If you have invested in a pair of high-end headphones, you clearly care about sound quality. But do you know how to improve the clarity and detail of your music even further? The answer is with an audiophile headphone amp. This article will explain how headphones amps are a must for audiophiles and reveal the five best headphone 3.5 mm jack amplifiers for audiophiles.
In a hurry? The best audiophile headphone amplifiers on the market in 2021 are the FiiO Q1 Mark II Headphone Amplifier and the S.M.S.L SP200 Balanced XLR Headphone Amp. The FiiO Q1 Mark II is the top choice for portability and Apple devices. In contrast, the S.M.S.L SP200 makes the best desktop version.
Audiophile Headphone Amp: Quick Comparison
FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD Headphone Amplifier||Check Price|
S.M.S.L SP200 Balanced XLR Headphone Amp||Check Price|
LOXJIE P20 Tube Fully Balanced Headphone Amp||Check Price|
FiiO Bluetooth USB Headphone Amplifier||Check Price|
Neoteck 3.5mm Headphone Amplifier||Check Price|
Best Headphone 3.5 Mm Jack Amplifier For Audiophiles 2021: Reviews
1. FiiO Q1 Mark II Native DSD Balanced Headphone Amplifier
The amp uses the XMOS platform with native DSD decoding chips to support decoding of more formats and up to 384 kHz /32 bit PCM.
This high-end headphone amp features official Apple MFi certification, promising perfect compatibility with all iOS versions.
In addition, it has two gain and bass-boost switches so that you can fine-tune to the sensitivity of your headphones.
There are single-ended and balanced outputs, and the USB interface automatically determines your input type for a more seamless experience.
Another great feature of the Mark II is the ADC volume adjustment mechanism, eliminating any volume imbalance between the two channels.
In addition, the amp supplies up to 20 hours of battery life (10 in DAC mode, 20 in pure amplifier mode), weighs just 100 grams, and measures 4 x 0.5 x 2.3 inches.
- Ideal for Apple users
- Long battery life
- Two settings to adjust and fine-tune the gain
- Single-ended and balanced outputs
- Top choice for a portable amp
- Connectivity with Android smartphones could be better
2. S.M.S.L SP200 Balanced XLR Headphone Amp
It has XLR and RCA inputs along with a balanced headphone jack and a 6.35mm headphone jack.
This mini amp is built to last with features such as high precision resistors to stabilize the temperature and a high-efficiency ultra-low noise power supply.
Furthermore, the THX patented circuit uses advanced error correction technology to eliminate distortion, giving the highest fidelity and ultra-low crosstalk.
As well as being durable, this desktop amplifier is straightforward to use with toggle switches for volume and gain control.
It measures 160 x 149 x 73 mm and weighs 772g. You can adjust the gain between 6dB and 18dB, and the frequency response is 0.1Hz – 500kHz(-3dB).
- Compatible with most headphones
- XLR and RCA inputs
- High fidelity and ultra-low crosstalk
- Sturdy and durable construction
- Top choice for a desktop amp
- Sight channel imbalance at lower volumes can happen
3. LOXJIE P20 Tube Fully Balanced Headphone Amp
Best Audiophile Tube Headphone Amp
It is made from military-grade 6N3 electronic tubes and features high-end volume control and carefully tuned and calibrated circuits.
This results in a powerful drive circuit and a robust exterior!
The ‘tube style’ design of this headphone amplifier significantly reduces any distortion. As a result, it adds smoothness, warmth, and powerful dynamics to audiophile headphones.
Meanwhile, the fully balanced input interface maximizes your headphone’s performance further.
It works best with balanced headphones, giving a maximum output power of 600mW 175Ω.
For unbalanced headphones, the amp provides a maximum output of 600mW 29Ω. The desktop amp weighs 600g and measures 9.9 x 7.6 x 4.2 inches.
- Top choice for balanced headphones
- Tube design for smoother audio
- Built like a tank
- Carefully tuned circuits
- Insufficient volume levels with lower-grade headphones
4. FiiO BTR5 384K/32Bit Native Bluetooth USB Headphone Amplifier
Best Audiophile Portable Headphone Amp
It has a wireless design with a Bluetooth chip to connect to earphones, headphones, or external speakers.
In addition, it uses Hi-fi DACs(ES9218P*2) for highly detailed output and an Xmos XUF208 chip for top-level decoding up to 384kHz and Native DSD.
This high fidelity Bluetooth headphone amp has a compact, slimline design that makes it easier to carry around with you, fitting into any size pocket.
The USB connection port uses independent dual crystal oscillators for the most accurate audio signal reproduction.
It also features a balanced 2.5mm output and a single-ended 3.5mm output. Moreover, the 550mA battery gives a decent 9 hours of playback time.
Other technical details include a 122dB signal-to-noise ratio, unbalanced output power of 80mW 32Ω, and balanced output power of 240mW 32Ω.
It weighs a tiny 1.55 ounces and is smaller than an inch in length.
- Wireless design with flagship Bluetooth chip
- High-performance DAC for impressive dynamics
- Highly accurate USB decoding
- Balanced output
- Less than 1 inch long
- Rather expensive
5. Neoteck 3.5mm Headphone Amplifier
Best Budget Audiophile Headphone Amp
The portable HiFi headphone jack to amplifier has a two-stage gain switch, a micro USB port, and 3.5mm AUX input and output.
Other features include a noise reduction function, perfect pure stereo effect, and HD sound quality optimization.
This Neotech 3.5mm jack amplifier is compact and lightweight. It weighs 4.3 oz and measures 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.6 inches, so it can easily fit in your pocket.
It has a durable yet smooth aluminum matte surface. It uses a rechargeable lithium battery, giving 8 hours of battery life.
It is compatible with most digital devices and supports headphones with 16-150 ohm impedance. The max power outage of this portable app is 250mW 16Ω.
Other technical specifications to note are the signal-to-noise ratio of 120dB, 0.0003% THD+N rate, and frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz.
- Two-stage gain switch
- Reduces distortion and enhances dynamics
- 3.5mm AUX input and output
- Very affordable option
- Lightweight and compact
- It doesn’t support headphones with impedance higher than 150 ohms.
Audiophile High End Headphone Amplifier Buying Guide
What Are Headphone Amplifiers?
Headphone amplifiers are small amplifiers that improve the audio output of your headphones. They work by raising the low-voltage audio signal from your PC, smartphone, or another device to a level that your headphone speakers can convert into soundwaves.
High-end headphone amps can significantly improve the clarity, detail, and dynamics of your music and sound.
DAC Headphone Amps
Most headphone amps in 2021 have a built-in DAC (digital-to-analog converter). DAC headphone amps can convert information from a digital device such as a laptop or tablet into the low-voltage signal needed to produce an audio output into your headphones.
Therefore, if you want to amplify the music you listen to from any digital device, you will need a DAC headphone amp.
Portable vs. Desktop Headphone Amps
Suppose you predominantly use a headphone amp on your smartphone. In that case, it makes sense to get a smaller, portable one as you can put it in your pocket along with your phone.
However, some audiophiles prefer desktop headphone amps as they can have longer battery life and usually have more features.
In general, these are a better option for amplifying audio on a PC or laptop.
Final Words About Best Audiophile Headphone Amp
An audiophile headphone amp is a fantastic gadget that improves your audio quality and helps you make the most of your high-end headphones.
Our reviews found that the best headphone 3.5 mm jack amplifier for audiophiles in 2021 is the highly rated FiiO Q1 Mark II Headphone Amplifier.
Alternatively, the S.M.S.L SP200 Balanced XLR Headphone Amp is the best desktop headphone amp on the market right now.