important to take the battery life into consideration as you will want a device that lasts a sufficient amount of time when on the go.

Battery or USB or DC Power?

While we are on the subject of batteries, you need to consider whether you want an amplifier that is powered by batteries, USB, or one that is plugged into a power outlet. Each one has its pros and cons.

Batteries will allow you to move around freely such as into the wilderness with your amplifier. A USB headphone amp can improve the overall sound of your headphones by changing the volume to greater levels.

Moreover, most can be converted for other applications such as stereos. DC powered amplifiers are best if it is home-based, such as in a studio or bedroom.

Channels

As we stated, headphone amps come in all shapes and sizes and this includes the number of channels built-in too. On the whole, most amplifiers can have 2 to 8 channels with some offering even more.

The more channels you have, the more headphones and devices can be used with the amplifier. If you are working in a studio and 4 or 5 people need to listen at the same time, you will need an amp with more channels.

If you are the only one who will be using it, invest in an amp with a smaller amount of channels. Remember, the more channels there are, the bigger the headphone amplifier will be.

Amplifier type

There are numerous types of headphone amplifiers on the market such as tube and solid-state amps. Each one is built uniquely with different circuitry. This means most will provide you with different levels and qualities of sound.

If you’re looking for a warmer sound, tube amps are the way to go. Solid-state amplifiers have a clearer sound that isn’t as colored or layered as tube amps.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use a headphone amp?

Most headphone amps require power for connection to your audio device in order to work alongside headphones that you will wear.

Firstly, ensure your amp has power and is connected to your audio devices such as a computer or phone.

Then, try listening with your headphones. Most headphone amps come with a user manual so always check this before use.

Why should I use a headphone amp?

A headphone amp allows you to increase not only the volume but the clarity of what you’re listening to.

It will improve an audio signal before it comes through your headphones enhancing your listening experience.

Some modes come with extra features too such as Bluetooth modes to connect wirelessly to audio devices. This means you can walk around your house and listen to music instead of staying in one room the whole time.

How do I connect headphone amplifiers to an audio interface?

Fortunately, it is easy to connect your headphone amplifiers to most audio devices. With audio interfaces, simply connect its output to the headphone amplifier’s output.

Next, plug your headphones into the amplifier’s output. Make sure you turn the amplifier on after the audio interface to ensure it works correctly.

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