Wired headphones and earphones are making more of a comeback with each coming year. However, you might want to get the best out of both worlds. The convenience of Bluetooth will always be tempting, but it can also give you access to other features like EQ and microphones for phone calls. So, why not combine the sound you love from your wired headphones with the vast features that Bluetooth can bring? Portable Bluetooth DAC/Amps might be what you need. There are a lot of different brands and models to choose from, so here’s a list of what I think are the best that you should look out for this year.
Since its launch in 2021, the iFi Go Blu has been one of the best portable Bluetooth DAC/Amps. I keep coming back to the Go Blu, trying out all different kinds of headphones and IEM combinations. The Go Blue handles them all effortlessly, bringing power and enhanced detail to all sorts of sounds. It has both 3.5mm and 4.4mm balanced plugs for your headphones, with the balanced connection usually offering the best fidelity possible on the Go Blu. It has a stable connection over wireless that can last you about ten hours of continuous playtime. If you use Android, you have LDAC, aptX, aptX HD, and aptX Low Latency. This is also one of the most well-built Bluetooth DAC/Amps, featuring a stainless steel bearing and smooth volume knob.
The BTR15 is one of the latest Bluetooth DAC/Amps to be released from Fiio, which you’ll see pop up a few times on this list. This device comes from their most popular line of wireless amps, with the BTR5 as its former iteration. The BTR15 is the same price and gives the BTR5 a lot of necessary updates. It switches out the 2.5mm balanced output with a 4.4mm one, and it can now fully decode MQA instead of rendering it. You also get upgraded dual-DAC chips, XMOS USB chips, and Bluetooth chips. They both have similar CODECs, like LDAC and aptX LL, but the BTR15 adds aptX Adaptive. With all of these added features, the BTR15 becomes one of the best and most inexpensive Bluetooth DAC/Amps to use both wired and wirelessly.
You probably know A&K from their incredible high-end audio players. The HB1 helps bring that reference sound quality and performance to a Bluetooth DAC/Amp. It supports high-quality music listening through its DAC when wired, but also supports enhanced Bluetooth listening as well thanks to its Qualcomm chipset. This is also a unique pick for being one of the only options on this list that features a multipoint connection that lets you pair 2 devices at once. Another special feature is its UAC 1.0 and 2.0 support, so you can use the HB1 to play games with low latency on your smartphone as well as on gaming consoles like the Nintendo Switch.
If you’re okay with something a bit bulkier, and a bit more expensive, the Fiio Q15 is a fantastic choice. The reason why the Q15 has this increased size and price is because of how much more powerful it is compared to the other choices. The amp part of DAC/Amp is prioritized to deliver desktop-level power to your headphones and IEMs while on the go. It’s capable of delivering 1600mW of power to your headphones, which is the most I’ve heard a Bluetooth DAC/Amp be able to do. You might not need that sort of juice for the headphones or IEMs you’re taking with you, but having all that headroom available to you only makes your listening experience better.
This is also one of two options on this list that features a coaxial input. With this, you can use the Q15 with digital streamers, players, receivers, and CD players. On top of everything, the Q15 is the only portable Bluetooth DAC/Amp that uses a flagship AKM chipset. This makes the Q15 sound different compared to a lot of portable DAC/Amps, providing a more lively and accurate sound profile.
The last entry on this list is the iFi xDSD Gryphon, which is the priciest but houses the most options and usability. Like the Go Blu, the Gryphon has been around for a few years now, and it continues to be a heavy hitter for portable Bluetooth DAC/Amps. In terms of inputs and outputs, the Gryphon has the most out of any device on this list featuring, coaxial, single-ended 3.5mm, and 4.4mm balanced inputs. All of the best high-quality CODECs like LDAC, aptX HD, and aptX LL all make an appearance here. On top of all of that, the Gryphon houses iFi favorite features like Xspace and Xbass with an adjustable bass presence switch that offers different flavors of sound to your headphones and IEMs.