The 5 Best Headphone Amplifiers in 2020
Whether you have invested in premium-quality headphones or purchased simple headphones for daily use, a headphone amplifier can boost their performance. The best headphone amplifier on the market can really make your headphones sing, especially studio headphones. However, with unlimited brands and products on the market competing with one another, finding the right headphone amplifier can be a daunting task.
We are here to help you decide which headphone amplifier you should buy. Yes, we are “the headphones experts” and have already prepared a list of the 5 best headphone amplifiers on the market. We spent over 3 weeks testing 50 headphone amplifiers, to find the best ones. 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.
Top 5 Headphone Amplifiers on the Market – Tried and Tested
Before we provide you with detailed accounts of our experiences with each headphone amplifier on our list, let’s quickly look at the list of top 5 headphone amplifiers on the market (based on our personal experiences and findings).
|FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier||Best Portable Headphone Amplifier|
|Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC||Most Suitable Headphone Amplifier for Desktop|
|VOX AP2AC amPlug AC30||Best Guitar Headphone Amplifier|
|Neoteck Headphone Amplifier||Most Affordable Headphone Amplifier|
|Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Valve||Best Tube Headphone Amplifier|
1. FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier: Best Portable Headphone Amplifier
Portability is one of the most important factors you should look at when buying a headphone amplifier. Most speakers are huge and so are their amplifiers; however, the same is not the case with headphones. Headphones are portable audio accessories. Therefore, ensure you pay special attention to the portability of the headphone amplifier.
Firstly, in terms of portability, we really liked FiiO A3. It is a compact and lightweight headphone amplifier. Even though the product is made of aluminum, it doesn’t feel heavy. We used it while shopping, mowing the lawn, cleaning utensils and so on.
Secondly, FiiO A3 provides exceptional sound quality. It works perfectly with both earbuds and headphones. We kept it at full power and did not experience any distortion. The amplified sound felt natural. Therefore, the amplifier produces clear, high-resolution and powerful music.
Thirdly, FiiO A3’s price is easily affordable. The amplifier also comes with a 1-year warranty. We tested the headphone amplifier with the Tascam TH-02 Studio Headphones and did not experience any issues. Overall, FiiO A3 is a good-quality headphone amplifier, which is portable and powerful.
- Lightweight and compact; portable headphone amplifier
- Looks attractive; great build
- Can work for up to 10 hours in a single charge
- Deliver exceptional performance for the affordable price
- Provides clear and natural sound
- Bass response is fuller and tighter. Mids and highs are clear and strong
- Great for listening to music or watching TV shows
- Does not work with headphones rated beyond 150 ohms
2. Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC: Most Suitable Headphone Amplifier for Desktop
You can completely enhance your desktop’s audio setup by installing a headphone amplifier for the desktop. Unlike a portable headphone amplifier, a desktop headphone amplifier remains stationary and cannot be carried around easily. It can surpass your desktop’s sound card or headphone output to provide exceptional sound.
In the desktop headphone amplifier category, we fell in love with Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC. Firstly, the headphone amplifier is compatible with platforms – Mac, Windows and Linux. It is a plug-and-play USB device and works perfectly with almost all headphones on the market, Apple TV/any product with optical input, powered speakers and any audio system with mini-jack/RCA input.
Secondly, the DAC (digital-to-analog converter) delivers excellent sound quality. We tested the desktop headphone amplifier with the Sennheiser HD 700 Headphones and experienced no noise distortion.
In conclusion, the Audioengine D1 24-Bit DAC is an effective desktop headphone amplifier, which delivers sound quality that is at par with the sound quality delivered by many premium-end desktop headphone amplifiers. Unlike most desktop headphone amplifiers, it delivers clearer sound at higher volumes, especially the bass.
- Good quality desktop headphone amplifier
- Delivers precise and clean audio with no muddiness
- Accurate and smooth volume control
- Works perfectly with PC, PS4 and headphones
- Easy to set up; plug-and-play headphone amplifier; no separate power supply required
- Robust build
- Comes with 3-year transferable warranty
- Customer support is not very responsive
3. VOX AP2AC amPlug AC30: Best Guitar Headphone Amplifier
When it comes to guitar headphone amplifiers, the size of the unit is something that you should pay special attention to, especially if you are planning to buy the headphone amplifier for home use. A guitar headphone amplifier is great for solo use, as well as jamming with friends.
There are several reasons that compelled us to vote for VOX AP2AC amPlug AC30 as the best guitar headphone amplifier.
Firstly, the headphone amplifier’s size (an important purchase criteria) makes it extremely portable and easy to use. It easily fit in our palms. Secondly, the headphone amplifier comes with a folding plug mechanism that rotates 180 degrees and makes the amplifier suitable for use with all types of guitars.
Thirdly, the headphone amplifier is available on the market in 7 variations (we tested A30) that cover a wide range of guitar tones, such as A30, Metal, Classic Rock, Clean, Bass, Lead and Blue. All you need to do is insert your headphones’ 3.5 mm plug into amPlug’s headphone output, connect the amPlug to your guitar, switch on the amplifier and you are done. The headphone amplifier offers 3 sound versions along with 3 effects. Therefore, you can mix up to 12 different outputs.
Overall, we were pleased with the sound quality and features of the headphone amplifier at such an affordable price point.
- Sounds great with all types of guitars and headphones
- Delivers a rich tone and clean sound
- Easy to use; simply plug and play in your guitar
- Portable and lightweight
- Great headphone amplifier for jazz, blue and rock
- Clean mode is absolutely clean with ample headroom until full gain
- Adjustable plug makes it compatible with a wide variety of guitars
- Value for money; easily affordable
- Plastic used to make the headphone amplifier’s covering feels cheap
4. Neoteck Headphone Amplifier: Most Affordable Headphone Amplifier
If you are on a shoestring budget, the Neoteck Headphone Amplifier can be a great pick. We really liked the headphone amplifier for its compactness, ease of use, price and sound quality.
Firstly, at 3.82 inches, the headphone amplifier is pocket-size, lightweight and easy to carry. It is also known as a mini HiFi headphone amplifier. Secondly, the amplifier is compatible with a wide range of devices (thanks to the 3.5 aux input and output). You can use it with MP3/MP4 players, mobiles, tablets, laptop, PC and all headphones having a 3.5 mm plug.
Thirdly, the headphone amplifier delivers excellent, stereo-level sound quality with external noise reduction. Initially, we were a little skeptical about the sound quality as we experienced some buzzing and humming; however, we later discovered that there was no issue with the amplifier. It was our fault that we were using the amplifier while it was charging. So, ensure you don’t repeat the same mistake.
Lastly, we tested the headphone amplifier with the Pioneer HDJ1500 Headphones (we really wanted to test the performance of this budget-friendly headphone amplifier with one of the best professional headphones) and the result was phenomenal. We did experience some enhancement in the overall sound quality of the headphones.
- Sturdy build; made of high-quality metal
- Can be easily charged using the mini USB cable
- Enhances the audio quality of the source; provides perfect balance between bass and treble
- Portable and lightweight; pocket-size headphone amplifier
- Extremely affordable
- Comes with noise reduction features
- Sounds clean even at the highest volume
- Great battery life
- Plastic used to make the headphone amplifier’s covering feels cheap
5. Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Valve: Best Headphone Tube Amplifier
Tube headphone amplifiers can be a great solution for poor audio quality. And, this is exactly what the Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Valve Tube Headphone Amplifier helped us achieve!
The tube amplifier is truly a beast (in terms of performance and not size), and we only got to know this after testing the product thoroughly. In fact, it is one of the most compact and lightweight tube headphone amplifiers on the market.
We tested the headphone tube amplifier with a PC and the Sennheiser HD280 Pro Headphones, and experienced a phenomenal audio experience. Compared to a DAC headphone amp, the sound was more detailed, bright and we could distinguish between different instruments. The amplifier can drive headphones at any impedance. The result will always be a warm sound, which is balanced and clear.
Not only this but the Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Tube Headphone Amplifier also surprised us for its excellent build quality and durability. The device is solid, functional and aesthetically appealing.
Overall, the amplifier is good-quality, delivers crystal clear sound and greatly improves the sound quality of your headphones. We recommend buying this tube amplifier if you are a bass fan.
- Spreads the soundstage and delivers a powerful and warm sound
- Mid-range frequencies are less pronounced
- Sturdy build; durable
- Value for money
- Can drive headphones of any impedance
- Valves can be easily changed for different types of sounds
- Comes with 2 input ports – 3.5 mm and RCA jacks
- Comes with 3 output ports – 3.5 mm, RCA, and 6.35 mm
- Aesthetically appealing
- Warms up quickly
- Power is very strong for low impedance headphones
Factors You Should Consider While Buying a Headphone Amplifier – Buying Guide
Picking the right headphone amplifier can be a tricky job. It’s easy to get lost in the wide range of headphone amplifiers on the market. Fortunately, we are here to guide you. Here’s a list of factors you must consider while buying a headphone amplifier:
1. Headphone connection: Most headphone amplifiers on the market can easily connect to headphones having a 3.5 mm jack. So, if your headphones don’t have a 3.5 mm jack, you may need to purchase an adapter separately.
2. Amplifier input/output: Ensure the headphone amplifier you are planning to buy has the required input/output jacks. If you want to buy a DAC amplifier, you’ll need to establish a digital connection with a digital cable (coaxial, USB or optical). On the other hand, for an analog connection to your audio source, you will need a mini-to-RCA or stereo RCA cable.
3. Headphone impedance: This is a little complicated topic. However, in simple words, a headphones’ impedance is the power required to enhance its audio quality. Typically, lower-impedance headphones require less power and vice-versa.
Frequently Asked Questions
Well, yes. A headphone amplifier is worth purchasing. If you are investing in a good pair of headphones, it would be a good idea to buy a dedicated headphone amplifier. A good-quality headphone amplifier can enhance the sound performance of even the most basic headphones.
Most headphone amplifiers on the market comprise an electronic component known as DAC, which converts digital audio information into low-voltage signal that can be amplified by an amplifier. Therefore, digital audio devices, such as mobiles, PC, laptops, iPods, etc., require both headphone amp and DAC to hear sound through your headphones.
Typically, the more you pay, the better features you’ll get. However, this is not a hard and fast rule. You shouldn’t always use price as a benchmark while finding the best headphone amplifier. For instance, the Neoteck Headphone Amplifier listed above is extremely affordable, yet one of the most power-packed headphone amplifiers on the market. While most of the expensive headphone amplifiers sound great, they are bulky and less portable.
Valves or vacuum tubes are cylinders made of glass that you can see on the Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Valve Tube Headphone Amplifier. They are an essential element of the audio circuitry as they allow electrons to burn in a vacuum chamber.
Tube headphone amplifiers deliver a warm sound. However, you must handle them carefully as they can easily break. Also, another interesting feature of tube headphone amplifiers is that you can change the tubes to alter the sound (also known as “tube rolling”).
As you can see in this guide, buying a headphone amplifier can be as difficult a task as finding the best headphones on the market (infact, a little more difficult to be honest). You need to check the headphones’ connector, amplifier’s input/output options, your headphones’ impedance, type of headphone amplifier you want to buy (DAC, tube, desktop, portable) and so on. Therefore, we suggest you take time before narrowing down your choice to one.
Our personal favorite out of the lot is the Neoteck Headphone amplifier. It is portable, extremely affordable and delivers exceptional sound. Not only this but it is also perfect for daily use. Why invest in big and bulky headphone amplifiers when a pocket-size device can make a world of difference? Do you agree? Share your thoughts in the comment section below.