9 Best Headphone Amps Under $200 In 2021

At times headphones may disappoint us, even the expensive ones. When at such crossroads, a well-sounding amplifier can come to the rescue.

A headphone amplifier can further boost the audio character of compressed song files. Here, we have listed the best headphone amplifiers under $200, which can significantly upgrade your listening experience in 2021.

Table of Contents

Our Top Picks

  • Best Overall: DragonFly Red
    “It is the most popular and highly-recommended headphone amplifier in the market with high performance.”
  • Best Value: Monolith USB Headphone Amplifier
    “It has everything that any other competing headphone amplifier brand offers, at half the cost.”
  • Best Features: iFi Nano iDSD Black Label
    “It offers the best technology and quality internal parts, that promise top quality sound and performance.”
  • Best Durability: Audioengine D1
    “It is stylish and sleek, but also rugged, ideal for tough handling and long-term use.”

Top Headphone Amplifier Reviews of 2021

1. FiiO K5

The FiiO K5 is one of the most popular headphone amplifiers. It has a docking expansion which is suitable for charging and amplification. The amplifier holds true to its promise of high-quality sound and significantly reduced noise. The amplifier comes with volume and gain controls, which yield a highly satisfying listening experience even at different sensitivities.

The body is stylish and looks very premium. The amplifier comes with a USB port and line inputs in addition to the docking option. You can further upgrade the amplification by connecting professional components.

Specifications

  • Docking digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
  • 10 Hz to 90 kHz frequency range.
  • Impedance range: 16 ohms to 300 ohms.
  • 12 dB dynamic range.
  • Analog volume control.
  • 1-year limited warranty.

Pros

  • Clear upbeat sound-quality with wide frequency.
  • Convenient volume control dial.

Cons

  • The docking port can only be used with FiiO phones.

Reasonably priced under $200, the FiiO K5 docking headphone amplifier gives high-definition sound quality.

2. FiiO K3 DSD256

FiiO K3 is among the most recommended and highly rated headphone amplifiers in the market. This is a portable amplifier and can be easily used with any computer system or headphones.

It is small but well-built in an all-metal body. It is very good gear for balanced output. The simple plug-and-play operation and incredible sound quality, makes it one of the most popular headphone amplifiers.

Specifications

  • 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
  • 0/+6 dB Bass boost.
  • Direct Stream Digital technology.
  • 2.5 mm and 3.5 mm output options.
  • Analog volume control.
  • Type-C USB connector.
  • 20 Hz to 80 kHz frequency response.

Pros

  • High-fidelity original sound quality.
  • Analog volume control allows accurate and detailed sound.

Cons

  • When plugged into the mobile phone, it consumes the phone battery for power.

FiiO K3 is a sturdy reliable sound enhancer for rendering high-quality clear music from basic headphones.

3. EarStudio ES100 MK2

The EarStudio ES100 MK2 by Radsone is a compact wireless headphone amplifier that looks very hi-tech. The amplifier yields high-fidelity sound and has an in-built microphone. The high-sensitivity microphone allows you to make hands-free calls. 

The amplifier also works with car audio. With a powerful battery performance and wide-range wireless connectivity, it is a one-stop solution for enhancing your music experience on-the-go.

Specifications

  • 24-bit digital-to-audio converter (DAC).
  • Bluetooth and USB enabled.
  • Advanced Bluetooth Codecs.
  • 10-band EQ.
  • 14-hours battery performance.
  • Analog Volume Control.
  • 2.5 mm balanced output and 3.5 mm unbalanced output.
  • 1-year limited warranty.

Pros

  • Wireless connectivity all supports voice-calling.
  • Easy to operate and convenient to handle.

Cons

  • The firmware update process is a bit complicated.

Earstudio ES100 is a very affordable and highly-functional enhancement for all your music devices.

4. SABAJ Headphone Amplifier Da3

The Sabaj Headphone Amplifier Da3 is an extremely powerful gadget in the budget range. It renders high-resolution sound with low distortion and balanced output. The ultra-high dynamic range guarantees superior performance. The OLED display improves the functionality of the amplifier significantly and offers good control to the user. The sleek modeling and silicone surface protector is an added bonus.

Specifications

  • Up to a 32-bit depth
  • 0.96 OLED display screen
  • Supports Direct Stream Digital for original sound
  • Dual ultra-low phase noise crystal
  • 125 dB dynamic range
  • Impedance range: 16 ohms to 300 ohms
  • Dual digital-to-analog converter
  • Dual headphone output ports

Pros

  • High-resolution sound with least distortion.
  • Balanced output performance.

Cons

  • The body has sharp edges which are slightly inconvenient for handling.

Sabaj Da3 is a stylish receiver for high-fidelity and low distortion music amplification.

5. Williams Sound PockeTalker Ultra

Williams Sound PockeTalker runs on two AAA alkaline batteries and is ideal for personal listening sound amplification. The PockeTalker comes as a kit with a microphone and headphone, and it is pitched as a phone-conversation amplifier. 

The amplifier reasonably cuts out background noise and renders clear natural sound. It significantly clarifies the sound within a room and neighboring environment.

Specifications

  • 20 Hz to 20 kHz frequency range.
  • External tone and volume controls.
  • 6-feet microphone cord.
  • 200-hours battery performance.
  • 5-year warranty.

Pros

  • Portable, lightweight and easy handling.
  • Satisfactorily reduces background noise generated in hearing aids.

Cons

  • This amplifier has limited application for music devices.

PockeTalker is the best personal hearing aid amplifier under $200.

6. AudioQuest – DragonFly Red

AudioQuest – DragonFly Red is a highly recommended headphone amplifier with rave reviews. It is ultra-compact and designed like a USB drive. At a very affordable price, the DragonFly Red delivers high-fidelity sound in a sophisticated stylish design. It also allows updates to the firmware on the amplifier with a device manager application.

A USB-A to USB-C converter is included in the package, which facilitates compatibility with many devices. This pocket-friendly amplifier guarantees high-resolution playback.

Specifications

  • 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
  • Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology supported.
  • USB-A to USB-C converter cable included in the package.
  • Digital volume control.

Pros

  • Delivers greatly enhanced audio.
  • Convenient size and handling.

Cons

  • The device may heat up slightly with extended use.

The design and technology of AudioQuest DragonFly Red is very convenient and high on efficiency, definite value for money.

7. Monolith USB Headphone Amp

Yet again, Monolith has brought a product to the market which delivers highly competitive sound performance at almost half the price of its competitors. The Monolith USB Headphone Amplifier is a huge promise for entry-level audiophiles, though it may falter a bit on the built and construction.

It is probably the most affordable upgrade for basic headphones and yields balanced sound and deep bass. With its small size, lightweight structure and plug-and-play USB controller, this amplifier is sure to come in useful for all your devices.

Specifications

  • 32-bit digital-to-analog converter (DAC).
  • USB plug-and-play input.
  • Savitech SA9227 USB controller.
  • 122 dB signal to noise ratio.
  • 1-year replacement warranty.

Pros

  • Convenient push-button volume control.
  • Great sound quality at a low price.

Cons

  • The body material appears delicate and not as rugged as claimed.

The performance of budget-friendly Monolith USB Headphone Amplifier competes with higher-priced headphone amplifiers.

8. iFi Nano iDSD Black Label

The portable iFi Nano iDSD Black Label has a high Direct Stream Digital (DSD) rating that plays high-quality digital audio. With this technology, the amplifier can convert compressed digital files to a high-quality original sound.

The amplifier claims to be 10-times more powerful than the amplification on an iPhone, which is pretty impressive. The iFi Nano yields a clear balanced sound with minimal noise. The iFi Nano also has a cool built-in feature that allows you to tinker with playback.

Specifications

  • Digital Stream Digital (DSD) digital-to-analog converter.
  • USB2.0 input.
  • Audio fixed-line L/R output.
  • 3-feet USB cable included in the packaged.
  • 12-months warranty.
  • Master Quality Authenticated (MQA) technology supported.

Pros

  • 10-hour battery performance.
  • Precise volume control button.

Cons

  • None.

The iFi Nano is packed with superior patented technology which can raise a headphone to its true potential.

9. Audioengine D1

The Audioengine D1 is a reliable digital-to-analog converter (DAC) and headphone amplifier. It guarantees high-quality audio and excellent noise isolation. It comes with USB and optical input options. Besides being compatible with popular headphone brands, the device is also compatible with all leading computer systems, music players, television sets, and speakers.

The plug-and-play feature of the amplifier is also quite handy. Since its launch in 2012, the Audioengine D1 has been the top preference of music lovers.

Specifications

  • 24-bit digital-to-analog converter.
  • USB plug-and-play input.
  • Optical / TSOLINK input.
  • Analog audio output.
  • Recommended headphone impedance of 10 ohms to 10K ohms.
  • 10 Hz to 25 kHz frequency range.
  • 2-feet USB cable included in the package.

Pros

  • Allows direct volume control from the front panel.
  • 3-year warranty.

Cons

  • The volume control button on the amplifier lacks a position marker.

The Audioengine D1 delivers premium sound quality with low noise.

Buying Guide: Headphone Amps

Buying a headphone amplifier is like a gateway to the audiophile world. It is, therefore, very important to choose the right headphone amp, which will enhance the way you experience your music stream or library. Consider these tips when buying a headphone amp, so that you make the right choice.

  1. Impedance

A headphone amplifier boosts sound quality output by applying more power for greater performance. Headphones with low impedance do not require much power to drive optimum sound. However, high impedance headphones require a powerful amplifier to drive great sound, and the difference is noticeable.

  1. Gain Switch

Some headphone amplifiers allow the users to control the power supply to the headphone so that it matches the sound impedance level of the music played. The advantage of such flexibility is that you can accommodate the amplifier’s capacity according to any headphone.

  1. Output

Headphones require either 2.5 mm or 3.5 mm connections. At the time of buying a headphone amplifier, you must check if the output connections on the amplifier are compatible with the headphones you possess. Some of the headphone amplifiers come with both output connection options and offer greater usability over multiple headphones.

  1. Input

The headphone amplifier must allow necessary input connections suited to your specific requirements.

Example: When choosing a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) amplifier comes with a USB cable connection, please check whether the USB is A-type or C-type. For analog audio connections, the amplifier must allow RCA cable input.

  1. Noise and Dynamic Range

The dynamic range of a headphone amplifier is the clarity of sound at the loudest undistorted output. A headphone amplifier with a higher dynamic range delivers high-quality undistorted sound even at louder volumes.

  1. Power

Many headphone amplifiers are plug-and-play USB-type converters, which extract power from a computer device or power-bank. Some amplifiers have built-in battery power or require to be plugged-in to a power source. It is important to consider the power requirements of the headphone amplifier while making a purchase decision.

  1. Portability

The size of an amplifier is a very important determinant of its portability. There are very compact lightweight amplifiers in the market that can be used on-the-go with any music device. A small size amplifier is suitable as a headphone amplifier for ease of use and handling.

  1. Volume Control

The volume control on an amplifier allows you to pass the desirable amount of signal for amplification. Analog volume control is knob-type or dial-type volume button which allows the user more accuracy in determining the volume level and the sound output. Digital volume control does not offer a great degree of flexibility and accuracy for volume levels.

  1. DAC

Usually, amplifiers process ordinary analog audio files and boost the sound quality. The added advantage of an amplifier with a digital-to-analog converter (DAC) is that it can convert digital media files or streaming music into a clear analog audio signal.

Best Brands: Headphone Amps

  1. FiiO

FiiO is a Chinese brand of sound gears and amplifiers. The company aspires to elevate the reputation of ‘Made in China’ goods, by delivering innovative technology in quality products.

  1. Radsone

Radsone, abbreviated from the phrase ‘Radical Sound’, delivers specialized sound solutions for premium smart-phone audio. It has released some of the best selling audio systems in the market

  1. iFi

iFi is a leading manufacturer of amplifiers for personal sound devices and speakers. The award-winning company has made its mark with high quality products without echo or jitters.

  1. AudioQuest

AudioQuest is a California-based company which is renowned for outstanding quality products at fair price. The brand is highly trusted and revered by music lovers globally.

  1. Audioengine

Audioengine has delivered a premium range of quality sound amplifiers since 2007. The customer policies include the attractive 30-day audition option and 3-year warranty on authorized purchases.

FAQs About Headphone Amplifiers

What is a headphone amp?

A headphone amp is an amplifier which connects to the headphone and upgrades the quality of sound and reduces distortions.

How many headphones can be connected to an amplifier?

The number of headphones which can be connected to an amplifier depends on the number of output ports. Usually a headphone amplifier allows one or two output with 2.5 mm or 3.5 mm connections.

Why do my headphones need an amplifier?

Usually, mobile phones and other devices do not have sufficient power to drive high-impedance sound. If you own headphones with high impedance which require more power to drive the sound, it is a good idea to supplement your set up with an amplifier.

Do I need an Amp with DAC?

High-fidelity headphones yield better performance while processing high resolution music files. However, most of the downloaded music files and streaming music files are in compressed digital form. A digital-to-analog converter (DAC) can process such digital music files to high-fidelity audio files and significantly boost the performance of the headphones.

If I do not hear music at loud volume, do I need a headphone amp?

Even if you do not want to use the headphone amplifier for loud volume listening, the headphone amplifier can significantly reduce noise and distortions and give you a better listening experience.

How can I determine the impedance level suitable for my headphone?

Usually, amplifiers and headphones are paired on the basis of impedance. You can choose an amplifier which is 1/10 the ohms value as that of your headphone’s ohms value.

Conclusion

Decoding the world of headphone amps can be intimidating and even confusing. You might have never heard of headphone amplifiers before. Or even if you did hear of it, the sheer technicality may have driven you off.

Our list of top quality headphone amplifiers is a great reference for understanding the nuances of headphone amplifiers and selecting your first headphone amp at an affordable price.

About Ronald Ross

Being a seasoned musician myself, I share experiences that help other musicians on their journeys. Whether it's about musical equipment, streaming services, instruments or promoting music; I try to cover everything at Loud Beats. Learn more about me here.