True audiophiles know that if you want to listen to the best music, you need exceptional gear. Sound technology has seen a steady improvement over the years thanks to high-quality headphone brands.
But how can you improve the sound from your current headphones?
This is where a headphone amplifier comes in. These small amplifiers do the same thing a traditional amp does, and most of them utilize DAC (digital-to-analog convertor) technology to allow amplification.
The best headphone amplifiers can round out your personal sound setup, significantly improving your audio experience while you listen to your favorite music or binge-watch a new show.
Table of Contents
- Top Headphone Amplifiers
- 1. Creative Sound BlasterX G5
- 2. Schiit Magni Heresy
- 3. FiiO E10K USB DAC
- 4. FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini
- 5. Quidelix-5K Bluetooth USB DAC Amplifier
- 6. Fosi Audio K4 DAC Headphone Amplifier
- 7. iFi ZEN CAN Balanced Desktop Amp
- 8. AIYIMA DAC-A2 Headphone Amplifier
- 9. S.M.S.L. M500 DAC Headphone Amp
- 10. Donner EM11 Headphone Amplifier
Top Headphone Amplifiers
Regardless of if you are most concerned about price, connectivity or sound, there’s a product out there for you. Here are the top headphone amps to take your listening experience to the next level.
1. Creative Sound BlasterX G5
- Native 7.1 Surround Sound Support
- Immersive 3D PC Gaming Audio
There couldn’t be a better option to start with than the Creative Sound BlasterX G5. With native 7.1 surround sound support and immersive 3D PC gaming audio, this amplifier provides what you need to start listening immediately.
Creative boasts that this “audiophile-grade” amplifier has best-in-class console gaming audio. Additionally, it is compatible with Windows and Mac PCs, PS4 and several other consoles.
The best way to describe the Sound BlasterX is “standard.” Basically, it does everything you need without being complex.
With a backlit volume controller and volume indicator, this headphone amplifier is extremely easy to use, even in the dark.
- 7.1 Surround sound
- 13.7 ounces
- SB-Axx1 Audio processor
- Simple to use
- Compatible with plenty of platforms
- Backlights make use in the dark easy
- Average performance
- Barebones in features
2. Schiit Magni Heresy
- Utilizes super high quality parts, including a multiple paralleled output stage with feedforward. Made in...
On the surface, the Schiit Magni Heresy may seem substandard and dull. Its laid-back design makes it look as unassuming as possible, with a smooth surface and limited controls.
However, hiding inside of the Magni Heresy is one of the best headphone amplifiers on the market. Despite seeming simple, many professionals tout it as one of the better parts of their kits.
Depending on your sound setup, the Magni Heresy can be used as a preamp or a headphone amp. Schiit says that their amp “raises the bar even higher,” touting its incredible output power for its price class.
With its clean performance, this is an excellent piece to add to your audio setup today. It also comes with a two-year limited warranty for added value and protection.
- 2.4 pounds
- Multi-output stage
- Feedforward features
- Fits any setup
- Can work as a headphone amp or preamp
- Easy to use
- May need to purchase other adapters for certain setups
3. FiiO E10K USB DAC
- LOW NOISE FLOOR — The unit has an optimized low-pass filter and selectable bass boost circuit that are...
- DAC Chip—The Internal DAC chip is a PCM102 and can handle PCM files up to 24-bit/96 kHz while improving...
If you’re looking for a low-noise, easy-to-use DAC headphone amplifier, the FiiO E10K USB DAC has everything you need.
This amplifier comes with a low noise floor and uses an optimized low-pass filter. It also includes a selectable bass boost circuit that is meant for use with this filter.
A heavily portable design with a sleek aluminum shell means this headphone amplifier can come with you anywhere.
With a USB Type-C connector, this device is extremely compatible with most uses and equipment. The linear internal filter reduces delay and gives silence on tracks to help improve audio quality, especially on computers.
That said, the FiiO E10K USB DAC is built specifically for use on laptops and smaller computers. This build means that it may not provide the best performance in its class in certain situations.
While it may not find a space in your professional-quality audiophile sound rig, it’s still a great piece at an amazing price.
- 2.72 ounces
- Battery operated
- USB Type-C connector
- Highly portable
- Small and easy-to-use
- Great noise canceling
- Less powerful than many others
- Meant for use with laptops, performance may vary
4. FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini
- Unique Design: Compact and adaptable, connect to active speakers via RCA to improve sound quality, or for...
- A variety of input and output modes: The amps can be PC-USB, optical fiber, coaxial three inputs, can be...
Continuing with portability, the FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini provides everything you’ll need in a small package. Its unique design provides compact, adaptable capabilities in a powerful little box.
Amps can be set to PC-USB, optical fiber and coaxial. They can connect to televisions and DVD players.
This product is extremely adaptable to any situation and can fit in with nearly all of your sound setups, from professional mixing to casual enjoyment.
The FX-Audio DAC-X6 Mini is perfect for music, but there are many other ways to use it as well. Dolby Atmos and directional sounds are compatible with this small package, making it great for gaming.
Some parts, such as the op-amp, can have individual upgrades to customize and increase performance.
Overall, this is an excellent headphone amp for users who know how to customize and change around their experience. Whether you’re using it for your favorite album, sound mixing or a competitive game, it won’t disappoint.
- 1.1 pounds
- PC USB/Coaxial/Optical
- Compatible with Dolby Atmos
- Adaptable to many platforms
- Stellar sound quality
- Individually upgradable
- Novice users likely won’t make many upgrades
5. Quidelix-5K Bluetooth USB DAC Amplifier
- Dual ES9219 HiFi DAC 2.5mm Balanced (4V RMS) 3.5mm Unbalanced (2V RMS)
- Qualcomm QCC5124 Bluetooth Chipset HFP / HSP / A2DP / AVRCP LDAC / aptX Adaptive / aptX HD / AAC
The Quidelix-5K is notable in its use of a Bluetooth DAC/AMP. It receives digital audio through the Bluetooth connection and performs all of the conversions within its hardware.
This ability makes it incredible for use with smartphones and other Bluetooth devices if you want to upgrade your sound quality.
Of course, it isn’t only for smartphones. USB capabilities make it so that you can use the Quidelix-5K on your laptop, computer or anything else that can accommodate a USB connection.
With enhanced processing capabilities and a pro-grade equalizer, you can use this device to process audio from any source. This includes most streaming platforms and many different OS systems, such as Mac, Android and iOS.
This particular amplifier is built to focus on Bluetooth. This means that much of its notable capability will focus on Bluetooth compatibility.
If you don’t use Bluetooth-compatible devices and don’t intend to for your main listening sources, you may want a different headphone amp.
- 0.9 ounces
- Battery operated
- Bluetooth and USB connectivity
- Great for smartphones
- Highly portable
- Focuses on Bluetooth capabilities
- Usable with many platforms, but not as high of performance on all
6. Fosi Audio K4 DAC Headphone Amplifier
Some audio setups require multiple parts to keep them functioning as effectively as possible, but the Fosi Audio K4 DAC Headphone Amplifier is already several parts in one.
This amp comes with an integrated decoder. It pairs with the HiFi headphone amplifier and supports optical, coaxial and USB connections.
Whether you use a PC or Mac, this mini stereo can also work as a preamp or volume controller for your computer. Furthermore, there are higher resolution sampling rates, lower distortion and a clear, detailed sound.
With specific adjustments for treble and bass, you can customize it to whatever you’d like your sound to be. You also receive an 18-month warranty with this amplifier.
- 5V power supply
- 0.5 pounds
- Integrated decoder
- Highly adjustable
- Small and compact
- Great for beginners
- Experts may prefer using specific equipment instead of an all-in-one
7. iFi ZEN CAN Balanced Desktop Amp
- ✅ SUPERIOR ENGINEERING - Extremely low distortion and noise from a circuit design inspired by our...
- ✅ POWER REALIZED - Maximize the performance of your headphones, more than just getting loud, but...
Do you want a headphone amp with a bit more stylization than the standard options come with? If so, the iFi ZEN CAN has a unique design that makes it stick out among the rest of your sound setup, bringing life to your stack.
However, there’s more than just looks on display here. Superior engineering brings shockingly low distortion and noise via a dedicated input stage to match your score.
Expect to maximize the performance of your favorite headphones as well. The ZEN CAN will help to realize the dynamic range of your headphones, from the softest vocals to the most dominant drums.
Immersive sound comes from the signature analog signal processing, giving a wider soundstage without needing a full sound system.
Overall, the iFi ZEN CAN is one of the best options on this list. That said, it’s also one of the highest price points on this list.
Users who are knowledgeable about headphone amplifiers would likely get the full value out of this option. But, if you’re still starting off on your audiophile journey, there may be more attractive options.
- 1.85 pounds
- Wired connectivity
- Exceptional engineering
- Unique design
- Extremely low distortion and high power
- Fantastic sound quality
- Relatively high price
- Not as beginner-friendly as some other options.
8. AIYIMA DAC-A2 Headphone Amplifier
- Dac-A2 a DC5V Headphone Amplifier Destop DAC ,Built-in Hi-Fi Headphone amp chip can drive 16ohm to 200ohm...
- Chipset:SA9023+CS8416+97220+NE5532.With PC-USB, Optical and Coaxial S/PDIF Inputs , Match most Home Audio...
Back towards the more modest price range, the AIYIMA DAC-A2 makes a great showing. Complete with PC-USB, optical and coaxial inputs, this is a great amplifier for nearly any home system.
Complementing these inputs, the Mini USB Digital Audio Amplifier Decoder and Headphone Amplifier match multiple other devices, from consoles to PCs of any OS.
The built-in HiFi headphone amplifier is excellent for even the highest quality headphones. In terms of performance, this device is similar to the Fosi Audio Q4.
This amplifier’s performance is stellar, and the AIYIMA provides everything you need to begin your sound setup. It’s a fantastic value and would enhance your work or leisure environments exponentially.
- 14.4 ounces
- PC-USB/Optical/Coaxial input
- Low distortion
- Excellent price range
- Easy setup
- High-quality sound and power
- Not as customizable as many options
9. S.M.S.L. M500 DAC Headphone Amp
- ♫ USB input supports MQA decoding
- ♫ M500 uses top performance ES9038PRO D/A chip from ESS Technology
If you’re in the market for something with a bit more oomph to it, the S.M.S.L. M500 DAC Headphone Amp is likely to be your top pick.
This is the highest price range on this list, but the price is easy to justify. S.M.S.L is a highly reputable brand, having made its name in the audio circles for more than a decade.
With seven different filter modes, users can easily customize what they want to amplify and muffle. The Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) feature provides studio-level mastering quality to your sounds.
Additionally, the built-in supply processing improves power efficiency and lowers power consumption. Convenience is also unbeatable thanks to an included remote that makse changing filters and using the amplifier even easier.
As far as features go, this is a difficult option to beat. If you don’t mind the higher price range, adding this amplifier to your setup will undoubtedly raise the quality of your audio to new levels.
It’s likely that this headphone amp will remain with you until you decide to upgrade as technology progresses.
- 2.82 pounds
- USB/Optical/Coaxial input
- Remote included
- Extremely high sound quality
- Customizable filters
- Sturdy build, but still compact
- Practically eliminates noise
- High price range
- Some customers say customer support is substandard
10. Donner EM11 Headphone Amplifier
- ♫【96K/24Bit PCM and native CS4344】The headphone amps equipped with golden ratio of 96K/24Bit and...
- ♫ 【OLED Display Screen To Show 5-Segment EQ】When you set or adjust the built-in 5-band EQ, the DAC...
Closing out our list is one of the strongest options, especially for people who may not want to shell out too much money. At a low-to-mid price range, the Donner EM11 provides a performance that’s difficult to beat.
With delicate sound processing, Donner claims that they restore music to the “greatest extent, closer to the quality of HiFi.”
The internal DAC chip improves audio quality with a linear filter, reducing distortion significantly. Furthermore, a five-segment EQ gives the amplifier an easy-to-use OLED dynamic display.
Using a micro-USB helps this headphone amp adapt to most use cases, with a focus on laptops, Android and iOS devices.
Additionally, the metal structure is sturdy and resistant. However, the OLED screen can be a weak point, so be careful not to drop it.
- 12 ounces
- USB/RCA/Coaxial input
- Durable structure
- Sleek, easy-to-use display
- High power and sound quality
- Fragile screen
Picking the best headphone amplifier can be difficult. The ideal device can vary based on each person’s unique needs and preferences.
Take note of your sound setup, your available space and which headphone amplifiers will be compatible with your equipment. Also, don’t forget to consider your budget.
No matter which option you choose, any of the headphone amplifiers on this list will elevate your audio experience and leave you satisfied with the sound quality you receive.