Pros: Compact size, mid-range and spatial definition
Cons: Operational quirks (power-related & volume control), low bass quantity
Review: Micromega MyZic
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The Micromega MyZic initially caught my interest when I was previously in the market for an inexpensive solid-state AC-powered amp some months ago and came across it in the product listings on TTVJ's site (ttvjaudio.com). Several weeks ago I was inspired to finally try out the amp and inquired about a review sample, which TTVJ generously provided. Thanks goes out to them for providing the review sample. The MyZic ended up being a very worthwhile discovery!
- Source component: NAD T533 (DVD player)
- Analog interconnects: Emotiva X-Series RCA
- Headphone amplifier: HeadAmp Gilmore Lite w/ DPS
- Headphones: Audio-Technica ATH-AD2000 & ATH-AD2000X, Audeze LCD-2 r2
- Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing-Along Songs for the Damned and Delirious
- Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious
- Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos
- Machine Head - Through The Ashes Of Empires
- Morcheeba - Blood Like Lemonade
- Ruth Moody - The Garden
- The Prodigy - The Fat of the Land
- Trivium - Shogun
Operation, Handling, etc
The MyZic's form factor was easily one of its highlights—squarish and quite compact, in a light-weight ABS plastic enclosure. However, I don't consider light weight to necessarily be a good quality in an amp, as it usually translates to poor bass quality—i.e., I've traditionally only heard good bass from amps with a properly hefty toroidal power transformer inside, and it was fairly obvious from the MyZic's weight that it didn't have a full-size toroidal transformer inside. So that sort of set up expectations immediately for me—I was already expecting disappointment in its bass response well before I plugged in the amp and turned it on.
Operationally there were two quirks of note, one of which was visually obvious: the rotary volume control. Although a unique idea, in practice it wasn't completely intuitive, because it wasn't marked with which direction made it become louder or with any lines that indicated how far along the control was turned. At its lowest setting, it also effectively put the amp into standby. The other operational quirk was the lack of a power switch, and the amp's use of a 2-pole IEC C7 power cord, which meant that the amp was always drawing at least a little power, whether in standby or not. So for those who want to be able to easily turn it completely off, I recommend plugging the amp into an easily-accessible power strip with an on/off switch.
I was pleased to note an especially low gain on the volume control though, low enough that I could get any volume setting desired on my two low-impedance/high-sensitivity Audio-Technica headphones. At the same time, there was more than enough play on the volume control to push the inefficient Audeze LCD-2 to very loud volumes and still have some available headroom left. That being said, the Audeze LCD-2, or any other planar magnetics for that matter, are not headphones that I'd recommend using the MyZic to drive, which I'll get into in the next section.
The amp's bass certainly lived up to my expectations—that is to say, it really didn't produce much quantity and was downright bass-light compared to the HeadAmp Gilmore Lite, which itself is also a relatively bass-light amp. It was a noticeable detraction, so much so that once I discovered it, I sort of stopped using electronica for the review. There was a noticeable lack of bass force & depth that effectively "neutered" heavy, synthesized bass lines.
The MyZic was also clearly incapable of properly driving the Audeze LCD-2—increasing the volume control actually resulted in more subtraction from the bass/mid-range on the LCD-2, and the sound blurred at higher volumes too. Not that the Gilmore Lite was much better though, as it too under-drove the LCD-2, but not quite as much or as obviously. Due to how the LCD-2 behaved on the MyZic, I'd recommend not using the MyZic to drive any planar magnetic headphones—it was obviously a huge mis-match. Based on experience with previous headphones & amps, I'd further recommend not using the MyZic to drive headphones like the AKG K70x or other >300 Ohm impedance headphones either, as those typically require high-voltage amps, which the MyZic clearly wasn't.
It became apparent that the MyZic's prime application was with low-impedance, efficient headphones, generally ones like Audio-Technica, Denon, Grado, Fostex TH-series, Sony, etc, and true to form it did perform better with my AD2K and AD2KX than with the LCD-2. However, even with the Audio-Technica headphones, I noted some further sonic flaws with the amp, including a minor lack of clarity, the lack of bass quantity as already mentioned, lack of upper treble extension & quantity, and some bluntness to the sound (i.e., it wasn't completely "quick/agile"-sounding).
But I think enough has been made of the MyZic's flaws at this point, so that its highlights can be pointed out as well, and for that I'll start with the MyZic's subtle mid-range qualities. This was definitely one of those rare cases where the sound was deceptively textured in a way that didn't call attention to itself, so it took some time to detect. I wouldn't call the amp "warm-sounding" per se but it was definitely a mid-range-oriented amp in the very subtle ways that it added to the mid-range—deftly imbuing vocals with a sense of just enough body/fullness so they didn't "float" and were grounded, and adding just a slight (but not overt) tonal richness to instruments like violins, woodwinds, & acoustic guitars. This helped to fill out the sound overall, resulting in a balance that was very pleasing on the AD2KX, and to that point the AD2KX seemed to pair better with the MyZic than the AD2K (which paired better with the Gilmore Lite). The MyZic's mid-range was exactly the type that I'd imagine would pair very well with headphones that lack mid-range body to some extent, like most Grados, the Fostex TH600/TH900, Sonys, and the Sennheiser HD800. It was such a mid-range-complementary amp that I'd actually strongly recommend it for those brands & models.
The MyZic also had very good 3D imaging & soundstage, unlike the Gilmore Lite, which was very 2D-sounding in comparison. In fact, one of the Gilmore Lite's biggest flaws was its imaging & soundstage, because it collapsed nearly everything to single-plane depth and diverged the channels too much, resulting in a sort of "concave"-type sound. The MyZic properly converged the channels more for a good illusion of the center, along with pushing everything out and away more so nothing felt too close. With the AD2KX, it actually presented the orchestra realistically, in terms of the instrument sections sounding appropriately spread-out yet cohesive at the same time. This more spatial sound of the MyZic was very consistent and I'd imagine that it'd be a good effect on any headphones with a limited soundstage to help make them sound more open/airy.
Although the Micromega MyZic wasn't without its flaws, it was also one of the more interesting amps that I've heard recently and I'd enthusiastically recommend it for a certain limited range of headphones, as mentioned. And at $269, it's a good value too.
Addendum - Review Notes
Not as upfront/forward as GL. Less "drive" into upper mids and mid-bass. More rawness/grit to sound on GL. More "rounded" sound on MyZic vs GL, not as sharp/incisive.
More apparent low bass current on GL—deeper, heavier (at extreme low point). MyZic more spatial/dimensional.
AD2KX/MyZic has more laidback/passive sound while AD2K/GL has extreme upfront/aggressive sound. Seem to be ideal headphone/amp pairings.
MyZic better pairs w/ AD2KX than GL due to frequency balance—somewhat of a mid-range sinkhole (and treble emphasis) noticeable with GL that's not really pleasant on AD2KX. MyZic balances w/ AD2KX mid-range better—less grain and more mid-range that reinforces vocals.
Diablo Swing Orchestra - Sing Along Songs For The Damned & Delirious - "Vodka Inferno"
The Prodigy - Fat of the Land - "Funky ****"
Morcheeba - Blood Like Lemonade - "Blood Like Lemonade"
Infected Mushroom - Vicious Delicious - "Vicious Delicious"
Bass/mid-bass thinner on GL, slight thickness/bloom on MyZic. MyZic under-drives LCD-2, so the bass in general loses some quantity, force, & depth compared to GL. Despite MyZic under-driving LCD-2, LCD-2 sounds decently ok regardless, if a bit bass-light.
GL w/ DPS better drives LCD-2—more clarity throughout spectrum, increased bass. Blurry sound on MyZic. On the other hand, mid-range thinness of GL doesn't work for LCD-2, while MyZic pushes mids/vocals more to forefront.
Julia Fischer - Bach Concertos - "Concerto for 2 Violins in D minor: Allegro"
MyZic spatially wider & deeper than GL, better for orchestral music. More cohesive. GL diverges too much to left/right sides. Violins seem to lack some body on GL, not so on MyZic. MyZic seems to have more of a subtle touch as far as inflection/texture/bow "brushing". Sonically a better match with LCD-2, adds more "texture/richness" to its sound while GL subtracts from it.
Machine Head - Through The Ashes Of Empires - "In the Presence of My Enemies"
Trivium - Shogun - "Kirisute Gomen"
Attacks/decays more defined on GL (esp in fast percussion), but MyZic has more "metal" low/growly sound to it. (Except on LCD-2.) Faster impulse response of GL contributes to sharper-sounding drumming.
Also a sort of concave imaging on GL; more evened out on MyZic that spatially fills out more left to right. More convex imaging than GL.