Looking to elevate your listening experience? Unless you’re okay with your headphones, you can use a headphone amp to take music entertainment to a different level.
A headphone amp is a device that maximizes the fullest potentials of your headphones. This nifty device boosts the audio delivery of headphones with an impedance that’s greater than 80 Ohms. It reproduces realistic, natural sounding audio with fine, rich details. Using the device, you get incredibly clean, crisp audio.
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Headphone amps come in different sizes, features, and designs that’s why we put together a list of the best headphones amps for discriminating yet budget-conscious audiophiles. Here are our top headphone amps that are under $100:
Best Headphone Amps under $100
Behringer Microamp Ha400
- Connects up to 4 sets of headphones
- 4 Independent volume control
- No signal distortion
- Good sound amplification
- Only 1 input
- Not travel-friendly
We’re starting our list with the Behringer HA400. This is a compact 4 channel headphone amp that pumps up the sound for an unforgettable listening experience. This 13-ounce device can connect up to 4 headphones at once. It also offers 4 independent volume controls. HA400 is designed for customized studio applications. However, you can use it to enhance your headphones’ audio performance.
This amp features an active circuitry so it comes with a dedicated power supply. That gives you plenty of channels boost. The package comes with a 12 volts adapter. Since it’s made for studio applications, it’s not a portable amp. You have to plug it in to use it.
Essentially, the HA400 delivers a volume surge and there’s not much you can do in terms of playing around with the EQ settings. HA400 shines for being user-friendly. The interface is straightforward and the controls are basic. The HA400 is versatile, you can use it with any type of headphones. The device amplifies sound and maintains clarity even at maximum volume levels. It operates smoothly and quietly too.
That said, the HA400 only offers a single input so you have to combine it with a mixer to get the audio going. For the price, the HA400 offers value for money features although it could leave some audiophiles wanting more.
This is a stunningly handy device for any small group that needs to hear the same audio source, listening in detail. It is a small amp that not only pumps up the signal to volumes ready to share; it gives each student his or her own volume control. Splendid and affordable!
Hearing is believing. If you’re on a lookout for an inexpensive yet efficient headphone amp, the HA400 is your best bet. It’s user-friendly, sturdy, and it allows you to enjoy amazing audio.
- Good audio performance
- With bass boost
- Portable, travel-friendly design
- Less dynamic audio delivery
- Slightly colored audio
The E10K Olympus by FiiO is a compact headphone amp that offers user-friendly controls and winning audio performance. Out of the box , you get the unit itself as well as a USB cord and a set of rubber feet. The amp is incredibly easy to setup, just plug and play the amp and it automatically integrates with your files.
Apart from the hassle-free setup, there’s no need to install additional drivers. In terms of the design and overall construction, the E10K is similar to the older Olympus model. It’s sleek, portable and it’s perfect for traveling audiophiles.
The E10K features bass boost that imparts a noticeable punch to bass-heavy tunes. E10K delivers exceptional technical prowess similar to higher end amps. The highs are presented with more dynamics with less bloated midbass. The audio is accurate and detailed while the treble is extended. For the price, you can’t go wrong with the E10K especially if you love house or electronic music. The sound signature and bass boost go well together for smooth, fast paced tracks.
However, the audio performance isn’t as dynamic. The soft and loud parts of the tracks are hard to differentiate. The audio is also colored. However, the bass boost adds clarity to the audio without the hollowness.
I bought this little puppy and WOW, it blew me away. Suddenly my headphones made me feel like I was in a concert hall and the bass I was looking for appeared. Now my cans physically vibrate like crazy on my ears while delivering the sound I had read about.
This is a great affordable headphone amp for first-time users. You get decent audio quality for such an affordable price point. The E10K also adds personality to the tracks with added bass boost for clarity.
- Compact design
- Balanced audio
- Compatible with Android and Apple devices
- High efficiency, low power draw
- Slight distortion or metallic sound on certain tracks
- Less dynamic audio delivery
Looking for an affordable and portable headphone amp that you can take on the go? Meet the Audioquest DragonFly, a stick headphone amplifier no larger than your average flash drive. The DragonFly is completely a plug and play device. There’s no need for additional drivers to install. Simply insert into your device’s USB input and you’re good to go.
Don’t be fooled by its small size, the DragonFly packs a wallop. This nifty headphone amp can decode PCM audio stream in a flash as well as DSD up to 11.2 MHz. It handles PCM audio stream like a dream without requiring too much power. The set comes with a 3.5mm stereo mini jack, which is quite versatile. It’s compatible with Apple and Android devices.
The Dragonfly range comes in two models, the affordable option in black and the higher end model in red. Between the two, the red offers more upgrades but the black is just as great in terms of audio amplification as the red one. The black features an integrated headphone amplifier that delivers a voltage input of 1.2 volts. This amp is best for 32 to 60 Ohms headphones. The black model comes with a basic chip that delivers fantastic amplification similar to its higher-end sibling, the red.
Plugging the DragonFly into the computer, the amp delivered organized highs and fluid audio sound. The DragonFly added depth and softness to the sound, delivering steady and well-balanced audio. On mobile devices, the highs are noticeably disorganized with a pronounced metallic audio.
Overall, the highs are reserved sometimes slightly dry. That said, the medium register is great although the soundstage isn’t as robust. The playback is energetic but it’s hard to differentiate the soft parts.
This little stick is absolutely amazing. The details are rich and totally rounded. I have been using Boom2 on my Mac and getting good sound with it. But there is a whole different world of sound and detail that comes with the DragonFly. Really impressed, and thrilled and delighted with it.
The DragonFly offers dynamic, lively listening experience. The audio is always smooth and balanced. We love the compact form factor, it’s quite a unique feature.
Tips and Buying Guide
What is a Headphone Amp?
These days, we store and listen to music using a portable device. These devices could be anything from a mobile phone to a tablet. While these devices could store thousands of songs, not all of the tracks are properly formatted. Poorly formatted tracks aren’t enjoyable to listen to because they are not as detailed nor clear.
A headphone amp is a device that increases the power of the audio source. This device is loved by audiophiles because it improves the listening experience. This goes especially when used in conjunction with higher end headphones. An amp delivers rich, detailed audio, maximizing the fullest potentials of the headphones.
Do you really need a Headphone Amp?
This will depend on the type of headphones that you purchased. If your headphones have an impedance of fewer than 80 Ohms, you don’t need to purchase a separate amplifier. On the other hand, headphones with an impedance greater than 80 Ohms could use a hand in amplifying sound. If say, you are not satisfied with the audio quality of a certain music file, then a headphone amplifier will be a great help in terms of improving the sound.
Low impedance headphones or those with active noise cancellation capabilities do not require an external amp. On the other hand, if you are using high impedance headphones and the audio isn’t as rich or detailed, then an external amp is perfect for your needs.
Benefits of Headphones Amp
Enhanced Sound Augmentation
If your headphones aren’t delivering as loud audio as you would like or if the sound quality isn’t as detailed, you’ll benefit from a headphone amplifier. It won’t transform the audio quality magically but it will improve the sound quality of poorly formatted audio. The amp could boost the bass or enhance the track’s details.
Some headphones are plagued with distortion at high volumes. Headphone amps reduce distortion, delivering clear sound at moderate and high volumes alike.
Wider Impedance Range
Most headphone amps, including those under $100, support a wide range of headphone impedance. Impedance determines which headphones the amplifiers can drive. The wider the range, the better it is for these amps to boost the audio.
How Much are You Willing to Spend?
Your budget is one of the most important things to consider when shopping for an external amp. Our list features the best amps at pocket-friendly prices. The fact is, the performance of the amps isn’t dependent on the price. Pricier amps offer a better build quality on top of extra features and accessories. But in terms of performance, inexpensive amps work just as great as their pricier counterparts.