If you currently own a set of Sennheiser headphones (particularly any HD model), you’ve already made a substantial investment. Some readers have commented that they’re disappointed they need to buy a separate amp to get the maximum out of their new headphones.
While it’s not an absolute requirement to get an amp/DAC for your HD headphones, most experts agree that a high-quality amplifier and DAC (digital-to-analog converter) can improve their sound quality considerably.
HD Sennheiser headphones (and similar high-impedance models from other brands) were originally designed for music professionals and powerful studio audio setups.
If you have high-end audio gear in your house you may not need one, but many modern consumers listen to music on smartphones, laptops or similar devices – and these compact modern gadgets are built with low-quality DACs that won’t do justice to your HD headphones. Because of that, most users beef up their setup with an AMP/DAC to get the most out of headphones.
There are lots of different amplifiers capable of doing wonders with Sennheiser headphones. Below, we take a close look at the best amps for Sennheiser HD 600, HD 650, and HD 800 models. Given the specs on these headphones, we’ve skipped the very cheap, low-end amps that really won’t perform well enough for these models.
We have included everything on our list from the very affordable Ocean Mini Valve to the top-of-the-line Sony PHA3 and several options in between.
See our detailed reviews below along with specific factors to consider, depending on your budget and the model you currently own.
If you are still deciding between the Sennheiser HD650 vs. HD600 click here for our review and comparison.
Best AMP for Sennheiser HD 600
The Sennheiser HD600 is one of the best headphones you can get when looking at over-ear headphones in their price range. If you own a pair of HD 600, you’re already getting top-notch sound quality offered by these headphones – but don’t be fooled, you can get a lot more out of them than you’d think.
E10K USB DAC and Headphone Amplifier by Fiio
This AMP/DAC by Fiio also works very well with the HD 600. This DAC amplifier increases via a linear filter the quality of any audio device that you connect to it. The HD 600 has a lot of room to improve the general impact of your Sennheiser’s sound quality.
As an added bonus, they do wonders with the HD 598 and other similar HDXX models as well! This is an affordable pick for anyone looking to boost their HD headphones without going over budget.
The sound quality generated by this amplifier is certainly one of the best you’ll find in its price range. It’s a great amp & DAC combo capable of connecting via USB and offering a variety of different connections to your various music equipment needs.
The Fiio E10K is, unfortunately, not designed for higher impedance headphones such as the Sennheiser HD 600 and HD 650/HD6XX. It will produce an audible sound, but several characteristics like bass and detail retrieval won’t be on par with more powerful headphone amplifiers. It is better suited for the 150-ohm HD 58X and HD 660s. We will be taking a look at better-suited amps later on in the article.
Ocean Mini Valve Class A Tube Headphone Amplifier
This amplifier comes at a very affordable price. In fact, when it comes to amplifiers that are highly rated by audiophiles, the Ocean Mini Valve is easily one of the best out of the cheaper options that you can find.
It comes with an aluminum case, which prevents heat from concentrating. This also allows the product to be on for hours at a time without having to worry about overheating issues. It’s an ideal fit for the HD 600 as it gets the best out of its features!
This tube amp by Bravo Audio works with most sources, considering the product comes with a variety of different plugs which allow easy connectivity with PCs, Macs or any other Apple device.
This amp is especially good at getting the best sounds out of heavy-bass music. If you’re into electronica or rock, this could be ideal for you.
Best Tube Amp AMP for Sennheiser HD 650
DarkVoice 336SE Headphone Tube Amplifier
The design of the DarkVoice 336SE looks very peculiar, even for a tube amplifier. In any case, it positively influences the way music is played through the device, making it one of the best tube amps on the market.
The DarkVoice is a tube amplifier with no DAC, but you could easily pair it with an affordable DAC such as the Schiit Modi.
It does take a little while before the device is able to properly reproduce music. This is due to the fact that the internal tubes have to heat up first after turning them on. It isn’t much of a problem, though: all you need to do is wait a bit and you’ll be ready to listen to your music.
The reason we’re recommending using this AMP with the Sennheiser HD650 model is that it gets the best out of the headphone’s upper mids. They’ll sound amazing in any type of music as long as you have your HD650 plugged into this device. You’ll also feel like the soundstage is wider – not to the same extent as it happens with the HDVD 800, but it does bring it up a perfect amount.
The clean sound is one of the 336SE’s most prevalent features. You can try to listen through your headphones when there’s no music on, and you’ll quickly notice how NOTHING can be heard. The device doesn’t produce any inconvenient static or hissing noises, which brings up the music level exponentially.
Oh, and one more thing… Have you seen the product’s price yet? Granted, it isn’t cheap… But it is definitely way less costly than most high-end AMP/DAC combos. You’ll be paying less than half the price of other products for one which almost equals (if not surpasses) their quality and could put the extra savings to a decent entry-level DAC.
Reader Recommendation: the Little Dot MKII is another tube amp that works well with the HD6xx series and retails for about half the price.
Portable AMP/DAC for Sennheiser HD 650
AudioQuest – DragonFly Red USB DAC/Headphone Amplifier
This USB adapter can connect to any device with a USB port naturally or using an adapter. All you have to do is connect your Sennheiser HD650 headphones to your USB-compatible device and you’ll be set to enjoy music at a very high standard.
This amplifier and digital-to-analog converter is one of the most portable devices that you can get. Its size makes it ideal to be carried around, and the fact that it works using your player’s battery solves the issue of having to replace or charge the batteries constantly. Check the current price of the Dragonfly Red on Amazon.
You’ll get more out of this device if you own a set of expensive headphones. If you don’t, buying better headphones will surely make a bigger difference than purchasing this AMP/DAC device. If you own an older Dragonfly amplifier, the difference will be noticeable as well. This is one of the brand’s highest-quality products.
With a good set of headphones, your music will sound a lot better. If you don’t own a good set, this device will only make it sound louder. The HD650 is ideally compatible with this product. The software is also well-made and supports any firmware upgrades that could be made – you shouldn’t need to worry about buying a new amplifier for quite some time.
Audiophiles might want to take a better look at DarkVoice’s 336SE model, but if you’re one of those who like music on the go, this small USB device is exactly what you’re looking for. It’s highly likely that everything will sound better than any music you’ve ever listened to as a casual music aficionado.
What is the exact job of a DAC?
Best Desktop AMP for Sennheiser HD 650
The HD 650 is a top-quality pair of Sennheiser headphones. They will deliver great sound quality with open back design, just like their 600 counterparts. This allows both designs to create a great acoustic environment without generating the “roomy” eco that tends to happen with closed-back designs.
However, the sound quality could be easily improved with an amplifier. Since the HD 650 already sounds pretty great, you might want to get your hands on one of the higher-end amps that you can find on the market. However, since we don’t want you to spend your money blindly, we’ll tell you about our top amp choice for this headphone model.
BasX TA-100 by Emotiva
This high-end amp, although pricey, offers one of the best sound-improving attributes on the market. If you own a pair of HD 650s, this amplifier should make them sound incredibly good. In fact, even if you own other professional headphones, you might want to get your hands on the BasX.
It powers up almost any type of sound device. The amp doesn’t break down easily and can sustain heavy wear-and-tear thanks to its top-quality build, and its sound-enhancing features make it one of the best choices to power up an already powerful set of headphones like the 650.
If you can afford them, we strongly suggest you take a look at the Emotiva BasX TA-100 (price and reviews on Amazon)
You can try other less expensive and more portable options, of course. The amps we recommended for the HD 600 should do a good job with this model as well (particularly the Ocean Mini Valve), but we do suggest purchasing one of the higher-end choices if you plan on getting the best out of your headphones.
There is some debate in online forums between getting the Emotiva A-100 + Dac + preamp vs buying the Emotiva TA-100. A100 vs TA-100 on Reddit. The TA-100 is an all-in-one solution that combines an audiophile-quality stereo preamplifier, FM tuner, and an audio power amplifier all in one convenient package.
Click here to see the specs of the A-100 on Emotiva’s website.
Gaming with the Sennheiser HDXX?
If you use your HD headphones for gaming, having a quality AMP/DAC could make a real difference.
A lot of serious PC gamers looking for better sound are making the switch from gaming headsets to high-end studio headphones to get the most out of their gaming experience.
Even pro gamer Ninja now uses Beyerdynamic DT 990 Pros and runs them through this Sound Blaster X7 AMP/DAC by Creative.
But for the money, I would skip that model and go with one of the options above for Sennheiser HDs.
Best AMP for Sennheiser HD 800
The HD 800 S is one of the most expensive Sennheiser products on the market, but its high price is only matched by its amazing features.
The 800 headphones have an incredibly high-frequency response time as well as an unmatched sound quality. These headphones, made for the audiophile out there, can sound even better than they already do – and we’ll tell you how.
HD- DAC1High Definition USB DAC by Marantz
If one didn’t know better, it could be easily assumed that this HD DAC amplifier by Marantz was made specifically for the HD 800. The way it brings the best out of each part of the sound spectrum makes the audio quality so good that you could easily think this product was developed by Sennheiser.
Granted, the amplifier is very expensive, but if you’re looking to get the best audio quality out of your HD 800s, you might’ve found your match.
This amp also works very well with most high-quality speakers and other Sennheiser HD model series headphones, but the 800 model seems to get a lot of benefits from the DAC1.
Read Amazon reviews by HD 800 owners that have bought this amp.
Main features and product specifications:
- Audiophile headphone amplifier with DAC Mode
- 2x optical and coaxial
- USB type B digital inputs capable of 192kHz/24bit
- Stream music directly from your PC or MAC
- iDevice capable front USB input
- Native DSD2.8 and 5.6 support
- High-quality D/A converter CS4398
- Noise isolation for all digital inputs (USB-A, Optical, Coaxial, USB-B)
- Gain control supports a wide range of headphones
- Fix and variable RCA output
- Gold plated fix level
- Variable level RCA output terminals
Best High-End AMP/DAC for Sennheiser HD8XX
Sennheiser HDVD 800 Headphone Amplifier with DAC
This amplifier should be able to comfortably turn your laptop or music player into an audiophile-quality system without any issues. Being a Sennheiser product, you’d expect it to work pretty well with the brand’s headphones…and that is exactly the case. It excels when used with the Sennheiser HD800 (or HD800 S) headphones, it should since it was especially for them but would be good for the HD 700 or other high-end models.
There’s also one more thing that you should consider when you purchase this product: the best way to use it is with music directly downloaded to your computer. This means that the DAC software will not work very well with streaming services, and your music won’t have the same clean sound if you use an app such as Spotify with this device.
Read reviews on Amazon from Sennheiser owners that have bought this amp. It’s pretty much love or hate. 3 out of 4 seem to think this is a match in heaven, speaking of eargasmic listening experience while the remaining minority feel they wasted their money. It’s obviously a huge investment.
This multipurpose amplifier comes with USB support, so you can set up everything pretty easily regardless of the device that you’re using. The product enhances bass like no other and improves the way in which instruments are reproduced through your speakers.
The HDVD800 can reproduce high-quality sound from classical music to modern electronica. You’ll be able to single out which instruments are being played and enjoy the purest lifelike sound.
AMP/DAC devices are capable of taking your headphones to new heights.
If you’re considering the HD800 series, check out this head-head comparison of the Sennheiser HD 800 vs. Beyerdynamic T1
AMP/DAC Combo for Sennheiser HD800
Sony PHA3 PHA-3 Headphone Amp
This USB-compatible, incredibly powerful amplifier is one of Sony’s best AMP/DAC all-in-one products on the market. This is definitely worth considering if you’re on the fence with the HDVD800 and/or don’t have the budget for it.
If you’re looking for a headphone amplifier, then you most likely feel that there’s so much more than your HD 800s can offer. And, if you don’t already own an amplifier, you’re probably right. The HD 800 is a very high-quality headphone model, but a proper amplifier with a built-in DAC could definitely enhance its features to the fullest.
Such is the case with the Sony PHA3. The first thing you probably noticed when checking this product out was its size. Carrying this product around is absolutely easy; it has a portable and space-friendly design that most audiophiles are likely to appreciate.
If you want to get the best out of the PHA3 with your HD-800 headphones, you will be better off by setting the HD800 to its high-power balanced setting. Sound quality will improve massively, have no doubts about it.
This amplifier comes with a built-in battery that has a relatively sufficient life, but it would be better if you used it while the device is plugged into a power source. It accepts audio input from any popular device regardless of its brand (be it Apple or Microsoft).
This product can reproduce digital data and sound like almost no other on the market. You’ll be able to clearly hear everything without having to worry about hissing noises or audio interference. It has balanced output features that you can use while operating on different channels, but the product’s single-channel feature is able to provide you with more-than-good-enough sound quality.
Runner-up AMP/DAC Combo for Sennheiser HD800
Questyle DAC with Headphone Amplifier CMA600i-S
This high-end Questryle amplifier is able to get the best out of the Sennheiser HD800s by providing high-quality sound and an incredibly wide soundstage. In fact, if there’s one thing that his AMP/DAC combo excels at, it is at making your music sound as close to a live session as possible.
If your music player is filled with live songs and good-quality music, this amp might be exactly what you’re looking for. It is a very expensive product, but you’re definitely paying for quality.
The balance of this device is able to bring your music up to the next level. You’re likely going to notice certain instruments and beats that you hadn’t even heard before – even in songs that you’ve listened to over and over again.
The only clear limitation of this product is the quality of your recordings. If your MP3s and MP4s aren’t original or well recorded, you won’t be able to fully get the best out of this device. The build of this product is also very solid. It’s made out of metal and polished smooth.
If you set the volume to a high level you’ll be able to notice how well it sounds. The product doesn’t suffer from a loss of quality at high volume levels – in fact, it thrives under it. If you enjoy using your HD800s to listen to music loudly, this is the perfect AMP/DAC for you.
Are you still wondering if you really need an AMP or a DAC for your headphones?
6 thoughts on “Best AMP/DAC for Sennheiser HD (600, 650, 6XX, 800)”
Question is : There is no headphone jack on A-150, how can you connect HD650 headphone to your A-150? regular speaker output with custom cable?
Please let me have a reply.
Sorry, it was a typo on the model number. We meant to refer people to the BasX TA-100 by Emotiva, we’ve corrected the article.
Thanks for letting us know about the mistake.
As far as I remember, Darkvoice doesn’t have a DAC section, it is just an amplifier. Also, Little Dot MKII works pretty good with HD-6XX (HD-650)
Thanks for catching that, we’ve updated the text to clarify and added your recommendation Little Dot MKII. Thanks-
Thank you! I returned to this page after a very long time. I am still using the Little Dot MK2 with upgraded tubes. I switched to “Soviet” power tubes and “Mullard” driver tubes. Things sounds much more lush and female vocals sounds wonderful…! sultry and Intimate.
Pretty nice guide, but making a big deal about how the Darkvoice produces no hiss or noise is a mistake. It’s one of the most, if not the most noise-prone amps on this list. Different tubes react differently, the gain of the power tube picks up RF noise if it’s being transmitted at usually inaudible levels through a USB DAC, and then there are the problems with 6AS7 tube microphonics. I *love* this amp with my HD600, but silent it is not, and though some users might find theirs to be, it’s absolutely not a given, and indeed the noise issues should count as a warning label for prospective buyers who are very sensitive to such things. Tubes are not usually the pick for a ‘black’ backdrop.