With more people spending decent money on headphones, and Hi-Res Audio making waves, now's the time to improve the sound coming out of your computer. A USB headphone amplifier is the way to do it.
The audio circuitry on a laptop or phone is built to cost and size constraints, not because it does the job well. If you use headphones costing, say, £50 or more, you'll be amazed at the difference you can hear from using accompanying hardware that's built for purpose.
Related: Best headphones
We've cherry-picked the best headphone amps that'll plug into a PC, Mac or smartphone, suck your digital music through their built-in DACs (digital-to-analogue converters) and squirt it out of their jack sockets. Some are for home listening only and need plugging into the mains, while others are ready for on-the-go use, with their own internal battery or the ability to draw power from your mobile device's charging socket.
Video: Trusted Explains – What type of headphones should you buy?
We tested using a wide range of headphones, from mid-range in-ears up to the astonishing Grado GS1000e over-ears and Noble Audio Kaiser 10 custom-fitted IEMs. Music files were everything from old 192kbps MP3s to 24-bit 192KHz Hi-Res Audio, as well as streaming services such as Spotify and TIDAL.
Related: Best turntables
Read on to find out which amps gave us real sonic delight, or use the dropdown menu on the picture above to head straight to the model you're interested in.