Best Headphone Amps - Audiostance

The 10 Best Headphone Amps

If you’re in the market for a headphone amp, you could be well-versed in the world of DAC chips and impedances, or you could be a newbie who just bought their first pair of high-end headphones, ready to jump in and experience your favorite tracks in a way you’ve never heard them before. Whether you’re an audio veteran or just starting out on your journey, I’m here to help you pick the perfect headphone amplifier for your headphones. In this best headphone amp list, I will talk about 10 great headphone amps and pick 5 that shine for their own reasons as category winners. I’ve also included a list of some of your most frequently asked questions on headphone amps and how to connect them.

Our Pick!

Schiit Magni 3+

Schiit Magni 3+

It’s hard not to justify picking up a Schiit Magni, paired with the Modi you won’t find audio this good until you spend another couple hundred bucks!

What is a headphone amp?

A headphone amp is a device that makes an audio signal louder and clearer before sending audio into your headphones and then, into your ears!

But what does a headphone amp do?

To look at it a bit more technically, a headphone amplifier takes a low-voltage signal from a device and increases the signal so that it sounds clearer and louder in your headphones.

Do I need a headphone amp?

You only need a headphone amp if your headphones require more power than your device can provide. You would know if this is the case because your headphones would have an unpleasant distorted and quiet sound. If you find that the max volume of your headphones is insufficient, or you face volume or distortion issues with your headphones, you probably should get a headphone amp.

Quick Pick – Our Awards!

The Best Headphone Amps

1. Schiit Magni 3+/Heresy

Schiit Magni 3+ Heresy

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Budget

Under $150

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Weight

2.72 oz

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Size

3.11 x 0.83 x 1.93″

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At a first glance, the Schiit Magni 3+ headphone amp and preamp is just, well, honestly this device looks pretty unassuming. The 3+ looks fairly plain, but in the right context, the device looks very sleek. I am more partial to the Heresy’s red and black design. However, like a sleeper car, the Schiit Magni 3+ looks discrete but packs some serious power beneath the hood. Don’t let this amp’s humble guise fool you!

Both Magni headphone amp/preamps are pretty heavy for their size and feel quite sturdy, this is indicative of their great build quality. The Schiit Magni series is slightly larger than other headphone amps you will find on the market, so portability is not one of these device’s primary strengths. Overall the amps look quite nice and will surely complement the gear you already have in your setup, the Magnis is mostly manufactured in California but also have a few components manufactured in Nevada, only the wall-warts are made in China and at the price for these devices that is quite impressive

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Features

The Schiit Magni 3+ is a headphone amp but it’s essentially built like a very small speaker amp. This means the amp is all-discrete consisting entirely of paired matched transistors. If you’re looking for an op-amp based headphone amp you want to try out the Magni 3’s sister product, the Schiit Magni Heresy.

Each Magni is not just a headphone amp, it is also a preamp, this means these devices can power your headphones as well as send your computer’s weak audio signal to a powered amp and out to a loudspeaker or connect to your studio monitor setup. I’ll touch on the specific connections you can find on the Magni Later.

If you’re looking at the Schiit Magni you’ve probably heard of its partner in crime, the Schiit Modi. The Modi is a standalone digital to analog audio converter that you can purchase separately. True, it is a shame that there is no onboard DAC in the Schiit Magni series, but the amps are absolutely amazing for the price, even after purchasing both the Modi and the Magni.

Sound

For under 150 dollars you can experience an incredibly rich, deep sound with the Magni series. When paired with a good DAC like the Modi 3 you can power any pair of headphones regardless of their impedance and integrate your headphone amp and DAC seamlessly into the rest of your audio setup. It is hard to compare any other headphone amp at this price point to the Magni series because their design is so complex and innovative they stand in a league of their own, and you’ll have to hear the 3+ or the Heresy for yourself to grasp the insane audio quality you get for such an absurdly low price.

I can confidently say that the Schiit Magni 3+ is the best headphone amp under 150 dollars, that being said, buying a DAC to accompany this thing is going to cost you another hundred bucks, so keep that in mind. With a pair of powerful headphones and a quality DAC the Schiit Magni 3 won’t be outclassed in sound quality until you more than double the cost of the amp, and that is very impressive.

Connectivity

The Schiit Magni 3+ and the Schiit Magni Heresy have all the connections you’d expect from a headphone amp/preamp combo.

 On the front panel, you have a ¼ inch headphone jack adjacent to the gain knob.

On the back panel of the amp, there are RCA in/out connections necessary for using the Magni as a preamp, as well as an AC power input that will power the headphone amp/preamp. Something to note about the AC adapter that comes with a Magni is that the power adapter is about as large as the amp itself and may be a bit bulky during travel.

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Why should you buy the Schiit Magni 3+?

  • High output power
  • Preamp functionality
  • Very low noise floor
  • Exceptional value

Schiit Magni 3+ Conclusion

The Schiit Magni 3+ and Schiit Magni Heresy are both offered for sale by Schiit audio because they both have a place in your audio setup. If you are looking for an all-discrete amp that is basically a speaker amp go with the 3+. If you want an op-amp, go for the Heresy. If you like silver, go with the 3+, if you like red and black, get the Heresy. No really, they even say that on their website. The difference in audio between the two is pretty minuscule, both of these products enhance the listening experience on any pair of headphones you have, and both have preamp capabilities. Shout out to Schiit audio for having multiple options for their lower-price products, it allows us, the buyer, more freedom in getting the sound we want.

Personally, I’d elect to go with the Magni 3+ and Modi DAC combo if I were in the market for a Schiit. It’ll run you $200 but until you’re spending $500+ you’re not going to match the quality you get out of this setup. The Schiit Magni, whether it’s the 3+ or the Heresy, is a fantastic product made by a company that makes amazing products and has a great sense of humor!

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2. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

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Budget

Under $100

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Weight

16.0 oz

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5.0 x 3.5 x 1.25″

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In terms of design, FiiO did not hold back on this little powerhouse. The FiiO E10K sports a sweet brushed aluminum finish that will look fantastic on any desk. I’d consider this FiiO a slightly minimalistic looking headphone amp, so you won’t have to worry about this unit’s design clashing visually with the other accessories at your workstation if that’s a concern of yours. The design of the FiiO E10K headphone amp belies its great connectivity options that I’ll get into later, and the amp’s line in, 3.5mm and coax ports are all clearly labeled for convenience and look great.

My personal favorite part of the FiiO E10K’s design is the large gain knob on the front of the unit, which sports a lovely blue LED indicator for your gain setting. The knob is satisfying to use and visually leads the eye to the most important part of your headphone amp, the volume! The FiiO E10K will look fantastic on your desk with your other electronic peripherals, and its aluminum finish will ensure that your FiiO won’t take any damage in your luggage if you take your amp on the go.

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Features

The FiiO E10K headphone amp sports the PCM102 DAC chip and can handle PCM files of up to 24-bit/96 kHz. This FiiO unit will enhance your sound quality with its integrated delay & phase shift reduction, as well as its onboard linear filter. In addition to these clarity enriching features, the E10K also boasts an impressively low noise floor achieved via an optimized low-pass filter.

My favorite feature included in the E10K’s internals is its built-in bass boost feature. I love loud bass when listening to music, and the E10K’s bass boost adds an impressive punch to the low end of the frequency spectrum. There’s also a noticeable overall warmth from the E10K’s bass boost that seems to originate from the EQ curve applied when the bass boost is engaged after you flick the convenient switch on the front panel of the unit.

Sound

As I’ve mentioned before, the FiiO E10K Headphone amp has a warm bass-heavy sound. For a relatively inexpensive product, the sound quality is quite good, and the many positive reviews of this amp reflect that. After some listening you can notice some nice added detail in the sound of any of your favorite music or audio content, this amp will absolutely unlock a new level of audio quality while driving your Hi-Fi headphones. The E10K is certainly one of the best headphone amps for its value.

If you are like me and enjoy bass-heavy music, the FiiO E10K could be a great choice for you. Electronic music, metal, and hip-hop music are exceptionally suited for listening on this amp as the warm tones and deep bass capability accentuate the sound qualities that make this unit a staple part of your Hi-Fi listening experience.

Connectivity

The FiiO E10K boasts a number of useful connections and will amplify any audio setup so long as you are prepared with the right planning and peripherals. At the front of the E10K, you have your headphone jack, and at the back, there is a micro-USB port to connect to your computer.

On the back panel, you will also find line-out and coaxial ports to send audio from your computer to the desktop headphone amp. Connection should be pretty straightforward, but if you are having trouble setting up your E10K you can consult the FAQ at the bottom of this page.

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Why should you buy the FiiO E10K?

  • Low noise floor
  • Variety of connections
  • Bass boost
  • Sleek design

FiiO E10K Conclusion

This amp is a continuation of the FiiO E10, and FiiO did a great job improving the aspects of the E10 that made it popular. With the E10K, FiiO has nailed the execution of the ‘everyman’ DAC amp. This product has a versatile collection of features that will cover the needs and expectations of prospective buyers from many different walks of life. At under 80 bucks it’s hard to deny the value you get with this USB headphone amp; if you’re looking for a headache-free solution to drive your fancy headphones the E10K is a fantastic choice.

The FiiO E10K headphone DAC amp is a great purchase for the price. This list contains lots of great products, but it’s hard to argue against the appeal of this little amp. With an un-intrusive, sleek design, powerful bass boost capabilities, a variety of connectivity options, great sound quality, and a relatively low price point, the E10K is likely to have something for everyone. If you’re in the market for a headphone amp you could be looking for a great value and simply want your Hi-Fi headphones to be working properly ASAP, or you could be looking for the best quality possible, and the E10K will surely exceed your expectations whether you’re an amateur audiophile or a veteran in the field

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3. Behringer Microamp HA400

Behringer Microamp HA400

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4

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Budget

Under $100

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Weight

13.1 oz

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4.1 x 2.2 x 1.8″

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The Behringer Microamp HA400 is a 4-channel output headphone amp with an extremely compact and simple design. This thing is smaller than my cell phone and can power 4 pairs of headphones with pretty good quality. For the price, it’s super simple functionality and somewhat basic array of features are mirrored in this Behringer headphone amp’s design.

A tiny, black box with four knobs. Yes, that’s it. If you are a no-frills, practical type this amp’s design will speak to you spiritually. I am a huge fan of devices built in this functional type of style and I think it will look and feel great with most audio setups, but more importantly, the time saved on the HA400’s simple design was spent on making the device have a long life and exceptional durability. I love the practicality and compactness of this device, it is a modest amp, it does its job and doesn’t take up any space doing it. What more could you want?

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Features

The feature list for the Behringer Microamp HA400 is much shorter than some of the other amps on this list, but for the very low price, you can’t beat the value you get for this 4-channel headphone amp. The Behringer Microamp HA00 allows you to take an audio signal and split it into 4-channels, this means you can listen to the same audio signal on four different pairs of headphones. This setup is ideal for those of you out there with a home recording studio.

As a music producer, there have been countless times I’ve wanted to listen to what I’m working on and had other producers and musicians who wanted to listen along. Some of those times it’s been late at night so I couldn’t use speakers so a Behringer Microamp HA400 could allow us all to work and collaborate using headphones! Whether you have a home studio or simply want to have multiple headphone connections for a different reason, that is the core function of this amp.

Sound

The sound quality of the Behringer Microamp HA400 was not the focus of this product’s function, but the sound quality is not bad. An increase in audio signal quality with this amp is minimal, but that’s okay considering the great value you get for a simple channel splitting amplifier. If you are trying to power one pair of headphones this is definitely not the product for you because you can find alternatives more suited to using one pair of headphones.

As I said before, the Behringer Microamp HA400 doesn’t focus on providing a high-quality listening experience, this piece of hardware is more useful as a powered 4-channel audio splitter for headphones that require amplification. The sound quality of your signal is not going to be decreased by using this amp, but it won’t be increased at all either. This device will certainly help your workflow and be a very convenient addition to your setup, but your sound quality will remain the same.

Connectivity

The Behringer Microamp HA400 has a very straightforward interface for connecting your audio signal and splitting it into 4 amplified headphone signals. In the rear of the amp there are five ¼ inch audio jacks, one for audio input and 4 separate jacks for connecting all of your different pairs of headphones. Next to these jacks there is a 12-volt DC power in connection for the included power adapter.

If you are looking for digital to analog conversion or preamp functionalities you should look at different amps in this list because the Microamp HA400 is simply going to amplify 4-channels for headphone use and that’s about it.

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Why should you buy the Behringer Microamp HA400?

  • 4 Channel output
  • Low price
  • Compact price
  • Durable

Behringer Microamp HA400 Conclusion

The Behringer Microamp HA400 is a simple and durable solution for anyone looking to amplify 1-4 pairs of headphones for very cheap. The HA400’s practical design and no-frills connectivity are easy to grasp, and you’ll be set up and ready to go in no time if you purchase this headphone amp for your home studio or audio setup. As I mentioned before, audio engineers and music producers with home studios could benefit greatly from adding this amp to their setup as recording musicians, vocalists, and collaborating engineers will be able to tune in to your production session without you waking up your family members or roommates who may be sleeping while you make the next dubstep hit at 5 in the morning. 

Your audio quality is not going to be affected much, but the use for the HA400 is still a common one and it has its specific use case that had generated a very high rating from consumers who need a 4-channel headphone amp. Overall, the HA400 has a very specific use, and if you need to do the specific thing that this thing does, this is your best choice.

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4. VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

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1

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Budget

Under $50

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Weight

3.04 oz

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Size

7.0 x 1.0 x 5.0″

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Oh man, the different VOX amPlug 2 portable guitar & bass amps all look so awesome. This specialized battery-powered headphone amplifier comes in 7 different models for different tones and uses, and each has its own specific design that I absolutely love. The variety of models ranges from a clean tone, a bass model, and even includes a metal version and tones for blues and classic rock. My personal favorite design is the vintage AC30 cabinet model, but each model of the VOX amPlug 2 has its own aesthetic merits.

All of the models of the VOX amPlug 2 have their own great use, but each has a few things in common. The portable guitar/bass amps all have a plastic chassis and pots for adjusting volume, tone, and gain. Depending on the model you have, three discrete values for effects can be selected by a button labeled FX adjacent to the adjustment pots. On top of all that, the input for the amp to connect with your guitar or bass has an ergonomic 180-degree swivel that allows you flexibility in connecting your amPlug into various models of guitars with ease.

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Features

If you’re looking to play your electric guitar or bass into your headphones with high-quality audio you can’t go wrong with the VOX amPlug 2 guitar/bass headphone amp. As I mentioned before, every model of the amp has 3 adjustable values for volume, tone, and gain, similar to a typical amplifier. The amPlug’s more in-depth features include, depending on the model you have, 3 choruses, 3 reverbs, 3 delays, an onboard drum machine/metronome, and an aux input so you can play along to an audio track.

For such a low price, this guitar/bass headphone amp has quite a few awesome features. VOX claims that the battery life for the amp is 17 hours, so you can expect to be running through quite a few AA batteries, but fewer batteries compared to many other battery-powered headphone amps. The feature list of the VOX amPlug 2 is perfect for a portable solution to practicing guitar with your headphones!

Sound

Depending on the model you decide to try out the VOX amPlug 2 could sound completely different. The amPlug model you use will vastly change the sound you get, but overall each model has its own strengths. Your best bet is to go with the style of amp that you think fits your guitar/bass playing style the best and give it a try. Overall, the VOX amPlug 2 series of headphone amps all have a highly present and customizable sound. The versatile array of models offered in the VOX amPlug 2 series of guitar/bass headphone amps is its defining feature and, to me, the best part about this product!

My personal favorite sound is the metal model of the VOX amPlug 2 because it most closely fits the style of guitar I play. Depending on the genre and style you play, and whether you play guitar or bass, you will likely have your own favorite model!

Connectivity

Regardless of the VOX amPlug 2 guitar & bass headphone amp model you have, they all connect the same way. The various connections you have all begin with the ergonomic 180-degree swiveling 1/4 jack connection that goes into your guitar or bass. From there, you have a headphone jack of course, as well as an auxiliary input so that you can play along to songs you are working on or songs you like to jam to.

The connections on the amPlug 2 are pretty basic but they get the job done.

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Why should you buy the VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30?

  • 4 Channel output
  • Low price
  • Compact price
  • Durable

VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Conclusion

The VOX amPlug 2 guitar/bass headphone amplifier is a great product that will meet the needs of any guitar or bass player looking to practice their skills with headphones, especially while on the go. For a great price you get 3 different reverbs, choruses, and delay effects as well as adjustable values for volume, gain, and tone, all on a portable amplifier modeled after 1 of 7 different cabinet models to get the sound you want without any hassle.

These headphone amps look great, and they sound great too! If you’re looking to play guitar without bothering the people you live with, or practice while traveling, you really can’t beat the value you get from this little amp for less than $50.

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5. Objective2 Headphone Amplifier

Objective2 Headphone Amplifier

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1

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Budget

Under $150

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Weight

24.0 oz

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Size

6.8 x 6.2 x 6.2″

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The Objective2 Headphone amp is a no-frills amplifier handmade and tested in the United States. This thing makes the Behringer Microamp HA400 look complex, the Objective2 amp proudly wears its simplicity on its sleeve. As a fan of practical design, I love the Objective2’s black brushed aluminum finish and minimal interface. This amp is durable, simple, and sleek.

Of all the different amplifiers in this comprehensive list, the Objective2 headphone amp is one of the least likely to cause you any headaches (unless you crank up that gain knob too high). Mayflower Electronics really hit a sweet spot for me with this headphone amp because I love a modest piece of equipment that really knows what it is and doesn’t try to show off. The Objective2 amp wears a minimalistic aesthetic; it leaves all the resources they could have used in the visual department to the audio features. The Objective2 will look great with and other hardware you have in your setup, and it will surely last many years providing you with crisp quality audio.

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Features

The Objective2 headphone amp features benchmark sound quality at a very low price. Unlike some of the amps in this list, the Objective2 acts solely as a single channel headphone amplifier without any other features. If you are on the market for a hassle-free headphone amp or you are looking for an amplifier with no DAC, the Objective2 might be for you.

Sound

The Objective2 headphone amp provides very high-quality audio amplification and that’s about all it does. Considering the general consensus when it comes to these kinds of audio devices is that you don’t get much more when you spend a lot of money unless you spend a lot more money, the Objective2 headphone amp hits a sort of happy middle ground where you can pay a bit more for a good quality experience but you aren’t quite going all in.

If you want a solid audio experience on your headphones but you’re sticking to a budget the Objective2 headphone amp is definitely a great choice. The audio quality is not going to compare to an amp that costs $200 or more, but for this price, it is simply going to come down to your personal preference.

Connectivity

This headphone amp is very easy to connect, simply input your audio signal via ¼ inch headphone jack labeled input and plug your headphones into the output jack. Then you connect your power cord via the 12-20 VAC port in the rear of the amp.

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Why should you buy the Objective2 Headphone Amplifier?

  • Open-source design
  • High-quality uncolored sound
  • Low price
  • Made in the USA

Objective2 Headphone Amplifier Conclusion

I am a huge fan of the Objective2 headphone amp because I am a sucker for practical and affordable design. The designer of the Objective2, NwAvGuy, has long been a notorious engineer in the hi-fi audio scene, but his design for this headphone amp has opened the door for many new audio enthusiasts by exposing them to great quality audio for a fair price. I like the simple and efficient design of this headphone amp and this amp’s hassle-free aesthetic matches its functionality.

The only problem for the Objective2 comes in the form of the Schiit Magni series, the 3+ and Heresy both offer preamp functionality that the Objective2 lacks and for a cheaper price-point. The FiiO E10K offers portability and onboard DAC where the Objective2 has none. The Behringer Microamp HA400 offers 4-channels for only 30 dollars. Many of the devices covered in our list so far have functions that the Objective2 does not, however, the O2 does have great audio quality. The only reason I would choose to buy the Objective2 over the Schiit Magni 3+ or Magni Heresy is the sound profile. In the end, if the sound of this headphone amp is for you it is still a great value for the price regardless of the features it lacks compared to its competitors.

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6. AudioQuest – DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

AudioQuest – Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

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Under $350

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4.2 oz

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2.4 x 0.7 x 0.5″

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The DragonFly Cobalt is no joke, over the course of this best headphone amp list we’ve only covered items a third of the price of this DAC/amp and now were treading in new territory: true portable headphone amps. My first impression of the Cobalt was that it had the energy of a high caliber bullet, small and deadly. Despite this amp’s tiny blue appearance, it has serious power inside it that I can’t wait to talk about, but first, the looks.            

The Cobalt is the smallest amp covered so far, but also one of the most complex as well, and this shows in its looks. The DragonFly Cobalt has a glossy blue automotive finish that looks striking and elegant, its design is simple and straightforward. On the top of the amp, the DragonFly logo glows in different colors depending on the sample rate and file type currently being played back by the device. Included with the amp is a tiny leather pouch that will help keep your headphone amp from taking any damage while traveling. The team behind this amp really cared about the visual presentation and it shows! The DragonFly Cobalt headphone amp looks and feels luxurious, it is stunning as soon as it leaves the box.

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Features

This headphone amp is extraordinarily simple, it has the most straightforward design covered so far in this article. The DragonFly Cobalt features and onboard ESS ES9038Q2MDAC chip with a native resolution of 24-bit/96khz. The DAC includes a slow roll-off filter for improved natural sound quality. The Cobalt requires a USB adapter to use, so be sure to pick one up before you expect to use this amp.            

The Cobalt sells itself on its ability to play any audio file from MP3 to MQA, and even indicates you visually based on which file type is playing via its LED logo’s color. The Cobalt will play any files you have on any device that has USB ports (or an adapter) and will drive both low and high-powered headphones. On top of all this, the Cobalt has bit-perfect volume control and stereo DAC functionality, essentially you could use the same amp for your stereo and your headphones, and it will fit in your pocket. This amp leans toward the pricey side, there are many audiophiles who spend much more than $300 but to the uninitiated, this can seem pretty steep. In the end, the DragonFly Cobalt headphone DAC/amp is fully featured and has something for everyone.

Sound

For a mobile headphone amp solution, it will be hard to beat the DragonFly Cobalt. Similar to its predecessor, the DragonFly Red, the Cobalt has a precise and intimate soundstage with crisp audio quality and complete volume control thanks to its in-depth bit-perfect volume capabilities. Compared to most desktop amps, unfortunately, the Cobalt will likely fall short as there isn’t enough room in such a small device to generate that extreme hi-fi sound.

Even though this is a mobile amp and it is driverless, you will notice a positive change in your device’s audio quality whether you use Spotify, tidal, apple music, Bandcamp, or your own audio files. The Cobalt will power most headphones with good quality but again the lack of a software driver and designated power source may leave you wanting compared to a desktop headphone amp.

Connectivity

There are only two connections on the DragonFly Cobalt, a USB male connector to connect to your device and a 3.5mm headphone jack on the opposite end. This simple layout is foolproof but be aware that you will require an adapter to use this amp with any phone, depending on your phone’s specific port. If you’re using this amp with a laptop, simply plug it into a USB port, no driver installations or power supply necessary.

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Why should you buy the AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt?

  • Very portable
  • High quality
  • Compatible with Apple and Android (with adapter)
  • Plays all file types

AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt Conclusion

Let’s be honest, it can be pretty hard to find a ‘true audiophile’ quality audio solution for your mobile music listening setup. If that is your aim, it will be a tall order to find a better and more affordable solution than the DragonFly Cobalt. Unfortunately, you have to pay for the complex tech required to achieve high-res audio on the go. You can certainly get better power and quality out of a desktop headphone amp for a lower price but honestly, mobile and desktop headphone amps should be considered two separate leagues entirely.

When it comes to mobile headphone amplifiers the DragonFly Cobalt is sleek, dependable, versatile, convenient, and powerful; but it isn’t cheap. If you want some great sounding audio on the go this may be everything you’ve been searching for, just be wary of the fact that you’ll need to buy an adapter for your phone’s charging port regardless of what type of phone you have. My personal thoughts on this amp aren’t completely positive. I’m not the type of person to readily spend a few hundred dollars on this sort of thing, but maybe it’s simply because I’m not looking for a travel-friendly audio solution like this. If I traveled more and spent less time in an office/studio setting I think this headphone amp would be perfect for me.

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7. Sound BlasterX G6 Headphone Amp

Sound BlasterX G6 Headphone Amp

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2

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Under $150

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Weight

7.0 oz

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Size

4.4 x 0.9 x 2.8″

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Look, I’m a gamer and I have been for a long time, and over the last decade, gaming culture has become more prolific than it’s ever been before. The gaming industry has given birth to all sorts of brands and products laser-targeted at videogame fans everywhere, and the headphone amp market has been affected as much as any other.

The Sound BlasterX G6 Hi-Res gaming headphone amp is a product of this laser-targeted marketing, and it’s not very effective on me. Pokémon references aside, this gaming headphone amplifier has a sleek sci-fi design that’s not really my cup of tea but perhaps for a very tech-oriented gamer, the visual appeal is more present. The Sound BlasterX G6’s angular design and hard chiseled edges make me instantly think of an ice-cold Mountain Dew and a bag of Doritos late on a summer night, deep into a session of Counter-Strike with my friends back in high school. Maybe I’m over critical, but even the name of this thing sounds more like a hoverboard than a headphone amp.

Alright, alright, enough joking. The G6 has a pretty cool design, a simple interface, and a sturdy chassis. The branding is a bit over the top, but maybe that’s your thing!

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Features

The over the top aesthetic of the Sound BlasterX G6 hints at the absolutely overboard internals of this headphone amp. Boasting a 32-bit 384 kHz DAC chip, 130 dB dynamic range, surround sound support, and proprietary 2-channel discrete bi-amp technology, this gaming headphone amp does not hold any punches. If you are like me and the visual and branding didn’t catch you, the technology in this amp will.

All of those features go so much deeper than simply enhancing computer audio as a typical desktop headphone amp would. While gaming, you can experience enhanced spatial audio thanks to the surround sound support and Xamp discrete amplification capabilities. If you don’t game on a PC, you can also access all of these sweet features playing on an Xbox, PS4, or Nintendo switch.

On top of all of that functionality, the Sound BlasterX G6 gaming headphone amp supports Hi-Res audio formats and has multi-bit modulation for distortion control and overall sound quality improvements. This headphone amp is stacked with cool features, all of which are specially designed to improve the gaming experience and provide quality audio outside of gaming as well.

Sound

The Sound BlasterX G6 gaming headphone amp provides a great sound experience both in and out of gaming. Akin to some other products on this list, the G6 is a product you wouldn’t necessarily buy specifically for the sound quality, rather, you would be more likely to enjoy the visuals and extra features that this DAC amp provides in addition to increased audio clarity given the price range. At this price-point, you are paying for Schiit Magni or Objective2 quality audio and a bunch of specialized gaming-specific features, if that sounds interesting to you than the G6 is probably a great choice.

You can easily achieve audiophile quality with this gaming headphone amp, but the true seller is going to be the extra features. The sound profile is quite neutral which I found surprising given the nature of this amp, but you can color the audio with the G6’s own flair by messing with the driver setting and playing with the effects included in this headphone amp’s driver application. While you’re in there, definitely check out the voice changers because they are a lot of fun!

Connectivity

The Sound BlasterX G6 has a line optical in/out connection in the rear, as well as a micro-USB port to transmit data and power. In the front, there are two 3.5 mm jacks for headphones and a microphone. The connectivity of this gaming headphone amp is very typical for a headphone DAC/amp with microphone support.

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Why should you buy the Sound BlasterX G6 Headphone Amp?

  • Specialized for gaming
  • Xamp 2-channel amplification
  • 32-bit 384kHz DAC
  • 7.1 Virtual surround sound

Sound BlasterX G6 Headphone Amp Conclusion

Gaming amps are going to be around for a while, and I think this one grew on me. At first, I was a bit put off by the BlasterX G6’s visual design; I felt I was outside of its target demographic by a small margin. After a little bit of time with it, I think I’m sold on all the great gaming features that come with this amp. Scout mode for shooters, and surround sound for cinematic games sounds great, as well as the ability to morph my voice in group-chats with my friends. There is a vast array of fun and practical features included with this DAC/amp.

With great audio quality, a wide dynamic range, a very high-quality DAC chip, and hi-res audio playback, this amp is great on its own even without all of the extra features it is bundled with.

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8. Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier

Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier

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Chanels

2

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Budget

Under $50

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Weight

6.4 oz

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Size

4.4 x 2.7 x 1.3″

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The Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum tube headphone amp looks great. The stock tubes that come with this headphone amp have a great visual design and sit very brazenly atop this amplifier. Using a tube amp as a headphone amp was completely new to me before my time with the NS-08E and honestly, I don’t know if this amp is a product I would go with.

This amp has a bronze-colored brushed aluminum finish and it looks very nice. The tubes give the whole amp a vintage look and if that’s something you look for in your audio hardware you might really love this amp’s design. The Nobsound NS-08E vacuum tube amp gave me a good visual first impression, but will the features packed inside this amp hold up against the competition? For only $50 it may be pretty cool to have a tube amp powering your headphones, but do these mini tube amps live up to the hype? In the next section let’s see if mini tube amps are worth it.

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Features

The Nobsound NS-08E vacuum tube headphone amplifier markets itself as a miniature Hi-Fi tube amp. The usefulness of this kind of headphone amp is admittedly lost on me, I sort of think of these small tube amps as novelty purchases. This vacuum tube headphone amp includes preamp functionality, but Nobsound actually recommends a different product as a better alternative for a preamp in the NS-08E’s product description. That sort of thing doesn’t strike me as a selling point for this amp.

The NS-08E comes with two vacuum tubes, Chinese-made 6J3 tubes, and they aren’t the best. If you’re thinking about rolling these tubes, you might as well buy a different tube amp altogether. Tube amplifiers offer an incredible amount of warmth in your sound but at this cheap price-point and small amp size, it just isn’t worth the hassle. Tube amps can run a bit warm and are hard to fit on a desk comfortably with other components, and vacuum tubes are glass and you risk breaking them if you aren’t careful. After you pair this amp with a DAC since this amp does not have a DAC chip internally, you’re already in the 80-dollar range, so unless you love the look of this thing it’s not really worth all the hassle.

Sound

As I mentioned in passing before, the Nobsound NS-08E vacuum tube headphone amp has a bit of warmth thanks to it’s included vacuum tubes, but they aren’t very good stock tubes, and replacing the tubes isn’t worth it on a small amp that’s this cheap. I would not advise buying this amp with a more expensive pair of tubes because the tube’s colored sound will be hindered greatly by the low-end build quality of this amp. The sound is serviceable and any headphones you have below the 600-ohm range will work fine with this amp, I just can’t get over the noticeable headaches and lack of features compared to the other amps in this list. If you absolutely must have a tube amp it’s absolutely worth saving up for an amplifier that can truly harness the power of quality vacuum tubes and get you that warm, expressive tube amp sound we all love.

To conclude my thoughts on the sound of this amp, it is good, but there are other factors that hinder the overall practicality of this tube headphone amp. I wouldn’t call this product the best vacuum tube headphone amp out there, it’s simply too cheap and requires an external DAC, therefore driving your total price up for your audio setup.

Connectivity

The connections on this vacuum tube headphone amp are a bit lackluster relative to the competition in this list. With only two 3.5 mm jacks for in/out connections and a power cord, you have preamp capability but with limited connectivity. I can see why Nobsound doesn’t recommend this amp as a stereo preamp. As a desktop headphone amp, the NS-08E is capable but it always irks me when the in and out connection are both located in the front of the unit. In the connectivity department, this amp did not meet my expectations, but I’m definitely nitpicking.

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Why should you buy the Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier?

  • Specialized for gaming
  • Xamp 2-channel amplification
  • 32-bit 384kHz DAC
  • 7.1 Virtual surround sound

Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier Conclusion

There’s a serious issue with this vacuum tube amp, I’ll go over my dilemma as plainly as possible as my piece on the NS-08E comes to an end. The only reason you’re going to spend $50 on a tube amp is that you want to save money right, but now that you are looking at the NS-08E you need to look at external DACs and possibly even adapter to get the little 3.5 mm jacks to work with your current audio workflow. If I were serious about tube amps, I’d just save up more cash and get an amp more capable of bringing the life out of quality tubes, I wouldn’t spend less and use lower quality vacuum tubes. This amp exists in a weird middle ground where it’s hard to justify buying it, it is too inconvenient and lacks too many features to. Be considered a reasonable budget purchase.

That being said, there is still an obvious market for this. I think as a cheap introduction to tube amplifiers this headphone amp could be for you, just be aware that you’re likely to spend another 20-50 bucks on a DAC, in which case you should nix the tube route and just go with a FiiO or Schiit with an onboard DAC (E10K/Fulla) that will get more quality for your money with less hassle and better connectivity options.

The Nobsound NS-08E vacuum tube headphone amp looks super cool, but it falls short regarding convenience.

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9. PreSonus HP4 4-Channel Compact Headphone Amplifier

PreSonus HP4 4-Channel Compact Headphone Amplifier

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Chanels

4

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Budget

Under $200

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Weight

51.2 oz

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Size

5.5 x 1.75 x 5.5″

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The first impression I got from the PreSonus HP4 4-channel headphone amp is that it looks pretty dated. This rack-mountable desktop headphone amp was first listed on amazon when I was 5 years old (I’m 24 now) so this thing has been around for a while and people really love it. The blue brushed aluminum finish of this 4-channel amp clashes somewhat with its gray peripherals; this thing is definitely going to stick out visually compared to your more modern audio hardware. If that isn’t a problem for you, you will find this to be a pretty good amp for the price and I’ll get into that later.

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Features

This 4-channel headphone amp’s main selling point is its ability to power 4 pairs of headphones. Other than that, it has global mute, slots to mount the amp on a rack (1/3U), and room cue/monitor control. For the price, this is a great step up from the very basic Behringer Microamp HA400 but be weary the extra features on this PreSonus headphone amp will run you another 120 dollars. In the audio world, small upgrades in features and audio quality run up the price tag pretty fast.

This amp has everything you need to share quality sound in a studio setting. If you are recording with multiple collaborators, it’s important to have equally powered headphones so that each contributor can hear accurate sound while producing. Outside of production work, this amp is a great way to share audio with 1-3 other people without playing your audio out loud via speakers or studio monitors.

Sound

This amp has great sound quality, much better than the only other 4-channel headphone amp we covered in this list. The sound quality is great across multiple pairs of headphones with great loudness, you will never need to crank the gain up on any of your channels to get a good volume out of this amp.

Connectivity

The PreSonus HP4 has line out and line in ports as well as 4 ¼ inch headphone jacks, so you can hook up 4 sets of headphones as well as a set of studio monitors to this amp. You could also daisy chain multiple HP4’s together if you’d like.

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Why should you buy the PreSonus HP4 Headphone Amplifier?

  • 4-Channel output
  • Monitor cue control
  • 1/3U rack-mount chassis
  • Wide dynamic range

PreSonus HP4 Headphone Amplifier Conclusion

The PreSonus HP4 4—channel headphone amp is the best choice for you if you’re looking for a good quality amp that can power 1-444 pairs of headphones. If your current setup is not powerful enough to drive multiple pairs of headphones and you are hearing distortion and low volume, this PreSonus headphone amp can solve that problem. You could go a lot cheaper than this amp but be aware that you will be sacrificing quality when you do so.

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10. Monoprice 111567 Desktop Headphone Amplifier

Monoprice 111567 Desktop Headphone Amplifier

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2

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Budget

Under $100

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Weight

26.4 oz

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Size

8.5 x 6.5 x 2.5″

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After covering the Nobsound NS-08E, the Monoprice 111567 headphone DAC/amp feels like its complete opposite. This Monoprice amp is no-frills and the Nobsound is all frills. When opening the box, you will find a power cord and a black box with a knob on it. No over the top gamer branding, no good-humored company name, no cheap made-in-China tubes, a black box with a knob. Maybe it’s being modest?

The Monoprice 111567 headphone amp is slightly too big for my liking. It’s a big black brushed aluminum box. I can’t stop saying how this is literally just a black box, I mean, I’ll get into my problems with this DAC/amp shortly, but it all starts with the design.

I’ve said earlier in this best headphone amp list that I love minimal design, but the 11567 is boring even for me, and I’m someone who loves an unobtrusive hardware setup. If the Sound BlasterX G6 Gaming amp was a bit jarring, then this Monoprice is a bit boring. This amp is a sober approach to a desktop amp, and I’ll discuss this more in the next section.

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Features

Well, it’s a headphone amp and it’s a DAC. Unfortunately, this amp does two things and it only does them pretty well. As an amp, the 111567 by Monoprice does a fine job, it will power your headphones up to 600 ohms, but the DAC chip in this amp is run of the mill. If you’re going to drop almost 100 dollars on a headphone amp you have better choices than this amp considering it’s up against FiiO and Schiit.

Compared to the other headphone amps on this list the Monoprice 111567 has very basic functionality. All jokes aside, this headphone amp will get the job done but there are more fully-featured DAC/amps at this price range that are a more reasonable purchase. Even compared to the Behringer Microamp, which is basically a 4-channel headphone amp/splitter, the price is almost unforgivable. Why pay this much for a basic feature list when the competitors offer so much more within the same price range?

Sound

The sound capabilities of the Monoprice 111567 headphone amp are very basic compared to the various amps on this list. There is a slightly noticeable change in quality if you’re comparing your audio quality to your computer’s native sound but compared to other DAC/amps available to you the increase in quality is just passable. I don’t think that for 90 dollars a small leap in quality is acceptable when you can have a much greater experience from other products.

I have noticed that a lot of the consumers of this amp are first-time headphone amp buyers, and it makes sense, this one looks simple so people assume it’s just a regular old headphone amp and buy it. It seems like everyone buys this as their first headphone amp and then they move on to something else. The sound quality of this amp is better than your computer’s audio but not as good as other amps that have more features for the same price, so take that as you will.

Connectivity

The connections on the Monoprice 111567 are some of the only things on this amp that have an edge on the competition. This headphone amp can be used as a preamp and comes with all the connections required to do so including pre-out, line out, and auxiliary RCA ports. Also, in the rear of the amp, you can find a USB 3.0 port and 15V/DC, 2A power port. In the front, there is a ¼ inch headphone jack, so if you want to use a 3.5 mm headphone connection you will need an adapter.

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Why should you buy the Monoprice 111567 Desktop Headphone Amplifier?

  • Stereo preamp functionality
  • Onboard DAC
  • Simple design

Monoprice 111567 Desktop Headphone Amplifier Conclusion

I don’t really know who the Monoprice 111567 is for. If you want a cheap headphone amp, you can find a cheaper one, if you want a good value, you’re not really getting that here compared to a FiiO or Schiit of the same price (or slightly more). If you want interesting features, you will have to pay more in most cases but there is really not much here feature-wise. I really wish this amp had more going for it but when you compare it to the competition you have to admit there is a striking lack of incentive to buy this amp.

If you want features, go with the Sound BlasterX G6, if you have multiple pairs of headphones to use at once you have the Behringer HA400 and the PreSonus HP4, if you want good quality you can get a FiiO or a Schiit, you could even go with a used one and save money. Whatever you’re looking for, unfortunately, you’re probably not going to find it with the Monoprice 111567.

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FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use a headphone amp?

Depending on your exact headphone amp, it will need power and a connection to your audio device to work, as well as a pair of headphones for you to wear. Make sure your amp has power and is connected to your computer or phone, then try listening with your headphones. Be sure to consult your user manual before using a headphone amp!

How do I connect a headphone amp to an audio interface?

Simply connect the audio interface’s output to the headphone amplifiers input, then plug your headphones into the headphone amp’s output. You should always put the amplifier on after your audio interface in your audio workflow.

Why use a headphone amp?

A headphone amp increases volume and clarity on an audio signal before it comes out through your headphones! Some of them come with great extra features too.

How does a headphone amp work?

Headphone amps work in many different ways, depending on if you have an op-amp or an all-discrete system, a tube or solid-state amp, etc. your sound will change vastly. Check out this informative video for more info:

How do I connect a headphone amp to a PC?

Depending on your specific model of headphone amplifier, you will have a different port that connects your amp to your pc. Consult your user manual before using your new amp, but usually, solid-state amps will connect via micro-USB or USB 3.0.

How Do I connect a headphone amp to a mixer?

Again, the answer to this question depends on the i/o connections on your device. Consult your user manual for exact specifications, but a general rule of thumb is to look for line-in ports and go from there. Send the main outs from your mixer to the line-in ports on your headphone amp, and be sure to check all your levels before wearing your headphones!

Our Pick!

Schiit Magni 3+

Schiit Magni 3+

It’s hard not to justify picking up a Schiit Magni, paired with the Modi you won’t find audio this good until you spend another couple hundred bucks!


Jake
Written by
Jake

Jake is an audio engineer and graphic designer who loves music, technology, video games, and writing! In his spare time, Jake also enjoys playing the keyboard and guitar, as well as adding vocals.

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