Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

109 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
87 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
We may earn a commission if you purchase a product through our links.

Shopping guide for best mini headphone amplifiers

Last Updated May 2019

Mini headphone amplifiers provide a power boost to any high quality headphone. They are useful for when you wish to get the cleanest sound quality on your headphones. The higher quality your headphones, the more you’ll get out of a good mini headphone amp. These amplifiers are designed specifically to improve sound quality and power to a headphone as opposed to a full-sized speaker.

A number of situations may benefit from the use of a mini headphone amp. Some people wish to improve their listening experience through an mp3 player or smartphone. Others want to improve their movie’s sound on a laptop or desktop computer. Another common use for mini headphone amps is for musicians to practice their craft without disturbing those around them. For example, an electric guitar plugged in through a mini headphone amp and into studio quality headphones will give a guitarist the loudest and highest quality sound while remaining silent to the outside world.

The sheer number of mini headphone amplifiers on the market may take you a lot of time to research. Because these amps have a wide range of uses, it is important to consider the one or two features most important for your individual needs. Cost of the amp will also be a consideration — you don’t want to overspend on features you don’t need, but you also don’t want to save money on something that won’t deliver the sound quality you expect.

If listening to music with your amp above 80 decibels, doctors recommend doing so for no more than 15 minutes.

Key considerations

Personal use

Whether you plan to use your amp for listening to music on your phone, watching movies and TV shows on a portable device or computer, or playing musical instruments is probably the most important factor in choosing a mini headphone amp. Different amplifiers offer different advantages for each type of use. Make sure you choose one that can give you what you need.

Functionality

Some mini headphone amps also serve as a DAC, or Digital/Analog converter. Know if you will need this option before you buy. There’s no need to spend extra for this option if won’t use it.

Size

Not all mini headphone amps are so mini. There are a number of different shapes and sizes of mini headphone amps, so look into each one with your usage needs in mind. In addition to physical size, consider weight in your choice. If you plan to hold the amp in your pocket, you want to make sure it’s light enough to do so.

EXPERT TIP

As with any audio equipment, the quality of cables used can have a positive or negative impact on sound quality.


Staff  | BestReviews

Features

If you know exactly how you plan to use the amp, determine the features that are most important to you. As with any audio equipment, personal preference will play into your decision. Some listeners prefer to focus on volume capabilities, while others are more concerned with practical aspects of the unit, such as peripheral ports or portability.

DAC: Some mini headphone amps are single function. Others also serve as Digital/Analog Converters. This means they convert digital audio signals into a low-voltage signal able to be amplified. Many DACs in headphone amps are superior to those found in your computer, making them a useful addition when playing audio through a laptop or desktop computer.

Channels: Some amps are single channel, while others offer multiple jacks for a number of channels, usually with their own volume control. If you don’t need multiple headphone jacks at the same time, you probably won’t want to make this feature a determining factor in your purchase.

Power supply: Recently, battery-powered mini headphone amplifiers have become more readily available. These are convenient for those who regularly need their headphone amps on the go. However, they are limited by the amount of time able to function only on battery power.

Watts per channel: Make sure the amp you buy offers the right amount of watts per channel for your needs. This will be determined by the component you run with the amp as well as the decibel level you want to achieve without distortion.

Better headphones often make the use of a mini headphone amp a bigger boost to your listening experience. Make sure your headphones can handle what the amp is supplying.

Mini headphone amplifier prices

Inexpensive: Lower priced mini headphone amps can be purchased in the $20 to $75 range. These amps offer a range of features for the thrifty shopper. At this price range, you are more likely to end up with an amp that doesn’t meet your sound quality standards, but there are plenty of good choices if you do your research.

Mid-range: In the $75-$125 range you will find a number of options that offer professional sound quality. This is the range where the greatest number of options land. If this is your budget, you should have no trouble at all finding the highest quality sound with additional features to your liking.

Expensive: If you plan to spend more than $125 on a mini headphone amplifier, do so because you have a specific need in mind that can only be accessed by this level of spending. There are fewer choices of amps at this level, because most people can find what they need without spending this much. If you do purchase an amp in this price range, you will be getting the most out of your portable audio.

DID YOU KNOW?

Mini headphone amplifiers are popular with musicians who have rehearsal space with noise restrictions. Headphone amps allow them to rock and roll without waking the kids.

Tips

  • Distortion: Be sure to test your amp’s maximum capacity. Push it to the highest volume that you plan to use it during regular use. If the sound becomes too distorted at the volume you want, regardless of other settings, you may want to change it for another option.
  • Headphone choice: There is a very wide range of quality in headphones — make sure you have headphones that match the capabilities of your amp. If you have the best mini headphone amplifier on the market, but sub-par headphones, you end up with a disappointing sound recipe.
  • Computer settings: Read all the instructions and suggested settings for using your mini headphone amp with a computer. Every operating system has a different protocol for peripheral components, so make sure you are using your amp properly with your computer.
  • Equalizer settings: Whether using your amplifier with a computer, a smartphone, or an electronic keyboard, the right mix between volume and equalizer settings will give you options for the sound you desire. Try a few variations before settling on what you use as your standard settings.

Other products we considered

Not only are there numerous models of mini headphone amplifiers available, but an increasing number of brands are making their way onto the market. Sometimes the new kids on the block have the most innovative approach. Nobsound is a Chinese company started in 2013, and their NS-08E Vacuum Tube Integrated Amplifier Mini Audio HiFi Stereo Headphone Amp offers a lot of benefits at a reasonable price. The visible vacuum tubes make this fun amp an intriguing sound piece for the amateur audiophile. Another quality product is the Neoteck Headphone Amplifier. Within the inexpensive price-range, this perky amp uses a rechargeable lithium battery for portability and allows for eight hours of unplugged use.

Many mini headphone amps offer a better DAC (Digital/Analog Converter) than your home computer, so using them can boost your laptop or desktop’s capacity for impressive sound.

FAQ

Q. Will an amplifier ruin my headphones over time?
A.
No. If you are using headphones of a reasonable quality and operating the amp according to suggested settings, you should not have an issue with the sustainability of your headphones. Pushing any electronic past its natural capacity can cause damage, but simply using a headphone amp with decent headphones will not ruin them.

Q. Can using an amp cause me to have long term hearing loss?
A
. Using an amp safely should not be harmful. Any sound over a certain decibel level is not healthy for your hearing. However, it is possible to reach these dangerous levels with the most basic sound equipment, and without the use of an amplifier. Always follow recommended guidelines when using any audio equipment and you will be safe.

Q. Are inexpensive mini headphone amps a waste of money?
A.
Absolutely not. Because of the basic nature of mini headphone amp functions, it is not a very expensive product to produce well. This is not to say that you are guaranteed to get a good product with every purchase. Do the right research and you’ll be able to find an amp you’ll enjoy at any price.

Q. Will an amp only improve the quality of certain types of music?
A.
No. The point of using a mini headphone amplifier is to improve the quality and loudness of any sound coming through your headphones. If you have the right headphones and amp, you should notice an improvement in any sound coming through the unit.

The team that worked on this review
  • Katherine
    Katherine
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Melissa
    Melissa
    Senior Editor

BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
and give us feedback about your visit today.

Take Survey