Best Headphone Amp Under 100 - How To Get Crisp Headphone Sound Without Spending Too Much

So, you just purchased a pair of those high-end headphones but you're still having issues getting them to sound good? If that is the case, you need a headphone amp that'll breathe in new life into your headphones.

Headphones are, by far, the best way to enjoy your favorite tunes. To ensure you get the best possible sound, you need an amp to drive your headphones.

Unfortunately, if you're uninitiated, finding the best headphone amp can become quite the task. Although their function is simple, the sound headphone amps deliver can vary from brand to brand.

What's more, you also have to consider how much power your headphones can handle, and what source device are you going to use.

Thankfully, you're at the right place. In this article, we've gathered the top 7 best headphone amps under 100 you can find in 2021 and we've compiled a comprehensive buyer's guide.

In A Hurry? After 36 Hours Of Research, The Winner Is:

dragonfly amp

Why they are the best?

  • The soundscape this amplifier produces is incredibly clear and natural
  • It can drive all kinds of headphones - from low-powered to high-powered
  • It comes in a durable aluminum chassis
  • It's very compact
  • It's pretty simple to set-up
98/100
our score

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26

RESEARCHED SOURCES

589

REVIEWS CONSIDERED

34

hours researching

24

products compared

Last Updated: December 1, 2021

By Barry Allen: This article has been updated to reflect the most accurate information regarding best amps for headphones available for those who are interested in enjoying the best sound in the best possible way. The best 7 available have changed, and information has been added to assist individuals in finding the best amp for headphnes currently available on the market. The FAQ has also been updated.

Best Headphone Amp Under $100 Compared

Product

Input Ports

Output Ports

Amp Type

Our Rating

Current Price

Polk Audio S35

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

Portable Solid State

98/100


Audio Technica ATH MSR7GM

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

Desktop Solid State

95/100

Beyerdynamic DT 880

1 x 6.3mm audio jack

4 x 6.3mm audio jack

Desktop Solid State

90/100

Philips SHP9500

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

Desktop Vacuum Tube

93/100

Sennheiser HD 600

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

1 x 3.5mm audio jack
1 x 2.5mm audio jack

Portable Vacuum Tube

97/100

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

1 x 6.3mm audio jack

1 x RCA audio jack
1 x Optical port
1 x Coaxial Port
1 x USB-PC port

Desktop Solid State

92/100

Beyerdynamic DT 1990 Pro

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

1 x 3.5mm audio jack

Portable Solid State

96/100

Why Buy A Headphone Amp Under 100?

Headphones work on the same principle as your speakers. Both headphones and speakers need amplifiers to work properly. Whether it's your earbuds, computer speakers, or your smartphone - all these devices have an in-built amp.

But why would you need an external amplifier then?

amp deimos

A built-in headphone amplifier from your smartphone, for instance, is limited by size and power. This is because you don't need a lot of power to drive a pair of earbuds.

On the other hand, external headphone amps can deliver much more power, which allows you to drive high-end headphones. On top of that, a headphone amp can also filter out the noise from the output, resulting in a cleaner sound.

While it's not recommended, you can plug in a regular pair of earbuds in an external amp to get a cleaner sound - just don't turn up the volume if you don't want to blow them out.

amp deimos2

Best Headphone Amp Under 100 - Reviews And Recommendations

Picking the best headphone amp under 100 was no easy task. The market is full of all kinds of models that deliver incredible sound quality. This is why we've made sure to include as wide of a selection as possible.

We included both desktop and portable models, as well as solid-state and tube amps. If none of our top picks fit your needs, keep on reading to learn how you can find the best headphone amp under 100 in our comprehensive buyer's guide.

1. AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5 - Best Portable Headphone Amp Under 100

dragonfly amp
Our Rating: 98/100

Way back in 2012, AudioQuest launched the first series of Dragonfly DAC/headphone amplifiers. AudioQuest Dragonfly headphone amplifier became an instant hit thanks to its compact form factor and solid sound quality.

Since then, AudioQuest released five other revisions of these amazing devices with the DragonFly Black v1.5 being the best headphone amp under 100.

The Design

At first sight, the DragonFly looks no different than a standard USB drive. This USB DAC/headphone amplifier comes in a compact size so it can easily fit in your pocket.

The chassis is built of metal with a soft rubbery finish. For any type of user feedback, there is a single LED that indicates the sampling rate of the tune you're currently playing.

As for a volume knob or any other buttons, the AudioQuest Dragonfly doesn't come with any. The volume control for this USB DAC/amp is handled by the source device.

This USB DAC/amp doesn't come with a battery but is instead powered via a USB port. This means that you will have to buy a micro-USB adapter if you want to use it on your smartphone.

When it comes to inputs, this USB DAC/amp comes with a single 3.5mm headphone jack.

The Performance

AudiQuest DragonFly audio DAC/amplifier prodes excellent sound. The richness and detail this headphone amp produces is simply amazing. The soundscape is much more transparent and immediate than what you get from listening to music straight from your computer's in-built DAC/amp.

Since Dragonfly Black v1.5 USB DAC/headphone amp is capable of providing a power output of 1.2 Volts, it's perfect for driving low impedance headphones and those that are just more power-efficient.

If you need more power, AudioQuest DragonFly is also available in a version that provides 2.1 volts of power output, but that will cost you double the original price. 

Pros

  • Excellent sound quality
  • Affordable
  • Compact
  • Durable

Cons

  • No volume knob
  • Only one type of headphone output

2. FiiO E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier - Best Desktop Headphone Under 100

FiiO E10K USB DAC
Our Rating: 95/100

FiiO is one of few companies that managed to turn the headphone amp market on its head. They consistently produce and introduce new headphone amps that offer impressive audio performance while being affordable.

FiiO E10K USB DAC and headphone amplifier is no different. This little amp is capable of driving all kinds of headphones without bringing a hole in your wallet.

The Design

The chassis on this headphone amplifier is built out of aluminum, ensuring extreme durability. On top of that, the aluminum also ensures this amp doesn't weigh a ton. The bottom features rubber stands so you don't have to worry about it sliding around your table whenever you want to plug in your headphones.

The front panel on this headphone amp features a 3.5mm headphone jack, an off/on bass boost switch, and a large volume knob. The knob is very satisfying to use, offering just enough resistance and clickiness when you turn it.

On the back panel, you will find a coaxial port, a USB cable power input, a line-out port, and a gain switch.

Our only complaint about the design is the material used for the bass boost and gain switches. They're made out of plastic which is notorious for breaking easily.

The Performance

When it comes to audio quality, the Fiio E10K is simply amazing. The sound is warm yet clear and when used with a PC allows you to clearly distinguish between mids and the bass.

This headphone amplifier comes with an in-built DAC that filters lots of background noise out of the sound providing you with a clean listening experience. The DAC can handle a sampling rate of 24-bit/96 kHz.

Thanks to the gain switch, this headphone amplifier can drive all kinds of headphones. No matter your headphone impedance, you can be certain this amp will be able to drive it. It can even drive smaller active speakers, but not as efficiently.

Pros

  • Durable aluminum chassis
  • Features a high-quality built-in audio DAC
  • Can drive both low-powered and high-powered headphones

Cons

  • No RCA output
  • The switches are made out of plastic

3. Behringer Microamp HA400 - Best Multichannel Headphone Amp Under 100

BEHRINGER HA400
Our Rating: 90/100

If you're setting up a home studio, or just need an affordable multichannel headphone amp, look no further than the Behringer Microamp HA400.

Whether you're setting up a studio or in recording, this headphone amps is a godsend since it allows you to plug in up to four headphones at once so you can check out your mix using different settings and different headphones.

With a price point that's just a fraction of what a high-end amp, this is one of the best headphone amps under 100.

The Design

The design of the Behringer Microamp HA400 is nothing short of solid. It built out of high-quality materials that can take quite a beating before breaking.

The chassis on this headphone amp is built out of powder-coated metal and features rubber stands on the bottom. The overall construction is solid and feels like it's made to last.

The front panel features four-volume knobs for controlling the headphone output and a single LED indicator for power. There is no power switch, which is a bit inconvenient since you'll have to plug it out from the wall each time you're done with it.

The back panel features a 12V power adapter port, and five 6.3mm headphone jacks - one for input and four for audio output. So, if you're using 3.5mm headphones, you should get an adapter.

The Performance

The performance of this headphone amp perfectly reflects its price.

The built-in DAC serves only to amplify the signal it gets from your sound source. This means you will be able to hear some noise when at full volume.

On top of that, if you have all four headphones plugged in and crank the volume all the way up, you'll notice the frequency response fall off dramatically.

When it comes to power output, this headphone amp can handle everything from 16 to 600 ohms of impedance. This amplifier can even drive low-powered active speakers, although we don't recommend it.

Even with the negatives, the Behringer Microamp HA400 is still one of the best headphone amps you can buy for very little money.

The front panel features four-volume knobs for controlling the headphone output and a single LED indicator for power. There is no power switch, which is a bit inconvenient since you'll have to plug it out from the wall each time you're done with it.

The back panel features a 12V power adapter port, and five 6.3mm headphone jacks - one for input and four for audio output. So, if you're using 3.5mm headphones, you should get an adapter.

The Performance

The performance of this headphone amp perfectly reflects its price.

The built-in DAC serves only to amplify the signal it gets from your sound source. This means you will be able to hear some noise when at full volume.

On top of that, if you have all four headphones plugged in and crank the volume all the way up, you'll notice the frequency response fall off dramatically.

When it comes to power output, this headphone amp can handle everything from 16 to 600 ohms of impedance. This amplifier can even drive low-powered active speakers, although we don't recommend it.

Even with the negatives, the Behringer Microamp HA400 is still one of the best headphone amps you can buy for very little money.

Pros

  • Solid construction
  • Can handle up to four headphones at once
  • Can drive any type of headphones
  • Very affordable

Cons

  • No power switch
  • Muddy frequency response when at high volume

4. Nobsound NS-08E Vacuum Tube Headphone Amplifier - Best Tube Headphone Amp Under 100

 Nobsound NS-08E
Our Rating: 93/100

So far we haven't mentioned a single tube amp. Well, that's about to change! Introducing Nobsound NS-08E, an excellent choice for audiophiles that are looking for that warmer tube audio.

Nobsound (Douk Audio) is a Chinese company well known for producing quality audio products at affordable prices. The Nobsound NS-08E is no different. This hybrid tube amp comes with HI-FI tubes that deliver a unique sound.

The Design

Nobsound NS-08E is a hybrid amp. This means it utilizes vacuum tubes for pre-amplification while the solid-state part handles the output of the audio.

The build quality is quite impressive for such an affordable tube headphone amplifier. The front panel is built out of brass and features a large volume knob. What's more the front panel houses the 3.5mm headphone jack for both the input and the output.

The back panel is quite uneventful and features a red power button and a power adaptor port. 

The rest of the chassis is built out of aluminum with two holes for the Hi-Fi vacuum tubes.

For a tube amp, we expected it would also feature a rca input or an optical/coaxial port, but you only get the 3.5mm jacks. Still, when you factor in the price, this is more than enough connectivity.

The Performance

Since the Nobsound NS-08E is a tube amp, it's a cable of driving headphones of all kinds. Whether you have a 16 or 600-ohms pair of headphones, you can use this stereo amplifier to drive them.

For a tube amp that's so affordable, the NS-08E provides excellent sound output. The tubes serve as a sort of bass boost since we noticed the sound is much beefier. The soundstage overall is quite wide.


Unfortunately, because this is a tube amplifier, you will have to get accustomed to background hissing and buzzing when the tubes get warm. You can mitigate this if you try a different power adaptor, but don't hold your hopes up.

Even with the buzzing issue, the Nobsound NS-08E is one of the best headphone amps for those that are looking for a warm-sounding amp. If you're looking for a better sound than your computers' audio DAC, give this amp a spin.

Pros

  • Can drive headphones with impedance between 16 and 600 ohms
  • Solid construction
  • Satisfying volume knob
  • Hybrid design

Cons

  • The power cable is too short
  • Hissing and buzzing in the background when the tubes get warmer

5. Douk Audio Little Bear B4-X - Best Portable Headphone Amp Under 100

Our Rating: 97/100

Next on our list is another NobSound/Douk Audio product. This time we're talking about one of the best portable headphone amps you can buy.

The Little Bear B4-X portable headphone amp boasts excellent performance and innovative design. Not only is this amplifier portable, but it also utilizes vacuum tubes.

If you're looking for a durable yet affordable portable tube amp, look no further than the Bear B4-x.

The Design

The shape of the Bear B4 amplifier closely resembles a flask. It's very thin, ensuring it will comfortably fit inside your pocket.

The chassis is built out of brushed aluminum and is extremely durable. We especially lowe the little window in the body so you can see the two vacuum tubes that are driving this amp.

The front panel features dual-mono 3.5mm and 2.5m headphone jacks as well as a volume knob and a 3.5mm input jack. The volume knob is nothing less than perfect. It's perfectly clicky while remaining smooth.

The back panel is quite uneventful and features a power adapter port and the on/off switch. While you would expect this amplifier to charge via a Micro-USB port, that's not the case. Instead, this portable amp utilizes a regular 12V power adapter.

When it comes to battery life, this comes with a 1000 mAh battery. The battery will last you for around four hours before you have to recharge it.

The Performance

If you're a fan of warmer tube sound, this amp should be on the top of your shopping list. The vacuum tubes deliver a beautifully soft and warm sound output for a superb listening experience.

We haven't noticed any background noise while using this amp, and for a good reason. This portable headphone amp is chock-full of circuit solutions that minimize sound signal pollution.

Unfortunately, you won't be able to drive 600 ohms headphones. Instead of this, this portable headphone amp can handle headphones from 16 to 300 ohms.

Pros

  • Very durable
  • Excellent audio output
  • Decent battery life
  • Incredible design

Cons

  • Doesn't use a USB cable for charging
  • Some finishing details could be better

6. FX Audio DAC-X6 - Best Versatile Headphone Amp Under 100

FX Audio DAC-X6
Our Rating: 92/100

The FX Audio DAC-X6 is still a relatively unknown name in the world of Hi-Fi enthusiasts. It first appeared on Aliexpress, and soon it came over to Amazon.

The FX Audio DAC-X6 is a digital audio converter/amplifier from a relatively obscure Chinese manufacturer. It boasts excellent input/output options and more than decent audio output.

If you're looking for an amplifier that produces a better sound than an in-built digital audio converter on your PC or Laptop, you should definitely give the DAC-X6 a try.

The Design

The construction of the FX Audio Dac-X6 is pretty solid for an affordable amplifier. The chassis is built out of aluminum alloy that's incredibly durable. The whole construction of this headphone amp is on par with high-end models.

The front panel is just as amazing as the construction. There are two metal switches for power and input that perfectly clicky and solid. Next to the switches, you will find the 6.3mm headphone jack and a large volume knob.

The back panel is where this headphone amp really shines. Besides the power adaptor port, you will also find RCA input, optical, coaxial, as well as a PC-USB input. Thanks to a wide selection of inputs, this amplifier is an excellent pick if you're building a studio room.

The FX Audio DAC-X6 comes with a USB cable for the USB interface and a power adapter.

The Performance

When it comes to performance this DAC/headphone amp is capable of driving all kinds of headphones ranging from 16 to 600 ohms of impedance.

The DAC portion of this amplifier can handle any sampling rate so don't worry about using fidelity.

The sound output is pretty decent for such an affordable amp. The soundscape is pretty natural and excels in gaming. We've played a couple of COD Warzone matches and were blown away by the audio produced by this amplifier.

Our only gripe is the low hissing background sound you get when the volume is turned all the way up. Still, this is an excellent headphone amplifier for the money.

Pros

  • Best headphone amp under 100 in terms of connectivity
  • Solid construction
  • Excellent sound output

Cons

  • Low hissing background sound when at high volume
  • No 3.5mm headphone jack output

7. Neoteck 3.5mm Headphone Amplifier - Best Durable Headphone Amp Under 100

Neoteck 3.5mm
Our Rating: 96/100

If you're looking for a portable headphone amplifier that can withstand quite a beating and has a decent battery life, we're happy to introduce Neteck 3.5mm headphone amp.

And since this amp is capable of driving headphones with up to 500 ohms of impedance, the Neoteck headphone amplifier an excellent pick for both novice and experienced audiophiles.

The Design

The Neoteck Headphone Amplifier is built of CNC aluminum that's completely scratch-proof. The chassis has a matte finish and is very compact in size. Measuring only 3.7 x 2.5 x 0.5 inches, this is one of the most compact amplifiers on the market.

The front panel hosts a 3.5mm jack s for input and output, as well as a gain switch and a volume knob. The switch is built out of plastic which isn't ideal since plastic isn't the most durable material.

The volume knob is pretty satisfying to turn. It offers just enough resistance and has a soft click that's on par with a desktop amplifier.

The battery inside this amplifier is rated at 1500 mAH. In real-world terms, this amplifier provides you with around eight hours of battery life per charge.

The charging is done via a Micro-USB cable. The Micro-USB charging cable is included with the amplifier, which is good news because you don't have to go out and buy one.

The Performance

When it comes to performance, this amplifier is pretty impressive. The Neoteck produces a clear, noise-free, and enhanced sound.

Whether it's listening to your favorite music or checking out your latest mix, you can rest assured this amplifier will deliver great sound.

Even when the volume is turned all the way up, there is no hissing or buzzing in the background.

Long battery life in combination with excellent output makes the Neoteck one of the best portable amplifiers you can buy on the current market.

Pros

  • Durable construction
  • Excellent sound quality
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Lacks other types of input connections

Best Headphone Amplifier Under 100 - Buyers Guide

amp for headphones

Now that you're familiar with our top picks for the best headphone amp under 100, it's time to learn all you need to know about these devices.

We guarantee that after reading this guide, you'll be equipped with all the knowledge you need to find the best headphone amplifier for your needs.

What Is A Headphone Amplifier?

Before you even start looking for a headphone amp, you should ask yourself do you actually need one. To find out the answer to this question, you need to know what a headphone amp is.

A headphone amp is a low-powered amplifier that raises low-voltage signals from a source device (smartphones, laptops, PCs, etc.) to a sufficient level so that they are converted into soundwaves by the drivers inside your headphones.

A headphone amplifier is no different than a regular amplifier, it just operates at a lower scale.

If you own a pair of headphones with high impedance, you need an amplifier for the best sound quality.

Types Of Headphone Amps

Headphone amplifiers come in three flavors. Some amplifiers are completely portable since they come with a battery while others are desktop only and require a beefer source of power.

On top of that, some amps come to utilize transistors for amplifying sound output, while others utilize vacuum tubes.

Before committing to a headphone amp under 100, it's best you consider what type works best for you.

  • Portable Headphone Amplifier

Portable headphone amplifiers, as their name suggests, are portable so you can carry them wherever you go.

What's more, a portable headphone amp is lightweight, slim, and compact so you can easily carry it in your pocket.

A portable headphone amplifier usually comes with a battery, but there are also models that need an external power source to work.

Portable headphone amps are best used for mp3 players or if you want to get the absolute best sound output from your smartphone.

If you own a pair of headphones that don't require high power input, a portable headphone amp is the best choice for you.

  • Desktop Headphone Amplifier

A desktop headphone amp is much bigger than its portable counterpart.

These amplifiers are powered by adapters that you plug into your wall power socket.

Desktop amps are more powerful than portable amps and usually feature multiple input and output connections. If you own a pair of powerful headphones that require high power input to work properly, a desktop amp is the best choice for you.

Headphone Amp Type: Tube, Solid State, and Hybrid

Besides portable and desktop flavors, headphone amps also differ on how they work.

Depending on what they utilize to amplify the signal, headphone amps can use transistors or vacuum tubes. Some utilize both. Let's learn more about them!

  • Tube Amplifiers

Vacuum tube technology is almost a century old. Still, vacuum tube headphone amplifiers are still as popular as they've always been. Musicians especially love tube amps because they're incredibly flexible for audio production.

The first thing you need to understand about this technology is how it works. With that knowledge, you can best determine whether you need a tube headphone amplifier.

Vacuum tube amplifiers work by utilizing a triode - the three electrodes you see inside the vacuum tube. The filament between two electrodes heats up and frees electrons for improved electrical performance while the third electrode is there for improved electrical performance. The result of these electrodes is a warm sound pallet that's ever so slightly distorted.

Most people love pushing the vacuum tubes to their max so they can get that signature distortion only a tube headphone amplifier can produce, which is something a soli state amplifier simply can't do.

The biggest advantage of this type of headphone amp is tube rolling. If you don't like the sound a particular tube produces, you can always swap it out for a different one because most amps are designed to have replaceable tubes.

The biggest disadvantage to tube amps is the tubes themselves. Not only do they have a limited lifespan, but they're also very expensive. Vacuum tubes are notorious for shorting out, burning out, and even cracking.

  • Solid State Amplifiers

A solid-state headphone amplifier utilizes a diode, transistors, and a whole slew of other electronics to amplify the audio electrical signal.

The transistor inside a solid-state amp consists out of a positively charged silicon layer called the emitter that's sandwiched between two negatively charged layers called base and collector.

The positive layers of the transistor take electrons from the negative layer to conduct electricity. The transistor draws current from the base layer and amplifies the signal according to the current supplied to the base layer.

Solid-state headphone amplifiers usually feature multiple transistors that work in tandem to produce better sound quality.

This type of headphone amp is quite widespread and incredibly affordable. And unlike vacuum amps, these headphone amps also come in a portable variety.

If you're on a tight budget and need a portable stereo amplifier, you can't go wrong with buying a solid-state amp.

  • Hybrid Amplifiers

Some amps aren't just tube amps or solid-state amps, but are a mix of both - these are your hybrid amps.

Hybrid amps utilize a vacuum tube for the preamp stage and a solid-state transistor for the power section.

Hybrid amps represent the best of both worlds - you get that warm tube sound and the preciseness of the transistors.

Hybrid headphone amps are still pretty rare and usually cost an arm and a leg. Still, they're worth every penny.

Impedance

All headphones have an impedance. Some models have low and some high impedance.

Impedance is another word for how much an electrical current can resist a current or an electrical load. This means that high impedance headphones show more resistance to the electrical signal, which is why you need an amplifier to drive them.

If you own a pair of high-end or studio headphones, they're probably high impedance and need a headphone amp to work correctly.

Impedance is measured in ohms and you can usually find out this spec in the product description.

Even if you own a pair of low-impedance headphones, you can still greatly benefit from a headphone amp. Like we mentioned above, tube amps provide a completely different sound quality to what you're phone's built-in amp is capable of.

Source Device Connections

In the world of amplifiers, a source device is anything that provides the audio signal to the amplifier. It can be anything from a record player, to your phone.

It's essential that you figure out what's going to be your main source device is going to be because headphone amps don't come with lots of jacks.

If you're planning on playing your favorite music from a digital device, make sure you get a headphone amp that comes with a built-in DAC. We'll talk about digital to analog converter (or DAC) a bit later, what's important for now is that you'll easily recognize if a headphone amp has one because it will come with easier a USB jack, or an optical or coaxial jack.

If you're going to be playing music from an analog source, look for a headphone amp that has an RCA jack.

Output Connections

Output connections are the jacks you plug in your headphones into.

Headphone amps usually come with either a 3.5 mm or a 6.3 mm headphone jack.

3.5 mm headphone jack is the most common output. However, most high-end headphones come with 6.3 mm connections.

So, is there are difference ins oud quality between these two connections?

When it comes to sound quality, there is no difference between 3.5 and 6.3 connections. Still, 6.3 jacks have other advantages over all other connections. For starters, thanks to their big cross-sectional area, they're much stronger. On top of that, a 6.3 jack is almost impossible to bend or break. Lastly, because of the bigger surface area, a 6.3 mm jack allows for finer audio connections.

3.5mm vs. 6.3mm

Balanced vs. Unbalanced Cable Connections

The discussion about balanced or unbalanced connections is usually about cables. So, is it worth investing extra bucks into a balanced cable? Is there any audio difference between balanced and unbalanced audio cables?

An unbalanced cable has only two conductors. One for the audio signal and the other for grounding. If you cut open an unbalanced cable, you'll find two wires - one that carries the audio signal and the other that's used as the ground/shield. The ground wire also provides a bit of shielding from RFI signals. The problem is that this shielding isn't sufficient, resulting in some RFI and hum.

A balanced cable, on the other hand, has three conductors - one for positive signal, one for negative signal, and one for ground/shield. If you cut open one of these cables you'll find four wires - R+, R-, L+, L- and the grounding wire. When an audio signal goes through a balanced cable, it passes through the positive and negative wires which pick up the same noise and cancel it - resulting in a better sound and a broader soundstage.

Whether you need a balanced cable or note comes down to personal preference. If you're an audio quality purist, we recommend you go for a set of balanced cables alongside the headphone amp.

DAC

Although most people are unaware of it, most devices capable of audio playback come with an in-built DAC.

A DAC or digital to analog converter is a chip on your playback device that takes the digital signal and converts it into analog.

Until a couple of years, external DACs weren't very popular and you could usually find them inside recording studios or as a part of a diehard audiophile setup.

However, with the growth of audio formats like FLAC, people got dissatisfied with the quality of the in-built DACs on their playback devices and started buying external ones.

The list of our top picks for the best headphone amp under 100 most models come with an in-built DAC, but you can still buy an external one if you want to further refine the audio quality.

Build Quality

Lastly, you should consider the build quality of a headphone amp. We gave our best when curating the list above to include only durable devices, but still, a few with shoddy build quality managed to slip through.

If you need a portable amp, we recommend you get one that's built tough. This way you're ensuring it won't break down due to the normal wear and tear that comes with portability.

If you need a desktop headphone amp, you can go for one that's shoddily built. Just make sure you don't drop it or pull on the knobs too much.

Best Headphone Under 100 - FAQ

Do headphone amps under 100 dollars come with a gain switch?

It all depends on the model and the brand you pick. Some headphone amps under 100 come with a selectable impedance or gain switch so you can set the impedance according to your headphones. This allows these headphone amps to work with a wide range of headphone impedance, which makes them extremely versatile.

What's the frequency response on headphone amps under 100 dollars?

For the uninitiated, frequency response is the range of audio frequencies that a particular headphone amp can reproduce. Unfortunately, there isn't a fixed frequency response and different amps support a different frequency range.

What's the noise floor on headphone amps under 100 dollars?

The noise floor is how much the amp adds to the audio signal before sending it to the output device. Usually, all headphone amps add some level of noise to the audio signal to amplify it.

Keep in mind, that the lower the noise floor, the better the audio quality the amp will produce.

The noise floor is usually stated in -dB or Volts. Still, you can find some manufacturers that refer to it as signal-to-noise ratio and state it in dB or dBA.

Conclusion

Here we are at the end of this long journey. All that's left is to declare a winner.

Although finding a clear winner for the best headphone amp under 100 was incredibly difficult, we decided it was the AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5. Although it doesn't come with many input/output options, its DAC capability and soundscape make it worth every penny.

headphone and amp

After it's all said and done, we recommend:

dragonfly amp

AudioQuest DragonFly Black v1.5

Why they are the best?

  • The soundscape this amplifier produces is incredibly clear and natural
  • It can drive all kinds of headphones - from low-powered to high-powered
  • It comes in a durable aluminum chassis
  • It's very compact
  • It's pretty simple to set-up
98/100
our score

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