Schiit Magnius Headphone Amp

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

  1. robot zombie

    robot zombie Friend

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    I agree, that's a much overlooked thing. For me, it usually ends up being the make or break. Timing-dependence shows certain things, too. Since what you notice changes with overall mood, energy levels, and so on, it makes sense to me that a piece of gear with more subtle issues in certain areas may become noticeably less appealing at the 'wrong' time. And maybe at the 'right' time it's great. I want the one that lets me listen for as long as I want any time I pick it up and just have it be engaging. Over time, I'll tend to notice certain things eating away at the experience... just stuff that makes me want to stop on a bad day. At first it's so minor I doubt if it's real. But over time it starts becoming something I notice regularly. Once you notice, it's the kind of stuff you never miss. And then you can switch to something else where it's never a thing, no matter how much time you put in or when you put it in. Sometimes stuff sounds amazing at first, but later on I can't stand it. Forever. Other stuff disappoints at first and catches up with me over time.

    I never thought of it in terms of volume, but the turn-up factor may indeed have something to do with it.

    Come to think of it, very few headphones actually meet this simple criteria for me. I think that's part of why I actually get picky about DACs and amps... why I learned to listen for the differences until those small differences really did seem to start popping out at me. When you're dealing with an inherently temperamental way of getting the sound out, little differences in the upstream start to count for more, and it's kinda just a matter of time until you pick up on it.

    But hell, that could always be a bias you build up over time. After having enough experiences with the same setup and similar music, your brain starts to construct a more detailed model of that experience and perhaps expectations betray as the character of your hearing shifts with your biology and the memory of past experiences fluctuates in clarity and emphasis. The shadow of the music in your mind. It's something that I'm sure musicians and especially engineers know well... hammering away at a passage, or eq'ing for too long. I've had way too many runs trying to a/b very different guitar tones and winding up going totally off course as my perception and my idea of how things sound veers. I could have two obviously different sounds, but it still gets hard to tell them apart. Come back later and it's immediate crap and the other one is obviously better. You always have to let one run for a while before the other shows its true colors. I liken it to attempting to say or write the same word over and over again. After a while, you'll start to trip over the syllables and it will sound wrong. Even typing the word 'the' will do this. Eventually you won't know which is correct between 'teh' or 'the' and they will register about the same."Err... was it always spelled like that?"

    So it seems to me that my mind (at least) tends to push towards 'standardizing' my perception to be consistent. It will initially gloss over lesser differences. It makes sense that we do this, given the staggering amount of information our brains have to deal with in real time. Total accuracy would get us killed in nature. If it's the same song and it sounds similar, brain says nothing major has changed and discards any discrepancies in raw input. But as it settles into one version of the input, subtle shifts away from that become increasingly more jarring. While if you continually switch back and forth, you stick in that 'self-neutralizing' mode... never getting over that hump until eventually your senses/processing just burn out and give up.

    I'd be pretty surprised if that was all there was to it, though.

    I don't often do blind testing myself. I can honestly say that I'm wrong as often as I'm right. I'm sure there are all sorts of factors to it. But at the end of the day it's never been useful for me in attempting to answer the question "Okay, but why do I prefer amp A over amp B?" It's different when you're looking at real-world usage. Completely different. I can point out things about an amp I'm familiar with consistently and that does have a direct correlation with how much of an impulse I have to spend how much time listening on it. It makes no sense that I would form these lasting preferences of amplifiers that I can't reliably tell apart cycling back and forth. Something isn't being accounted for there. This is a mundane world, not an arcane one operating on non-euclidean logic. So blind tests have limited use for me. I take them for what they are. It only says whether I can or cannot tell the difference while switching on the fly. For me, that's not enough for me to be set on them actually sounding completely the same. It's not that I doubt the reality of blind testing at all. It just seems obvious there is more to it. It is tempting to reach for explanations beyond the immediate factors. I think it's a mistake to use it to validate/invalidate measurements/experiences. If it was that simple things would be very different.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  2. Kamran Khan

    Kamran Khan Rando

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    Thanks for your thoughts. This is my first gear. I have got kef lsx as powered monitors and hd 660s headphones. I understand sound is relative and changes with experience. I wanted to get dac amp which would be a good combo. I am inclining towards modius and asguard.
     
  3. jnak00

    jnak00 Facebook Friend

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    After a couple hours with the Magnius last night, I found it to be decent. I used balanced input from Bifrost 2, but SE out to Aeolus (I don't have a balanced cable for my headphones). I appreciate the lower low gain, as it gives me more usable volume control. I was listening at around 9:00-9:30 on the volume pot, while on Asgard 3 I'm usually closer to 8:00-8:30. If I crank the volume up, I could hear a bit of the crispiness that others have described. At my normal listening levels, I didn't hear it or it didn't bother me.

    Compared to Asgard 3, it sounds a bit punchier down low, and a little bit edgier through the mids. The Asgard is sweeter and more organic, while I would describe Magnius as somewhat robotic or mechanical. Maybe a little soul-less? I lack the vocabulary and experience to describe it properly. I prefer the Asgard but could live with the Magnius. Possibly I am "blessed" to be incapable of hearing, or ignorant to, the negative attributes others have ascribed to the sound. Or maybe the Aeolus masks some of the shortcomings more than other headphones? The former seems more likely.

    The form factor, colour (with red LED inside!), switches (the power switch is a slider like on the front of Asgard 3 instead of a toggle), and the volume pot are all very nice. It's certainly a departure from classic Schiit design, or maybe like the next generation of Schiit design. I'm curious if future Schiit products will take on more of these design touches.
     
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  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    That was my immediate impression. I didn't think it sounded as glarey as @Hands did, but I am probably less sensitive to that these days.

    The third option is that the some of guys here are super spoiled, have been at it for ten or twenty years, and honed in on the sound that they prefer, which tends to be discrete (or tube) designs which are more open loop without 100db of feedback.

    If you can say "Maybe a little soul-less?", someone like me will hone in on that with my senses amplifying the effect tenfold. Sam Adams Lager at one point in my life tasted good to me. In all honesty, it's not bad. It's just that I have a more choices and more money to get better stuff from the local micro-breweries.

    No, you are not deaf. You are hearing the same things but just haven't been spoiled.
     
    Last edited: Aug 18, 2020
  5. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Glare might not be the best way to describe it. It's not entirely tangible. I think I mentioned the amp is not overtly bright. And I don't necessarily hear egregious timbre issues.

    But there's something to it. It's like an otherwise normal, modest looking HDR photo, but with the HDR detail dialed up too much. For anyone familiar with photo editing, you likely know what I mean when I say it's not quite like adjusting sharpness or contrast (using contrast very loosely here).

    In the case of such over-detailed HDR photos, they're not particularly pleasant to look like, even if it's just borderline on being over-detailed. You might not be able to put your finger on it right away, but your eyes tell you something isn't right.

    I'm not sure what you'd call that in audio terms. Glare probably isn't the best term. And it's not exactly like an over-detailed HDR photo, but it elicits a similar sort of fatigue while being harder to pin down.

    Don't get me wrong, it can be glarey sounding, but I'm not sure that in and of itself is causing the problem. Maybe it is. Dunno.
     
  6. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    Glare is kind of accurate sort of not. it wasn't so bad on the treble it was just really weird in the mids. It really gave guitar chords and anything that stretches out longer with decay a sort of one note SHEEN. Like it was encased in some sort of "glare" that went over the top of it .Things seemed to start and stop really fast. No delicacy.
     
  7. spoony

    spoony Spooky

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    It's called 'distasteful local contrast enhancement and histogram equalization'.
     
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  8. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Oh, sort of like Ken Rockwell family photos where people have an orangey oversaturated tinge from his Nikons, +8 saturation, +4 contrast, +5 shadows, and +3 tint.
     
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  9. HotRatSalad

    HotRatSalad Friend

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    I dunno I'm not familiar haha but I guess like some people with those fake orange tans and someone who has been orange in complexion in recent times (especially hair). Who sort of isn't anymore recently. (omitting who to avoid descent into politics)

    I can deal with those things if there's a good tone or timbre or body to the sound though.
     
  10. jnak00

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    My wife and I have been house shopping lately. A lot of the photos that realtors put up are over-HDR'd, and they look odd. Fake. Over-processed. I get the same sense from Bose products - an over-processed, artificial sound. I can hear a bit of that on the Magnius.

    Maybe long-term it will start to bother me more - for now, the Magnius is working OK for me.
     
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  11. bengo

    bengo Friend

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    I can't believe @purr1n didn't try this with speakers yet ;)
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    For a monitor controller, I'd rather use the JBL Nano Patch or Motu Ultralight for purest signal path from DA to monitor input.
     
  13. AdvanTech

    AdvanTech Friend

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    Sounds kind of like the clarity slider. Not real extra resolution, just an over-enhancing of what's available?
     
  14. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    upload_2020-8-22_13-32-58.png

    Agree, there's a bit of Gilmore Lite in there. With the warm lows and crispy highs.
     
    Last edited: Aug 22, 2020
  15. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    As shown in the screenshot above, got my unit yesterday. Since then I've spent nearly a whole weekend in getting to know Magnius.

    Shortly speaking, I like it. Couldn't find valid reasons to return it to the Schiit factory yet.

    When I say "op-amp sounding", I mostly mean a group of Toppings, THXs, and the Heresy, as those three are what I had decent amount of experience with. (Aside: recently Geshelli cut in. But it's kinda similar to THXs in voicing, just with some annoying issues (to me) resolved.)

    Magnius sounds like none of what I listed above. Even at first listen, I was surprised that it could do timbre, bloomness, and staging remarkably well. I had to make sure I hooked up to the right amp multiple times.

    Early findings below

    • Oil painting-like presentation. I'd like to use this term because everything I hear is oily, syrupy, and comes with kinda unique flavor. They're not naturally done like good "tube-y" tubes (e.g., lower woo audio), but rather close to somewhere between AGD NFB OG and Gilmore Lite2. Texture closer to the former and finesse close to the latter.
    • Transients rather softer and slower than most opamp-used products. Not by problematically big margin but easily recognizable when directly ABed with Erish. Though It's possible I am fooled by its relaxed and laid-back presentation.
    • Regardless of the two points above, pairing with HD650 didn't annoy me. I still prefer to pair with Erish, but 650+Magnius renders anything I throw in uniquely and freshly enough for me to keep enjoying "rediscovery". This may be the biggest difference in listening experience compared to Heresy, which failed to excite me to this extent.
    • I want to make sure lows and highs of Magnius are far from being dull or loose. No, they're quite crisp, tight, and well-defined. Articulation might be a little compromised though (compared to Erish or Lite2). There are some weird (not necessarily negatively) or ambiguous interactions going on. Incohesive at micro but cohesive at macro. Maybe it's another reason why Magnius's reproduction sounds like an "oil painting" to me.
    • After some tests, I had to admit I couldn't discern clearly per-input (xlr bal vs rca unbal) or per-output (4p xlr bal vs 1/4" unbal) deltas when output levels similarly matched. I picked up some difference in each different configuration, but all too subtle to matter.
    • Also interestingly, I could get quite consistent experience from Magnius across Senns and Grados. Senn+Magnius now has some benefits (e.g., immediacy) only heard with Grado before. Grado+Magnius has better refinement on the other hand. The gap between Senn and Grado becomes narrower than other amps I am testing at the moment.
    Lastly, picture or didn't happen.

    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2020
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  16. Vtory

    Vtory Illogical Spock

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    Ok, now two weeks and three days have passed since magnius started to serve in the house.

    While I am still unsure if I'm ready to defend for this great amp, it successfully dethroned magni 3+ for grado duties and won over gilmore lite2 for senn pairing. And regardless of headphones to pair with, this amp has been my go-to amp when I'm eager for fun. For that reason, except loaner evaluation sessions, magnius got most of my head time for the past two weeks. Also very successfully helped me forget about up- or side- grading to anything in close price brackets.

    That said, I've been thinking about why a huge gap in satisfaction between mine and two big golden ears in the forum (one hated this the other meh-ed at best) happens. Occam's razor suggests I am just a deaf or have very niche taste -- well, may be, lol -- I wanted to figure it out a little deeper.

    One explanation I am leaning toward at the moment is tonal balance. It's not flatly or neutrally balanced by any means, not too much colored, either. I'd say it's (at least its bal in/bal out path is) subtly V-shaped balance in a non-stationary way (i.e., unmeasurable), compared to more balanced stuff like Erish or slightly laid-back magni 3+. To me emphasized frequency regions cover where I typically want more or where my ears are relatively insensitive to, and recession region well matches to my sensitive zones. This might also explain why I could not get along with any well-received mid-centric amps with hd650. Fletcher–Munson might even confound this equation. Somewhere between 75 and 80 db spl is my preferred level (zero headroom and low crest factor assumed), fairly below preferred zones among sbaf seniors.

    With both dacs in the house (bifrost 2 and zen signature), overall balance feels just beautiful to my standard, if not perfect. Even more additively so when hd650 and zen sig hooked up with. That combo makes me just speechless and listen to the music. Honestly I found it harder and harder to nitpick as my ears get more accustomed to how magnius resolves and reproduces things.

    I also have to say the volume pot of magnius deserves any marketing hypes Jason rambled previously. Except kinda small knob, the pot does excellent jobs in accurately and delicately dialing in sweet spot level. And the perfectly optimized level for each album magnifies any satisfaction gained from tracks. Not to mention this maximizes all the benefits claimed above. Note that every volume pot does this function. But magnius's one is just unrivaled in perfection among budget-friendly head amps, by a healthy margin to any close competitors.


    PS. To those who might be curious, I may write about Erish vs Magnius comparison with more details later, but at the moment, I found them complementary rather than contestable. One semi super-ish car and the other semi luxury-ish grand tourer. Practically I need both.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2020
  17. JK47

    JK47 The Beer Houdini

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    I had this courtesy of the loaner tour. I listened to it for a few days and compared it to the SW51+ and DIY Whammy amp.

    I used my Sony DVP 9000ES directly and as a transport with my CA-851N for sources, and HD600, LCD2F, DIY Fostex T20RP mkIII.

    Tried balanced in/out and SE in/out... Found it had a somewhat muted midrange or would that be a boosted low end?!?! Regardless, that and the odd treble timbre could never really get me to listen for very long stretches at a time, it was almost a chore.

    Maybe a good starter amp for someone new in the hobby that wants a lot of input output options. I would easily take the WHAMMY (tried 3 or 4 different opamps before I settled on one) or even more so the SW51+ over it, but that's not really a fair fight. Meh, it does look really nice murked out and I like the form factor...
     
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  18. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    I disliked the Magnius so much to the point I developed a bit of an odd fascination with it. I should have returned it, but I didn't. I had an itch...And, so, like most of the Chinese DIY boards I've ordered off eBay, it became an experimental subject.

    I may be desensitized to the value of warranties. I mod and tweak computers, I mod new cars, I mod DACs and amps, I mod headphones. Maybe if I put some of that effort into exercise and modded my own body...well, never mind that.

    I am purposely going to leave out the how-to stuff, some technical details, and internal photos, because I don't necessarily recommend anyone else do this. This is silly experimentation for the sake of learning and "just because." I can't even say that I know with certainty that anything I'm doing is sound from an engineering and safety perspective, but I try my best to learn all I can and then implement accordingly.

    So, my Magnius has been, and currently is, a test bed for the following:

    1. Got a bit, fat SolaHD PSU. That monster is providing DC to the amp now. This is like those dangling testicles on the back of trucks, but 10 times bigger than the truck itself. I gotta say, I feel pretty goddamn powerful now.

    2. Replaced the OPA1688s with OPA1656s, because I had extra around. Can't say I heard a difference.

    3. Got rid of the Zobel network on the outputs in favor of series resistors, as specified on the datasheet. I didn't have any 10ohm resistors around, which is the minimum specified for this use, so went with 12ohm. Either way, sometimes I like being basic, drinking pumpkin spice whatever and being a faithful servant to datasheets.

    By far, the latter made the biggest difference in sound. "Well, no duh, the output impedance is high as fuck now, you subjective monkey." Not untrue, but should be of minimal significance with the HD600/650, right? That's what I use for listening.

    I swear, this sounds wildly different in ways that frequency response changes from output impedance could explain. Either that, or I'm an ignorant idiot that doesn't know how output impedance works on this amp.

    The top-end glare more or less seems gone, though the overall incisiveness and clarity seems intact. Mids seem more fleshed out, although still slightly relaxed. Less U-shaped and more similar to a downward sloping response. A healthy amount of bass and warmth without going overboard. Seems like it's not straining so much and is less dynamically restrictive.

    All in all, Magnius + dumb mods is still under $300 and sounds pretty darn good for it overall. Going to spend time comparing it to the BW2 and Gilmore Lite Mk2 now.
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  19. Hands

    Hands Overzealous Auto Flusher - Measurbator

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    Pics or it didn't happen. The ugly blue case holds the power supply. Modded in a different jack to supply power to the amp, though you can't see the power cable running from PSU to amp.

    PXL_20200925_223152912.PORTRAIT-01.COVER~2.jpg
    Ain't nobody need no stinkin' junior-wannabe 2A3 prototype amps in their studio with this hulking beauty at hand!
     
    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
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  20. Elnrik

    Elnrik Super Friendly

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    Did you do these steps one at a time to see which had greater impact? Did the psu influence sound much?
     

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