I think we all know the THX AAA 789 is the cream of the crop of headphone amps. However, it’s near impossible to get. It would be great if we could compile a list of amps that are near (subjective, I get it) the performance of the 789 for around the same price. Hifiguides already has a great headphone recommendation section but is lacking an amp one. I know Zeos has a post on his Reddit, but it’s near a year old now. If we could get @ZeosPantera and/or @DMS to comment on this, we could maybe even get a nice sticky post going for everyone.
Remember all recommendations should be under (or slightly over) $500.
- Massdrop THX AAA 789
- JDS Labs Atom
- Monoprice Liquid Spark
- Gilmore lite mk2
- Schiit Jotunheim
- Rupert Neve RNHP
- JDS Labs El Amp
- Massdrop LCX
- Monolith by Monoprice Desktop Balanced Headphone Amplifier and DAC with THX AAA Technology
- Chord Mojo
- ifi xDSD
- ifi xCAN
- ifi micro iDSD Black Label (used for about 520)
- Fiio Q5 and later Q5s
- Fiio Q1 II
- xDuoo XD-05
- Oppo HA-2 + HA-2 SE
- RHA Dacamp L1
- ifi Nano iDSD Black Label
I recently received the Rupert Neve RNHP and I love it. Very detailed and neutral. SE 1/4” output only. I have it powering Audeze’s LCD-X and it sounds pretty fantastic. My maximum listening volume is between 10-11 o’clock, and the amp maxes out at 5. Plenty of power for my needs.
I’ll be posting more detailed impressions on the RNHP thread next week.
Gilmore lite mk2
Already said, but the JDS Labs Atom is THE single ended headphone amp. It matches or even exceeds the THX 789 in some ways. I own two!!
Yep! It’s damn good. The only tiniest of knocks on it is, it can sometimes struggle to power hard to drive cans.
Updated the amp list with everyone’s recommendations.
The mass drop LCX is decent.
I think it would be more beneficial to open this up to wider variety of amps. The Chord Mojo is my favorite portable DAC/AMP. Though I wouldn’t put it in the same category (sound wise) as the 789 because it doesn’t have a perfectly neutral sound.
For a tubes, the DarkVoice 336SE is apparently great. After recently hearing Zeos go on about how great it is, I’m now tempted to get that.
I think the “Monolith by Monoprice Desktop Balanced Headphone Amplifier and DAC with THX AAA Technology (Dual AKM 4493 DACs & Dual AAA-788 Modules)”
* also fits this list. (A.k.a. “The 788”.)
Saw the Atom mentioned, I’d also throw in the JDS Labs EL Amp. I love mine. Powers everything including Argon’s and t60rp, and can run tin t2 with no hiss at all. Love the form factor although I recognize it may not work for everyone’s setup. Clean as can be.
Awesome! Thanks for the list so far everyone. OP is updated with everyone’s suggestions now.
Still hoping @ZeosPantera or @DMS will hop in one day and give us their feedback
In your list I’d recommend splitting it into different categories. The Mojo is handheld, and the Darkvoice is a tube amp for example. If really want to be fancy, you can add prices and Amazon links as well.
Which is why I have a THX 789 on the way!!
Good suggestion. Edits made.
for portable I would add:
ifi xDSD (DAC/Amp)
ifi xCAN (BT DAC function only and great AMP)
ifi micro iDSD Black Label (used for about 520)
Fiio Q5 and later Q5s
Fiio Q1 II
thank you Sherm137 - I forgot:
Oppo HA-2 + HA-2 SE
RHA Dacamp L1
ifi Nano iDSD Black Label
Klipsch Heritage Amp and Fostex HP-A4BL were also mentioned by Zeos as competition/alternatives for 789. Both under $500.
As it was previously mentioned, just a heads-up that the FiiO Q5s is on their official Ali Express store now. Not sure if it’s a small batch or not, but I’ve got my order in.
Also the silver/original Micro iDSD, which should be even easier to find under 500 and still absolutely worth it. But neither of these is properly portable, more like trans-portable.