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Headfonics 2020

Top Reader Voted Portable Amps & DACs

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

Chord Electronics Hugo Review featured image
I have to stress that the Chord Electronics Hugo DAC and amplifier 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.
9
Reader's Score
Bakoon HPA-01M
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.
9
Score
$1295
Chord Electronics Mojo 2
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.
9
Reader's Score
Cayin C9 front panel
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.
8.9
Reader's Score
$1999
xDuoo XD05 Pro Review featured image
The xDuoo XD05 Pro is a truly unique portable amp and DAC with the ability not only to change the amplifier cards but also the DAC separately giving you a multitude of performance options.
8.8
Reader's Score
EarMen Angel Review
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.
8.8
Reader's Score
$799
iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon
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.
8.7
Reader's Score
Vorzuge VorzAMPduo II
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.
8.7
Score
Cayin RU7 Review featured image
I have heard quite a few dongles now in the last few years, and all at a roughly similar $200-300 price range. I have not heard all of them. However, from what I have reviewed to date, the RU7 is probably the best of the lot, both in terms of agreeable timbral coloration and technical prowess.
8.7
Reader's Score
Shanling H7 Review
The Shanling H7 is yet another excellent modern interpretation of the classic DAC/amp scene that has had a bit of a rebirth in recent years. This is a neutral sound signature but compared to the likes of the Mojo 2 and the Q7 it's a bit smoother and sweeter-toned and will gel beautifully with clean-sounding headgear.
8.7
Reader's Score
Chord Electronics Hugo 2
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.
8.7
Reader's Score
iFi Micro iDSD Signature
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.
8.7
Reader's Score
$649.99
iBasso P5
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.
8.6
Score
$529
Cayin RU6
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. 
8.6
Reader's Score
Shanling H5 Review featured image
The Shanling H5 is almost as feature-rich as its bigger sibling, the H7, for virtually half the price. Key aspects such as local playback storage, the stubbier form factor, good power, and a plethora of I/O options are all there which give it an outstanding level of value.
8.6
Reader's Score
ALO Audio V5
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.
8.6
Score
iFi Audio GO bar Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
iFi Audio UNO Review
The iFi Audio UNO certainly is an improvement over many things. It also makes a great first-timer and an easy-to-transport DAC amplifier. It’s a step above the common dongle DAC if you always wanted similar performance but in a desktop style. The EQ curves are just extra sprinkles.
8.5
Reader's Score
Just Audio u-HA120 & aHA-120
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
Discontinued
Chord Electronics Mojo
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
FiiO Q7 Review
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. 
8.5
Reader's Score
$799
iFi Audio hip-dac 3 Review featured image

They say the third time’s a charm. It’s a fitting phrase for the iFi Audio hip-dac 3 since it happens to be the best version of this compact DAC and portable headphone amplifier to date.

The additional IEMatch feature fills in the missing gap and remedies the channel imbalance issue which was the only previous issue and also improves on synergy.

8.5
Reader's Score
Phatlab Chimera
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. 
8.5
Reader's Score
Questyle M15 Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
Quloos QLS MC01 Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
ALO Audio Continental Dual Mono
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
Shanling UA5 Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
MOONDROP MOONRIVER 2: Ti Review featured image
The MOONDROP MOONRIVER 2: TI is more powerful,  better looking, and has an updated DAC section over the original version. The best part is the price tag which remains the same as before which raises the bar from their last offering in more ways than one.
8.5
Reader's Score
ddHiFi TC44C DAC Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score
$119
xDuoo Link2 Bal Review
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.
8.5
Reader's Score

 

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