Best Headphones Amp: Sound Amplified

In today’s market, there is no shortage of products on offer to maximize audio experience for music lovers.

Headphones have come into their own, with the range, and functionality on offer being unequaled.

Schiit Magni 3+ Headphone Amp and Preamp
VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier
Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier
MSRP
Price not available
Price not available
Price not available
Our Rating
-
-
-
Wide Frequency Response
Weight
9.6 oz
13.1 oz
9.6 oz
Power Input
10 V DC
2 X AA batteries
12 V DC
Schiit Magni 3+ Headphone Amp and Preamp
MSRP
Price not available
Our Rating
-
Wide Frequency Response
Weight
9.6 oz
Power Input
10 V DC
More Information
VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier
MSRP
Price not available
Our Rating
-
Wide Frequency Response
Weight
13.1 oz
Power Input
2 X AA batteries
More Information
Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier
MSRP
Price not available
Our Rating
-
Wide Frequency Response
Weight
9.6 oz
Power Input
12 V DC
More Information

But for those who want to take it to the next level, an investment in a headphone amp is the way to go.

In this article, we discover the 5 best headphone amps on the current market. We also answer your headphone amp questions with our FAQ section.

BEST OVERALL: Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp

Schiit Magni 3+ Headphone Amp and Preamp

Specs

  • Number of sections: 1
  • Wide Frequency Response: Yes
  • Size: 2.4 lbs.
  • Weight: 4.5 x 5 x 1.4 inches
  • Power Input: 10v DC

Benefits

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp is the best priced, highest performing headphone amp on the current market, bar none. It acts as both a headphone amp and a pre-amp. It delivers outstanding performance and is extremely durable.

Drawbacks

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp provides you with a power brick that is too big and bulky. It is also constantly warm to the touch.

Extra Features

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp provides you with three speaker outputs. This allows you to connect it to your speaker power as an amp or as a pre-amp. Alternatively, you can hook it up to your monitor to operate as a complete system. This is the 3rd generation of the Schiit Magni headphone amp, so all the kinks have been ironed out.

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp provides you with a built-in time delay startup. It features an elegant, rather exotic design that looks great.

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp delivers an impressive sound. It is designed to have low distortion, very low noise floor and switchable gain. A new feature of this version is the Magni gain stage, which a fully discrete, high-speed, DC-coupled, current feedback system. 

This is a great feature that you hardly ever see in headphone amps at this price range and represents great value for money! The power reserve of this device is impressive with a full 2000mW into 32 ohms,

Buying Advice

The Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp represents fantastic value for money and delivers the premium features that you never see elsewhere at this price point.

This is hands down the best-valued headphone and pre-amp on today’s market and romps in as our favorite headphone amp.

RUNNER UP: VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier

Specs

  • Number of sections: 1
  • Wide Frequency Response: Yes
  • Size: 7 x 1 x 5 inches
  • Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Power Input: AA btteries x 2

Benefits

The VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier has been a top seller for more than a decade and it is easy to see why. It delivers nine different rhythm patterns, 17 hours of playtime and a great sound experience.

Drawbacks

The VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier positions the rhythm control and volume buttons very close together. This may cause you to hit one when you are going for the other.

Extra Features

The VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier provides you with three modes of analog circuitry. You get multi-effect functionality along with a foldable plug mechanism that rotates 180 degrees and an auto-power off function. This is a very compact unit that comes in a sleek slimline design.

 The VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier is a second generation model. This new version has made significant refinements to enhance the audio experience.

These include a tube amp responds to different guitars, pickups, and volume along with recreating the sense of air movement within the speaker cabinet. The sound that results from these improvements is genuinely impressive.

This unit provides you with nine selectable effects to provide you with all the audio variation you could ever want.

Each amp provides you with three functions: “AC30” provides use of a tremolo circuit, “Classic Rock” features a mid-boost, “Metal” gives you mid-cut and “Bass” allows the amount of gain to be switched. You also get three types of Chorus, Delay and Reverb.

The plug that goes into your guitar is able to rotate up to 180 degrees through five stages. An auto off function turns off the power by detecting operations or audio signals within a 30-minute time frame. This feature helps preserve battery life, which is a very impressive 17 hours. You also get an AUX in jack for your MP3 player.

Buying Advice

The VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier provides excellent amplifier sound in one, functional little package.

It includes several refinements over the previous version of this amp and delivers an extremely, clear, present sound.

ALTERNATIVE: Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier

Headphone Amplifier Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel

Specs

  • Number of sections: 4
  • Wide Frequency Response: Yes
  • Size: 4.1 x 2.2 x 1.8 inches
  • Weight: 13.1 ounces
  • Power Input: 12v DC

Benefits

The Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a simple, 4 input amp from one of the most respected manufcturers in the market.

Drawbacks

The Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier does not come with an extender cord. You will need to buy a 1/4″ ‘TRS’ cord to connect from the Fast Track’s headphone jack to the input of this headphone amp.

It also does not include a pre-amp for bass, treble, etc, so it will not change the tonal renditions of the audio, but simply amplify it.

Extra Features

The Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier provides you with 4 control knobs for your earphones or headset. Your purchase comes with a 12V DC adapter.

This device is extremely versatile, allowing it to be paired with virtually any headphone. You can actually use four headphones at the same time if you so desire! This unit contains four high power stereo amplifiers to ensure that the highest sound quality is maintained, even at the top volume.

Even though the Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a micro device it has been fitted with ultra low-noise 4580 operational amplifiers to ensure outstanding audio performance – these are the same amps found in “full-size” audio equipment.

The Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is manufactured out of Germany by Behringer, who are a well-established name in the audio industry.

Buying Advice

The Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a minute amp that performs well. It provides you with just the basics, but allows you to connect four different mics at the same time.

ALTERNATIVE: Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier

Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier

Specs

  • Number of sections: 4
  • Wide Frequency Response: Yes
  • Size: 9.6 oz
  • Weight:  4.2×2.4×1.8 inches
  • Power Input: 12v DC

Benefits

The Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier provides you with a very high level of sound reinforcement in a compact package. It delivers wide frequency response, ultra low noise and premium sonic quality.

Drawbacks

Many people consider this product to be a cheap knock-off of the Behringer Microamp HA400 (our previously reviewed headphone). However, we were not able to find any quality issues with the Neewer amp.

Extra Features

The Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a specialized amp that is designed for sound reinforcement, studio, stage, choir and personal recording.

It also provides you with ultra low noise, premium sonic quality and wide frequency response, all in a slimline micro amp that is compact and sturdy. You can hook up to four sets of headphones into this amp, with up to four independent volumes. We were impressed that the premium sound quality did not diminish even at higher volumes.

Each channel on the Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is equipped with its own output volume control, allowing each user to adjust their ideal monitor volume. This is a stereo input device.

Buying Advice

The Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is another compact little unit that performs very well. It allows for the connection of four sets of headphones and delivers wide frequency response, premium sonic quality and independent volume control.

If you are after a headphone amp for the studio, stage, choir or personal recording, then the Neewer Super Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier is a smart choice.

ALTERNATIVE: Mackie Mixer Accessory

Mackie Mixer Accessory, 1-ch x 4 headphones (HM-4)

Specs

  • Number of sections: 4
  • Wide Frequency Response: Yes
  • Size: 8 oz
  • Weight: 4.3 x 2.3 x 2 inches
  • Power Input: 12v AC

Benefits

The Mackie Mixer HM4 is a simple, multi-use mixer that is built like a tank to ensure long term durability no matter how rough you treat it. It enables you to share a single stereo source with up to four different sets of headphones.

Drawbacks

You are unable to add a separate input to each channel of the Mackie Mixer HM4. It only has a single quarter inch TRS input. There is also no option to run the headphones in mono. Finally, there is no provision for this amp to be rack mounted.

Extra Features

The Mackie Mixer HM4 provides you with individual volume control on each of the four separate channels. It is powered by way of  a 12v AC adapter which comes with your purchase.

The Mackie mixer series are known for their high grade construction. They feature a heavy gauge steel chassis, along with long wear potentiators and switches that provide you with the assurance that they will perform for many years to come.

The Mackie Mixer HM4 provides you with an impedance input of 10,000 ohms and an output of 47ohms. The frequency response is 20Hz to 20,000 Hz.

The premium analog circuitry and design ensures an ultra low noise floor and high headroom. The HM-4 is one of  series of three headphone amps by Mackie, with other two allowing for 12 and 16 headphone outputs respectively.

Buying Advice

The Mackie Mixer HM4 is a solid performer from a very well-established manufacturer of high quality audio equipment.

It is robust, compact and functional, offering a simple design that does the job well.

Headphone Amp FAQ

What are headphone amps used for?

Headphone amps are quiet low powered amplifiers that enhance the low voltage audio signal coming into the headphones from your music source so that it can be converted into soundwaves by the speakers that are housed within your headphones.

The majority of headphone amps have a part called a digital to analog converter (DAC), which converts the digital audio signal into a low voltage signal that the amp is able to accentuate.

headphones amp review

If your music source is analog, such as a turntable or a tape deck, then you do not require a headphone amp. That is because the source will already provide the headphones with analog low voltage signals.

However, digital audio devices such as your smartphone, laptop or iPod will need a headphone amp with a digital to analog converter built into it.

Every digital device that you will be plugging your headphones into will already come with a headphone amp and built-in digital to audio converter. The problem is that the quality of those components vary hugely from brand to brand.

A lot of laptops, especially, have pretty poor headphone amps. As a result, the sound quality that you hear through your headphones is less than ideal.

The same thing applies to phones. There are some good ones but there are also a whole lot of bad ones.

What qualities should I look for in a headphone amplifier?

Here are the key things that you should look out for:

Inputs – look for a device that has detachable cables; these will provide you with more options and will give you a longer cable length. You can also more easily switch out a detachable cable that is faulty.

Controls – look for an amp with easy to use controls; the easier it is to use, the more frequently you will make use of it. There should be a very narrow learning curve when you first get our headphone amp.

Power – the power here is with regard to the runtime of the unit as well as the power source that it draws from. The most user friendly system is rechargeable batteries.

Size – headphone amps come in two sizes. For basic in-home use go with a desktop amp. If you are going to be using it while mobile, choose a portable amp.

Output Impedance – if the impedance rating of your headphones is over 100m then you will need an amp.

Sound Quality – you want the sound quality to exceed that of the connected device. It should be distraction and white noise free. Some headphone amps are designed to highlight a particular aspect of the sound.

Do you really need a headphone amp?

No, you do not necessarily need a headphone amp.

Headphone amps will improve the quality of the sound that your headphones produce. But this improvement will not really be noticeable on a pair of cheap headphones. Generally speaking, if your headphones cost less thn $30, you probably won’t benefit from a headphone amp.

But if you have invested in a more expensive set of headphones and you are introducing the most pristine sound possible, you should definitely fork out for a headphone amp.

review of magni amp

A type of headphone that definitely does need an amp is what we call the high-impedance headphone. Impedance refers to the resistance of an electrical signal. It is measured in ohms.

Higher ohm headphone speakers will provide more resistance to the electrical signal. Headphones will vary in their impedance levels from a low of 16 ohms to a high of around 600 ohms.

Thee high amp headphones will need a greater level of amplification in order to drive the headphones. You can find the impedance of your headphones in the spec sheet on the website or in the owner’s manual.

Some high-end headphones, such as the Seinhesser HD800, have been created to be used in recording studios that make use of the advanced audio equipment that they contain.

To get the sound you need from them you will need to use headphone amp that delivers more voltage is required so that you can play your music at the volume and with the precision that you want.

There are also some modern designs of headphone that use planar magnetic drivers rather than dynamic drivers. These will also require a separate headphone amp to get the most out of them.

When paired with a decent set of headphones, a good headphone amp will add depth and color to your music.

Can you plug headphones into a guitar amp?

No, you should not plug your headphones into your guitar amp.

Headphones do not require a lot of power. They certainly do not require a lot of voltage. Power out of an amplifier is a combination of current and volts. A speaker needs between 20 and 40 volts.

You may know that amps X volts = watts, so if you have good amperage and high voltage, then you will be producing a couple of hundred watts. However, a set of headphones requires 3 volts at most. That is about ten times less voltage than you would get if you plugged your headphones into your guitar amp.

You would end up frying your headphones with the overpowering level of voltage that you are surging into them.

If you are really set on using your guitar amp with your headphones, you would have to figure out some way to attenuate the voltage that was coming out of the amp so that it didn’t burn up the headphones.

But unless you have got an attenuator that will take the output of the amplifier and reduce it by at least a factor of ten times, you should not even consider plugging your headphones into your guitar amp.

How do I know if my amp is bad?

In order to maintain a clear, crisp, beautiful audio experience, you need to ensure that your amp is operating at full potential. The following signs will let you know that your amp needs attention.

First, look for lights indicating that the amp is turned on. Listen out for any noises that the amp makes when it is switched on.

headphone and amp test in studio

Next, check the wiring to make sure that the amp is plugged in. If it plugs into the wall, check that the power cord is working. Check, too, that any subwoofers, guitar, speakers and other componentry that you are using are connected to the amp.

Now check the sound quality on the amp, listening out for any unusual noises. Distortion may be caused by loose wires. Adjusting your setup my also eliminate any slight noise distortion that you are experiencing.

If you cannot hear any sound at all but are sure that the amp is on, then you know that the problem lies with the wiring.

Conclusion

The best headphone amp on the current market is the Schiit Magni 3 Headphone Amp and Preamp.

Our second best portable headphone amp is the VOX AP2BS amPlug 2 Guitar/Bass Headphone Amplifier.

Rounding out our top 3 best headphone amps under 200 dollars is Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier.

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