Best Headphone Amps - Audiostance

The 5 Best Headphone Amps

Headphone amps have the ability to add extra volume and increased audio clarity to your music experience. There are different styles of amps, some of which serve as splitters and others that focus primarily on improving audio quality. Many motherboards’ built-in digital-to-analog converters can’t supply enough power to drive high impedance. This is where headphone amps shine, as they can drive higher-impedance headphones.

Our Pick!

Schiit Magni+

The Magni+ from Schiit is a reliable and affordable headphone amplifier that can drive almost any headphone effectively.

Our Top Picks

Best Budget Choice

Fiio E10K

Typically available for around $75, the Fiio E10K is an excellent budget headphone amp/DAC that can drive high-impedance headphones with good results. The gain and bass boost controls make it a popular choice for budding audio enthusiasts.

AudioQuest – Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Most Portable

AudioQuest – DragonFly Cobalt

The AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt is an extremely portable headphone amp that can be taken anywhere. It’s ideal for travel and can be easily used with any USB-A-supported source device. Given its small nature, it also doesn’t take up any room and works great for laptops.

Behringer Microamp HA400

Best For Multiple Headphones

Behringer Microamp HA400

The Behringer HA400 is best for those looking for an amp and a splitter in one. While the HA400 doesn’t allow for much control over the audio, the ability to connect up to 4 pairs of headphones makes this an ideal choice for group listening and production.

VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

Best For Guitar/Bass


The Vox AP2AC is a simple solution to a simple problem. This headphone amp is best suited for those playing instruments; it comes in various models, each with its own flare. If you want to practice an electrical instrument without bothering those around you, the Vox AP2AC is an affordable problem solver.

1. Schiit Magni+

The Magni+ is one of Schiit’s latest releases and builds on the success of its predecessors. While both the Magni 3 and Magni 3+ were successful in their own right, Schiit has taken the lessons learned from the shortfalls of these two devices and improved on them with the Magni+.

Design-wise, the Magni+ has seen some noticeable changes over previous iterations of the Magni. It features a 3-way gain switch on the front right, headphone input on the left front side, and volume control off-center to the right. On the Magni+’s rear is a power switch along with RCA input and output ports. These switches have a high-quality build to them and make an audible click when moved.

The gain switch has three settings. In the center position, there is 0 gain, while moving the switch down results in a -8 gain, and moving it up results in a +5 gain.

Aesthetically, the Schiit Magni+ has a slightly textured feel to it, with an embossed Schiit logo. The fact that the screws are located at the rear of the case instead of the top allows for a cleaner visual appearance.

The Schiit Magni+ excels in adding extra depth and separation, creating an enhanced soundstage experience that brings headphones to life. The sound is clean and lacks the graininess that some headphone amps suffer from. The Magni+ excels in the low end, and while there is some inconsistency in the treble, given the price, this isn’t too much of a concern.

Overall, the Shiit Magni+ is an excellent headphone amp at a very affordable price point. It features a cleaner design than earlier Magni models, and while it only has one headphone output, the increase in spatial definition is a hallmark trait of the Magni+.


  • Does well at bringing out definition in audio
  • Value for money
  • Pairs great in a Schiit stack
  • Reliably improves soundstage


  • Some peaks in the upper range
  • Large wall wart power supply

2. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

The FiiO E10K features a brushed aluminum finish that blends into most environments. 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. The FiiO E10K is both an amplifier and USB-DAC.

The large gain knob on the front of the unit features a blue LED indicator, which adds some flair, but may be unappealing to those using the E10K where they sleep. The control dial is satisfying to use.

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 and 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.

The bass boost feature is a small detail that will be appreciated by those bassheads out there looking to achieve more low-end in their headphone performance. 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 unit’s front panel.

The sound quality is good for a relatively inexpensive product, 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 unlock a new level of audio quality while driving your Hi-Fi headphones. The E10K is one of the best headphone amps for its value and is an extremely popular product with thousands of online reviews testifying to its value.

You have your headphone jack at the front of the E10K; at the back, there is a micro-USB port to connect to your computer.

You will also find line-out and coaxial ports on the back panel to send audio from your computer to the desktop headphone amp.


  • Great value for money
  • Bass boost feature
  • Low/High gain switch
  • Aux & coaxial output


  • Bass boost doesn’t offer refined adjustment and is binary
  • Build quality is mediocre

3. Behringer Microamp HA400

Behringer Microamp HA400

The Behringer Microamp HA400 is a 4-channel output headphone amp with an extremely compact and simple design. It is smaller than a cell phone and can power four pairs of headphones. It is easy to use with a simplistic design and controls.

This amp’s ability to provide audio to multiple pairs of headphones makes it ideal for group listening or for passionate audio enthusiasts who enjoy switching between several pairs of headphones. It will also prove useful to those with home recording studios.

The feature list for the Behringer Microamp HA400 is much shorter than some of the other amps on this list, but the simplicity of the design is one of its selling points.

The sound quality of the Behringer Microamp HA400 was not the focus of this product’s function, but it is not bad. This amp’s increased audio signal quality is minimal but offers great value as an affordable splitter amp. If you are trying to power just one pair of headphones, this is not the product for you, as you can find alternatives more suited to using one pair of headphones that offer better performance.

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

The Behringer Microamp HA400 is a simple and durable solution for anyone looking to amplify 1-4 pairs of headphones for very cheap. It lacks the preamp features that many other amplifiers have, but what it lacks in nuance, it makes up for in its ease of use. 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.

In conclusion, the Behringer Microamp HA400 is not going to affect your audio quality much, but if you’re looking for a simple solution to simple problems, we can highly recommend this amp.


  • Affordable
  • Easy to use
  • Supports up to 4 headphone connections


  • Lacks audio quality improvements found in other amps
  • Limited controls

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

VOX AP2AC amPlug 2 AC30 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

This specialized battery-powered headphone amplifier comes in 7 different models for different tones and uses, each with its own specific design. The models range from a clean tone to a bass model, including a metal version and tones for blues and classic rock. There is also a vintage AC30 cabinet model with its own appeal.

While all of the VOX amPlug 2 models have their own great uses, they all have 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.

If you want 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. Every amp model has three adjustable values for volume, tone, and gain, similar to a typical amplifier. Depending on the model you have, the amPlug’s more in-depth features include 3 choruses, 3 reverbs, 3 delays, an onboard drum machine/metronome, and an aux input so you can play along to an audio track.

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.

Regardless of the VOX amPlug 2 guitar & bass headphone amp model you have, they all connect the same way. Your various connections 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, and an auxiliary input so that you can play along to songs you are working on or songs you like to jam to.

Depending on the model you decide to buy, 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. Given the affordability of this amp, it can even make sense to have multiple types for different purposes.

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.


  • Available in various forms, each with distinct characteristics
  • Great for musicians
  • Battery operation provides portability


  • Limited controls
  • Only has native jack support

5. AudioQuest – DragonFly Cobalt USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

AudioQuest – Dragonfly Cobalt USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier

Despite this headphone amp’s small and unassuming appearance, the DragonFly Cobalt has serious power inside it. This is the smallest amp covered so far but also one of the most complex. The DragonFly Cobalt has a glossy blue automotive finish that looks striking and elegant.

Its design is straightforward. The DragonFly logo glows in different colors on the amp’s top, depending on the device’s sample rate and file type currently being played. The DragonFly Cobalt includes a tiny leather pouch that will help keep your headphone amp from taking any damage while traveling. The team behind this amp clearly focused on the visual presentation, and it shows.

This headphone amp is extraordinarily simple; it has the most straightforward design covered in this article. The DragonFly Cobalt features an onboard ESS ES9038Q2MDAC chip with a native resolution of 24-bit/96khz. The amp includes a slow roll-off filter for improved natural sound quality. Because the Cobalt is a USB amp, you can easily connect it to a computer or laptop. However, for other purposes, it may require you to get a USB adapter to use.         

The Cobalt sells itself on its ability to play any audio file from MP3 to MQA and even indicates visually based on which file type is playing via its LED logo’s color. The Cobalt will play any files on any device with USB ports (or an adapter) and 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, which will fit in your pocket.

It will be hard to beat the DragonFly Cobalt for a mobile headphone amp solution. Like 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. Unfortunately, compared to most desktop amps, 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.

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, plug it into a USB port; no driver installations or power supply is necessary.

Regarding mobile headphone amplifiers, the DragonFly Cobalt is sleek, dependable, versatile, convenient, and powerful but isn’t cheap. If you want some great-sounding audio on the go, this might be everything you’ve been searching for.


  • Compact size
  • Easy plug-and-play setup
  • Powerful


  • Lacks physical control adjustments
  • Fairly expensive

Headphone Amp Buyer’s Guide – What To Consider When Purchasing

In this buyer’s guide, we’ll cover some of the terminology used in the list above and give you more information about what you should be looking for and considering when on the market for a headphone amp.

Headphone Amps vs. DACs (What’s The Difference?)

Headphone amps and headphone DACs are two different products, but in some cases, they can overlap. A headphone amp will amplify an analog audio signal, while a DAC will convert audio signals from digital into analog. Some headphone amps are both amplifiers and DACs in one. They will both convert the audio signal and amplify it.

Almost all source devices (phones, laptops, and desktop PCs) have some form of DAC built into them already. This is what allows you to use low-impedance headphones without any problems. Issues arise when the headphones you’re looking to drive have a higher power requirement than the onboard DAC can produce. This is where you’d want to use a DAC/amp or regular headphone amplifier to boost the amount of power that your headphone is receiving.

Because digital-to-analog conversion takes place through the onboard DAC, a headphone amplifier can focus on boosting performance and enhancing your audio quality without having to do a digital-to-analog conversion itself.

We have a more extensive guide available for additional reading on the differences between these two products.

Gain Functions

Some headphone amplifiers have gain switches. A gain switch is used to boost the amplification level and can be adjusted to the impedance of the headphones being used. Higher-impedance headphones can sometimes benefit from a higher gain setting. The gain switch can also act as an extra level of volume control.

Regarding gain switches and controls on DACs and headphone amps, most commonly, gain controls increase the amplification. At the same time, some models may also offer a negative gain, which will lower the amplification level.

Bass Boost

Bass boost is a feature offered by some DAC/amps, such as the Fiio E10K. This feature is essentially a low-end EQ preset that boosts the levels of bass frequencies to create a more bass-heavy sound presentation. A bass boost feature appeals to those who have headphones that may lack some bass presence.

While bass boost is a handy feature, you shouldn’t purchase a headphone amp solely for its bass boost capabilities, as EQ software can achieve the same function for free. The biggest benefit to having this feature on your amp or DAC is how easy it is to turn on and off.

Consider The Outputs

When buying a headphone amp, you should carefully note the types of outputs it uses. Some amps have a single 3.5mm jack, while others offer multiple jacks for shared listening (or moving between different headphones). Some amps will even offer a ¼ inch (6.35mm)a connection as well. If the amp’s default jack sizes don’t match your headphones, you’ll need to buy a jack adapter, which is an affordable and readily available accessory.

The Impact of Headphone Amps On Audio Presentation

To understand how an amplifier affects the audio presentation you hear from your headphones, it helps to understand how sound works. Your headphones are composed of various components, but the driver is the most influential part of the sound.

A traditional headphone driver requires a minimum of a magnet, voice coil, and diaphragm. Electrical signals are sent from your source device (such as a computer, laptop, or phone) to your driver, creating a magnetic field that forces the diaphragm to oscillate. It’s this oscillation process that creates the air pressure waves that are then interpreted by your ear as sound.

Impedance measures the electrical resistance of a driver, and more resistance requires more power to get the driver to function. An amplifier brings more power to the driver, which allows those with more resistance (higher impedance) to operate at a higher efficacy.

When a driver has sufficient power, you can notice improved dynamics, clarity, and soundstage. Even low-impedance headphones that sound ‘fine’ out of the box can receive a boost when using a headphone amp, as they can operate more efficiently.

FAQ – Frequently Asked Questions

How do I use a headphone amp?

Depending on your exact headphone amp, it will need power, a connection to your audio device to work, and a pair of headphones for you to wear. Ensure 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?

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

Why use a headphone amp?

A headphone amp increases the volume and clarity of 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 whether 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; solid-state amps usually 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!

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.

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Written by
Bryn De Kocks

Bryn De Kocks is the lead editor for Audiostance, as well as one of our trusted reviewers. He has more than 15 years of experience in online publication and stands firm in being transparent with both the benefits and drawbacks of the products he reviews. Outside of editorial work, Bryn has been an avid online gamer and casual digital music producer since his teenage years, bringing his understanding of audio and especially headphones to the table. His daily driver is a humble pair of Fidelio X2HRs powered by a Fiio E10K. In his spare time he enjoys nature photography.

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  • Hi Jake. Great reviews. Easy to understand your selections.
    I need a little help. Just bought Beyerdynamic DT 770 Pro 32 ohms headphones to replace my worn out Sennheiser HD 280 Pro 64 ohms. I like the extended frequency response of the DT 770, but on some recordings of female singers, the “s” are annoyingly a bright hiss. Also, the DT 770 need a little more power than my cell phone puts out, even though the DT 770 has half the ohm rating of the HD 280. I mainly use these headphones for late night listening of music from my Galaxy cellphone so the best sound for the money is my main concern. My budget is $200 max. Will the Schmitt Magni 3 Heresy alleviate my hissing “s” problem ?


    • It’s going to come down to personal preference for most of the amps/DACs – but you could consider something like the Schiit Fulla or SMSL SD 793II if you’re looking to go with the popular choices. The truth is that those headphones aren’t too difficult to drive and you can get away with a fairly affordable DAC to power them.