Schiit Magni Unity Review and Measurements

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Nov 23, 2023.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Get it with the internal DAC and enjoy it with music, gaming, videos. It’s more than good enough.

    It’s about listening and enjoying good sound or music, not about listening to gear.

    Use the Magni Unity as an AIO (DAC / amp) for at least a year. Get your money’s worth before even thinking about upgrades.
     
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  2. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    At this point, I feel like we should upgrade to the Bristol Stool Chart or some related terminology if we're gonna keep things semi scientifical.

    We could describe a type of gear as a type 6 or 7...
     
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  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I know a dude who's going from an AKG K371 straight to a Focal Clear MG and possibly some other ludicrously-priced amps and DACs. They've got money to burn but they're a kid and frankly it makes me uncomfortable seeing anyone go from "mainstream" headphones straight into the deep end of the pool cuz of possible dissatisfaction because they don't know what to listen for yet.

    Would the Unity as an AIO work for the Clear MG? Just going off your impressions I feel like it might not be the best pairing since the highs on the MG are already more than recessed and the way Focals tend to stage may not jive well with super wide, hole-in-the-middle upstreams*. I feel the Magni 3+ resolves more information than the Piety simply because it's a very dry-sounding amplifier but has a less-wide and more generally well-rounded headstage with some depth by comparison, so it's a technically superior amp; if the Unity is similar or heck even better resolution-wise but with a less etchy treble that'd be hella impressive.


    *I just realised I never asked: the Piety has a similar sort of headstage to my ears with sorta-not-stock HD600s. Is the Unity basically like a Piety in terms of headstage? How are crosstalk figures on the Magni Unity? It says "less than 80dB" on Schiit's Specs page with the Piety advertising -90dB but I'm wondering at how perceptible similarities in headstage might just be attributable to the wildly impressive crosstalk performance.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Yeah. Piety and Unity headstage are about on-par. Crosstalk numbers have nothing to do with perceived headstage. Well, unless it's 24db or 36db bleed. It's similar to "SINAD". Past 50-70db SINAD, the "good enough", and there no correlation to subjective effects.
     
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  5. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I figured, just pasta-on-wall-ing as usual haha. Also just because I'm aware that I tend to type too much: what does the magic 8-ball say about the Focal Clear MG out of the Unity?
     
  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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  7. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Haha, I like headstage but not enough to compromise on what sounds like literally everything else-- I don't know anyone whose ears I trust that like the K5/Pro.

    For the record I cannot afford a Clear MG, said it above but I was asking cuz I wanted to keep someone just getting into the hobby from being dumb with money. Needed a less pricey recommendation to give em. Thanks as always!
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Ok, measurements. Let's start with ASR-SINAD. (Boring). Note, this unit was not equipped with a DAC card.

    Schiit Magni Unity
    300-ohm load, 2Vrms, 20kHz bandwidth
    Med or Unity Gain (actually slightly less than 1)
    upload_2023-11-28_21-42-33.png
    upload_2023-11-28_21-43-47.png
    upload_2023-11-28_21-43-41.png

    Wow, this is super impressive (if you care about "SINAD" way way past to where it's of any importance). Even more impressive considering that this isn't a nested composite feedback loop design with 135db of negative feedback.

    At first I was getting really crappy numbers, like 100db. Until I realized I had it at high gain. For most measurements, I will do high-gain, as long as I feel high-gain (lower negative feedback) sounds better. Sometimes high-gain can sound worse.

    FWIW, here are the results for HIGH-GAIN
    Remember high-gain in most instances (depends upon topology) will mean less negative feedback and this measure worse

    Schiit Magni Unity
    300-ohm load, 2Vrms, 20kHz bandwidth
    High Gain (a little bit over 13db or x4.5)
    upload_2023-11-28_21-48-25.png
    upload_2023-11-28_21-49-32.png

    At high gain, we are getting AmirNAD also as good as the Magni+ in unity-gain!
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    OK, let's now abuse the crap outta it. Let's do HIGH-GAIN and a LOW LOW impedance 26.4-ohm* load at 2Vrms, enough to make give you perma hearing damage!

    upload_2023-11-28_21-55-47.png
    upload_2023-11-28_21-56-29.png
    upload_2023-11-28_21-59-38.png

    We see a few of the higher harmonics pop up, but dang, impressive.
     
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  10. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    That is uncannily close to its performance under a 300R load. Like a 3dB difference? I think it should be something pointed out among amps, how much differently they perform with sub-30R headphones. Modern designs are scary better than previous ones. I'm looking back on measurements of some of my old favourites like the G1217 Sunrise— oof, curious how that'd perform with more difficult headphones.

    That said, it sounded fine with the HE4xx. Almost like my noise floor were well above the amp noise, weird.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    I would like to reassess the G1217 Sunrise. I love that amp. I still have it somewhere. I bet it measures like shit though. The beauty of it was simplicity and low open loop gain.

    Anyway onto distortion surfaces...
    We do the usual deal: LOW Z at 29-ohms. HIGH GAIN, 96kHz bandwidth (because ultrasonics matter)
    Give me a bit...
     
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  12. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Please do, and subjective impressions revisited would be grand as well. But yes distortion surface!

    Iirc though you had the Horizon which was more for high-R loads? I'm recalling this shootout you did a while ago when you left the forum, haha. The Sunrise was optimised for lower impedance phones, likely not the worst for the HE4xx in hindsight.
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Schiit Magni Unity Headphone Amplifier
    (not equipped with DAC card)
    • HIGH-GAIN
    • 29-ohm load
    • 90kHz bandwidth
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    • Volume knob of headphone amp was set for unity gain
    • Gen level to amp inputs set on the APx555 to arrive at desired output from amp
    H2 - second harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-28_22-17-27.png

    H3 - third harmonic distortion product
    upload_2023-11-28_22-21-42.png

    H4-H10 - sum of harmonic distortion product of fourth to ten harmonics
    upload_2023-11-28_22-23-56.png

    Commentary on measurement results:
    • H2 is just amazeballs low, especially considering this is HIGH-GAIN and a 29-ohm load.
    • H3 likewise is excellent. We see only H3 start to rise in the high frequencies at higher output levels
    • The sum of H4-H10 is excellent

    Notes:
    H2, H3, and H4+ above do not include noise
    H2 and H3 tend to be dominant over the higher orders, additional graphs will be added if this is not the case
    H2 and H3 do sound different from each other, as to how, that's another discussion
    H4+, the higher order distortions can be considered to be "crap" factor
    There is thought that higher order distortion may have an outsized negative affect on sound quality
    THD+N does include the noise component as well as THD (sum of H2, H3, and H4 and above)
    Distortion is signal that is not supposed to be there
    H2 or second order at 100Hz means there is a signal at 200Hz that is not supposed to be there
    H3 or third order at 100Hz means there is a signal at 300Hz that is not supposed to be there
    This graphs tells us how loud the distortion is at that harmonic
    Distortion that lands in the ultrasonic region matters, if SOTA chip companies like TI care, then so should you.
    0dBu (0.775Vrms) output level on most headphones will cause hearing damage after a few minutes of exposure
    0dBu output level may burn out the voice coil on sensitive headphones with extended use
     
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    Last edited: Dec 1, 2023
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Schiit Magni Unity Headphone Amplifier
    (not equipped with DAC card)
    • HIGH-GAIN
    • 29-ohm load
    • 90kHz bandwidth
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    • Volume knob of headphone amp was set for unity gain
    • Gen level to amp inputs set on the APx555 to arrive at desired output from amp
    • APx555 "cheat" HPSA mode on
    THD+Noise
    upload_2023-11-28_22-31-37.png

    THD (no noise) - sum of all harmonics, but no noise
    upload_2023-11-28_22-32-11.png

    IMG_1536.jpg
     
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    Last edited: Nov 28, 2023
  15. RestoredSparda

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    Don't give @YMO any ideas...
     
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  16. rfernand

    rfernand Almost "Made"

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    Request: Subjective impression with PS500e - Yay? Nay? Still hole in the middle?


    @purr1n: Your 3DChart pr0n suggests to me there is similar DNA and signature as MJ3. Should I believe my eyes now correlate with my ears, or not at all the case with the signature?
     
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  17. Maximillion

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    Thanks for the details on this thread.
    Just ordered the Magni Unity with the built in DAC for my desktop set up being fed by my MacBook Pro.
    I went with the internal DAC to keep it at one box, but sometime off in the future I may bypass the DAC and add a MODI and LOKI Mini.
     
  18. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Schiit Magni Unity impressions (CAVEAT: I am using a Magni 3+ wall wart cuz that's all I have lying around. Doubt that'll make much difference because they're the same spec, but there you go).


    EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: what the f**k this is good. I may like it more than Piety depending on mood and how treble fatigued I am. What the. Dammit I need to get ears on the internal DAC to test as an AIO. This is bonkers for an entry level product. MIND YOU, IT IS AN ENTRY-LEVEL PRODUCT. I'm talking solely with respect to how things around this price point sound and comparing directly to other Magnis and more affordable amps.


    *******************************************************
    I've been running the Zen DAC > Magni Piety for a few days at this point and am just now switching to Zen DAC > Magni Unity. The less sizzly-tizzy-splashy treble on the Magni Unity actually made me breathe a sigh of relief, though it almost feels too muted relative to the Modi 3+ > Magni Piety chain I've been running for a long while now.

    It's not quite the same, but this reminds of how I messaged @ChaChaRealSmooth a few days ago about how, after adapting to the Zen DAC V2 > Piety > HD600 chain and using that exclusively for a while I actually ended up laughing out loud at how much more relaxed the FiiO BTR7 [using LDAC]>Campfire Andromeda 2020 chain's presentation was-- treble was splashy and more elevated than my preference, but the more relaxed transients actually had me breathing a sigh of relief.

    Guess Velvet Sound use is habit-forming.

    [​IMG]

    I'm incapable of being able to offer any impressions of the integrated ESS DAC just yet because cables are a bother, but speaking to the Magni Unity's strengths as an amp all I can say is that this is a definitive step up over the Magni 3+, at least per my preferences. I haven't heard the confusingly-named Magni +, but I already thought that the Magni 3+ was ludicrous value for money based on what I remember amps from just a few years ago sounding like (comparative review of the Piety vs the 3+ HERE).

    So as I alluded to above, the very first thing that I noticed with the Magni Unity was how much more refined the treble was on this amp relative to both the 3+ and the Piety. I know the Sennheiser HD6-- series has a reputation among some folk for having "grainy" treble, mostly among people who like prefer typical-of-orthodynamics oversmoothened presentation, but to offer a counterpoint: that's fine detail that's getting polished out, and personally I'd rather have that fine detail than a vague approximation thereof.

    Between the three Magnii perched in front of me at the moment, the top end of the Unity has to be head and shoulders above the rest in terms of pure quality. I get what @purr1n meant by calling it "oily", though its not the first word I'd have used. I might just have Velvet Sound at the top of my mind because I just wrote something up comparing the Zen DAC V2 to the Modi 3+, but "silky" seems a good fit for it-- something that presents texture without coming across as abrasive or particularly harsh, at least beyond what could reasonably be construed as being part of the *intent* of the song. That's not to say it's a treble presentation that fully overwrites whatever texture is inherent to a recording a la the Lake People G109A I got to borrow a long while ago, you still get stab and sizzle as need be (late 90s/early 2000s JPop e.g. Kaze ga Soyogu Basho off the Monster Rancher soundtrack is still bright as get-out, albeit more tolerably so than on the Magni Piety or the 3+). The vocal sibilance on Persona 4's Reach Out to the Truth (first battle) still sizzles a bit, but doesn't hurt.

    Fun fact, relative to the Massdrop/Cavalli Tube Hybrid, which I do use now and again when I'm needing a break from how aggressive the Piety can be, I think the overall treble balance on the Unity is nicer-- you do get a generally warm and cosy sound profile on the MCTH that's within spitting distance of neutral but still with a bit of beautiful bloominess and fun bit of grit to the low end, rounder transients than the Piety as well though maybe a bit lacking in (for lack of better word) "note weight", but it always sounded to me as if there was a whit of mid-treble tizz on the MCTH that kept it from being fully relaxed up in the higher frequencies. The Unity doesn't skew dark with a slight treble lilt like the MCTH or Magni Piety do, but it is remarkably even-handed in how it presents treble relative to the aforementioned two, and the Magni 3+ besides (which from memory has a bit of a lower treble hardness that, at least to me, is a bit more innocuous in character).

    [​IMG]
    (I am very much a fan of the flame orange LED)​

    The midrange is presented with clarity and a shocking sense of openness. Not sure how much of that is attributable to the headstage being less upfront and intimate than on the Piety, but it's a bit of a surprise when paired with the iFi Zen DAC V2 (which to my ears is inexplicably more open-sounding than the Modi 3+ despite having a less expansive headstage paired with a less pristine background by comparison). The soundscape on Jean-Luc Ponty's Enigmantic Ocean album does a great job showcasing this, mainly in opener "Ouverture" and the second part of the "Struggle of the Turtle to the Sea" suite. I didn't think this'd be happening as often still until I maybe got to a higher tier of components to play with, but I'm somehow catching new odds and ends in tracks that I'm very familiar with e.g. some random person off in the right channel yelling after Floor Jansen's call "that is right" at around 1:02 in Nightwish's Wacken 2013 live performance of Amaranth; I love that track and revisit it a lot, but it just jumped out of nowhere when I listened to it via the Unity for the first time.

    That said, I wonder whether this now being audible is attributable to the Zen DAC V2 or is audible in spite of it (given how the Modi 3+ does come off as more detailed with cleaner background). Hmm.

    The lows still come off as fairly rich sounding in high gain*, though not nearly to the same extent as on the Piety. This is a surprisingly warm-leaning amp in the lower frequencies, though not to the extent that things are covered in mush and goo-- individual notes are still very cleanly delineated e.g. on the Ghostrunner (see: Infiltrator, Dharma, and Truth to Power) or Cyberpunk 2077 (see: Cloudy Day, Scavengers, Kang Tao Down, and Been Good to Know Ya) soundtracks. I doubt anyone'll say that the HD600s are champions in bass, but at least out of this system I get enough kick to satisfy me until we get down to ridiculously low frequencies, e.g. Mitski's Crack Baby or Bjork's Hollow (16 bit remix). Things do fall apart a fair amount when you extend that down low, but I wouldn't say it was terrible. Mainly, I'm just curious what people who say that the HD600 doesn't have enough bass are listening to them out of, or what they're comparing the Senns to.

    The Piety is a more fun sounding amplifier overall, and if you can get over how the treble sizzle might ruin specific recordings now and again, that knee-to-face, slammin' wall of sound is very addictive. The drums on Nirvana's Come As You Are snap more and are just more present overall on the Piety, as are Billie Joel Armstrong's vocals on Green Day's Nice Guys Finish Last. Paramore's Fast in My Car's introduction kicks more butt on the Nitsch amp compared to Unity, but it does so at the expense of slightly muddling the overall presentation as the song builds up more elements.

    With respect to headstage and imaging, I at first thought that it was a runaway victory for the Unity over the Piety here merely by virtue of its being more open and with tighter directionality as in Simmer off Hayley Williams's Petals for Armor; you get those gasps and breaths and sparse snare hits moving around your head in remarkably uncomfortable detail with the Unity. Going back to Green Day's Nimrod though, I started hearing what people were saying about being a bit of a hole in the middle of the Unity's headstage. It's nothing as disjointed a presentation as on the Lake People G109A, but that slight lack of focus is notable in direct comparison to the Piety, 3+, and MCTH. Don't get me wrong, it's a grand thing overall and still works wonders for games if you're playing any shooters, but it is a feature that stands out when you're really listening for headstage.

    [​IMG]

    I think the one question I'm best equipped to answer is whether it's worth getting a Unity if you're coming off a Magni 3+. Personally, if it's financially feasible then my answer would be a yes. Heck, it'd be a HELL yes. They both might "just" be entry-level amplifiers, but I think people are forgetting how high a bar that actually constitutes nowadays. Diminishing returns kicks hard in audio, moreso now than about a decade back I'd say, and most people really don't explicitly need more than what a good entry level system can offer. The voicing is versatile and it feels like it's keen to highlight more of what your headphones and DAC do to shape sound (though all things considered I'm one of the least qualified to comment on DACs with any degree of authority).

    In my prior impressions I said that it felt like the Magni Piety was a comparable class of amplifier to the Magni 3+, only perhaps trading off some resolution and deliberacy for more sprezzatura as the kids like to say.

    With how the Magni Unity is allegedly an even better, inexplicably more musical version of the Magni+ which I've never heard but is apparently a refinement over the Magni 3+, I hate to say it but it kinda goes without saying that I do think that the Unity is a "better" amplifier than the Piety going by conventional parameters... with caveats. It's not as dry and very slightly etched as the Magni 3+ (which I could see as being preferable for producing audio, to its credit), but it's not as recklessly fun to listen to as the Piety is. I didn't bother touching grass this weekend so spent more time going back and forth between the two, and if I were pressed to pick a favourite between the Piety and the Unity, my answer would change depending on my mood. The story behind the Piety gives it major cool kid points, but I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the more proficient treble response on the Unity. If there's one thing I've come to learn after being an audio nerd for so long it's that achieving good treble response is a hell of a lot more difficult than many think it is, and a lot more important towards a cohesive overall listening experience irrespective of whether you're a basshead or are fully midrange-or-die.

    [​IMG]

    Having said all that, I'm still currently running the Zen DAC V2 into the Piety and am listening to some of my favourite Postmodern Jukebox tracks while finishing this review up. This, I could see being my default when I'm just listening for enjoyment and not trying to peep "into" a recording (jank recording, but one of my faves: Jeff Buckley - Grace Live on GLR 1994, easier to catch nuances e.g. lip smacks, how tensioned the strings sound, minor stumbles in the guitarwork-- Unity just has sharper relief relative to the Piety when trying to microscope vs just experiencing it). It really is just more a visceral, arguably more emotional and fun sort of experience with the Piety, only I wish the treble were less splashy.

    I don't think you could go wrong with either, just gotta figure out what works for you.



    MISC NOTES:
    *I do tend to prefer the sound of amps in high gain with the HD600s since it tends to wake them up. That said, I can hear how opting for medium gain on this amp could better suit others' preferences; I tried it for a bit here, and it's certainly got a more relaxed sort of transient presentation that I feel could suit for when you want to kick back and relax or take a whit of edge off a more aggressive system, but the reduced sense of slam robbed notes of too much weight for me. The overall headstage seemed more expansive, diffuse in a love it or hate it sorta way, but layering suffered a bit as a consequence and the low end seemed to lean out considerably. Upper mids were more prominent as a consequence, and if you're wondering how I feel about that tradeoff: there's a reason I'm still rocking many-years-old pads on these HD600s.

    [​IMG]
    (Also love the depth, rounded edges of the stamped logo)​

    Weirdly low gain on Unity, not sure what's up. Is the Magni 3+ wall wart not powerful enough? Does the ESS DAC module eat up that much power? Is the pot here designed to just have that much more room for play at lower SPLs before blasting your ear with LOUD? EDIT: okay SPL matched using REW noise allowing for maybe 0.2dB user error based on fluctuations but HERE are equivalent loudnesses between the two amps (photo pinned in chat)

    These are about equivalent SPL when measured with a vocal mic (sE Electronics V7-- I seem to have killed my MiniDSP EARS):
    [​IMG]

    The rounded edges on the chassis with the screws bolting to the rear plate look classy. The whole thing creaks a bit when I squeeze though, not sure what's up with that but hasn't happened with either the Piety or 3+. Maybe tolerances are a bit looser? Is this a prototype? NFC. WOW this thing gets toasty, the side vents make more sense now. Definitely not looking forward to how much hotter bigger iron amps run.

    https://youtube.com/shorts/xe6y366ah1Q
     
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    Last edited: Jan 15, 2024
  19. Wilewarer

    Wilewarer Almost "Made"

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    "Weirdly low gain" is potentially a strong selling point for this thing, given where a lot of headphone amps land. I've been taking sound inventory of the DACs/amps/headphone combos I have, and Lyr 3 is making a strong argument to stay on my desk just because I get actual play on the volume knob.
     
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  20. Pancakes

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    Low gain? I may buy it just because of that. I can't stand all the high gain all over the place.

    "Hey let's put really high gain on this thing. We're going to throw alway 90% of the signal via the pot and the noise floor will be amplified big time along with the signal but it will seem really powerful because at 9:30 it's going to blow your eardrums."

    How about make it blow my eardrums around 4pm where the amp is getting fed full signal? Yeah I know, people are stupid and won't be impressed because they have to turn the volume up so much.
     
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