Last updated: Friday, January 25, 2019
The best headphone amp and DAC is required to get the most from your audio experience. Combined, they offer the power and formatting required for your audio files to play beautifully through your headset.
This article takes you through the top options on the market and gives you the inside scoop on the science and benefits behind these devices. If you’re a fan of breathtaking in-game soundtracks, or if you just love to jam out to your favorite music in style, you’ll definitely want to pick up one of the best headphone amps and DACs of 2019. Are you ready for epic audio? Let’s get started.
Top 10 Best Headphone Amp and DAC of 2019
We’ve curated a list of best headphone amp/DAC options on the market. Have a look at the ratings and features to find the perfect model for your needs.
Our pick for the best DAC amp for PC gaming headphones
Looking for a powerful amp and DAC in one attractive unit? The FiiO E10K is USB powered to offer stunning audio quality and a low noise floor. It comes with various connection options for your favorite headphones or digital audio destination. Plus, the brushed aluminum design is durable and ultra stylish.
- PCM102 DAC chip for high quality audio
- Brushed aluminum design with various connection ports
- USB powered for easy plug-and-play performance
Our pick for the best budget headphone amp
Cheap doesn’t always mean low quality. The Syba Sonic is the best cheap headphone amp available, featuring easy plug-and-play USB connectivity and powerful performance. It also comes with integrated noise-pop suppression and a top-notch operation amplifier.
- Operation amplifier powered by USB port for easy connectivity
- Supports 3.55mm or 1/4″ headphone jacks
- Loaded with operation dials, buttons, and I/O ports for quick customization
Our pick for the best headphone amp for gaming & best DAC for PC gaming
The Creative Sound Blaster E5 Amp is audiophile-grade gear for rocking out in style. It features best-in-class hardware acceleration, bluetooth connectivity, and proprietary SBX Pro Studio technology. Loads of connectors and easy charging make it one of the best headphone amps for gaming.
- 120dB SNR DAC delivers flawless audio quality
- Portable design with bluetooth connectivity and NFC technology
- Sports two built-in microphones for additional support and easy recording
Our pick for the best desktop headphone amp
The FX Audio Amp is a great choice for desktop gaming and music lovers. This headphone amp and DAC decoder comes packed full of audio adjustment dials for enhancing sound on the fly, as well as various output ports. A powerful amp with a stylish design.
- Incredible audio quality with unrivalled desktop performance
- High output is capable of powering the best headphones on the market
- Fantastic consumer reviews ensure a quality product
Our pick for the best portable headphone amp
This unassuming amp is one of the best portable headphone amps on the market, and it rivals the performance of products twice the size. Enjoy hi-fi sound with a quality DAC, great compatibility, and unrivalled flexibility.
- Sabre DAC technology supports hi-fi sound and lossless audio quality
- USB, MicroUSB, and USB-C connectivity supports all your favorite platforms
- Incredibly portable and lightweight, but capable of powering high impedance headphones
Our pick for the highest rated & best headphone amp under $100
This headphone amp and DAC is perfect for your home or office, featuring a portable design and easy connectivity. The intuitive interface offers one knob for easy adjustments while boasting superior hi-fi audio quality. Plus, it’s highly versatile, connecting to most headphones and speakers without sacrificing on performance.
- Portable design boasts quality hi-fi audio
- Easy to use with no installation required
- Works with your favorite headphones, earbuds, and speakers
Our pick for the best bluetooth amp
Looking for a powerful amp that doesn’t require a physical connection to your computer? The EarStudio Bluetooth amp features 24bit bluetooth technology that delivers studio-grade hi-fi audio wirelessly. Experience incredible ambient sound and stunning audio, all while enjoying the intuitive interface and unrivalled portability this unit offers.
- 24-bit bluetooth receiver delivers hi-fi studio-grade audio wirelessly
- Portable design offers a quick install for maximum flexibility
- Comes with a dedicated app for easy customization
Our pick for the best DAC for gaming
Looking for the best gaming DAC? The AudioEngine D1 offers an immersive gaming experience. It’s compatible with your PC or Mac and delivers flawless, bit-perfect HD audio with low jitters. Sporting USB and optical inputs, it’s a great plug-and-play product that’s perfect for all your gaming needs.
- Versatile design accepts both USB and optical input for wide compatibility
- HD audio delivers 2- bit quality and any sample rate up to 192KHz
- The best DAC for gaming on our list
Our pick for the best headphone amp under $200
The Micca Origin G2 amp and DAC is an audiophile’s dream. It supports high resolution audio up to 24 bits and offers an advanced audio stream interface that supports both ASIO and WASAPI. Plus, the powerful headphone amp supports high-impedance headphones for unmatched versatility.
- High resolution 24-bit audio delivers stunning sound
- USB or Optical input for flexible connectivity
- Supports a wide range of stream interfaces, backed by fantastic reviews
Our pick for the best headphone amp and DAC
The most expensive option on our list, the Fostex Headphone Amp and DAC delivers unrivalled performance with best-in-class 32-bit audio. The analog drive will power the best headphones on the market, and USB or Optical inputs provide great flexibility. Perhaps the best headphone amp and DAC available.
- 32 bit DAC offers truly immersive audio
- Works with a range of headphones, and features various I/O ports
- Attractive design and perfect consumer ratings deliver a powerful system
What is a Headphone Amp and DAC?
Headphone amps and DACS allow you to play and listen to digital music and other audio files through your headphones. For a clearer picture of what’s involved, let’s take a look at the definitions of each term:
Headphone Amp: power source designed to drive a headphone’s internal speakers
Headphone DAC: digital-to-analog converter that translates audio files
Due to the high impedance (power level) that quality headphones require, a solid amp are DAC is necessary to get the most from your audio. Whether you’re an audiophile, gamer, or just love the sound of quality music, the best headphone amps and DACS are a must. But how exactly do they work?
How do Headphone Amps and DACs Work?
Music and other audio files that are stored and played on a computer are formatted in a specific way. Namely, the files are composed of binary digital data (think 1s and 0s) that needs to be translated to analog format to play through your headphones. This is where a DAC or digital-to-analog converter comes into play. It translates the audio file, such as an mp3, and spits it out so that your headphones can understand and play it.
However, you can’t connect and use your headphones directly through a DAC. For that you need a catalyst to power the process, aka an amp or amplifier. Most modern computers come with an amp already built-in to the system. But what if the integrated amp just can’t match the quality capacity of your headphones? That’s where the best headphone amp and DAC comes into play.
Benefits of a Headphone Amp and DAC
Aside from being required for proper audio configuration of your favorite headset, the best headphone amps and DACs offer numerous other benefits:
- Epic Audio Quality. What better reason to grab an amp and DAC than fantastic audio quality that blows your integrated option away? Immersive gaming, ambient music streaming, and powerful beats are only a plug-in away.
- Versatile. Many of the best headphone amps are powered via USB connection. This makes it a great choice for use on all your systems, and the portability is hard to beat.
- Adjustable Controls. If you’re a control freak, amps and DACs offer fine-tuned levels of customization. From sound knobs to frequency levels and more- you can adjust your audio experience to match your listening needs.
- Stylish & Durable. Amps and DACs are made from numerous materials, with top options featuring metal and hard plastics. This ensures a sleek look that can handle whatever you throw at it.
- Affordable. An epic sound system doesn’t have to cost a fortune. The best headphone amp and DAC makes it easy to experience quality audio with great options starting under $50.
Plus, that’s only a taste of the features the best headphone amps and DACs have in store. Each option comes with its own specifications and add-ons for the best experience possible.
But which one should you choose?
Choosing the Best Headphone Amp and DAC
To see what type of amp and DAC you should get, first check the impedance and sensitivity levels of your headphones (found on the packaging or product page). Take those numbers and plug them into a headphone power calculator. The calculator will give you the power levels required from your headphone amp and DAC for epic audio quality.
Compare the required power levels against the specifications of the amp and DAC you’d like to get. If the power levels of the amp and DAC are higher, you’re set to go!
However, there are some other things to think about before making the final purchase. Let’s have a look:
- Single unit, or separate amp and DAC
- Brand & manufacturer
- Type & size
- Control options
Keep these things in mind as you check out our top 10 list to find the best headphone amp and DAC for you. Once you’ve decided on the perfect option, it’s time to put it to the test.
How to Use a Headphone Amp and DAC
Fortunately, using the best headphone amp and DAC isn’t very difficult. While some installation is usually required, most of the top options on our list connect to your computer via a simple USB connector.
Tech Quickie on YouTube does an excellent job explaining the process and gives you an overview of using the best amp and DAC: