A Quick Start Guide to Headphone Amps

Many avid music listeners wonder if they need a headphone amp to get the best from their setup. Many more than that wonder what headphone amps even are!

In the simplest terms, a headphone amp sits between your music source and your headphones, and then amplifies that signal. All players have some sort of amp already built in, but many simply cannot be powerful enough to drive some excellent quality headphones whilst being compact enough to fit inside your device.

Factors that affect whether you require a headphone amp or not include the type of headphones you have and their output impedance. The larger your headphones, the more amplification is required. You will find that larger, more high-end headphones are less efficient than others. You’ll be disappointed with the volume of your brand new planar headphones if you aren’t using an amp. However, smaller and more portable options such as in ear monitors will be less likely to require an amp, and noise cancelling earphones shouldn’t need one at all thanks to the built in amp they already have. The same thing applies to output impedance (measured in ohms); the higher the impedance, the more power required. Factors that affect the quality of the headphone amp itself include the amp’s signal to noise ratio (SNR), impedance range, power output, and total harmonic distortion (THD).

To make the buying process a little easier, here are a few of our top headphone amp choices to suit different budgets and requirements.

Portable Headphone Amplifiers

Cayin C6 – £129.00

cayinc6The C6 is designed specifically for Apple products, and even comes with a lightning to micro USB cable, so those with iPhone 7s needn’t worry! The brushed aluminium casing provides elecro-magnetic shielding and is robust enough to ensure the C6 is protected in the face of everyday use.

FiiO A1 – £25.99

FIIOA1LARGEBy far the smallest and most budget friendly amp on this list, the A1 provides a higher power and more hi-fidelity output than smartphones, making it great on the go. It has a removable back clip, four EQ modes, and 13 hours of battery life.

FiiO A5 – £109.00

FIIOA5-BLACKLARGEThe A1’s big brother! The A5 contains a highly efficient, low-resistance power management system that reduces distortion and increases dynamic range. Smart charging means that the battery can be charged in 2.5 hours for 12 hours of useage. There is Hi-Res compatibility and even comes in two different colours.

iBasso D14 Bushmaster – £175.00

IBASSOD14LARGEA model that can work either as a portable amplifier or as a DAC on Android devices, the superior iBasso components means that the Bushmaster will provide you some of the best sound on the go that is currently available.

Desktop Headphone Amplifiers

Questyle CMA400i – £799.99

CMA400iE3LWe’ve already talked about this amazing model on the AMP3 Blog recently, but it is worth talking about this lovingly crafted and extensively tested product that exceeds all expectation again! With many different outputs and switchable voltages as well as balanced support, this model works effectively both as a powerful headphone amp and a brilliant sounding DAC.

Sony TAZH1ES – £1600.00

TAZH1ESCELLARGEA new arena of musical expression – Unleash the full potential of your headphones and experience the emotional impact of every song as the artist intended. Combining the best of digital and analog sound technology, this one’s for the serious listeners.

All of these models are available to order from Advanced MP3 Players, and if you need any further advice, be sure to get in touch!