The best portable headphone amplifier with integrated DAC for 2021
USB powered AudioQuest DragonFly Red can comfortably power hard-to-drive headphones and also sounds great. Demanding listeners may notice a slightly more three-dimensional soundstage and a more precise touch in the bass notes compared to a computer’s built-in headphone jack. It doesn’t add either coloring, so that the instruments sound faithfully to their recorded sounds. About the size of a small USB flash drive, the DragonFly Red is highly portable, and unlike larger battery-powered amps, it’s easy to leave it connected to a computer. It’s compatible with Windows and macOS, although you might need an adapter to connect its USB Type A connector to a newer laptop. However, since it lacks battery and consumes a decent amount of power, we think it’s a poor choice for use with handheld portable devices.
This battery powered DAC / amp can handle hard-to-drive headphones without draining your music device’s battery, but you may need to purchase a separate cable to use it with your mobile device.
the iFi Hip-dac is our choice for use with mobile devices because it can power headphones without draining your laptop battery, and it costs about half the price of most similarly equipped devices. The Hip-dac can power even the most difficult to drive headphones at high volume levels, and while it doesn’t sound bad headphones, attentive listeners may notice a slight increase in detail and a feeling of space. when used with to drive headphones. Battery life is rated at around eight to 12 hours of use. However, being the size of a smartphone, it’s not as easy to keep it plugged into a computer all the time as the little DragonFly Red, but it’s small enough to fit into the front pocket of a bag. messenger to take it on the go. IPhone users will need to purchase a adapter cable, just like people with a phone using Micro USB, but a USB-A to USB-C cable is included for Android users.
With the ability to connect via Micro-USB, digital optical, digital coaxial or a 3.5mm analog line input, the FiiO Q5 has the versatility to amplify more than your laptop or portable device. The addition of Bluetooth gives you a little more mobility – you can stream from your device wirelessly to the Q5s and listen with wired headphones (with support for aptX HD, LDAC, HWA, AAC and SBC codecs.) While the Q5s isn’t as powerful as the iFi Hip-dac, it sounds just as good. Battery life will depend on how you use it, with around nine hours of playback via Bluetooth, 10 hours via the coaxial connection, and 25 hours if used only as an amp. The myriad of cables included means you can connect most devices right away, but if your music device has USB-C outputs, you’ll need to purchase one. USB-A to USB-C cable. But all that versatility comes at a significantly higher price tag than our other picks.