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(My) First Impressions with Schiit Magni

post #1 of 22
Thread Starter 

Hey all,

 

This isn't scientific in any way, but I wanted to get down some of my impressions of my new Schiit Magni after a day of listening.  Most of what I'll be talking about is how the Magni works with my MSii+ and HE-500.  My other gear consists of an HD650, the FiiO E9, and the JDS O2.  I've been listening to Spotify high quality, 320 mbps mp3, and certain albums ripped into ALAC on iTunes.

 

First off, I think I've finally found an amp that does my HE-500 justice.  When I first got the HE-500 and jumped from the HD650, my impression was that although the HE-500 is much clearer, it collapsed the sound stage in a way that the HD650s (on either the E9 or O2) just didn't.  It also took me some time to adjust to the HE-500's lack of mid-bass hump that makes the HD650 such an enjoyable headphone.  I couldn't enjoy the O2 at all with the HE-500, as normal gain didn't drive them loud enough and increasing the gain caused them to clip.  I've since been told that I can improve the AC power source and that the O2 is a mismatch with my MSii+.  If I had it to do over again, I'd never have bought the O2 - I was set on getting a Schiit amplifier before I read about their early problems with blowing headphones before they added relay protections into their amps.  A lot of bad things were said about Schiit as a company by the O2 people and I found myself influenced by the 'objectivists' about how an amp should be a transparent 'wire with gain'.  I'd hoped that I'd get that with the O2, but the O2 totally failed to power my HE-500 and after a bit of time, my connection at the headphone plug-in degraded to where I had to adjust the cable to get both left and right to play correctly.

 

Since a common opinion of planar magnetics is that they have a reduced sound stage compared to the best dynamic drivers (HD800), I assumed that my collapsed sound stage was purely due to this tendency of planar magnetic headphones.  Another issue I had with the HE-500 is that they seemed to put me at an analytical distance from my music.  Where heads would bob and toes would tap on the HD650, no such unbidden movement occurred when listening with my HE-500.  Since the O2 was a no-go with the HE-500, I used them primarily with the E9.  The E9 did an admirable job driving them to appropriate listening volumes without clipping, the soundstage was still a cluttered mess.

 

With Schiit releasing the Magni at such a low price-point, I decided I just had to try to find a way to amplify these headphones better.  I wasn't sure, but I could sense that I wasn't getting all that I could out of them - and I have to say that after running them with the Magni, that impression was totally correct.

 

With the Magni, my HE-500 suddenly have a sound stage!  The HE-500 are clearer all around and the bass is very controlled.  Instruments have more of their own space and upon reflection, the E9 is actually a warm amp in comparison.  The Magni also induces a lot more head-bobbing and toe tapping (this is actually a bit of a danger to one's neck with the HE-500, but nonetheless, I can't resist!).  One of the best genres improved by the Magni has been, surprisingly, electronic music.  When I listen to BT or Infected Mushroom with the Magni, everything is just so crisp and clear that what I'd perceived to be a weakness of the HE-500 - that they resolve so well that they make the repetitive nature of sampled music sound bland compared to 'analog' music - has gone away.  Notes and instruments have more subtlety than I'd imagined and the improvement in energy (the toe-tapping effect) and sound-stage with clear instrument separation is allowing me to enjoy electronic music much more than I thought I could.

 

If there's a negative to the Magni, it's that it brings a bit of etching and transparency to indie music that isn't flattering to the way the albums are often recorded.  The warmth of the E9 can actually be a bit of a blessing in that it masks the flaws of the recordings better.

 

I've briefly sampled the Magni with the HD650 but I'm having difficulty separating the differences in transducers (and getting reacquainted with that mid-bass hump and relatively wallowing bass) enough to tell if the Magni is improving it.  A/B testing with the E9 is difficult because it's hard to find corresponding volumes.

 

I hope to add more later, but for now I just have to say that I'm delighted with this inexpensive amp!

post #2 of 22

I posted in a response in the massive MD thread, but that'll get buried, so here:

 

If your HRT Music Streamer ii+ is anything like the non-plus version, it puts out 2.25Vrms. On AC power, the O2's maximum gain = 7 / Vinput.  So a gain above ~3.1x is going to overload the input and clip.  The default gains from JDS (and most anywhere else) are usually set to 2.5x and 6.5x.  So high gain will definitely distort.  An O2 definitely gives you enough rope to hang yourself with (but not enough to hurt anything).
 
Now as to why 2.5x gain isn't enough...
 
JDS ships the WAU12-200 wall wart.  This is the default transformer listed for the O2, probably because it's cheaper (under $6) than the alternatives.
 
On the O2 details page, it states explicitly that if you plan to use power-hungry low impedance headphones (e.g. Hifiman planars), you should use a 14+VAC transformer at 400+mA.  Specifically, that means a WAU16-400 (16VAC, 400mA) is probably the ideal O2 transformer for the princely sum of almost $11.  You can use up to a 20VAC (with whatever current spec you can find) wall wart with the O2, but anything above a WAU16-400 is likely unnecessary.
 
I suspect running out of supply power is why the low gain is not loud enough for you.  An O2 with 2.5x gain from 2.25Vrms theoretically hits 118dB with HE-500, but I think you run out of (chip) power at around 117dB.
 
But you could eek out a bit more gain with resistor swaps if you need it.  Though, it could also be a faulty build, I suppose.
 
Personally, I found a 2Vrms source (Xonar STX) with 1x O2 gain was fine with HE-500.  Had I kept them, I probably would have bumped the gain to  1.5x, maybe 2x as I was getting a bit toward max volume.
post #3 of 22
Thread Starter 
I looked up WAU16-400 on Amazon - no power cables came up.

Would an upgraded power source improve the 'thin' sound of the O2 or will it just allow me to drive the HE-500 to appropriate volume?
Edited by disastermouse - 2/27/13 at 10:22am
post #4 of 22

It's probably only available through electronic supply houses (Mouser, Allied, Newark, etc).  The first google hit is Mouser.  The O2 Details page lists some other alternative ones too that might be available elsewhere.  Mouser is usually cheapest (even with shipping) when it comes to buying single DIY-type electronic parts.

 

Hitting the power limit is often described as "flat" or "boring", so maybe that is what you're hearing.  I know many people seem to think the O2 and Magni sound very similar.

 

I'd think for the output jack issues (and maybe adjusting the gain; a higher gain option is nice from a weak battery powered source, though) JDSLabs would take care of you if you shot them an email.

post #5 of 22

Thanks for your input - I ordered my Magni this morning and cannot wait to get it.

 

I am hoping it drives bass well............I'm used to double amping portable amps (E-11 into a ZO).

 

Now the wait begins..............don't you just hate waiting for a piece of equipment to arrive?!?!?!
 

post #6 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oregonian View Post

Thanks for your input - I ordered my Magni this morning and cannot wait to get it.

I am hoping it drives bass well............I'm used to double amping portable amps (E-11 into a ZO).

Now the wait begins..............don't you just hate waiting for a piece of equipment to arrive?!?!?!

 
It drives the HE-500 bass very well. I have no idea how it'll pair with your cans. I bought a ZO2 and hate it. It's collecting dust in a drawer somewhere.

It'll be interesting to hear what you think of the Magni.

Also, why do you double-amp?
post #7 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post



Also, why do you double-amp?

 

The sonic difference double amping was AMAZING............it has to be heard to be believed.  The depth of the sound and the bass at low volume levels is so good. 

post #8 of 22
Thread Starter 
Why should double amping be necessary? Is this a common practice in hi-fi?
post #9 of 22

No it is very uncommon. Poor practice, if you ask me. What you're essentially doing is adding gain where it is not needed. Also, to feed output of one amplifier into the input of another is totally backwards if you are seeking signal purity.

post #10 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by sunseeker888 View Post

No it is very uncommon. Poor practice, if you ask me. What you're essentially doing is adding gain where it is not needed. Also, to feed output of one amplifier into the input of another is totally backwards if you are seeking signal purity.
This is what I was thinking...but it's good to know that I'm not the only person who thinks this is a bit crazy.
post #11 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by disastermouse View Post


This is what I was thinking...but it's good to know that I'm not the only person who thinks this is a bit crazy.

 

Really?  A bit crazy?  Have you tried it and heard what it sounds like?  

 

Didn't think so.  

 

There are actually a number of us crazy people here........and we don't care what you think.   We know what we like and it sounds really good.  Great in fact. 

 

As the commercial said - try it, you'll like it.   You know, to each their own and all....


Edited by Oregonian - 3/1/13 at 2:02pm
post #12 of 22
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oregonian View Post

Really?  A bit crazy?  Have you tried it and heard what it sounds like?  

Didn't think so.  

There are actually a number of us crazy people here........and we don't care what you think.   We know what we like and it sounds really good.  Great in fact. 

As the commercial said - try it, you'll like it.   You know, to each their own and all....
I just think that the synergy of two cheap amps won't out-do one higher quality/capacity amp. You have to sources of coloration in your stream and you're doubling the noise. It SOUNDS crazy...but if it works for ya, have at it!
post #13 of 22

Not to mention that double amping adds several other problems, such as increasing the probability of clipping and increasing the noise floor.

post #14 of 22
Quote:
Originally Posted by hodgjy View Post

Not to mention that double amping adds several other problems, such as increasing the probability of clipping and increasing the noise floor.

Could one inadvertently overdrive the input circuit on their Amp and perhaps blow something out? I guess it depends on how much volume you are inputting, but it seems like it could be a bit dangerous if one wasn't careful. 

post #15 of 22

Often times, as is the case with Schiit Magni, the volume potentiometer is simply an input attenuator. All you'd notice is a lower volume-knob position for equal volume. Still, awful idea to " double-amp ". The novice will always realize their mistakes later on in this hobby.
 

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