Pros: Wonderful instrument focus and separation, spacious soundstage, mid-bass slam and solidity like I've never heard before.
Cons: Front led light a little too bright.
First my bias: I am a jaded audiophile for over 20 years who still use my Linn Sondek with Lyra Helikon and all tube Conrad Johnson phono stage and preamp; writing this because it's rare that such a modest and inexpensive product has been so much fun to use for me. This company deserves all the success that will come its way. My first choice is always tube but because this amp is going to be on my desk with all sort of loose things and paper that may cover it up accidentally, I opt for the solid state Schiit.
I use this with 3 in-ear earphones, Shure E3C, Etymotic ER6i, VSonic GR07, and one over-ear headphone, Grado SR80. The amp is fed by my beloved Centrance Dacport. The Centrance Dacport itself is a combination DA converter and headphone amp and as such could be used to feed my earphone directly. In effect I will be comparing Centrance vs. Centrance + Asgard 2. Music is lossless, some straight digital, some conversion from my LP collection.
The amp is *solidly* built and feels so much more sturdy than its humble $250 cost. I love the feel of quality of the volume control - solid and smooth. There is no audible whatsoever through my headphone/earphone. The transformer has a hum only if I have my ear right pressed against the surface of the amp; it is a non issue and I wouldn't even know to listen had I not read about this on the forum. The amp feels very warm to the touch - almost as hot as my Krell FPB 600 LOL (I love it - this implies class A amplification!). Those who own Krell, Classe, etc., I don't need to explain more. Those new to audiophilia: high end power amp runs hot like this - absolutely normal and a sign of high voltage and/or high current. Good stuffs for your phone drivers .
To keep things in proper context, I obviously will not compare the Asgard with my main digital gear through all-tube Conrad Johnson ART preamp, but will concentrate on the improvement of sound over my desktop/laptop computers/ Ipod, and more specifically the Centrance Dacport. The Asgard has a detailed full-range sound typical of a good solid state amp, with hefty bass and wonderful instrument focus and separation. The high frequency does have an extra "sparkle" to it, typical of solid state amplification and unlike the sweet yet still detailed high end of tube amp. This extra sparkle means the Asgard is great if you are a detail freak, but may not be a good match for brighter sounding headphones.
So, with respect to perceived frequency response, a notable difference is higher up on the frequency range, the Centrance is a sweet and mellow, whereas Asgard is brighter and more detailed. Which one you would prefer is a matter of personal preference and headphone matching. At the low end of the spectrum, the Asgard's mid bass is nice and full, yet still very tuneful, not bloated. The solid bass provides a solid foundation to the sound. Here, clearly Asgard is better than Centrance.
Regarding soundstage, as great a product the Centrance is, it really could not compete with a dedicated amp that has a significantly more hefty power supply like the Asgard. When I switch from Centrance to Asgard, the soundstage becomes noticeably more spacious. Voice and instruments become separated in space instead of flattened together in one layer. It's a very pleasant effect and makes headphone audio that much more fun. Singers sound "bigger," more like a real voice and less "miniature" through Asgard (vs. Centrance).
With respect to earphone/headphone matching:
Asgard + Grado SR80i: the Grado has a lot of sparkle on top, so although it doesn't bother me, I would think a tube amp would be a better match. But then I have a bias for tube stuffs and always recommend tubes to anyone new to audiophilia (there are tube equipments in both of my main audio system - CJ pre for both Krell+Thiel, and VTL+ Magnaplanar). Bottom line is audio about matching and preference: if you are into sweet, mellow sound, best to look for a tube amp for Grado. Those into detailed high end and bass slam, this combination of Asgard + Grado would be fine.
Asgard + VSonic GR07: a match made in heaven, solid, powerful, punchy, detailed, spacious. Bring on all the audiophilia cliche here. This is a highest recommendation, without hesitation.
I am so impressed with the quality of this Schiit that I am tempted to try other products in their line, for example those yummy tube amps (...if I have the space, the wife is not going to be pleased if I have a tube amp next to my laptop on our dinner table). I wish Schiit all the success; they deserve it.