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7 Best Headphone Amplifiers for Vinyl Turntables

I just got the perfect excuse to order a headphone amplifier to use with my turntable. 

I will spend the next few months living in small studio apartment to a home renovation project. It can fit my turntable, but my speakers and amplifier will unfortunately need to go in the basement. 

So, for a few months, I will listen to vinyl through headphones.

But a decent headphone amplifier might not cost a lot. 

After lots of research, I’ve found that affordable headphone amplifiers have become very good over the resent years. 

Especially, the latest version of the entry-level Schiit Magni 3 seems to be a true gem.  

I will review the Schiit Magni together with six other headphone amplifiers that stand out as some of the most popular and highest rated options today. And order the one that stands out as the best option. 

But first, let’s have a brief discussion on how to choose a good headphone amplifier for vinyl. 

What features to look for in a headphone amplifier for vinyl? 

What you essentially need is a headphone amplifier that has the required inputs to connect to your turntable or preamp, the required outputs to connect to your headphones, and a volume knob. 

And enough power to drive your headphones. Which can be calculated using this tool

For inputs, we’ll simply need RCA inputs. 

For outputs, that will depend on your headphones. My Focal headphones uses 6.3 mm jack. Which is probably most common. Other options are a 3.5 mm jack or balanced XLR connectors. 

Besides choosing the right power and connectivity, the only big question is whether to include a DAC or not. 

For vinyl spinning, a DAC is not needed. No-brainer… 

A good built-in DAC also increases the price of the headphone amplifier significantly.

But a DAC might be a nice feature if you also want to use the headphone amplifier with digital music sources. 

My focus will be on headphone amplifier without DAC. To keep the cost down. 

How much does a good headphone amplifier cost?

My current turntable is a Rega Planar 2 with a high-end Rega Exact cartridge that cost me about $1300 in total. 

And my Focal Elear headphones costs about $1000 at list price. 

It is not difficult to spend more than thousand dollars on a headphone amplifier as well. The Sennheiser HDV 820 is one example of an audiophile headphone amplifier that isn’t cheap. 

Personally, and as an electronics engineer, I don’t believe it is necessary to spend 4 digits to get a good headphone amplifier. 

A headphone amplifier is a quite basic electronics circuit that only needs to output a few clean watts to drive even demanding headphones perfectly. 

It simply isn’t that expensive to source quality components and design a circuit that performs the task of a headphone amplifier very well.  

My research indicates the same. Affordable headphone amplifiers now get really good reviews across the board. They gave become very good. 

Based on my research, a $100-$300 budget is sufficient to buy a good headphone amplifier that will satisfy the needs for most of us. 

While a $300-$600 budget seems to be the sweet-spot for those that want to choose a headphone amplifier with very high sonic performance.  

Enough chat, here is my list of 7 best headphone amplifiers for vinyl. 

1 Pro-Ject Head Box S2 

Pro-Ject is one for the most acknowledged manufacturer of turntables and analog home audio electronics in the world. I bought their fantastic Pro-Ject Tube Box S2 tube phono preamp a while ago. A product I am very pleased with. I am a Pro-Ject fan.

Pro-Ject have a decent line-up of headphone amplifier where the Head Box S2 is their most affordable offering. 

The Head Box S2 is handmade in Europe and is available in black or silver. 

It has enough power to drive even demanding headphones. It comes with 6.3mm and 3.5mm headphone outputs that can be used simultaneously. 

Pros

  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Small footprint
  • 3.5mm and 6.3mm output
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 
  • Affordable

Cons

  • No balanced outputs 

Key Specifications 

  • Power (32 Ohm): 0.725 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: Yes
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: No
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: No
  • Dimensions: 102 x 37 x 120 mm
  • Made in Europe

The Pro-Ject Head Box S2 is one of the safest picks if you want an affordable headphone amplifier from an acknowledged home audio and turntable manufacturer. 

Click here to check price on Amazon.

2 Schiit Magni 3

The Magni 3 is one of many Schiit products that has received fantastic reviews and seems to be loved by everyone that get their hands on one. 

It has an output rating at 2.4 Watts at 32 Ohms, which makes it one for the most powerful headphone amplifier on this list. This Schiit will drive very demanding headphones with ease. 

It is a highly affordable and nice-looking headphone amplifier. Made in US. It seems to have a big and rapidly growing fanbase. 

Pros

  • Very high output power
  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Small footprint
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 
  • Affordable
  • US Made

Cons

  • No 3.5mm output
  • No balanced outputs 

Key Specifications 

  • Power (32 Ohm): 2.4 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: No
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: No
  • Dimensions: 5 x 3.5 x 1.25”
  • Designed and built in California

If you are looking for an affordable headphone amplifier to use with your turntable, the Schiit Magni 3 must definitely not be overlooked. 

Click here to check price on Amazon.

3 Beyerdynamic A20

The German made Beyerdynamic A20 is specially designed to perform well with high impedance headphones. It is known to produce punchy, controlled and solid base and overall very defined sound. 

It features a low resonance chassis and high-grade components all way through. It seems to be loved even by true audiophiles with very high expectations. 

Don’t be put off by the low power rating. Beyerdynamic A20 is rated at 250 Ohm, which gives a much lower number than if it has been rated at 32 Ohm. It will absolutely drive high impedance headphones. It is what it is designed for! 

Pros

  • Premium headphone amplifier
  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Small footprint
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 
  • Elegant design

Cons

  • No 3.5mm output
  • No balanced outputs 
  • Not the best pick for low impedance headphones 

Key Specifications 

  • Power (250 Ohm): 170 mW
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: No
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: No
  • Dimensions: 8.34 x 2.16 x 6.4”
  • Made in Germany

The Beyerdynamic A20 is a highly rated headphone amplifier from one of the most acknowledged manufacturers of high-end headphones in the world. It is definitely one of the best relatively affordable headphone amplifiers on the market. Definitely worth considering, especially if you run high impedance cans. 

Click here to check price on Amazon. 

4 Pro-Ject Head Box DS2B

The Pro-Ject Head Box DS2B is a highly versatile headphone amplifier with many features and adjustments that makes it possible to perfectly match it to the specs of your cans. 

It has both single ended (6,3mm) and balanced (XLR) outputs that can be used simultaneously. It also has adjustable current and gain settings that makes it just as suitable for hard-to-drive headphones, current hungry headphones and sensitive headphones. 

Pros

  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Single ended 6.3mm and balanced XLR outputs
  • Current and gain settings 
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Not the most elegant design (?)

Key Specifications 

  • Power (33 Ohm): 0.550 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: Yes
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: No
  • Dimensions: 206 x 71 x 218 mm
  • Made in Europe

If you are looking for a versatile and good sounding headphone amplifier, it is hard to find a match for the Pro-Ject Head Box DS2B at this price level. Highly suitable for vinyl enthusiasts that run multiple set of headphones. 

Click here to check prize on Amazon. 

5 Schiit Asgard 3 

To use Schiit’s own words, the Asgard 3 is a highly powerful, highly affordable, modular headphone amp and preamp that gives you a complete, single-box solution for all your desktop needs.

It has optional DAC modules. It means that you can buy the stripped version now and upgrade it with DAC modules later. Or you can choose to spec it with a built-in DAC from the get-go. 

This also enables you to upgrade the DAC modules if and when technology change and better DAC technology are available down the line. 

The headphone amplification stage has very high output power as well as a low noise floor. It makes it very versatile. It will work great with both demanding headphones and highly sensitive easy-to-drive headphones. 

Reviews are fantastic across the board. For the price, this is a true gem. 

Pros

  • Very high output power
  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Optional DAC modules
  • Versatile 
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 
  • Affordable
  • US Made

Cons

  • No 3.5mm output
  • No balanced outputs 

Key Specifications 

  • Power (32 Ohm): 3.5 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: No
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: Optional
  • Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 2”
  • Designed and built in California

Is this the affordable headphone amplifier on the market today that offers the best value for money? It might be. You will DEFINITELY not go wrong with the Schiit Asgard 3. 

Click here to check price on Amazon.

6 Pro-Ject Head Box RS

The Head Box RS is Pro-Ject’s reference quality headphone amplifier. 

It offers the same level of versatility as the Had Box DS2B reviewed above but it also features a fully balanced tube input stage and a single ended class A output stage. 

The output impedance can be adjusted in three steps to achieve better impedance matching between amplifier and headphones. 

Pros

  • Reference audio quality
  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Super versatile 
  • Output impedance settings 
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No balanced headphone outputs 

Key Specifications 

  • Power (32 Ohm): 0.350 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: No (only bypass) 
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: No
  • Dimensions: 206 x 72 x 200 mm
  • Made in Europe

The Pro-Ject Head Box RS is a true reference headphone amplifier that will make every type of headphones sound their absolute best. 

Click here to check price on Pro-Ject Audio Systems USA.

7 Schiit Jotunheim 

The Schiit Jotunheim is the most expensive, most versatile and most powerful non-tube headphone amplifier from Schiit. 

In addition to a 6.3 mm jack, it offers balanced outputs suitable for those that run professional balanced headphones with XLR connectivity. 

Just as the Asgard 3 reviewed above, it features optional DAC modules that can be added later and upgraded when new and better DAC technology hits the market down the line.  

I can also be ordered with a PHONO (preamp) module which is a nice feature for those that want to run a turntable without built-in preamp. 

Pros

  • Very high output power
  • Suitable for demanding headphones
  • Optional DAC modules
  • Optional PHONO module
  • Balanced outputs 
  • Versatile 
  • Acknowledged manufacturer 
  • US Made

Cons

  • Expensive
  • No 3.5mm output

Key Specifications 

  • Power (32 Ohm) Balanced: 5 W
  • Power (32 Ohm) Single-Ended: 1.5 W
  • 3.5 mm Jack: No
  • 6.3 mm Jack: Yes
  • Balanced output: Yes
  • LINE Output: Yes
  • DAC: Optional
  • PHONO: optional
  • Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 2”
  • Designed and built in California

The Schiit Jotunheim offers impressive power and versatility at a very lucrative price. 

Click here to check price on Amazon. 

My Pick

After reading and watching tons of reviews, it is hard to not choose one of the Schiit models. 

They get superb reviews and they are very lucratively priced. Especially in the US where they are made. 

I love Pro-Ject products and I highly respect the products from Beyerdynamic. 

But I honestly believe Schiit has an edge in this segment. 

I am very intrigued by the Schiit Asgard and the Schiit Jotunheim, but I have decided to be sensible and order the highly affordable Schiit Magni 3

It seems to be punching way over its weight class. And if it doesn’t work out, I haven’t really wasted a lot of money. 

PS! My Schiit Magni 3 just got delivered as I publish this article. First impressions are really good. For the price, the finish and perceived build-quality is amazing. I will post a comprehensive review when I have tested it for a while.

Conclusion

I hope this article helps you pick a good headphone amplifier that suits your need and budget. 

I strongly believe the list above includes the very best picks for vinyl enthusiasts. 

And don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions in this regard. 

FAQ

What is headphone impedance? 

In layman’s terms, impedance states how “resistant” the headphones are to receive or accept power from the amplifier (power source). 

Headphones with high impedance need an amplifier with higher output voltage to produce energy (sound) compared to headphones with lower impedance. 

What is headphone sensitivity?

Sensitivity states how much sound (dB) the headphones produce at a given amount of power received. 

Headphones with low impedance (receives power easily) and high sensitivity (transform the power received to sound efficiently) will play loud with a headphone amplifier with very little power. 

Headphones with high impedance (don’t receive power easily) and low sensitivity (don’t transform power to sound efficiently) will need a powerful headphone amplifier to play loud. 

Are there other ways to play vinyl with headphones? 

Using a dedicated headphone amplifier is not the only way to use headphones with a turntable. It is also possible to use a receiver with a headphones output, Bluetooth headphones with a Bluetooth turntable, or even a turntable with a built-in headphone amplifier. 

You can read more about this in our How to Listen to Vinyl with Headphones article.