The 8 Best Portable Headphone Amps

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This wiki has been updated 20 times since it was first published in January of 2019. When it comes time to upgrade your portable entertainment setup, one of the best purchases you can make is a quality amplifier. And with today's plethora of music formats, it's imperative to find the most capable amp around. Nearly all headphones, especially high-end models, will benefit from the increased power, as well as the detailed decoding and playback, of one of these top-rated selections. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.

1. Qudelix 5K

2. Fiio BTR3K

3. Fiio uBTR

Editor's Notes

December 28, 2020:

The EarStudio ES100 has been dethroned as the top pick, but it's still a great choice for many users. The Qudelix 5K is an impressive little device, though, that should satisfy almost anyone. The Fiio BTR3K is a less expensive, and almost as good, but the Fiio uBTR is the clear winner in terms of value. If you don't need Bluetooth and are okay with just a 3.5-millimeter connection, the JDS Labs cMoyBB is the way to go, and for use with a smartphone, it's hard to get any smaller than the Ikko Zerda ITM03.

January 27, 2019:

No matter how expensive your headphones, if they're connected to a subpar amplifier, you will not be able to get the most out of them. Luckily, there's no shortage of portable amps; some are a bit larger than others, but it shouldn't be difficult to find the right pocket-size choice for your needs. FiiO makes quite a few different models, some of which feature a removable power unit, which can be replaced down the road with a stronger one, should you even further upgrade your cans. Sony, of course, makes fantastic equipment, and their PHA1A is no exception, though it is pretty expensive. On the opposite end of the price spectrum is the Hidisz, which can increase the quality of your tunes without greatly decreasing the size of your bank account. The Topping and the SMSL both sport incredibly high sample rates, plus excellent DirectSound Digital support, which the most discerning listeners and collectors will certainly appreciate. Also, for what it's worth, the SMSL is incredibly slim, so much so that you'll barely notice it in your pocket alongside your smart device. Its tiny form factor is matched by only the NextDrive Spectra X, which is only about the size of a felt-tipped marker, and is just about as light. The Apogee is also quite lightweight, and it's pretty popular, though it's another of the more costly devices. The Dragonfly is hands-down one of the most talked-about, and as long as you don't need wireless connectivity, it's a great choice. But for the money, versatility, and functionality, it's awfully difficult to get better than the EarStudio, which supports multiple file types, as well as the balanced output utilized by some of the most revered audiophile headphones.

4. EarStudio ES100

5. JDS Labs cMoyBB

6. Ikko Zerda ITM03

7. Fiio BTR5

8. AudioQuest Dragonfly Red

Christopher Thomas
Last updated by Christopher Thomas

Building PCs, remodeling, and cooking since he was young, quasi-renowned trumpeter Christopher Thomas traveled the USA performing at and organizing shows from an early age. His work experiences led him to open a catering company, eventually becoming a sous chef in several fine LA restaurants. He enjoys all sorts of barely necessary gadgets, specialty computing, cutting-edge video games, and modern social policy. He has given talks on debunking pseudoscience, the Dunning-Kruger effect, culinary technique, and traveling. After two decades of product and market research, Chris has a keen sense of what people want to know and how to explain it clearly. He delights in parsing complex subjects for anyone who will listen -- because teaching is the best way to ensure that you understand things yourself.

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