Buying a great pair of headphones is a big first step in upping your audiophile cred. Many of the models we’ve covered before can be an ear opening experience to what music is meant to sound like. That said, most of us listen to music in digital format these days, whether it be from out laptop, mp3 player, or even TV most of them were never intended to provide power to headphones. The result is headphones not performing to their true potential, and ears being robbed of the full musical experience. The solution, a headphone amp.

To be more precise: a headphone amp equipped with a DAC. A DAC converts digital signals (e.g. your massive iTunes library) into analog signals which have superior sound quality. The Icon HDP from NuForce is one of our favorite DAC enabled amps on the market. Inside the Icon HDP is actually and Amp, DAC, and a preamp allowing it clean up your mp3’s and pump them out sounding better than ever. It’s also blessed to look like an offspring of Apple’s design department, allowing it to meld perfectly with your aluminum and glass office motif. After testing one for a while, the big proof wasn’t in the HDP’s top tier stats, but in how it seemed to make us feel like we’d just stepped into the recording studio with our favorite artists. Everything sounded more organic and 3D, layers you hadn’t known were there became vibrant. Having our friends try it out was always a treat as their eyes went wide and an invariable “wow” was uttered.  We agree with their assessment.

Author’s Note: While we used the Icon HDP primarily for our headphones, it is possible to hook them up to your stereo as well, to improve the digital music signal being streamed to it.

Buy Now: $450