Are you in search of the Best Headphone Amp Under 200$? Our in-depth review guide will tell you what to look out for!
If you are an audiophile and own a premium pair of headphones, you would want to invest in a dedicated headphone amplifier to squeeze every bit of performance out of its drivers.
For those who don’t know, a headphone amp is designed to amplify the power of capable headphones. It sits right between your audio source and pair of ear cans, unlocking your access to a high-fidelity music listening experience.
Compared to the built-in solution on most smartphones and computers, a good headphone amplifier offers significantly better sound when plugging in a decent pair of in-ear monitors or over-the-ear headphones. It’s because dedicated amps make use of premium components to deliver a clean Hi-Fi signal. They are also quite expensive for the same reason.
Not everyone can spend thousands of dollars on a powerful amp to make the most out of their premium pair of headphones. But you don’t need to spend much on an amplifier anymore now that there are cheaper, more cost-effective options than ever before.
Those on a strict budget should read on, as this buying guide includes our round-up of the best headphone amp under 200$. You will find various mid-range and ultra-affordable options.
- 1 Best Headphone Amp Under 200$
- 2 Buying Guide For The Best Headphone Amp Under 200$
- 3 Best Headphone Amp Under 200$ F.A.Q
- 4 Conclusion
Best Headphone Amp Under 200$
Below are our choices for the best headphone amp under 200$. They come in all shapes and sizes, along with the proper input/output ports for your source device, in-ears, or over-the-ear headphones.
Although choosing the best headphone amp isn’t an easy task, we have done our best to clear things up about every amplifier mentioned here. It includes their features, design, pros, cons, etc.
To learn more about the factors one must consider before purchasing a headphone amplifier should out the later section of this guide.
1. iFi Zen CAN Balanced Desktop Headphone Amp
- Dimensions (W x D x H):60 x 1.17 x 3.5 cm
- Inputs:5mm AUX, analog stereo, 4.4mm Pentaconn
- Bluetooth: Optional
iFi Audio is a UK-based audio equipment firm known for its premium headphone amplifiers. However, the Zen Can is one of iFi Audio’s most affordable headphone amps. It can deliver up to 1600mW of power at 16 ohms, maximizing the performance of your headphones. It’s nearly 25 times the power output of a regular smartphone.
Like its higher-end siblings, the Zen Can has a circuit design that uses an input stage to level-match to your source, allowing the signal to go through a Class A amplification stage. It reduces the noise and distortion to the minimum.
The Zen Can uses iFi Audio’s signature XBass analog signal processing to produce natural and more accurate bass frequencies. It also brings out a wider soundstage from your headphone drivers to further improve your listening experience.
Ports-wise, the Zen Can features a single-ended ¼” (6.3mm) and a 4.4mm pentaconn headphone output on the front. There are three versatile inputs on the back, including a 3.5mm line-out, RCA R/L plugs, and a 4.4mm balanced pentaconn connector. In addition, you get a separate 4.4mm output to use the Zen Can as a preamplifier for active speakers.
The four-stage gain control on the Zen Can lets you precisely match the amp to your high-end headphones, meaning you can squeeze more volume without running into distortion levels.
One important thing to mention is that the Zen Can doesn’t have onboard Bluetooth connectivity. That said, you can pair it with iFi Audio’s Zen Blue v2 receiver for streaming Hi-Fi audio wirelessly via Bluetooth 5.0.
|Volume and four-level gain controls||No Bluetooth connectivity|
|MELF resistors and ceramic capacitors|
2. iFi Audio Hip-dac
- ✅ PORTABLE DESIGN - Your music will never stop with 6-8 hrs of battery life (depending on use) and a slim, lightweight design perfect for carrying in your pocket wherever life takes you.
- ✅ HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO - From Spotify to Tidal MQA to MP3 and beyond, play any high res audio format with native digital-to -analogue conversion so you can listen to any song the way the original recording was intended.
- ✅ POWERFUL AMPLIFIER - Suited to your style, listen to in ear monitors or drive over the ear headphones with 400 mW max power output from the on-board amplifier
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 7 x 10.2 x 1.4 cm
- Inputs:5mm AUX, 4.4mm Pentaconn, USB
- Bluetooth: No
If you are searching for a portable headphone amplifier, the Hip-dac from iFi Audio is an excellent pick. It resembles a hip flask, but it gets you drunk on high-quality music instead. Thanks to its compact and lightweight design, you can carry it in your pocket wherever you go.
Inside the Hip-dac is a Burr-Brown chip from Texas Instruments, which supports all high-resolution audio formats, including DSD, MQA, and PCM. The sampling rates go up to 384kHz. Whether you have a Spotify or a Tidal subscription, you can listen to your favorite tracks the way the original recordings were intended.
The onboard amplifier offers a max power output of 400mW. It’s powerful enough for driving IEMs (in-ear monitors) and over-the-ear headphones on the go. In terms of connectivity, this portable headphone amp offers a USB input, along with an S-balanced 3.5mm auxiliary and a 4.4mm pentaconn output for convenience.
Usability is on point thanks to the inclusion of a physical volume knob. You can also turn on XBass to subtly enhance the bass without muddying the mid-range, ideal for IEMs and open-back headphones that often miss out on bass. Additionally, the switch for enabling PowerMatch mode lets you further optimize your headphone output.
Despite its form factor, the Hip-dac achieves up to six hours of battery life. It uses a 5V USB-C port for charging, so you won’t have to carry a weird proprietary cable with you on your travels. You can charge it with the same cord as your smartphone or laptop.
For something that slips discreetly into a pocket, the iFi Audio Hip-dac packs quite a punch. If you prefer portability over quality and versatility, it’s the best headphone amp under 200$.
|Supports Tidal MQA format out of the box||Bluetooth is missing|
|Works with a variety of IEMs and headphones||No ¼” analog port|
|Pocketable form factor|
3. Creative Sound BlasterX G6
- UPGRADE YOUR GAMES ON PS4, XBOX ONE, NINTENDO SWITCH, AND PC | Get immediate increased enjoyment over basic motherboard and controller audio! Apart from incredible audio quality, the Sound BlasterX G6 boasts gaming-centric features such as Sidetone volume control and easy-to-reach profile buttons
- INDUSTRY-LEADING AUDIO PROCESSING TECHNOLOGY | Enjoy full audio customization and enhanced audio realism with immersive 7.1 surround virtualization, accurate cues, bass boost and in-game voice communication enhancements. It also has Scout Mode than enhances in-game audio cues, letting you hear your enemies before they hear you
- 7.1 VIRTUAL SURROUND SOUND AND DOLBY DIGITAL | Enjoy the latest in immersion technology with Dolby Digital decoding or Sound Blaster’s proprietary surround sound perfect for games and movies
- Dimensions (W x D x H):4 x 7 x 11.1 cm
- Inputs:5mm AUX, Optical
- Bluetooth: No
If you are looking to upgrade the audio of a gaming system, the Sound BlasterX G6 from Creative is a suitable choice for the price. It offers a massive boost in quality over your PC’s motherboard audio controller or video game console’s output, as well as a rich and immersive 7.1 surround sound experience.
Creative’s custom-designed Xamp module is what powers the Sound BlasterX G6. Unlike other gaming DAC amplifiers, the BlasterX G6 provides individual amplification for both audio channels. It also supports adjustable gain control.
The BlasterX G6 can improve the performance of your gaming headset and drive high-performance, studio-grade in-ear monitors and headphones. Given its ultra-high 130dB dynamic range and 32-bit/384kHz DAC, you can only expect the highest level of detail and fidelity. For those wondering, the amp does support DoP and PCM audio formats.
The Creative Sound BlasterX G6 is also the only headphone amp to support Dolby Digital decoding and 7.1 virtual surround sound. For first-person competitive shooters, the following features make audio positioning more accurate. It helps players track down the opponent’s footsteps and gunshots more precisely. You can get the virtual audio working across PC, PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch.
Outputs on the BlasterX G6 include a 3.5mm AUX port, optical output, and a microphone jack for voice communication. You also get a digital optical input and a micro-USB port. It’s worth noting that the micro-USB input only works with consoles and not mobile devices.
Overall, the Creative Sound BlasterX G6 is a fantastic headphone amp for gaming, listening to music, and watching movies. It also retails for just under $200, but you can find the amplifier at discounts quite often.
|32-bit 384 kHz DAC w/ 130db DNR||No Bluetooth|
|Built-in multi-bit modulator eliminates noise and distortion||Mic input doesn’t work for Xbox and Switch|
|Dedicated volume knob, accessible profile buttons|
|Supports Dolby Digital and 7.1 surround sound|
4. FiiO K5 Pro (AK4493EQ)
- High-performance DAC AK4493 | Gain control switch with gain levels: Low 0dB, Medium +6dB and High +10dB
- USB DAC: 768K/32Bit and native DSD decoding | USB decoding chip: XMOS XUF208
- Variety of inputs: Coaxial / Optical / RCA line-in
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 13 x 12.1 x 5.5 cm
- Inputs: Coaxial, Optical, Line-In, USB
- Bluetooth: No
FiiO is mostly known for its portable headphone amps, but they also make desktop ones. If you are looking for a simple headphone amplifier with all the necessary functions, the FiiO K5 Pro is a solid option.
The K5 Pro features the AKM AK4493EQ DAC chip, which is known to provide smooth and detailed sound with minimal distortion. It supports up to 32-bit/768kHz sampling rates, with hardware native DSD decoding to produce powerful headphone amplification.
In addition, the combination of Texas Instruments TPA6120 and OPA1642 JEFT op-amps paired with the NJRC NW1195A volume adjustment chip allows for incredible Hi-Fi output. It also uses an XMOS XUF208 USB decoding microcontroller for its unprecedented capabilities and proven stability.
All this hardware is packed inside an all-black, CNC-machined, anodized, and sandblasted aluminum enclosure. It gives the K5 Pro amp a robust, premium feel. Plus, it’s pretty compact and doesn’t take up much space on a desk.
Aside from having a wide variety of digital inputs, the K5 Pro also has an analog RCA line-in port, so you can use it with active speakers and external amplifiers. In terms of output, you get a ¼” (6.3mm) port, as well as RCA line-out jacks.
Other niceties include an all-metal oversized volume knob on the front, with underglow RGB lights that indicate the active sample rate. There are also tactile toggle switches for gain adjustment and input selection. It makes controlling the audio output easy and seamless.
Whether you have professional monitors, IEMs, or over-the-ear headphones, the FiiO K5 Pro will deliver rich and precise sound at all times. The fact that it goes for such an affordable price makes it an absolute steal.
|Terrific DAC performance||Output power is slightly low|
|ADC volume control allows for finer volume adjustments||It doesn’t have Bluetooth connectivity|
|Native DSD, supports up to 32-bit/786kHz|
|Premium build quality w/ easy-to-access switches|
5. Douk Audio P1
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 18 x 11.8 x 3.6 cm
- Inputs: RCA R/L, USB
- Bluetooth: Yes (5.0 with aptX)
For those who are searching for the best tube headphone amp under 200 USD, the Douk Audio P1 is worth considering. It’s a mini vacuum tube pre-amp with built-in DAC and Bluetooth connectivity.
This headphone amp uses a classic 6J5 vacuum and valve tube, offering clear, warm, and dynamic retro tube sound. You get the option to replace the 6J5 tube with 6J1, 6J4, 6AK5, 6Ж1n-EB, and GE5654 units.
The classic 47 amplifier module inside the P1 is capable of driving up to 300-ohm headphones and sensitive in-ear monitors. The three NE5532 op-amps allow for granular levels of bass and treble controls. The CM6642 USB controller supports 24-bit/192kHz sampling rates. The amp even has a QCC3034 chip from Qualcomm, enabling Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX HD wireless audio streaming.
Besides Bluetooth connectivity, you get USB and RCA inputs, along with 3.5mm AUX and RCA outputs. The latter lets you connect the P1 to active speakers and amplifiers. The P1 tube amp uses a DC 12V barrel connector for power.
Function-wise, the P1 has three copper-colored knobs for volume, bass, and treble adjustments. Additionally, there are three easy-to-access switches for input selection, tone control, and tube LED color.
The Douk Audio P1 isn’t the best-sounding DAC/headphone tube amp out there, but it’s the best in its price range. The modding aspects of it would also appeal to DIY enthusiasts.
|Replaceable tubes||A bit noisy with the stock tubes|
|Bluetooth 5.0 w/ aptX HD||Lacks 6.3mm output|
|Capable of driving high-end headphones|
6. AudioQuest DragonFly Black
- Compatible with Apple and Windows PCs, as well as iOS and Android mobile devices (requires Apple Camera Adapter or Made for Android/OTG adaptor)
- Plays all music files-MP3 to high-res. Medium output (1.2 volts) drives a wide range of headphones. Drives headphones directly
- Dimensions (W x D x H):9 x 5.7 x 1.2 cm
- Inputs: USB
- Bluetooth: No
The DragonFly Black from AudioQuest is the most affordable headphone amp in the award-winning DragonFly series. It offers a truly exceptional price-to-performance ratio compared to its higher-end and more expensive siblings, Red and Cobalt.
The DragonFly Black employs a 32-bit ESS 9010 Sabre DAC chip with a minimum-phase filter, offering crystal-clear, naturally detailed sound on the go. It has a max 1.2 V output– sufficient for driving mid-range IEMs and full-size headphones.
Whether it’s MP3, MQA (Tidal Masters), FLAC (Qobuz), or another Hi-Res audio format, the DragonFly Black can play any music file regardless of resolution. Note that the amp can natively decode up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution.
The Type-A USB input ensures the portable amp’s compatibility with Android and iOS devices over an OTG adapter, as well as Windows and macOS computers and laptops. It also enables firmware upgrades through DragonFly’s free desktop client.
Whatever music you like to listen to, wherever you are, the AudioQuest DragonFly Black DAC/headphone amp delivers rich, dynamic, Hi-Fi sound to headphones and in-ears. According to some reviews, the performance difference between Black and Red is imperceptible, so there’s no reason to pay a $100 premium for the latter.
|Extreme portability factor||Low output|
|Impressive clarity and resolution||Average build quality|
|Compatible with various devices|
7. FiiO Olympus 2 E10K
- Output amplitude: 200 mW (32 Ω / THD + N <1%).
- Volume control: ALPS potentiometer.
- Gain: 1.6 dB (GAIN = L), 8.8 dB (GAIN = H).
- Dimensions (W x D x H): 9 x 8 x 2.1 cm
- Inputs: Micro-USB
- Bluetooth: No
The FiiO Olympus 2 E10K is the cheapest headphone amp on this list, yet it manages to offer decent loudness and detail with a capable headphone plugged in.
The FiiO E10K is equipped with a PCM102 DAC chip, which can handle PCM audio files up to 24-bit/96kHz resolution. It effectively improves the quality via a linear filter and reduces the silence interval on changing tracks.
The low-pass filter and bass boost circuit ensures a lower noise floor. Furthermore, the LMH6643 op-amp provides more driving power and better transient response across the board.
Fitting all this hardware is a sleek, brushed aluminum shell. It’s tough, compact, and only weighs 78 grams– perfect for portable use. The front end of the amplifier features a nifty volume control dial and a bass boost switch.
Connectivity options include a micro-USB input to connect to a digital source, along with 3.5mm, line-out, and coaxial output to connect to headphones and other audio equipment.
All in all, the FiiO Olympus 2 E10K stands tall as a price-to-performance king in the lower-price segment of headphone amps. We can recommend it to anyone on a limited budget.
|Compact and lightweight||Micro-USB port|
|Quite capable for the size||Bluetooth is missing|
Buying Guide For The Best Headphone Amp Under 200$
Headphone amplifiers offer a power boost to capable pairs of headphones and earphones. They are useful when you would like to get the best possible audio fidelity. The more premium components the amp use, the better quality you can expect from your ear cans. Such amplifiers are designed and tuned specifically to provide ample power to over-the-ear headphones and in-ear monitors as opposed to a full-size professional speaker.
The use of a headphone amp benefits several situations. Some wish to improve their music-listening experience through a mobile device, while others ask for the best movie-watching experience on a computer or laptop. Another common use of amplifiers is in professional recording studios, where audio quality and accuracy are the biggest priorities.
Headphone amps were once an audiophile’s dream due to their sky-high prices, but that isn’t the case today due to the massive influx in newer audio equipment brands. That said, it has also increased the total number of quality amps on the market by a significant margin, making it difficult for users to make a purchase decision.
Since you are in for the best headphone amp under 200$, the list of options narrows down quite a bit, yet it can be still overwhelming for some. But once you start considering a few important factors tailored to your needs, it can be quite easy to make the ultimate choice.
Here are some of the key considerations we have taken to curate the above list of recommendations:
Headphone amps come in various sizes. Usually, the smaller the amplifier, the more limited it is in terms of features and functions. However, some portable amps are surprisingly capable despite their portable form factor, offering plenty of juice to drive a pair of full-size headphones or in-ear monitors.
If you plan to use a headphone amp with desktops or laptops, a bigger and bulkier unit is a perfect suit. It will not only give you access to more connectivity options but also provide overall better audio fidelity. You will also get physical control knobs and buttons.
Some headphone amps only work as an “amplifier.” Others serve as DAC or Digital-to-Analog Converters. In simple words, they can convert digital audio signals into low-voltage analog signals and leave the rest to the amplifier module for amplification.
Luckily, most headphone amps under $200 now come with a built-in DAC. However, you should always double-check in case you want to use the amp with a computer.
Some amps are single-channel, while others provide multiple inputs for multiple channels, usually with individual volume controls. If you don’t require more than one headphone jack at the same time, you probably won’t need to consider this at the time of purchase.
Max Power Output
When buying a headphone amp, make sure it offers an ample amount of watts to drive your pair of headphones or IEMs. A higher power output means you can reach higher volume levels on your ear cans without any distortion.
If you want a portable headphone amp to carry outdoors, be sure to get the one with the biggest possible battery. It will give you extra hours of playtime while you are on the roads. The iFi Audio Hip-dac we suggested earlier offers decent battery life.
Best Headphone Amp Under 200$ F.A.Q
Q1. Are headphone amps under 200$ worth buying?
200$ is a lot of money, and it can get you a headphone amp of reasonable quality. However, not all amplifiers in that price segment are necessarily good, so we always recommend doing the right research before making a purchase decision.
That said, you can rely on our picks as they are deemed some of the best amps for the price in the audiophile community.
Q2. Do headphone amps only improve certain genres of music?
This is a general misconception about amplifiers. The objective of using a headphone amp is to improve the overall loudness and clarity of the sound coming through your headphones. Thus, you will notice an improvement regardless of the type of music you listen to.
Q3. Can headphone amps cause noise-induced hearing loss?
As long as you are listening to music at a safe volume level, headphone amps don’t have any effect on your hearing. You can say the same for listening to music without a headphone amp, where it’s still possible to reach harmful decibel levels.
Q4. Will an amplifier wear out my headphone drivers over time?
If you are using your pair of headphones with the amplifier according to the recommended configuration, it shouldn’t wear out over time. However, pushing more power past the headphone’s suggested specifications can certainly cause irreversible damage.
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We hope this guide has helped you find the best headphone amps under 200$ and cleared some of your doubts around them. At the end of the day, all the models mentioned above will offer you an unmatched listening experience. But it’s ultimately up to you to decide which headphone amp or DAC is the best for your needs.
If you have any questions regarding the suggested headphone amps, please reach out to us via the comments section below. You will also find buy links to all the AMP/DAC combos mentioned in this guide.