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. Are you ready for epic audio? Let’s get started.

Zoom Out: Comparison Table of the Best Headphone Amps & DACs

Here’s a quick look at our 10 picks for best headphone amps & DACs. The table is in the same order as our more detailed list further on in this article.

ImageProductDimensionsWeightPrice
1. Creative Sound BlasterX G56 x 1.7 x 5.8"13.7 oz
2. FiiO E10K USB DAC & Headphone Amp6 x 5"6.4 oz
3. Syba Sonic USB Amp DAC4 x 4 x 3.75"12.8 oz
4. FX Audio Amp & USB DAC5.7 x 3.9"1.1lbs
5. Spectra Portable Amp & DAC9"4.8 oz
6. XtremPro Audio Amp4.5 x 3.6 x 1.2"1.8lbs
7. EarStudio Portable Bluetooth Headphone Amp1 x 2"0.7 oz
8. EPOS Sennheiser GSX 300 DAC2.25 x 6.6 x 5.6"10.5 oz
9. Micca OriGen G24.6 x 2 x 2"6 oz
10. Fostex HP-A3 Amp & DAC8 x 7 x 5"1.2lbs

Zoom In: Top 10 Best Headphone Amps and DACs in 2022

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. We’ve included specs and features, as well as consumer feedback for your benefit.

1. Creative Sound BlasterX G5

The best Amp and DAC overall

Manufacturer: Creative | Input: USB/USB-PC/Optical | Audio:  192kHz/24bit | Dimensions: 6 x 1.7 x 5.8″ | Weight: 13.7 oz | Price: 💰💰💰💰

The Creative Sound BlasterX G5 Amp is audiophile-grade gear for rocking out in style. It’s an upgrade from the older Creative headphone amp featured on our old list. It delivers best-in-class hardware acceleration and proprietary SBX Pro Studio technology let’s you easily switch between profiles- which you can easily setup within the companion app. Loads of connectors and easy charging make it one of the best headphone amps for gaming.

  • USERS LIKE
  • 120dB USB DAC delivers flawless audio quality
  • The price is more than fair, especially for beginners
  • The app has profiles curated for specific games to optimize your sound experience
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Software can be a little buggy
  • Can’t turn off the LEDs on the device
  • Doesn’t work very well with cheaper headphones

2. FiiO E10K USB DAC & Headphone Amp

Our pick for the best DAC amp for PC gaming headphones

Manufacturer: FiiO | Input: USB-C | Audio: 96kHz/24bit| Dimensions: 6 x 5″ | Weight: 6.4 oz | Price: 💰💰

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.

  • USERS LIKE
  • PCM102 DAC chip for high quality audio
  • Upgraded USB-C powered for easy plug-and-play performance
  • Brushed aluminum design with various connection ports
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Pricey for the features
  • Not suitable for high powered headphones
  • Wasn’t a huge upgrade for Mac users

3. Syba Sonic USB Amp DAC

The best budget headphone amp

Manufacturer: Syba | Input: USB | Audio: 96kHz/24bit | Dimensions: 4 x 4 x 3.75″ | Weight: 12.8 oz | Price: 💰

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. It’s very easy to set up and use, so it’s a good option for first-timers.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Supports 3.55mm or 1/4″ headphone jacks
  • Operation amplifier powered by USB port for easy connectivity
  • Loaded with operation dials, buttons, and I/O ports for quick customization
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Some reports of a popping sound
  • It’s what you pay for, though it looks nicer
  • Noise floor shows itself before full volume

4. FX Audio Amp & USB DAC

The best desktop headphone amp

Manufacturer: FX-Audio | Input: USB-PC/Optical/Coaxial | USB Audio: 24bit/96kHz; 16bit/192kHz | Dimensions: 5.7 x 3.9″ | Weight: 1.1lbs | Price: 💰💰💰💰

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.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Switching between a PC/Console setup
  • Incredible audio quality with unrivaled desktop performance
  • High output is capable of powering the best headphones on the market
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Power supply problems
  • Low price means a short lifespan
  • Some sound imbalance even at higher levels

5. Spectra Portable Amp & DAC

The best portable headphone amp

Manufacturer: NextDrive | Input: USB | Audio: 32 bits/384 kHz | Dimensions: 9″ | Weight: 4.8 oz | Price: 💰💰💰💰

Is that really an Amp & DAC? Yes, 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 unrivaled flexibility. The Sabre DAC technology supports hi-fi sound and lossless audio quality. For the size you’ll be surprised at what it can deliver to you. The NextDrive Spectra is incredibly portable and lightweight, but capable of powering high impedance headphones. However, do note that some phones might need an adapter to work properly.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Super portable
  • Improves the sound of even budget headphones
  • USB, MicroUSB, and USB-C connectivity supports all your favorite platforms
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Inconsistent driver quality
  • Doesn’t work with iPhones/iPads
  • Problems with the cable not working if it’s turned the wrong way

6. XtremPro Audio Amp

The highest rated and best headphone amp under $100.

Manufacturer: XtremPro | Input: USB/Aux | Dimensions: 4.5 x 3.6 x 1.2″ | Weight: 1.8lbs | Price: 💰💰💰

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.

Features:

  • Portable design boasts quality hi-fi audio
  • Easy to use with no installation required
  • Works with your favorite headphones, earbuds, and speakers
  • USERS LIKE
  • Easy setup
  • Solid build quality
  • Huge improvement to headphones for such a fair price
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Large design, clunky
  • Some grain and edge at lower volumes
  • Not the best choice for loud rock music

7. EarStudio Portable Bluetooth Headphone Amp

The best Bluetooth amp

Manufacturer: EarStudio | Input: USB/Bluetooth | Dimensions: 1 x 2″ | Weight: 0.7 oz| Price: 💰💰💰

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 unrivaled portability this unit offers.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Turns any wired headphones into wireless ones
  • Comes with a dedicated app for easy customization
  • 24-bit bluetooth receiver delivers hi-fi studio-grade audio wirelessly
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Weak buttons, small and fiddly
  • Connectivity issues after long use
  • The app has a lot of features, not suitable for beginner audiophiles

8. EPOS Sennheiser GSX 300 DAC

The best DAC for gaming.

Manufacturer: EPOS Gaming & Sennheiser | Input: USB-PC | Audio: 16 bit/48 kHz | Weight: 10.5 oz | Dimensions: 2.25 x 6.6 x 5.6″ | Price: 💰💰

Looking for the best gaming DAC? The EPOS Sennheiser GSX 300 offers an immersive gaming experience. The EPOS Gaming Suite has advanced digital processing that can deliver in both surround and stereo, and you can use the platform to create custom profiles depending on what game you’re playing. We also love the noise cancellation features that EPOS includes, to make sure you can enjoy the audio delivery without interruption.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Value- good quality for the cost
  • Easy to switch between profiles
  • Aesthetically pleasing, made in white and black
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Software troubles, reinstalling may help
  • Not loud enough compared to other DACs
  • Not compatible with some cheaper headphones

9. Micca OriGen G2

Our pick for the best headphone amp under $200.

Manufacturer: Micca | Input: USB/Optical | Audio: 24-bit/192kHz | Dimensions: 4.6 x 2 x 2″ | Weight: 6 oz | Price: 💰💰💰💰

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. The sound delivery is stunning. Plus, the powerful headphone amp supports high-impedance headphones for unmatched versatility.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Clean audio delivery
  • All of the connection options
  • Supports a wide range of stream interfaces
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Construction doesn’t meet the price
  • Not as loud as buyers had hoped for
  • The USB drivers for Windows are inconsistent

10. Fostex HP-A3 Amp & DAC

Our pick for the best headphone amp & DAC

Manufacturer: Fostex USA | Input: USB/Digital/Analog | Audio: 24bit/96kHz | Dimensions: 8 x 7 x 5″ | Weight: 1.2lbs | Price: 💰💰💰💰💰

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.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Attractive design
  • 32 bit DAC offers truly immersive audio
  • Works with a range of headphones, and features various I/O ports
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Visually unappealing
  • USB connection isn’t great
  • Optical cable connector broke

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?

Audioengine D1 Digital-to-Analog Converter
The Audioengine D1 DAC (Image Credit: AudioEngineUSA.com)

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.

spectra external amp
External Amp (Image Credit: NextDrive-Spectra.io)

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.

headphone power calculator
Headphone Power Calculator

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
  • Compatibility
  • Price

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: