Better sounding audio is always the number one priority for audiophiles. For those who want their audio to be at its utmost potential whether relaxing at home or on the go there are portable DAC amps. If you’r not sure where to begin here are a few of our favorites. This is our “Best Portable DAC Amp for Headphones” article. And yes, we know, the teenier tinier the better!
The Best Portable DAC Amp For Headphones, Teeny & Tiny
This DAC Amp combo is a tiny bit of hi-fi heaven. The unit is extremely light weight, weighing in at 11.3g. The K1 comes equipped with a micro USB cable for computers and can be used with your smart phone. If you use an iPhone 6 or higher, you’ll need a Lightning cable adapter along with the micro USB cable. When it comes to amplification the Fiio K1 can deliver. The quality of the sound improves on files as high as 24bit/96kHz. Though, the improvement isn’t super drastic, it gets the job done pretty well and worth a $39.99 investment (buy it here). Be wary though, if you need a Lightning cable, that’ll cost you an additional $29.99. K1 is void of any buttons or volume controller. All navigating and adjusting will have to be done via your computer or smart device. If you aren’t ready to throw down a few hundred dollars, start small and look towards the Fiio K1.
This is a sought after DAC amp unit that is bite-size, but powerful so it definitely deserves a spot on our “Best Portable DAC Amp for Headphones” list. Measuring up at 12mm X 19mm X 62mm, this little baby is affordable with great audio conversion. DragonFly Black reproduces audio that is both rich and detailed while offering a wide soundstage. Though some advise they wish the build was better, saying DragonFly sticks out too far when used on a computer and should be made of sturdier material. But to note, a number of reviews are overwhelmingly positive emphasizing a pleasing, accurate, and warm tone. P.S. DragonFly Black can process files up to 24-bit/96kHz and costs $99 currently on Amazon.
Meeting you at affordable, lightweight, and incredibly sound is the iFI nano iDSD USB DAC and amp. With the iDSD, signals aren’t actually converted. PCM stays PCM and DSD stays DSD and subsequently no signal loss means little to no distortion in your sound and the best quality delivered to your ears. Burr Brown True Native technology takes your pure listening experience one step further in securing the authentic sound created by the artist and played back as such for the listener. Thanks to iFI’s Lithium-polymer 1000mAh battery, users can expect a run time between 8 to 10 hours with tracks at 32bit/384kHZ. When ti comes to size, the nano iDSD measures up at 106mm x 67mm x 28mm. iFI nano iDSD is $199 and available at iFI. You can also locate your local retailer here if you’d like to possibly demo the unit beforehand.
If you want something a little more refined in look and sound Oppo offers an alternative. The HA-2 is a slender amplifier and DAC. The appeal of the HA-2 is a slim frame that mirrors that of modern smart phones, allowing the user to easily place one on top of the other – measuring 68mm x 137mm x 12 mm (2.7 x 5.375 x 0.5 inches). Out of the box, Oppo is ready to go shipping with cables for both Lightning and micro USB-based devices. Oppo can be used with desktops, laptops, or mobile phones through various sources. Sound-wise, Oppo adds more clarity than the aforementioned models with a more neutral tone while DragonFly tends to err a bit warm. That being said, HA-2 has a bass boost feature adding a little oomph to your music. The soundstage is wide, allowing your music to breathe and subsequent provide an open base to hear vocals, unrestrained. Oppo requires 1.3 hours to charge, but can run for a good 13 hours on headphones with an impedance between 16 to 300 ohms. The HA-2 will run you $299 but is well worth the investment.
Our “Best Portable DAC Amp for Headphones” article wouldn’t be complete without the cream of the DAC amp crop. IMHO, if you’re looking to take another jump up, in both sound quality and price, look towards Chord Mojo. This beaut, while small in all around size, is a bit thicker than the Oppo. Chord measures up at 82mm x 60mm x 22mm with a weight of 180g (0.4lbs). The unit features two headphone outputs, a coaxial output, and two different micro USB outputs (one for charging and the other for power). Mojo was designed to keep harmonic distortion at a minimum (0.00017%) while delivering the same premium quality of it’s large brother (Hugo) with ease and portability. From IEMs to open-back audiophile grade headphones, Mojo can and will deliver. The reproduction is an experience that is unmatched whether listening to MP3s or FLAC files. The Oppo Ha-2 is a great amplifier and DAC though it falls a tad short in direct comparison to Chord Mojo. Expect bass that is both deep and succinct, treble that is clear and lush, and vocals that sail. Chord Mojo is truly worth the investment. It currently costs $498 and is available at Audio 46. For fans of Chord Electronics, Chord Poly – a Bluetooth companion to Mojo – as well as Hugo 2, will be available in April. Audio 46 is already taking pre-orders.
Did we leave out any units that you think deserve to be included in our “The Best Portable DAC Amp for Headphones” article? Or do you have any burning questions? If so, let us know down below.