I'm currently in Singapore, and had a chance to visit 2 stores selling headphone amps today, including the Magnum at Jaben. There were so many options to audition, it was a little overwhelming.
My Portable rig: iPod touch, Silver LOD, Livewires IEM
Apple Lossless Test tracks from: Diana Krall, Crystal Method, Inger Marie, Yoshida Brothers, Coldplay.
I was handed a brand new black Magnum at Jaben. The fit and finish is indeed nicer than any pictures on this forum depict. Surface is pretty grippy and not slippery. Case doesn't creak or rattle, knobs fit well. Lettering clear but not flashy. With the iPod touch on top, the combination fits nicely in my hand. I used to own a Tomahawk, and it was a little to slim to grip firmly.
My LOD has a Switchcraft plug and it fits firmly in the input jack. There's enough separation between the jacks and volume knob to accommodate the Switchcraft plug and larger miniplugs. On the Petite, I can't use a Switchcraft plug because the jack is too close to the volume knob. No such problem with the Magnum.
With the iPod on top, it is easy to access the volume knob, but the bass control dial is a little difficult to access if you have big fingers. Not much of a problem for the power and gain switches.
Upon turning on the Magnum, the power switch has a nice red glow. No thud or crackle upon working the switches or bass dial.
I started with a medium gain and the bass control knob somewhere in the middle. Starting with Diana Krall and Inger Marie, the amp really brought out the vocals nicely, and the acoustic instruments had a nice musicality. Not quite as smooth as the iBasso P2 I auditioned at a different store today, but the difference between the iPod headphone jack and the Magnum is not subtle. Also, that P2 was burned-in. There is also a clarity to the instruments the Magnum amp seems to bring out.
The bass control dial makes listening to Crystal Method and Coldplay much more fun with the Livewires. The bass doesn't boom like it would with my SF 5EB, but it definitely adds that lower end kick that makes the Livewires more fun with electronic music. Shuffling through various tracks on my iPod, some portions do make the bass sound a little muddy with the bass control dial set at the highest - easily corrected, but this was not a problem on the P2 on the highest bass setting.
The amp probably hasn't been burned-in, and I find the Magnum a little too bright at times. Let me explain. The gain selector seems to make a noticeable difference in the sound signature of the Magnum. With certain tracks, the gain selector at medium makes the amp sound a little too bright, with the gain at low, the brightness goes away, but then with certain tracks, the bass gets muddy at the maximum bass setting.
So it seems that you have a choice of equalization, so to speak. Want your music a little crisp and bright? Set the gain to Med and crank up the bass. A little to bright for your taste? Then set the gain to Low and turn down the bass. However, on low gain, turning the bass control dial seems to change how the vocals sound - I felt that turning the bass too low can make the vocals a little distant.
Did not listen to the amp on Hi gain much - it would deafen me with the Livewires.
I could not A/B the amp section of the Magnum and the P2 as the P2 was at a different store. But Jaben is nice enough to let you compare it with any other amp(s) of your choice - Head-Fi Heaven!!! I asked for a HeadAmp AE-2 (just for the heck of it) and a Ray Samuels Predator and they happily brought that out to me. If only there was a place like this in California. Sigh... Skylab could probably do his entire review at this store. Wilson has everything from Yuins to AKG K1000s, $50 amps to high-end tube amps (no Stax, unfortunately - that's another store a few doors away).
Anyway, to make a long story short, the HeadAmp AE-2 sounds more smooth and silky, but without the authoritative bass of the Magnum. The difference between the Magnum and the Predator was more subtle. Personally, the bass control on the Magnum worked out better for electronic music with the Livewires (with the limitation of a muddy bass on some tracks at the highest bass setting).
I hope to return to Jaben if I have the time with my laptop to try out the DAC, but thought I should audition the amp section first as I would not consider it if the amp was found wanting no matter what DAC was in it.
From the little time I spent with the Magnum, I think it is definitely worth considering. From what I heard today, it makes using an iPod that much more sweet in a nice package. The Magnum will appeal to those looking for a portable amp with a DAC that allows you to somewhat tailor the sound to your taste - a feature (intentional with the Bass control, perhaps incidental with the sound-signature change with changing the gain) missing in the Predator or iBasso D2. The Magnum seems to straddle the line between neutrality and coloration.
I have my iBasso D1 with me, and if I have the time, will return to Jaben with my laptop to try out the DAC portion of the Magnum. Maybe by then, there'll be a little more burn-in to this sweet little amp.