Headphones are accessories that do not need any additional equipment to work, simply plug it into your device and you’re good to go. But audiophiles on the other hand prefer to invest in additional accessories that can help amp up the overall performance of their headphones.
The best part is that you wouldn’t have to break your bank to get a good headphone amp. Today, the market is flooded with headphone amplifiers that are some of the best we’ve ever seen. These solid devices can improve your experience even though you’re on a budget.
Our team at Audio-Sandwich have managed to highlight the top 6 best headphone amps under $100. These budget friendly tools will definitely make your jaw drop simply because of the amount of power they’re able to deliver.
Without further ado, here are the top 6 best headphone amp under $100 that you can buy today.
- Schiit Audio Magni 3
- AudioQuest Dragonfly Black V1.5
- FiiO E10K
- Bravo Audio V2
- FiiO Q1
- FX Audio DAC-X6
Top 6 Best Headphone Amps under $100
Schiit Audio Magni 3
Overall Best Headphone Amp under $100
The Schitt audio magni 3 is the best headphone amp that you can buy for under $100. It’s ideal for beginners and professionals who are looking for a powerful, well-balanced headphone amp that’s easy to use. There are many models in the Schitt Magni line but their most affordable headphone amp is the Magni 3.
The body is made from a silver metallic material and features a basic shape with a curved top edge. The front panel of the amp houses the volume knob and a 6.3mm headphone jack whereas the back of the unit houses the power/gain switches, a power slot and even individual RCA inputs and outputs.
While this product is an overall beast in terms of sound quality and audio performance, it lacks a built-in DAC and if that’s one of your main requirements, then you would either have to piggyback an external DAC onto the Magni 3 or opt for another headphone amp that does come with a built-in DAC.
By default, the amp is able to do a pretty decent job amplifying music while balancing the low, mids and high frequencies with the perfect amount of power making music pleasant to hear with the best clarity you could expect.
AudioQuest Dragonfly Black V1.5
Best Portable Headphone Amp under $100
The AudioQuest Dragonfly V1.5 is one of the most versatile devices around. Not only is it extremely lightweight and portable but it also comes with impressive features such as an MQA renderer, 2.1V headphone output and even runs on a 32-bit ESS SAbre DAC chip.
The Dragonfly DAC can be connected to any device such as a smartphone, computer, tablet and even your MP3 player and will convert the audio into true Hi-Fi, boosting your overall listening experience.
You can connect this portable DAC to your set of headphones and if you’re someone who likes to go big, you can even patch it into your large audio system and it will be able to deliver a naturally detailed and more authentic sound.
One of the main reasons to consider the Dragonfly is because of the power output. At 2.1V, the Dragonfly is compatible with low-efficiency headphones and even professional grade headphones that require a decent power supply. Though it is the size of a pen-drive, the Dragonfly is equipped with a PIC32MX microchip that minimizes the sound-degrading effect of high-frequency interference.
Best USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier under $100
One of the best USB headphone amps out there is the FiiO E10K. This device is customizable and compact making it extremely easy to carry around wherever you go. The E10K is one of FiiO’s most promising gadgets that can handle PCM files up to 24-bit/96 kHz resolution and will improve the overall performance of the audio quality with the help of a linear filter.
It runs on an OCM5102 DAC chip that features an optimized pass-filter and a selectable bass boost circuit that delivers clear music with no irritating noise. The body has been made from a robust aluminum alloy shell and at the back of the device you will find the micro-USB 5V power port, a coaxial out and a Line out to connect your primary source.
At the front you will find a 3.5mm audio jack along with the main volume control and a bass gain toggle. So far, this is the most affordable product on this list, but read on because we have more!
Bravo Audio V2
Best Tube Headphone Amp under $100
The Bravo Audio V2 is an inexpensive tube headphone amp that is perfect for anyone who’s looking to experience high-quality warm tube sound. It features an opened ensign with two acrylic plates on top and beneath the tube amp.
Because of this unconventional design, the unit might get hotter than expected and it can pose safety risks. In my opinion, if you are planning on buying this headphone amp, try not touching it or moving it when it’s running.
At the front of the V2 you’d find a 3.5mm audio port, a Japanese ALPS volume knob and even a 6.3mm headphone jack. The RCA ports are located on the side of the device and there’s even an on/off toggle switch and a connection port for the wall-wart.
We noticed that the volume knob is a bit sensitive and even the slightest twist will lead to a higher volume. The tube used is a Shuguang 12AU7 tube that can be customized to make the music sound better. There’s no distortion in the sound and we personally loved the low-end and mid-range warm up. It’s definitely a must try for all you audiophiles.
Best Hi-Fi Headphone Amp under $100
Here’s another beast from FiiO, the Q1 is one of the most affordable and portable headphone amps that you can carry around anywhere. It resembles a flask and looks similar to the FiiO A3 with a large volume knob at the top of the device.
This headphone amp is made of solid metal and is quite durable too. The front panel comes with a bass boost switch, a volume knob and even a 3.5mm audio jack. It’s fairly easy to operate and is equipped with LED lights that turn blue when you power on the device, green when it’s charged to 100%, red/blue when the amp is being charged and used at the same time.
What’s more is that the Q1 comes equipped with a large 1400 mAh battery that has proven to last for upwards of 30 hours on a single charge and would take hardly 3-4 hours for the device to get fully charged again.
Our team found that the Q1 headphone amp delivers a warm neutral sound and is capable of bringing out the details of a song with utmost precision. I wouldn’t say that it blew our minds, but considering the price and deliverance, FiiO has done an impressive job with the Q1.
FX Audio DAC-X6
Best Durable Headphone Amp under $100
The X6 is an older model but one of the best in terms of durability, overall performance and price. It’s from the Chinese manufacturer FX Audio and has been built with high-quality materials making it last for a long time.
This model is available in two color options, silver and black and features a coaxial, USB, 3.5mm jack outputs and a USB, coaxial, optical, RSC and power inputs. It can easily drive power to high-performance headphones and is ideal for gamers or those looking to improve their movie viewing experience.
The X6 delivers crisp and clear audio over headphones and it helped improve the overall clarity and soundstage of the tracks we tested on it. Though we didn’t end up using the coaxial or the RCA inputs, we were quite happy with the performance of the device with only the USB and optical inputs.
Best Headphone Amp under $100 – Buying Guide
Before heading out and buying a headphone amp, there are a couple of things you must first consider. Characteristics such as the impedance levels, connectivity, build and more should be taken into account. Let’s go through the key points to look into when buying the best headphone amp under $100.
- Impedance – Impedance is the resistance to the electric load and you will need to buy a headphone amp that matches the impedance of your headphones. If you’re using studio headphones then the headphone amp you pick should be able to support that load. Different headphone amps work with different range of headphone impedance, so it’s best if you first cross-check the impedance rating of your headphone and see if the amp can match it.
- Source Connections – Another point to consider is the connectivity options the headphone amp supports. If you wish to use the device with your home theater or tv, you will need one that comes with the right ports. For example, newer models of televisions and home theaters come with a coaxial output option, you cna run the headphone amp through this port and enhance the overall playback.
- DAC – A DAC or a digital to analog converter is one of the most important components of a smartphone or PC as it enables the device to convert digital signals of audio files into analog so it can be played over your headphones or speaker system. High-performance headphones would require a DAC to work well and many headphone amps come with a DAC built-in. However, if your headphone amp does not come with a built-in DAC, you will either have to change the amp or buy a portable DAC that you can piggyback on the amp and enhance your playback experience.
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I've been specializing in audio equipment and accessories for a while and have a little something in store for every kind of hi-fi enthusiast.
Based in California, I keep attending special launch events across the globe. This has helped me understand the products better, and with a unique hands-on experience I'm able to provide you with easy to understand reviews about the best in audio tech from around the world.