Using headphones is very straightforward. Plug them into your smartphone, tablet, or computer. All the devices mentioned above already have a built-in headphone amplifier. So, why do you need an external headphone amplifier? An external headphone amplifier will deliver better-quality sound with enhanced details. If you’re using high-end headphones (high impedance), an external amplifier will have more power to drive the headphones. Let us help you find the best headphone amp under $100.
If you’re looking for a more fantastic listening experience, a headphone amplifier is the next step, and the good news is that you do not have to spend a fortune to get one. Some solid headphone amps are under $100 for beginners and more seasoned users.
1.- FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier
FiiO is one reputed company that manufactures some of the best headphone amplifiers. Most of the headphone amps from this company have been very affordable and deliver impressive audio performance.
The FiiO E10K Headphone amp combo is made of aluminum, making it solid and durable. On the front, you get a 3.5mm headphone jack (1/8″), an off/on bass switch, and a volume knob. On the back, you will find a coaxial out port, a line out port, the high and low gain switch, and a USB power port.
A warning, It did not have enough power to drive headphones of 300 Ohms impedance. With lower impedance headphones, it will perform like a champ, and it’s probably the best headphone amp under $100 we can recommend.
2.- AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 Plug-in USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp
The very first Dragonfly DAC/headphone amplifier was launched in 2012. Two years later, in 2014, they launched the Dragonfly v1.2 (discontinued). Now comes the AudioQuest Dragonfly v1.5
It comes with a portable design that fits in your pockets. Looking at its built quality, the housing is made up of metals with a soft rubbery texture finished. The DAC/Headphone amp also features an LED that indicates the sampling rate of music files it is processing.
Due to its form factor, and USB port is ideal for stepping up the audio of your PC/laptop. It’s possible to use smartphones, android, and iOS. Nevertheless, you will need some adapters which are not included.
The DragonFly Black has a power output of 1.2 volts. If you need more power, the DragonFly Red has a higher power output of 2.1 volts and a higher price tag of around 200 dollars. This is one of the best headphone amps for under $100.
3.- Fosi Audio Q4 – Mini Stereo Gaming DAC & Headphone Amplifier
The unit is small, and the shell is fully metallic to give a high-quality feeling. On the back, the Fosi Audio Q4 is loaded with several inputs. There is one optical, one USB, and coaxial input. Also on the back is the 5V DC input required for operation. Two RCA audio outputs can be connected to amplifiers or powered speakers on your desktop.
On the front, you will find three knobs: one for bass, one for treble, and one for volume, which could be helpful for quick sound tuning by downloading any driver or software or changing sound settings. Also, on the front of the headphone, there’s an output jack and input switch with three options.
4.- Syba Sonic 24bit USB DAC Stereo Headphone Amplifier
Syba was founded in 2001; according to the company, they follow 3 simple principles “superior product quality, competitive yet affordable pricing, and outstanding customer service.”
This unit is driverless, can be USB powered, and has digital (optical and coax) and analog (RCA) outputs. On the front, there is a line-in, mic-in, and two jack outputs, 1/4″ & 1/8″. Also, on the front, a switch changes between three hardware EQ modes: bass boost, default or direct, and treble boost. The huge volume wheel on top will allow you for quick volume changes.
The Syba Sonic 24bit is compatible with PC and PS4 consoles, which could appeal to gamers.
5.-Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier
Nobsound (Douk Audio) is a company that has brought quality products at favorable prices to most audio consumers. The NS-08E uses both tubes and transistors for high-quality amplification; the tubes are used for pre-amplification of the audio during the solid-state part of the amp output audio.
It’s a well-built amp. The case is made of CNC aluminum. The size is very compact, and it can fit in your palm. The two tubes on top can be replaced with the same model, 6J3, 6J4, 6J5, 6K4, and many others.
The Nobsound NS-08E headphone amp can power headphones with impedance values from 24 ohms to 600 ohms, which is very impressive for the price tag of this amplifier. As a bonus, the Nobsound NS-08E will look fantastic on your desk.
Extra: HELM Audio Bolt DAC/AMP, USB-C Portable
This USB-C device is exciting and has almost made it to the list. It costs $109, which positions it over our $100 budget. Nevertheless, you could likely find it below $100 during certain seasons.
The product is very compact; you could think it is a simple USB-C to 3.5mm adapter. Make no mistake since the HELM Audio Bolt is a portable DAC and amplifier compatible with smartphones (android and iOS) and PC/Mac computers.
This tiny gadget is THX certified and supports MQA (Master Quality Authenticated) audio. The LED changes color to tell you which audio you are listening to—Blue for SD audio, Red for HD Audio, and Magenta for MQA audio.
Best headphone amp under $100? your choice
Hundreds of DAC, amplifiers, and pre-amps are available at different price points. I hope this list of headphone amps under $100 will make choosing your following amplifier easier.
Before buying a headphone amplifier, always set your budget, check the build quality or material used, brand reputation, impedance, and other specifications, and read reviews of users who have already used it.