Best Headphone Amp

Sometimes, when you’re trying to enjoy the music from your smartphone or from your computer or even from your iPod/ iPad/ other music playing device, you find that the volume just isn’t enough. This is a problem that I have personally repeatedly encountered when it comes to trying to enjoy music on my computer (to say nothing of films, which always seem to be unusually quiet even on my gaming laptop). Thankfully, an answer to the problem is close at hand, in the form of the headphone amp.

Some might be on the lookout for the best headphone guitar amp, something that they can plug into while practicing or while in the studio. Some might be here hoping to find something that they (and maybe even a few friends) can use to enjoy their music on the go. Some may even be looking for something to take on stage to run multiple monitors to. Whatever the case, the following products are all in competition for the title of ‘best headphone amp’ among the headphone amps that we were able to review.

Best Headphone Amps – Handpicked By BestPickers

Before we get too far into an in-depth look at the headphone amps that we took a look at, let’s first take a look at the general overview, the lay of the land, a few things that you can look at without knowing too much about the topic and that will allow you to figure out which may be the best headphone amp for you.

You may note that I did not make mention of the decibels that the headphone amps in question could add to your music. That’s because they literally all were able to add enough volume that not being able to hear the music or content you’re listening to was not an issue. These are all pretty powerful, is what I’m trying to say here. Anyway, here’s a quick table to help inform us.

NameNumber Of OutputsPower Supply
Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp1 outputIncluded
Behringer Microamp Ha400 Ultra-Compact 4- Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier4 outputsIncluded
FiiO E10K USB DAC And Headphone Amplifier1 outputMini-USB charges internal battery
Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier4 outputsIncluded
Creative Sound Blaster E1 Portable Headphone Amp1 outputIncluded
VOX AP2AX amPlug AC30 G2 Guitar Headphone1 output2x AAA batteries (not included)
FiiO A1 Portable Headphone Amplifier1 outputMini-USB charges an internal battery

Now that you know what the top headphone amps are, let’s dive right into the product reviews.


NobSound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp – The Audiophile's Choice

If you’re not much of a music person, or you’re not a guitarist or Bob Dylan, you may not know about this, but there has been a long-running debate over which is better, having a tube (analog) amplifier (and, where applicable, tube pre-amp as well) or having a transistor (solid state) amplifier. Tubes will get a clarity of sound you just can’t get elsewhere, but the payoff is that vacuum tubes are a bit temperamental, and they will break, or they will burn out, and then they require replacing. With transistor or ‘solid state’ amps, you don’t ever really have that problem unless you’ve done something wrong.

The NobSound NS-08E is a real oddity in that it is a tube headphone amplifier. It is also, in my opinion, the best headphone amp under 100 dollars that is out on the market (although if you don’t take care, you may find that you end up spending a small fortune in vacuum tube replacements). The two vacuum tubes that help to produce sound make sure that you get a powerful and clear sound. It’s the kind of sound that is so clear, were it to be made physical, it would be crystal glass of the highest quality.

Now, this is not the headphone amp for those who are looking to share their music with friends. This is the headphone amp for the kind of person who is going to come home and really care about their music quality. This is for the kind of guy who still has records and a 200 dollar record player that they need a way to amplify. This is the kind of thing that you’re going to want in a recording studio if you’re the kind of musician who has spent the last decade and 10,000 dollars searching for just the precisely right pickup and guitar pedal combination to get the perfect sound for the song you’ve had in your head for fifteen years.

The device itself is straightforward and beautiful in its simplicity. 3.5mm in, 3.5mm out. It’s got an included power supply, and it produces amplification with absolutely no distortion and no loss of clarity. You can get all this for under a hundred dollars, and that’s a killer deal. Honestly, this is the beast portable headphone amp that 2017 or 16 have to offer us, and if you pick one up, you are going to be very satisfied with your purchase.

  • Amazing sound clarity that you just can’t get anywhere else
  • It’s such a simple product to use, and yet it delivers such powerful and wonderfully clear sound
  • Vacuum tubes may provide amazing sound clarity, but they can also burn out, which can be a hassle to deal with. Also, these vacuum tubes are getting harder and harder to find
  • Vacuum tubes are highly breakable, what with being made of glass and all, and if you’re not gentle with your appliances, or you’re not able to keep this somewhere safe, it may not be the best option for you

Behringer Microamp HA400 Ultra-Compact 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier – For The Person With Friends

The Behringer HA400 is a nice entry into the ‘best headphone amp 2016 created’ competition, even though it’s been available for a while now. It’s also a very useful device, and one that anyone with the need for 4 output jacks from one source will be glad that they have. It’s also an exceedingly simple device. There are 4 outputs that are 3.5mm jacks (also known as the common cable size for an aux cable run from, say, a set of headphones), and one input that is the same size.

Let’s run through a quick hypothetical here; I have an iPod or iPad, and I have four people that want to hear the music it is playing. So, I run a 3.5mm AUX cable from the iPad or iPod to the Behringer HA400, and then I run our headphones into the ports, numbered one through four, and run the power supply to a power outlet. Then I am free to crank up the volume as needed on the amplifier itself, so that everyone will be able to hear it well, even if persons 1 through 3 have good hearing and person 4 is basically deaf.

It comes with the power supply included, of course, and it is a simple solution to the problem of not being able to hear the music that you are trying to enjoy, and one that is very much worth taking a look at. It is good not just for the person with friends who want to hear their music, but also for the musician who needs to be able to run four monitors from the same device, or the recording studio where you are looking to allow a lot of people to hear the work that has been recorded thus far. It’s simple, and it is totally deserving of consideration for best portable headphone amp 2015 brought us (or at very least, perfected).

  • Very simple to work with, doesn’t require a lot of knowledge or a computer or anything like that
  • 4 outputs means that four people can enjoy the music being played
  • The price point is very nice, especially considering what you’re getting for the money
  • Could be a little bit more clarity to the amplification, but you get what you can when you are working with solid state
  • Doesn’t take well to being moved very often

FiiO E10K USB DAC And Headphone Amplifier – The Home Studio Option

The FiiO E10K is a fantastic little headphone amplifier. Sure, it is run by transistors, and is thus a solid state amplifier, but I’m willing to let that go when you consider all the other things that it has going for it. Looking at the front view that I have provided up above, you will notice that it’s pretty simple.

There’s a volume control knob, there’s a switch for on, off, and ‘bass’, and there’s a 3.5mm jack, meaning you can plug almost every common off-the-shelf headphone set into it with little to no effort. It’s the backside, however, that is really the most impressive part of the FiiO E10K. The backside has a mini-USB port. This USB port is the basis of the entire device. It will allow you to plug into almost any device that has a USB or mini-USB port, and will amplify the sounds that you are listening to. However, even better still, it is also how you power the device (well, it can also be charged a bit on its internal battery if that’s something that you want to do).

So, to recap; this device allows you to listen to anything that has a USB drive so long as you have a USB to mini-USB cable, and it has some great clarity to it. It’s also affordable, and though I had never heard of them before, apparently FiiO is a pretty good company when it comes to the quality of the product that they put out. All this combines to make the FiiO E10K a device that is worth a try if you need a USB to 3.5mm headphone amplifier. It is definitely in the running for best headphone amp under 200 dollars, that’s for sure.

  • Decently priced
  • Converts USB signals from a computer to something you can listen to via a 3.5mm cable
  • Being able to power via a USB cable is pretty convenient
  • Sound could be a bit more clear
  • This is not for you if you’re looking to run a ¼ TRS cable or a 3.5mm jack into the amplifier

Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier – The Budget Option

Right from the start, I can tell you this much; the Pyle-Pro PHA40 is basically the poor man’s HA400, if you replaced the 3.5mm jacks with ¼ TRS jacks. This offering, too, is a solid state, transistor-only affair, but for those that have to be mindful of a budget, that is not a bad thing; like I may have said elsewhere, the reality is that replacing a tube is expensive, and believe it or not, you will have to do it for as long as you own the device. There are people who have tube amps that have to replace their tubes quarterly, so that’s not necessarily a loss.

It has one input and 4 outputs, and they are all 1/4 TRS jacks. If you’re not quite sure what a ¼ jack looks like, go to a guitar shop and ask to see guitar cables. The vast majority of them are likely to be of the ¼ variety. Though a lot of people may not know it, for quite some time, the professional-level headphones were run off of the same sized plug and cables. Today, there are comparable plugs that you can use when it comes to running your regular headphones, with their 3.5mm jack size, this is doable. This also includes the power supply, which is an obvious benefit. It may not be the best or the prettiest headphone amplifier 2015 provided us with, but it gets the job done, and that’s all that matters in the long run.

  • Decently priced, definitely the budget option
  • 4 output jacks
  • Included power supply allows you to suitably boost the volume
  • ¼ is not as common a headphone size as it once was
  • The sound clarity could definitely use some improvement

Creative Sound Blaster E1 Portable Headphone Amp With Integrated Mic And Dual Headphone Jacks For PC and Smart Phones – The Trusted Name

A fair amount of people know the name ‘Creative Labs’ and ‘Sound Blaster’, but chances are that most of you don’t know where you know the name from. That’s because they’re not world famous for their headphone amplifiers; rather, they are known for their sound cards for video gaming and PCs. That being said, their offering is not something to be scoffed at or denigrated, and they brought a lot of knowledge to the game here.

This is definitely in the running for best desktop headphone amp, and not just because Creative Sound Blaster technology basically created the soundtrack to my childhood. It is well designed an option for your headphone amp needs. It has a lot to be proud of, too. To begin with, it has only one output, but it has two holes for that output; one is your normal, run-of-the-mill old headphone jack in 3.5mm, and the other is a 3.5mm jack that is designed for headphones or headsets that combine a microphone with an earpiece. The input options are either the classic 3.5mm or the mini-USB that is becoming so very common these days, meaning that you can listen to pretty much any device with the Creative Sound Blaster E1. It’s not a guitar headphone amp with effects, but it is definitely one that is worth considering.

This is a great option, whether you’re looking for something to run headphones for guitar practice through, or you’re looking for something simple to make your music louder when you’re watching TV shows on an iPad. It’s definitely not in the running for best portable headphone amp under 50, though, because to be quite honest, it tends to go for more than that (as anything with such an illustrious name is wont to do).

  • A well-known name that makes a quality product
  • Has a microphone, something that no other headphone amp here reviewed does
  • Mini-USB accessibility and charging are great things to have
  • Transistors
  • Sound clarity, while good, is not as good as it could be if they used tubes. But Creative is known for working with transistors, so that would be kind of a weird move, I suppose, for their company

VOX AP2AC amPlug AC30 G2 Guitar Headphone – The Cool Guitarist’s Choice

This is an oddity, and that’s a fact. The VOX amPlug 2 AC30 guitar headphone amp looks like something that was designed by someone who worked at VOX and had way too much to drink, wrote down a crazy idea, and somehow managed to sell it. But I have to be honest here, it’s the coolest mini amp idea from a guitar company since the guys at Marshall decided to make a micro-stack that could be clipped onto an ordinary belt.

The input plug for this, among the best headphones for electric guitar practice, is a ¼ input plug, meaning it will fit into many guitars’ output jack. This basically means that you can plug this in and rock on the go, if you’re that kind of guy. You can also plug it into the guitar, or to anything that has a ¼ output jack, and then you can plug your headphones into the 3.5mm jack near the ‘AC30’ written on the side and you will be able to enjoy the tunes in a bit more discreet of a method.

I’m not going to lie to you, I didn’t include this on the list because it is a high-end product with amazing sound; I included it because I find it cool. Give it a chance, and you’re likely to find it cool too.

  • VOX makes a quality product and always has; Queen and the Beatles have both played their amps extensively
  • Affordable VOX amp for anyone who needs one
  • It’s just a neat idea, really
  • Not a lot of clarity, but it’s more of a cool idea, not a great amp

FiiO A1 Portable Headphone Amplifier – The Mobile Model

FiiO has returned to the list a second time with a model that is great for anyone on the go. Indeed, the FiiO A1 portable headphone amplifier almost seems to be designed around the ideas of simplicity and being a great amp for anyone on the move. It’s got an internal battery, and one that will last for up to 13 hours of continuous music listening.

Its inputs are either a mini-USB or a 3.5mm jack, and as I have said before, this means that the vast majority of music emitting devices are at your disposal and can be run through this great portable headphone amplifier. It only has one output, of course, a 3.5mm jack, and it derives its power (which can charge the internal battery) from being hooked into a mini-USB outlet, but I have to say that this is one of my favorite options for a headphone amplifier.

It’s easy to use, easy to move, and best of all, it’s just simple. Look at the image of the front of it; you have plus and minus volume buttons and an on/off button. All you really need! So, consider the FiiO A1 if you’re looking for a nice mobile headphone amplifier.

  • Very easy to use
  • Affordable
  • The combination of mini-USB and 3.5mm inputs means you can use most devices through this amp
  • Only one output
  • Sound quality would be better if there were tubes involved.

Best Headphone Amp- Buyer's Guide

What Are The Common Jack Sizes These Days?

As with most things in the electronics industries, there’s been a move toward a standard size. That standard size, at this point, is either the 3.5mm jack size, which is probably the most common that you will encounter (and the size that most headphones you buy off the shelf at, say, Target, Wal-Mart, or other big box stores will come with) or the ¼ jack, which is more common in the more professional music world. The other jack that was mentioned, an input jack, was the mini-USB, which you probably have seen if you’ve owned a cell phone not made by Apple.

Does Clarity Matter?

It all depends on what you’re listening to. If, for example, you’re listening to an acoustic session by someone with a very stripped-down and simple sound, then yes, clarity matters, and if you don’t have a decent amount of it, you are not going to be getting the most out of your music. If, on the other hand, you’re listening to something with a lot of distortion, like heavy metal, you won’t end up even noticing the loss of clarity that comes along with the change in volume.

Transistors Or Tubes; Which Is Best?

This is an answer that will come along with great debate. In fact, people have been debating this for decades. My take on it is this; the vacuum tube option is the best, but it’s the most expensive, and most people just don’t have a need for it. We’re getting to the point where the difference is not so great anyway, so if you’re not an audiophile, transistors are fine.


So, if you’re looking for the best headphone amp, here are a few brands and models to keep in mind. Trust me when I say that these are likely to cover you no matter what your needs are for the headphone amplifier.

Now, to pick a few standout models. To begin with, the best quality model (that managed to come in at under a hundred dollars, no less, although it does come with some long-term costs to deal with) is the NobSound NS-08E, the tube offering. It was just a real treat to listen to music through, and I would recommend it to anyone who knows how to switch out tubes. Next, the best budget option is the Pyle-Pro PHA40, which not only is decently priced, but which also can let four people listen to the same music at the same time, with their own volume controls.

Finally, the model that was a bit quirky but very fun to play with, the VOX AP2AC amPlug Ac30 G2 Guitar Headphone. That was an odd one that was a lot of fun to listen to. If you are looking to purchase the best headphone amp, be sure to give consideration to many of these models; they are all very fine quality products.