The best DAC amplifiers for headphones in the UK 2023

Nothing beats a DAC amplifier to perfect the sound effect to your headphones. Especially now that amplifiers have been brought up to date, so there are a number of nomadic models available. A few criteria must be taken into account in your choice to get the best audio performance. Find out in the guide on how to choose the best DAC amplifier.

S.M.S.L SP200 1

The best DAC amplifier for headphones

S.M.S.L SP200

Best headphone DAC amplifier

Take advantage of the latest THX AAA-888 technology with this headphone amplifier and listen to your favorite tracks from your computer to all types of headphones. The sound quality is perfectly controlled with high precision rendering.

208 £ on Amazon

S.M.S.L SP200 is a headphone amplifier compatible with various devices, including the computer, through an RCA input. It embeds the high-end audiophile technology THX AAA-888, integrates a balanced stereo headphone output with also a balanced stereo line input. In this case, the amplifier transmits a sound of optimal fidelity, with in addition an extreme power output accompanied by ultra-low crosstalk.

The S.M.S.L SP200 is a headphone amplifier with high-precision resistors for temperature stability and a pop-up-free design with high-quality relays. The design is ultra-compact, making it ideal for desktop systems. This amplifier offers full protection against DC overcurrent, overvoltage, overcurrent, short-circuit and thermal overhead. The advantage of this unit is its versatility, so that it can be used to drive a variety of headsets, including high-impedance headsets that require high current and high sensitivity.

IBasso DC03 2

The best cheapest

IBasso DC03

Best headphone DAC amplifier cheap

iBasso DC03 is the best solution for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet that does not have a jack output. This compact system hides an impeccable performance in terms of audio output.

See price

The iBasso DC03 amplifier adapter is designed for a variety of devices, including Android smartphones, Mac and Windows PCs, and IPads. Usable via a USB type C to 3.5mm connectivity or a Jack connector, it works on PCM support up to 32 bit/384kHz. If not directly used for certain models of phones or non-compatible devices, it can be used via the installation of a USB DAC computer.

The type C connector with which the cable is equipped confers a better compatibility with phones as well as other Android and PC equipment. Moreover, with a 4-wire braid, the cable offers an output voltage of 1.9 V, an output power of 133 mW @ 32 Ohms. Apart from that, it has a length of 120mm, and works as an accessory for effective ground noise reduction, while conferring high efficiency power supply on its installed 3.5mm output terminal.

Topping A90 3


Topping A90

Best headphone DAC amplifier HIGH RANGE

This compact headphone amp is the best solution for getting great sound from your devices to all types of headphones. If you're demanding a powerful sound, you'll love its low distortion.

400 £ on Amazon

Topping A90, the 4.4mm headphone amplifier comes with a fully balanced headphone output added to the SE. It features 3 XLR 4-pin, 4.4 balanced headphone output jacks, as well as 6.35 SE for various uses. Best of all, Topping A90 has a wide range of adapters allowing it to be compatible with various headphones. This equipment is equipped with a high output voltage SE 25Vpp balanced, with an output and output impedance below 0.1 Ohm.

The Topping A90 amplifier has 3 gain settings, ranging from -9.5 dB / 0 dB / 9.5 dB for SE, as well as -35 dB / 6.0 dB / 15.5 dB for balanced. Incorporating only 0.2 uVrms of noise, the A90 is suitable for all types of headphones, and can be used on active monitors stacked with D90 DAC when used in a pre-amp application. Its advantage lies in the availability of a supplied AC cable, as well as a 6.35mm to 3.5mm connector.

S.M.S.L M500 4

Very good

S.M.S.L M500

Very good

Under its compact appearance, S.M.S.L M500 DAC is packed with high audio performance and features. Listening to your favorite music from your PC or MP3 player will provide you with an intense audio experience.

320 £ on Amazon

S.M.S.L M500 DAC is a headphone amplifier supporting MQA decoding via USB input. This model adopts ES9038PRO D/A chip with high performance thanks to ESS technology. Also embedding XMOS XU-216, it provides true 32-bit audio processing, while supporting native Dop and DSD to reach 32-bit / 768 kHz and DSD512.

This M headphone amp from S.MS.L benefits from 3 high end dual operational amplifiers OPA1612. Its M500 reference justifies the low noise density, as well as the low distortion offering a maximum dynamic range, as well as an optimal output capacity. This device includes an MQA decoder allowing file unfolding, so as to have an optimal sound quality. In fact, the playback level provided by this headphone amp is a true studio rendition, and best of all, this equipment comes with a remote control for easy operation.

Buying guide • November 2023

Best dac amplifier for headphones

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Best headphone DAC amplifier

Best headphone DAC amplifier cheap

Best headphone DAC amplifier HIGH RANGE

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Comparison table of the best DAC amplifiers for headphones

S.M.S.L SP200 5
IBasso DC03 6
Topping A90 7
S.M.S.L M500 8
S.M.S.L SP200
IBasso DC03
Topping A90
S.M.S.L M500
Take advantage of the latest THX AAA-888 technology with this headphone amplifier and listen to your favorite tracks from your computer to all types of headphones. The sound quality is perfectly controlled with high precision rendering.
iBasso DC03 is the best solution for listening to music from a smartphone or tablet that does not have a jack output. This compact system hides an impeccable performance in terms of audio output.
This compact headphone amp is the best solution for getting great sound from your devices to all types of headphones. If you're demanding a powerful sound, you'll love its low distortion.
Under its compact appearance, S.M.S.L M500 DAC is packed with high audio performance and features. Listening to your favorite music from your PC or MP3 player will provide you with an intense audio experience.
with balanced input and output
Focal length : USB tipo C, Conector jack 3.5
Amplifier & preamplifier
MQA decoding for USB port
ThX AAA-888 technology
Compatible with Android, Mac, Windows
1 balanced XLR input and 1 unbalanced input
Puce ES9038PRO D
XLR and RCA inputs
Supports resolution up to PCM 32 bit / 384 kHz
3 balanced XLR3 and XLR4 outputs, 2 unbalanced Jack 6.35 and RCA stereo outputs
LCD display
Output power 6W x 2; 3W x 2; 440Mw x 2; 220Mw x 2
Noise level : less than 0.9 µV
Output impedance : 0.135 Ohm
Jack and RCA output, XLR output
Output impedance: near 0 Ohm
Power : 80mW
Integrated power supply
Optical, coaxial, USB and AC inputs.

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Buying guide - dac amplifier for headphones

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How to choose your dac amplifier for headphones

In order to better choose a DAC amplifier for headphones, discover the criteria of choice to remember.
amplificateur DAC pour casque audio

#1 - The impedance

It is important to consider the impedance of a DAC amplifier insofar as its resistance to the electrical signal contributes to giving a clearer and higher sound to the headphones.

#2 - The autonomy

The autonomy represents a primordial criterion when choosing a DAC amplifier for headphones. Indeed, it helps to adjust the impedance of the device, while optimizing the sound of source files without loss of sound quality.

#3 - The power

The power of the bandwidth is also important, especially for a headphone amplifier. In this case, it needs a wide bandwidth to provide optimal sound across the audio spectrum, and preferably with power between 20 Hz and 20 kHz.

As far as possible, the power should match the headphones to avoid the risk of damaging the eardrum, especially for an amplifier that is too powerful.

#4 - The usage

The choice of DAC amplifier for headphones also depends on the use. This type of device generally has a compact form for use in nomadic mode and is easily inserted between the headphones and the source device. However, there are more powerful models, intended for sound professionals, with two headphone outputs and a more substantial size and weight.

#5 - The aesthetics

The aesthetics of a DAC amplifier for headphones plays an important role insofar as this type of device is used for nomadic use. The sobriety of the model allows more discretion, especially in a public place. What matters most is an optimized musical rendering, associated with an aesthetic that meets the user's taste.

What is the role of a DAC amplifier for headphones?


For some time now, small devices called DACs have landed on the audio technology market. The DAC (Digital AnalogConverter) is a device aimed at converting digital source sounds to operate in analog. A has this title, find out the role of DAC amplifier for headphones.

The different uses of a DAC amplifier

A headphone DAC amplifier helps to improve the sound quality of the signal sent from the source data of an MP3 player, hard drive or USB stick, to internally process the source data as an alternative to the small integrated circuit.

Once connected to the digital output of a CD player, the DAC amplifier disables the latter's internal converter, and passes the files directly for processing to improve the output sound.

The DAC amplifier can serve as a converter between the sound card of a computer, through the USB sockets to confer high resolution sounds to the headphones.

The interests of the DAC amplifier

Processing via the DAC amplifier is a way to optimize the sound of a digital file to analog headphones. It is used to transfigure a bandwidth so as to expand it to let a more natural sound flow and unfold a soundstage in space.

A headphone DAC amplifier can improve the sound sensitivity on CD players, especially entry-level and mid-range ones, in that they lack a stroke converter, unlike high-end turntables.

A headphone DAC amplifier benefits from a wide frequency range from 44khz at 16 bits (CD quality) to 192khz at 24 bits (recording studio format).

The different types of DAC amplifiers for headphones

The DAC amplifier for headphones is a device used to optimize the sound quality of a headphone. For a better use, discover the different types for this mobile device.

The DAC amplifier with volume

amplificateur DAC pour casque audio

The headphone DAC amplifier with volume control is a digital-to-analog converter with volume control to adjust the sound. Indeed, the sound adjustment can further improve the sound quality of the files from the source to the headphones.

The DAC amplifier without volume

amplificateur DAC pour casque audio

The headphone DAC amplifier without volume control is a device for converting digital data from the source into quality analog data to the headphones. It has no volume control and the volume remains at the level of the source files, with the ability to adjust the level of the sounds from the headphone settings.

The portable DAC amplifier

amplificateur DAC pour casque audio

The portable DAC amplifier for headphones has a compact shape. It is a very lightweight device that provides superior sound quality to headphones. Very autonomous, it contributes to the regulation and customization of impedance and power. This type of amplifier is compatible with various helmets via Bluetooth, version 5.0. It can be recharged via its USB port for an optimized autonomy. More discreet, this type of amplifier can be stored easily in the bottom of the pocket or attached to the belt, while providing a sound of optimal quality.

In any case, whatever the type of DAC amplifier for headphones chosen, the user benefits from an improved sound by opting for this magical device.

All-in-one DAC amplifier or integrated amplifier with USB DAC

All-in-one DAC amplifier

The design of the DAC takes into account the technical data of the amplifier, so that the whole in one is optimized to offer the best sound quality. In addition, since there is no need for cabling between the two, signal transmission is shorter and better preserved.

Besides the extra cost, some headphone DACs are not compatible with iPods or iPads. Also, finding the right DAC amplifier to match your device's specifications is a complex task, while it may not be compatible with your other devices.

Integrated amplifier with USB DAC

With an integrated amplifier, you'll have the ability to choose your USB DAC and the cabling of your choice. You will then have the advantage of shaping the sound aesthetics of your installation according to your needs. Furthermore, an integrated amplifier with USB DAC can be connected to a computer and act as an external sound card.


If you prefer to listen to music from your computer or HIFI, the USB DAC is the most suitable. If you like to be mobile and listen to music from your tablet or smartphone, the DAC amp is the best choice.


Connecting a headphone amp

How you connect a headphone amp depends on the device you want to connect it to. So, before choosing a headphone amp, make sure that the amp you are interested in can actually be connected to your device. Indeed, the connection to a Hi-Fi amp will not be the same as to a home theater and will be different from the connection to a computer.

A nomadic DAC amp for your smartphone

There are several formats of DAC amp. If you want to use it for a portable device, prefer the nomadic model, lighter. You can also connect a DAC amp to your smartphone to get a better sound experience. You can find compact models on the market that can fit in a pocket and power from your smartphone.

A DAC amp adapted to the performance of your headphones

Don't know which DAC amp to choose? Choose the one that is best suited to the sound performance of your headphones. As a general rule, the output impedance of the DAC amp and the output impedance of the headphones should be proportional at the rate of 1 / 8 to get an ideal listening level. So there's no need to look for the most powerful amp on the market.

Choosing your headphone DAC amp

Put the odds on your side when choosing your amp. Test drive all models. Many stores now offer to test DACs with your own music. You'll be able to see for yourself how the DAC amp works with your own headphones and music, and will be able to make your choice more easily.

Make a first sorting of the different models.

To get an idea of the performance of DAC amps for headphones, don't hesitate to check out user reviews, as well as comparisons of different models. Forums are also a great way to get an idea. With this initial sorting, you'll be able to extract the models best suited to your needs.


What is the purpose of a DAC amplifier for headphones?

Your headphones may well provide very good sound quality. However, if you are listening to music from your computer, the sound provided by your computer may leave something to be desired. In the end, you won't get the sound quality you're looking for. This defect can be remedied by the amplifier.

DAC amplifier for headphones, how does it work?

The amplifier is a device that connects to the computer via USB. It will convert the digital format of the sounds coming from the computer into analog format. In a way, the DAC replaces the computer's sound card to send better quality sound signals to the headphones.

Does the DAC amplifier work with a Bluetooth connection?

Some DAC amp models are actually Bluetooth compatible. However, the sound quality is not impacted by the presence of the Bluetooth connection. It should be noted that the DAC amplifier for headphones is exclusively for wired headphones and earphones. Bluetooth headphones do not have DAC technology.

Why choose a DAC amplifier for headphones?

Most digital devices have an internal DAC to transmit sound to a headset. Nowadays, we are offered more and more music in high resolution. The best way to enjoy all the sound quality of this music is to equip yourself with a DAC amplifier.


Note: Below are some of the sources we have consulted in writing this article. Links to other sites are not continuously updated. It is therefore possible that a link may not be found. Please use a search engine to find the desired information.
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  2. Guide to buying a DAC : HOW TO CHOOSE A DAC ?,
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March 2022 : Translation of this buying guide from our partner

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Our selection
S.M.S.L SP200 9
S.M.S.L SP200
IBasso DC03 10
IBasso DC03
Topping A90 11
Topping A90
S.M.S.L M500 12
S.M.S.L M500


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