Schiit Magnius Headphone Amp

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by Vtory, Aug 11, 2020.

  1. BenjaminBore

    BenjaminBore Friend

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    Could be, but then the cause of the unpleasant presentation some hear could be caused by anything, or multiple things, at any point of the chain. All the way from recording microphone through studio equipment to encoder etc to our ears and our own auditory processing.

    So what if all this fuss we go through to create a sound we consider natural is really just us fudging the recording to add back something lost along the way. Like adding beef flavouring to a cheap cut of sirloin.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
  2. Pogo

    Pogo Friend

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    Maybe I got a "defective" unit, but the Magnius sounds pretty good to my ears/gears. Only 3+ hours of actual listening thus far (yes, I believe in burn in) via Redbook>coax>Modius balanced out>Magnius balanced>Amiron Home & HD58x.
    Haven't done single ended yet via BF1 MB A2,time will tell.
    Note that I am not a fan of the Asgard3s forward presentation and I replaced my Magni3 with a liquid Spark so my tastes are different than some.
    More impressions after more time with this amp, I will not be returning it within 15 days.
     
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  3. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    We covered this (and still, under blind listening conditions it is very, very difficult for people to pick the difference between a Magni Heresy and Vali 2--yes, seriously--not saying it is impossible, but when things are really level-matched, the differences shrink quite a bit.)

    Covered here, reporting on findings from blind listening at the Schiitr pre-Covid: https://www.head-fi.org/threads/sch...bable-start-up.701900/page-3798#post-15486474

    Or, for those who really reallllllly don't want to click to HF, here's the relevant part of the chapter:

    Let me start with an anecdote about when we did the blind listening with Magni 3+, Magni Heresy, and Vali 2.

    This was at the Schiitr, on a night when we first deployed a level-matched, instant-switching system to the public. We had three setups, each with a different headphone. Each had a rotary switch that allowed instant switching between three amps. For this test, we level-matched with the actual transducer as a load, so it would be as precise as possible. Level-matching was done to 0.02dB or thereabouts.

    Listening was easy. Sit down, put on the headphones, select the music you wanted (from our own library, Tidal, or Qobuz), and switch between the amps.

    There was only one problem: all the amps were shorted together. Or at least that’s what it seemed like to me. Because there were no differences between them. They all sounded the same.

    I called David over. “Is this working?” I asked, twisting the rotary knob.

    David laughed. “Great matching, huh?”

    “No, I mean, there’s no difference at all,” I told him. I switched the knob back and forth, trying to hear any difference. Hell, I couldn’t even hear the switch glitching when it changed to the next amp. It had to be broken.

    “Try the other headphones, they’re more resolving,” David said, motioning me at another listening station.

    “I really think they’re shorted together,” I persisted.

    David grinned, reached around the back of the switchbox, and unplugged one of the cables connected to it. Immediately one of the amps dropped out of the rotation.

    “Ah,” I said, thinking, Where is your god?

    I mean, they all sounded the same!

    “So it’s working,” I said, finally.

    David nodded, looking very pleased with himself.

    Argh.

    “And one of these…is the Vali 2?” As in, the amp with 1000x more distortion than a Magni Heresy?

    “Yep,” David assured me.

    Well hell. That one should be easy to pick out! But, switching back and forth, I really didn’t hear a difference!

    “Take your time,” he said. “And seriously, go for the other headphones, it’s easier to hear a difference there.”

    Hmm. Well, I wasn’t about to give up yet. Instead, I went back to the music library and picked something that I was very familiar with, rather than the generic Audiophile Approved stuff that had been playing. (Don’t laugh, it’s Crash Test Dummies, The Psychic. I also use stuff like the B-52s Deadbeat Club. Yeah. Bite me. I can also use the mythical golden Muddy Waters Folk Singer album, recorded through Mike’s insane GAIN 1 system.)

    Now…now I could hear some differences!

    But man oh man, they were tiny.

    Still, one amp seemed a bit softer in the highs, so that had to be Vali 2, and one was crispier, so that was probably Heresy. I went back and forth for another minute or so, then announced to David I knew which amps they were.

    “Go for it,” he said.

    I named them.

    David laughed. “One hundred percent wrong!”

    Yeah. Boom. Duh.

    To make a very long anecdote a bit shorter, I tried again on the most resolving headphones, and this time I was able to call all three amps right.

    But. Still. TINY.

    I mean, these were really small differences…even between op-amps and a tube hybrid!

    It got weirder, because when we did more blind listening using the same system back at Schiit, the differences were more apparent, and things were easier to call.

    Still. Tiny!

    So why was it harder to pick them at the Schiitrmeet? Several reasons, but mainly because it was noisy and drinky. People weren’t quiet, and I’d had a couple of beers. This isn’t conducive to hearing differences.

    But that wasn’t the only blind listening we did. In other tests, we discovered:
    • There were fairly large differences between tubes in a double-blind comparison. Fairly large, compared to what I expected anyway. We were testing PVC-embalmed tubes that a friend had sent in using Saga Plus. Saga Plus isn’t the best platform for showcasing tube differences, because it’s simply a buffer, and a hybrid one at that. So, a half-solid-state no-gain buffer demonstrating audible differences is pretty amazing. At least to me. When we switched from the first tube to the second, I really expected to hear nothing. But the difference in tonality and stage was readily apparent. Now, this was on speakers, in a group, so maybe it’s group hypnosis, but…who knows.
    • There are always large differences between phono cartridges. This should be expected, since they are actually transducers. What’s interesting is some very anti-Grado folks turned over to liking Grado once the logos were hidden. Hmmm!
    • We’ve chosen True Multibit over Delta-Sigma once, but it was a bit of a flawed test with some changeover time between listening. This was on speakers in a group as well.
    • Due to the flaws, we decided to do True Multibit versus Delta-Sigma again, this time with two different DACs (Modi and Modi Multibit and Gungnir and Gungnir Multibit.) This time we chose Delta-Sigma over True Multibit both times! Yeah, like I said, the results can be unexpected.
    • We used blind listening internally to answer a question about Bifrost 2, when some staff thought that the old Bifrost sounded better. We set up a blind listening environment, and several of us listened with headphones. All chose Bifrost 2, answering the question definitively.
    • Internally, blind listening has correlated with anecdotal and sighted listening of several in-process prototypes, surprisingly even on prototypes with measured performance so good that there should be no audible differences. Two of these prototypes were taken to the Schiitr, and the results there tracked the internal results as well.
    So what can we learn from all of this?
    1. The differences between electronics are very, very small. Smaller than many subjectivists would have you believe. If you’ve ever read reviews that talk about amp or DAC changes as night-and-day, chicken-crap-or-chicken-salad, revelatory, or life-changing, you’re gonna roll your eyes hard after doing any blind listening. I’d expect most people to have the same reaction I did: spin the knob and say, “What difference?”
    2. If you’re impaired by noise, distraction, or booze, you’re not going to hear much. Differences collapse when people are yammering in the background, or if you feel pressured, or if you’ve had a couple glasses of wine. Do some blind listening, and you’ll immediately consider any “reports from the audio show floor” as delusional or superhuman, because it’s simply going to be impossible to discern much through the din.
    3. Measurements don’t correlate well with blind listening results. It’s insanely hard to pick Vali 2 from Magni Heresy, even though one amp has 1000x more distortion and its AP report would probably engender much projectile spewing from the pure objectivist camp. At the same time, we’ve reliably heard, and correlated, differences in prototypes running at the 120dB SINAD level (yes, we are serious…perhaps we are insane.)
    4. It seems that some unexpectedly larger differences exist. Tube type doesn’t change the measurements of Saga Plus’ buffer very much, but that’s one of the larger electronics differences we’ve heard. Again, maybe this was group delusion, but we had a couple of people who picked their favorite tube multiple times (from a group of 8), without knowing what was what. And again, these differences are still small. Just not TINY.
    5. Sighted and blind listening results have a tendency to correlate. What we hear sighted is what we hear blind. At least in limited testing. Furthermore, products that have been described by other subjectivists as having a certain sound have been described the same way during blind testing. No, we don’t have lab-grade data on this. But there has been enough anecdotal evidence to suggest there may be something going on here.
    In short, we really like blind listening, and we’re going to continue using it and reporting on the results. It allows us to be honest with ourselves, which allows us to make even better products.

    “Sounds great!” someone might say. “So how come there hasn’t been more blind listening?”

    Simple: because it’s terrifying.

    Yes. Even as comfortable and stress-free as our methodology is, many find it a really, really scary prospect to face the switch—both subjectivist and objectivist alike!

    I mean, if you’re a subjectivist, what happens if you choose Modi 3 over a car-priced DAC? What will your friends think? Do you lose your Golden Ears award? Does it mean there is no meaning to life and all is lost?

    No. It just means you saved a lot of money.

    Worse, though, if you’re a subjectivist, and the differences between electronics are so small, what does that mean for cables and power cords and fuses and magic stickers and stones and Schumann resonance tuners and all the other crazy stuff people say “transformed” their systems?

    Well, let’s find out. It’d be easy to set up a blind listening event at the Schiitr, right?

    No, seriously. Bring it, it would be fun to try!

    But objectivists may be feeling uneasy as well. Those who worship at the altar of numbers might find themselves in a cold sweat if they can’t tell a Vali 2 running 0.3% THD from a Magni Heresy running 0.0003%.

    Hey guys, I know how you feel. I was surprised as well.

    Or, what if they listen to, say, a Lyr 3 and a Magni Heresy, and prefer the Lyr? What does that mean? Is their lifetime Card of Objectivity null and void? Did they just join the dark side? Is there no hope for sanity and reason in audio?

    No. It just means they liked one product over another. Nothing wrong with that.

    So, relax. Have a listen. A blind listen. You might be surprised what you hear.

    (Or not, because, like I said, TINY.)
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    FWIW, the Magnius reminded me of the JDS Element. I've found that with practice and training, I can tell the difference with anything no matter the measurements in a blind test. Level matching and not having the mess with a volume knob just makes it easier.

    As an aside, whether objectivists can tell the difference between a 70db SINAD or 120db SINAD is not the point. The point is whether they can sleep at night. The 70db SINAD amp would not allow them to sleep at night.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  5. schiit

    schiit SchiitHead

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    I believe Marv can hear the difference.

    (Er, and if the COVID thing ever dissipates, we'll do the Ragnarok 2/Yggdrasil vs Magni Heresy/Modi 3 blind listening at the Schiitr. Because it's funny. I really wish we could go back to the Schiitrmeets now.)
     
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  6. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    @schiit Looking forward to seeing "Onsanity Part 2" chapter anytime soon. At least your posts read like you had more thoughts than expressed in the first onsanity chapter. No pun intended.

    This year, living in El Cheapo land, I'm very enthusiastic to learn how to like opamps. Really wondering if magnius teaches me one thing or two. Just unhappy that fedex feels much slower than pre-pandemic.
     
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  7. Luckbad

    Luckbad Traded in a unicorn for a Corolla

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    I don't mean to sound like an ass, but it's possible most people at Schiit aren't as good at hearing differences as hardcore audiophiles/golden-ears (I don't count myself among those by the way).

    I make video games for a living and it took me years to admit that some players are simply better at my own games than me. Initially, I attributed it to no-lifers who had more time than me to play the game recreationally. Eventually, I realized I'm just a second tier gamer: better than most, but incapable of being top tier.

    All that being said, I would expect most people at Schiit are more accomplished and capable at hearing differences than the vast majority of consumers, myself included.

    A/B testing is also super weird. It's more difficult for me to establish a preference with instantaneous swapping than by blindly choosing one for a longer period of time then swapping.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Bad methodology. Best to rest. And then swap, playing the same selection over. This is why we cleanse the palette with proper wine and spirits tasting.

    If you drank from a straw and a toggle switch changed between root beer and Dr Pepper (or a Cabernet and Merlot) in rapid succession, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

    Many people who do blind tests conduct them in a way which are are bound to fail. It's important to at least familiarize yourself with the sound of the gear first, that is even know how Dr Pepper tastes like. Confirmation bias leads many to design tests that will fail.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  9. wadec22

    wadec22 Facebook Friend

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    this makes a ton of sense and for some reason i've never thought about it like that. great advice.
     
  10. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    I have a theory - with increasing amount of time a person listens to live music, amount of THD+N in reproduction that plays beneficial role is also increasing, the brain just filling gaps from noise looking for familiar patterns. So the recording providing the structure to trigger recognition and noise and distortions providing "live-like" nuances, missing in the recording, but required for the brain to recognize a complete pattern.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    It's probably more simple: music is created, recorded, mixed, mastered, and played back for approval on gear with 75db SINAD or much worse.

    Things may be different if all the sound houses ran Benchmark or THX AAA gear, and speakers with 120db SINAD, which do not exist.

    I've never seen Benchmark gear in a studio. THX is a lame cert to fool consumers, although stuff like Atmos is legit and has certain requirements.
     
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  12. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    yes, but what is the implication of that? Is it omission, commission, both? Why these recordings sounds not so good for experienced listeners (and we have multiple examples) when reproduced with 120db SINAD chain (excluding transducers)?
     
  13. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Well assuming excellent SINAD at 4V from one (THD) or two-tone (IMD) sine waves = perfect accurate reproduction, one would surmise a different sound from zero point zero zero zero gear to mediocre or "bad" (in quotes) SINAD gear.

    Sound guys being sound guys will do what they need to do with microphones, compressors, limiters, EQ, reverb, panning, mixing, and whatever tricks to achieve the sound they desire regardless. Maybe the engineers would adjust to the zero dot zero zero zero gear's tendency to sound closed-in and flat dynamically. I know if I were to use such gear, I'd apply less compression, be willing to let the high end fly a bit more, and mix to push the soundstage illusion further out. (The argument here is that the zero dot zero zero zero gear is the "true" reproduction).

    This last argument seems to be bullshit as these zero point zero zero zero designs do sound different. Hersey sounds different from THX AAA/Benchmark sounds different from Magnius/JDS EL and so on. Also we still have transducers, the environment, and 16-bit recordings (96db SINAD) to deal with which will be the main SINAD bottlenecks.

    Even if the argument regarding zero dot zero zero zero gear being accurate is true, we still have to overcome the pragmatic: this sort of gear ain't regularly found in music production. However, when have we known people who apply ideological purity tests to be pragmatic?

    It's complex.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  14. Dzerh

    Dzerh Friend

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    and also ignorant question, sorry for continuing off-topic: How does analog feedback play in the time domain? Wouldn't it create some non-harmonic distortion?
     
  15. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    In theory, at audio frequencies feedback shouldn't have any deleterious result, it should only make the signal more true, especially for steady state signals. Well, the deleterious results are with oscillation when the feedback gets out of phase at the "faster" higher frequencies.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2020
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  16. Melvillian

    Melvillian Friend

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    I’m not very good when it comes to blind tests, but if I live with a system for a couple of days and then swap something, I can immediately pick out the difference. I feel like blind tests are like comparing perfumes at the department store, that’s why they have coffee beans to “reset” your nose. Maybe we need a “reset” for our ears.
     
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  17. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Who says blind tests cannot be conducted over the long term? Use an external pot and put a box over the gear. Take a few days or a week then have someone sneak in stuff one day when you are not expecting it. You will know.
     
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  18. RedFuneral

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    On the topic of audible differences in electronics (+1 for moving this into a new thread) over ten years in this hobby I've really come to believe a lot of this is subconscious. The more I strain to listen for differences the less of them I hear. This leads me to believe a lot of our subjective impressions are due to where our attention is drawn as they vanish when we listen methodically. Think the cliche of the never heard before instrument in the background, it's always there when you return to your old gear specifically searching for it.

    I'm thinking the main difference is in the personal fatigue factor. This is hard to get a read on with short tests, when fatiguing oneself critically listening, or with the volume matched. I understand the why of level matching but argue having free reign to set volume to taste can help separate gear(some gear quickly fatiguing where others are fine.) Realizing you only like an amp soft or loud is an important data point often forgotten.

    There's a whole third meta that neither translates to graphs nor flowery reviews. It asks questions like "Can I listen all day or do I have to break between albums?" & "Can I listen to all my music at preferred volume or do I have to turn certain albums down?"
     
  19. Kamran Khan

    Kamran Khan Rando

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    Hey did you try it with balanced output or regular one? I read it in a review that the regular aux output it so bad that it shouldn’t be there on first place. My magnus order is on hold for now. Just wonderng your thoughts on it?
     
  20. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    The 1/4 SE jack ? I saw from someone here they are very close sound wise. Just more power from XLR I ran it XLR in and out 100% balanced.
    Depends on your preference really. I posted a couple times here what I felt about it. Only thing I can really say is listen to as many amps as you can. Not sure of your gear history to point you in any direction.
     

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