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Best Headphone Amps of 2022

If you’re studying this, you’re a music lover. And in case you’re a music lover, you’d in all probability love to listen to your music in the easiest way doable. That quest has led you to purchase new headphones, however once you hit play there’s nonetheless one thing lacking—the tempo and placement of every instrument simply isn’t as energetic as you anticipated it to be. Boxy low finish, harsh mids, fatiguing highs … a boomy blur isn’t an expertise you signed on for. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to be this manner. With a devoted headphone amplifier—one crafted by specialists with the categorical objective of delivering a extra luxurious sound—issues will be very completely different. Think of one of the best headphone amp like your audio chain’s mitochondria: feed it compelling music and clear energy and it might probably generate a full, fleshy frequency response inside an lively, agile soundstage. The greatest headphone amps can scale up the readability on nearly any headphone, so listed below are our picks for gear to deliver your ears instant enjoyment.

How we picked one of the best headphone amps

There are loads of headphone amplifiers accessible available on the market. To slim down our selections, we checked out a wide range of elements: construct high quality, value efficiency, extra options, and, in fact, sound high quality. We additionally checked out items when it comes to their place available in the market. Are they aimed toward house or on-the-go listening? Are they priced on the funds finish or the highest of the spectrum? After choosing numerous doable candidates, we mixed our personal expertise with vital consensus and person impressions to give you this record of one of the best headphone amps.

Things to think about when purchasing for one of the best headphone amps

Headphones are simply two audio system strapped to your head and audio system want electrical present to translate sign into vibrations, finally producing the sound waves you understand as music. A headphone amplifier does simply what it guarantees in its identify: amplifies the low-voltage sign that the headphones convert. If your first query is whether or not that simply means you’ll hear one thing louder, the reply is sure and no. A headphone amp is much less about simply amount and extra about high quality, much less about pushing pure abundance and extra about addressing the transducer’s resistance. Headphone amps aren’t simply attempting to make your headphones louder, pushing them to distort; they’re attempting to present them the voltage or present they must be extra environment friendly, letting them sound dynamic at decrease decibels. A easy rule of thumb: The greater the “impedance ranking” of your headphone, the extra it might probably profit from and even require an amp (although even a $100 headphone can obtain extra stability with the correct energy).

Hear at the moment, gone tomorrow?

When attempting to resolve on one of the best headphone amp in your wants, you’ll first want to decide on whether or not you’ll do extra at house or on-the-go listening. Desktop items have a really completely different characteristic set than transportable ones, making the most of the elevated house and energy sources accessible for a bigger part in an effort to enhance inputs and outputs. If a much less juiced, one-in-one-out system is all you want as a result of portability is the precedence, you’ll nonetheless need to take into consideration connectivity. Although all the headphone amps listed right here energy wired headphones, chances are you’ll want to minimize the twine from a wireless-enabled audio supply (assume any smartphone) to the amp. If so, it’ll want one thing that’s Bluetooth suitable.

Do I would like a DAC?

These days, we regularly take heed to music from digital sources—assume streaming by way of a smartphone or devoted participant. To convert these 1s and 0s into an analog sign for wired headphones you want a DAC, or digital-to-analog converter. The DAC will be a part of the headphone amp (just like the AudioQuest Dragonfly Cobalt, Chord Mojo, or iFi GO Blu) or a standalone unit. And whereas all of them carry out an identical operate, not all DACs go about it equally. If you intend to hear solely to outdated data and cassettes, a DAC will not be vital. But if digital is in your life, a DAC will likely be vital.

Can’t I simply use the amplifier in my cellphone or laptop?

Sure, your most popular listening machine could have a headphone port, and it’ll get the job finished. But it received’t blow your thoughts. Unless it’s working on a tool just like the 2021 MacBook Pro M1 or an ASUS ROG Phone 5s that options an adaptive, audio-focused design, that headphone jack’s inner DAC and amplifier are doubtless missing. It’s definitely not going to present you an incredible listening expertise. If you need extra than simply OK, it’s time to improve to a devoted headphone amp. This is doubly true in case you’ve invested in an honest pair of headphones.

The greatest headphone amps: Reviews & Recommendations

There are numerous issues to think about when shopping for a headphone amp. As you learn by the record, remember whether or not you’re assembling a listening station or a cell rig. Determine in case you’ll want a DAC, and whether or not you desire a DAC/amp combo. Consider your headphones’ energy necessities, naturally, but additionally your gear’s aesthetics. Many of the gadgets right here have distinctive designs that will or could not line up together with your tastes. However, you will be sure that any of the amplifiers listed below are among the many greatest at school.

Best solid-state headphone amp: Rupert Neve Designs RNHP

Why it made the minimize: Superb, reference-grade sound makes this a transparent winner for one of the best solid-state headphone amp.

Specs

  • DAC: No
  • Inputs: +4dBu balanced combo jack, unbalanced RCA, 3.5mm
  • Dimensions: 6.5 x 4.6 x 1.9 inches

Pros:

  • Variety of enter choices
  • Precise sound
  • Handles high-impedance headphones

Cons:

  • Design could flip some off
  • No DAC

Rupert Neve Designs is a relative newcomer to the hi-fi world however the firm isn’t with out audio expertise. The firm’s namesake and its engineers have been making combine consoles, mic preamps, dynamics shaping modules and extra for recording studios because the late Nineteen Sixties. The RNHP is a 24-volt reference-quality headphone amp based mostly on the circuit in its 5060 Centrepiece Desktop Mixer, stuffed with circuitry praised for its constancy. The unit comes housed in a VESA-mountable metal chassis, letting you connect it to a mic stand, beneath studio furnishings, and different locations with a suitable mount. The spartan entrance panel options A, B, and C buttons for the rear panel’s three selectable channels: a pair of balanced Neutrik mixture jacks able to taking XLR and TRS (6.35mm) inputs (the boot-up default); two unbalanced RCA jacks calibrated for -10dBV indicators; and a single 3.5mm port for cell gadgets. Output is a 6.5mm jack, so be sure to have an adapter in case your headphones use a 3.5mm connector, and quantity is managed by an old-school dial.

As you’d anticipate from one of many high channel strip producers recognized for transparency, the sound high quality is completely beautiful. Offering an uncompromised spectrum from 10 Hz to 120 okayHz, the RNHP is a surprise to listen to. It has very good punch and imaging, with exceptional stereo separation and little or no crosstalk. Also price gushing over is the $699 worth, which is available in decrease than many items that don’t have comparable pedigrees.

Some customers could take problem with the design; it was made, in spite of everything, for studios first—producing the type of high-power, high-headroom output that musicians want to listen to clearly, cleanly throughout monitoring and playback periods. And it displays this purpose-built aesthetic. But that additionally means it’s inherently suited to present probably the most genuine playback of well-recorded materials. Output is 230mW RMS @ 16 ohms and headphones with impedances as much as 600 ohms aren’t any drawback. It lacks a DAC, so that you’ll want one in case you plan to make use of it with digital media, but it surely’s laborious to beat Neve’s RNHP in case you’re a listener who calls for an trustworthy, high-quality sound.

Best tube headphone amp: Monolith Liquid Platinum

Monolith Headphone Amplifier on a white background.

Why it made the minimize: Twin tubes deliver additional heat within the lows and mids.

Specs

  • DAC: No
  • Inputs: XLR and RCA
  • Dimensions: 8.8 x 8.5 x 2.0 inches

Pros:

  • Warm bass
  • Balanced design
  • Beautiful look

 Cons:

  • No DAC
  • Highs may very well be cleaner

There’s one thing magical about tubes—glowing glass cylinders that direct present by a filament to excite and amplify a sign. Think of them as the sunshine bulbs of audio, however the dimmer controls the depth of tone. Whereas solid-state gear makes use of all-digital transistors, resistors, capacitors, and so forth., for a extra crisp end result, vacuum tubes are famed for the graceful heat they convey to audio. Reacting positively to overdrive, they’re excellent for including warmth and presence to your playback expertise. As one of the best tube headphone amp, Monolith’s Liquid Platinum embeds two replaceable Electro Harmonix 6922 tubes alongside solid-state amplification and people make all of the distinction. The bass and mids are heat and gooey with a plethora of presence, whereas transients—these quick bursts of power that accompany hitting a word—shine by even in a wall of sound.

Of course, the remainder of this amp isn’t any slouch both, bringing collectively a candy bundle that makes this our choose for greatest tube headphone amp. For starters, it was designed by Alex Cavalli, a famend audio circuit designer targeted on headphone amps. He based mostly it on elements of his audiophile-adored, multi-thousand-dollar Cavalli Audio Liquid Crimson amplifier, launched in 2015 and now discontinued. Cavalli designed a completely balanced/differential amplification for the Crimson’s monoprice successor, targeted on conveying the open character of music, with dynamics and element all benefitting. And at half the price of the Crimson. The Liquid Platinum appears to be like beautiful as properly, with a beautiful design highlighted by these twin tubes peeking out of the highest. It pushes 3.6 watts per channel right into a 50-ohm load and might comfortably drive headphones of as much as 300 ohms. It options each three-pin XLR balanced inputs and RCA ins and outs within the again, in addition to four-pin XLR and 6.5mm TRS jacks across the entrance to accommodate balanced (a selected high-power, low-noise wiring scheme) and single-ended (inventory, customary) headphone cables. 

While the high-end generally is a little crisp—it’s a contact on the dry, wild aspect, although this may be tweaked by rolling in new tubes—the positives far outweigh the negatives on this gem of an amp. Note that you simply’ll want to produce your personal DAC in case your plan is to make use of it with a digital listening machine.

Best transportable headphone amp: AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt

audioquest-dragonfly

Why it made the minimize: New DAC and microprocessor chips permit the Cobalt to present music the nimble efficiency it must hover and dart.

Specs

  • DAC: Yes
  • Inputs: USB
  • Dimensions: 12 x 19 x 57 millimeters

Pros:

  • Clear sound
  • Extremely transportable
  • Device compatibility

Cons:

  • Reveals imperfections in low-quality audio

It was once that in case you needed a hi-fi listening expertise, you needed to keep at house with a stationary headphone amp. Now, due to the rise of streaming and communication gadgets, music is as shut as our fingertips. AudioQuest desires to make it possible for we’re listening to that music with as a lot readability as doable and the corporate’s line of lip balm-sized USB DragonFly DAC/amps designed for the computer-audio expertise does simply that.

The high of the DragonFly line, Cobalt is one of the best transportable headphone amp as a result of it improves over the already very good Red mannequin in numerous methods. First up is the ESS ES9038Q2M DAC chip. Its minimum-phase gradual roll-off filter ensures clear and pure sound, though it may be somewhat unforgiving in terms of revealing the shortcomings of low-quality audio sources. Its 64-position, 64-bit, bit-perfect provides uncompromising quantity management. The casing and circuitry are additionally nice at filtering out Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and mobile noise that may pollute and dilute a listening expertise. An improved processor runs quicker and extra energy-efficient. And, with a hefty 2.1-volt headphone amp, this minuscule machine will amaze you with its means to energy nearly any set of cans you care to pair it with, from 16 to 300 ohms.

The Cobalt is suitable with Mac and Windows PCs and might absolutely render information as much as 24-bit/96 okayHz information, together with MQA-encoded ones. (MQA, of Master Quality Authenticated, information use a selected sort of compression to distribute greater decision with much less bandwidth, however require particular apps/DACs to decode.) In addition, it really works with good gadgets. And It features a feminine USB-A to male USB-C adapter for many fashionable Android telephones however requires a Lightning-to-USB adapter to work with Apple gadgets.

Best total: Chord Mojo

Chord Mojo Headphone Amplifier on a white background.

 Why it made the minimize: Mojo places out a whole lot of energy with a really small footprint.

Specs

  • DAC: Yes
  • Inputs: Micro USB, 3.5mm jack, Optical TOSLINK, Micro USB charging port
  • Dimensions: 82 x 60 x 22 millimeters

Pros:

  • Musical and detailed audio replica
  • Solid construct high quality
  • Credit card-sized

Cons:

It says lots about its degree of bespoke engineering in our greatest total headphone amp/DAC combo, the Mojo, that it additionally occurs to be imminently transportable. At solely 82 mm x 60 mm x 22 mm, it doesn’t demand any more room than a pockets and but it’s nonetheless able to delivering a number of the greatest sound in its class due to the purpose-built FPGA circuitry that has trickled down from British producer Chord Electronics’ multi-thousand-dollar Hugo line of merchandise. Audio replica is impressively musical and detailed; you often need to pay much more than $700 for this caliber of sound. You’ll surprise how they managed to squeeze such great sound out of such a small bundle. Remarkable.

Housed in a CNC-milled aluminum shell, Mojo’s construct high quality can also be top-notch. Despite the diminutive dimension it manages to incorporate inputs for optical, coax, and Micro USB, plus a Micro USB charging port for the 8-hour battery. In phrases of outputs, it provides two 3.5mm jacks, making it as preferrred for audiophile dates as it’s for solo listening (although quantity is not unbiased on these outputs). There’s energy to spare: output is 35mW into 600 ohms and 720mW into 8 ohms supporting headphones of as much as 800 ohms. The DAC’s specs are additionally ridiculously spectacular, with sampling price of 32 to 768 okayHz and even that includes DSD 256 assist. While chances are you’ll not love the three LED globes (indicators for quantity management and file decision), they’re distinctive.

For an much more top-tier transportable listening expertise, there’s Chord Poly, a high-quality music streamer/participant attachment designed to deliver Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, AirPlay, DLNA, and Micro SD card playback to Mojo. And, once you’re able to improve, check out the Mojo’s higher-end sibling, the Hugo 2, a not-as-svelte however still-transportable headphone amp that works at house or on the street.

Editor’s word: An up to date mannequin, the Mojo 2, was introduced the day this put up was scheduled. While sharing the identical type issue as the unique, the brand new Mojo 2 has elevated recharging capability/effectivity, redesigned filter/DSP cores, an built-in EQ characteristic to tailor the impartial sign to style, and an added USB-C port. We’ll be updating this entry after we take a more in-depth have a look at the additional dimensionality of the Mojo’s successor.

Best high-end: Manley Labs Absolute

Why it made the minimize: Manley Labs makes top-of-the-line studio gear and has introduced that attractive experience to Absolute.

Specs

  • DAC: No
  • Inputs: 2 RCA enter pairs
  • Dimensions: 11.5 x 5.5 x 8.2 inches

Pros:

  • Jaw-dropping tube sound
  • Tonal controls
  • Gorgeous design

Cons:

Manley Labs’ unimaginable equalizers and compressors will be present in most of the greatest studios on this planet. The firm additionally makes audiophile gear and the aptly named Absolute is our selection for greatest high-end headphone amp.

Powered by six vacuum tubes—two 12AX7s and 4 6AQ5As—Absolute positively glows with heat. Rich, thick and highly effective, it’s a listening expertise like no different. Unlike many headphone amps, which supply little when it comes to tonal management, Absolute goes the additional mile, offering person controls that make this into a really energetic listening expertise. Baxandall Tone Control bass and treble knobs place you accountable for the tonal character, whereas management over the quantity of detrimental suggestions within the sign places you accountable for harmonic distortion and thus the tightness of the audio playback. Uniquely, it additionally possesses switchable topology, permitting you to vary from odd-order to even-order harmonics and take cost of the saturation coloration. There’s even a mono change for having fun with pre-stereo music sources. It has a most output of 1W into 12 ohms, with headphones of as much as 600 ohms working comfortably with it.

Connectivity can also be various, with two pairs of Manley-designed RCA ports on the enter aspect and a 6.5mm TRS and a four-pin XLR jack for headphones, plus an output RCA pair must you need to use Absolute as a preamp to spice up/sculpt a supply sign previous to your favourite receiver, interface, or powered audio system. There’s a distant management and the amp is offered in three lovely chassis colours: black, copper, and silver.

Of course, all this comes with a hefty price ticket of $4,499. If you’ve got the means and the type of power-hungry dynamic and/or planar headphones that may profit, nonetheless, it’s an audiophile experience price taking.

Best funds headphone amp: Schiit Magni

Schiit Magni Headphone Amplifier on a white background

Why it made the minimize: Sound that punches means above its weight class.

Specs

  • DAC: No
  • Inputs: RCA
  • Dimensions: 5 x 3.5 x 1.5 inches

Pros:

Cons:

Everyone has to begin someplace. And, due to Schiit’s twin Magni headphone amps, that place is a contented place. The two fashions, Magni 3+ and Magni Heresy, are enjoyable and wallet-pleasingly reasonably priced option to get into the audiophile world and mind-set about customizable sound. They’re the identical worth and really related in connectivity, though the tone differs between them. As for which one is one of the best funds headphone amp for you—the roughly $100 every asking worth is best for you to strive them each.

Magni 3+ is an all-discrete circuit headphone amp, with particular person parts moderately than chips. This leads to a sound that’s well-balanced and weighty from high to backside. It is available in a brushed aluminum case. Magni Heresy, then again, makes use of fashionable op-amp chips in its circuitry and delivers clear and crisp audio. Its casing is black with pink accents. Both have a most output of 1V RMS into 32 ohms and supply very good sound for the value. The excessive/low acquire change on the again ensures that even 600-ohm power-hungry headphones received’t break a sweat with these.  

Both have a single 6.5mm headphone out within the entrance, with RCA ins and outs within the again (sure, you should utilize it as a preamp). Neither has a DAC although, which may very well be a problem for these with digital listening habits. However, at this worth, you may definitely afford to purchase a separate digital to audio converter (like Schiit’s personal Modi). 

If you’re trying to degree up your own home listening recreation, that is the place to begin your headphone amp journey.

Best wi-fi headphone amp: iFi GO blu

iFi Go Blue Amplifier on a white background.

Why it made the minimize: The iFi GO Blu does the unimaginable and combines glorious sound high quality with Bluetooth compatibility.

Specs

  • DAC: Yes
  • Inputs: USB-C, Bluetooth
  • Dimensions: 54 x 32 x 13 millimeters

Pros:

  • Handles all Bluetooth codecs
  • Small and light-weight
  • Built-in mic

Cons:

  • Inherent limitations of Bluetooth
  • No clip

While there are a selection of fantastic transportable headphone amps with built-in DACs (see AudioQuest DragonFly Cobalt above) they’re nonetheless wired. If you’re trying to untether your amp out of your music participant or smartphone, the Bluetooth 5.1-compatible iFi GO blu is the best way to go for each Apple and Android gadgets.

Smaller than seemingly doable and solely 26 grams, iFi GO blu is so unobtrusive you may even neglect it’s there. However, you’ll definitely discover the advance it brings to audio high quality, regardless of the inherent limitations of Bluetooth. It provides a large soundstage, with clear and exact audio due to individually optimized circuit phases. It achieves this with a Cirrus Logic CS43131 superior DAC, in addition to balanced circuits for much less crosstalk and noise. Output is 245mW @ 32Ω; 5.6v @ 600Ω (balanced)/165mW @ 32Ω; 2.8v @ 600Ω (unbalanced) so—regardless of its small dimension—the GO blu will energy most headphones. Should you discover your supply sound missing, iFi GO blu additionally contains analog XBass and XSpace enhancements for additional low-end presence and soundstage width. The Swiss chronograph-inspired ChronoDial is a marvel of ingenuity and manages to pack numerous capabilities into a really small house, dealing with analog quantity management, observe choice and play, plus Bluetooth voice assistant activation.

With Qualcomm’s newest four-core QCC5100 Bluetooth processing chip, iFi GO blu helps all present Bluetooth codecs (SBC, AAC, aptX, aptX HD, LDAC, LHDC/HWA as much as 24-bit/192 okayHz). It has outputs for each 3.5mm (single-ended, S-Balanced) and 4.4mm (balanced) headphone cables, and it makes use of USB-C for charging the 8-hour battery and for establishing a 24-bit/96 okayHz reference to non-Bluetooth gadgets. It even has a built-in microphone for hands-free phone calls. And if you end up needing much more energy and/or versatility, on the expense of some portability, the flask-sized iFi xDSD Gryphon is an improve path for these with extra demanding headphones/connectivity wants—nice for a compact desktop set-up and comparatively pocketable for on-the-go.

FAQs

Q: Is it price shopping for a headphone amp?

If you’ve got spent cash, or plan to spend cash, on an excellent pair of headphones, then a top quality headphone amp is a worthwhile buy. The enchancment in sound high quality will likely be obvious. Some headphones have a excessive impedance ranking and really require the extra energy that an amp offers to correctly drive them (see beneath). Most in-ear displays and noise-canceling headphones won’t profit from being paired with a headphone amp although.

Q: What is impedance?

Impedance refers back to the resistance of {an electrical} sign. The greater the impedance ranking of a pair of headphones, the extra voltage  is required to realize a listening degree with excessive readability, low distortion, and minimal coloration. Most headphones have a ranking of 16 (low impedance) to 600 (excessive impedance). Power-hungry high-impedance headphones want a whole lot of juice to sound good and put out correct quantity. These headphones doubtless won’t operate correctly with no stable headphone amp.

Q: What are tubes?

Some headphone amplifiers use vacuum tubes as a part of the amplification circuit, such because the Monolith Liquid Platinum and Manley Labs Absolute. This is a expertise that was largely changed in client items when stable state transistor circuits got here on-line within the Nineteen Sixties. Enthusiasts, nonetheless, could want the sound of tube amplification to stable state on account of its “constructive distortion,” a perceived heat tone. Tubes burn out after a time frame like a lightbulb, however can often get replaced simply by the proprietor.

A ultimate phrase on choosing the right headphone amps

When taking the plunge and increasing your plugs, it may be comforting to know that you simply don’t need to shell out some huge cash to get began. You can discover a number of the greatest headphone amps at remarkably reasonably priced costs. Of course, once you’re able to step it up a notch, there’s a complete world of ever-more costly (and great-sounding) amplifiers accessible.