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Schiit Mjolnir - Reviews and Impressions Collected

  1. ardilla

    There are presently two reviews of the Schiit Mjolnir available. I am sure more will follow, but until then, this wiki may serve as a resource for people trying to get an idea about this product
    1) Schiit Mjolnir Review by Purrin  HERE

    I figured I’d write a proper review of the Mjolnir since “Mjolnir = WIN, EPIC” doesn’t exactly cut it. I’ll keep it short. I hate writing these things, since differences between amps are so much more subtle than that of headphones. I’ve had the Mjolnir long enough now to be sure of my impressions (and have them even out over different listening sessions and moods.)

    Let me start with the “laid back” vs. “assertive” thing. Some amps are more laid-back others are more forward, aggressive, or let’s assertive. Forward may imply headstage, aggressive may imply something that’s unlistenable. So I am using the term assertive. The list below is copied directly from a HF post of mine with some minor changes:

    “WTF SKYLAB” (Skylab, if you read this, please don’t take this personally!)
      Leben CS300
      Burson HA-160
      AMB B22 2ch DIY build
      AMB B22 4ch (various)
      DNA Stratus (with Chinese tubes)
      BHA-1 (after 2 months burn-inhard to tell, keeps changing)
      Eddie Current S7 (with Anax's tube set)
      Eddie Current BA (with the current tubes I'm running)
      Schiit Mjolnir
      Apex Arete
      Apex Peak
      Matrix Quattro Amp

    I put a “.” as a marker to indicate a little jump. Take the above list with a grain of salt. It is very general and doesn’t consider specific or nuanced qualities of each amp. It should be noted that these conclusions were arrived at by making sure the tube amps were turned on for at least one hour and the solid-state amps were on for at least four hours. It seems the longer the Mjolnir is on, the smoother and more involving it sounds. This differences were arrived at using the BA as a reference. I will let Anax corroborate such wild claims if he so chooses.

    My personal preference is toward the the “assertive” sounding amps. I don’t like sleepy or overly polite sounding gear. As we can see, I’ve put the Mjolnir on the more assertive sounding side of amps. Hence the Six-Moonish-esque phrase I coined: “dogmatically vigilant”. As Anax mentioned, the Mjolnir is like going to a rock concert, it’s going to keep you awake. It’s dogmatic, because it’s not going to gooooo the **** out of your HD800 into something it was never meant to be in the first place.

    Now why would I care about the Mjolnir if I already had the BA? Well, however great the BA is at the spacious, openness, and micro-dynamic thing, it’s not perfect. Being a tube amp, the bass is always going to be a little bit rounded. Some tube aficionados may not hear this weakness, but others such as myself do. Ultimately, the point is that my version of the BA (PX4 or the modified PX25 version) still has a hint of that bass roundedness. Measured harmonic distortion for my BA at 0.5V into a 50ohm load at 100Hz is about 0.25%. Hardly bad for a tube amp. But I hear it.

    As a quick side note, the Arete/Peak had excellent bass control and were super clean, but those amps were just a bit too assertive and etched for my taste. They also worked poorly with high sensitivity headphones like the W3000ANV because of noise. I feel the Arete/Peak are best matched with DACs which I feel are on the gooey side. It comes as no surprise to me that Todd at TTVJ owns one of these DACs as his reference. That being said, a few people who I know and respect love the Arete and Peak.

    In terms of the combination of clean, explosive, powerful, extended, and controlled bass, the Mjolnir is only bettered by the Dynahi. The Dynahi has slightly more oomph and sounds more relaxed while doing it. If I get a chance, I’ll measure the Mjolnir and Dynahi bass distortion the same way as I did the BA. I bet the bass distortion results will be incredibly clean.

    The final tuning of the production Mjolnir is shifted it down a notch from the assertive side found what I heard at T.H.E SHOW. As it currently is, the stock HD800's sound should range from slightly annoying to incredibly annoying. That’s because the stock HD800 does sound slightly annoying to incredibly annoying! Only the Burson HA160 makes the HD800 OK, but at great cost in other technicalities. Everything else I threw on it was superb (see headphone list at bottom.)

    So all else aside, why I do love this amp? Because it sounds so involving. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but Jason supposedly said something along the lines that the Mjolnir is an amp that makes him not miss tubes. I wish he hadn’t said it so I could have said it first. I got my first hint of this, not at The Village Meet (the Mjolnir at that meet was supposedly just assembled the night before and it sounded bassy as hell, all over the place, and pretty much like ****), but at T.H.E. SHOW in Irvine, CA. (Kudos to Schiit for having real music available, and not that audiophile guitar instrumental garbage. Death to audiophiles who like audiophile music!) What struck me then was how involving the Mjolnir (+ Gungnir) was to me. It’s the kind of effect that makes us want to keep listening and not put the headphone down.

    When I compared to the BA ($4000 + modified + $2000 vintage DHTs, if you can find them), the BA still renders those those micro-details and microdynamics better, and still has better instantaneous-dynamic-constrast and speed, etc. These aspects of sound reproduction are what constitutes “involvement” for me and what I hear in the best full tube amps such as the BA or HEV90. The fact that the Mjolnir, a solid-state amp at $750 can bring significant hints of this “emotional involvement” effect to the table, is simply amazing. Anax, who is not as familiar with the amp as I, having had a good listen to the Mjolnir (with the BA next to it), during our HD800 mod experiments, finally recognized: “Now I understand why you like it.” 

    I shouldn’t forget to point out that when I picked up the Mjolnir from the post office, I kept the headphones on until past midnight (taking a small break to help put the kids to bed... err, I think I just ignored the rest of my family that day). Those who know me know that I simply don’t do that with gear that sounds like **** or even merely OK. I know, I know, many HF's get all pissed off when people like me dismiss **** after 10 seconds. But then again, I've heard it all, I've built speakers that kick the **** out of 90% of the overpriced the crap at T.H.E. SHOW. I'm sure it doesn't take Michael Shumacher or JPM to figure out in 10 seconds that the chassis of race car is gonna be ****.

    Up to now, I’ve hated most solid-state amps because I’ve found them too flat sounding and too compromised on the involvement factor. This is interesting because more than a few knowledgeable folks have opined that this is not necessarily a tube vs. solid-state thing, but rather a topology thing. Heck, I’ve done enough experiments and amp mods myself to know that up to a certain point (like when the amp is going to explode) less feedback equates to better sound but worse measurements. Maybe it’s this circlotron circuit thing at work?

    So basically, the the Mjolnir and Dynahi are currently my favorite solid-state amps, with me giving the Mjolnir an edge because its presentation suites my preferences.

    Misc Stuff:
    DAC: PWD2 firmware 2.02 USB and coax from PC, NativeX, Auto Filter
    Other Amps: ECBA TS BGRP + Osram PX25, KG Dynahi, Bryston BHA-1
    Other References: T2DIY + STAX SR007 / HE Audio Jade (modified, but falling apart)
    Headphones: HE400, HE500, HE5, W3000ANC, HP1000, LCD2r2 (B Grade), 13 different mods of the HD800
    IC Cables: Whatever I could find.
    Power Cables: Eat my shorts.

    P.S. Make sure you use a DAC with real balanced differential outputs. (Lots of audiophile CD players tend to cheap out and use opamp phase splitters for the balanced outs.) This amp will actually make use of the differential outputs. It's actually got a 4-gang potentiometer.
    2) Schiit Mjolnir vs Bryston BHA-1 by Maxvla HERE

     I'm pressed for time these days, so this will be brief compared to my previous review (Mid-fi shootout), my apologies.
    Here we have a pair of solid state balanced amplifiers, the first entry in the headphone space for the speaker amp stalwart Bryston and the latest in a string of hits from Schiit. New to me, as well, is the Schiit Gungnir, their second DAC, the first balanced. As such, I took plenty of time (over 2 weeks) letting them play in, and getting used to their sounds. All the gear you see in the picture above now has over 300 hours of play eliminating any burn in issues. I've been on a quest lately to explore solid state after having been strictly tubes since returning to Head-fi in 2009, and these are the latest in pick ups. As most of you know, I have no stake in the outcome of any product and call it as I hear it. I approach any gear with as little bias as possible, giving each piece the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps it's a piece that's been dogged on here and has to prove it's not, but on the other side are pieces that are lauded that have to prove to me they are worthy of that praise. I've been surprised many times both ways and have learned the 'clean-slate' approach works best. To date I have to admit I have not been impressed with any of the Schiit amps I've heard at meets, but firmly believed that would change with the Mjolnir and it has indeed. The Bifrost is an excellent entry DAC, that, next to the Gungnir, shows it's price tag, but still is the DAC to beat at it's price range. The Gungnir takes the strengths of the Bifrost and fills them out. The Bifrost is a clean neutral DAC, though not overly resolving. The bass is tight, well controlled, and the mids are exceptional. Compared to my old Cambridge DACMagic the Bifrost was an order of magnitude better. The Gungnir brings up the bass response and gives much more detail, things these balanced amps and headphones (and ears!) crave. The Sennheiser HD800 is not bass light at all with this DAC and either of these amps. Deep primordial bass that comes from nowhere and everywhere, but at a volume that is tasteful and realistic, detail that will have you looking over your shoulder or opening your eyes trying to figure how the fingering pattern the guitarist "sitting" in front of you is using. With the Ultimate Ears Reference Monitors this DAC and amp pair help the weakness of the UERM, top end sparkle, but still leave a little to be desired. The resulting holographic image while using this setup is hard to explain and is more an experience than something you just listen to. It's incredible.

    There is a vast difference in topology in these amps, but I am, unfortunately, not well enough versed to give you an explanation. The origin of this difference is the nature of balanced topology. I won't get started with a debate that could consume the review taking it down a path I do not wish to pursue, but suffice it to say, each side has it's advocates. Please refrain from this topic in any comments.

    Having owned the Bryston BHA-1 for a few months now I've grown accustomed to it's sound; slightly bright with an attack that feels almost harsh, but not. It is a very aggressive amp that keeps the pedal to the floor at all times. There is never any hesitation, no clutter in dense passages, and positioning is top notch. With demanding headphones like the HD800 and UERM, any deviation is quickly noted. The Mjolnir, right out of the box, impressed. It has a silky smooth signature but is not at all laid back. There is no hint of harshness and the sound from top to bottom is well presented. Bass is tight and deep, mids are clear providing excellent vocals. Highs are excellent as well, but I can't help feel a lack of sparkle compared to the BHA-1. The BHA-1 really sizzles, so if you are sensitive to highs, beware, however I have been a card carrying member of this group in the past and have no issues with the BHA-1 with the HD800, both of which are known for their treble activity. In fact, I believe it is this treble activity that gives the BHA-1 some breathing room from the Mjolnir when it comes to ability. This sense of air, delicacy, pin point precision follows down the octaves painting a life like sound stage, timbres, and textures. I have heard several high end electrostatic headphone setups and so far I've not found anything more real than the BHA-1 mated with the HD800. These electrostatic setups have the edge in detail, of course, but presentation is off, feeling like my head is trapped in a small box, sound coming from the sides of my head instead of in front. The BHA-1 and HD800 being the most real has it's downsides, of course. This pairing is not the best for poor recordings. Even some of my 320k/s mp3s from bands I love, but cannot get higher quality versions of, are noticeably poor in rendering. Artifacting in the compression process is easily detected, and in some cases intrusive. Imperfections are magnified and thrown in front of you such that you can't miss them. With the Mjolnir, the HD800 has the edge taken off just enough to be friendly with poor recordings, but still be very detailed. The sound is forceful but smooth, a nudge to get you moving instead of a bulldozer knocking you out of the way. Tonally the amps are remarkably similar. There seems to be no difference in bass or mids and only that small difference in the treble I mentioned before. Given enough time distracted, I often forget which amp I'm plugged into until I listen closely or look over.

    The amps are more similar in size than I expected. The width is almost the same, but the Schiit amp is a good bit less deep. The Mjolnir and Gungir both dwarf my Bifrost by a large margin. You could fit the Bifrost in the left side of the Mjolnir and not even reach the volume knob. Their heat output are also very similar, both very hot running amps. With the Mjolnir stacked on the Gungir, the space between is actually hot, like don't put your finger there hot. As far as looks go, I prefer black, but I also prefer Schiit's styling. In this case the Bryston package is good enough that the black ends up making it my choice. If Schiit could make a black amp where the text looked good, I would be all over that (from an aesthetic perspective).

    Now we get to the real difference in these amps, the price. The Schiit Mjolnir is readily available at $750 from Jason and company, a great crew of business men and women who go far beyond the extra mile to take care of their customers and prospective customers. The Bryston BHA-1 is available through some of the Head-fi sponsors for $1295 who take similar steps to satisfy their customers. In this review we have two winners, but for different things. I believe, for the money, the Mjolnir is the best amp present. At the same time, I believe the BHA-1 is the best performing amp present, but at a high cost difference. What's more, the difference in sound will be to taste, and with their sounds being so close, there's no way I can say for sure you will like the BHA-1 more than the Mjolnir. Ever since getting both balanced amps running their laps, I've been struggling to put my thoughts to words, which should tell you how close they are. The Mjolnir comes with the standard Schiit 5 year warranty, the BHA-1 the standard Bryston 20 year warranty.

    Thanks for your interest, I hope you enjoyed.

    TLDR: The Mjolnir is hard to beat. For the money it is my pick. For a significant increase in price, I feel the BHA-1 is a better performer if your budget can stand it.

    For the record, I purchased all devices used in this review with the intention of keeping the winner and selling or returning the loser. I didn't even know if the Gungnir would be a noticeable improvement until I heard it the first time, so that was a question at first, as well. I have decided to keep the Bryston BHA-1 and Gungnir and return the Mjolnir and sell the Bifrost. I look forward to the next level from Schiit to pit against the BHA-1 and any gains on the Gungnir would be truly remarkable. I cannot find any faults with it whatsoever. Bring it on, Jason!
    3) SCHIIT MJOLNIR REVIEW by The Headphoneer HERE
    Below are some intitial impressions written by Mjolnir-users from the Schiit Mjolnir-thread

    Solude on Mjolnir
    post #967 of 17638/27/12
    1) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/960#post_8648446

    2) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/960#post_8649515

    3) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/975#post_8649669
      4) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/1005#post_8662712




    post #1002

    post #1133


    post #1200 of 17679/15/12


    post #1203 of 17679/15/12


    post #1231 of 17679/16/12
    http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/450#post_8589582 - post #457 of 1771 8/5/12


    1) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/1290#post_8708414 - post #1295 of 17679/18/12

    2) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/1185#post_8699330 - post #1196 of 17679/15/12

    3) http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/1500#post_8773429


    http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/540#post_8596405 - post #547 of 1771 8/8/12

    http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/480#post_8592392 - post #493 of 1771 8/6/12




    http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/300#post_8570800 - post #305 of 1771 7/29/12







    http://www.head-fi.org/t/603218/schiit-mjolnir-headphone-amplifier/780#post_8630611 - post #785 of 1771 8/21/12








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  1. Kendoji
    Phew, thanks - you just saved me many hours of trawling!
  2. paradoxper
    This is pretty awesome. Thanks for putting in the time to bring it all together.
  3. dleblanc343
    Very well done my friend
  4. Argo Duck
    Great resource, much easier than wading through the thread. Well done.