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Asgard, Valhalla, or Lyr?

post #1 of 37
Thread Starter 

Full disclosure: I'm a complete noob gone dizzy from all the reading I've done around here recently and I need some advice. I've recently bought Grado SR80is and love them and listening to music this way, but, instead of leaving well enough alone - I want to buy an amp, dac, and step up the headphone ladder too. I like the idea of Schitt and want to begin by buying an amp and later maybe the Bifrost. I've heard the Asgard might be best for Grado's - but my question is - Does it make sense to over-buy a little bit at the start of this whole thing and step up to the Valhalla or Lyr? I'd like to know whether stepping up this way would give me greater flexibilty later on as I develop preferences? I get that spending more is usually better, but is this the right way to think about this kind of gear?



post #2 of 37
My 2 cents from a semi-noob:

The best purchase I made was my headphones, followed by headphone amp, last the DAC.

I have both the Asgard and the Valhalla and both will drive your headphones just fine. I have a tendency to recommend the Asgard. No replacement of tubes, lots of power to drive nearly anything, great sound. Depending on your headphones the amp can either offset their weakness or amplify their weak spots, so it depends a bit on which cans you will use.

The biggest impact are the headphones for sure. Then your sources, use high bitrate mp3s or lossless file formats and switch off all "enhancements" from your (software)players.

DACs. Here it gets interesting. In 3 months I gathered 3. From nearly $500 to $30. The difference is absolutely minimal with good sources and via spdif out from your source (optical or coax).

I think a DAC is definitively an improvement to inboard sound cards, but don't overspend in this area. Will I buy the schist bifrost? Very likely, but don't ask for the reason, I don't think I will really be able to hear a huge improvement to what I have because the differences are so small.

Hope that helps,

So again, headphone, source, amp, DAC would be the priority for me.
post #3 of 37
Thread Starter 

Thanks K, that does help. I'm leaning toward getting the Asgard and possibly Grado SR325is. The whole DAC thing is really confusing. I like the idea of having both the Asgard and the Bifrost for symmetry's sake, but paying more for the DAC than the amp just feels weird. 

With your DAC experience, is there something in the $100 range that you'd recommend? Thanks again.

post #4 of 37

I think the Asgard will do just fine for the Grado 325is. I use the Lyr with Alessandro headphones based on the Grados and in terms of power it's like overkill :)

post #5 of 37

Well if you don't currently own planar-magnetic phones like the audeze lcd-2 or hifiman he-6 (or a popular t50rp variation like a 'thunderpants') then the Lyr is definitely out. Even still, getting someone to build the DIY cavalli compact tube hybrid is likely a better choice for an ortho.


It's my understanding that the valhalla was voiced with the k701, and it follows that as such they would sound better on phones with a higher nominal impedance than a grado, ideally maybe even a k701!

The schiit guys like the grados with the asgard. Personally, having heard grados and senn hd650s on both, I think you can't go wrong either way.

Here's what you should be asking yourself:

1.) Are you going to want to replace tubes sometime down the line?

2.) Do you prefer neutral and analytical sound with lots of energy, bass, and treble or do you prefer something a little more euphonic, but possibly rolled off, a bit colored mids and laid back. I know that's painting the solid state vs. tube distinction with a very broad brush but until you get up above at least $1000 that's about what we're dealing with, and the sonic differences between the schiit models are not quite as pronounced as the picture that i've painted, but you get the idea.


As for the dac question, what is your source? It's possible that you can hold off on the DAC purchase for a while. Save yourself some cash for the next round of upgraditis.

post #6 of 37
Thread Starter 

All of this is very helpful guys - thanks. I've been listening straight out of an imac, a macbook pro, and a classic 120g ipod. Down to the Asgard or Valhalla - but my inclination is to take a breather here and take some time to learn and figure out exactly what it is I do like. The Asgard seems like a very sensible place to start and wait a bit on the DAC if I can.

post #7 of 37

I have the Asgard and it works well with my RS2s but I did not notice any difference between the 250 dollar Asgard and the 130 dollar E9.


The Asgard may work better with other cans than the E9, but I don’t think the midrange grados really need too much power.



post #8 of 37

I have heard all three Schiit amps as well as Grados.

For pairing with the SR80, I'd say go with the Asgard.

About your question about buying "more" amp than you currently need, I'd say look at the importance of the elements in your rig.

1) Music

2) Transport

3) DAC

4) Amp

5) Headphones

The sound will be as good as the weakest link in the chain.

So assuming like most of us you have a fixed budget, if you overspend on say an amp, it means you will underspend on another item which will become the bottleneck in your rig.

Now add to that the problem of synergy between the different elements in your rig and going the upgrade route becomes really treaky.

Let's say you get a good tube amp that works with low impedance headphones like the SR80 but later decide to upgrade to a 600 ohms Beyerdynamic DT880, you'll then be stuck with a useless amp that you'll need to change.

I think you'll be happier in your headfier's journey if you try to get a balanced rig where every elements plays to its fullest.

In your case, I'd choose headphones first because they are likely to give the biggest coloration to your sound.

Then try to spilt your budget half and half between amp and DAC and choose an amp that pairs well with your headphones and the most neutral DAC possible.

I assume you already have the transport and the music (upgrading to lossless from MP3 goes without saying).

post #9 of 37



Originally Posted by acticulated View Post


It's my understanding that the valhalla was voiced with the k701 […]


I’ve read this too on the Schiit website, but my experience in using the K701 with the Valhalla was not very pleasing. Above a certain volume level distorsions where audible. Due to the rather low voltage of ≈ 1.2 V delivered by my DAC’s line-out, the headphone amplifier’s volume knob usually has to be placed somewhere between the 2 and 3 o’clock position. I do know that these are different headphones, but when using my Beyerdynamic DT 990/600 Ω with the Valhalla there are no distorsions to be heard, even if the amplifier’s volume dial is in the maximum position.


At least with my setup it looks as if the Valhalla works better with high impedance headphones. Guess the Lyr would be the better match for the 62 Ω AKG K701.



Edited by wberghofer - 7/2/11 at 3:07am
post #10 of 37



My opinion: your macs have great audio outs. The Asgard is a great addition and if you want to buy a DAC you can do 2 things:


1) buy the fiio D3, costs you $30 and does a fantastic job. It features Wolfson 8805 chips to convert optical spdif to rca that you can input directly into the Asgard. I have the D3 and it rocks, couldn't find meaningful difference to the icon HDP (for nearly $500) as DAC or the E7 as DAC. Your iMac and MacBookPro both have mini-toslink optical out (which gets automatically activated when you put a mii-toslink cable in the headphone out). Voila!


2) buy the fiio E7 plus L7, with that you can utilize the E7 Wolfson 8740 DAC and connect via USB. The Amp on the E7 is good but not great. Plus you can use the E7 as combined DAC/Amp when you are traveling with your MBP. Costs $110


You can use the E7 as well as portable DAC/Amp when you travel with your MBP.


I would prefer 1) the optical connection is great as it disconnects any powertransfer from Mac to Amp. And it's dirt cheap as well. 


If you can try more expensive DACs and IF (and thats a big IF) you find quality differences, you can replace the D3. However I doubt it. the amp is more important in this regard...


That's exclusively my own opinion, YMMW. Am currently using the Schiit Valhalla with an D3 in the office and the HDP with Asgard at home.

I connected all DACs to all amps (Asgard, Valhalla, icon HDP) the amps made an audible difference that was quite easy to spot, the DACs did not or it was so microscopic that it's not really worth mentioning or I could even be just my imagining it.


However, you can't go wrong with the Asgard. 


If I would have to re-buy any of my gear I would buy exactly this setup: Asgard and D3. Done. $280 plus tax and shipping. Maybe I would upgrade to a Lyr with the money I saved on the DAC :-)

Edited by Koolpep - 7/1/11 at 2:20pm
post #11 of 37
Thread Starter 

That sounds great K - I think I'll do this, get the Asgard and just see how I like it. If you don't mind, could you tell me exactly what cable I need to buy to run out of the headphone out to the d3? I see Amazon has some pretty cheap toslink cables on the fiios d3 page - are these what I need and does it matter how much I spend on this cable?

Edited by franconero - 7/1/11 at 3:17pm
post #12 of 37

You need a mini-toslink to toslink cable.


Just put this in the Amazon search box: mini toslink cable


And you will find plenty of options starting at $2.50 (I splashed out nearly $10 for the cable to go version haha)


Alternatively you can buy any toslink cable and get a mini-toslink adapter for $1


the mini toslink is shaped like a normal headphone jack and the other end like an optical connector. You macs will automatically switch to "optical mode" and you can see that reflected in the settings. Make sure the cable is properly inserted. Can be a bit more resistance the first time.

Edited by Koolpep - 7/1/11 at 11:30pm
post #13 of 37

You should definitely check out this review out from Headfonia. I think it would help answer all your questions about the Schiit amps.



post #14 of 37
Thread Starter 

Thanks for the heads up. That about seals it - Asgaard it is.

post #15 of 37
At least with Schiit products you get a 15 day trial period, just make sure you give it as much time as you can before you return it if that is the decision. A lot of things in hi-fi are only appreciated after long exposure to the better method, then you take it out and listen how you were before and the effect is quite dramatic. If you start out constantly switching back and forth you may not notice much of a difference.
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