Best Headphone AMP Under $100 – Which Is The Right One For You?

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First and foremost, let’s define things. Do you have an idea what an amplifier does or you just are searching for one cause your friend suggested it to you? Whatever reason it is, you have to have it clear what exactly is an amplifier. I’m going to try to put it as simply as possible! So, an amplifier, if I remember it right from my professor of physics in high school, an amplifier is a device that is mainly used to increase the amplitude of electrical signals, and that is why headphone amps are mainly used in sound reproduction.

The way headphone amps work is that they take an input signal from a source, such as a laptop, turntable, or CD player, and create a larger copy of the original signal before it’s sent to the speakers, but that does not mean that they are able to improve the sound quality.

Yes, you are surprised, right?! So, now you know that if you want to improve the sound quality in a device, you don’t need an amplifier. An amplifier is designed to increase the audio signal levels, and it is not intended to objectively or subjectively improve the recorded audio nor the reproduction of such audio.

There are different types of amplifiers, such as voltage amplifiers, current amplifiers, power amplifiers, audio frequency amplifiers, intermediate frequency amplifiers, radio frequency amplifiers, ultrasonic amplifiers, wideband amplifiers, etc, and this only shows how broad physics is as a science.

Some headphones already have a built in headphone amplifier, meaning you don’t need one, but for 95% of headphones out there, you do need one.

Now let’s get to the best headphone amplifiers that you can get on a budget, or if I have to be more specific, the best headphones amps under $100. Bare with me!

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FiiO Q1 Mark IIFiiO Q1 Mark II
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Neoteck Portable 3.5mmNeoteck Portable 3.5mm
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EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bitEarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit
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Top 5 Best Headphone Amps Under $100

5. AudioQuest – DragonFly

Now, you must know that if you decide to purchase this headphone amplifier, you will be getting not only an headphone amplifier but also a USB DAC + Preamp + Headphone Amp. So, just think of the Nescafe 3 in one, and this amplifier will be just the equivalent of that.

The second thing that you must know about AudioQuest’s DragonFly headphone amp, is that it comes in three different versions, black, red, and the cobalt DragonFly. These three headphone amps don’t just present three different colors, but also different features and specifications.

DragonFly Black is the most affordable model of the DragonFly family and it uses a high-quality headphone amp and analog volume control, whereas DragonFly Red is more sophisticated with improved performance with still exceptional value, and I say that because DragonFly Red includes a more advanced ESS headphone amp and bit-perfect digital volume control that resides on the 9016 DAC chip itself, which gives Red a unique combination of power and grip over the music, making it a sophisticated device.

Whereas DragonFly Cobalt strips away fuzz and fog that weren’t even noticeable until Cobalt removed them, and that’s possible because of the robust 2.1-volt output to drive almost any headphone Cobalt’s, by using bit-perfect digital volume control for the outstanding signal-to-noise ratio, enables seamless compatibility.

With this headphone amplifier, you will get a beautiful sound in a small package, pocket-friendly and very practical. In its category, this is the best headphone amplifier you can get.

Specifications of AudioQuest – DragonFly:

  • Native resolution: Up to 24-bit / 96kHz
  • Enclosure and accessories: Red automotive finish with gold lettering | Protective endcap | Leatherette travel pouch.
  • Microcontroller: Microchip PIC32MX270 – Extremely low power consumption with 32-bit architecture and the option for software upgradability.
  • DAC chip: ESS ES9016 – with minimum-phase fast roll-off filter.
  • Volume control: 64-Bit Bit-Perfect Digital Volume Control
  • Dimensions: 12mm (h) x 19mm (w) x 62mm (l)

Why Should You Consider Purchasing it?
The beautiful natural sound will be right at your fingerprints if you decide to purchase this headphone amplifier.

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4. FiiO Q1 Mark II

Some of the finest components are used in the Q1 Mark II, which make a very well-thought-out design. The DAC AKM AK4452 decodes high sampling rate formats with a high signal-to-noise ratio and low distortion and so much more.

The Q1 Mark II uses a headphone amplifier chip that was used in the X7 Mark II’s AM3A amplifier module.

You would say, what guarantees me that I’ll get the sound quality that I want with this headphone amplifier? Well, the fact that this headphne amp has been certified by the Japan Audio Society to be “Hi-Res Audio” capable, should tell you a lot, and convince you to purchase it right away.

This headphone amplifier will get along with each of your devices, which means that it partners well with everything that you might think about. Let me give a few examples! For example, it will get along perfectly with your iPhone. You will say to yourself my iPhone has never sounded so good after connecting the included Lightning-to-micro USB cable from the iPhone to the Q1 Mark II.Q1 Mark II also supports connection to Sony Walkman players, by using a specially designed adapter cable, you can connect from the WM-Port of your Sony Walkman player to the Q1 Mark II.

This headphone amplifier, besides your mobile devices, also partners well with your computer. The point is that it can be used as a USB DAC when paired with a computer through a USB cable, but I must say that with a Windows computer, a special driver from FiiO is required.

With this amplifier form and function come together in a stunning all-metal shell and every last detail is pored over in pursuit of perfection.

Specifications of FiiO Q1 Mark II:

  • Output Power: 75mW(PO/32Ω) >220mW(BAL/32Ω)
  • Supported Sampling Rates: 384kHz/32bit
  • DSD Support: DSD64/128/256
  • THD+N: <0.003%(USB DAC) <0.002%(AUX IN)
  • Battery Capacity: 1800mAh
  • Battery Life: 20h(AUX IN)
  • SNR: >1Oh (USB DAC) >115dB(AUXIN) >110dB(USB DAC)
  • Dimensions: About 99×59×12.5(mm)
  • Headphone Impedance: 16-1500(BAL)
  • Weight: About 101g

Why Should You Consider Purchasing it?
With this amplifier you will not only get a headphone amplifier, but also amplifier brought together in a very intelligent design.

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3. Neoteck Portable 3.5mm

With the affordable price of this amplifier, it’s truly worth giving a shot to upgrading the sound quality. This amplifier is convenient and easy to use. It guarantees high-quality audio and it’s suitable for MP3, MP4, mobile phones, laptops, PCs, etc.

It contains a noise reduction function, and distortion with enhanced dynamics, perfect pure stereo effect, HD voice music sound quality optimization and so many more great features.

The aluminum matte surface will give you a sturdy feeling. It has a built-in rechargeable battery and it can be charged by a micro USB cable.

This headphone amplifier is supported by a power LED and charge LED indicator.

This headphone amp is not recommended to use while charging, because current disturbance will occur when in charging, that’s why there will be noise. When fully charged, disconnect the power supply, and then use the headphone amplifier. Definitely a great headphone amp under $100.

Specifications of Neoteck Portable 3.5mm: 

  • Input/Output Port: Port: 3.5mm Audio Input
  • Distortion: 0.003%
  • SNR: ≥100dB
  • Load impedance: 16-150Ω
  • Maximum power output: 250mW in Impedance 16Ω
  • Amp Internal Voltage: ±4V
  • Charging voltage: DC 5V
  • Frequency response: 20Hz-20kHz(±3dB)
  • Amp Using Time: About 8 Hours
  • Dimension: 3.8 x 2.4 x 0.6inch
  • Net weight: 3.6oz

Why Should You Consider Purchasing it?
High fidelity, stronger and cleaner basses, compact and light-weight and 8 hours of functional time. A great stereo amplifier suitable for anyone.

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2. EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit

Ear Studio is a headphone amp that is produced by a South Korean company that manufactures high end & quality music & audio products, DACs & Amplifiers, and many more devices related to audio and sound.

Ear Studio ES100 is not only a headphone amp if you decide to purchase it, but you will also be buying a portable Bluetooth receiver & DAC, at the same time. Isn’t that cool!

War Studio ES100 is a Bluetooth 5.0 device, so you can connect it with your iOS, or Android. The 3.5 mm stereo jack allows you to connect a wired headphone & listen to the music, and just above the stereo jack, it has a volume control button to increase & decrease the volume.

This headphone amp can receive 24-bit signals at Bluetooth & 48kHz/16-bit via USB and it also supports LDAC, SBC, AAC, AptX & AptX HD transmission codecs for Bluetooth.

You have a USB option to connect the Ear Studio ES100 MK2 device to Desktops, laptops, tablets, and smartphones, and the same input is used as charging input, as well, once you charge it, you can use it to listen to the music for 14 hours continuously.

This headphone amp is not suggested for extreme audiophiles, but it is still one of the best amplifiers that you can purchase for under $100.

Specifications of EarStudio ES100 MK2-24bit:

  • Radsone
  • DACs: AK4375a (2)
  • Output power: 1.1Vp at 16 ohms (3.5 mm unbalanced); 2.2 Vp at 16 ohms (2.5 mm balanced)
  • Output Impedance: 0.5–1 ohm
  • SNR (1KHz, 20KHz AES17): 109 dB (+2.8 dBu, 3.5 mm unbalanced); 110 dB (+8.8 dBu, 2.5 mm balanced)
  • THD+N (1KHz, 20KHz AES17): 0.0022% (3.5 mm unbalanced); 0.0014% (2.5 mm balanced)
  • Connection: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Codecs: LDAC, aptX-HD, AAC, aptX, SBC
  • Bluetooth Range: 32 ft (10 m)
  • Battery Capacity: 350mAh
  • Playback time: 14 hours

Why Should You Consider Purchasing it? 
One of the smallest and light-weighted headphone amplifiers. Loud and satisfying sound. Comes with a USB cable. Quite and detailed sound. Affordable price. Do you need more reasons?

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Before getting too deep on this headphone amp, I must say that this one is not known as much as the other listed amplifiers, so I know that the names won’t sound familiar to you, but I guarantee, that it contains all the necessary features to be called a great headphone amp with a reasonable price. It is produced by a Chinese company and it comes in two colors, silver, and black.

The FX Audio DAC-X 6 has many input options and having a USB, coaxial, and optical all-in-one unit is nice. You can find the USB input on the back panel and also, an optical input, a coaxial input, two RSC inputs, and a power input. See, just like we mentioned, this headphone amp has many input options.

FX AUDIO DAC-X6 is not USB powered. FX AUDIO DAC-X6 does pump enough power to drive the HD650, which is a power-demanding headphone. FX AUDIO DAC-X6 also does a great job in giving out extra power to the ATHAD700X, which is mainly used for gaming.

This headphone amp can be a great upgrade if the internal DAC of your device sounds very bad

Last but not least, this headphone amp is a great option for bass lovers, because it has got that extra oomph you would love to have in the bass ends. Definitely one of the best headphone amps under $100 you can get your hands on.

Specifications of FX AUDIO DAC-X6:

  • FX Audio
  • DAC: CS4398 + CS8416
  • Headphone amp: TPA6120 + OP275
  • 16 bit: Support 44.1 – 192 kHz
  • 24 bit: Support 44.1 – 96 kHz
  • Standard input interface: PC USB/coaxial, fiber optic (with toggle switch)
  • Standard output interface: 6.35 mm headphone output baseline, standard RCA connectors
  • Line level output: RMS 2V
  • Recommended headphone impedance: 32 – 600 ohm
  • Output power: 90 mW / 600 ohm, 180 mW / 300 ohm, 450 mW / 100 ohm, 610 mW / 62 ohm, 910 mW / 32 ohm, 1,000 mW / 16 ohm
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: ≥ 105 dB
  • Adapter voltage: 100 – 240 ACV
  • Machine power / adapter output voltage: DC 12 V 1A above
  • Dimensions: 3.9 x 5.7 x 1.4 in (9.8 x 14.6 x 3.5 cm)

Why Should You Buy It?
The clarity and soundstage of this amplifier will surprise you. It will deliver to you everything you need in a clear and loud sound. Definitely one of my favorite headphone amplifiers out there.

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Final Words

If you want to get the best audio quality, or at least improve your current audio quality, throwing a bit of money onto headphone amps is a good idea.

Look, I know it’s hard to choose the best headphone amp, especially when it comes to choosing between devices that are highly connected with technology, and you happen to be kind of a technophobe just like me, and it is even harder when you are on a search of that particular device while you are on a budget. So, with all these difficulty levels while choosing, I really hope that I have eased your process of choosing with this article. In this article, I have listed 5 of the best amplifiers that you can get on a budget but that doesn’t mean that they guarantee quality too, so don’t let the fact that they are cheap, worry you!

Further Reading

It is hard to believe any source of information these days, especially when it comes to technology, but I’ve also written different articles, based on what you are interested in, completely reliable! For, example if you are a person who is constantly seeking knowledge, but you just can’t sit reading a book for hours, I present to you the 6 best headphones for audiobook listening that guarantee amazing learning as a listening experience. 

Whether you’re looking for information on audio equipment, looking to learn more about how things work in the music field, or looking for reviews of products, we got you covered!



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