Make no mistake: you absolutely need a good headphone amp to get the best sound out of your headphones. Sometimes the difference an amp makes is relatively minor, but there are many headphones—especially those intended for home listening—that start to shine only when properly amplified. As with all other audio gear, you can spend as much money on an amp as your credit card allows you, or you can shop around and look for the best value for your money. In this article, you’ll find premium headphone amps with brilliant sound quality, budget amps with huge value for money, and everything in between.
Best Headphone Amps
|ImgAmazon.com Link||Brand||ProductAmazon.com Link||Price on Amazon.com|
|Woo Audio||Woo Audio WA7||999|
|Bravo Audio||Bravo Audio V2+||99.99|
|Sony||Sony TA-ZH1ES||Check Price|
Best: Woo Audio WA7
If the looks of the Woo Audio WA7 speak to you, wait until you hear how it sounds. This vacuum tube headphone amplifier with a built-in DAC has been designed for headphones with an impedance between 8 to 600 ohms, and its internal configuration is based around a class-A single-ended topology, resulting in remarkably low distortion and noise. The DAC can handle up to 24-bit/384k sampling rates transmitted via standard high-speed USB 2.0 interface operating in asynchronous mode. The chassis is made entirely from aluminum, and all components have been selected for their exceptional acoustic properties. If you’re looking for a brilliant amp for home listening, look no further. The Woo Audio WA7 is the best headphone amp in 2018.
Don’t let the forgettable name fool you into thinking that the Sony TA-ZH1ES is an unremarkable headphone amp that doesn’t even deserve the attention of Sony’s marketing department. In reality, the TA-ZH1ES is so remarkable that it doesn’t need the help of a marketing department to capture the attention of audiophiles looking for the best headphone amp available. Inside the amp is a high capacity FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) chip and the latest version of the company’s S-Master digital amplification circuit, which handles ultra-high resolution 768-kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD native up to 22.4 MHz. Unsurprisingly, the TA-ZH1ES delivers an exceptionally crisp and clean sound void of any distortion.
Simple: Arcam rHead
Do you appreciate simplicity as much as you appreciate great sound? Then you’ll love the Arcam rHead headphone amp, which delivers both at a relatively affordable price. The absence of any digital ports besides should tell you that this amp has been created with a specific purpose in mind and for a specific type of listeners. It works best when paired with a high-quality DAC, but you can be sure that the Arcam rHead and its ultra-low noise power supply will reveal the true character of your favorite music even when used on its own. And you don’t even need to break your piggy bank to order it because you can get it from $440 plus shipping.
Portable: FiiO A5
The FiiO A5 builds upon the success of the E12 series of portable headphone amps, achieving 33 percent lower total harmonic distortion rating, an improved channel balance, and an improved signal to noise ratio of 115 dB. The A5 has an 880 mAh battery that lasts up to 13 hours on a 2.5-hour charge, and it’s possible to charge the amp on the go with a powerbank. The internal components are enclosed in a high-quality CNC-machined stainless steel for maximum durability and stunning looks. The A5 accepts headphones with impedance between 16 and 300 ohms. The amp itself is 4.9 inches long, 2.6 inches wide, and 0.5 inches deep, or about the same size as a modern smartphone.
Budget: Bravo Audio V2+
The most affordable amp on this list should appeal to our geekier readers who enjoy the distinct smell of hot solder and the look of a densely populated circuit board. Being a tube amplifier, the Bravo Audio V2+ has a lush, warm sound signature that makes certain songs extremely enjoyable, entirely eliminating listening fatigue and noticeably reducing sibilance. Because the Bravo Audio V2+ is a budget headphone amp, you shouldn’t expect the same minimal distortion of the Woo Audio WA7 or the Sony TA-ZH1ES or any other $1,000+ amp for that matter. What you get is a respectable audio quality for a likable price of just $99.