Many audio novices and even audio experts don’t understand the importance of a good headphone amplifier in their bag. Amplifiers can make even the most mediocre headphones sound amazing. Amplifiers are the final step in the audio process. After a signal has been through its long electronic journey from the recording studio to your listening device, the amplifier is the last thing to affect it before the 1’s and 0’s turns to sound in your ear.
Don’t be discouraged if you don’t even know what an amplifier actually does, most people don’t. I know a few audio aficionados who own many amps without even knowing how they work. The amplifier obviously takes the audio signal and amplifies it, but it’s much more complicated than that. It amplifies different frequencies in the signal in different ways. It goes through equalization, tone adjustment, and much more. That means the amplifier controls how bass or treble heavy the sound is and the tone of different pitches. The tone is how soft or loud a noise is. In other words, it affects whether something has a sharp piercing sound or a more dull and subdued one. Seeing as equalization and tone are the most important aspects of sound quality, it’s safe to say that amplifiers can make or break audio quality.
Every speaker, from your phone to your computer to your stereo and even your headphones have some sort of amplifier. The benefit of using an external amp with your headphones is that it improves the quality that much more. they turn crappy headphones to decent ones, decent headphones to great headphones, and great headphones to mind blowing headphones. A headphone amplifier is basically a power-up for your audio experience and here are what We’ve found to be the most bang for your buck. To be clear, this list covers portable headphone amplifiers. You can find the larger, home based amps on another list.
FiiO is a great brand for portable amps. They make options for all different types of price ranges and purposes. You will see more of them later. The A3 could be considered FiiO’s flagship portable amplifier: it is in the center of the price range and is made to be an all around product. With the sleek design and multiple color options, this is perfect for taking on the go. It offers great noise and cool features while still keeping cost low.
On a 4 hour charge, this will last you about 16 hours of pure listening. The sound is amazing. With its active crackle reduction feature, the amp improves on recordings themselves. Also, for all the bass fanatics, the A3 has a bass boosting switch to really bring those lows out and offer a heart shaking experience. This amp competes with other’s much more expensive than it, and it can easily fit in your pocket no wonder it is the best seller on Amazon for portable amps.
This is the first entry with vacuum tubes, which are a bittersweet feature. On one hand, the tubes deliver great, deep sound throughout. They offer amazing audio no matter what you are playing. However, the other side of the coin is that the vacuum tubes protrude from the main box and are extremely fragile. You have to be very careful with this amplifier. The good thing is you can easily buy replacement tubes for a few bucks. This is great because most of us can be a little careless or clumsy at times.
The sound of the Nobsounds is really surprising coming from a tiny box like this. Many have raved about the extreme value of this amp. It delivers premium quality audio for a really good price. It may not be the greatest for “portable” amplifiers, it was worth a mention on this list. That’s not to say the product isn’t portable. It’s extremely lightweight and small. You just need to be careful of those vacuum tubes.
This may be a little more expensive than the other amps so far, but believe me, it’s worth the jump in price. Here is where we dive into a really premium portable amplifier. It’s sleek, sexy, and portable. You can enjoy it on your daily commute, or during a listening session at home. You get premium amplifier qualities in a portable amp. Even without vacuum tubes, the fullness really comes through.
You get premium amplifier qualities in a portable amp. Even without vacuum tubes, the fullness really comes through. The amp offers surround sound, external audio sound card, and much more. The product was made for gamers who want to hear every detail of the game sounds, so listening to music with it is just amazing. This is by far one of the best amplifiers on this list. I highly recommend it.
Not far off from the Sound BlasterX is this more premium amp from FiiO. The E10K really just improves on what the A3 has. This one has a more compact body for easier storage. The control dial is more responsive and easier to use. There were some improvements in the sound quality and abilities of the amp.
Other than that, most things are the same between the E10K and the A3. Both have bass booster switches, which is great to really bring out those lower when listening to bass heavy music. Both offer great sound with a user-friendly body and interface. If you are really into the subtle improvements FiiO made, for only 20 bucks more I suggest the E10K.
The I+ 6JI might have a funny name and might look a little funny too, but this amp is not anything to laugh at. All those little protrusions and funky additions have a purpose. This amp rocks a dual vacuum tube set up, which sounds amazing. The box on the box adds value to the experience and also doubles as a nice little way to keep your tubes safe.
This was made to be a premium amplifier. Everything on it is functional and professional. You’ll really feel like an audio aficionado using this product. The 115 dollar price tag is definitely worth it, in fact, I’d venture to say it’s a steal.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have FiiO’s real budget amplifier. We didn’t want to place 3 FiiO amps on this list, but they are just so great and we couldn’t find another decent amp for this cheap. If you really don’t want to spend the money for a higher end amplifier, this one works perfectly. It’s extremely small and can easily fit in your pocket.
Like the other FiiO’s it does have bass boosting hardware settings if you so choose to want that. The sound is great for an amp costing less than 30 bucks. You won’t find a better amp as cheap as this one.
This is one of my personal favorites on this list. The simple robotic design looks really cool in person and isn’t as hard to take care of as you would think. This amp is surprisingly durable for its open design and small frame. As long as you transport it in a bag and don’t chuck it around or anything, it should be fine.
The vacuum tube on this particular amp is a Class A 12AU7 model tube from Shuguang. That probably sounds like nonsense to most people, but that is an extremely high-quality tube. This is a great purchase at any price, but at only 70 bucks, it’s a must-buy.