Portable Headphone Amplifier Reviews

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John Grandberg Posted: Jun 17, 2014 11 comments

About the size of a roll of quarters—and far lighter—the Resonessence Labs Herus is a portable DSD capable USB DAC with onboard headphone amp. There's no way a tiny thing like that could actually be any good, right? That was my thinking when Resonessence offered to send one for review.

I figured I should try it anyway, and boy am I glad I did.

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Mar 11, 2014 20 comments

When I go to trade shows I need a reference rig to faithfully test headphones. There's simply no question in my mind: I take my AK120 and CEntrance HiFi-M8. Yes, it's a bit big, but it's a brute and will drive most any headphone on the planet with ease.

This is a no compromise portable amp for audiophiles!

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Mar 04, 2014 11 comments

Okay everybody, get your skeptomometers out, this little gizmo definitely does something. I'm not sure whether it's good or bad...but it is fun.

Fun. That's good, isn't it?

John Grandberg Posted: Dec 04, 2013 21 comments

Resonessence Labs, the wizards behind the ESS Sabre DAC chips and the exceptional Invicta DAC, release their first product aimed solely at headphone users. And it's a doozy.

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Aug 14, 2013 7 comments

I'm sick of choosing between Velcro, Dual-Lock, and rubber bands to keep my portable gear in one lump. I'm pissed I can't easily get digital audio outputs from portable digital devices. I hate it when my portable amp picks up RF noise from my cell phone.

Convergence...why is it so damned hard.

Tyll Hertsens Posted: Mar 19, 2013 56 comments

The recent introduction of the Meridian Explorer has caused quite a stir in the headphone world. The headphone output impedance was measured at around 48 Ohms...way to high for a headphone jack. Meridian has executed an in-line run change and the product now has about 5 Ohms output impedance. Much better!

I thought it would be a great moment to compare the two versions and explain why a low output impedance is important for good headphone fidelity.

n_maher Posted: Jan 29, 2013 16 comments

As an engineer I have a great deal of respect for any thing (product, device, tool, whatever) that's able to serve multiple functions and more importantly do them all well. I understand the need for laser-focused, niche products (and own a few) but there is something very valuable about a device that can serve multiple masters without disappointing any of them. And so it was with no small amount anticipation that I unboxed the final pre-production prototype of Headamp's (www.headamp.com) latest portable offering, the Pico Power.

Dinny FitzPatrick Posted: Jan 01, 2013 31 comments

Sometimes life happens. And you find yourself away from your home rig, or your home rig is gone period...as is your home. And you need to listen to "Don't Think Twice" by Dylan over and over, but the soundcard in your laptop isn't cutting it even though your JH13s otherwise sound awesome. Or you find yourself without power or worse after a hurricane and the only thing that can ease your mind is some tunes from your battery-operated portable rig. Then you realize, yeah, portable amps/DACs have a place in this world because right now I could really use one.

John Grandberg Posted: Dec 07, 2012 4 comments

I just love checking out previously unknown (to me) gear from Japan. They have quite a few high quality headphone-oriented brands that don't get much exposure anywhere else. Case in point - the Izmo M1. Check out the picture above: looks like a nice portable amp right? That was my first thought as well but it turns out I was wrong. Sort of. It's far more than just a portable amp but can impersonate one with the right accessories.

Confused yet? Allow me to explain...

John Grandberg Posted: Jul 19, 2012 29 comments

Leckerton Audio offers a revised version of an old favorite. It's a portable amp with a built in DAC - featuring USB, coaxial, and toslink inputs. Plus it's fairly compact. And it's reasonably priced.

What's not to like?

Steve Guttenberg Posted: Sep 19, 2011 7 comments
Photo Credit: Steve Guttenberg

You can't listen to a headphone without plugging it into an amplifier of some kind: an iPod, portable device or a maxed out home amp. It's really the combination of the two we hear, so when we talk about the "sound" of a headphone, it's more about the sound of a headphone/amp system.

Lets get started.

Wes Phillips Posted: Sep 01, 2005 0 comments
The Emmeline SR-71 portable headphone amplifier ($395) is small but not light. Housed in an extruded-aluminum chassis with a bolt-on faceplate and a rear panel and battery cover that attaches with a thumb-screw, it measures 3.5" by 2.5" by 1.5" and weighs 11oz. That sounds light, especially compared to some of the headphone amps I've carted around in the past—not to mention their four–D-cell extended power supplies—but in the iPod era, it's the portable equivalent of a class-A power amp. So why would anybody be willing to lug it around?

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