Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Official Schiit Asgard 2 Beta Test Impressions
New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:

Official Schiit Asgard 2 Beta Test Impressions

post #1 of 16
Thread Starter 

Review of Schiit Asgard 2: preliminary thoughts after one weekend of beta testing

 


I was recently sent a new production, slightly modified Schiit Asgard 2 for beta testing.  I’ve been an owner of the Asgard 1 for some time, and I went through two earlier Asgard 2s.  The two Asgard 2s were sent back to due pretty loud transformer hum and a high noise floor, even when using low gain.


My reference system is a Trafomatic Head One with a Musical Fidelity V-DAC II powered by a V-PSU II.  With my HD600, this system is as good as it gets for me.  My search is largely over.  However, despite how good the Trafomatic is, it doesn’t drive my DT990s to their maximum potential.  This is where I use the Asgard 1 extensively.  The Asgard 1 drives them very well, and better than the Trafomatic. When I first read the specs of the Asgard 2, I immediately wanted it because the higher voltage, at least on paper, would benefit the DT990s.  


When I audition amps, I don’t have an elaborate A/B method.  However, I do have a set procedure that works for me.  I listen to a few albums I know very well using both my DT990/600 ohm and HD600.  That’s it.  Then, I record my notes and impressions.


I’ve had the Asgard 2 for three days now, and I’m in a good position to describe the amp.  My chain remained the same, except for swapping in the Asgard 2 for the Trafomatic.  The amp might burn in some more and mature a little, but I have a good feel for its flavor at this point.


Initial impressions?  For starters, the transformer hum is gone. Completely. Even more silent than the Asgard 1.  The transformer has been redesigned according to Jason. Secondly, the noise floor is also much lower when using low impedance, high sensitivity headphones. I'm not sure as to the cause, or the remedy of the noise floor, but it is a welcomed addition. It appears that Schiit fixed these complaints with flying colors.

 

Whenever I seriously test out an amp, I make sure I use my DT990/600s.  When they are under-driven, the bass bloats and loses control, the sound stage collapses, the treble gets etched and aggressive, sibilance becomes more apparent, and the overall sound loses focus and proper imaging.  In other words, they sound bad and not very pleasing.

 

When using the Asgard 2, the DT990s sound fantastic.  The sound is musical, open, textured, smooth, detailed, smooth, and in control.  The bass runs deep, but never bloats.  It is precise and textured. The bass runs deeper on the Asgard 2 than the Asgard 1.  The treble is sweet, yet detailed. The Asgard 1 had some high frequency roll off, but it was not objectionable. The Asgard 2 does not have the same roll off, but it is still a pleasing combo with the treble-happy DT990s.  The amp never loses focus or control, which when driving the DT990s, is a major accomplishment. Overall, the Asgard 2 sounds very musical and engaging. It maintains the house Asgard 1 sound, but does it better. If I was to grade on a shifting, standard school scale of how well the Asgards drive the DT990s, I'd say the now end-of-line Asgard 1 is about a B+ and the Asgard 2 is an A- or an A.

 

I make sure I always play the same two “difficult” albums when auditioning amps.  As a reference point, the Trafomatic has no problem with these two albums. The Asgard 1 was very good with them, but it did have some trouble maintaining bass texture and also experienced a little wonky imaging in the high treble region. Other amps I've owned have had their problems with these two albums.

 

With these albums, the Woo 3 can sound woolly and congested at times.  My various iPods also struggle with them when driving low impedance, high sensitivity headphones. When I briefly had the HiFiMan EF-5, that amp had moderate success, but was still a step behind the Trafomatic. You could argue tube rolling, but that's neither here nor there. Bottom line, of all the amps I've auditioned to this point, only the Trafomatic passed when playing these two difficult albums.


The first is Big Head Todd and the Monsters’ “Sister Sweetly.”  This album has one of the most textured and detailed bass arrangements I have ever heard in an indie rock recording.  Lesser amps do not showcase the complexity and texture.  They don’t dig deep enough and often blur the notes and tones together.  Lesser amps have poor decay and PRAT on the bass lines.  The Asgard 2 nailed the bass lines with absolute precision.  The other voices on the album aren’t very complex, so I only use this album to measure an amp’s ability to handle intricate lower registers. In fact, when using the DT990s, the Asgard 2 dug deeper into the bass nether regions than the Trafomatic. That is certainly a statement.


The second album is Brian Eno and David Byrne’s “Everything that Happens Will Happen Today.”  Over the radio, some of these songs don’t sound very complex.  However, when using headphones fed a good source, the songs are very complex.  There are all sorts of background sounds and images characteristic of both Talking Heads and Brian Eno.  Lesser amps lose focus and can blur the sounds together. The imaging can lack.  When the DT990s are under-amped while playing this album, very bad things happen.  The Asgard 2 and DT990 combo was marvelous while playing album.  I try to avoid hyperbole and superlative descriptions, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard this album sound better when using the DT990s. Overall, the Asgard 2 outperformed the Trafomatic when driving them. It was extremely open, detailed, and musical.  All of the intricacies came together in a very pleasing manner.  I never got bored with it, and I can get bored with an album if it loses imaging.


So, in the end, the problems of the earlier Asgard 2s have been fixed.  The Asgard 2 is a definite step up from the Asgard 1.  It is a very good amp.  At this point, I suggest that it has passed its beta test.  I’m going to listen to it for a longer time to see if things change, but I seriously doubt that I will have to revise my strong recommendation.  Those who are waiting for the Asgard 2 to ship will be very happy with this finished product.

 

In the coming days (and hopefully weeks if I'm allowed to keep the test amp longer), I will record my impressions when using the HD600s. The Asgard 1 did very well with the HD600s, but the Trafomatic was a step up. I will see if the Asgard 2 can close this gap.

 

 


Edited by hodgjy - 4/15/13 at 8:44am
post #2 of 16

Great review hodjy.  Given your track record with the A2 you're a good choice for the beta test.  Sounds like it's performing as it should.

post #3 of 16

Very nice review, Jay. Glad to hear the hum issue has been fixed. Now you can get back to enjoying some Schiit. 

post #4 of 16

Good write-up.  Glad they got to the bottom of it.  Still lovin' my Asgard 2 rev 1...gs1000.gif

post #5 of 16

Do you know if there is going to be a way to tell if any given Asgard2 is the newer 'repaired' version or the older pre-fix amp? Something in the serial number or a sticker ect. Just wondering if one were to buy one used how would you know which one you were buying?

post #6 of 16

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jay. Really nice write up and it sounds like Schiit have done a good job ironing out a lot of the kinks smily_headphones1.gif

 

Whilst my HD600's sound okay with my O2 amp there's just something missing for me so I'm considering the A2 (or possibly a Lyr), so really keen to hear how you get on!


Edited by jellofund - 4/16/13 at 1:03am
post #7 of 16

Interesting. My Asgard 2 has a bit of hum, but not enough for me to care. Hopefully if I do in the future I can send it in as the warranty is so long.

 
Quote:
Originally Posted by jellofund View Post

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Jay. Really nice write up and it sounds like Schiit have done a good job ironing out a lot of the kinks smily_headphones1.gif

 

Whilst my HD600's sound okay with my O2 amp there's just something missing for me so I'm considering the A2 (or possibly a Lyr), so really keen to hear how you get on!

 

The Asgard 2 is great with my HD600s

post #8 of 16
Thread Starter 

I've done some more extensive A/B (which I normally don't do) to further compare the Asgard 2 to the Trafomatic when driving the HD600.

 

Now, these two amps aren't even in similar price brackets by any margin, so it's not a fair comparison.  But, it's what I have on hand to work with, so it is what it is.

 

In terms of tonality, they are very similar.  The main differences (although very slight in magnitude) lie in detail retrieval, bass deepness, mid-tones, and high frequencies.  Some results were completely expected, but some were very unexpected.

 

Both amps are very linear and don't over or under emphasize any particular tone (except for the highs, see below).

 

The Trafomatic, being a tube amp, has some mid-tone tube romance that the Asgard simply cannot.  Because of this, the Trafomatic is slightly better with vocals.

 

The Trafomatic has better detail retrieval.  Not much more, but more.  Because of the better detail retrieval, the Trafomatic feels a little less blurred and stuffy, but not a lot different.  Sound stage is pretty similar.  I'd probably fail a blind test on sound stage if all other factors were equal.

 

The Asgard has more high frequency roll off.  This one surprised me.  But, the Trafomatic is running some very good tubes that are extremely linear.  Maybe it shouldn't be that much of a surprise since the Asgard 1 also had some roll off.  But, the Asgard 2 has less roll off than the Asgard 1.  Many people will find the slight roll off to be pleasing.  But, don't be too worried about this.  The roll off is slight.

 

Bass on the Asgard goes deeper and is more controlled.  It is not as textured, but it goes deeper and has more authority.  Bass heads will love this.  

 

So, there you have it.  These are extreme nitpicks between two very differently priced amps.  The Trafomatic goes for $1700 these days, and the Asgard goes for $250.  The difference in price does not translate into the same level of differences in sound.

 

Bottom line, the Asgard 2 is a bloody good amp.  It hangs right in there with an amp costing almost 7 times more.  It's not a fair comparison on paper, but the Asgard 2 is right there at the end.  It hangs in there and comes very close.  I have no doubts that the Asgard 2 will obliterate other amps in the same price range, or even many amps in the sub-$1000 category.  At the end of the day, the Trafomatic is better, as it should be, but not $1450 better.  We pay big bucks for small improvements.  Such is the nature of this hobby.

 

Schiit has pulled off some serious lightning in a bottle with this one.

 

Addendum:

 

The Asgard 2 is better all around than the Asgard 1.  It is more refined, yet more musical.  It closed the gap between the Asgard 1 and the Trafomatic.

 

The $250 Asgard is dangerously close in performance to amps costing many times more than it.  I don't know how they got this sound into an amp costing what it does (see below for other comparisons).

 

I can declare the Asgard 2 as a better amp, all around, than the Woo 3.  It bests it in every category.  It makes the Woo 3 sound wooly, confined, and smeared in comparison.  The Asgard has better detail retrieval and sound stage.  The Woo 3 has the tube romance, but still cannot overtake the Asgard 2. And the Woo 3 was running the mighty TS-5998 power tube.

 

I'm working from memory, but the Asgard 2 undoubtedly is better than the HiFiMan EF-5 on all counts as well.  

 

As I stated earlier, I try to avoid hyperbole and superlative descriptions, but this is some seriously good Schiit.


Edited by hodgjy - 4/16/13 at 6:29pm
post #9 of 16
Thread Starter 

 Addendum 2:

 

I was asked to beta test the Asgard 2.  It turned into a multi-amp comparison, which may or may not have defeated the purpose of the beta test.  So, anyway, let me specifically address the points of the beta test.

 

The amp has zero transformer hum.

 

The amp has a low noise floor.

 

The amp has no cosmetic blemishes.  It is pristine.

 

The amp sounds excellent.  It does nothing wrong and does so many things just right.

 

There is nothing wrong with the amp that I can find.  It is a solid piece of equipment manufactured to high standards.

post #10 of 16

Given your track record with the A2 you're a good choice for the beta test.

 

______________________
Purchase the most wonderful buy dvd online series and shows at a lower price but high quality.
 

post #11 of 16

awesome review, nicely written! 

 

the dt 990 is a very nice headphone when properly driven, sounds like the asgard 2 does just that! 

post #12 of 16
Excellent news, this answers a lot of questions.
post #13 of 16

I suppose the question I might ask is how does the Asgard 2 v2 compare to the v1 in terms of sound enjoyment?

post #14 of 16
Thread Starter 

Both are extremely enjoyable.  From a technical standpoint, the A2 is the better amp.  If you're a techy gearhead like I am, that will always be in the back of the mind.

 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sanlitun View Post

I suppose the question I might ask is how does the Asgard 2 v2 compare to the v1 in terms of sound enjoyment?

post #15 of 16

Actually I am curious about how you see the Asgard 2 you have now as compared to the Asgard 2's that you had returned?

 

I have one of those early Asgard 2's and for now its sitting on the shelf.

New Posts  All Forums:Forum Nav:
  Return Home
  Back to Forum: Headphone Amps (full-size)
Head-Fi.org › Forums › Equipment Forums › Headphone Amps (full-size) › Official Schiit Asgard 2 Beta Test Impressions