Top 5 Headphone Amplifier Reviews for 2024

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Headphone Amplifiers

Are These Headphone Amps Still Relevant Today?

What? A list of the top 5 headphone amp reviews in February? Isn't it a little early for annual top product lists? NO. In fact, this is a perfect time to talk about some of our absolute favorite headphone amplifiers at Moon Audio and see if they're still worthy contenders today. We love headphones here, so it only makes sense that we also love the things that drive them, namely, headphone amplifiers. The thing about audiophilia is there are always new products coming out, the latest and greatest, but does that mean you have to go out and get new products year after year? Of course not! If something sounds good to you then there should be no reason why you would go out and find something to replace it. 

These headphone amps aren't new. And that's okay. They are still some of the best-selling headphone amplifiers at Moon Audio and for good reason: they sound phenomenal. So let's take a deeper look at what makes each of the headphone amplifiers timeless and especially great options to consider in 2024. 

Dragon Inspire IHA-1 Tube Headphone Amplifier

The Dragon Inspire IHA-1 is extra special to us because it's a Moon Audio exclusive. Designed and perfected by our Owner and Founder Drew Baird, P.E., in partnership with Cary Audio's Founder Dennis Had, the Dragon Inspire is vacuum tube amplification in its purest form. With a metallic copper finish and black accents, the Dragon Inspire is both retro and modern looking. The front panel features a 100k dual-stepped attenuator volume control, analog RCA input selector switch, 1/4" headphone output, 4-pin XLR headphone out, power switch, and power indicator. On the back panel is a power port, fuse, output switch, pre-amplified left and right outputs, and two pairs of aux ports.

The Dragon Inspire IHA-1 is wonderfully warm and smooth. It has great dynamic range and the right amount of energy that never overshadows the details. The soundstage is intimate but not crowded - it's easy to be completely immersed in the music and feel like you're a part of it with the Dragon Inspire's presentation. 

One of, if not the best features of tube amps over solid-state amps is tube rolling, which is the ability to swap out the tubes on the top of each unit. Each tube has its own coloration that impacts the overall sound, so by changing the vacuum tubes, you can alter the tonality and fine-tune your listening experience based on personal preferences. Pretty neat right? The options are virtually endless and it not only extends the lifetime of your amplifier but it also allows the unit to grow with you as your tastes change.

For instance, the Dragon Inspire IHA-1 features a pair of 6SN7 stock tubes and a 5Y3 rectifier tube that lends a lush, warm, and liquid sound but if that's not really complementing your favorite genre then no biggie, just swap them out! We recommend swapping out the rectifier tubes with a direct heater-type tube like the 5Y3, 5U4, 274B, or NOS. The output tubes can be swapped out with a 6SN7 variant tube. The Dragon Inspire has a unique option compared to the other amplifiers. Not only is it a transformer-coupled output, but it also utilizes high-end Lundahl input transformers that strip off any incoming noise from your sources. It also boosts the gain and adds some detail and resolution to the incoming signal.

Dragon Inspire IHA-1 Tube Headphone Amp | Need to Know
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Chord Electronics Mojo 2 DAC/Amp

The Chord Mojo 2 is the most advanced DAC/headphone amplifier in the world. It plays your favorite music with class-leading detail and clarity, right up to studio-grade levels. The Mojo 2 builds upon the original Mojo by Rob Watts and makes some substantial improvements in the overall functionality of the portable DAC. The new Mojo retains a lot of what made the Mojo 1 popular: dual headphone jacks, amazing build quality, control spheres, great battery life, and a soundstage and tone that few could compete with. The Chord Electronics Mojo 2 adds additional functionality, including enhanced tone controls, a revamped menu system, high-end sound specs, and low and high gain volume control. The Mojo 2 is the perfect portable DAC amp for almost every headphone and IEM on the market.

The Chord Electronics Mojo 2 is the new king of portable DAC Amps that every audiophile should have in their system. It improves on the original in every way possible. Easily improve the sound fidelity from streaming services like Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz, the Mojo 2’s tone control can make lossy and lossless audio sound much better than your consumer-grade devices. Chord’s internal noise-shaper allows the EQ to work linearly below 104 bits, and the more extensive controls allow for much more nuanced treble, high treble, mids, and lows than before. Battery management has improved with the new desktop mode. The Mojo was already the best. Now it’s just better.

There's a reason why no other DAC sold as well once the original Mojo was released. It was that good. It brought unparalleled sound to your mobile setup. Audiophile-grade audio with fidelity and power unmatched. The reigning king of portable DACs. Every reign has to end at some point.

It's better it be overthrown by a new version, and Chord has outdone themselves with the Mojo 2. Sure it might not have all the features some people were hoping like Bluetooth and balanced connections, but when you look at the device and how it's designed you ultimately come to realize you don't need them. The sonic upgrades are there - don't be fooled by some of the specs being identical. Sound doesn't just lie in new chips. Chord has a design process where they assess what really needs to be improved, and the Mojo 2 is a refinement in that art. Better transparency, more depth, improved bass response, larger battery - it's all there. And this is where I look to you, current Mojo 1 owners. I consider the best upgrading talking point to be the features. Let's just ignore the fact that the Mojo is seven years old already and probably in need of a new battery anyway. But it's the new features and upgrades that allow the listener more control over their music: Low/High gain options, better color-coded indicators (which will take some time to learn), new menu filters, intelligent desktop mode, EQ, and much more. Yes, I would say it's a worthwhile upgrade even if you have the existing Mojo.

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Naim Uniti Atom HE Streamer Amplifier

The Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a headphone-optimized version of the award-winning Uniti Atom music streaming system, designed to be the ultimate solo listening source. Unlike traditional headphone amplifiers and DACs, which require a separate computer or streaming device, Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is a fully formed streaming system: just add headphones. It is also a superb streaming pre-amplifier: simply add a power amp and speakers, or active speakers. Uniti Atom Headphone Edition is fully re-engineered to offer an optimal personal listening performance. Using trickle-down technology from its flagship Statement amplifier, Naim has engineered a new discrete headphone amplifier, capable of powering even the most premium headphones with ease, via your choice of 6.35mm jack, Balanced XLR, or Pentaconn outputs.

No disturbance, no distractions, no compromise. City office, home study, living or bedrooms, enjoy your music, at your volume - exactly how it’s supposed to be heard. Transform any space into your own audio cocoon, lovingly crafted by the British leaders in high-end sound. Then simply escape to your exclusive world, where music, radio, and podcasts have never sounded so good.

The Uniti Atom is able to stream from all your favorite music streaming services. Spotify, Tidal, and Qobuz are directly integrated into the amplifier, as well as internet radio and a curated collection of HD stations and podcasts. AirPlay 2 support, Chromecast built-in, and Roon Ready status add even more streaming options, while analog and digital inputs mean you can connect many other sources too - including turntables. USB input supports playback from storage and flash drives. Bluetooth connectivity also allows you to connect to even more devices to stream your favorite music. Utilizing the apt HD codec, the Uniti Atom is able to stream high-resolution music files effortlessly via Bluetooth. It's an incredible amount of options for one device.

The Uniti Atom Amplifier, DAC, and Music Streamer is one of the most feature-packed do-it-all desktop units I've had the pleasure of listening to. The design is absolutely stunning and the box sounds just as good as it looks. The volume dial and the gorgeous display on the front of the unit help this device stand apart from the crowd and make for one of the best user experiences I've ever had. With more connectivity options and features than you can shake a stick at, you'll be hard-pressed to find a desktop unit that compares for the price. If you want a box that can literally do it all, then we can't recommend the Naim Uniti Atom enough.

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Pass Labs HPA-1 Headphone Amplifier and Preamp HPA-1 Headphone Amplifier is Pass Labs first headphone amp that also functions as a preamplifier. The HPA-1 is designed as a power amplifier rather than a typical headphone amplifier that allows it to drive all dynamic and planar magnetic headphones. With low feedback, wide bandwidth, and a direct coupled MOSFET output stage, the HPA-1 drives headphones with impedances of 15 ohms to 600 ohms. Its luscious, tube-like sound has earned the HPA-1 many fans over the years.

The Pass Labs HPA-1 is a Class A headphone amp that was designed to amplify headphones with impedances of 15 ohms to 600 ohms. It can deliver full-range dynamics across the entire frequency range. The HPA-1 can even drive headphones that present difficult loads in terms of impedance, power consumption, or both. In order to stand out from the crowd, Pass Labs conceptually designed the HPA-1 as a real Class-A power amplifier, not as an accessory offering only incremental performance gains. The HPA-1 cuts no corners in the circuit design and spares no necessary expense in execution. The foundation of the HPA-1's engineering is a custom, low-noise shielded toroidal power transformer feeding a discreet low-noise regulated power supply for the audio circuits. The importance of the power supply is often overlooked and plays a large part in the overall performance of the amplifier.

Amps vs. Preamps: What's the Difference?

The HPA-1's amplifier circuits are low-feedback, wide-bandwidth discreet designs employing J-Fet input stages and Class A-biased direct-coupled MOSFET output stages. The HPA-1 easily drives headphones presenting loads from 15 to 600 ohms, particularly excelling on planar headphone designs. The sound is rich and detailed. The HPA-1 has a single high-quality headphone jack on the front panel, two sets of single-ended analog inputs via RCA jacks on the rear panel, and also a set of switchable "Preamp" line-level output jacks on the rear panel. There are no compromises with the HPA-1 when used as a stereo preamp, and it will compete against contemporary preamplifiers. The rear panel holds the power switch and fuse. Volume control is via a hefty rotary knob connected to an ALPS Potentiometer. The other front-panel controls are three pushbuttons to select inputs or to engage the Preamp output.


Chord Electronics Hugo 2/TT 2

Since the Hugo 2 is based on the TT 2's architecture, we'll include both here as options for the portable and desktop headphone amplifier. The Chord Hugo TT 2 has been radically redesigned from the ground up. It features beautiful new casework by Chief Designer, John Franks, as well as 5 times the processing power of the original Hugo TT — double that of the multi-award-winning Hugo 2. Hugo TT 2 includes over 20 years of digital development by Rob Watts and takes advantage of the very latest technology. It delivers radically improved technical specifications and measurements across the board and exhibits drastic sonic benefits over its predecessor with 768kHz PCM and DSD 512 playback. This powerhouse DAC supports most headphones, including harder-to-drive ones like the Sennheiser HD800S, and most planar magnetic headphones, such as the Audeze LCD-3 and LCD-4. Compared to the 256-tap filters of traditional chip DACs, Hugo TT 2 is an infinitely more powerful Xilinx Artix 7 FPGA, custom-coded by Chord Electronics’ Rob Watts with 86x 208MHz cores running in parallel to create an advanced 16FS WTA 1 filter with 98,304-taps. That doubles the power of its multi-award-winning transportable brother, Hugo 2 (49,152). Hugo TT 2 also upgrades from a 4-element design to a 10-element design, which works in harmony with the radically upgraded FPGA and code to deliver unrivaled audio.

The Hugo 2 is one of the most premium portable DAC and headphone amplifiers on the market. Despite the size, I think it works just as well in desktop systems too, and it certainly has enough power for your favorite headphones in both cases. You'll find optical, coax, HD USB, a pair of RCAs, and 3.5mm and quarter-inch headphone jacks. The Hugo 2 features Chord's love-or-hate colored knobs for controls - they're certainly unique in the industry, but they work well. It's on the analytical side when it comes to sound signature like most Chord products, and there is no shortage of detail and clarity. It's hands down one of the best-sounding DACs on the market, and Chord includes crossfeed and filter options to tailor the sound to your liking. Battery life is good with around 7 hours for a device of this size. Chord designs its products to integrate well with other Chord products, and if you want one of the best-sounding setups I've ever heard, then you can pair it with the M scaler which I'll introduce next. It also pairs seamlessly with the 2GO, transforming it into a full-fledged streamer and server. The possibilities are endless, and the Hugo 2 keeps me discovering new things in my favorite music all the time. It's a sonic wonder and one of the best audiophile products out there.

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 Review: Details, Features and Specifications
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Dragon Cables

Our HiFi Audio Dragon Cables bring out more of what you love in your music and audio gear. If you love your headphones but wish they had a bit more top-end sparkle - a Silver Dragon Headphone Cable would be a great option. If your USB cables keep dying - as many stock cables do - then check out our quality USB Audio Cables. We say time and time again that materials matter, and our audio cables and custom geometries actually help to bring out those desired properties in your gear and music. We make tons of custom options for our customers so that you can get the right HiFi Audio cable for your exact needs. If you have any questions feel free to Contact Us and we'll be more than happy to help.
Generally, stock audio cables are manufactured with subpar materials, metals with impurities, poor geometries, and an overabundance of layers to make them look and feel like a fire hose. Inconsistency and lack of quality control in stock cables can lead to poor sound quality and a veiled sound vs. what the musician intended for you to hear and feel from the music. Dragon Audio Cables are handcrafted with the highest standards and made to order according to your specific needs. At Moon Audio, we create a custom cable for you using the highest quality UP-OCC silver or copper conductors that can be manufactured. UP-OCC metals are void of impurities and are optimized for signal transfer and sound quality. We have one of the largest collections of audio and headphone connection options available online and we create limitless audio cable options depending on your specific gear and needs.

Why Dragon Cables?
You’ve heard the saying that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, right? Well, the same applies to your brand new audiophile-grade headphone or other audio components. The weakest link, in this case, is your stock audio cable or the cheap interconnects the manufacturer threw in the box just to get you up and running. Why is the audio cable always an afterthought, when it’s just as important as the rest of your system? At Moon Audio, we use the purest and best raw materials in our cables to unveil your music. We believe that materials matter and your audio cables should have the same care and craftsmanship that manufacturers put into their audio components and headphones. Audio cables are ultimately the connection to your music. The fact remains that cabling is often considered the last priority to that of the main product and a means to cut down the overall production costs. It’s as simple as that. Dragon Cables elevate every note - as if you were hearing your favorite music for the very time. 


These are still just a selection of our top recommended headphone amplifiers today. You can't ignore something that just sounds good and helps your music sound better in the process. These headphone amplifiers are just that. The Dragon Inspire is a great option for those wanting a warmer and more musical presentation, offering customization options with tube switching and plenty of desktop power for your favorite headphones. The Chord Mojo 2 is a staple portable DAC and amp in the audiophile world. If you're looking for something small, portable, and enough power for your full-size headphones on the go, then it should be a perfect choice for the nomadic audiophile. The Naim Uniti Atom HE is one of the best-looking all-in-one units you can get. With tons of features, streaming integration, amazing design, and more, all you have to do is plug in your headphones and you're off to a new sonic paradise. The Pass Labs HPA-1 is one of our favorite standalone headphone amplifiers at Moon Audio, with the versatility to be used as a standalone preamp too if desired. With tons of power and a nice clean and natural sound, the HPA-1 is one of our top picks for desktop headphone amplifiers for 2024. Lastly, the Chord Hugo series - specifically the Hugo 2 and the Hugo TT 2 - are some of Chord's most popular headphone amplifiers year after year. Whether you want something portable or desktop-friendly, it'll be hard to find a cleaner and more detailed sound than the Hugo 2 or TT 2 out there. 

So, to answer the question if these headphone amplifiers are still relevant and recommended today? Absolutely. These are still some of the best headphone amplifiers on the market, depending on what you are looking for. If you have any questions about these headphone amplifiers or any others, don't hesitate to reach out to us or leave a comment. 2024 has just begun, but there are PLENTY of great headphone amplifiers to choose from today! 

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