Schiit Mjolnir 3 Impressions

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by ColtMrFire, Aug 18, 2023.

  1. earnmyturns

    earnmyturns Smartest friend

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    Yes, in my experience (HQPlayer DSD256>Holo May>MJ3>{Atrium|Caldera}). Caldera complements MJ3 to create a driving, dynamic, precise, spacious sound. Atrium does not create the same clear 3D impression, compared with Atrium on other amps I own (DNA Stellaris, ecp DSHA-3F).
     
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  2. artur9

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    I didn't install the feet. I just have the MJ3 resting on them.
     
  3. lerrens

    lerrens Facebook Friend

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    I've posted my Ragnarok 2 impressions (vs MJ3) here: link
     
  4. oceanrace

    oceanrace Acquaintance

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    I got the thicker alcantara pads for my Elites. Also upgraded LiM to MiB. OMFG I am purely blown away with what I am hearing. Thanks to Purr1n for that rec on the LiM not being so great with MJ3. Spot on advice. I so didn't want to believe it but there it is. This combo has the most fantastic air and sound staging, I am addicted. Layering of detail and instrumental placement in the stage is incredible. Timbre, so beautiful. This sound stage thing is unbelievable really. Seems like its at least 3 feet around my head in all directions. Just incredible. Synergy to the max here. Wow.
     
  5. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    Schiit Mjolnir 3 Loaner Impressions

    Thank you Schiit, SBAF, and @julie for making this loaner tour possible. It’s such a treat to hear gear that you otherwise wouldn’t be able to audition – and to be able to do so at home, in your own system. I really appreciate this great opportunity.

    I tend to write overly long loaner impressions. I’ll be briefer this time, if only because the Mjolnir 3 is such an outstandingly good amp – for my preferences and gear – that there’s really not much to say. Nothing sounds wrong. There are no troublesome or unpleasant qualities. Put more positively, it’s one of the best amps I’ve heard.


    Chain
    I used two ortho headphones with the Mjolnir 3: a stock LCD-4 using Audeze’s Reveal plugin and a rhythmdevils audio modded LCD-4z, or RD-4z. I don’t have any dynamic driver headphones, sorry. I should note that the LCD-4 at 200 ohms and the RD-4z at 16 ohms have different amping requirements, and the Mjolnir 3 catered to both more than satisfactorily.

    The LCD-4 sounds very good from the MJ3. The RD-4z is synergistic. It’s an absolutely pleasurable pairing, perhaps the best I’ve heard from a solid state amp.

    I happen to have two DACs at home at the moment: an Yggdrasil A2 with Unison and a Wavedream Edition SE (the most “basic” model). The MJ3 reflected the distinctiveness of both DACs and was transparent to these sources, behind which is a Mac Mini M1 using Roon, playing FLAC/ALAC and Qobuz.

    I compared the MJ3 directly to my DNA Stratus and my solid state amp, the Raal Requisite HSA1b. Hot take: the MJ3 isn’t all that far behind the Stratus (which costs 3x as much), and it’s better for orthos than the HSA 1b (which I have for my Raal SR1a). I also tried the SR1a out of the MJ3, using the Raal transformer interface box, the TI-1b. The MJ3 drove the SR1a adequately. I didn't have the compensation barrels for the SR1a and had to improvise a bass shelf with EQ, so I won't comment on the quality of the pairing except to say the SR1a wasn't underpowered.


    Settings
    feedback on or off?
    Off: sounds sweeter, cleaner, more pristine, more expansive, highs are clearer, more energetic and snappy and macrodynamic. Much more engaging.

    high or low gain?
    I prefer high gain for the LCD-4 and low gain with the RD-4z. For the latter, low gain sounds more energetic and open, more lively and with more macrodynamic contrast.

    push-pull vs single-ended class A
    I’m not sure, it’s harder to tell the difference here, and I’d need to evaluate it carefully. It’s not different enough that I cared to scrutinize it, especially given the limited time of the loaner tour. I preferred just to enjoy myself with the amp in single-ended class A as it sounds so glorious.


    Impressions
    The Mjolnir 3 is simply one of the best amps I’ve ever heard – not that I’ve heard that many – and it’s my favorite Schiit amp. For reference, I’ve owned the two previous Mjolnirs, a Rag 1.5, Jot 2, Magni 3, Piety, and I got to hear the Lyr + on an sbaf loaner tour.

    A common characteristic of the Schiit amps I’ve heard is the up-front staging, which makes for an aural equivalent of sitting in a movie theater’s front row. This lack of depth is the fundamental reason why I’ve let go of my Schiit amps. Fortunately, the Mjolnir 3 does not suffer from this deficiency. Music is projected forward in front of you, to an extent, and there’s adequate front-to-back staging, i.e. being able to discern the origin of sounds as either nearer or farther away. There’s not as much depth as I’ve heard with other amps. But it’s good enough and isn’t troublesome.

    And that’s it: there’s nothing else I dislike about the amp or find lacking. Sure, it could mimic some of the bloom and other magical qualities of tube amps. But that's to be expected, and the MJ3 might be the best solid state amp I’ve heard, apart from the DSHA 3F or the Black Widow 2, both of which I heard auditioned only briefly and can’t really comment on. It resolves as well as many higher-price amps like the Holo Bliss.

    The amp is pretty neutral, as is my RD-4z. There may be a hint of inner warmth to the amp. And I hear clear differences between the presentation from the two DACs:
    • The Wavedream strikes me as a pretty neutral DAC, and the Mjolnir 3 reflects this; the Yggdrasil A2 is warm and also more aggressive, and so becomes the Mjolnir 3
    • The Wavedream’s bass isn’t very pronounced, nor is it on the MJ3; the Yggdrasil has that nice fulsome, rich Moffat bass, and so too does the MJ3
    • There’s no treble emphasis with the MJ3 and there’s likewise no roll off
      • The Wavedream is outstanding for treble clarity, liquidity, and beautiful sparkly extension, and this comes through clearly with the MJ3, as does the rougher treble of the Yggdrasil
    • The mids are simply wonderful: I hear no bothersome unevenness or recession
      • Vocals as slightly set back with the Wavedream as compared with the Yggdrasil, and the MJ3 reveals this difference, too.

    The MJ3 slams nicely. Macrodynamics are strong without being overdone. Transients are snappy but not overly sharp; they have a slight roundedness to them. The MJ3 isn’t an overly smooth amp but it renders textures very well. At first, I thought I could hear a bit of roughness – some textured grit, perhaps, possibly in the treble – but that sensation soon faded and might have owed something to coming from the lovely, pure treble of the Stratus. Some Schiit amps like the Jot 2 have a graininess to their sound. Not the MJ3. It sounds highly transparent. It’s pristine and limpid even. And it’s not in the least bit sterile, like a Phonitor X (which I used to own). Instead, the MJ3 has some slight wetness/liquidity. It also has a nicely balanced tonal density, neither weighty nor light but just right.

    The staging is very good. There’s a decent amount of height and lots of width. As noted above, the depth is adequate. Taken together, there’s a mildly holographic quality to the presentation. Imaging, layering, and separation are all outstanding qualities, among the best I’ve heard. The Wavedream is a clear step up from the Yggdrasil in these respects, and the MJ3 keeps up with it. The MJ3 also does exceptionally well at providing air and space around instruments.

    Where the MJ3 also excels is in resolution. The Wavedream is a bit more resolving than the Yggdrasil, and its superior imaging and separation also contribute to the sense of hearing more detail. The MJ3 comes very close to the resolving ability of the Stratus. The Stratus wins for microdynamics and those other subtle nuances. But, again, the MJ3 doesn’t come far behind.

    The MJ3 retains something of the exciting presentation of the previous two Mjolnirs while being less aggressive and more engaging. I found myself listening intently to music. The MJ3 also works for just kicking back and relaxing.


    Comparisons from memory (in broad strokes as I wouldn’t put much stock in my memory)

    vs Mjolnir 1

    • has more depth
    • the 3 is less aggressive; it doesn’t have quite the sharpness of the transients, i.e. is more rounded
    • the 3 has treble that’s not glinting or troublesome
    • it's wetter/more liquid; the 1 can be a bit dry
    • the 3's more refined, is more holographic, and is similarly clear and transparent sounding, but with a bit more warmth, perhaps, or mellowness
    • it's likewise fun and powerful, having less slam (but enough) and offering plenty of macrodynamic contrast
    • The MJ3 is much more resolving.

    vs Mjolnir 2
    • the 3 has more depth
    • it has less slam and macrodynamic contrast, but not by much
    • it's much more resolving
    • other qualities are hard to compare given the tube rolling options of the MJ2

    vs Bliss
    • both are similarly resolving and refined presentations
    • the Bliss wins for depth and smoothness (the smoothness of the Bliss arguably goes too far)
    • The Mjolnir 3 wins for slam and macrodynamic strength (the Bliss sounds damped)
    • Both are similarly liquid
    • I can’t comment on tonality and timbre from memory except to say I prefer the MJ3


    Conclusion
    I’m sorry for gushing. This is quite the remarkable amp. Outside of the DSHA 3F and the Black Widow 2, it’s my favorite solid state amp, and I’d rather have this than the Bliss. If I had to downgrade from the Stratus and have a single amp and pair of headphones, right now I could go for this and the RD-4z and ride off happily into the sunset. Thank you so much for letting be able to hear this gem of a headphone amp!
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Desire for betterer is endless.

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    Glad it worked out for you. I am always worried I give wrong impressions because YMMV, etc.

    I feel that MiB is the proper upgrade path if you liked LiM. MiB is simply a more expressive and nuanced DAC that largely keeps the timbre and delicateness of the highs of the LiM, but tilts the tonal balance up a bit, less dark. The MiB also has the NOS mode which can dense things up and roll off the top a bit like the LiM if needed.

    LiM and Mjolnir 3 sensibilities seemed too similar to each other, stacking up and resulting in too much of a good thing.
     
  7. MiniMoose

    MiniMoose New

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    I got my silver MJ3 back in February. I loved it at first listen at the schittr the month before on my A12ts. I know iems on this behemoth, I was actually getting more volume range on the MJ3 than their midguard. I went there to try out the midguard and ended up buying an MJ3 instead. I was immediately able to hear the lush-impactful difference in audio from the midguard and my setup at home (which had the same Gungnir Multibit dac as their demo unit), but I've never really punched into that kilo-buck amp range. I've tried THX 778, NFB11, Schiits uber magni/modi stack etc. Nothing more than like 500$? I upgraded DACs when I got the THX amp with plans on springing for the matching sized amp later on.

    About a month in my left channel was dropping to 1% volume. Barely audible. Flickering the Input or power switch fixed it temporarily. I did a quick glance none of the pots were popped. Ended up driving up and dropping it off, got it back a month later. They just replaced the entire board no idea what caused it. Funny the paper did say "Happened after hours of testing". I do leave my unit on 24/7. The power switch is in a shit location, and it pulls less power than my aquarium LED's. I also have 2 fans helping to keep it cold and its often colder than my Gungnir Multibit.

    Besides that issue with my unit, I'm loving my MJ3. Its going nowhere. I swap between my LCD2Cs and HD800S every couple days. I I really like modern songs with depth and impact. I listen to a lot of random music, some electronic music like Major Lazer, Clean Bandit, Capital cities, and then some Soul music like the covers Tpain has made. "Telephone Banking by Clean Bandit" really shines on my setup. I went from listening to dull flat accurate music to now I'm sitting in a large room with audio that that has impact, more depth, more everything (compared to my thx 887). In the meantime I tried a Hifiman EF400 and it was like I was pushed back into a box. (Keep in mind I cant put my Gungnir Multibit into the EF400 aswell, it has its own DAC) It sounded "decent" but not "amazing". Im going to send that one out for hifiman's new 300$ DAC upgrade for fun.

    Switch wise I like them all pushed down. The feedback mode was 98% the same as full class A to me, but there was just something missing. Can't really tell what it is, but its not there.

    Colors aren't a spot on match, but if you squint they're both silver. Sad they didnt have a knob upgrade option to get the killer milled ones they stopped making because yield was too low. :(
    [​IMG]

    When I went by the Schittr. Always fun messing with the hosts by making Kanye pop up on their shared ROON server.
    [​IMG]
     
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  8. GanGreinke

    GanGreinke Friend

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    Thank you SBAF and Schiit for the opportunity to hear this amp! It really makes a difference getting to try out the amp with a Dac and headphones that I know well vs an unfamiliar chain at a store or a meet.

    My chain is the following: Roon via PC -> FMC converter-> Weiss Dac502 MkII (via built in Ethernet streamer) -> MJ3 -> DCA E3 or Raal Ca-1a w/ Star 8 cable (the upgraded silver cable). I’ll be comparing the Mjolnir to the built in headphone output of the Weiss or a modded EC Aficionado.

    As others have said, the Mjolnir 3 has the warmth and richness that I’ve heard in good tube amps. I settled on SE mode, high gain, and no feedback when using it with both the E3 and the Ca-1a, and the most notable thing for me was the dimension and tactility of things like clapping, drum hits, or cymbals. Not sure if this is because of good technical/resolving ability or what, but when I compare the MJ3 to the built in headphone output of the Weiss, the MJ3 feels like the sound is surrounding me while the Weiss feels like the sound is flat and in front of me. It’s like the MJ3 is a vivid 3D image while the Weiss headphone out is a 2D picture. I can’t say if it’s a power difference because I don’t think Weiss publishes the power of its headphone out, but whatever the case the MJ3 is a notable upgrade to the headphone out. The only downside is convenience because the MJ3 takes a long time to warm up compared to the Weiss.

    The comparison between the MJ3 and the EC Aficionado was more interesting to me. I should preface this comparison by saying that I believe my Aficionado sounds different compared to most other Aficionados out there. I made 3 major changes (thank you to @Josh Schor for the inspiration): 1) I switched the coupling caps to Duelund silver foil 0.1 uF caps. 2) I had the power supply modifier to use 83 mercury rectifier tube. 3) switched the volume pot to a TKD pot (the space is too small to put a Khozmo stepped attenuator). The silver caps made the biggest difference by adding much needed warmth and richness to the amp. The headstage is probably not as wide compared to before when I used Jupiter copper caps, but I feel like the headstage has more depth now and is more coherent, all while maintaining the same technical abilities, if not slightly improving them. I say this all because the MJ3 sounded similar to my modded Aficionado from a warmth and richness standpoint, but not as good technically. One advantage the MJ3 has over the Aficionado is that it has better control of bass. With the E3, the bass felt tighter and more coherent with the rest of the frequency with the MJ3 compared to the Aficionado, and I preferred the E3 with the MJ3 despite the slight loss in resolution and headstage. In contrast, I liked the Ca-1a more on the Aficionado as it benefits from the improved technical abilities of the Aficionado and doesn’t really have an issue with the loose bass. The Ca-1a sounds good with the MJ3, and I’d be happy with the Mjolnir if I also had other headphones, but there is a synergy with the Raal and the Aficionado (and possibly with the Weiss; I haven’t tried another DAC, but I think the strengths of the Weiss add to the strengths of the Ca-1a and Aficionado) that, for me, is hard to beat.

    Overall, I enjoyed my time with the Mjolnir 3. I can definitely see why it has gotten rave reviews, and I see it as a great option for people looking for great sound without spending thousands of dollars.
     
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  9. supertransformingdhruv

    supertransformingdhruv Almost "Made"

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    First, I want to thank Schiit and the SBAF loaner program for giving me the chance to hear this amp. I've been really excited to hear the Mjolnir 3 since it was announced, and getting to spend a week with it was spectacular. This is the highest-end headphone amplifier that I've listened to outside of an audio show, and it's really something else to get to know it in your own system.

    My main headphone is a 2021 LCD-X, though I briefly tried out the HD650 as well. I found that Mjolnir 3 really played well with the planar headphone, and just never plugged in the HD650 again. The rest of my chain was as follows: Roon -> Mercury V2 Streamer -> Gungnir Multibit -> Freya S -> Mjolnir 3. Due to the availability of balanced outputs and cables, I left the Freya S -> Mjolnir connection as single-ended. I tested out the balanced connection directly to the DAC, as well as the balanced connection through the Freya S. I did not find that this was significantly different from the single-ended connection through the Freya S (with the preamp in passive mode) except for the overall higher gain.

    The first impression I had was that this amp is sort of an ergonomics nightmare. TL;DR Mjolnir 3 needs the standby switch on the front, like Schiit's power amps. I placed it into my rack, flipped it on, and walked away as the loaner thread talks about the amp needing a warmup period. The amp was nice and toasty when I came back in 30 minutes, and I had a great first listening session. The trouble began when I reached behind to flip the switch off-- the top of the amp was beyond warm and well into the painfully hot regime. It's been 85+ degrees everyday here in Maryland, so that may color some of my annoyance at the heat, but I found myself not enjoying sitting next to Mjolnir. This headphone amp seems to radiate more heat into the room than Tyr, overwhelming my air conditioning during extended listening sessions! I experimented with skipping the warmup period, which definitely kept the temperatures lower at the cost of the sound. I found that Mjolnir picked up a bit of grit when it's cold.

    Overall, I really enjoyed the sound of Mjolnir 3. Side-by-side against my Liquid Platinum, there was simply no contest. With the right combination of switches, Mjolnir really impressed with its detail retrieval, dynamics & slam, and the width of the sound stage.
    • With regards to detail retrieval, I feel like I'm being held back by the resolution of my DAC. Mjolnir showed me everything that I get through Tyr and the Maggies.
    • For dynamics and slam, Mjolnir had a very convincing sense of dynamics throughout the mid and treble-- places that I'm not used to noticing that. There's something about the thick, round, wet tone that makes that dynamism stand out up high.
    • Staging was quite wide, though there was the same sort of shallowness to the front-back that I've noticed on other Schiit headamps (Magnius, Jotunheim). It's not something that bothers me particularly, both others might.
    One thing I would ding slightly is that I felt the bass wasn't as full and responsive as with the Liquid Platinum, at least in the Mjolnir's single-ended mode. I'm curious if this is attributable to the power output (Mjolnir 3 is rated at 2W into 32 Ohms, vs Liquid Platinum's 6.6W into 32 Ohm) or if it's a voicing decision. That said, I didn't feel like I noticed the bass being particularly weak when I stopped switching back-and-forth between amps and quickly stopped caring about the difference. I'll also mention that putting Mjolnir 3 into push-pull pretty much made this issue go away.

    Pairing with the LCD-X, I found that liked the amp switches set to low gain, single-ended, feedback on.
    • I heard a fair amount of noise into the LCD-X on high-gain, even with nothing playing, so I stuck to low gain. I did have a noise-free experience with high-gain with my older pre-fazor LCD-2, which is much lower sensitivity.
    • Comparing single-ended and push-pull, I found that I preferred the detail retrieval provided by single-ended over the greater bass support from the push-pull.
    • Feedback was subtler, but I felt that the sound opened up just ever so slightly when feedback was turned on.
    I really enjoyed having the opportunity to compare all of these settings, but I feel like I would never change these once I found the winning combo.

    Overall, Mjolnir 3 is a really great sounding headphone amplifier, but I think it's not for me. The class A sound kicks ass but comes with usability compromises, at least for me in my current living space.
     
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  10. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    1st and always, thanks to SBAF for organizing this loaner. At the risk of sounding like I'm kissing butt (and wholeheartedly not giving a duck) my audio journey wouldn't be half as fulfilling without this community and the generosity y'all have bestowed upon me. I'm getting ready for a bit of an audio upheaval (I think) and being able to hear the gear I'm interested in is priceless.

    My chain is my HP EliteDesk to my OG Bifrost 2 to the Mjolnir 3 playing mostly FLAC & some MP3s via JRiver. I used the ZMF Bokeh I had on hand, my ETA Mini-O as well as the Mini-S. Even my HiFiMan 400i (with ZMF's HiFiMan pads) sounded better than ever. The real star of the show was the ZMF Atrium which sounded about as good as I've ever heard it.

    As you can tell, I really don't have any power hungry cans, so I left push-pull to SE, and feedback to off. I didn't hear an appreciable difference with feedback on, and the manual sad it might be helpful with hard to drive cans. I Mostly used high gain but low gain sounded just as good to me. I didn't experience any unwanted vibrations, and the temperature never seemed to be excessive. Toward the end of my time with the Mjolnir 3, I discovered the well recessed fins that do seem to get hot to the touch, so the hot spot is localized. Emphasis on well recessed, I only really noticed them when I tried to find the hot spot.

    Build quality is terrific; everything is solid, nothing felt loose. Switches switched with a satisfying thunk, and the volume knob feel was just right for my preferences. The inner amp orange glow was nice too IMO. Ergonomically, I get why there are complaints about the on/off to being on the back. That would probably be my only real complaint, though it wasn't an issue in my temporary set up on a stand next to my setup.

    The sound quality is really top notch. Better writers than I have already waxed poetic (and prolific) already, but my quick take is this is one solid-solid state amp. I'm not a fan of the stereotypes of a SS amp sounding tube-like, and vice-versa because IME (limited though it may be) the sound of an amp has to do more with the design ad quality of parts than a particular topology, at least nowadays with the plethora of gear available.

    That being said, there is a certain liquidity to the sound I think which might play more to the stereotypical tube amp. That and the solid headstage, which is also a trait associated with tubes. I hesitate to use the word 'liquidity', because I don't find the amp to be particularly sluggish, but it might have more to do with the decay others have mentioned. Plenty 'O Slam too.

    Bass is solid and not overblown. Authoritative when called for, and out of the way when it's not. great definition and texture. Mids sound just right for my tastes. Never shouty or recessed. Treble wasn't etched nor piercing, but had good presence nonetheless. Not a bright amp to be sure, but still detailed. A terrific trick to pull off, but Schiit managed to do it, with a wide coherent headstage to boot.

    This amp absolutely trounces my ifi Pro iCAN. Don't get me wrong the ifi is a wonderfully versatile amp, and it sounds really good for the most part. Basically it does little wrong for my tastes, but I was never itching to power up the ifi. I used it more for desktop IEM listening, or maybe popping on the Koss KSC-75 while surfing YouTube. While I had the Schiit in house, I was always wondering when I was going to get a chance to give it a listen again.

    So now I have a quandary. I am getting ready for an upgrade (or likely a series of upgrades) and I have to figure out where to start. I'll likely replace both my SS & tube amp at some point, but I'm pretty sure I know what SS amp I'm jonesing for. If @schiit really is making this a limited run, I might have to start here in fear of this becoming unobtanium. So...Thanks. I think.
     
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  11. oceanrace

    oceanrace Acquaintance

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    Yggdrasil MiB + Mjolnir 3 is a solid combo. Pretty hard to beat for the money IMHO.
     
  12. Senorx12562

    Senorx12562 Case of the mondays

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    See the f/s section.
     
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  13. Jinxy245

    Jinxy245 Vegan Puss

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    I have. I'm debating, though I probably shouldn't even think about it.
     
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  14. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Been seeing frequent MJ3's in the Used Deals thread with folks selling for surprisingly low asks.

    For friends who have had MJ3 as their primary amp for a minute, how do you feel about it now vs when you purchased? Happy and content? Content but wandering eyes for something else?

    It is an objectively good amp, plays well with a lot of gears, and I find it confusing why some people are jumping out.

    I got my MJ3 eight months ago and still love it. Any "faults" are specific to me.

    The maturity of MJ3 makes it predictably solid and thus less surprising. MJ2 had an idiosyncratic reaction to everything where tracks which slapped on it wouldn't always sound as engaging elsewhere, and it was a bit interesting and unpredictable. It was that weird friend whose opinion you wanted to ask just to see what they'd say. Maybe it would be House of the Dragon or maybe bad Disney Star Wars, you never knew what was coming.

    The other missing thing for me with MJ3 is personal history. Six years of my upgrade journey orbited around MJ2. A lot of my life changed in those six years, a lot of gear cycled, and I was very attached to MJ2. So, I still miss it in a sense, if only for that. But MJ3 is the better amp, I wouldn't go back.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 11, 2024
  15. oceanrace

    oceanrace Acquaintance

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    After listening to MJ3 for a few thousand hours, I don't have any itch to "upgrade" or try to acquire any other amps. At least so far. Combined with Schiit MiB DAC the setup does what I have been looking for in presentation and SQ well enough that I am not motivated to pursue other gear.

    That being said, I also suspect I am not near as picky and particular about every little little nuance and technicality as a lot of audophiles are. I just know when it sounds right to my ears, it is good enough. If this happens without spending $20k then even better. LOL
     
  16. Tchoupitoulas

    Tchoupitoulas Friend

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    I'm not sure the prices are all that low: the cheapest I've seen an MJ3 go for is $850, which is ca. 70% of the full retail price. Usually they sell for $900-1000. But I hear you about so many appearing on the market, which is indeed surprising.

    I'd love to hear the MiB with the MJ3 as this pairing could well represent an excellent inflection point after which diminishing returns kick in really hard.

    Weeks after hearing the MJ3 loaner, I'm still thinking about how good it is (hence watching the classifieds...)
     
  17. decompositions

    decompositions New

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    I would take a guess that a lot of people bought it as a sort of fomo reaction when it was originally a very limited run without quite understanding just how hot a real class a amp runs - at least with 2 channel gear that tends to be why most people sell that kind of stuff is just that they aren't comfortable with the heat because of pets, kids, etc.

    I've swapped mine out since I got a starlett and prefer it with the auteur classics I'm using at the moment, but I do still love the mj3 and don't have any plans to get rid of it - I'm sure I'll swap it back in at some point.
     
  18. MisterRogers

    MisterRogers Ethernet Nervosa

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    Agree. It's an awesome amp, and I'm keeping mine for now. The initial limited nature probably drove purchase a bit. Economically, things are tight for many - so good chance that's impacting some of the 'sell' decisions.
     
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  19. HeyWaj10

    HeyWaj10 Almost "Made"

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    Intro and Disclaimer

    I have not had more anticipation for a component to audition quite like I had for the Mjolnir 3. Seeing the MJ3 loaner tour pop up was an adrenaline boost, especially since it came on the heels of my very short listening experience during a local Schiit Meet in NC last year. The primary reason for the anticipation is due to the flat out potential of what the MJ3 represents (to me): an amplifier that is unapologetically engineered for sound quality first, priced at just above $1,000 (which is as much as I can justify spending on a single component), and has features that offer flexibility to drive whatever future headphones I may purchase and even offers a little flavor tuning capability - all with the bona fides of an endgame headphone amplifier.

    Disclaimer: this will be long, and it will be glowing

    A Detour of Perspective

    My journey in the headphone amplifier world - all revolving around the Audeze LCD-X (2021) as my cornerstone - has been one of multiple waves of excitement met with frustration. Every time I thought I found "it" when reading reviews, watching YouTube influencers rave and wax poetic, and get woo'd by various marketing hype trains, I would ultimately end up feeling deflated after actually auditioning those components. Examples include the Chord Mojo 2, Burson Audio Soloist line, iFi Audio offerings, JDS Labs Element, Headamp Gilmore Lite MkII, as well as the loaner offerings here on SBAF like the Ferrum Orr/Hypsos. They all did positive things, but also all had one or more attributes that I just could not get past - whether it was etchy or grainy treble, flat/lifeless soundstaging, or lacking dynamics in the low end. I just never really felt content with anything. My search just continued.

    Years ago, getting back into the headphone game, my purchase of the Schiit Lyr 3 was one of accepting compromise - to have an aesthetically pleasing product that had flexible features and solid sonic capability within a more limited budget at the time. Sound-wise, I enjoyed the Lyr 3, but it was never quite enough. Even upgrading from the internal ESS dac to the Bifrost 2/64 yielded a sense of "but there's still more left on the table here." That eventually led me, completely by chance and surprise, to my current landing spot in the DIY Nelson Pass ACP+. This amp has been as close to the "set and forget for the long term future" concept as I can get - especially (well) under $1,000. Yet, after all the reading and watching reviews and impressions for the MJ3, in combination with the brief experience I had last year, I just had a feeling that this amp might actually be "it."

    A Week's Worth of Relief

    Thanks to the SBAF loaner program, I got to spend the week with the MJ3 in my own setup. My wife initially laughed at how giddy I was while unboxing this beast, followed shortly by "you're weird." I know it - she knows it - and eventually my girls will know it too. Based on past experiences, I normally would approach the time with a new component with cautious optimism. However, this time I was all in on my excitement. Some would call my impressions to follow as confirmation bias - but this amp is different, and it was undeniable.

    [​IMG]

    Set-up Note

    I ended up buying a set of XLR cables to try between the BF2/64 and MJ3, even though I don't have balanced headphone cables for the LCD-X. But at least this gave me the chance to compare SE vs. Balanced between these two.

    Lenovo Mini PC > JRiver Media Center > Bifrost 2/64 > XLR / SE > Mjolnir 3 / ACP+ > LCD-X

    After getting everything set up and turned on for a proper warmup, as recommended, I sat down and cued up my go-to albums and tracks in JRiver MC. Ultimately after a little trial and error, I ended up settling on the following MJ3 toggle selections: XLR - Low Gain - Single Ended Mode - No Feedback

    Listening Impressions

    Starting out with more audiophile-quality recordings, I was quickly able to discern the visceral yet articulate and tactile bass response of the MJ3. Just as quickly (and pleasantly) as the bass stood out, I also immediately noted how delicate and smooth the treble response was. The term "smooth" gets thrown around very easily, but IMO, the MJ3 is the epitome of smooth - especially when you realize we're talking about a solid state amplifier here. Listening to my demo tracks, consisting of a wide mix (Donald Fagen - I.G.Y., Rage Against the Machine - Take the Power Back, Paul Simon - Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes, Dire Straights - Money for Nothing, Billy Joel - An Innocent Man, and the likes), I let out multiple gasps of "Ughhh"...as in, f**ing YES! I was consistently rocking an A+ Schiit-eating grin.

    I could not help but continue to think in my head "this treble is perfect" all while my head was bobbing non-stop. And that BASS - what the actual f*ck!?! Holy texture and detail, Batman! This amp was pure groove, all vibes, and flat out intoxicating. I forgot about every other damn thing outside of my headphones and locked in on every track I selected - but this was with the objectively high recording quality stuff here, so I turned my attention to my personal audio equalizers: Tool - Jambi, Opeth - The Grand Conjuration, TesseracT - War of Being, Porcupine Tree - Blackest Eyes.

    Yo...let's get real for a second. This was pure musical bliss. I have not had this much Animal-inspired air drumming fun to myself since my near-field Pioneer HPM-60's blasting from the sides of my bedroom desk teenage era. I don't have the scientific knowledge to understand the engineering design and goings on inside of this MJ3, but I don't care, because this thing has all of the kick-ass, rock your socks off, FUN factor that I have been searching for ever since those teenage days of mind-blowing audio first experiences. THIS is what I'm in this hobby for...escape from the myriad of daily life stresses by getting absolutely lost in the music I love. Truthfully, there's really nothing more I need to say about this amp. It is the definition of the exact sound I prefer and desire for personal audio playback - full stop.

    But this is SBAF, so I will go on.

    Comparisons with DIY Nelson Pass ACP+

    To quickly touch on this - I wasn't sure what to expect, whether the MJ3 was going to be the proverbial night-and-day difference, or if the differences were going to be underwhelmingly minor. From a more passive perspective, my impression lands somewhere in the middle - but there is important context to be noted. From a 10,000 ft point of view, and for less-experienced ears, the differences would come across as fairly minor. Both amps have textured, tight, fast, deep bass - they both have a natural and organic midrange - and both have articulate and detailed treble without being offensive(*).

    [​IMG]

    However, when you pay more attention, the MJ3 quickly pulls ahead in all of these categories. It's in the nuances and intricacies where the MJ3's bass struts its stuff, offering the tastiness of a zesty and sweet Kansas City barbeque sauce on a perfectly slow-smoked pork rib. Oh yes, I'm going audiophile flowery prose here. The midrange is just RIGHT. It's not doing anything tubularly magical...but voices sound like real voices, not a carbon-copy. The MJ3 just adds more "ness" to the mids over the ACP+. With either male or female vocals, the MJ3 is just more naturally convincing.

    The biggest difference was in the treble response, where the smoother, slightly rolled-off (yet more resolving and articulate) treble of the MJ3 made for the most non-fatiguing and absorbing experience I've had with a solid-state amp. (*)With the ACP+, there is some grain and etch to the upper frequencies that can force me to dial back the volume after a few minutes of digging into my favorite rock/metal tracks. The crazy thing about the MJ3 was that I kept wanting to turn it UP - not because I felt like I was missing something, but because I wanted moar. I could listen to this amp for hours on end and not even flinch. This was a first for me.

    Other similarities were in soundstage depth, background blackness, speed, and microdynamics. Even so, the MJ3 still took the cake in macrodynamic ass-kicking and soundstage width (not dramatically so, but it was an improvement), as well as overall resolution and detail. All in all - the ACP+ still retains its value crown, but the MJ3 is my official next step.

    Sonic Breakdown

    Bass: Superlative - this is the best bass I've ever heard. Punch? Check. Grip and Rip? Check. Extension and Rumble? Check. Meat on the bones with gobs of tasty flavor? Double f*cking check.

    Midrange: Natural, organic, rich. This is all I ask for - to sound natural and convince me that I'm listening to the artist the way I know and expect them to sound. Check.

    Treble: Perfect (personally speaking). I am a treble sensitive toddler, and get bothered by anything even remotely sibilant, glary, etched, or hard. Even my ACP+ can trigger me sometimes. None of that applies with the MJ3. It is Goldilocks treble to me.

    Soundstage + Imaging: While the MJ3 isn't doing anything above and beyond here, it lays out a naturally-sized soundstage and definitive image. It's all there, it's all easy to track, and it's not showing off in any distracting way.

    Background + Dynamics: Dynamically kick-ass and non-stop engaging. All the groove you can ask for. Background is silent (especially in low gain with feedback turned on) and nicely black. I'm sure a higher-end DAC would improve this even further.

    Other notes:
    • Feedback Mode - this was fun to play around with. From my perspective, flipping the feedback ON yielded a darker and tighter (albeit flatter) stage. Turning feedback OFF, however, engaged more ambience and opened up the stage some. While I appreciated what feedback added, I opted to go without it - the sound was overall more pleasing.
    • Gain Modes - While I mostly listened to everything in Low Gain mode, simply because it's all the LCD-X needed (when using XLR input from BF2), I must say that High Gain mode was a slap my ass and call me Susie experience. What a ride! The noise floor lifted a bit in High Gain, but man was it fun to ball out to Tool and Opeth for some sessions. Macrodynamics are just turned up to 11 in High Gain.
    • Push Pull / SE Mode - Admittedly, I did not even really try the MJ3 in PP mode. SE mode offered so much that I didn't even think to try it in PP.
    • SE vs. Balanced - This was my first time ever using balanced connections in my system, and I have to say, I now understand the benefits. I do believe the BF2/64 offers a bit more in all categories thanks to the higher output voltage, so chalk this up as another reason to aim for a fully-balanced BF2 / MJ3 / LCD-X setup in the future.
    • Power output - I only have LCD-X's and entry level Grado SR-80e's. I don't own anything higher impedance - so I cannot remark on how the MJ3 can power other harder-to-drive headphones. But got dayum does this thing synergize with low impedance headphones like a dream!
    Final Thoughts

    I'm smitten. I'm also sad, knowing that I simply do not have the funds to buy an MJ3 for myself (for a long while). I will undoubtedly be saving every little extra bit I can for it, though (and then maybe a Gungnir 2 to go with it...but that can wait). This amplifier is representative of the very passion that got me into this hobby. It also reinvigorated my love for, and reminded my why I originally purchased, the LCD-X. Recent years have sent me down that audiophile resolution and detail-chasing rabbit hole...even within my modest budget limitations. I kept feeling like it was the extra 5% that I was really searching for. But it wasn't - it was the forget about everything else and HAVE FUN factor I've really been wanting. To have so much fun that, for a moment, I feel like my teenage self again - as evidenced by my cueing up of a laundry list of post-grunge 2000's rock and nu-metal hits that defined my teenage years - is an intangible aspect that can only be subjectively explained. Measurements won't show a damn thing about any of what I have described in this post, and to me that simply does not matter.

    I'm grateful to this community for the opportunity to spend a week with this amp, and I'm especially grateful to @schiit for conjuring up this masterpiece of audiophile gear, all while keeping us mere financial mortals in mind. This was fun - and I mean that in every aspect of the word.
     
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  20. Pancakes

    Pancakes Friend

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    Audiophiles are never happy. The nervosa and search for the holy grail (that doesn't exist) is a lifelong struggle with no happiness.
     
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