There are thousands of headphones to choose from, but almost none of them are being used to their full potential. This list is to help you find the best headphone amp under $200 will show you which headphone amps to buy to get the most out of your headphones.
This list includes portable and desktop amps, but most of them have DAC chips. There is a buying guide at the end of the article if you want to learn more about DAC chips and how they improve the sound performance of your headphones.
Top 8 Headphone Amps Under $200
|FiiO K5 Pro||Check On Amazon|
|AudioQuest DragonFly Red||Check On Amazon|
|Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100||Check On Amazon|
|Audioengine D1||Check On Amazon|
|EarStudio ES100||Check On Amazon|
|iFi Nano iDSD Black Label||Check On Amazon|
|Drop Objective 2||Check On Amazon|
|Monoprice 111567||Check On Amazon|
1. FiiO K5 Pro
The K5 Pro is yet another high-quality, affordable amp from FiiO. It’s made with quality parts and housed in an aluminum casing, which helps keep the weight down. It is a desktop amp, though, so weight isn’t as important here as it would be in a portable amp. It has a powerful DAC chip and plays high-res files. It also has gain switches, so this high-performance amp is full of features.
- AKM AK4493EQ DAC chip
- ADC volume control
- Gain switches
- 1.5W @ 32 Ohm
- Plays up to 32-bit/768kHz files
Sample customer review… I was quite surprised that the sound reproduced through this unit was very clean and had such clarities. The sound signature is very neutral and transparent with a good sound stage. This unit also has a respectable and powerful amp section too. Maybe on par with Schiit Magni or JDS Atom in terms of power. You could crank up the volume all the way and no audible hiss was present. This can drive pretty much any headphones out there with ease maybe except for a couple of very hard-to-drive planar headphones. This is absolutely a bang for the buck and in my opinion better than Topping dx3 or Aune XS1 as a Dac/Amp combo. One thing I did not like about this unit was the volume control. Depends on the songs I listened to, I could hear a very little static sound when adjusting the volume. I don’t hear it when there is no music in the background, but especially when there is a quiet song playing, the static sound was audible. If you are looking for the one solution desktop Dac/Amp combo with outstanding performance that does not hurt your wallet, this is it. I highly recommend this.Read more reviews on Amazon.com
2. AudioQuest DragonFly Red
The DragonFly Red from AudioQuest is one of their most popular amps, loved for its compact size and quality sound. The built-in, 32-bit SABRE DAC provides clean audio that greatly improves your sound performance. It’s practical, but it doesn’t have many features. It only has one input, a 3.5mm headphone jack. While a lot of the amps on this list can double as preamps or speaker amps, the DragonFly only works for headphones. That being said, it is definitely the best headphone amp under $200 in terms of portability and weight.
- 32-bit SABRE DAC
- 2.1v output
- Plays up to 24-bit/96kHz files
Sample customer review… Wow. I’ve used the Dragonfly v1.2 pretty much every day for hours over the last year with headphones and through my decent desktop speakers. I was very happy with the sound quality so although I was aware of the Dragonfly Red I hadn’t bothered to upgrade. However…the recent development of Tidal releasing their MQA encoded ‘Masters’ albums started me thinking about the upgrade. When I listened to the masters on my Dragonfly v1.2 the difference was startlingly significant. MQA has its fair share of detractors (for some good reasons when it comes to proprietary standards etc) but the difference in quality (compared to Tidal HiFi streams, which are Redbook) is enormous. So I caved and ordered the Red…and it’s a big big step up from the previous Dragonfly (v1.2). Sitting here listening to Fleetwood Mac Rumours on Tidal (masters) and it’s phenomenal. Hard to believe the amount of added detail in everything but the vocal harmonies sound positively live. Hugely recommended, even if you already have a Dragonfly…the red is almost as big a step up as your first Dragonfly was.Read more reviews on Amazon.com
3. Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100
The Cambridge Audio DACMagic 100 produces quality sound with a wide variety of in/out ports. Cambridge Audio sells very high-end amps, so finding one of their products under $200 is a steal. The DACMagic 100 is one of the largest amps on this list, but it also offers some of the best features. It has a TOSLINK optical port, two digital coaxial ports, and a USB port. The frequency range is 20 to 20kHz, and it even doubles as a TV-compatible amp. It also has a digital incoming sample rate indicator.
- Plays up to 24-bit/192kHz files
- 2x coaxial, 1x optical, and 1x USB input
- 5W @ 50 Ohm
- Wolfson WM8742 24-bit DAC
Sample customer review… This is my first audiophile DAC, and I’m very happy with it. It’s very smooth and clean sounding, which makes it a lot easier for me to listen to any digital audio source; even the TV is a lot easier for me to hear and listen to. I have severe hearing loss in both ears, mostly middle and high frequencies, so I needed a high-quality DAC for my TV, blue ray player, and computer. Even though I have severe hearing loss, my ears are very sensitive to certain qualities of sound, mostly distortion, shrillness, and harshness. I was originally using a USB audio interface for my computer, and a surround sound receiver for my TV and blue ray player; the USB audio interface and my receiver were both hooked up to my Rupert Neve Audio Designs headphone amp (which I use with my Sennheiser HD 600 and my Beyerdynamic DT 990 headphones), but couldn’t stand the harshness and other nastiness I was hearing, so I thought I’d try this Cambridge Audio DAC. I’m glad I did, everything sounds so much better and much easier to listen to. A great bang for the bucks/ value for the money, I’d highly recommend!Read more reviews on Amazon.com
4. Audioengine D1
The Audioengine D1 offers fantastic value for its price, and it offers some of the best sound on this list. Audioengine is always pretty consistent with their sound quality, and the D1 adds to that reputation. It is incredibly durable, and while it’s made to be a desktop amp, it is fairly portable. It’s housed in a metal casing and has a simple interface with a power button, volume knob, USB input, optical s/PDIF input, RCA input, and headphone jack.
The signal-to-noise ratio is 110dB, so this small amp is capable of powerful, clean sound. It also has low distortion and plays up to 24-bit/192kHz files.
- Plays up to 24-bit/192kHz files
- 1x USB and 1x optical input
- AK4396 DAC chip
Sample customer review… At first, I began with the purchase of the Audioengine A5+ speakers without a DAC. Right out of the box, I immediately fell in love with the sound quality these speakers produced. I didn’t think I had a need for the D1 DAC since the A5’s already made my music sound fantastic. Until I began doing more research and reading articles regarding the benefits of using a DAC, that’s when I realized it was time to purchase the D1 DAC and test the sound quality for myself. Immediately you will notice the sturdy construction and firm feel of the device. You will begin to notice the improved sound quality instantly. Musical instruments will sound alive as if you were at a concert hall. I was able to pick out all the sounds within my music. It’s incredible how much better my audio sounds, I can’t believe I spent years relying on mediocre audio sources. If you have an extensive digital audio collection like I do, having the D1 DAC will encourage you to listen to your entire library. It really makes a huge difference in the sound quality of your favorite music. I’m so happy, I made the right choice.Read more reviews on Amazon.com
5. EarStudio ES100
The EarStudio ES100 is one of the smallest amps on this list, but it still has great features. It has an amazing battery life of up to 14 hours, as well as both 3.5mm and 2.5mm balanced outputs. It has two external jitter-free and noise-free DACs with patented DCT technology. You wouldn’t expect much from this small headphone amp, but it has some of the best output power that I’ve seen from a Bluetooth device. The Bluetooth receiver in this amp can even power headphones up to 300 Ohms.
- DCT technology
- Plays up to 24-bit/48kHz files
- Supports SBC, aptX, and aptX HD codecs
- 20 grams
Sample customer review… First of all, I own almost every amp designed to be on-the-go that can also take phone calls. Soundblaster E3, E5, FiiO’s new BTR1 or whatever, and even other Chinese brands. This one blows each one out of the water completely! Mic quality is great. The app can adjust the EQ and a ton of other stuff, and it has never been glitchy for me. I can also use it as a USB DAC with my PC. Right now, I have it plugged into my PC via USB while AT THE SAME TIME having it connected to my phone via a strong Bluetooth connection. I can easily jam on my PC with a good DAC while not having to take everything off and answer calls. I can’t tell you how long I’ve waited for this solution to work flawlessly; a decade at least. ES100 FINALLY does it. This thing is a keeper. I wish that updating firmware was easier, though. Maybe through the App, but instead you have to manually force the download by connecting to a PC (not a Mac). Music sounds punchy and visceral, just like it’s hard-wired, but through Bluetooth. I’ve purchased a 2.5mm balanced cable in order to see if I notice any differences. Anyways, at $99, this is a steal. Should be $199 with the performance I’ve encountered so far. it fills a very big void in this market, and I look forward to buying any future versions they come out with!Read more reviews on Amazon.com
6. iFi Nano iDSD Black Label
The iFi Nano iDSD is a battery-powered headphone amp suitable as both a portable and desktop amp. The iFi lineup includes other portable amps under $200, but the Nano iDSD is my favorite. It has the Burr Brown True Native DAC chipset and plays a wide variety of files. This is probably the most tech-packed product on this list. It has ten times the power of an iPhone 6 and supports hi-res audio like DXD, DSD256, PCM, and MQA. It also has a 3.5mm output if you want to connect it to another amp or active speakers.
- Burr Brown True Native DAC Chipset
- Up to 10 hours of battery life
- MQA, MP3, DXD, DSD256, and PCM
- Analog precision control
- iDSD Black Label high-speed USB
- S-Balanced technology
- iPurifier technology
- 285mW @ 30 Ohm
Sample customer review… iFi makes great gear. This is a great little portable amp and it sounds terrific. I listen to a lot of classical music and there is a high bar for sound quality. I used this to power some HiFiMan HE4xx from Drop. It brought out a sound stage that I could not hear using just my phone to power the headphones. When listening to Mahler Symphony No. 2 I could hear better imaging and you could hear that the 300 voice chorus was above the orchestra and behind the Tympani!! My only complaints with the unit are as follows. First: Gets only about 6 hours of battery life. Second: There is no separate power jack/interface. In other words, it is either working off the internal battery or being powered by your phone/computer. If you are listening on a long trip you are draining the power from your phone. When I’m on a trip I find keeping my phone fully powered to be very important and 6 hours of internal battery life may not be enough. Third: There is no line-in jack. If you want to connect a Bluetooth adapter to it and watch a movie off your cable/video box you can’t. This is a problem for me personally and doesn’t feel like spending another $150 on an upgraded amp because it has integrated Bluetooth. If you can buy a Bluetooth adapter for $15 then I would expect that building this into the can is not a tremendous engineering problem. That notwithstanding, if you don’t care about the above then this is one of the best sounding units for $200. I have heard nothing in the FIIO or Xduoo or another line of products that sounds as good. Additionally, it comes with everything you needRead more reviews on Amazon.com.
7. Drop Objective 2
The Drop Objective 2 is the product of the popular audiophile website, Drop (formerly Massdrop). It comes in both a standard and medium gain version, but you should only buy the medium gain edition if you plan to use it with in-ear monitors, or IEMs. This desktop amp is fairly small, so it doesn’t take up too much space in your audio set-up.
Most headphone amp users are audiophiles or music professionals, but the Drop Objective 2 is especially well-suited for these two audiences. Drop designed this product based on requests from customers, so it was made with the purest intentions of customer satisfaction. This amp was made to be the ideal baseline reference amp, and it checks all of the boxes to be one of the best headphone amps under $200.
- Gain switch
- ¼ inch headphone output
- RCA inputs
- Rear-mounted power jack
- 9 oz (255 g)
Sample customer review… This amp is really well built. The buttons are solid, the volume dial is crisp, not loose, but not hard to turn. The case is metal. And, most importantly, the sound is great. Definitely needed to get the most out of my Sennheiser HD58X headphones. You can get buy better amps for 2 to 4 times the price, but you need the right speakers or headphones to notice the difference. For my setup, the O2 does everything I need. They do sort of piss me off when I have to use the average cheap plastic electronic device because the difference in build and quality of the O2 is light years ahead. It proves companies could build things to last but most of them choose not to.Read more reviews on Amazon.com
8. Monoprice 111567
The Monoprice 111567 desktop amp is a heavy, durable amp that was built to last. It’s also one of the most affordable amps on this list, which is impressive for such a well-crafted piece of audio equipment. It has a Texas Instruments DAC chip and a wide frequency range. It also has one of the highest-current outputs of any amp at this price range. This allows you to use a wide variety of headphones with this amp. You can also use it as a preamp, thanks to its RCA line output.
- 10Hz to 20kHz frequency range
- Drives 16 to 600 Ohm headphones
- RCA output
- ¼ inch headphone jack
- 1.7 lb
- TI DAC chip
Sample customer review… It’s a great headphone amp for the price. I’m using it to drive a pair of AKG K612 Pros and it has no issues. I’ve only used the USB DAC function on it, so I can’t speak for the Aux-In. As far as a DAC/AMP goes it performs very well. It translates a very natural sound; I LOVE using this paired with the AKGs when I play guitar. Also, while the base mix is good for pretty much all music, with a bit of EQ, you can get absolutely crushing, punchy bass when you fancy. You’ll still be able to appreciate everything else that’s happening, too. Looks good, sounds good, shipped fast, fair price. My only concern would have to be the switches. There are two; one switches toggles between USB and AUX, while the other lets you select a setting for high or low impedance headphones. Of course, using the 612s I never even think about switching the gain down, and I’ve never used the AUX function. I’m just neglectful – clumsy, even – and anything short of a light switch worries me.Read more reviews on Amazon.com
Buying Guide: Things To Consider When Buying Headphone Amps
What are amps and DAC chips?
Any amp is just a device that increases the sound signal from an input, which could be from a phone, laptop, instrument, record player, etc. DAC, or a digital-to-analog converter, is becoming more common in amps. It’s almost hard to find a new amp that doesn’t have DAC. This is because of the prevalence of digital technology, like laptops and smartphones, that audiophiles and consumers are playing music from. A DAC converts digital audio files into low-voltage sound signals that can then be boosted by the amp. Smartphones, laptops, and many record players come with amps and DAC chips, but they aren’t nearly as powerful as they would be with an amp.
An amp/DAC combo isn’t worthwhile just for listening to music, but also for gaming and watching television on-the-go. Amps with DACs don’t just boost the volume of a sound, but also its quality. Many amps also come with other features, like the ability to play high-res files, like MQA or DSD files. Some amp/DAC combos are made just for desktops, but most of them are small enough to be carried to-and-from your office, home, library, etc.
Portable or Desktop?
The benefit of portable amps is that they work both as desktop amps and as portable amps. Unfortunately, portable amps are smaller, which usually means they have fewer features. However, desktop amps at this price range aren’t capable of offering many more features than portable amps, so the practicality of a portable amp is tempting. If you know you’re going to use your amp somewhere besides home, get a portable amp. If your headphones never leave your desk, get a desktop amp.
Hopefully, you found the best headphone amp under $200 for you in this list. There were a variety of options, from portable to desktop amps. No one should listen to music on a digital device without taking advantage of a headphone amp with a DAC chip. Some of the amps on this list even double as preamps or amps for speakers.
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