10 Best Desktop Headphone Amp 2020

If you already own a great pair of best desktop headphones amp you know how amazing the sound can be. You put them on, you plug them into your phone or computer, and the world changes! You hear new notes and, if you close your eyes, it’s like you can see where each piece of music is coming from. 

It can’t get any better than this, right? Well, if you pair the greatest headphones with the best headphone AMP, then yes, it can! These are specially created to enhance the details that are usually overlooked even by the best sound equipment. 

So, to make sure anyone knows how to choose one, we reviewed some of the best products on the market and put together a comprehensive buying guide to use it whenever you feel in doubt.

Best Desktop Headphone Amp 2020

1. Grace Design M900 - Desktop DAC Headphone Amplifier


Key Features
  • Input Channels:Stereo
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 1.8x4x5.25

Coming in first in our list of the best desktop headphone amplifiers, this particular model equals quality sound with minimal space and have been proven time and time again by user reviews around the net. The m900 comes in a small, compact, and portable design, but contains the up-to-date features to provide a caliber of sound. It has six different modes for monitoring, a large (and obvious) rotary encoder for volume, an LED display and two different outputs. It’s ‘LOW’ and ‘HIGH’ modes of sound help to control the drive of your bass, while a self-powered mode lets you bring your own mobile device into the mix.

Again, a small design for the minimalist in all of us, plus a high quality option for a great price, makes the Grace Design m900 in our opinion one of the best headphone amplifiers for your desktop. It’s relatively pricey but well worth the money if you have it.

2. Denon DA-300USB High Resolution Audio DAC Headphone Amplifier 

Key Features
  • Input Channels:Stereo
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 18.3x17x5.8cm

Of the options on this list, the Denon DA- 300USB amplifier is the most expensive choice; however, it definitely has all the bells-and-whistles that a true audiophile will appreciate when seeking the best desktop headphone amplifier. Able to work with both traditional and digital sound files, and equipped with three different input sources (one coaxial and two optical), this amplifier works with a variety of audio devices that you may have, taking your listening to an entirely different level by providing the highest quality of sound reproduction.

The design is simple with its touch control and its OLED presentation that lets you know exactly which input is being used. Plus (and here’s where the Type-A person in me gets really excited) you can choose how it fits in your space by being able to mount it either horizontally or vertically. High budget but high quality make the Denon DA-300USB a strong contender for those with higher budgets.

3. Syba Sonic USB 24 Bit 96 KHz DAC Digital to Analog Headphone Amplifier 


Key Features
  • Input Channels:Stereo
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 4x4x3.8 inch

At the end of our guide here, we’ll cap it off with a reliable and affordable pick. The Syba Sonic digital analog converter takes your more simplistic sound from your computer and refines your audio to create in your audio. A toggle switch lets you individualize your music in choosing how you would like to listen to your music with an option of three different modes (bass, line, and treble).

The volume knob is also accessible by being located directly on top of the design, so there will be no problems adjusting your sound when needed. A high quality for a low-end price, the Syba Sonic SD-DAC63057 delivers exactly what is needed in a standard amplifier for desktops

4. Monoprice 111567 Desktop Headphone Amplifier


Key Features
  • Item Weight : 748 Grams
  • Power Supply: USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 21.6x16.5x6.3cm

Another high quality option but this time for a budget-friendly price, the Monoprice 11567 desktop amplifiers provide professional grade sound to your headphones or speakers. Aiming to reproduce your audio directly as it is heard on your desktop, many reviewers comment on the high standard sound their USB DAC produces when converting sound from their desktop, such as clarity to the subtle sounds contained in an audio to the bass that is harder to pick up just through the computer. The all-metal design is both durable and compact, has an LED screen, and has a volume control know that lets you adjust your volume directly on the amplifier rather than on your desktop computer.

Plus, you can even connect to other external audio sources through the included RCA outputs on the back of the amplifier. Well-reviewed for being a budget friendly option with quality sound, the Monoprice 111567 desktop amplifiers are one of the best options available for a lot cheaper of a price than our previous recommendation.

5. Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier 


Key Features
  • Item Weight : 12.6 ounces
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz - 30 kHz
  • Dimensions (HWD): 4.3x2.7x1.2cm

The design for the Nobsound NS-08E is definitely different from other amplifiers on the market. When first looking at it you may be reminded of something you would see in Doc’s garage in “Back to the Future”; however, just like how the insanity of Doc’s garage held a wealth of information to Marty, so does the Nobsound NS-08E amplifier. Created with the audiophile in mind, this amplifier comes equipped with both headphone amps and vacuum tubes to deliver a clarity in its sound while maintaining the authenticity of the audio.

The vacuum tubes are able to increase the power of the signal they are receiving through their output and are actually preferred by many audiophiles as opposed to normal DAC and other digital-based amps (they praise it for the sound that just can’t be replicated by others). This also means that you have a reduced amount of impedance (resistance of electrical current) that allows you to hone in more on the sound that is being converted. A low-cost option with high quality results make the Nobsound NS-08E one of the best desktop amplifiers for purchase if you’re into tube amps.

6. FiiO E10K Headphone Amplifier 


Key Features

  • Item Weight : 78g
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 7.9x2.1x4.9

For those audiophiles who are in the business of wanting to customize their audio for a more unique experience, the FiiO E10K is one of the best desktop headphone amplifiers for this purpose. In fact, think of this amplifier as a noise cancelling headphone with a kick. This amplifier works to reduce low noise floor, which is basically all of the external noise or signals that could cut into your audio and disrupt the conversion from your desktop.

This is a great highlight in addition to the bass boost which allows you to adjust the sound of bass in your audio for an individualized experience. The amplifier also comes with inputs and outputs for your headphones and desktop, as well as a coaxial digital output that can connect to your other devices, such as a DVD or CD player. The DAC chip works to reduce delay between shifts in tracks while continuing to deliver a quality audio. These features at a reasonable price make this FiiO E10K one worth considering in the desktop headphone amp category.

7.  SMSL SD793-II PCM1793 DIR9001 DAC Digital Audio Decoder amplifier


Key Features

  • Item Weight : 1.1 pounds
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 8.7x6.5x2.4 inch

According to reviews written by owners of this product, the SMSL amplifier is the best desktop amplifier for the job from a brand nobody can recognize and a title that’s way too wordy. However, we wouldn’t only recommend amps just because of a brand name or title. Designed with a coaxial input interface, this amplifier can be used both with your headphones or hooked into a larger system, such as a SmartTV or a DVD/Blu-Ray player.

The box comes with its own volume control, which allows you to “kick it up a notch” from the normal sound you are able receive. Now while it does not have the USB connection that many other amplifiers do, it does have an optical interface that can connect to video game devices to give you a sound quality that puts you right in the middle of the action. Durable, subtle, and designed to give you a hi-fi stereo feel, the SMSL SD793-II amplifier is a well-reviewed and budget-friendly option for those seeking to enter the world of headphone amplifiers.

8. XtremPro Desktop USB DAC Headphone Amplifiers


Key Features

  • Item Weight : 1.8 pounds
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 4.5x3.6x1.2 inch

While it may look simplistic and unassuming in its overall design, the XtremPro 65003 is one of the best desktop headphone amplifiers in the market for its reliable quality and ability to reduce low floor noise. The design of the amplifier has a high current output, which is meant to lower any impedance that may occur in the conversion of sound from desktop to amplifier and deliver clarity and precision in your audio.

A variety of interfaces give this amplifier many additional uses with the included USB and AUX inputs. However, the power that really delivers with this amplifier is the ALPS potentiometer, which is highly regarded by professionals alike as being one of the key “ingredients” in both hearing and creating the perfect sound for an audio recording. Reduce the distortion, increase the performance of the audio, and you have the XtremPro 65003, a beautiful headphone amp for the money.

9. Bravo Audio Ocean Mini Valve Class A Tube Headphone 


Key Features

  • Item Weight: 1.5 pounds
  • Power Supply:USB power 
  • Sampling rate: 24bit/96kHz 
  • Dimensions (HWD): 5.7x4.5x4.5 inch

Another option with one of our favorite components in the vacuum tube, the Bravo Audio Ocean is a sturdy device that delivers enough power to make it one of the best desktop amplifiers available for a budget friendly price. This amplifier lives up to its name in that the aluminum body really does look blue like the ocean, so for someone like me it is nice to have something that differentiates it from all the other choices. The front of the device gives you two different sizes of headphone inputs to make it accessible to almost any headphone or converter you may be listening on, while the back gives you two different options for line input.

This gives you the accessibility of using it not only with a desktop, but also with an iPad, DVD player, or even a stereo. It has all of the features needed for a quality amplifier, and for those of us who may not be the best with technology, the Bravo Audio Ocean is an easy-to-use option when beginning to wade into the watery world of amplifiers. Ultimately however, this desktop headphone amp’s sound is unmatched and praised by many.

How We Choose

If you have tried to look through the web pages for a headphone amp, then you know there are quite many choices to consider. Leave alone the number of headphone amplifier; the terms can get deep and technical.

Our first mission was to select headphone amps under 100 dollars. The number was quite high, but after reading through reviews from top audio blogs, we narrowed down our list to just 40 headphone amplifiers.

We also scanned online forums and reviews on Crutchfield and Amazon to look out for any problems that users mentioned consistently about each headphone amp. Armed with this information we narrowed down our list to less than 25 headphone amplifiers.

Out of the remaining 25 amps, our guiding principle to select the top 10 picks was:

The amp should be easier to use even for beginners, and It should make your audio life better than what you get with the amp included in your phone, PC or laptop

Portability – we looked for portable amps that can easily fit into a laptop bag or your pockets easily the build quality of the amp
The brand in question, the warranty, reliability, and responsive customer service in case you need assistance
After this testing exercise, our team narrowed down to 15 possible contenders that could make it to the list. The value for money and other features such as DAC support and output impedance made us stick to 10 headphone amps.

Our list is subject to change over time to include new of deserving models into the list. If you think we have left out your best headphone amp, comment below and we will consider it in our next update.

Why Do I Need A Headphone Amp?
Headphones are like small speakers, and all speakers need an amplifier. Most devices that play music already include a built-in headphone amplifier, whether it is a Smartphone, a tablet, or a computer. So, why do you need an external headphone amp?

A built-in headphone amp from a playback device such a phone or computer is limited in space, size and the power. These limitations are likely to compromise the efficiency of the built-in amp when powering a pair of headphone. An external headphone has much more space and better circuitry with more power, which allows for better sound and in some headphone amplifiers, more power to drive headphones.

The work of a headphone amplifier is not to blast your ears with audio, but to deliver enough power to a pair of headphones and overall make the sound cleaner and more controlled without sounding distorted especially at the musical peak…read more about headphone amplifiers and learn how to match an amp to your headphone.

The biggest difference between a tube amp and a solid-state amp is that a tube amp is driven by voltage throughout the output device while a solid-state amp is driven by current.

The biggest advantage of tube amplifiers is tube rolling which either changes or improves the sound output of a system. On the downside, tube amps are more expensive to operate and in initial costs. Tubes will also break, short-circuit or burnout and will need to be replaced occasionally.

FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier

Solid-State Amplifiers
Solid-state amplifiers use a use diode, transistors, and other solid states electronics to amplify the audio electrical signal. Because they do not use a tube, they lack the warmth characteristic of tube, but on the other hand, they are known for giving out a sharp and detailed sound.

Solid-state amps are also very reliable, and because of their circuitry, they can be very portable. A perfect example is the Fiio Ek10 a pocket-sized amp.

Hybrid Amplifiers
Some amps are not simply tubed amps or solid-state amps, but mixes of both these two technologies, these are hybrids. In working, hybrid amps use tube technology in the preamp stage and use solid-state for the power section. Because of this hybrids have a tonal warmth and are closer to tube amps in response.

FiiO Q1 Portable Headphone Amp
Rackmount vs. Desktop vs. Portable headphone amplifiers
Rackmount amplifiers work well with studios. They not only make your studio look more like a studio, but also tend to have more inputs than desktop or portable headphone amps. Rack mounted headphone amplifiers also feature more channels making them an excellent choice is require more versatility and more channels. In studios, rackmount headphone amps more than six headphones and are mostly used for fixing, critical listening, recording or tracking.

Rackmount headphone amps offer more versatility, but most of them are hardly portable.

Desktop on the other hand come in handy if you need a portable amp to power more headphones. Desktop headphone amps can drive one or two pairs of headphones and might include up to four outputs with some having outputs for studio monitors. Desktop amps are designed to sit on your desk where you can easily access the volume and other knobs easily.

Portable headphone amps are the kind that are designed to be smaller and can fit even in your pocket. This type of headphone amp will accept audio from your phone or mp3 player and deliver it to your headphone. Portable amplifiers, such as the FiiO Q1 or Topping NX1s are battery powered and have to be charged from time to time.

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