Headphone Amplifiers & DACs
Headphone amplifiers and DACs make for an amazing personal listening experience. Very few things compliment a really nice pair of headphones like they do. Sometimes they can even make or break them. Keep reading to find out how and why.
Usually when you listen to music from your computer or mobile device, it goes through a Digital to Analog Converter (DAC) and an amplifier. The DAC converts the audio from a digital signal to analog, then the amplifier sends it to your headphones. The problem is, most devices don’t have very good DACs or amps built-in. So, if you’ve purchased a high-end pair of headphones, you may still be getting less than ideal sound from your device. That’s where an external DAC and amp come in.
You can buy a DAC and amp separately, or buy one that contains both. They improve the sound quality in a couple different ways:
A DAC can eliminate interference that your onboard sound card may experience inside your computer or phone, such as humming or hissing sounds. The DAC ensures you’re getting the best possible sound quality. They can also process Hi-Res files for lossless audio playback.
An headphone amplifier boosts the volume of the sound, which is particularly useful for higher impedance headphones (usually headphones above 32 ohms) that can sometimes sound quiet through a regular 3.5mm headphone jack. Amplifiers will often come with other features, like bass boost or other equalizer functions that allow you to alter the sound profile.
Note: You can only get the full benefits of a DAC/amp combo with your computer, via USB, SPDIF or Lightening Cable. While you can get DAC/amp combos for iPods and other mobile devices, the DAC half of the device won’t actually work. Only the amp half will. This is still great for giving your sound a boost in volume if it’s coming out too quiet, but just know that the DAC won’t work—so if you only plan on using it with an iPod, you don’t need a DAC or combo, just a mobile amp.
Amplifiers and DACs come in various shapes, sizes and applications. Here are a few examples:
Chord Mojo Portable Headphone Amp and DAC
Portable Amplifier and DAC Designed and built in England, the Chord Mojo brings studio quality sound to your pocket and is the ultimate, truly portable, DAC/Amp. Mojo is built upon the multi-award winning Hugo platform and will afford the listener with Hugo like performance for a fraction of the cost. Inside Mojo is a massively powerful headphone amplifier that will deliver crystal clear audio whether you use in-ear buds or large studio cans, it will even play almost any audio file that you can find, up to 768kHz 32bit, and quad DSD 256.
Audeze DECKARD Class-A Desktop Amplifier & DAC
Desktop Amplifier and DAC: A powerhouse of a headphone amplifier combined with a high-performance DAC, the Deckard drives any headphone with power to spare. The DAC has impressive specs and handles 16 to 32-bits and sampling rates from 44.1kHz to 384kHz. There’s a volume control and front-panel switches to choose gain and input so you can also use the Deckard as a great line-level preamp. The sound is exciting and dynamic with beautifully rendered tonal colors that make music come alive.