Best Headphone Amps in 2022

by Alex.   Last Updated On October 4th, 2022.
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Although you can get by without a headphone amp, depending on the headphones you buy and specs such as impedance and sensitivity, you might need to spend extra on a good amplifier for listening at higher volumes and better clarity.

There are tons of headphone amps in the market with varying price points, performance characteristics, and extra features; finding one that matches your situation can be difficult.

So this is why I’ve set up this list of the best headphone amps. Here, I’ve listed ten of the best headphone amps available right now, and I’ve listed their specs and gone into detail about what it’s like to use these during everyday situations.

So without further delay, let’s get started.

Table of Contents
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Comparison of the Best Headphone Amps

Best Budget-Friendly Headphone AmpSee On Amazon
photo of the Schiit Magni Heresy Headphone AmplifierSchiit
Magni Heresy Headphone Amplifier
Best Portable Headphone AmpSee On Amazon
photo of the AudioQuest DragonFly CobaltAudioQuest
DragonFly Cobalt
Best Features/Value For MoneySee On Amazon
photo of the iFi Micro iDSD SignatureiFi
Micro iDSD Signature
Best Headphone Amp for a Premium ExperienceSee On Amazon
photo of the Chord Electronics Mojo 2Chord Electronics
Mojo 2
Best Portable Headphone Amp with the Longest Battery LifeSee On Amazon
photo of the FiiO Q3FiiO
Q3
Best Tube Headphone AmpSee On Amazon
photo of the Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7Bravo Audio
V2 Class A 12AU7
Best Headphone Amps for GamersSee On Amazon
photo of the Sennheiser EPOS GSX 1000Sennheiser
EPOS GSX 1000
Best Headphone Amp OverallSee On Amazon
photo of the Rupert Neve Designs RNHP Headphone AmplifierRupert Neve Designs
RNHP Headphone Amplifier

Reviews of the Best Headphone Amps

For budding audiophiles looking for a decent desktop amp, the Schiit Magni Heresy (most often coupled with a Schiit Modi DAC) is a highly recommended option. These devices do not break the bank and provide a considerable boost for high-impedance headphones.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 7.95″x 6.02″x4.65″
  • Weight: 1lb
  • Max Power: 2400mW @ 32Ω
  • Output Impedance: <0.25Ω
  • I/O: RCA in, RCA and 1/4″ out
  • Built-in DAC: No

This dedicated headphone amplifier comes in a neat little rectangular housing that only takes up about 50 square inches on your desk. This enclosure has a well-designed metal frame that gives off a premium look; despite being cheaper and more lightweight.

The headphone amp enclosure is not the most compact (taking up almost 50 square inches), but I’m sure you’ll be able to make some space for it on your desk. Besides, the device is rectangular and stackable.

The front panel is minimal and straightforward. It includes a volume control knob and a 1/4″ headphone jack. Everything else is on the back panel and offers a power switch, gain switch, and RCA input and output ports.

Unfortunately, the headphone amp doesn’t make room for a built-in DAC (as you can see from the lack of digital ports); hence, you might need to spend extra on a separate DAC — preferably a Schiit Modi.

The Schiit Magni Heresy dedicated headphone amp supports a wide range of headphone impedances, so you’ll have no problem plugging in a pair of SHURE SE846s or Sennheiser HD600s. (Take note: IEMs will have lots of distortion at high gain.)

What We Like

Affordable price point.

It supports a “recommended headphone impedance” of 16-600Ω.

Distortion-free volume control.

Know Before Buying

Housing tends to overheat, so make sure to keep the top panel (with the air vents) free from obstacles.

Only offers RCA inputs; an external DAC is necessary for digital sources.

It also uses a 1/4″ headphone port; you might need to purchase an adapter.

Average sound quality with a frequency range limited to 20-20,000Hz.

See On Amazon

For audiophiles who need access to “on-the-go-listening,” there’s nothing more portable than the AudioQuest Dragonfly DAC/amp devices. These portable headphone amps are well-known throughout the industry as many users prefer these for bypassing the stock soundcard on their mobiles or laptops.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 2.44″x0.74″x0.47″
  • Weight: 0.46lbs
  • Max Power: Unspecified
  • Output Impedance: 0.65Ω
  • I/O: USB in, 3.5mm out
  • Built-in DAC: Yes

Also, making it onto our list of the best headphone amps under $500 is the handy AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt headphone amplifier; the device is only the size of a thumb drive yet manages to stay ahead of many other amplifiers in the market, regardless of size.

Similar to a flash drive, this headphone amp uses a USB Type-A interface to connect to your source devices. Its ideal use case is for laptops, but you can also make do with desktops and smartphones (provided you purchase the “dragon tail” USB adapters).

Even though AudioQuest does not specify a direct headphone impedance rating, these headphone amplifiers, especially the high-end “Cobalt” headphone amp, can drive headphones in the 16-100Ω range seamlessly. It might be a bit harder for higher impedances, but thankfully, it will keep things audible.

What We Like

Compact and minimal design.

Built-in DAC with satisfying audio playback.

Various supported accessories (ranging from Micro-USB, USB-C, Lightning, and even USB-A).

Know Before Buying

More premium than the regular budget-range alternatives.

Lacks physical controls on the device itself.

Difficult to drive extremely high-impedance headphones.

See On Amazon

The iFi Micro iDSD Signature packs tons of features into a compact exterior. A built-in DAC and a rechargeable battery are just a few of its bonuses that transform it into one of the best headphone amplifiers for audiophiles looking for versatility and mobility.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 6.77″x2.63″x1.06″
  • Weight: 1.54lbs
  • Max Power: 950mW @ 32Ω
  • Output Impedance: <1Ω
  • I/O: Coax in, USB in, 3.5mm out, 1/4″ out, RCA out
  • Built-in DAC: Yes

Featured in our list of the best DAC amp combos, the iFi Micro iDSD Signature is an absolute beast of a solid-state headphone amp. The device has a sturdy rectangular enclosure which is small enough to carry in a pocket but large enough to accommodate high-quality electronics that can drive most power-hungry headphones.

Thanks to its rechargeable battery, this headphone amp can deliver balanced sound at a maximum power of 4,000mW for 6-12 hours (depending on the power requirements of your headphones).

However, if you’re not so keen on relying on the battery alone, you can also keep it plugged into a phone charger via USB-C and power the amplifiers directly. It doesn’t matter which method you use; the passthrough feature ensures you get clear, interference-free audio.

This headphone amp has a ton of built-in controls ranging from a simple volume control knob at the front to switches that toggle the:

  • XBass+
  • 3D+
  • iEMatch
  • Filter (for the DAC) and
  • Power Modes

Hence, this headphone amp offers a lot of flexibility, and these are not just for show because when coupled with the built-in DAC, you’ll get a stable and neutral analog signal that can power through your headphone’s impedance.

What We Like

6-12 hours of battery life, with a USB-C charging interface.

Built-in DAC.

Balanced and single-ended headphone output along with RCA for speakers.

Know Before Buying

Additional Bluetooth functionality would have rounded this out a lot better.

Very premium product.

See On Amazon

The Chord Electronics Mojo 2 might not look like much, but it’s nothing except high-end specs packed inside a portable headphone amp housing. Therefore, it is a much-needed addition for audiophiles who yearn for excellent sound quality from their power-hungry headphones.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 3.26″x2.44″x0.9″
  • Weight: 0.4lbs
  • Max Power: 600mW @ 32Ω
  • Output Impedance: 0.06Ω
  • I/O: Micro-USB in, coax in, Optical in, 2×3.5mm outs
  • Built-in DAC: Yes

First off, let’s get to the obvious stuff: the aesthetics. Despite looking like a cheap piece of plastic, the enclosure has a durable aluminum finish. This sturdy exterior is snug and keeps everything from falling apart, even when carrying it around your jeans pockets.

And yes, the Chord Mojo 2 can safely fit inside most pockets since it is only 3.2 inches long and 2.5 inches wide — with less than an inch of depth.

Regarding the I/O panel, I wouldn’t call it a “straightforward set up” due to the two 3.5mm ports on the left side, with a coax, optical, USB-C, and two Micro-USB ports on the right.

One of these Micro-USB interfaces is for charging the battery, while the other (along with the rest of the ports) ports cater to the digital and analog I/Os.

Despite the micro-USB interface, the battery is an impressive component as it allows this headphone amp to run non-stop for almost eight hours.

The four buttons manage functions such as switching the amplifier on and off, controlling volume, and navigating the menu (the menu includes a host of built-in functions such as tone control adjustment, mute, crossfeed, and button-lock).

The sound quality on this device is exceptional as it provides an organic output free from distortion or filters. Overall, the Chord Electronics Mojo 2 is another premium device that can seamlessly switch between a desktop amp and a portable headphone amplifier.

What We Like

Decent battery life of 8 hours.

Compact case.

Accurate audio amplification.

Know Before Buying

Very premium product.

The Aluminum build looks a bit cheap.

Micro-USB charging interface.

See On Amazon

The FiiO Q3 is a good headphone amp for beginners and veteran audiophiles, thanks to its compact design and transparent sound profile. Compared to most other portable amps, this device has a couple of notable advantages: a USB-C charging interface and a ten-hour battery life.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 4.29″x2.32″x0.51″
  • Weight: 0.245lbs
  • Max Power: 370mW @ 32Ω
  • Output Impedance: 1.2Ω
  • I/O: USB-C input, 4.4mm, 2.5mm, and 3.5mm outputs
  • Built-in DAC: Yes

So yes, the FiiO Q3 includes a USB-C interface for charging the battery and offers a ton of accessories such as:

  • USB-C to USB-C adapter
  • 3.5mm to 3.5mm TRS headphone jack
  • USB-C to lightning adapter
  • Silicone anti-slip mat
  • Drawstring pouch
  • Silicone straps

So there’s a lot of opportunity here for “on-the-go listening” with your mobile phone, laptop, iPad, or gaming console.

These accessories will all be for nothing if the headphone amp is too big to carry around your pocket. Thankfully, the people at FiiO have designed the housing with dimensions similar to that of a regular smartphone. (At just half an inch of thickness and diagonal body size of almost 4.5″.)

Apart from the form factor and the respectable battery life, the I/O panel on this setup is just as impressive. On the front, there’s a 3.5mm line in/line out port, and a 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced TRS port, with the USB-C port on the rear panel.

The I/Os, specifically the 3.5mm two-way port, are handy. The reason is that the USB-C port cannot handle power and data simultaneously, so while it is recharging (or directly powering it through the USB-C interface), you can use the 3.5mm input port to still be able to drive wired headphones. (Do note, however, that this bypasses the internal DAC.)

The audio quality is satisfying, with a warmer bass, clear mids, and less intense highs. The entire frequency range is not flat nor neutral but reproduces good audio for most headphones; hence, casual users will have no problems.

What We Like

Surprisingly compact headphone amp.

Respectable price tag.

Approx 10 hours of continuous battery life.

Know Before Buying

Only offers balanced 3.5mm outputs (no balanced XLR/RCA).

Lacks Bluetooth for streaming audio wirelessly.

USB-C port cannot recharge the battery and transfer data simultaneously.

The bass boost and built-in filters are unnecessary.

See On Amazon

The Brave Audio V2 tube headphone amp comes highly recommended for beginners looking to stray away from modern solid-state technology. This tube amp is reasonably-priced, and it’s got decent audio with enough power to drive almost any pair of heavy-handed headphones.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 1.73″x 3.11″x 3.11″
  • Weight: 1.1lbs
  • Max Power: Unspecified
  • Output Impedance: 20-600Ω
  • I/O: RCA in, 3.5mm in, 1/4″ out
  • Built-in DAC: No

Tube amplification used to be a thing of the past solid-state headphone amps are slowly taking over. Regardless, if you’re still looking for an authentic tube amp experience at a fair price, the Bravo V2 has got you covered.

With the Brave V2, you can experience the “joys of the tube amp lifestyle,” which includes burning your fingers on the conductive housing, dealing with a messy control layout, and waiting half a minute before the tube amps fire up.

So as you’ve figured out by now, tube amps can get so “hot right now,” and the Brave V2 is no exception. Despite taking up a small amount of real estate (1.73″x3.11″), the acrylic casing and exposed heatsinks need more space to dissipate heat successfully. Therefore, it’s best to give it a wide berth and keep sensitive devices away from it, especially laptops and mobile phones.

Also, this is a strictly pure tube amp, meaning you will need external DAC and RCA cables to play music. (For which I recommend the inexpensive FiiO D3.)

About the audio quality: I have no complaints. However, there is a smidge of distortion because of the tube amplification characteristics of this device. It is a given with tube amps, so you won’t be able to get rid of it entirely. (That is if you manage to notice it.)

What We Like

Budget-friendly price tag.

(Somewhat) compact and space-saving design.

Know Before Buying

The internal timer takes 5-8 seconds to warm up (even if the tube is heated up).

Messy control layout with the RCA ports on the side.

Lacks a built-in DAC.

The exposed components can trap a lot of dust, making it difficult to clean.

See On Amazon

If you’re a gamer who prefers desktop amps with more gaming-related features, I recommend the Sennheiser EPOS GSX 1000. This headphone amp does have a few kinks, but its natural sound profile and 7.1 surround sound engine make it a significant investment for your ultimate gaming experience.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 5.63″x5.47″x2.76″
  • Weight: 0.66lbs
  • Max Power: 1V @ 32Ω
  • Output Impedance: Unspecified
  • I/O: USB in, mic, headphone, and loudspeaker ports, each as 3.5mm TRS
  • Built-in DAC: Yes

The exterior of the headphone amp features a neat little box with a capacitive touch screen and silver-colored volume dial. The I/Os are in the back and include a Micro-USB interface for connecting to your computer and 3.5mm TRS ports for the microphone, headphones, and powered speakers.

There are a lot of controls built into this gaming headphone amp, but unfortunately, I have mixed feelings about the setup. The silver volume dial and the centerfold capacitive touch buttons are great additions. However, the four buttons on the edges are very sensitive and will trigger every time you reach for the volume control knob — there’s no way to tone them down or disable them entirely.

There are four equalizers: default, gaming, music, and movies. Despite the variety, you’ll find yourself resorting to the default preset most often because the others are just pumped-up bass or an odd combination.

The sound quality of the default preset is surprisingly detailed and accurate. Along with the 7.1 surround sound option and a pair of open-back gaming headphones, you’ll have an airy and immersive soundstage more in tune for either casual or competitive scenarios. (Provided you figure out how to soundproof your case fans.)

What We Like

Impressive soundstage for open-back headphones.

Built-in passthrough system for hearing your microphone.

Compact space-saving design with premium-looking exterior.

Know Before Buying

Somewhat more expensive than your mid-range headphone amps.

The noise cancelling feature on the amp reduces the richness of the microphone input.

Recommended headphones’ range is limited to 16-150Ω.

Built-in equalizers are not up to par.

See On Amazon

For fans looking for the best sound quality and one suited for more professional use, the Ruper Neve Designs RNHP is the way to go. It is a solid headphone amp with high-end components to push out warm and neutral audio.

See On Amazon

Specs

  • Dimensions: 14.0″x7.0″x4.0″
  • Weight: 3.03lbs
  • Max Power: 300mW @ 44Ω
  • Output Impedance: Approx 0.01Ω
  • I/O: XLR, RCA, and 3.5mm inputs, 1/4″ output
  • Built-in DAC: No

Right out of the box, you might not be all that impressed with the aesthetics of this device, and that’s because the RNHP headphone amp is not about looks it’s about practicality. The headphone amp, outfitted with a sturdy steel enclosure, makes it durable and able to withstand the harsh realities of a rock-and-roll lifestyle.

Although the headphone amp doesn’t prioritize portability, it’s not just a big chunk of metal since it only weighs 3.03lbs, with the case being 14″ long and 7″ wide.

Also, despite lacking a built-in DAC, the controls and I/O on this headphone amp are built to serve a purpose. You’ve got the 1/4″ headphone output on the front with the volume control knob and three LED indicators/buttons for the input sources. At the rear panel, you’ve got a couple of balanced XLR connectors, an unbalanced RCA, and a 3.5mm TRS port for the inputs. So unlike other headphone amps, no fancy filters, bass boosters, or power modes.

The headphone amp has a frequency range of 10-120,000Hz, and unsurprisingly the audio amplification characteristics of this amplifier are top-notch. It isn’t the most premium or clear-sounding, but it is right up there with the best.

What We Like

Best sounding headphone amps in the market.

Sturdy enclosure.

XLR, RCA, and 3.5mm inputs.

Know Before Buying

Inputs are single-select only.

The price is a little steep.

Lacks a DAC chip for built-in digital inputs.

See On Amazon

Best Headphone Amps Buying Guide

Price

A premium price tag could be the only thing stopping everyone from getting a high-end headphone amp (with crystal-clear audio and blaring volume for your HD 600s). As such, your budget takes center stage when you’re shopping for a dedicated headphone amplifier.

Since most of us work under strict budgets, we need to take a step back and consider our requirements.

For budding audiophiles, I recommend budget-friendly desktop amps or portable headphone amps. Either way, you can get by without spending upwards of $300, so for beginners and people with a tight budget: these options make the most sense.

I/Os

In the grand scheme, the I/Os doesn’t matter since you’ll always find ways to improvise, adapt and overcome using so-called “adapters.” However, it’s better to prepare beforehand and ensure your DAC headphone amp combo has the appropriate I/Os to suit your needs.

For example, if you’re going for a desktop setup, it makes sense to include balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA connectors, apart from the 3.5mm headphone port; hence, you don’t have to rely on adapters when plugging in your loudspeakers or studio monitors.

So I highly recommend taking note of the I/O panel in your future headphone amps. You can get by with the TRS port, but having lots of choices from unbalanced to balanced outputs can determine the versatility of your headphone amp, especially in a professional setting.

Music amplification, heapdhone amp.

Build Quality

The sturdiness of the enclosure, the controls, and the overall aesthetics contribute to the build quality of a DAC headphone amp combo. Therefore, it makes sense to go for a device with a better build quality than others if you want to do more with your headphone amplifier.

The build quality depends on many factors, and the price isn’t the “one true” indicator of a well-built headphone amp. As a result, you need to base your notion of build quality on various factors such as

  • The form factor
  • Strength of the enclosure
  • The durability of the buttons and I/O ports
  • The finishing on the exterior housing
  • And many more

It isn’t easy trying to predict the build quality of a headphone amp when shopping online, but reading the reviews and taking a good look at the product photos can help you give a better understanding.

That said, there are some diamonds in the rough where certain headphone amps with either a plain-looking design or frail build can manage exceptionally well when it comes to driving headphones.

Battery Life/Power Adapters

A battery is essential for users with “on-the-go” audiophile headphones and amplifiers. So for these situations, I recommend headphone amplifiers with a minimum of eight hours of continuous playback time and a USB-C charging interface (to help reduce cable clutter).

Apart from that, keep an eye out for a direct passthrough for the USB charging interface. It will allow you to utilize the portable headphone amp as a permanent desktop counterpart without constantly draining the battery. Most often, the amplifier will include separate USB interfaces for this.

However, if the DAC headphone amp combo consists of a single USB data/power interface, check whether it supports simultaneous data/power transfer or offers an alternative analog input. Otherwise, you won’t be able to drive the music player/headphones while the device is still recharging.

Extra Features

The extra features vary from device to device but often include built-in filters, power modes, Bluetooth streaming, etc.

The most common headphone amplifiers (especially tube-amp or branded ones) won’t include these extra features, and some would go so far as to exclude DAC functionality (making you rely on a budget DAC such as a Schiit Modi or FiiO D3).

These extra features are optional, and you can get by without depending on them. However, they make things easier, especially with built-in DAC and rechargeable batteries.

Final Thoughts

Best Features/Value For Money

As you can see from my list, headphone amplifiers come in all shapes and sizes and figuring out which complements your setup, matches your budget, or allows you to “mobilize” your Hi-Fi setup can become tedious. Nonetheless, if you follow the guide and consider my recommendations, you’ll find the perfect headphone amplifier in no time.

For more similar articles, don’t forget to check out our dedicated headphones section on soundgearlab.com.