Which headphone amplifier is better? Which one do I need? Those of us who seek the best for our sound know that without a headphone amplifier you will not be able to achieve the best audio quality.
If you plan to spend a considerable amount of money on professional studio headphones or maybe you want to mix with DJ headphones, you know you need the amplifier. With it, you get impedance and a good ohm.
we will find the best headphone amplifier of all we have tried. We have covered the most bought and sold as well as the most valued for most users.
- 1 What is a Headphone Amplifier?
- 2 List of 09 Best Headphone Amp Under 100 Dollars
- 2.1 FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier
- 2.2 FiiO A1 Silver Portable Headphone Amp A1
- 2.3 Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp
- 2.4 AudioQuest DragonFly Black
- 2.5 Creative Sound Blaster E5 High-Resolution
- 2.6 Topping NX2S Ultra Slim HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier
- 2.7 Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Headphone Amplifier
- 2.8 4-Channel Portable Stereo Headphone Amplifier
- 2.9 Brainwavz AP001 Portable Headphone Amplifier
- 3 How to Choose a Good Headphone Amplifier?
- 4 Why do you need it?
- 5 Types of Headphone Amplifiers
- 6 Conclusion
What is a Headphone Amplifier?
It is similar to a normal amplifier for speakers but smaller in size. These are small devices that handle the signal from your music player and increase both the volume and the detail and the quality of the sound coming out of your headphones. Most are shaped like a small box .
They are designed to connect between your headphones and the source device (PC, MAC, TV, smartphone, game console, tablet). You just have to connect your headphones to the headphone amplifier and then it to the computer or music player.
This way the signal is amplified before reaching your ears and as a result, you get a warmer, richer and more powerful sound.
If you want to curl the curl and further improve the audio quality you can also introduce an external DAC to the scheme.
But this is already very pro-level. If you are interested in the subject we recommend that you take a look at our comparison with the best DACs in the market
List of 09 Best Headphone Amp Under 100 Dollars
FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier
Portable headphone AMP FiiO A3 is a compact device with a battery. The device has an all-metal body with slightly sloping front and back sides; in appearance resembles a mini flask for hot drinks.
This resemblance gets even bigger if you take a look at the volume knob in the center of the top panel, which is very similar to the neck with a screw cap. The design of FiiO A3 is quite modern and the quality of its production is very high.
The amplifier will look great with any gadget and thanks to its lightweight (96 gr) the device is very easy to carry.
- Suitable for headphones ranging from 16 to 150 Ohms. Gain switch for matching output to headphone power needs.
- Superior sound quality through expertly selected components and design, utilizing OPA1642 preamp and AD8397 amp section.
- Fully discrete bass boost circuit increases output by 3.5dB at 60Hz, with bypass when off.
- Handsome all-aluminum body and chassis is sturdy and shielding against EM interference.
- 1400mAh internal battery powers for up to 16 hours of use.
FiiO A1 Silver Portable Headphone Amp A1
The A1 design is very simple; it’s a compact aluminum case, the upper and lower sides are plastic.
There is an audio input on one side and a micro USB-socket for charging on the other. It is also very simple to work with it: two buttons adjust the volume, next to them is the main control button with the LED in it.
A long press of the button turns the device on and off, short press switches the equalizer settings.
There are three settings; when one of them is turned on, the indicator starts blinking. The number of “blinks” corresponds to the number of the selected setting.
When charged, A1 can work up to 12 hours, which is not bad. Unfortunately, there is no auto power-down function, so if you forget to switch it off, the battery can discharge faster and you need to spend more than an hour charging it back again.
- Four EQ Modes: The A1 provides Flat, and three basses enhanced EQ profiles. Switch between the EQ profiles by simply pressing the power button, allowing you to best adapt the sound output to your headphones and your ears. The multi-function light clearly indicates the current EQ mode.
- A New Generation: Exquisite design and improved operation. Utilizing a sandblasted aluminum alloy chassis, the A1 offers modern appearance and ergonomic contours. A removable clear back clip makes for convenient and stylish usage in a variety of scenarios.
- Your Perfect Audio Companion: Three-color status LED indicates EQ setting and battery status, allowing you to check working status at a glance. Rechargeable Li-poly battery provides approximately 13 hours of playtime on a full charge. Barely larger than a 1.5-inch square and less than 10mm thick, the A1 is the perfect companion to modern smartphone and laptop computers that needs some help in the audio department.
- High-Quality Electronic Volume Control: The A1’s volume buttons are made of Alps micro switches for sensitive and reliable operation.
Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp
You get a great deal under $100 with this Schiit headphone AMP. the Schiit Audio Magni 3 is the best amplifier you can get at this price whether you are a beginner or a hardcore audiophile.
It comes with multiple models. While all of them look very similar, they each come with different features.
From the Magni 2 to the Magni 2 Uber that came with RCA input and outputs and now the Magni 3. Still, Schiit has managed to make this a very affordable headphone amp.
- Magni 3 has the power, performance, resolution, and versatility to meet all your headphone needs.
- Designed to have low distortion, an exceptionally low noise floor, and switchable gain. Magni’s gain stage is an-all-new, fully discrete, high-speed, DC-coupled, current-feedback design. This current-feedback gain stage is typically only found in very exotic designs that sell for more than 10x the Magni’s price.
- With its built-in time-delayed start-up and instant shut-down, there’ll be no glitches or pops through either headphones or speakers.
- Use Magni 3 with any headphone from IEMs to hard-to-drive planar designs. With a full 2000mW into 32 ohms, Magni has tremendous reserves of power. 115VAC, USA Plug.
- Magni 3 includes preamp outputs so you can connect it to your desktop powered monitors for a complete system–or even connect it to a speaker power amp and use it as a preamp.
AudioQuest DragonFly Black
- 32-bit ESS 9010 Sabre DAC
- Offering tremendously enhanced sound, higher value, and significantly lower power consumption than the original award-winning DragonFly
- Works with Apple and Android phones and tablets when paired with a simple adapter
- This versatile DAC improves everything detail, transparency, immediacy, richness, tone associated with your music
- Plays everything from MP3s to 24-bit/96kHz high-resolution files
The Dragonfly v1.5 Red comes with a double output of 2.1 volts, while the Black is designed with an output of 1.2 volts. Well, after listening to both, I can confirm there are differences between the Black and Red versions. However, I see no reason to pay an extra $100 for the Red one just because of the minor differences.
To improve the overall performance of the new DragonFly models, Both the Red and Black incorporate an upgraded 32-bit ESS Sabre DAC chip and specifically the 9010 in Black.
I found the DragonFly Black having more of a neutral sound signature. The bass is tight while the mid-range is leveled and the treble is easy-going and presents enough details.
Creative Sound Blaster E5 High-Resolution
It must be said that the Creative Sound Blaster E3 does not belong to the hi-end category; however, it performs the amplification function perfectly. In addition to the amplification, the sound card slightly processes the outgoing tracks, adding a few low frequencies and slightly cropping the averages.
At the same time, the sound palette remains flat, without distortion at the bottom. In any case, the sound quality does not depend on the Sound Blaster E3, but on the headphones that you use. Still, the main function of Sound Blaster E3 is to amplify the audio signal, and not to improve it.
It is also important to mention that as soon as you plug the cable into the line input of the Sound Blaster E3, Bluetooth switches off and vice versa.
- A DAC with 120dB signal to noise ratio (SNR) that supports up to 24-bit/192kHz can deliver bit-perfect, true-to-original audio reproduction, just as it was mastered in the studios
- Audiophile Grade, Best-in-class headphone amplifier enables you to power all the headphones in the market with clarity and details
Portable Digital Connectivity with Mobile Devices allows you to stream high quality, lossless audio digitally from your mobile devices while on-the-go
- The fully customizable SBX Pro Studio suite of technologies gives you unprecedented audio realism when playing back compressed audio; turn off when listening to lossless audio so that you can enjoy bit-perfect audio
- Features built-in NFC technology for one-touch, fuss-free Bluetooth pairing. Simply tap and connect your Bluetooth device and enjoy high quality wireless digital audio streaming.
- It comes with built-in dual microphones that automatically detect and react to landscape or portrait orientation, allowing the high-quality recording to smartphones and tablets.
- Connectors : Headphone-out : 2x 3.5mm Stereo jacks, Audio-input : 1x 3.5mm (Line-in / Mic-in / Optical-in), Audio-output : 1x 3.5mm (Line-out / Optical-out), Charging/Streaming : 1x micro USB , 1x Type-A USB(Host)
Charging: via from PC/MAC or external USB power adapter
Topping NX2S Ultra Slim HiFi DAC Headphone Amplifier
If you look at the images, you can easily say that it’s very slim for a Headphone Amp that works also as a DAC having a length of 11cm which doesn’t make it entirely portable.
The reason why we’ve included it in our list of Best Headphone Amp Under 100 Dollars is that:
- Retains an Industrial Grade Headphone Amp Design
- Provides Total Harmonic Distortion of 0.0001% at 32 Ohms
- Provides Battery life of 100 hours with built-in 1000 mAh battery
- The battery is what increases its size.
As you can see, Topping NX2 isn’t the best looking Headphone Amp out there because it retains that industrial design which gives it a professional look.
The big question:
How much Headphone Impedance does it supports?
Up to 300 Ohms; which is an ideal choice unless you’re going for Beyerdynamic DT880 Premium.
Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Headphone Amplifier
The Bravo Audio V2 comes in an open design with two transparent acrylic plates on top and bottom of this tube amp. The top plate has three cutouts, one for the tube and the other one for the large capacitor that sticks out on top. I am not a fan of the open design of this tube.
The Bravo Audio V2 does get hotter, especially the heat sink that can pose safety risks. For this reason, try as much not to move it while in operation and do not touch the heat sinks!
It is somehow designed to handle headphones that are difficult to drive such as the DT-990 (600 ohms) or the Sennheiser HD650 at 250 ohms. For low impedance headphones, the Bravo Audio V2 will still work, but you will have to be careful to avoid excessive volume levels.
- Quality Promise-NX2s has CE, FCC and RoHS certification and exceeds the requirements of Hi-Res Audio.
- NX2s uses OP(OPA1652)+BUF（LMH6643）structure to increase output power to 140mW x2(32Ω)maximum power, suitable for all kinds of headphones.
- Thinner and Lighter-with the height of 9mm and the weight of 74g, it can be more convenient.
- USB DAC + Headphone Amplifier- Can be used as PC’s external USB DAC. Compatible with iPhone and Ipad with lightning port and Android devices
- Long Working Time-Built in 1000mAh, provides 40 hours playback time
4-Channel Portable Stereo Headphone Amplifier
The Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a good purchase at any time. This product becomes more and more popular, due to its unchangeable and good quality. This headphone AMP can work perfectly if you want to split the signal from the audio interface to multiple headphones or plug your headphones into TV.
- POWERS 4 HEADPHONES: The Pyle Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a monitor distribution system that powers practically any headphones – up to four pairs at the same time. This allows four people in your studio to listen to the main mix while recording
- INDEPENDENT VOLUME CONTROLS: Each listener can determine their own volume level using the dedicated output level controls. Features independent channel rotary volume knob control for each listener’s convenience. Also features power ON LED indicator
- ¼” TRS OUTPUT JACKS: This 4-channel headphones splitter is equipped w/ 4 ¼” stereo headphone TRS output connector jacks which allow you to control up to 4 headphones at once. Also equipped w/ ¼” TRS source input connector jack for your Pyle Pro mixer
- SUPERIOR AUDIO QUALITY: The PHA40 contains 4 high powered stereo amps that maintain the highest sonic quality even at maximum volume levels. These ultra-low-noise operational amplifiers are included for outstanding audio performance
- COMPACT SIZE: The professional integrated headphone receiver features a mini compact size and measures 4.07” x 1.18” x 2.24”, easy to carry and use on the road. Perfect for both on-stage and in-studio performances or applications
Brainwavz AP001 Portable Headphone Amplifier
At a price of $30, it certainly deserves to be in our list of Best Headphone Amp under 100 Dollars because it ticks all the right places.
It’s very small with a size that of a matchbox and can power two headphones at the same time; which I believe is totally awesome.
Brainwavz AP001 design is pretty unique compared to the best portable headphone amp I’ve used or seen.
There’s a keyhole kind of design at the center that houses LED indicators inside it.
coming to its features; it supports headphones and earphones which have an impedance of 16 – 150 Ohms; which is pretty awesome considering the price it’s offered
How to Choose a Good Headphone Amplifier?
What budget do you have? The first question you should ask yourself. Logically if you have not bought a cheap headset because you want quality you will surely also have the money available for an amplifier, although this resource is always limited. Luckily for you, there are many models of good quality and price like the ones we have listed at the beginning of the article.
Do you need a portable headphone amplifier Or a desktop? As you can see there is an interesting headphone amplifier that fits in your pocket as well as being the king for a good listening experience (the first model). Otherwise, if what you want is to use it basically on the PC, Mac or playing you will need a desktop.
The type of headphones you use. Closed, open or semi? If you have seen our comparison of DJ helmets (linked in the first paragraph) you will see that the open ones are the best for mixes and need some more thrust with an amplifier than those that are closed.
Type of music you listen to As a last point, this does not make a difference compared to the others, but we have also found it interesting to consider them. But think that if you listen to classical music if you buy a headphone amplifier that is fine by the bass, it is somewhat unrealistic. And on the contrary also, of course.
Why do you need it?
The headphones are small speakers that go inside your ears, so they require amplification to make you hear the original signals.
Now, when you connect them to your PC, desktop or your mobile, an additional amplifier is not necessary because these devices already contain them, but these have very little power and are unable to play your music at high-quality levels.
That’s why it’s better to buy a separate amplifier. When you use one of these devices, which are usually box-shaped and use valves, tubes or some other form of analog amplification, you will notice better results at higher volumes.
In fact, even at normal volumes, you will notice a more round, complete, warm audio, with deeper bass and clear and bright treble.
Now, if you have noise-canceling helmets, you probably won’t need an amplifier. For the rest, you will always benefit greatly from one of these devices.
Types of Headphone Amplifiers
There are three main types of headphone amplifiers for home use:
-Digital to analog converters (DAC),
-The amplifiers for desktop headphones and
-The portable hearing aid amplifiers.
Next, we will outline the main specifications of each of these types.
Digital to analog converters (DAC) :
Because most headphones are built for analog signals, you can use a digital to analog converter, to enjoy using digital headphones, the digital audio files stored on your computer.
However, you should know that computers usually have an integrated DAC, but most provide inadequate sound quality for audiophiles.
In short, in addition to format conversion, the DAC comes to provide an interface between the computer and the headphones, with the intention of providing a better translation of the audio files.
Amplifiers for desktop headphones:
You might think that a desktop headphone amplifier only involves the use of computers, such as DACs; However, these types of amplifiers can be used with stereo systems, home theater systems known as a home theater.
Desktop headphone amplifiers are used to boost and cancel out headphones with excess noise, and are essential for superior sound quality at home, recording studio, with your desktops, etc.
Portable headphone amplifiers:
Most media players, such as iPods, iPhone devices, and laptops do not have enough output power to provide better sound quality.
In these cases, a headphone amplifier for portable equipment can increase the signal of the headphones, providing a more adequate sound when a person is on the move.
Variables of a Headphone Amplifier
Along with the type of hearing aid amplifier, there are other features and variables that you should consider before buying such equipment.
In the following points, we present some of the improved features that a headphone amplifier can include.
- Digital sound processing: Digital sound processing (DSP) allows headphone amplifiers to generate a surround sound experience even using standard headphones. An example of DSP is the Dolby headphone format, which in a nutshell allows you to modify and improve the signal.
- The number of channels: Another consideration that you should consider when looking at headphone amplifiers is the number of channels offered by the amplifier. These generally come with one to eight, the more channels you have incorporated, this equipment, the more signal distribution and monitoring flexibility options you will have. In addition, as this system is usually found in the package of the same rack, it facilitates the organization and distribution of the stereo line independently.
- Speaker Preamplifier / Amplifier: This variable allows the headphone amplifier to also function as a preamp for your speakers. A preamp comes to prepare a small electrical signal for the increase or processing of the signal, in addition in the transfer process, the interference is reduced. As it is a professional presence, it will give you greater flexibility than a headphone amplifier. Of course, you should know that this option will also result in a higher price.
- RMS Power: The RMS Root Mean Square power (average square root,) is the amount of actual power that is supplied to the load. This measure indicates how high the decibel peak of the hearing aids will be.
- Signal to Noise Ratio: The signal-to-noise ratio is a measure corresponding to the noise of the headphone amplifier compared to the source signal, measured in decibels. The higher a ratio, the less noise there will be in the signal. The noise is easily detectable in the headphones because they are so close to the ears, so this relationship is a really important factor when you choose a headphone amplifier.
Roughly I think it is clear what an amp is (as the English say) and what it works for. In addition to that, we have listed the best models at the best prices we have found online.
To say that we have ordered the models according to which we liked the most. Even so, as happens to us from time to time, we have not been able to say that one was better than another, more than anything because each AMP has something that the others don’t. Either power, design or being thought to be desktop or portable.
So, the best as per your need and budget.