It is impossible to unleash the potential of good wired headphones without a specialized amplifier, because even the modules built into AV receivers and integrated amplifiers are rarely made correctly. This year, headphone amplifiers combined not only with a DAC and a preamplifier, but also with an output stage sufficient to connect small loudspeakers to them. Let’s take a look at the most interesting models from the period 2021-2022.
- Schiit Audio IEMagni
- Burson Audio Funk
- iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon
- Chord Anni
- Mytek Liberty DAC II
- Vincent KHV-200
- Stax SRM-400S
- Questyle CMA Fifteen
In the new model of a budgetary headphone amplifier from the American company Schiit, a low-noise circuit with negative feedback and low output impedance is implemented, focused primarily on working with sensitive headphones. The Schiit Audio IEMagni output stages are based on the OPA1656 operational amplifiers from Texas Instruments. In addition to the 6.35mm jack connector on the front panel, the device is equipped with an adjustable output on RCA connectors, which allows using the new product as a pre-amplifier.
The model offers three modes of operation – high or low gain, as well as negative feedback. The signal-to-noise ratio is 110, 119 and more than 122dB, respectively. The Schiit Audio IEMagni is housed in a brushed black and gray aluminum sheet.
Schiit Audio IEMagni Specifications
- Frequency Response 20Hz-20Khz, +/-0.04dB
- Maximum Power 600 ohms 215mW RMS per channel
- Crosstalk Less than -70dB, 20 Hz-20 kHz in either gain
- Output Impedance Less than 0.2 ohms at either gain
- Input Impedance 25k ohms
- Gain 1 (0db) or 5.5 (15db), selectable via rear switch
- Topology Fully discrete, fully complementary all-bipolar, symmetrical current-feedback design with driver stage and Vbe multiplier, no capacitors in the signal path and DC servo
- Protection Standard failsafe DC power input and muting relay
- Power Supply “Wall wart” style 24VA 14VAC transformer, regulated +/- 16V rails with over 6,000uF filter capacitance
- Power Consumption 6W
- Weight 1 lb
- Size 5 x 3.5 x 1.25”
Price – $120
It would seem that Burson Audio Funk is a classic headphone amplifier, but it also has a powerful stage for servicing small monitors. Both paths are built exclusively on discrete elements and allow separate volume control. To connect headphones, both a 6.3mm jack and a 3.5mm minijack are provided on the front aluminum panel.
The speaker amplifier is class AB and delivers 45 watts of power output. Screw speaker terminals are provided on the back of the cabinet for connecting speakers. For switching with a signal source, a pair of analogue terminals on RCA are located nearby. The all-metal body of the Burson Audio Funk acts as one large radiator for cooling the output stages.
Burson Funk Specifications
- Input impedance:, 38Ohms
- Frequency response:, ± 1 dB 0 – 35Khz
- THD:, <0.03%
- Output impedance (Head Amp):, <2 Ohm
- Inputs:, RCA Left / Right, Weight:, app. 3Kg
- Outputs:, Headphone / Speakers, Dimensions:, 190mm x 150dimm x 60mm
- Power Supply, 100-240V AC
- Impedance (Headphone), Power, Signal to Noise Ratio, Separation16 Ohm, 3.5W, 96db, 99%
- 32 Ohm, 2.5W, 97db, 99%
- 100 Ohm, 600mW, 98db, 99%
- 150 Ohm, 400mW, 96db, 99%
- 300 Ohm, 150mW, 95db,
- Impedance (Speaker), Power, Signal to Noise Ratio, Separation4 Ohm / 8 Ohm, 45W / 35W, 92.5db, 98.50%
Price – $744
iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon combines the functions of a DAC and a headphone amplifier, has replaced the xDSD and xCAN models. The device is equipped with two headphone jacks – a 3.5mm mini-jack and a balanced 4.4mm. Connection of signal sources is possible via USB, as well as via Bluetooth. The DAC block is based on the Burr-Brown chipset and supports the MQA format.
The digital part also includes a precision GMT clock. PCM streams up to 32 bit/768 kHz, DSD512 and DXD x2 are supported. The fully balanced analog path is PureWave and includes TDK C0G capacitors and MELF resistors. The iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon is capable of delivering over 1,000 mW of balanced output into a 32ohm headphone impedance.
iFi Audio xDSD Gryphon Specifications
- DAC: Bit-Perfect DSD & DXD DAC by Burr Brown
- DSD: DSD512/256/128/64, Octa/Quad/Double/Single-Speed
- Battery: Lithium-polymer 3600mAh
- Bluetooth: 5.1 (aptX, aptX HD, aptX Adaptive, aptX LL, LDAC, LHDC/HWA, AAC and SBC Codec)
- Inputs: USB-C (Charging), USB-C (Data), S/PDIF, 4.4mm (Balanced), 3.5mm (Single-Ended)
- Outputs: N/A
- Headphone Output: 3.5mm (S-Balanced), 4.4mm (Balanced)
- Dimensions (HxWxD): 19x75x123mm
- Weight: 127g
Price – €600
British company Chord Electronics released this year an original desktop integrated amplifier that can act as both a headphone amplifier and deliver up to 10 watts of banana-plugged wire output. 3.5 mm and 6.35 mm jacks are provided for headphones.
The Chord Anni uses circuitry borrowed from the flagship Ultima mono and stereo amplifiers. To power the amplifier, the company has developed a special 15V source, while the device itself can provide a voltage of 12V, which can be used to power a Qutest DAC or a Huei phono stage.
Chord Anni Specifications
- Power Output: 10 W 8 ohms.
- THD: 0.02%
- Signal to Noise: -92 dB.
- Noise floor: -110 dB.
- Frequency response: 5 Hz – 60 Khz (-3 dB)
- Dimensions: 160 mm (W) x 42.50 (H) mm x 96.60 (D) mm.
- Weight: 625 g.
Price – £1200
The American company has released the second generation of its popular compact headphone amplifier and digital-to-analog converter device based on the ES9038 chip operating with 32bit/768kHz PCM, DSD512 and DXD signals.
The Mytek Liberty DAC II is also capable of decoding MQA Hi-Res files. The built-in clock generator guarantees the jitter level not exceeding 10ps. USB, AES/EBU, S/PDIF and Toslink/ADAT connectors are provided for digital signal input. Analog outputs are realized on unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR. The high current amplifier delivers up to 3 watts per channel into a 1ohm load.
Mytek Liberty DAC II Specifications
- FREQUENCY RESPONSE 20Hz to 20kHz
- HEADPHONE OUTPUT up to 300mA and 3W
- CLOCK GENERATOR Low noise with 10ps of jitter
- CONVERSION Up to 384k, 32bit PCM, native DSD, up to DSD256, DXD
- OUTPUT IMPEDANCE .01 Ohm Impedance
- DYNAMIC RANGE 127dB DR
- DIMENSIONS (INCLUDING CONNECTORS) WxDxH=5.5×8.8×1.74”
- WEIGHT 4 lbs
Price – $1300
A hybrid amplifier from a German company differs in that the input amplification stages are made on tubes, and the output stages are on transistors. The manufacturer draws attention to the amplifier’s ability to effectively adapt to the impedance of the headphones, which was achieved by the hybrid circuitry. The input stages are implemented on a pair of low noise E180F pentodes, supplemented by an ECC82 dual triode.
Connecting sources is possible through two analog inputs on RCA connectors, they also have two outputs – adjustable and linear. Vincent KHV-200 has two jacks for connecting headphones – there is a 6.3 mm jack on the front panel of the amplifier, and a balanced output on a 4-pin XLR connector decorates the back of the case. The Vincent KHV-200 is available in black and silver finishes.
Vincent KHV-200 Specifications
- Frequency range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz (± 0,1 dB)
- Harmonic dirtortion: < 0,01% (1 kHz; 0,1 W; 32 Ohm)
- Signal-Noise Ratio: > 95 dB
- Input Impedance: 33 kOhm
- Max. Input Voltage: 4 Veff
- Nominal Amplification Headphone Out: Low Gain: -2,66 dB, High Gain: 13,64 dB
- Nominal Amplification Preamp Out: Low Gain: -11,06 dB
- High Gain: 5,13 dB
- Nominal Amplification Record Out: 0 dB, Inputs: 2 x Stereo RCA
- Outputs: 1 x Stereo RCA (PRE OUT), 1 x Stereo RCA (REC OUT), 1 x Headphone 6,3 mm Stereo jack, 1 x Headphene XLR 4-pin Stereo
- Power Supply: 230 V/50 Hz und 115 V/50/60 Hz (switchable)
- Dimensions (W x H x D): 210 x 85 x 277 mm
- Weight: 3,6 kg
- Colors: Black/Silver
- Tubes: 2 x E180F/6SCH9P, 1 x ECC82
Price – €1000
In the outgoing year, the Japanese company released a new amplifier model for users of branded electrostatic headphones, which replaced the popular SRM-353X. Stax SRM-400S provides a bias voltage of 580V and features a low distortion level of less than 0.01%. A DC amplifier made on field-effect transistors is installed inside the case of the usual form factor.
The Stax SRM-400S is equipped with both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs. There is also an unbalanced regulated output for connecting active acoustics or a power amplifier. The rigidity of the case has been increased through the use of more massive aluminum structural parts.
Stax SRM-400S Specifications
- Frequency Response :DC – 90kHZ (with one SR-L500 MK2)
- Harmonic Distortion :0.01% or less (1kHZ/100Vrms output)
- Maximum output voltage :400Vrms (1kHz)
- Bias Voltage :DC 580V.
- Operating Conditions :32 to 95 degrees fahrenheit @<90% humidity.
- Dimensions :(H)4.0″ x (W)7.68″ x (L)14.8″
- Weight :3.4 lbs.
Price – €1300
For its fifteenth anniversary, Questyle has released a new headphone DAC amplifier – CMA Fifteen, inheriting circuitry from the CMA Twelve. The main changes affected the DAC unit, which contains the ES9038Pro chip, which is capable of processing a PCM digital signal up to 32bit/768kHz and a DSD512 stream, as well as decoding MQA.
The Questyle CMA Fifteen also has a Bluetooth module with support for the LDAC codec, and S/PDIF digital inputs operate with a signal up to 24bit/192kHz. The patch panel has a pair of analog inputs on RCA connectors, outputs are balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA. Headphones are provided with 4.4mm, 6.35mm and 4-pin XLR jacks. The body of the Questyle CMA Fifteen is additionally reinforced with 10mm aluminum sheets.
Questyle CMA Fifteen Specifications
- AC Input: 100-120V / 220-230V (switchable)
- Power Consuming: <30W.
- Size: 330*200*55mm (Jacks are not included.)
- Digital Input:
- USB x 2 (Including a high-priority USB Type-C interface and a USB Type-B interface.)
- PCM: 44.1khz-768kHz/32bit.
- DSD: Native DSD 512; DOP DSD 256.
- MQA: Full / Core decoder.
Price – $2400