The 6 Best Stellar Value Headphone DAC/Amps of 2016

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The world of headphone amps and dacs can get pretty daunting and scary in the blink of an eye. Not only is there a lot of technical nonsense to figure out, but you’ll soon realize this isn’t the cheapest hobby on the block.

Reading: Best headphone amplifier 2016

You can drive yourself crazy reading all the tech reviews on gear costing thousands of dollars and trying to figure out which dac to buy or which amp to buy. On top of that, you’ll soon be dizzy while trying to figure out if dac a is a good match for amp b or amp c works better with d headphones and so on.

I’m not saying there’s no place for all this. there is absolutely. but if you don’t want to indulge and just want a quality setup that gives you maximum enjoyment at a fraction of the cost, then you’ve come to the right place. !

We’ll walk you through the 6 best stellar value headphone dacs/amps currently available on the market.

All of the products on this list have received rave reviews and are highly regarded in the audiophile/headphone community. They’re guaranteed to give you unbeatable value for money and will handle almost any headset with authority!

So, unless the thought of building the ultimate DIY audiophile wonder makes you laugh, check out these stellar deals below!

but first…what is a headphone amp and do I need one?

if you are thinking โ€œwhat is a headphone amplifier? do I need one?โ€, you’d better check out my easy-to-understand explanation on this topic, where I break down all of this in layman’s terms. Go ahead, it’s not complicated at all!

alright, let’s go!

#1: jds labs target2 + odac

Best Value Amp #1 JDSLabs O2 ODAC

a powerful combination in one box! target 2 + odac is often seen as the benchmark for measuring other dac/amps.

Designed by nwavguy to prove that you don’t have to spend thousands of dollars to get the most out of your headphones, this little open source solution looks very minimalistic but certainly gets the job done.

With well-chosen components to keep costs as low as possible, while holding its own against much more expensive gear, the o2 + odac combo is literally everything you need to stop worrying and simply enjoy your music to the fullest. .

what it lacks in aesthetics it surely makes up for in performance! oh, and did i mention that jds labs offers you a 2 year transferable warranty?

check the latest price on amazon.

#2: schiit stack (modi 2 and magni 2)

Best Value DAC/Amps #2 Schiit Stack

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Looking a bit more pleasing to the eye and priced to beat nwavguy’s offering, the schiit stack has dethroned the o2+odac as the best bang for your buck.

some say the audible difference is still in favor of the o2+odac, but only with headphones over $700, while other reviews say both are equally good.

It goes without saying that this package is one of the best you can get. the modi 2/magni 2 setup will give you clean, pure sound with enough power to power most headphones and will even look good on your desk. Plus, as a statement of quality, you’ll even get a 2-year limited warranty included with the schiit deal.

both available on amazon. get the magni 2 here and the modi 2 here.

#3: red dragonfly audioquest

Best Value DAC/Amps #3 AudioQuest DragonFly Red

Seeking ultimate portability, audioquest made waves in 2012 with the award-winning dragonfly v1.0 and followed it up with the even better dragonfly v1.2 a year later.

This year, audioquest introduced 2 follow-ups called Black Dragonfly and Red Dragonfly. while they’re both great, we felt like we needed to put red on this list, as this portable little box of goodness is all you need to drive your favorite can on the go.

Both the black and red dragonfly are suitable for your laptop and computer, and you can even connect them to your favorite android or ios device, making this an extremely versatile dac/amplifier!

The reason we opted for the more expensive Dragonfly is that the red one is capable of driving a much wider range of headphones (even the power-hungry ones!), while the black one is more suited to models of high efficiency. on top of that, red also has slightly better audio quality.

look for the cheapest price on amazon.

#4: creative sound blaster e5

Best Value DAC/Amps #4 Sound Blaster E5

If you’re looking for something that does more than just produce crystal clear audio, the soundblaster e5 might be for you. especially if you are an audio loving gamer.

The e5 is capable of outputting audio sources up to 24bit/192khz, but it also supports 7.1 sound, has extensive dsp options, comes with wireless streaming via bluetooth, has multiple microphones, and even provides 2 headphone jacks !

3200mah battery gives you 8 hours of power and can even serve as a power bank for your smartphone.

jack of all trades and master of none doesn’t fly in the sound blaster e5, as this could be the most versatile and powerful headphone amp & dac on the market without sacrificing audio quality!

available at a very good price on amazon.

#5: sony pha-1a

See also: Ultrasone Edition 8 Headphone Review – Major HiFi

Best Value DAC/Amps #5 Sony PHA-1A

If you like your audio equipment to be clean and elegant, the pha-1a is the one to look for. not only does it leave a small footprint on your desk, but it looks insanely sexy (as solid-state amps go). I especially like the gold accent around the headphone jack.

The compact (though not as compact as the Dragonfly) and lightweight design, along with a built-in rechargeable battery that provides up to 6 hours of power, makes the PHA-1A ideal for mobile devices, whether Android or iOS. elegant.

Like the Sound Blaster E5, it is capable of producing 24-bit/192khz audio and has selectable gain from 8 to 600 ohms, providing all the power you need.

currently getting 4 out of 5 stars on amazon.

#6: oppo ha-2 se

Best Value DAC/Amps #6 OPPO HA-2 SE

Even more than the sony pha-1a, the oppo ha-2 draws attention. the leather wrap makes it very aesthetically pleasing and also gives it a more sophisticated look.

With a maximum impedance level of 300 ohms, the ah-2 se is not as powerful as the pha-1a, but it can still power the most demanding headphones on the market, like the sennheiser hd650, for example.

3000mah battery provides up to 7 hours of digital resource playback time and can be used as a power bank for your mobile devices.

if you’re looking for a dacamp that can go all the way when it comes to digital music, the ha-2 se with its ability to convert up to 32bit/384khz is an excellent choice. oh, and you can also do dsd256.

look for recent prices of this beauty on amazon.


Whether you’re just getting into hi-fi or a seasoned audiophile, the six options above will give you an amazing music experience without breaking the bank.

and while there are less expensive options, cheap isn’t always best, but neither is the opposite!

of course you can go for a $20 or $50 dacamp, but aside from the fact that it would make everything sound a little louder, it’s not really going to be an improvement in sound quality over the dac/amp that’s used on your laptop, computer or mobile… unless it’s like 10 years old of course ๐Ÿ™‚

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