The best headphone amp in the world is a great way to enhance your listening experience. If you are unsure of what to look for in one, read this article!
In this post, Hooke Audio will discuss he basics of what a headphone amp is and some features that may be important when looking for one. It also includes reviews of popular models on the market today. You’ll never want to listen without an amp again!
What is a headphone amp?
A headphone amp is a device that takes an audio signal and amplifies it to the appropriate level for headphones. In fact, there are DACs, tube amps, instrument-specific models like drummers might use because they need more volume than what’s coming from their own drums in order to hear themselves properly on stage when playing live concerts or recitals while wearing earplugs so as not to damage their hearing with loud music; you can also get a standard type of amplifier too if your needs are much simpler.
Things to consider before buying a headphone amp
A headphone amp is not a simple DAC + amplifier. There are MANY considerations and components that can effect the performance of a headphone amp (and in some cases, even more than just sound). This section will discuss some of those considerations.
The power output of the amp is important, particularly when considering whether you need an integrated amplifier (as opposed to a separate DAC/amp combo). If you want the amp to drive most headphones well, then pay attention to power output.
The power output of an amplifier is measured in watts (W), and many amplifiers are designed for portable use so they have low power outputs in the 10-20W range. A high-quality integrated amplifier with a higher output is an exception to this rule, but most integrated amps have low power outputs.
Do you need a small amp? Portable amplifiers are ideal for portability; however, high-quality desktop models provide more versatility and are typically able to drive headphones with ease.
Different headphone amps will use different stages to amplify the signal before driving the headphones. Each of those stages can effect sound quality differently and sometimes dramatically so. A good example would be used in the Schiit Fulla 2, which uses a JFET buffer before going into the OP amp stage.
See How To Use A Headphone Amp Here.
Yes, how you drive your headphones can effect the sound quality. Poorly designed amps may cause more harm than good to some headphones. In general, low impedance / high sensitivity planar magnetic cans will respond much better to being driven by a headphone amp than a portable player.
Most headphones require more current than what is available in a portable player to drive properly. Be sure that the headphone amp has enough capacity (or voltage swing) to properly power your cans, or you may have unwanted distortion and/or clipping when trying to listen at higher volumes. Most of the time, this will not be an issue with higher end models.
This can effect the sound quality as well. Many times a headphone amp may not have enough voltage swing to drive some headphones without introducing distortion and/or clipping when listening at higher volumes. The sensitivity rating is generally measured into 1K ohms (aka “1 volt per 1K ohms”).
So a headphone with a sensitivity of 100 dB/mW will require only 1V to reach 100dB when driven from 600 ohms. A headphone amp that produces 4 volts (4x voltage swing) is not necessarily better than one that produces 2 volts. You would need to know the impedance at which the headphones will be driven to get a true picture of what voltage swing is needed.
This can effect many things, from how well you hear ambient noise and people talking while listening to music, to the quality of your digital-to-analog conversion, but it mostly effects the amplifier stage as far as sound quality is concerned.
The amplifier stage will have a lower noise floor when using higher quality parts, and will require much more power (and cost) to drive the same headphones.
Less expensive amps can be found that are higher in current output for just about any headphone you could ever dream of driving (current is easy), but they generally do not sound very good because they are made with lower quality parts.
Top Ratead 15 Best Deadphone Amplifiers
BEHRINGER HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier
The Behringer HA400 is the perfect headphone amplifier for anyone who uses headphones in different listening setups or at any location. The tone of voice for this product should be professional and should create a sense that you’re getting a high-quality amp simply because it’s from BEHRINGER.
This unit features four stereo amplification channels plus level controls with independent volume adjustments. Finally, just plug it into an outlet – no power cord needed! You will also get a DC 12-volt adapter for generating high-quality sound to suit your specific needs or applications, such as video production or movie theater events; there is really nothing more to say other than we’re glad you’ve found the ultimate solution. Order today.
- Great quality of sound.
- Very quiet and durable.
- No power button.
FiiO A1 Silver Portable Headphone Amp A1
The FiiO A1 is the next-generation portable headphone amp perfect for listening to and producing your favorite tunes on-the-go, or at home. The A1’s small footprint features a durable anodized aluminum chassis with three basses enhanced EQ profiles that can be changed by simply pressing the power button to adapt sound output to your headphones and ears.
And as if all this wasn’t enough, it’s also a self-powered amplifier so you never need to worry about finding another plug around! With its sleek design and exquisite appearance – not only will your music sound great but it looks good too!
- Impressively small and lightweight.
- Strong and handy portable amp.
- Great sound quality improvement on vintage portable cd players line out.
- Does not noticeably increase audio volume output.
VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier
The VOX amPlug 2 is a versatile miniature guitar and bass amp that can be used for practice or as an amp simulator for recording. This headphone amplifier will save you space by allowing you to practice your instrument anywhere without having it affect the rest of your family at home.
For most music lovers, who want to play their favorite songs on the go but don’t want all the background noise, this headphone amplifier is perfect. The amPlug 2’s sleek design features three separate controls for gain, tone, and volume so users have complete control over their sound output.
Users also get 9 different effects they can choose from such as 3 x reverb, 3 x chorus, and 3 x delay. If power runs low due to inactivity with the VOX amPlug 2, users can recharge the device from an AC adapter or a DC adapter. Overall, this is a great headphone amplifier for all different types of music lovers that want to get their jam on while traveling.
- Compact, Versatile Little Headphone Amp.
- Sounds great with a stereo system.
- Features are comparable to an AD30VT modelling amp.
- Great for quiet practice.
- Not too durable.
M-Audio Bass Traveler – Ultra-Portable Battery Powered Dual-Output Headphone Amplifier With 2-Level Boost
M-Audio Bass Traveler is perfect for anyone who takes their music on the go. Simply plug into any audio source and each headphone can enjoy a custom mix of power while enjoying full dynamic audio range. With its 16-100 ohm compatibility, it will work with most headphones out there, 100 ohms or less.
Whether you’re traveling to a remote cabin in the woods, commuting on public transit every day, or just have an executive office with no speakers nearby please use my amplifier and stop fighting over your active noise cancelling headsets!
The M-Audio Bass Traveler features long battery life (8 hours!), reliable connections via universal stereo inputs that are compatible with virtually all audio equipment featuring 1/8″ outputs and level gain switch for optimum volume control.
- Well built.
- Versatile compact device.
- The battery lasts up to 8 hours.
- Not accept any audio signal via USB.
Rolls HA243 4-Channel Studiophile Headphone Amplifier
The Rolls HA243 is a high-powered headphone amplifier with four 1/4 inch and 1/8 inch (3.5mm) headphone outs. The HA243 features an A-B switch for each channel to monitor either the A or B input with the flick of a switch. RCA, 1/4 inch, and as stereo inputs for A and B inputs that can be switched to mono.
This makes the HA243 great fun at parties, boring lectures, or even just listening to music in general because you get more detail out of it than you would from speakers alone!
- The headphone outputs are rated from 8 to 1,000 ohms.
- It delivers premium sound quality with no filtering or coloration.
- Does not have any digital-to-analog or audio filtering characteristics.
PreSonus HP60 6-Channel Headphone Amplifier/Mixer
The HP60 solves a host of common headphone-monitoring problems. Each of its six headphone amps puts out 150 mW, so if you can’t hear this system, you’re stone deaf.
Two global input channels and a Mix control let you adjust the volume for each musician. Individual inputs let you send each musician their own custom mix with the PreSonus HP60, ensuring that they can get more me without getting in anyone else’s way when they need to sing or play at different volumes throughout the song.
So whether it’s on-stage or in your studio, there isn’t anything more advanced than the HP60 from PreSonus for professional monitoring needs!
- Great sound
- Easy to use
- Excellent build quality
- No power switch.
Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Headphone Amplifier
The Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Headphone Amplifier has a precise, tailored output for any headphone set. 24V balanced-line and calibrated design outputs will bring the best of all headphones out there. Lock into the world with this unit as it calibrates playback from both RCA and 3.5mm inputs, giving you flexibility for what you feed into this amplifier.
The RNHP is able to produce up to 85w of power – enough volume that most people would need two units to keep up! Have an idea for an amazingly engaging sound experience? Let’s make one together by adding a leather strap on your headband or attaching speakers directly onto these amps (RCA) input jacks!
- Simple to use
- Balanced XLR inputs
- The sound is clean, transparent, and extremely detailed.
- Light on features
- Lab equipment-like appearance isn’t for everyone
Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Tube Multi-Hybrid Headphone Amplifier
The Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Tube Multi-Hybrid Headphone Amplifier is a little piece of magic that will wow you. With a high-quality Shuguang 12AU7 tube and parallel inputs, the V2 is one reliable tank.
Outputs can be used for Parallel Fixed (3.5mm) or Variable (RCA), with our ALPS potentiometer giving you control over your music at any time during listening sessions.
At 1.1 pounds in weight, it’s not exactly light, but its size is perfect to bring on long flights or across international borders without so much as an extra hassle – or before traveling farther distances by car because it takes up minimal space!
- The sound is clean and crisp, the bass is awesome.
- Not portable
- Vulnerable to electrical interference
AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter
The AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt USB Digital-to-Analog Converter is the world’s first fully loaded, ultra-high-resolution DAC/headphone amplifier combination in one. This compact device with a sleek design features digital decoding up to 24-bit / 96kHz, an ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip with minimum phase slow roll-off filter for more natural sound capability.
The AudioQuest Dragonfly connects to your computer via its supplied USB cable and plays back all music files: MP3 to MQA and HiRes without compromise when connected by Apple Lightning or Android adapter or included standard USB A connector. It offers unparalleled portability experience in having no power cord needed (power supply provided).
- Nothing comes close to sounding this good at this miniature size
- Excellent presentation and dynamics
- Wide file support
- Portability commands a premium
Neoteck 3.5mm Headphone Amplifier
The Neoteck 3.5 mm Headphone Amplifier is the perfect solution for gamers, audiophiles and music lovers! It has a stereo headphone gain switch with two stages which can provide loud and regulated sound when working in noisy environments without amplifying background sounds.
The lithium rechargeable battery can last more than 8 hours with full charge, you don’t have to worry about running out of it whenever you’re playing games or listening to your favorite songs no matter where you are!
There are mini size, lightweight design and fashionable appearance that not only make it pleasingly handheld feeling but also durable. It allows amply compatibility with digital devices such as MP3/MP4 players, smartphones, computers etc.
- Extremely affordable
- Sounds clean even at the highest volume
- Portable and lightweight; pocket-size headphone amplifier
- Comes with noise reduction features
- Great battery life
- The headphone amplifier’s cover does not feel durable
ART HeadAmp6 Pro 6 Channel Professional Headphone Amplifier With EQ
Introducing ART’s HeadAmp6 Pro Model. Taking the top spot on our best sellers list, this professional 6 channel headphone amplifier is perfect for mixing or monitoring a live studio recording. It has more than enough power to drive any headphones and features EQ settings that let you produce your own ideal sound signature.
With front panel main jack insert, monitor mix controls, dual pan control, and both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs; this amp makes it easy to be the master of any sonic spectrum with fine-tuned control versatility like no other headphone amp in its price range!
- Great for studio use or live use if put on a rack.
- Has multiple monitoring modes.
- The price is a steal.
- Not meant to be portable as it is a rack-mount style, but if you want to transport it you’ll have to bring your whole rack with you.
Schiit Magni Heresy 100% Op-Amp-Based Headphone Amp and Preamp
This Schiit Magni Heresy 100% Op-Amp-Based Headphone Amp and Preamp will let you enjoy your headphones to their fullest. The product provides excellent measurements and boasts a low noise floor, power reserves, high performance, versatility ̶ from IEMs to hard-to-drive planar designs – and more.
This Engadget Best of CES award winner comes with the 110 – 120V US power supply suitable for use in North America. It does not work in 220 – 240 countries because it is made for American voltage only.
- Assembled in USA
- Plenty of power
- Sleek, compact casing with attractive industrial design
Last update on 2021-09-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API