A headphone amplifier is a must have component if you want to enter the audiophile workspace. All headphones have a certain impedance and there are built-in amplifiers within the sound card of the computer but their quality is a big question mark to the output of the headphones. Especially, the high-impedance headphones require a headphone amplifier because the onboard sound card does not have enough power to provide juice to the headphones. The high-end studio-grade headphones have as high as 600Ω impedance while the motherboards usually support a maximum of 32Ω.
If you use high-impedance headphones directly with the motherboard or any other playback device, you will notice low sound volume because the sound of the headphones is not amplified enough to be heard properly. There are usually two types of headphone amplifiers; the solid-state amplifiers and the tube-based amplifiers. The basic difference between both types of headphone amplifiers is that the tube amps provide richer and realistic sound while compromising on the bass and strength while the solid-state amps are better in detail and provide very heavy bass but lack the realism. In this article, we will discuss the best of the headphone amplifiers that will make your audio setup astonishing.
The first product on our list is the Sony TA-ZH1ES from the Signature Series and it is a solid-state headphone amplifier. Apart from the headphone amplifier, there is a high-end DAC embedded in it. The DAC of this beast supports a 32-bit 768 kHz playback, which is a huge improvement from most of the DACs available in the market. The chassis of this amplifier is built very innovatively which restricts the vibrations, leading to better sound quality.
The headphone amplifier supports up to 600-Ohm impedance, which means that you can easily hook it up with the best of the best headphones. There is a lot going on within the heavy chassis of this amplifier, offering audio enhancements and especially the DSD Remastering Engine provides miraculous accuracy.
Overall, we believe that if you want a headphone amplifier and do not own a high-quality DAC as well, this setup will prove to be a heavenly experience and you should definitely consider it if you can pay the huge price.
Rupert Neve Designs RNHP is a special headphone amplifier, which looks like a piece of electrical equipment from the 20th century. One should not judge the quality of this headphone amplifier, however, on the sole basis of the looks, as this headphone amplifier is better than most of the headphone amplifiers in the market, despite having a relatively lower price. The amplifier does look bad but it has a very solid build.
The sound quality of this amplifier can be described as “clean”, with very accurate frequencies and feels very tight and punchy. The headphone amplifier supports headphones with impedance ranges of 16-600 Ohms, covering almost all the headsets. There is no gain switch on the amplifier which reduces the ease of use a bit, although setting up the amplifier was really easy.
We believe that if you want a powerful headphone amplifier which does not embed a high-end DAC in it then you should consider buying this product.
3. DarkVoice 336SE
Our Rating: 9.5/10
- The tube amp provides a lively experience
- Tube rolling
- The amplifier provides marvelous aesthetics due to tubes
- The LED light is shockingly bright
- The stock tubes are not that impressive
Category: Tube Amp | Provides DAC: No | Headphone Impedance Support: 32-600Ω
DarkVoice 336SE is a tube-based headphone amplifier, with a lot of qualities that the solid-state amplifiers do not possess. First of all, the amplifier looks really great, especially when the tubes are lit and one can feel the aroma of novelty in the air when that happens. The blue LED light of the amplifier does distract the user a bit and the manufacturer really should have used low-brightness LED. The stock tubes of the amplifier are not of great quality, which is why we will advise you to change the stock tubes with better aftermarket tubes.
With a setup like this, the headphones provide really soothing audio and it almost feels like one is hearing the performance live. The impedance support of this amplifier is enough to support extreme-end headphones and you should not worry about the amplifier not being able to maximize the sound levels of the headphones.
Overall, this headphone amplifier provides a supreme audio experience and if you prefer a livelier sound instead of a stronger one then you should definitely go for this product.
FiiO Q5 is a product for those people who like to move a lot or who do not want to have a bad audio experience even during traveling or during a workout in the gym. The headphone amplifier provides a compact design and does come with a built-in DAC for a better experience overall. This is particularly great for people who want to use their high-end headphones with their mobiles. The headphone amplifier supports the decoding in Apple products and is fully compatible with all the iPhone models.
The DAC provides a 32-bit 384 kHz playback which is enough to play even the extreme quality audio files. The headphone amplifier also provides great amplification and offers a detailed and balanced sound and does not show brightness in any of the certain frequencies, although the bass boost button of the amplifier can be used to provide the infamous bass, which of course comes down to personal tastes. One thing important here is that the high frequencies feel a bit blurry and not as clear as some other high-end amplifiers. The amplifier comes with a lot of accessories but the quality of these accessories is not up to the mark, we will say that if you own high-end cables, better use those ones.
With features like Bluetooth audio, swappable amps, RGB lights, and a 3800 mAh power bank, this headphone amplifier has really packed a lot of features within the stylish chassis and if you want a cheap good-quality headphone amplifier with portability as your main concern, you should give it a go.
5. Schiit Audio Magni 3
Our Rating: 9.0/10
- Unbelievable sound quality for the price
- The impedance support is impressive
- Can be easily considered by even low-end users
- Quality control is not that good
- Large power supply adapter
Category: Solid-State | Provides DAC: No | Headphone Impedance Support: 1-600Ω
Schiit Audio Magni 3 is a famous product and leaves a lot of other high-end amplifiers in the dust. This headphone amplifier is much cheaper than other products but its quality suggests otherwise. With a beautiful silver-color body and large knob, the amplifier provides great looks along with ease of use.
The impedance support of this headphone amplifier is really impressive and at just a fraction of the price of other amplifiers. The audio feels very clear and one cannot believe that it is the result of a cheap headphone amplifier like this one. The knob on the front does tend to have some issues in terms of quality control and the power supply adapter feels troublesome to set up but nothing is perfect anyway.
If you are not very much into perfection and want a great overall headphone amplifier for your high-end headphones then this product will fulfill your needs greatly, as there is no competition to this amplifier at this price.
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Prices taken/valid at the time of review.