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7 Best Headphone Amplifier Options in 2023

Amplify the Music to Reach Your Soul!

Best-Headphone-Amplifier

Are you tired of the feeble sound from your headphones? Do you constantly feel the need for more volume and better output from your headphones?

A headphone amplifier can be a boon for audiophiles. It can improve your headphones’ sound output, power, sound quality, bass response, and dynamic range. However, choosing the right amplifier is also crucial. That’s because an unsuitable headphone amplifier can limit the potential of even the best headphones and result in subpar sound quality. This can be frustrating for music enthusiasts and audiophiles who want to bring out the best from their headphones.

We’ve put together a comprehensive guide on the best headphone amplifiers in 2023 to help music enthusiasts and audiophiles like you find the right amplifier to power their headphones and achieve the highest sound quality possible. Read further to know more.

Roundup of the Best Headphone Amplifiers

Overall Best Amplifier for HeadphonesiFi Hip-dac2
Best Portable Headphone AmplifierAudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt
Headphone Amplifier With Best PerformanceCHORD ELECTRONICS – Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Most Easy-to-Use Headphone AmplifierAudioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC
Best Wireless Headphone AmplifieriFi GO blu
Best Guitar Headphone AmplifierFender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier
Best Tube Headphone AmpMonolith Liquid Platinum Headphone Amplifier

In this detailed guide, we’ll review the above-mentioned headphone amplifiers one by one, and list their pros and cons. We’ll also discuss headphone amplifiers in general and list important factors that you should consider while buying a headphone amplifier. Read on to know more.

Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Headphone Amplifier

 Here are the things to consider when buying a headphone amplifier:

Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Headphone Amplifier
Things to Consider When Looking for the Best Headphone Amplifier
  1. Power Output
  2. Price
  3. Impedance
  4. Input Options
  5. Gain
  6. Frequency Response
  7. Distortion

1. Power Output

Power output refers to the amount of power the amplifier can deliver to drive your headphones to their full potential. Your amplifier’s power output should match your headphones’ requirements to ensure they operate within their ideal performance range. 

If the amplifier doesn’t have enough power, it may not enable your headphones to produce loud enough volume or drive the headphones to their full potential. On the other hand, if the amplifier has too much power, it may damage your headphones.

It’s important to check the specifications of your headphones to determine their power requirements and then choose an amplifier that can deliver that power. 

Remember that different headphones have different impedance levels, and some require more power to drive than others. Consider the type of headphones you have, the listening environment, and your personal listening preferences when deciding on the power output you need in a headphone amplifier.

2. Price

The price of headphone amplifiers can vary significantly depending on the brand,model, and features included. At the more budget-friendly end, you’ll find amplifiers that cost anywhere from $50-$100, which are perfect for those who want to enjoy a better sound without breaking the bank. However, if you’re looking for a more powerful amplifier with more features, you’ll likely have to spend upwards of $200 or even more. 

In addition, you should always consider the amplifier’s quality and construction when purchasing. Many budget-friendly models are poorly made and lack input/output options. In contrast, more expensive models tend to have better components and more features. 

Ultimately, the best headphone amplifiers offer a great mix of quality, features, and affordability. You should always strive to get the most out of your budget and find a good balance between these three aspects. Price may be a significant factor, but it should not be the deciding factor when making your purchase.

3. Impedance

Headphone impedance is measured inOhms and represents the resistance of the headphones to the flow of electrical current. On the other hand, amplifier output impedance measures the electrical resistance at the amplifier’s output terminals. It is also expressed in ohms and measures the amount of electrical resistance an amplifier adds to the signal it is driving. 

If the impedance of your headphones is low, you need an amplifier with low output impedance to drive them. On the other hand, if your headphones have a high impedance, you may need a powerful amplifier (or an amplifier with higher output impedance) to drive them.

It is important to match the impedance of your headphones to the amplifier’s output impedance to achieve optimal sound quality. If the amplifier’s output impedance is too low compared to the headphones, your headphones may sound dull, and if the amplifier’s output impedance is too high, your headphones may get damaged.

A lower output impedance is suitable for an amplifier because it provides a more stable voltage and current output. Also, it results in a more consistent and accurate frequency response. Please note that very low output impedance can lead to clipping or damage to the amplifier or headphones.

If you want to understand impedance better, check out our guide on Impedance.

4. Input Options

A headphone amplifier allows you to connect various audio devices, such as your smartphone, computer, or game console. Therefore, it’s important to look for models that offer various input options, such as a 3.5 mm stereo mini-jack, USB, and optical. Some models may also come with multiple stereo mini-jack inputs for connecting multiple devices, which is great for more complex sound setups. 

Additionally, some models come with Bluetooth connectivity, allowing you to stream audio wirelessly and have the audio play on your headphone amplifier. Moreover, some models may come with a dedicated microphone input. This feature will be useful if you plan to use the headphone amplifier to record vocals or instruments.

5. Gain

An amplifier’s gain measures how much an amplifier circuit can amplify a signal and helps determine the maximum volume you can get out of your headphones. 

In simpler words, gain is an important specification for an amplifier because it determines the strength of the output signal as compared to the input signal.

If you plan on using your headphones for a wide range of sound levels, you should buy an amplifier with higher gain settings. On the other hand, if you only plan on using the amplifier for quieter applications, you may want to opt for an amplifier with lower gain settings. 

Additionally, the gain settings will affect the overall quality of the sound. For example, higher gain settings usually provide the clearest sound, while lower settings may give a slightly distorted sound. 

Some headphones require more gain to reach optimal volume, while others may be too sensitive and require less gain.

Having the right gain level is important for two reasons: First, too much gain can cause audio distortion. At the same time, too little gain may result in insufficient volume. Second, having the right gain level can help ensure that the amplifier is working efficiently and not producing any unnecessary heat.

6. Frequency Response

Frequency response is how accurately an amplifier reproduces sound frequencies. When looking for a headphone amplifier, you should ensure that it has a frequency response that covers the range of audible frequencies (20 – 20,000 Hz).

An amplifier with a “flat” frequency response is ideal as it delivers audio output consistently across all frequencies and ensures the audio signal is precisely reproduced without any significant cut or enhancement to any specific frequency. 

An “uneven” frequency response (too high or too low) can lead to colored or distorted sound. For example, if the amplifier has enhanced low frequencies, the sound may be boomy and overemphasized. If the amplifier has reduced treble or high frequencies, the sound may be dull, unclear, and lack detail.

If you want to understand Frequency Response in-depth, check out our article on Frequency Response!

7. Distortion

Distortion refers to the number of unwanted audio artifacts, such as changes in the tone of the sound, or audio signal disturbances, added to the original signal as it gets amplified. Distortion can take many forms, including harmonic distortion, intermodulation distortion, and transient intermodulation distortion.

Distortion can affect the sound quality of the music and make it sound less clear and accurate. High levels of distortion can cause audio to sound harsh and fatiguing to the ears.

When choosing a headphone amplifier, it’s important to consider the level of distortion it produces. Look for amplifiers with low levels of distortion, which will result in clearer and more accurate sound. Some amplifier specifications list the amount of distortion produced, so you can compare different models and choose one with low distortion levels.

It’s also important to consider the type of headphones you have and the type of music you listen to. For example, headphones with large drivers are more sensitive to distortion than headphones with small drivers due to the difference in the driver design.

In general, high-end amplifiers tend to produce less distortion than budget models. Why? Simply because they are built with care. The designers use top-notch components, fancy circuitry, and solid power sources. And, they don’t skip on testing either. All these efforts result in a higher quality audio experience. Still, it’s important to look for specific specifications and compare different models to determine which will meet your needs.

Top 7 Headphones Amplifiers on the Market

Let’s check out our list of the best ones on the market!

1. iFi Hip-dac2

Overall Best Amplifier for Headphones

  • Looks very cool
  • Supreme sound quality
  • Superb bass
  • High-quality build
  • Battery life of up to 8 hours
  • Highly portable dac
  • None

We found the iFi Hip-dac2 to be a phenomenal option for those in search of a reliable and dedicated headphone amplifier. The performance and audio quality it delivers is top-notch, making it the overall best amplifier for headphones on our list.

With a power output of up to 6.3V, the Hip-dac2 can easily handle most headphones on the market. And its price is very reasonable in comparison to other amplifiers and DACs in its class.

The Hip-dac2 boasts adjustable impedance from 4 Ohm to 600 Ohm, allowing for compatibility with a wide range of headphones. Its multiple input options, including USB and 3.5mm inputs, provide great flexibility for use with both PCs and mobile devices.

You can adjust between two gain levels, low and high, depending on the your headphone usage, providing greater control over the output signal. With a frequency range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, the Hip-dac2 is capable of reproducing a wide range of frequencies for a clear sound. Additionally, its low distortion level of 0.005% is impressive for a device in its price range.

In conclusion, the iFi Hip-dac2 is an excellent choice for those in search of a versatile amplifier and DAC. Its adjustable impedance, multiple input options, and low distortion levels make it a great pick for those seeking a reasonably priced device that delivers on performance and audio quality.

View on Amazon: iFi Hip-dac2

2. AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt

Best Portable Headphone Amplifier

  • Super portable
  • Powerful microprocessor
  • Excellent sound production
  • High-quality acoustics
  • Various connection ports
  • Advanced DAC chip
  • None

We reviewed the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt and found it to be a high-end, high-grade DAC that offers a detailed and accurate listening experience. Its compact size and lightness make it the best portable headphone amp in our opinion.

With a maximum power output of 2.1V per channel, the Dragonfly Cobalt provides more than enough power for most headphones and speakers, allowing for enjoyable music listening at higher volumes without any distortion.

The Dragonfly Cobalt may be priced a bit higher, but its sound quality and performance make it a worthwhile investment. During our review, we found that it has a very low output impedance of 0.3 ohms, making it an excellent choice for high-end headphones as they work best with low impedance.

The device is equipped with USB and optical inputs, making it compatible with most headphones and great for high-resolution audio playback and streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music. With three gain settings (low, medium, and high), users have control over the gain as per their preferences.

The frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz ensures that the Dragonfly Cobalt can accurately reproduce the full range of audible frequencies, while its incredibly low distortion levels make it a great choice for accurate and detailed music playback.

In conclusion, the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt DAC is a highly capable device with excellent sound quality and user experience. Whether for audiophiles or for those looking to enhance audio playback, the Dragonfly Cobalt is worth considering, especially with its added bonus of portability.

View on Amazon: AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt

3. CHORD ELECTRONICS – Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Headphone Amplifier With Best Performance

  • Lively sound
  • Plenty personalization options
  • Powerful performance
  • Affordable
  • 2 headphone jacks
  • The display could have been better

We find the CHORD ELECTRONICS Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier to be designed to provide high-end sound quality with superior performance, during our review. It deserves the title of the best-performing headphone amplifier on our list.

Despite its small size, the Mojo provides ample power to drive even demanding headphones with ease, making it an excellent option for universal use. Although priced at a premium level, we strongly believe its performance is well worth the money.

With an impedance of 75 Ohms, the Mojo is suitable for powering both high- and low-impedance headphones, making it a great choice for those looking to power a wide range of headphones and speakers.

The amplifier has various input options including USB, optical, and lightning, making it easy to connect to various audio sources. The device also has two switchable gain settings of 0dB or 6dB, allowing for adjustments to accommodate a broader range of headphones and speakers.

The Mojo has a wide frequency response of 10 Hz to 20 kHz, making it suitable for reproducing a wide range of audio frequencies. Its extremely low distortion levels provide a more accurate reproduction of the source sound with little audible distortion.

In conclusion, the Chord Electronics Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier is highly recommended for audiophiles and anyone looking for a compact, portable solution that delivers high-quality audio performance. With its great combination of features and value, the device provides users with high-fidelity sound at excellent value.

View on Amazon: CHORD ELECTRONICS – Mojo DAC/Headphone Amplifier

4. Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC

Most Easy-to-Use Headphone Amplifier

  • Very easy to use
  • Compact
  • Highly durable
  • Great sound quality
  • Various connectivity options
  • USB – C interface for easy connections
  • Uncompressed and high-quality recordings
  • Needs more rhythmic fluidity

The Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC provides an impressive, budget-friendly solution for audiophiles. It takes the title of the simplest to use headphone amplifier on our list, thanks to its convenience and straightforward controls.

With a power output of up to 2.0V per channel, the Audioengine D1 is capable of powering most headphones and speakers. It offers exceptional value, as one of the most affordable desktop headphone amps and DACs on the market.

The low impedance of 10 ohms makes the device ideal for low-impedance headphones, and it also features a line-level output for connecting to a recording setup.

We appreciate the wide range of connection options the Audioengine D1 offers, including 3.5mm, USB, and analog inputs. This allows for easy connectivity to various sources, such as laptops, smartphones, and gaming consoles.

With gain levels ranging from 0dB to 10dB, it is simple to adjust the volume to the desired level. The frequency response of 10Hz-25KHz covers the full range of audible frequencies, and a signal-to-noise ratio of 122dB ensures clean and clear audio.

The Audioengine D1 boasts an extremely low distortion rate of 0.003%, guaranteeing accurate and distortion-free audio reproduction.

In conclusion, the Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC is an outstanding choice for audiophiles on a budget. It offers impressive power output, low impedance, and a wide range of input options, making it a top pick for audiophiles of all kinds.

View on Amazon: Audioengine D1 Portable Desktop Headphone Amp and DAC

5. iFi GO blu

Best Wireless Headphone Amplifier

  • Bluetooth connectivity
  • Superb sound production
  • Highly compact
  • Lightweight and portable
  • Build quality could have been better

The iFi GO blu is an excellent choice for those in search of a portable headphone amplifier with Bluetooth 5.1 technology. It stands out as the best wireless headphone amplifier, offering excellent Bluetooth connectivity and connection quality.

With a power output of 800mW at 5.1V, the iFi GO blu can drive headphones with impedances up to 300 ohms with ease.

The iFi GO blu is reasonably priced, providing great sound quality without a hefty cost.

The impedance range of 10-300 ohms makes this amplifier suitable for a variety of headphones, from low-impedance to high-impedance audiophile models.

The amplifier offers multiple input options including XLR, RCA, and 3.5mm, making it easy to integrate into existing audio systems.

With two gain levels, you can adjust the iFi GO blu to suit different headphone sensitivities.

The frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz provides clear and detailed audio, while the low THD+N of 0.00006% (Total Harmonic Distortion + Noise which is a measure of the amount of audio distortion present in an amplifier or audio system) ensures minimal audible distortion.

In conclusion, the iFi GO blu offers great value for its price. With strong power output, low impedance, adjustable gain, and broad frequency response, it is a top recommendation for headphone amplifier seekers.

View on Amazon: iFi GO blu

6. Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier

Best Guitar Headphone Amplifier

  • Good range of sounds
  • Highly portable amp
  • Easy-to-use
  • Intuitive design
  • Zero latency
  • Has great recording features
  • None at this price

The Fender Mustang Micro is a budget-friendly amplifier that’s perfect for guitar players and music enthusiasts. It’s the best guitar headphone amp on our list for its clear sound reproduction. With a power output of 5W, it can produce loud sound for bigger venues or groups.

The Mustang Micro offers low impedance for clearer and more consistent sound. It has two inputs for guitar and auxiliary devices, an analog output, and a USB output, making it usable for multiple musicians at once. Just connect the amp to your guitar and headphones to start playing.

The amp also has ample gain, delivering power while preserving clean sound. Its frequency response is excellent, accommodating a wide range of low to high tones. Distortion levels are low, ensuring clarity in guitar sounds.

In conclusion, the House of Marley Positive Vibration 2: Over-Ear Headphones can be a good option to purchase if comfort is a priority for you, along with the retro look. Not only do they have a pleasant sound, but they are made from eco-friendly materials.

View on Amazon: Fender Mustang Micro Headphone Amplifier

7. Monolith Liquid Platinum Headphone Amplifier

Best Tube Headphone Amp

  • Great bass
  • High-quality acoustics
  • High-quality build
  • Solid amp construction
  • Features balanced outputs
  • Lightweight
  • Pricey

The Monolith Liquid Platinum headphone amplifier is a top-notch equipment for high-quality sound and versatility. This amplifier features precise vacuum technology and is the best tube amp DAC for those seeking the best.

With a power output of up to 3.6W per channel, it can drive even high-end headphones to their full potential. It also has both single-ended and balanced inputs, and 3.5mm and 6.35mm inputs for versatile connection options.

The amplifier boasts high impedance, adjustable gain, and a frequency response of up to 50KHz for clear and detailed sound. And, it has low distortion levels for accurate sound reproduction.

Although the Monolith Liquid Platinum is on the pricier side, its sound quality and range of features make it a great value.

In conclusion, the House of Marley Positive Vibration 2: Over-Ear Headphones can be a good option to purchase if comfort is a priority for you, along with the retro look. Not only do they have a pleasant sound, but they are made from eco-friendly materials.

View on Amazon: Monolith Liquid Platinum Headphone Amplifier

What Does a Good Headphone Amp Do?

A good headphone amplifier increases the power of audio signals sent to headphones. It ensures the sound produced by the headphones is at its full potential, allowing for the best sound quality possible. In addition, it can increase volume, improve sound quality, and reduce distortion in headphones. 

What Does a Good Headphone Amp Do?
What Does a Good Headphone Amp Do?

A good headphone amp can also drive multiple pairs of headphones in the same sound space. Headphone amplifiers are useful for those with higher-end headphones, as the higher-end headphones require more power to produce an optimal sound.

What Is the Difference Between Headphone Amplifiers vs. DAC?

Headphone amplifiers and Digital-to-Analog Converters (DACs) are two different components that serve distinct purposes in an audio system. Let’s look at the dac and headphone amp difference. 

What Is the Difference Between Headphone Amplifiers vs. DAC?
What Is the Difference Between Headphone Amplifiers vs. DAC?

The main purpose of a headphone amplifier is to improve the volume of the sound coming from a source device. Amplifiers do this by boosting the audio signal from a low-power source to a level that headphones can interpret. Amplifiers are ideal for when you want to enjoy a loud and clear sound without having to turn up the volume.

Meanwhile, DACs are responsible for converting digital audio signals into analog signals. Digital signals are composed of a series of 0s and 1s and must be converted into a waveform for speakers and headphones to interpret. DACs are most commonly used by people who want to improve the sound quality of their audio sources, such as laptops or smartphones. 

In essence, headphone amplifiers provide power to headphones, while DACs provide audio quality by converting digital signals into analog signals.

A combination of both a headphone amplifier and a DAC can provide the best of both worlds – high-quality audio with plenty of power to drive your headphones. This is especially useful for high-end headphones that require more power to drive them to their optimal level or for those who want to achieve the highest-quality audio experience possible.

Which One Is Right for You?

Headphone amplifiers and digital-to-analog converters (DACs) are important components in improving overall sound quality, so choosing one over the other is a personal preference and largely depends on your setup and needs.

The type of device you purchase depends on your needs and what you want from your listening experience. A headphone amplifier is the best choice if you only want a louder sound. However, if you are looking for better sound quality, such as for playing music or watching movies, then a DAC might be the better option. 

It is important to note that you can use both devices together for a more immersive sound experience. Consider researching the different types of headphone amplifiers and DACs to find the best option.

Ultimately, if you plan on using headphones, then a headphone amplifier is the better option, as it can significantly improve the sound quality of your audio output. If you want to connect to speakers or use higher-resolution audio formats, then a DAC is the better choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Headphone Amplifiers

Do Headphones Need an Amp?

All headphones do not need an amplifier to produce sound as most high-end headphones have a built-in headphone amp. However, if you want to increase the volume and clarity of the sound, then an external headphone amplifier can be beneficial to get the best possible sound.
 
Additionally, an amp for your headphones can ensure that they produce a consistent sound quality regardless of their impedance. For example, if your headphones have a low impedance, an amplifier can increase the volume without sacrificing sound quality.

Do You Need a DAC with a Headphone Amp?

Generally speaking, you do not need a DAC if you are only using a headphone amplifier. However, if you want to enhance your listening experience, then a DAC can be helpful. A DAC can improve the sound quality of the signals sent to your headphone amplifier, resulting in a clearer and more immersive sound. 

A DAC and headphone amplifier combo can be a great choice for those looking to get the most out of their listening experience.

Can You Plug Normal Headphones Into an Amp?

Yes, you can. That’s because most amps nowadays come with normal headphone jacks. However, not all amplifiers offer a 3.5 mm jack, and a few use a size that won’t work with most headphones. In such a situation, you’ll need a 6.35-mm to 3.5-mm adaptor to use your amp normally.

Can an Amp Destroy Headphones?

Yes, an amplifier can potentially destroy headphones. If the amplifier is too powerful or the headphones are not rated to handle the amplifier’s wattage, the headphones’ voice coils can overheat and burn out. The headphones’ sound will typically distort before the damage occurs.

Do Audiophile Headphones Need Amp?

Some audiophile headphones can benefit from an amplifier, as they can provide increased power and drive to the headphones, leading to improved sound quality. However, it depends on the specific headphones and the user’s preferences. That’s because some headphones may not need an amplifier and perform well enough with a regular audio source such as a phone or laptop.

Can You Use a Headphone Amp Without a DAC?

Yes, of course. You can use a headphone amp without a DAC. A DAC is unnecessary with a headphone amp, and it will work fine without it.

Are Headphone Amplifiers Worth it?

Yes, headphone amplifiers are worth it. If you are looking for a better sound experience with higher quality than what your typical headphones can provide, then getting a headphone amplifier can give you that. 
 
Headphone amplifiers can improve the sound quality of lower-quality headphones, helping to make them sound better. They also let you turn up the volume without distorting the sound, making them great for listening to music at loud volumes.

Final Words

If you’re on a tight budget but still want a high-quality headphone amplifier designed to suit your needs, you should invest in a good headphone amplifier that can provide clean sound and fully unleash the dynamics of your headphones.

However, invest in a high-quality headphone amplifier well-suited to your headphones and their intended use. 

We recommend the iFi Hip-Dac 2 as the best headphone amplifier in 2023. However, if you want a more versatile and portable headphone amp, go with the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt.