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For the audio purist, wired headphones can offer more than Bluetooth – direct connection to the source, literally and figuratively. With that wired connection comes the ability to enhance the listening experience even more, and that’s where a headphone amplifier comes in.
The best headphone amplifiers help to maximize the sound capabilities of wired headphones. Any personal audio experience is only as powerful as its weakest link, and if considerable coin has been spent on the headphones, player – be it a smartphone, hi-res device or computer – and audio, then why limit the experience to an underpowered, built-in amplifier? Adding a headphone amplifier is the surest way to produce clean, bolstered, detailed sound.
Headphone amplifiers are easy to use and open a new door for audio endeavors. They work exactly like a regular home theater amplifier just on a smaller scale. Though most modern listening devices have some sort of amplifier built-in, the power available is a sort of one size fits all model. A headphone amplifier will add power, not just volume, as well as depth and richness to the overall acoustic experience. The goal of adding a headphone amplifier is not simply to make the audio louder, it is to make the audio more bold and enriching as well.
A little extra oomph can make all the difference in your favorite playlist or to your favorite episode of Mrs. Maisel or Jack Ryan, all without blowing out eardrums — yours or your neighbors.
1. Schiit Magni 3
Forget the funny sounding name; this U.S.-based sound engineering firm is a recent venture from a slew of industry professionals with elite experience. The Schiit Magni 3 is the “entry level” headphone amplifier from the maker, but there is nothing “entry level” about its makeup.
Producing clean vocals, supple and well executed bass tones, this desktop box is perfectly suited to beginner and hobbyist audiophiles.
PROS: Tons of available power, super easy to use, exceptionally intuitive, supremely engineered.
CONS: Bit stark on appearance, but does that really matter when it produces such great sound?
2. FiiO E10K
The FiiO E10K combines two components in one, not only amplifying computer-based audio, but also adding a second DAC (digital to analog converter), taking the heat off of internal-based, inferior components. The FiiO E10K easily plugs into any laptop with a micro USB, which powers the unit.
The E10K is lightweight, super portable, and creates a transformative listening experience. With specifically optimized circuitry, the E10K has customizable EQ features allowing users to fine tune their listening experience. This little component is ideal for the frequent flier audiophile.
PROS: Customizable EQ makes for superior performance tuning, and sublime listening sessions.
CONS: Great device for portability, though others offer a bit more power.
3. Neoteck Headphone Amplifier
The Neoteck Headphone Amplifier is great for boosting headphones while on the go. With a built-in rechargeable battery the Neoteck is ready to hit the streets without adding much more to your pockets. The Neoteck’s “noise reduction function” is a welcome feature, adding enhanced noise filtering and cancellation.
PROS: Pocket-sized yet powerful.
CONS: Some users reported the included headphone cable needs to be replaced with something a bit heavier duty.