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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
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 Mojo is probably the best all-around portable DAC/Amp proposition with all the correct connectivity on offer for modern devices and audio quality that should please a large audience most of the time.
The ULTRASONE Panther is a little monster of a product, at nearly 1w in balanced mode, I am immensely happy to finally have a massively powerful amplifier in the palm of my hand. It is slick and small, with roughly 12-15 hours of battery life.
If you need long battery life and the amp is sitting in your pocket most of the day I might suggest the National to you.
But if you are a big tube fan then the answer is, albeit a more expensive one, a lot clearer - get the Continental.
I am particularly impressed with its ability to convey a musical tonality that is devoid of any harsh or sharp leading edges. In addition, the expansive properties of the Cloud Nine make it a force to be reckoned with in the arena of mid to hi-fi amps.
The Picollo amp fills an important gap in the Cypher Labs range. I would urge you to go for this over a Duet or Theorem if you are holding a set of mid-tier customs or universals that require better sensitivity handling and lower noise floors.
this is a very mature-sounding implementation of the AK4990EN, perhaps one of the best at this price point helped by the excellent AM3a amp card. Its low noise unbalanced for sensitive IEMs, good enough power for most portable cans, and paints a very natural to slight neutral sound that pairs well with a broad range of genres.
The lower gain stage does mean in some ways it may seem a touch quieter than before but the power ratings remain the same and that does mean more ambitious pairings with the likes of the Edition X V2 and even the Ether C Flow do not sound bad at all making the HA-2SE a more than useful decoding and amping setup for portable headphone usage.
As far as portable options go, students with a pension for audiophilia would be happy with this at the $950 price point. It is a great all-around DAC and despite topping at 24bit upsampled, the quality of the end result is fantastic.
The Dacamp L1 is an impressive first effort from RHA. Tonally it hits all the right notes and for an ESS chip, it is very well-tuned delivering an impactful yet linear and clean presentation that makes it flexible to pair with most IEMs and headphones.
However, if you are an IEM guy, got a midrange DAP and want a little more juice to really liven up those IEM's without any unwanted noise or hum then the RX is probably going to get my vote for one of the IEM analog amps of the year.
Oppo should really get this into Apple and high-end lifestyle stores if possible. The HA-2 would look very much at home there and present a rather respectable level of audiophile credibility in stores where design often edges out everything else.
I honestly can't find fault with a device at this price point that can do as much as the Nano iDSD Black Label can. At $199 it is a bit of a steal to get IEMatch, decent levels of gain and power as well as a smooth analog-type delivery with BitPerfect capability. Throwing in MQA is kind of like a selectively high-end cherry on a generally rather tasty cake.
The xCAN is a fine pure portable amplifier at this price point. Its modern wireless connectivity may appeal more to a new generation, but as an old hack I really do appreciate a great analog performance and this is indeed a great one.
At this price, it is stellar overall for performance to price ratio and offers a lot in the way of overall fidelity across the board. Sure, it has some bass depth lacking traits and I wish it would let me boost a little more and actually respond to it well. But, the unit is well suited for the general listener, it seems.
The ability to go balanced right away with the BA300S and it's 4.4mm input/output system does raise the performance of my own IEMs to a very nice, albeit colored level. You just have to watch the noise levels which is par for the course for proper tube amps. That is one of the benefits of the Sony digital amping system you will lose by outputting to the BA300S.
The hip-dac is a small hip flask device full of technology that is also used on their more expensive units. It has great sound quality with flexibility and usefulness for days and the features list is long and does it all without a hitch.