Best Headphone Amps

Review & Comparison, Last Update November 19, 2018
Many modern devices such as phones, tablets, laptops or similar have their own audio output limitations. And it can get really annoying when you can’t quite hear all the notes in your favorite songs. There is a simple answer to this issue - an affordable and simple headphone amplifier that will be your go-to pick in order to increase the sound fidelity. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2018
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Connection Type
Output Power
Features
Interfaces
Dimensions
Warranty
 
PROS

The Proprietary DCT algorithm of this model diminishes any possible digital noises so you can enjoy the crisp and clear sound without humming or static. On top of that, two Digital-to-Analog Converters and amplifiers ensure a stable signal no matter what.

CONS

The plastic clip is not the sturdiest out there.

OUR VERDICT

The EarStudio ES100 is a 24-bit portable Bluetooth amplifier with two functional audio outputs for maximum comfort and ease of use. While the two ports allow connecting virtually any headphone model from consumer to studio specific ones, a special app will ensure that the output sound quality will be customized as intended.

detailed parameters
Connection Type

Bluetooth, USB

Output Power

160 mW

Features

2 independent Hi-fi DACs and Amplifiers, Hands-free mic, Clip, Sound/hardware control with the EarStudio app, 14 hours of playback

Interfaces

3.5 mm unbalanced & 2.5 mm balanced output, microUSB

Dimensions

0.5 x 1 x 2 inches

0.7 ounces

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The coaxial AUX and line-in ports of this model can be used not only for headphones but also for various sound systems such as home HiFi and car stereos, as well as for phones, tablets, and MP3 players.

CONS

The LED power indicator is quite bright, which may get annoying fast.

OUR VERDICT

The FiiO E10K is a go-to pick for you if you are looking for a small and reliable amplifier. An optimized filter in this model makes the sound more detailed than ever. Additionally, a sturdy housing ensures that all components will stay in one piece even if you accidentally drop the device.

detailed parameters
Connection Type

USB

Output Power

200 mW

Features

DAC chip, Optimized low-pass filter, Separate Bass-Boost system switcher, Gain set

Interfaces

3.5 mm AUX input, 3.5 mm AUX Output, microUSB, Coaxial 

Dimensions

0.8 x 1.9 x 3.1 inches

6.4 ounces

Warranty

Amazon's 30-day return policy

PROS

The Noise Reduction Function acts as both filter and noise cancellation appliance. Even if you prefer quiet genres of music the chance of hearing outside noise is highly unlikely.

CONS

The power switch is somewhat small.

OUR VERDICT

This compact yet highly convenient amplifier for headphones from Neoteck is made of aluminium, which ensures a long service life of the device while being extremely light. An ideal pick for the needs of city travel.

detailed parameters
Connection Type

USB

Output Power

40 mW

Features

Noise reduction, 8 hours of playback 

Interfaces

3.5 mm AUX input, 3.5 mm AUX output, microUSB

Dimensions

0.6 x 2.4 x 3.8 inches

5.6 ounces

Warranty

Amazon's 30-day return policy

PROS

40 hours of battery life from one single charge makes this model a true find for traveling music geeks.

CONS

Volume increase creates some additional impedance that may affect the sound quality.

OUR VERDICT

This amp from TOPPING is a new iteration of their NX1 family. Built to be lighter, smaller, and better than its predecessor, the NX1s will be able to impress you more than once. On top of the high sound fidelity, the built-in battery provides you with 40 hours of continuous audio playback - definitely, a must have for tourists that know how to enjoy music.

detailed parameters
Connection Type

USB

Output Power

150 mW

Features

40 hours of playback, 2 claws to avoid misoperation, Gain set, Mega Bass set, Charge LED indicator, Power LED indicator

Interfaces

3.5 mm AUX input, 3.5 mm AUX output, microUSB

Dimensions

0.39 x 2.2 x 3.3 inches

8.8 ounces

Warranty

Amazon's 30-day return policy

PROS

The packaging of this model includes all you need to start experiencing a true HiFi sound - the AUX cable, charger, and even two hard rubber bands for easy amplifier fixation to the playback device.

CONS

The volume buttons are quite stiff and it will take some time to get used to.

OUR VERDICT

This budget-friendly model from YOHOOLYO is easy to use and doesn't require any initial setup in order to start using. Thus, it is a simple matter of plug and play in order to enjoy the HiFi sound of your favorite headphone cups.

detailed parameters
Connection Type

USB

Output Power

40 mW

Features

8 hours of playback, Signal status LED, 2 Rubber bands

Interfaces

3.5 mm AUX input, microUSB

Dimensions

1.4 x 3.8 x 5.6 inches

7.2 ounces

Warranty

Amazon's 30-day return policy

EarStudio ES100-24bit

When 16 Bits Are Not Enough

The ES100 can work as a preamplifier to an existing sound system, such as a car hands-free complex. If you are experiencing low volume telephone calls while driving, you can simply connect the amplifier to your car’s AUX port and crank up the volume to the desired level.

The high quality of sound that the 24-bit processor of this model offers makes your favorite music tracks come to life. The main advantage of 24-bit sound is that you can increase the volume without sacrificing the quality of the recording.

This small yet handy amplifier features not only one but two HiFi digital-to-analog converters on board that makes the sound power deviation from the original recording almost unnoticeable and basically non-existent. One may ask - Why do you even need two converters in the first place? And the answer is quite simple - with DACs activated you will get an output sound quality that is way beyond mere MP3 and CD formats. On top of that, two of them ensure that not a single kilobyte of your digital tracks will be lost due to volume increase, and that alone makes this amplifier from EarStudio one of the go-to picks for music enthusiasts available on the market today. What will really make this model appealing to them is the ability of the amplifier to maintain a stunning sound quality at both high and low volume levels, truly, a sound landmark to match.

Review of EarStudio ES100-24bit Portable High-Resolution Headphone Amp

Simple and Reliable

As for the specifications of the device, most users will be pleased to know that the maximum output impedance of the amplifier does not exceed the level of 1 Ohm, which is absolutely stunning considering the small size of the device. The reason for that is the manufacturer used high-grade materials in order to diminish the impedance in the first place, and as a result, we’ve got a device that is capable of operating at 6.4 volts on the output with the least electrical resistance possible.

The convenient aspects of the device include a highly convenient mobile application that you can use to set the digital equalizer for specific genres or in order to achieve special audio effects. The only issue with the device that you may encounter is the somewhat inaccurate battery power level indicator in the app. However, it may be addressed in the future firmware updates that are quite frequent.

In the end, the ES100-24bit is one of the few consumer class models that gets the job done without loss of audio fidelity and can compete with premium products when it comes to HiFi sound.

EarStudio ES100-24bit Portable High-Resolution Headphone Amp in the use

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


VIDEO
EarStudio ES100 Bluetooth USB DAC Amp
 

Fiio E10K

An Essential Amp

The Fiio E10K is an essential portable device that will definitely help you expand your music listening experience by bringing sound quality to a whole new level. There are quite a few aspects to bring up so, without further ado let’s get into details.

First things first, let’s take a closer look at the overall appearance of the device. The housing of the Fiio E10K is complete with premium-grade aluminum that is painted black. It is not only a highly durable material, but also with the addition of a special brushed surface that makes the device look sleek both at night and daytime. Moreover, the brushing diminishes any possibility of reflected light so you can safely transport it without fear of getting blinded by indirect sunlight. In addition to the top-notch shell of the device, the chassis used for cranking up the volume is built to last you a lifetime.

No matter how often you will use it you can always rely on the small dial, no matter the circumstances. And that makes this model by far one of the best portable amps available today.

Review of Fiio E10K Portable Headphone Amplifier

Built to Impress

As for the high quality of sound that’s where it gets interesting. On top of the regular 3.5 mm (⅛-inch) ports, the amplifier has a USB port that you can use in order to charge up the device by using the laptop, PC or other USB-powered devices. What makes this model special though, is the ability to operate while charging without loss of sound fidelity.

If you thought that this device is only able to increase the volume of your music, you would be wrong. The E10K is not a mere amplifier, but rather a DAC/AMP combo that offers an unprecedented level of sound fidelity. With this little gadget, you will be able to play HiFi PCM (uncompressed) files without any hassle or loss of sound fidelity.

Although the amplifier is quite good in terms of gaining the volume while preserving the original sound of the digital files, there is one small fault that may discourage some customers. When put in a low gain setting, the amplifier can become unstable and produce quite a lot of internal electrical impedance that will affect the output sound quality. Thus, it is recommended to use the amp with high gain engaged and to control the volume either via the device it is connected to or via your headset (if it features the volume control dial or buttons).

All in all, the Fiio E10K is a solid middle-ground solution in case you are looking for a good amplifier and don’t want to break a bank at the same time.

Fiio E10K Portable Headphone Amplifier in the use

VIDEO
FiiO E10K REVIEW! Headphone Amplifier and USB DAC.
 

Neoteck NTK059

A Vast Sound Range

Being one of the most affordable headphone amps out there, the Neoteck NTK059 has quite a few features underneath its housing. On top of the regular amplification methods, this compact and light unit has a special bass booster that can decrease the lower sound threshold down to just 6 Hz. On the contrary, however, the 24-bit sound processor of this amp can increase the frequency of the audio files up to 48 kHz (although you won’t be able to hear it, you will notice the change in overall quality at the point of 16 kHz).

The only noticeable issue with this particular model that you may likely encounter during use is the static that the device produces while charging. Thus, it is not recommended to use the amp in combination with a USB charging cable connected. Considering that the built-in battery offers up to 8 hours of continuous playback with one single charge, it won’t be that big of an issue after all. That being said, the amp can be easily connected to the MP3 and CD playback devices of your choice, beginning with PCs and laptops and ending with phones and MP3 players.

Review of Neoteck NTK059 Portable Headphone Amplifier

A Real Treat for an Audiophile

Despite its ease of use, the device comes equipped with a manual book that contains thorough instructions on how to set up the amplifier and how to properly use all the functions that this little gadget can offer. The manual is quite easy to follow and doesn’t require a tech-savvy person to understand, which is a nice thing considering the audiophile nature of the unit. Alternatively, you can try using a higher quality USB charger cable in order to avoid the noise, humming, and static sounds. This way you can freely use the amplifier while charging without any noticeable issues.

Compatible with virtually any USB-powered device, the device is supplied with a convenient equalizer and noise reduction function that can be adjusted for various situations and areas with different noise levels.

In order to reduce the electrical impedance as well as the possible artificial noises that may occur during use, the amp comes supplied with a high-quality cable with ⅛-inch (3.5 mm) jack on each side. The cable is vital for connecting the amp to the playback device and, eventually to your headphones.

All in all, the NTK059 from Neoteck is a reliable amp that is easy to use and it can be transported without too much of an effort thanks to its overall weight of only 122 grams (around 0.268 pounds), and with a height of only 3.8 inches it can fit in almost any pocket of your coat or backpack.

Neoteck NTK059 Portable Headphone Amplifier in the use

 

TOPPING NX1s

Increase The Sound Fidelity With TOPPING

The TOPPING NX1s is a prime example of a portable amplifier done right. Even from the first listening, it is capable of surprising even the most sophisticated audiophiles out there. Unlike some other similar products in the same price range, the NX1s utilizes quite an unusual means of amplification - a buffer amplifier. By utilizing two electrical circuits at once this kind of amplifier is capable of transferring the excessive voltage from a circuit that has a high impedance level to the one that has a lower one. This way the amplifier is capable of working for longer periods of time compared to other consumer grade models.

As for the battery life, by being fairly smaller than its predecessor NX1 the “s” model can work for up to 40 hours before it will need to be recharged, which is simply amazing considering the modest size and price of this portable headphone amplifier. The 1000 mAh battery capacity alone makes this particular model a perfect choice for those who cannot live without their headphones, travelers, and for those who need their sound systems boosted in order to get rid of the surrounding noises.

Review of TOPPING NX1s Portable Headphone Amplifier

Beats The Premium Models With Ease

Speaking of enhancing the existing systems, the amplifier can increase the output sound power up to 150 mW while maintaining decent sound quality with relatively low impedance (up to 6 Ohms per jack). Additionally, the housing features two manual switches that offer immediate bass and gain boosts of 4.0 dB and 8.7 dB, respectively. Although the numbers are unimpressive at first, the actual output sound won’t leave you unsatisfied. The reason for that is the unique noise cancellation system that kills any unwanted noise from the world just outside your headphone cups. Moreover, even with high or low gain engaged the amplifier is capable of producing a sound that is closer to the sound studio quality than to a compressed file, even if you are listening to a simple 2.1 MP3 file.

As for the means of actually controlling the amplifier’s volume and impedance levels, the device features a special knob on the side that can be easily turned to increase or decrease the volume. Even though this design choice is understandable, the manufacturer made sure that the knob won’t accidentally turn in your pocket, thanks to the claws on each side of the housing. The claws are sturdy and reliable enough to prevent any unintended volume changes.

Even though the NX1s is quite small, its HiFi components deliver the sound that can easily be mistaken with more expensive models when it comes to quality.

TOPPING NX1s Portable Headphone Amplifier in the use

VIDEO
Topping NX1s headphone Amp
 

YOHOOLYO 4330149422

Surprising Capabilities

The portable headphone YOHOOLYO amp doesn’t look like something fancy at first glance. And the surprisingly modest price can draw back some of the fans of HiFi out there. Nevertheless, this little buddy can deliver the stereo sound that is comparable to some high-end models. So what is the trick here you might ask?

In reality, the answer is quite simple, it is not meant for the regular consumer in the first place. However, don’t be discouraged by this. By utilizing the provided user manual and an equalizer program you will be able to achieve HiFi sound at the end of the AUX cable and out of your speaker of choice, whether it be headphones, laptop or PC speakers.

Moving on, this tiny headphone amplifier from YOHOOLYO features a built-in battery with a capacity of 2000 mAh, which is, depending on how often and intensely you are using the device can work for 8 to 12 hours before it will need to be charged. Speaking of which, the device is conveniently equipped with a USB charging cable and a standard AUX cable. The housing features a convenient LED light that will show you when it is time to recharge the device as well as when it is done charging. On top of that, the classy matte finish makes this model stand out of the crowd of cheaply looking devices.

Review of YOHOOLYO 4330149422 Portable Headphone Amplifier

Kill The Noise

Unlike many other similar products, this model doesn’t produce as much noise, static or additional impedance while being connected to other devices via USB. This is achieved thanks to the industrial-grade connectors that are generally used for computers and heavy machinery dashboards. On top of that, the maximum distortion of the device does only reach 0.0003 %, which is absolutely stunning for a budget model like this.

With a maximum output power of 40 mW, you will be able to effectively diminish any disturbances in the audio quality. Nevertheless, it will not be enough to completely exclude the risk of some humming noises appearing from time to time.

On the bright side, however, this can be addressed and fixed by using a special equalizer program in case you are listening to audio files on your laptop, PC, tablet, phone or an MP3 player (the majority of these devices feature a pre-set equalizer settings that can be turned on and modified to your liking).

Despite a quite modest size and even more modest price tag, this headphone amp from YOHOOLYO will be a real helper in case you need an amplification level that surpasses the standard volume settings of your device.

YOHOOLYO 4330149422 Portable Headphone Amplifier in the use

VIDEO
Review of the Yohoolyo Budget Portable Headphone Amplifier XU09
 

What Is a Headphone Amp?

With more and more headphone models appearing on the market every day, there is a constant need for sound equalizing and amplifier devices. Even if you are not an audiophile you may have noticed how drastically the sound quality can change when you switch playback devices.

Fortunately, there is a device that can beat the always-present impedance of your MP3 player, phone, tablet or even a laptop. Headphone amplifiers can increase the fidelity of your favorite music tracks in just a few seconds.

These gadgets are equipped with special sound filters and electric circuits that lower the output impedance of the cables, connectors and the headphones themselves. Some models come with pre-built equalizers that let you adjust the bands according to the music genre or your personal preference, while others have software applications that make the same level of customization more accessible.

In case you are looking to turn your PC into a fully-fledged HiFi system you might be interested in the top sound cards available. Additionally, in order to keep the sound fidelity crisp and clear, we also recommend taking a look at prime AUX cable models.

What Features to Compare

Even though the consumer grade amplifiers cannot bring you the same level of sound quality as a professional recording studio, they can still compete with some of the professional models in terms of sound quality. With a vast variety of them available on the market, it is important to figure out if a certain amp model suits your needs and lifestyle.

With that in mind, let’s break down the key specifications that determine if the amplifier of your choice will be sufficient for your needs.

Output Power

The power of the amplifier determines the compatibility with headphones of different sizes. Simply put, the bigger the output power - the bigger the headphone model you can use with a particular amp model without sacrificing the volume or high fidelity of sound.

Output Impedance

Perhaps one of the most crucial factors for the amplifiers and acoustic systems, in general, is the impedance (electrical resistance). The bigger the resistance in the electric circuit, the less the electricity can flow through it, and eventually you won’t get as much volume from your music tracks as you would want to. Alternatively, the lesser the impedance, the higher the fidelity of sound you will get. Thus, it is important to pick the right model that will provide you with high quality sound that will satisfy you by diminishing the output impedance.

Connectivity

While most of the headphone amplifiers have standard mini jacks some of them feature a combination of mini and micro inputs, which can be used for a variety of different headphone models. On average, the mini (3.5 mm) jack is unbalanced while the micro (2.5 mm) is balanced, so by utilizing the latter option, you will usually get a better volume to quality ratio.

On top of the regular wired connections, the ability to transmit the audio via Bluetooth can be handy in some cases as well. Thus, it is important to figure out what version of firmware the amplifier of your choice has in order to pair it with your wireless headphones.

Battery Life

Depending on your daily headphone usage, you may need a device with long battery life that can provide at least more than a couple of hours of continuous music playback. Alternatively, in case listening to music on the go is simply not for you, a stationary model that is powered by USB cable might be your preference. Batteries that have to be recharged every 8 hours are suitable for daily or mobile use in case you are planning a long trip.

Extra Features

Additional features may include additional software that can be installed on either your PC, laptop, phone or tablet. The functionality of such applications may vary drastically, from setting the bands of an equalizer to cranking up or lowering the correct gain and bass thresholds.

On top of that, some models are equipped with wireless transmitters that are designed specifically for home acoustic systems and cars using the amplifiers with little to no cables at all. The latter will be extremely useful for users that want to connect the device to their HiFi systems at home or to their car stereos.

Did you know?

How Electrical Impedance Affects The Sound Quality

If you have ever seen the specifications of any headphone models you would have noticed that every pair has its own impedance level. There are many reasons why electrical resistance may increase during use, from the quality of the connectors to the length of the cables. In order to decrease the analog impedance, there is no better device than an amplifier.

Although amplifiers are engineered to have the least amount of output impedance possible (the golden standard should be lower than 1 Ohm) sometimes if you connect additional cables the overall electrical resistance rises significantly. Generally speaking, the more cables and connections you have, the more impedance you will get, and that means the lesser amount of electricity that will be able to flow. In other words, the less electric power you have, the lower your output volume will be and, as a result - the fidelity of sound will drop.

How to Breathe a New Life into Your Sound System

Unlike the majority of studio headphones that have high impedance ratings, consumer grade products have a moderate level of impedance that floats around 16-32 Ohms. The only reason for that is the standard headphone models are meant to be connected directly to the source of the sound, while studio versions are designed to operate with a lot of sound equipment connected to the system. Nevertheless, the amplifiers for headphones are used universally by sound engineers and regular consumers that listen to the music every once in a while.

Headphone specifications out of the way, the other limiting factors for sound volume and fidelity may include the actual build quality of the audio source and the device that it’s played through. Even though you can own a low-end MP3 player and get decent results from it by using an amplifier, you simply cannot expect much from such a device.

Although HiFi sound doesn’t necessarily mean that you will need to spend a lot of funds and time building an ideal sound system, there are a few budget options that you can use in order to improve the sound fidelity.

  • High quality connectors and connection cables - in order to save up on a fully-fledged HiFi system you may use a simple yet highly effective trick that reduces the overall impedance of your system.

  • Pre-amplifier - this little device will let you play regular CD and MP3 files with the sound quality of a legit recording studio. Although the high-end models cost a big buck, there are quite a few budget-friendly alternatives to them that won’t leave any audiophile unsatisfied.

  • Noise cancellation insulation - a simple, cheap, and effective way to reduce the outside noises from reaching the room your sound system is located in. One square foot of insulation padding goes for around a couple of bucks so the only issue you might have with it is installing it properly. We recommend consulting this matter with a professional at any home improvement store located in your area before you start the renovating process.

These options are affordable and quite easy to perform, even if you are afraid of breaking the bank. Remember, you don’t need the most expensive system out there to enjoy true HiFi sound.

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Publish Date: 2018-11-19 15:39:03