The 7 Best Headphone Amps to Buy in 2018

Get the most out of your music

Sony Portable Hi-Res DAC/Headphone Amplifier
Courtesy of Amazon.

Sometimes even the highest quality headphones sound a little underwhelming when playing music from your smartphone or computer. If you aren’t getting the most out of your high resolution audio files, consider investing in a portable headphone amplifier to provide extra power for lower distortion and expanded volume and sound. Whether you want more control over the bass and treble on individual tracks or need a Digital Analog Converter to get the most out of vintage audio equipment, these small devices are an elegant and often inexpensive solution.

The FiiO A3 is a solid all-purpose portable headphone amplifier that produces sharp and clear sound even with bass turned up. The brushed aluminum box is slim and about as long as a lighter, making it easy to slip into your pocket next to your phone. It is suitable for headphones ranging from 16 to 150 ohms, making it compatible with most products, but still worth checking before purchase. It gives a fully discrete bass boost output of 3.5dB at 60H with bypass off, enough to make the difference between flat and room-filling sound. Expect a long life from the 1400mAh internal battery, which is good for about 16 hours of uninterrupted use.

Connect your vintage audio equipment to your headphones or smart device with the FiiO E17K, a headphone amp with a built-in digital to analog converter (DAC). This device is essential for getting the best sound out of your high quality headphones and audio equipment, giving you the ability to fine tune both the treble and bass on your device. This means you can find the perfect balance whether you are listening to classical music or hard-hitting trap. A multi-function wheel gives intuitive and agile control for easy adjustment, without the annoying tweaking some DAC’s require. The device will get the most out of your audio with DSD decoding and supports up to 96 kHz/32bit sound. Expect a long lasting battery and portability, as the device is about the size as a deck of cards.

The Sony PHA-1A DAC allows you to enjoy portable performance that delivers 14x the detail of MP3s, turning your listening experience into one that is audiophile approved. This powerful device includes a DAC that will decode hi-res PCM audio file formats all the way up to 24-bit, giving you access to professional quality recordings even when you are on the go. The small silver device is outfitted with a premium WM8740 Wolfson DAC and a LME49860 operational amp that expands sound stage and delivers smooth audio without distortion or noise. It delivers 120dB of dynamic range, ensuring all details of music are heard without any inaccuracies. The circuitry is protected by quality aluminum, while the rechargeable battery can last for about six hours on a single charge.

This small and elegant device is an affordable way to boost headphone sound, adding 40mW of output power for improved performance. The durable device has a classy mat black metal case that weighs just 122g, so it's easy to slip into your pocket or purse. It includes a volume control knob that gives extra range to your music, optimizing sound details and reducing distortion. The 2000 mAh battery is good for about eight hours and it is easy to recharge with a USB port.

This pocket-sized ultra portable headphone amp is about the size of a matchbook, but packs 250mW of power output for an enhanced listening experience. The Indigo PHPA-1 can power two headphones at once, using an analog volume knob to adjust sound and two level bass EQ to provide extra oomph. The ultra portable amp works with any pair of headphones between 16 to 150 Ohms, covering most models. It lasts for up to eight hours on a single charge, good enough for an entire work day of enhanced music.

Vox fans will love this portable low frequency guitar amp, a simple and convenient way to deliver true analog amplifier sound in your headphones. This amp series has been a best-seller for more than a decade. It provides three modes to guitars for multi-effect, including choices specifically tuned for different styles such as Blues and Metal. The foldable plug rotates 180 degrees and includes an auto off feature, fitting nicely into any guitar model and pairing with any headphones. The full analog circuit is also re-worked for clearer and simpler sound.

Japan’s top ALPS Hi-Fi portable amplifier packs a powerful punch and effortlessly improves your listening experience. The durable and reliable Cayin C5 is brushed black metal and includes a one-year warranty, making it a long-lasting value that will stand up to regular wear and tear (and it also has quality circuit build). Expect output rated power of 800mW or a 32 ohm load and a 1000mAh capacity for about 12 hours of battery life. The frequency response is between 20Hz-100kHz and total harmonic distortion is less than .02 percent.

Sign up for our daily deals newsletter


Disclosure: At Lifewire, our expert writers are committed to researching and writing thoughtful and editorially independent reviews of the best products for your life and your family. If you like what we do, you can support us through our chosen links, which earn us a commission.