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Their basic OBH is fairly affordable and a very good value, see picture at the top of this article. But our new favorite affordable headphone amp is the Objective2! We have tested the o2 amp and we are very pleased with it. We have been reviewing, stocking, and selling headphone amps since the mid's, and this is the type of amp we have longed for over the years. Quality sound. Fairly small. Powerful enough to drive most any headphone.

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Rechargeable batteries as an option, not just AC or not just DC. Many of the headphone amps mentioned here can be purchased at "Listening Station Headphones. It's a pretty major piece of equipment, no ac adapter with this one , and can double as a pre-amp.

The author of this article owns one and uses it both as a headphone amp and as a pre-amp, it's a solid piece of audiophile equipment and I have been very pleased with it! Tube Headphone Amp: For those of you interested in tube audiophile equipment, Bellari , a SLC Utah based company known for some affordable tube equipment, now has a nice tube headphone amp, the HA Note: If your music source seems to have a good sound quality, but seems weak, the HA is a great amp to consider.

It has a lot of gain which would allow you to connect up virtually any high quality headphone, reguardless of it's power requirements! Problem is, the move to computers, portable players, and digital music files was a move of convenience. Top notch sound quality rarely is a concern for computer manufacturers.

Headphone Amps

Technically, listening to music from computers is a step backwards from the CD for most. Besides the issue of compressed music files, hint And to complicate things further, inside the computer, the sound card is subject to all kinds of electronic interference.

Connecting a traditional, audiophile quality headphone amp like those mentioned above to the 3. Garbage in, garbage out.

Not only is the quality of most USB DAC's better than the sound cards found in most computers, but taking the sound card out of the computer, gets it away from the all that electronic interference. As mentioned, there are still some issues with how much your music files are compressed, but that's a whole other subject we're not going to tackle in this article. Suffice it to say, if you are looking to improve the sound quality of your computer headphone listening, connecting a headphone amp to a USB DAC, is a better idea than just connecting straight to the output of the internal sound card.

And, in a fairly recent turn of events, some headphone amp manufacturers are now including the USB DAC inside the headphone amp! This small unit has garnered all kinds of praise around the internet. And we've been quite impressed as well. You say you also listen to other sources of music besides your computer.

Well NuForce has a product for you as well. The Icon HDP. The HDP also has audio outs so can serve as a pre-amp. If you want something more in-depth, Burson provide a turnkey to open the unit up, allowing you to swap out the existing op-amps for ones of your choosing. The Play is a fun amp with a creative concept. The sound is almost perfect, but we did find ourselves wanting more power in the low-end. But in all honesty, we don't think they dramatically improve on the Play. We suggest you stick with this one What We Don't: Less-expensive amps on this list are better.

The Benchmark HPA4 is a surprisingly enjoyable amp. Surprisingly, because Benchmark make some of the most complicated and finicky audio equipment available. But they started the HPA4 with a blank slate, and we think it paid off. The designer, Michael Siau, built the amp around a glorious touchscreen, which gives you everything you need in a single place. And with three watts into 32 ohms, the HPA 4 can power just about any pair of headphones.

DAC Amplifiers & Portable Headphone Amps | Audio46

We tested this with about five or six different models, including the Focal Utopia and Meze Audio Empyrean. The main issue we had with this headphone amp is that, while the HPA4 may be a lot of fun, it doesn't do anything particularly special, or deliver a better experience than other, slightly less expensive amps. The Woo Audio WA11 Topaz, for example, may not have a touchscreen, but we think using it is a much better experience.

It's also far more versatile, in the sense that it's entirely portable. The HPA4 absolutely deserves a spot on this list, but it's not our first choice. See the Benchmark HPA4. In the time we've spent with it, we've been blown away by just how good it is. It's quite pricey, and although we link to Amazon here, it can sometimes be tricky to find on that site, but that's not enough to keep it from the top spot in this category. The real draw here is the sound. Sony combine some incredible amp circuitry with a stellar DAC to produce audio that has almost zero distortion, and which is absolutely clinical in its representation.

While this won't be fun for those who enjoy tube amps, it's excellent if you like solid-state sound. Hearing a high resolution DSD album through this thing is an experience you just have to have. Is also, despite its hard-core nature, amazingly easy-to-use. This hybrid amplifier isn't going to be for everyone - and we think it's a touch too expensive, especially compared to the insane value of something like the Schiit - but it's definitely worth its place here Holy hell, this thing sounds amazing.

It reaches deep into your brain, rewiring your perceptions of just how good audio can be. Listening to one is an eye-opening experience. For starters, as good as the amplifier is, it's also quite unwieldy, and it takes up a huge amount of space. We also realise that it can be quite tricky to find, unless you know a specialised hifi dealer. What We Don't: Undefined and woolly highs.

It's not the match we would have expected. Ultra-square manufacturer Monoprice teaming up with headphone impresario Alex Cavalli? OK, guys. But the result, the Monoprice Monolith Liquid Platinum, not only has an amazing name but terrific sound. The twin tubes deliver bass that really makes an impact, and the amp is surprisingly forgiving, bringing out the best - even in cheaper headphones.

While we would have liked the highs to be just a touch sharper - they really don't compete with amps like the JDS Labs The Element here - the Liquid Platinum still slays. We were genuinely surprised by how much texture and warmth the Liquid Platinum brought to the table. We shouldn't be - Cavalli is known for extracting the best from his components.

Be warned: there's no DAC, so you'll need to supply your own JDS Labs impressed with their Objective model, and this is a major upgrade. It packs an amp and a DAC into a well-designed housing, with a large volume knob that recalls professional audio interfaces used by recording musicians, like the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6 or the Apogee Duet. The Element is good enough that we are comfortable leaving it on the list, even if it is slightly older.

It's got a big, in-your-face, punchy sound, delivering not only volume but a fantastic clarity. That being said, we don't think it's the best sounding amp on this list, as models above it deliver more character. It might not be the most fully-featured of the models on this list, but it still manages to impress by delivering great sound and functionality at a decent price At some point, the folks at Cyrus must have looked at the success AudioQuest were having with their Dragonfly Red USB stick amp, and thought very long and hard about what they were doing.

The result is the Soundkey: a compact little unit designed to fit between your phone and your headphones, ideal for on-the-go use.

Meridian Prime DAC / Headphone Amp - Head-Fi TV

That being said, it offers excellent sound for the price, unbelievable convenience, and is light years away from the amp and DAC contained in your phone. See the Cyrus Soundkey. What We Don't: Volume wheel issues, design feels like it need improvement. The downside of a portable headphone amp involves It's another thing in your pocket, and it's why portable amps aren't as widespread as they should be.

Montreal's Bluewave wanted to change that, so they made a tiny, credit-card-sized amp that was fully aptX Bluetooth capable. It's a little wonder, and we love ours to pieces. It provides a noticeable boost in both volume and audio precision, and is a total breeze to use. Bluewave are an indie company, and it shows: the design really feels like it needs a little work.

We also had some issues with the volume wheel, which often resulted in us blasting music at top volume. It's an amazing product, and we can't wait to see what Bluewave do next We bloody love this model. The eye-catching design is paired with some genuinely good circuitry, including an excellent Chinese tube that really puts out some stellar audio. The sound is warm and lush, and it will be an immediate upgrade to any audio you put through it. We should say that there is a little bit of distortion involved, which is understandable for this price, and that its construction can make it a little temperamental.

See the Bravo Audio V2. What We Don't: Ridiculous price tag. We adore the Periodic Audio Nickel, but it comes with a huge asterisk. It's a genuinely-brilliant little amplifier, with killer sound and a tiny size that we still can't believe. It's smaller than a box of matches and is capable of powering just about any wired headphones.