The Best Headphone AMP under 100 Dollars In 2020
Headphone amplifiers – widely known as amps – reveal the true essence of your music. Even the greatest headphone is likely to gloss over one or other shortcoming: loose bass, recessed mids, sibilant highs, lack of details. A headphone amp makes up to some extent for the missing link in the chain of satiating audio. The basic amps simply substantiate the power of audio from your source and that alone fills in the gaps. But the exemplary ones create an accurate reproduction, making the best out of the audio they get. But do note that if your headphones are harsh then it’s likely that those faults will be magnified. If you are a novice, you might be looking for headphone amps under 100 bucks to tide you over until you become a connoisseur of good music. What else could these affordable sets offer?
- Pint-sized: Many of these headphone amplifiers under $100 are compact and thus, highly portable. They can be wound with your phone or clipped on to clothes. The 4-channel amps redefine the scale with their puny dimensions. They can be accommodated amidst a bevy of home studio equipment.
- Audio Augmentation: Say you have a set of distinguished headphones but they aren’t as loud as you would like. Or you have a kicker can but the details are not forthcoming. Let the headphone amp take over and make your life easier. We are not saying that they will magically transform your badly formatted audio. They will bring out the best of the good ones. Option like extra bass can add zing to the mix.
- Demolish Distortion: Many headphones become sibilant at high volumes. Headphone amps with good Sound-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) reduce the distortion to give you a cleaner, straightforward sonic output. This is best tested at high volumes as the moderate volumes are usually protected from distortion in headphones also.
- Impedance Importance: These headphone amps under 100 bucks support a wide range of headphone impedance. This is an important factor is determining which headphones these amps can drive. Wider the range, the more headphones these amps can boost.
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THE TOP 10 BEST HEADPHONE AMP UNDER 100 DOLLARS In 2020 – COMPARISON CHART
|1. FiiO E6 Portable Headphone Amplifier||Designed for high impedance and low sensitivity headphones||$$||4.5|
|2. Behringer HA400 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier||Ultra-compact headphone amplifier system||$$||4.4|
|3. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier||Switchable built-in 3dB bass boosting circuit||$$||4.4|
|4. Creative Sound Blaster E1 Portable Headphone Amplifier||Powerful 600 Ohm headphone amplifier||$$||4.2|
|5. FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier||bass boost circuit increases output by 3.5dB at 60Hz||$$||4.1|
|6. Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-Channel Stereo Headphone Amplifier||Power On LED Indicator||$$||3.9|
|7. Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Tube Multi-Hybrid Headphone Amplifier||Includes high-quality Shuguang 12AU7 tube||$$||3.9|
|8. TOPPING NX2 Ultra Slim Portable Headphone Earphone Amplifier||With DAC Decode||$$||3.9|
|9. Creative Sound Blaster E3 Portable USB DAC Headphone Amplifier||headphone amplification for headphones up to 600 ohm and 112dB DAC||$$||3.8|
|10. Lucid Labs Audiophile CMOY headphone amplifier- Altoids Red Tin||8 Pin DIP socket allowing op-amp rolling||$$||3.8|
FiiO has a stronghold in the headphone amp arena. Reason being, they have a varied merchandise spanning price and features widely. There’s choice for everyone and it’s not surprising that they have a few bestsellers under $100 mark as well. FiiO E6 has succeeded its illustrious brother, the E5 headphone amp and pulled a swan/ugly duckling scenario in terms of spec.
FiiO E6 headphone amp has shed half the weight of E5 by investing in a flexible plastic shell. It helps that E6 looks smarter than a metal trinket hanging on your headphones. E6 also offers more options for customizing the audio. Instead of the single power boosting setting on 3dB in E5, this headphone amplifier has 3 added EQ settings: -3dB, 3dB and 6 dB. 3dB considerably boosts the power and brings out the rumble of bass and crispness of mids. At 6dB you would expect your audio to be sibilant, but FiiO has been proactive. This setting does not inflate the bass, rather it boosts the entire spectrum so that it sounds natural, just with more power to it. This maintains the tonal balance and keeps your headphone from sounding crass. The -3dB setting is for unbalanced headphones. The reduction in power tones down the details that muddy the sound. These 3 modes make FiiO E6 compatible to a wide array of headphones: the good, bad and ugly. This headphone amplifier has higher gains and Sound-to-Noise Ratio (SNR) than E5. E6 works on a LiPo battery which is good for 10 hours on a single charge. Two sides of the amp mount the port for jacks from headphone and audio source. The other two sides have power and volume controls. E6 also has a switch to lock the controls so that you don’t power it off or change volume or modes accidently. It comes with a removable clip to attach to clothes, a lanyard loop on one edge and the option to tie it to the cellphone.
FiiO is a favorite toy with the audiophiles. E6 headphone amp is the Holy Grail of for the shallow pocketed audiophiliac utopia. It rules over our best headphone amps under 100 dollars list.
Fancy yourself as a music producer? Or do you like to fiddle with different kinds of headphones and find it troublesome to unplug and connect a new headphone to the amp every time? Behringer HA400 4-channel headphone amp allows you to connect up to 4 headphones to play pumped up sound. Behringer has managed to bundle this operation within a 13 ounce package.
HA400 headphone amplifier is customized for studio applications but nothing is stopping you from getting one of these to amuse yourselves. It draws power from a 12V adapter which is included in the box. This eliminates the constraints of battery. HA400 is not meant to be portable so not being battery-powered is an advantage. Audio-wise you simply get a volume surge out of this headphone amp. There are no EQ settings here to dabble is audio conditioning. You will get the hulk version of whatever you are playing, which is what a home studio would require. HA400 headphone amplifier does take precautions to keep distortion out of the audio at high volumes. It has the ¼ inch (6.3mm) output ports. You would require the ¼ inch-to-3.5mm converting TRS cable to connect it to your device. These ports are conducive for the sub out on your mixer. Each user out of the 4 can set their own volume because each one is allotted a dedicated stereo amp on the HA400. Although you may look at this headphone amp as an audio distribution system, it also makes sure that its power inflation does not negatively affect the audio. For many people, this satisfies their needs at an insignificant price.
FiiO E10K USB DAC and headphone amp recreates the warm smooth sound of E17 but at a much lower price. The cost is that this is not portable. E10K is run by a USB port that can connect to your audio source like PC to draw juice. E10K works over a headphone impedance range of 16Ohm to 150Ohm technically, but users have hooked it to much higher impedances like 200Ohm and E10K came through.
There are multiple usage combinations for FiiO E10K headphone amp. It can route emboldened audio for headphones, or for an external amp or for an external DAC through the digital coaxial output. Volume is controlled via an analog dial lending more precision and ease to the process. Apart from its normal power augmenting functions, FiiO E10K headphone amp also has an extra bass setting. When powered on, it invites the thunderous bass growl into the mix of your audio, coloring the frequency spectrum red. Connect this amp with a sub-par headphone, it will clean the audio of noise and distortion and make your beastly cans sound like heaven. It caps the audio formats handled at 96KHz/24Bit. Audio from E10K is exciting with the bass dancing along with mids and highs. Bass does not win at the expense of mids or vocals. Highs are scoured of the harmonic distortion they usually face.
FiiO E10K DAC and Headphone Amplifier succeeded the E10 which was fantastic in itself. FiiO has taken care to let the brilliant features be and only iron out the kinks.
Creative Sound Blaster E1 is a revelation in a tiny package. Its spec reads like FiiO E6 graduated college. At a mere 25g this headphone amp can be clipped to your clothes and carried around. It also has two separate op-amp circuits driving two 3.5mm ports, so it amps and splits your audio so that two headphones of similar impedance can share. Nifty, we call it.
There’s a lot to gush about with Creative E1 headphone amplifier. It houses a USB sound card which takes over the burden of sound processing from the connected PC. It has a micro-USB port which doubles as charging point and two 3.5mm ports. E1’s personal sound signature is full of details. It works on tautening up the mids and highs. E1 headphone amp can handle headphones with impedance up to a whopping 600Ohms. It is compatible with audio up to 44.1Khz/24bit which is not as good as FiiO E10K.Outside of PC connection, E1’s signal processing capabilities are limited to amplifying. When coupled with the SBX Pro Audio Suite, it implements virtual surround sound, bass thrust or equalizing. It also provides the ScoutMode for gamers which brings out the sound effects and helps you with positional audio. Creative E1 headphone amp houses a mono microphone which would perform marginally better than the connected device’s mic. It survives on a Lithium battery that directs it for 25 hours on a single charge.
Creative Sound Blaster E1 headphone amp has a droolworthy repertoire except for the cap on audio quality it can support. But that’s not reason enough for it to be not on our bestheadphone amps under 100 bucks.
FiiO A3 headphone amp (also fondly christened E11K) packs a punch in a mobile package. It is an upgrade from E11 and compares favorably with devices like E18 and E6. Like E6, it has a bass boost control that adds 3.5dB at 60 Hz and keeps the bass from bloating and bleeding into mids. Additionally, A3 also has a gain switch that allows you to toggle between low and high gains based on your headphones. Building over the strong foundations of other version of FiiO amps, A3 grabs itself a spot on our top 10 list.
A3 headphone amp is roughly shaped like a hip flask with the volume ALPS potentiometer serving as the cap. Volume knob is much easier to operate with one finger. Because of the sloping side design accidental volume change is discouraged. A1 has the line-in and line-out ports symmetrically on either side of micro-USB port used for charging. This is a detour from the conventional design but you get used to it. The good news is you can continue using the headphone amp while charging. Battery can hold up for 16 hours and takes 4 hours to charge. FiiO A3 is built around the idea of being a neutral amplifier. On the normal setting it simply magnifies the audio, bringing out the finer features as the volume increase. With the bass boost on, there is a brightening of the response that arouses the impression of a wider soundstage. Even at low gain setting, you will not feel that your device is under-driven. High gain setting is for the truly terrible earphones that sound like they are under a pool. A3 headphones amplifier can supply headphones in the 16 to 150 ohms impedance range. It does a thorough job of eliminating electromagnetic interference, maybe even better than E18.<<Latest customer reviews and prices of FiiO A3 Portable Headphone Amplifier>>
Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-channel headphone amp is comparable to the Behringer HA400 amplifier. Only PHA40 is cheaper and performs the same functions, provided you get a proper piece of the amp. It splits the incoming audio and amplifies it for 4 different headphones with individual volume profiles. The confounding part is how small this device is. Its pygmy sized structure can hide in an unobtrusive recess in the living room and power 4 headphones for activities like watching TV.
Pyle-Pro PHA40 has to be hooked to a 12V adapter for charging. It does not lean on any battery for power. It sports the ¼ inch TRS ports. The trick is to find the right adapter than can make proper contact with the ports. Once you do, you are all set to go. It is not an audiophile amp. PHA40 simply adds power to the headphones and allows louder volumes. There’s no processing or straightening of distortion. Whatever you play, you can play it louder and share it with 3 more people. Most likely, you will never hit the max volume on this headphone amp because it adds opulent power to the audio. The build of this device is solid. It will stand the torture of continuous use by all sorts of audience.
Pyle-Pro PHA40 4-channel stereo headphone amplifier is a feisty device that does its basic duty at a minute footprint and price.
Bravo Audio V2 12AU7 hybrid amp is sure to earn you the geek alert. This looks like a DIY model out of an electrical engineer’s closet, with shining LEDs and all. Surrounded by acrylic sheet on top and bottom, this headphone amp is open on the rest of the sides. The mosfet heat sinks get real hot and open architecture helps in heat dissipation. That being said, it’s by no means fragile.
Tube amps seem to have more body to their sound than transistor amps. But they are expensive. So when Bravo Audio started selling tube amps in sub $100 category, the audiophile world sat up and took notice. Bravo Audio V2 headphone amp comes with a 12AU7 tube as stock. But it permits tube rolling so you can switch them out for the older, earthier tubes that made music thrilling. Design-wise everything is mounted on the PCB here. There’s no stray wiring that can get damaged over extended use. There’s a hardy-looking ¼ inch port that employs clip mechanism for safe locking of the jack from audio device. Volume knob is manned by ALPS potentiometer. A 24V adapter is used to light up the Bravo Audio V2 headphone amp. After a period of burn-in you find that the audio quality is framed by tight bass, blossoming mids and crisp highs. The overall sound quality is raised to be clean and accurate. The soundstage is widened nominally by the amp but that could be a personal opinion. V2 is the most budget-oriented tube headphone amp in the market and it is a superlative addition to music-lovers’ arsenal.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Bravo Audio V2 Class A 12AU7 Tube Multi-Hybrid Headphone Amplifier>>
Topping is not a big name but its amplifiers NX1 and NX2 are. NX2 ultra slim headphone amp has small dimensions but nothing as convenient as E6. It is a more utilitarian design that does its job well. NX1 has a high gain and low gain setting that allows you to craft the properties of your music.
Topping NX2 headphone amplifier has a robust housing that will pull through the portability. You can throw it around in your everyday bag and expect it to keep breathing for long. There’s a volume wheel, power switch, a line-in port and headphone out port on one side. The other side has USB charging port and another USB port to connect to Android phone. The battery is claimed to last to 100 hours on a single charge. We have found that the battery life is, indeed, excellent. NX2 is a powerful amplifier, you can feel the burst of volume that you get once you connect it to your audio source. You will never need to play in the excess of 50 percent of volume. Sound reproduction is clean and accurate. It can be isolated to be an amp and ditch the DAC when such an application arises. This option is not available with many other headphone amps. One issue with the NX2 is of RFI. You can hear the little clicks when it is bungee corded to your phone. It comes with elastic bands and Velcro stick-ons to attach it to your phone.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of TOPPING NX2 Ultra Slim Portable Headphone Earphone Amplifier>>
Creative Sound Blaster already has an iconic best headphone amp under 100 in the market, the E1. So when it debuted E3, it decided on adding a whole lot of gongs. E3 amps court Bluetooth, NFC, mic and playback controls and barely contain themselves under reasonable prices. Take anything, size, features, build and E3 hits the ball out of the park right into our best headphone amps under $100 list.
E3 retains roughly the same size as E1. It may have elongated slightly across one axis but it remains truly portable. There is a solid clip on the back that can be used to attach the amp to your clothes or somewhere you prefer. It has two headphones out jack, one with mic, so you can share music with a partner. Bluetooth is the highlight of E3 design. It can also be paired using NFC by simply tapping it with your NFC-enabled phone. You can control play/pause, volume change and track navigation through this headphone amplifier. The buttons for these are one two sides of the device. Bluetooth connection lasts through 8 hours of music streaming. In the wired mode the battery will live on for 17 hours, give or take. This USB DAC supports up to 24bit/96KHz audio format and headphone impedance up to 600 Ohms. Sound quality is not lacking in any way. There’s a pump to bass in the sub-bass and higher regions. Distortion is safely eliminated from low to moderately high headphone impedances. All elements sound tight and coherent. SBX Pro Studio can be downloaded and used with E3 as well and its melange’ of features and EQ options apply to E3 headphone amp.
<<Latest customer reviews and prices of Creative Sound Blaster E3 Portable USB DAC Headphone Amplifier with Bluetooth and NFC>>
These Lucid Labs CMOY headphone amps are a collector’s item. The circuitry is housed in an Altoids mint tin box making it look like a really cool student project. All the connections are beautifully soldered and ports protrude out of clean holes. So it will basically look like the work of a genius. Apart from being powerful headphone amplifiers, these would make great conversation starters.
This CMOY headphone amp works its magic over headphones in the impedance range 30-300 Ohms. That makes it unsuitable for the IEMs that are commonly used. If you get a proper piece of this device, it will do the basic job for you. It will amplify your music with zero distortion except at super high volumes. There’s no circuit hiss or noise just because this looks like a lab sample. The covering aside, this is a thoroughly professional product. It is fed by a 9V battery that seems to last an eternity. This headphone amp has a volume knob attached to ALPS potentiometer, thus ensuring high quality functioning. 3.5mm in and out jacks make this an invaluable accessory with smartphone and headphones. The design comes in a variety of tin boxes including a plain box. Just be careful though. People have been flagged down by TSA for carrying a seemingly harmless tin box with electronic circuit inside. But it makes a cool gadget to put on your desk. It adds the amplifying kick to the moderate cans that sound a little quiet.
Lucid Labs CMOY headphone amplifier is a work of art and science. There might be more practical alternatives but one look at this baby and you will cover it. We know we did, that’s why it’s on our analysis.