Headphones, and the amplifiers that drive them, are used by millions of people each and every day. Headphone amplifiers range from the small digital-to-analog converters in the headphone jacks of our devices to carefully-designed standalone units.
Great headphones will generally require great headphones amplifiers to reach their full potential. In this article, we’ll discuss the top brands to look out for when choosing a headphone amplifier.
The top 11 headphone amplifier brands are:
- Woo Audio
- Burson Audio
- Chord Electronics
- Benchmark Media
- Linear Tube Audio
- Cambridge Audio
- Auris Audio
- Pathos Acoustics
- Feliks Audio
Let’s get into each of these brands in greater detail and explain why they belong in the top 11 best headphone amp brands. For each brand I’ll share the country of origin; a bit of history; an example of a best-selling or flagship model, and a link to the official website.
Note that there are plenty of great headphone amplifier manufacturers with fantastic products on the market. In selecting the brands of this article, I’ve chosen those with multiple headphone amplifier models. I’ve included a section with honourable mentions at the end to list out some great companies that could have made the list but only have one or two headphone amp models.
Let’s begin the list with Woo Audio, a close-knit American company rooted in the simplicity of design, both electronically and aesthetically. Their philosophy allows for high-end products at affordable prices.
Woo Audio’s handcrafted headphone amplifiers (including electrostatic headphone amps) are handmade with expert craftsmanship. The majority of their amps are point-to-point wiring without the use of printed circuit boards.
Each amplifier is built with a standard 30-step procedure and is put though a thorough 8-hour stress test before ever entering the market.
All of these factors go into ensuring that Woo Audio headphone amplifiers are of the highest quality and reliability while maintaining a reasonable price point.
The WA2 (link to check the price at Woo Audio) is a popular headphone amplifier from Woo Audio.
Woo Audio was founded in 2004 by Wei Wu and his two sons in Long Island, New York, USA, where it is still headquartered today.
Second on this list is Burson Audio, an Australian manufacturer of premium audio equipment and audio equipment building blocks.
Burson Audio aims to provide the users of their products with a lavish musical experience. Their philosophy states that the less their components interfere with the audio signal, the more complete and truthful the listening experience will be.
Since 1996, the small team of experienced Burson engineers have designed and manufactured customized discrete circuits for specialized applications.
Headphone amplifier circuits are among these applications. As we’d expect by the inclusion on this list, Burson offers a range of high-end transparent headphone amps at competitive prices.
The Conductor 3X Reference (link to check the price at Burson Audio) is the flagship headphone amplifier from Burson.
Burson Audio was formed in 1996 by a small group of passionate audiophiles in Melbourne, Australia, where the small company is still headquartered today.
Schiit (yes it’s pronounced how you think it is) is a well-known American-made audio equipment manufacturer that has an impressive line of DAC headphone amplifiers.
Every Schiit product is carefully designed and manufacturer in California and all outsourced parts are produced to highest of standards in the United States.
Schiit ensures their products are made durable for real-world use. Robust steel and aluminum casings; high-quality C-core transformers; extensive power supply filtering, and precision low-noise regulation are par for the course in Schiit’s designs.
Their DAC headphone amps are built with top-of-the-line True Multibit digital-to-analog topology with medical/military grade D/A converters for near-perfect sonic performance.
The company also utilizes a unique DSP-based closed-form digital filter and other propriety trademarked technology for optimal results.
Every Schiit product is built by hand and put through rigorous testing before ever reaching the hands of the consumer. The customer service and support are also top-notch to ensure the best ongoing results possible with the purchase of a Schiit headphone amplifier.
The Magni 3+ (link to check the price on Amazon) is the most popular headphone amplifier from Schiit.
Schiit was founded in 2010 by Jason Stoddard (formerly of Sumo) and Mike Moffat (formerly of Theta) in Valencia, California, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.
Schiit is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Power Amplifier Brands In The World.
FiiO is fairly well-known for their affordable portable headphone amplifiers and DACs.
The Chinese manufacturer was founded in 2007 and has since become a worldwide brand name with a focus on quality and an aspiration to raise the reputation of their “made in China” products.
Their headphone amplifiers are some of the best in their price class and are designed with those who love music and style in mind. The performance and low price of FiiO headphone amps speak volumes about the company’s commitment to quality and affordability.
If you’re looking for a compact portable headphone amp to improve your listening experience, FiiO could very well be the brand for you!
The A5 (link to check the price on Amazon) is a standout headphone amplifier model from FiiO.
FiiO Electronics Technology Company, Ltd. was founded by James Chung in 2007 in Guangzhou, China, where the company is still headquarters today.
FiiO is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Earphone/Earbud Brands In The World.
Before Chord Electronics was established in 1989, its founder and chief designer John Franks was working in avionics as an engineer.
With a keen interest in audio amplifiers, Franks founded Chord Electronics and immediately became a supplier to the BBC. In a relatively short amount of time, the supply list began including world-leading studios like Abbey Road and Sony Music, and other large clients like The Royal Opera House.
That is very impressive and speaks volumes about the quality (and quantity) of Chord amplifiers.
Among Chord amplifiers are impressive DAC/headphone amps with the high-quality sound and design that the company is known for.
The British-made award-winning manufacturer has several proprietary technologies including FPGA (field-programmable gate array) and WTA (watt transient aligned) filters.
Chord remains at the forefront of audio technology advancement and it shows in their high-end DAC/headphone amps.
The Hugo 2 (link to check the price on Amazon) is the best headphone amplifier by Chord Electronics Ltd.
Chord Electronics Ltd. was founded in 1989 by John Franks in Kent, England, United Kingdom, where the company is still headquartered today.
Benchmark Media Systems, as their name would suggest, is committed to excellent. This commitment goes into all of their designs including the headphone amplifiers that have put them on this list.
The Benchmark team is made of musicians, audiophiles and audio professionals that are passionate about quality and fully understand the hopes and dreams of their clientele.
Benchmark products are cherished for their impressive durability and superb build quality. Products, including headphone amps, that are designed, assembled and tested meticulously in the headquarters in Syracuse, New York.
Audio transparency is the primary goal of all Benchmark headphone amplifiers and products. This beautiful sonic transparency has become what Benchmark is known for.
The HPA4 (link to check the price at B&H Photo Video) is Benchmark’s flagship reference headphone amplifier.
Benchmark began in 1983 as the “Benchmark Sound Company”, founded by Allen H. Burdick in Garland, Texas, USA. In 1985, the company was incorporated as Benchmark Media Systems. Today the manufacturer is headquarters in Syracuse, New York, USA.
Linear Tube Audio
Linear Tube Audio is a high-fidelity audio manufacturer with the mission of bringing life back to music with affordable products. Their esteemed headphone amplifiers suggest their mission is getting accomplished.
Each and every LTA amplifier is designed with ZOTL technology. ZOTL is a David Berning patent with a complex design that effectively combines “tube tone” with “solid-state detail”. Since the debut of ZOTL technology, LTA has been the only company able to successfully manufacture the Berning patent at a commercial scale.
The completely American-made headphone amps of LTA are among the best in the world. LTA even has a notable electrostatic headphone amplifier.
The Microzotl MZ3 (link to check the price at LTA) is a standout headphone amplifier from Linear Tube Audio.
Linear Tube Audio was founded in 2015 by Mark Schneider in Takoma Park, Maryland, USA, where the company is still headquartered today.
Cambridge Audio, originally founded in 1968, has since made a name for itself as a high-end audio equipment manufacturers.
Being a part of this list, Cambridge Audio produces superb headphone amplifiers that are deserving of praise for their incredible audio, design and build qualities.
Cambridge Audio prides itself on its product line that fits within its mission of giving listeners the best possible sound at the fairest possible price.
This mission can be heard in the company’s speakers, power amplifiers, preamplifiers, and, of course, their headphone amps/DACs.
The DACMagic Plus (link to check the price on Amazon) is an excellent headphone amplifier from Cambridge Audio.
Cambridge Audio began life as a division of Cambridge Consultants in 1968. As the name suggests, it was founded in Cambridge, England. Today the company is headquartered in London, England, United Kingdom.
Cambridge Audio is also featured in My New Microphone’s Top Best Power Amplifier Brands In The World.
The Serbian company Auris Audio is perhaps a lesser-known to the American audiophile. I’ve added it to this list to help spread the word!
A group of expert craftsmen and engineers make up the team at Auris Audio. The company is guided by the simple philosophy of end-user satisfaction.
Each and every headphone amplifier from Auris is created with the utmost care, handcrafted from top-notch components and carefully thought out designs.
Auris makes some of the best headphone amplifiers money can buy. Check them out for yourself at their official website (link below).
The Euterpe (link to check the price at Moon Audio) is one of many high-end headphone amplifier from Auris Audio.
Auris Audio was founded in 2013 by Mr. Milomir Trosic in Serbia.
Pathos is an Italian audio manufacturer centred around the construction and distribution of their patented INPOL amplification circuit (Inseguitore a Pompa Lineare = Linear Pump Tracker).
All Pathos products, including their headphone amps, are handmade in Vicenza by following a long tradition of Italian craftsmanship.
Pristine hand-selected components are used to ensure an unequalled quality and all products are tested thoroughly to guarantee this superior quality.
The Aurium (link to check the price at Upscale Audio) is a standout headphone amplifier model from Pathos.
Pathos Acoustics was founded in 1994 by Gaetano Zanini, Gianni Borinato and Paolo Andriolo in Vicenza, Italy, where the company is headquartered today.
Feliks Audio is a high-end amplifier manufacturer from Poland that specializes in tube amplifiers.
Their products, including headphone amplifiers and custom designs, are engineered, tuned, assembled and tested in house at their site in Lubliniec.
When it comes to tube headphone amplifiers, Feliks is an excellent choice for sound quality and beautiful design. Their headphone amps will not disappoint!
The Euforia (link to check the price at Upscale Audio) is one of many high-end headphone amplifiers from Feliks Audio.
Feliks Audio was founded in 1999 by Henryk Feliks in Lubliniec, Poland.
There are a few honourable mentions I should add to this list. These manufacturers do not specialize in headphone amplifiers but have one or two models that standout and would certainly make my “best headphone amplifier list”.
The honourable mentions include (with links to their website and flagship headphone amp):
- Focal: Arche (link to check the price on Amazon)
- Naim: HeadLine (link to check it out at Naim)
- McIntosh: MHA150 (link to check the price at Crutchfield)
- Rupert Neve Designs: RNHP (link to check the price on Amazon)
- Grace Design: M900 (link to check the price on Amazon)
- Audioquest (for USB DACs): Dragonfly (link to check the price on Amazon)