The Best Headphone Amplifiers for Your Smartphone

The FiiO A1, the FiiO Q1 Mark II and the Audio-Technica wireless digital-to-analog converter
FiiO, Audio-Technica

Smartphones have come a long way and offer a convenient way to listen to music. But if you're not happy with the sound quality of your phone, now may be the time to invest in an external CAD.

When you listen to a song on your phone, you play an encoded digital audio file – it's a stream of zeros and zeros. The problem is that your headset is not able to turn this stream into analog sound without the help of a very well-known digital-to-analog converter (DAC).

DACs are integrated with most devices and transform digital signals into analog headphone compatible signals. That said, not all NACs are created equal, and inexpensive integrated DACs tend to produce poor quality audio. If you can not understand why your headphones in normal quality sound sound like garbage when you plug them into your phone, it is likely that the phone's built-in DAC is rude.

Fortunately, there are many portable external DACs on the market. Some of them are expensive, others are affordable, but they are all important upgrades to your built-in DAC. Just keep in mind that newer phones without a headphone jack will not work with some DACs. If your phone is out of range, you will need a model with a Micro-USB or USB-C jack.

Ideal for most people: DAC FiiO A1 ultra-portable ($ 28)

The FiiO A1

If you are looking for an ultra-portable and cheap DAC, you should take a look at the FiiO A1. This tiny device has four built-in EQ modes, responsive volume controls, and a small pocket clip for active listening. In addition, its battery has a battery life of 13 hours and can be recharged during use. This is a great way to find out if you want to add a DAC to your configuration without breaking the bank.

Ideal for phones with USB-C: USB DAC NextDrive Spectra USB-C ($ 127)

NextDrive Spectra USB-C DAC

the NextDrive Spectra is a practical and high quality alternative to large NACs. It produces a rich sound without the impression that you are wearing a power transformer. It is powered by the USB-C port of your phone. So you do not have to worry about charging a battery.

If you want to use the NextDrive Spectra with an iPhone, you need to get the USB-A model and one USB-A to Lightning Adapter. Other models of the NextDrive Spectra do not work with the iPhone, even with an adapter. Honestly, unless you have sold it to the form factor, iPhone users should rather consult the FiiO Q1 Mark II certified by an IMF or the Audio-Technica Wireless DAC compatible with the iPhone. .

Ideal for high impedance headphones: FiiO A3 DAC ($ 56)

The FiiO A3 DAC

If you are looking for a premium DAC at an affordable price, you should consult the FiiO A3. It's like the big cousin of the FiiO A1. It has a good volume knob, built-in gain and bass controls, and a 16-hour battery life.

This CAD is especially useful for people using high impedance headphones ranging from 16 to 160 ohms. If your expensive headphones do not seem to be loud enough, it's probably high-impedance headphones that require a little more power to work properly.

Ideal for Apple users: Native DSD DAC FiiO Q1 Mark II ($ 100)

The native DSD DAC FiiO Q1 Mark II

If you are looking for a premium, a DAC CAD certified by an MFI, then you should consider FiiO Q1 Mark II. All this DAC screams of high quality. It has a good volume knob, two inputs (including a balanced input to limit audio interference), gain and bass controls, and a sturdy metal case. In addition, it has an autonomy of 8 hours.

This device is certified Apple MFI, so you can be sure that it will play well with any Apple device. And like the FiiO A3, this DAC works well with high impedance headphones ranging from 16 to 160 ohms.

Ideal for phones with micro USB: FiiO E17K DAC ALPEN 2 Micro-USB ($ 120)

The micro-USB DAC ALPEN 2 FiiO E17K

Go for that futuristic nerdy vibe? the Fiio E17K ALPEN 2 combines the ambience of a Walkman with the technology of a modern portable DAC. Like other FiiO devices, the ALPEN 2 offers excellent volume (which also serves as a menu navigation tool), an 8-hour battery and a high-end style construction. But it's also customizable EQ settings, a coaxial digital input, a dual-function line input / output port and, of course, D & # 39; A screen.

Before buying the ALPEN 2, remember that its DAC functions only work on Micro-USB connections. If you listen to music through the standard audio inputs of the ALPEN 2, the unit will only work as an amplifier.

Best Wireless Option: Audio-Technica Wireless DAC ($ 97)

The Audio-Technica Wireless NAC

CADs are really useful, but they are not always practical. If you do not like cables, you should check the Audio-Technica Wireless DAC. This device connects to your phone via Bluetooth without sacrificing audio quality. It has a good volume knob, built-in EQ functions and a pocket clip for this retro vibe. In addition, its battery life of 8 hours, you should not fear losing access to high-quality sound in the middle of the day.

Unlike some other DACs, Audio-Technica works well with iPhone and high-impedance headphones. This is a great option for iPhone users who do not wish to use a USB adapter or for anyone who wants to use a headset with an impedance ranging from 15 to 300 ohms.

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