HISTORY The original Schiit Mani was put through its paces on changstar back in 2015. No, it didn't win the shootout. However, it held its own against much better competition, only to lose against the Franken TC-750 (partially DIY). Looking back, perhaps I've been unfair to the original Mani. No doubt it was a high value. However, it just wasn't good enough for me. That is good enough to work as a secondary phono pre on my VPI Classic 4 table which supports multiple armwands. I know, it isn't quite fair to expect a $150 to do justice to a $10k table. It isn't quite fair to expect a $150 phonostage to keep up with a cheap commercial unit modified with boutique caps and a beefy LPS. However, I can DIY and I'm a cheap bastard. I have high expectations even for $150 gear. To be fair, the original Schiit Mani has provided many vinyl noobs (and returnees) with hours of listening pleasure at a bargain price and with better performance than more expensive entry phonostages from already well established names. No doubt, the Mani 2 would be better. What I didn't count on is that it's a helluva lot better. I can name two phonostages priced about $1k which I own or owned which the Mani 2 easily bests. A big reason for the improvement is this: DC coupled, that is no coupling caps in the signal path (excluding the RIAA network caps of course). DESIGN / ARCHITECTURE The OG Mani I believe was a three stage passive RIAA design with caps after every stage. The opamps used were very good, but the design was very much old school, mimicking a tried a true three stage tube design (gain passive RIAA, gain, buffer) but using opamps instead of tubes. Schiit this time (we all know this is Jason by now) took inspiration from the OG Mani, but redesigned with a modern take using only two stages with the OPA1612 (one of these current generation fancy opamps) and a servo for a 100% DC-coupled design. The joke around here is that the OPA1612 is my favorite opamp. This mostly true, but it depends upon where it's used. Basically, what we've eliminated in an unnecessary buffer stage, and three sets of capacitors. SOUND The results are as expected. The OG Mani's weakness was lack of clarity, as if a blanket was thrown over the soundscape, and secondarily, less than stellar microdynamics and engagement, a bit flat. The Mani 2 addresses all of these shortcomings while retaining the OG strengths of extension low and high, control, and slam. The soundstage is expansive and deep as is usually the case for sticking a passive RIAA network in between the gain stages, e.g. the Sutherland Ph3D. Not quite as super deep beyond the wall a the Sutherland (sitting in row 40), a little bit closer than the original Mani (row 30), but we are still sitting at row 25. What we get in return from being 5 rows close is more precise, less diffuse imaging. For those used to the multibit Schiit DACs where the stage is close, the soundstage of the Mani 2 is totally different. COMPARISONS Tonally, this phonostage is neutral. If you want something warmer sounding, my recommendation still goes here to the iFi Zen Phono. The Mani 2 is clearer. The Zen Phono is a bit more intimate. Both have good microdynamics and expressiveness unexpected at this price point. Ultimately what works best will be a matter of table, cart, the remaining components and personal preferences. Compared to my existing secondary solid-state phonostage, the RSA Nighthawk, the Mani 2 will be replacing it. The Nighthawk wasn't the greatest thing in the world, it wasn't even a good value. However it provided amazing synergy with my turntable setup for many years. The Mani 2 has a very similar tonal presentation, equal microdynamics, but marginally more microdetail, significantly better extension at the extremes, and a deeper placed soundstage. It's a no brainer. I had actually thought of purchasing a Sutherland opamp based unit again and modifying it to extract more texture (the weakness of the Ph3D), but Mani 2 makes this unnecessary. There are always unknowns when it comes to new designs, but sometimes cosmic forces align and everything falls into place. I believe that there weren't any revisions to the early prototype - the universe smiled on this one from the very beginning. I spy shiney Pokemon. Surface mount parts can be guud, like boutique audiophool $$$ parts guud, in 2022.