The following Top Reader Voted Portable Amps & DAC scores are assigned by the readers, (Score) and apply only to all reviews where a slider voting system exists. This list includes all types of portable amps & DACs new and historical as reviewed on Headfonics.
This list also includes portable integrated amp/DAC’s where applicable and those that can be powered purely by a USB connection, (transportable).
Please note the list will change dynamically as readers continue to vote. Higher scoring amplifiers will automatically replace lower-scoring portable amps & DACs. They will also continue to change as we progressively work our way through historical reviews and add a voting system.
These lists are not to be confused with our forthcoming Editorial scoring lists which are the best gear as reviewed and scored by our review team. Those lists will form the basis of our Awards at the end of the year. Once the year is completed the Editorial scores will be deleted and the ‘annual top lists’ will start over again.
Top 30 Reader Voted Portable Amps & DACs
The Chord Electronics Mojo 2 stock sound feels more accurate and energetic compared to the V1. The new UHD DSP suite is seamless in terms of having no impact on dynamic range and a lack of volume attenuation.
The EarMen Angel conceals in its cool form factor an excitingly transparent sound comparable to full-size desktop counterparts that inspires listening on the go with confidence.
The FiiO Q7 SRP is on point for me. This is an offering drenched in value if you need a transportable amp and DAC with huge power and loads of I/O options in a relatively compact and attractively made form factor.
I have to stress that the Chord Hugo DAC and head-amp is an absolute killer device. But you already knew that because people have probably been telling you that for a while now. It's the Swiss army knife among portable DACs and it has an incredible headphone output (well, three) as well.
One thing is for sure if you are a planar guy and in particular, an LCD series owner the HPA-01M will sound really magical and will give plenty of high0end desktop systems a good run for their money. They are made for each other both on a power level and performance level.
The Cayin C9 is the company's most refined version yet of their DOA and timbre technology inside their portable audio gear. Not only that, but it also revitalizes tubes on the go, a traditional niche in our hobby that seems to be forgotten in the head-long rush to find that one DAP on steroids.
The iFi Micro iDSD Signature series DAC amplifier is a fun machine capable of driving practically every headphone out there while at the same time remaining highly musical and hiss free and taking up a minimum amount of space on a desktop doing so.
The Cayin RU6 offers a different “analog” approach in the world of highly integrated delta-sigma chipset packages and DSP filters. One that preserves a tube-like musical quality but with much finer volume control and packed within a favorable form factor.
To be honest I care not what comes next on the market at this point because, besides the slight thump on operating the Xbass switch, the iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon is an almost, almost perfect portable solution that can go beyond its duty by also functioning as separate components. The excellent sound quality is just the cherry on top.
The Chord Hugo 2 is a DAC and then some. In some ways, I am convinced the Hugo 2 is the lovechild of the Mojo and Hugo 1 such is the degree of harmony of the two designs. Would the Hugo 2 have been possible without the Mojo? I doubt it.
Such a well-built portable analog amp in 2017 will find itself more niche than the norm but for those who stack, those who have a weaker source and for those who want low noise period then the VorzAMPduo II is one heck of a portable amping choice.
The Quloos QLS MC01 will appeal to portable device owners and audio junkies who are looking for a relaxed and resolute sound signature dongle with a high level of out-of-box compatibility, and a dongle that looks different from the rest.
The sound performance is world-class and I enjoyed using the OTG DAC mode with my phone or my laptop. If price, GUI experience is no object and you are looking for smooth, unaltered, rightful reproduction of sound, the HM1000 will be a solid recommendation.
The P5 is the best sounding iBasso out in the market today and the best they have produced to date. It has a very natural sounding tonality with very pleasing timbre that really matches well to rock and metal genres. It works a charm with headphones such as the LCD-2 and a touch of Nile.
Perhaps some of the up-and-coming dongle DACs will exceed the iFi Audio GO bar’s performance but today it seems to stand up to its claim of being the most powerful dongle DAC around that employs the addictive iFi Audio features like Xbass and XSpace in a device that is super portable.
On technical merits alone there is not a portable tube amp out there right now that is this small, this well designed and as powerful as the V5. That's the edge ALO brings to the market that could, and should, twist a lot of DAP user's heads in their direction in a positive manner.
The Questyle M15 is probably the most immersive-sounding dongle I have heard to date. It has plenty of power so do not be fooled by those paper specs. Harder to drive dynamic driver IEMs and even some headphones will pair very well with this diminutive amp/DAC.
The build is perfect, it is exactly what I want physically. The LCD and UI are lovely, all be it, a bit clunky, but still easily traversed. The power output is very good and apart from the most absurd Planar's out there, this Monolith can drive anything I tossed at it perfectly fine.
The Shanling UA5 is a dongle DAC that carries a premium cost but it has lots of features besides having one of the best sounding component stages with a clean output.
The Chord Electronics Mojo is one of the best all-around portable DAC/Amps made with all the correct connectivity on offer for modern devices and audio quality that should please a large audience most of the time.
The ddHiFi TC44C excels in the fact that it packages itself in a small shell and has a high-power output level that seems to be underrated but the tradeoff is the lack of features since there is no volume control or a mobile device app with sound shaping features and/or firmware upgrades.
Understated as they look they punch hugely above their portable or transportable weight. If you are veering to bass and want a very portable setup grab the uHA-120 and if you want something a bit more detailed and resolving then the AHA-120 is going to cover a lot of genres very well indeed for the demanding audiophile.
The xDuoo Link2 Bal is a dongle that lacks an app and some of the features that carry a similar price tag but it gives the buyer a good listening experience. Although it’s not the most powerful in output, it has good technical abilities.
ddHiFi has won the hearts of many thanks to its sleek and convenient design. The TC44A is no exception to this, as it’s designed to be user-friendly and there’s nothing to hate about it.
The ALO Audio Continental Dual Mono has a very musical and rich sound signature that combines the magic of tubes with a little dose of solid-state sensibility to keep it tight and clean enough for both SS and tube camps to enjoy.
We need more portable tube amplifiers such as the Chimera and fewer 'tune by numbers' creations. Something with a bit of character and purpose. It fills an obvious gap below the Cayin C9 and gives you a lot more flexibility compared to the cheaper BA300s from Oriolus.
While having a neutral tonal presentation typically makes for a less engaging experience, the nuance and scale of Earmen Colibri’s presentation make for an overall engaging experience in a portable package.
The Swan Song Audio Mini Black is one of the better source DACs I’ve experienced in 2022 so far. At the end of the day, the Mini Black is an elitist DAC at $1600, true. But it is also a rare one that has a less sterile and more musical approach. In that pricing tier, that is not commonplace.
The Topping NX7 is a very versatile and excellent-sounding desktop amplifier with portability capability.
It offers large amounts of very clean power and is absent of hiss and even the volume knob is absent of imbalance.
The xDuoo Poke II has a clean, uncolored tuning with a lot of power for the size. It is an easy match with various IEMs, forgiving with lossy old files, and is able to bring up dynamics for streaming content to make the listening experience much more enjoyable on the go.
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