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Desktop Amps item created by jacksonchansf, Feb 18, 2013
Pros - Warm sound goes very well with brighter or even neutral headphones. Provides plenty of power.
Cons - Might be stuffy sounding on warm-tuned headphones. Gets really hot.
Pros - Transparent, Warm and inviting, Relatively flat, Smooth yet detailed
Cons - It gets so hot you can fry an egg. I'm not kidding....
I own 3 High-end headphones ( HD 600, HD-650s, and HE 500s) and this amplifier does everything I want it to do. The headphones have been driven with authority, speed and transparency. The sound is relatively flat and the voices are smooth yet detailed. This is some truly remarkable schiit regardless of what some people have said here. I have an ODAC + o2 and I quickly noticed the difference In all areas of the sound. This includes separation, dynamics, and warmness with a remarkable mid-range presentation. The o2+oDAC combo now sounds somewhat "Dry" in comparison but I still recommend it to those on a tight budget.
The service provided by schiit was truly remarkable. Legendary, actually. I had contacted them about some minor problems I had with static when touching the knobs and sides and they helped me out with everything until the problems ceased to exist. After over 40 messages and hours of trouble-shooting, we came to the conclusion that what was causing the static between the Asgard+Bifrost was my computer's PC power cord. Never In my life have I experienced such professionalism from such a small company. Outstanding service.
Pros - Great build quality, ample output, selectable gain, easy to use and setup
Cons - Volume knob gets hot when the rest of the case does, but not unusable
It's day one with the new Bifrost and Asgard 2 setup, and I'm blown away. These two have completely changed the way my PC audio sounds, and yet given me a path to even better equipment in the future.
Noise is non-existent, even in high gain mode. Any noise I heard before on the same rig is now gone. My headphones, a pair of V-Moda M100's, sound best on low gain, so that's where I'm leaving it. This does not surprise me, as they have been capable of output on any 1/8th in. jack I've plugged them into.
You may have heard that these get hot. They do, but not dangerously so, and not unreasonable for a class A amp. My background in audio is mostly in home theater, and this is on par with one of the home theater class A amps in both sound and heat. The knob also gets hot at the same time. It is not untouchable, but you will notice if you're using it a lot. I don't, personally. I set it and forget it for most listening. Further, since I'm using it as a computer DAC, I also have the option of OS volume control if it really bothers me.
Sound output on this amp is great. If you want to deafen yourself, you can absolutely do that with this amp. I don't recommend it, obviously. The knob goes from 7 o'clock to 5 o'clock for zero to max. I keep it around the 10 o'clock position and it's already well above theater reference with more than 180 degrees of knob to go. Headroom, therefore, is ample.
Sound is clean and uncolored from what I can tell. They didn't do a great job of pointing it out, but this little headphone only amp has more capacitance than most home theater receivers by far, and more than some dedicated multi-channel amps. Just when I think I'm getting used to the amount of clean bass output it has to offer, another song comes on that one-ups the previous ones and surprises me again.
At the risk of using buzz words too often, I now understand what people mean when they say ear fatigue. I used to have that problem with these headphones, and I thought it was the headphones doing it. Once I started using the Schiit combo, I've been able to listen for hours without my ears feeling tired, ringing, or experiencing tinnitus-like symptoms when I take the headphones off.
In summary, I cannot recommend this amp any higher. I now have sound that competes with, and in some cases, surpasses, what I have accomplished in a dedicated room with home theater equipment and multiple subs, even while at work. Amazing. Grab it before Schiit realizes they can get way more money for this amazing little unit.
Pros - Excellent Sound and Clarity, detailed, realistic, bassier, deeper, smoother and wider than anything below the price range.
Cons - Volume knob gets hot; but there is an easy solution; read review.
I've been reading so many replies and reviews how the O2, Magni and Vali sound the same. After weeks of listening to all of them, (yes I have them all) they are all not exactly the same . I've been using the same music and all else in the system is the same and have only changed the amps. Started with O2, then went to Magni. Yes the Magni and O2 sound very close. The Magni does sound a tad processed and thin compared to O2 but the Magni does have more authority as it is more powerful in comparison even though they all seem to struggle reproducing the source. You can't compare a wall-wart amp to a full 110v powered amp. They don't compare and they should not.
Then I went to the Vali. The Vali sounds nothing like the others. It's slightly more smoother and warmer, more of a natural sound but ever so slightly, and more realistic sounding. I was enjoying it very much for weeks. Then I decided to get the Asgard 2. Why? I read so much about it I just had to try it. The Vali also seem to struggle reproducing the source which makes sense as it's less powerful.
I have to say the Asgard 2 is is not like any of the others. Why have some said there is no difference? I'm suspecting what is happening is that people are not using high resolution (or not high enough resolution) tracks or headphones to distinguish the difference OR they just don't hear the difference due to their hearing biology. As a side note: I also did an electronic spectrum hearing test to verify my hearing at different frequencies to eliminate that factor, and I passed 100%.
The Asgard 2; is in a whole other class. The Asgard 2 with the same headphones (HE-400) sound way more detailed, realistic, bassier, deeper, smoother and wider is the best way to explain it with all else in the system being the same. The Mids seem more forward and lush. The Asgard 2 does not appear to add any color to the sound, but I may say on a scale from 1-100% if I had to say how much I think it does add coloration, maybe 10-20% which is not relevant to be considered significant, it's a really tiny amount but pleasant. The gain is also contributing to the level of authority also as it does have more gain than all the others even though it's also rated at 32 ohms at 1.0W RMS.
As for noise (hiss); No hiss at any volume level either on High or Low gain either connected or not connected to a source with HE-400, so if you have higher impedance headphones there should be no worries.
As for humming; it's there, but like others have stated, it's barely noticeable to non existent and that is a huge exaggeration even, at least for my model. My findings are this; you have to be in a dead silent room and paste your ear on the chassis right over the transformer to hear it and even then it's so tiny of a sound there is no way anyone can hear this humming unless they are intentionally trying to hear it. Even if you put your ear on top of the amp over the grill area or to the side where the transformer is located, you can't hear it still. If your ear is 1" away from the same location you just can't possibly hear it unless you are super human! Shiit has done an excellent job in resolving this issue as others have stated overall.
As for the volume knob getting warm, it's true but nothing unbearable or unsolvable. But here is a tip if it really bothers you or yours gets possibly hotter than you like. I have done this with all my Shiit amps but not due to heat issues but just ease of turning the volume knob. Get 3 O-rings that are a tad smaller in diameter than the volume knob and stretch them over the volume knob. On the Asgard 2 it makes it easier to turn the volume knob also but the added advantage is you won't feel any heat off the knob. Plus it looks nice too!
My serial is 002026 so I would hope all higher models do not have any of these issues or that they don't creep back into production. So for anyone that is thinking about the Asgard 2, YES it's worth it. You WILL hear a difference with respect to what was mentioned above about headphones, music quality rate and biology. This amp just sound like an actual amp, it sounds "real" while the others mentioned sound like they're struggling to making an effort to process the sound, but the Asgard 2 seems to do it effortlessly with authority is another nice way to describe it.
Equipment: IPOD 7th Gen. > Cypher Labs AlgoRhythem Solo -R > Asgard 2 > HE-400
I hope this helps anyone who maybe interested in the Asgard 2.
Pros - Build Quality, Clean Sound, Pre-Amp / Gain Switch adds flexibility
Cons - Heat
I got my Asgard 2 about a month ago, and it has been great so far. I was initially nervous because I had heard people complaining about trafo-hum. Let me assure you, unless you have a severely defective unit, there is none. I press my ear against the unit and I can faintly hear it, which is not indicative of a problem, nor audible in any other situation. The Asgard 2 is Class-A, so it does get quite toasty, just hot enough that you wouldn't want to hold your hand on the right side of it where the power transistors are mounted. Not ideal, but not a big deal either. The Asgard 2 is built like a tank, and it feels very weighted and solid. I totally like this about it.
I have used my Asgard 2 with a uDac-2, and it sounded great with my HD-650s. Recently I acquired a Bifrost Uber, and the two pair amazingly well with the HD-650. Just my two cents. I recommend Schiit!!!
Pros - Weighs a ton, Very good build quality
Cons - Fuzzy/congested/blurry sound. Very colored. Too warm sounding.
Got the unit in and on day one it randomly sounded OK and then would crap out on me. In total I wasted probably 6 hours of my day off trying to fix issues I thought were a fault of my computer. I kept thinking that I had fixed it and then the issue would come back. First I thought it was interference with my ethernet port, bad usb cable, bad hub, noisy power etc. I tried every combination I could find. I even attached the amp to different wall outlets and with and without noise filtering on my surge protectors. In the end there is NOTHING wrong with my setup.
On day one the sound would randomly feel as if all the weight of the music was being sucked out. No life at all to it. Background details seemed to get "lost". Then 5 minutes later (same song) it would be fine. The sound would alternate between sounding good to bad and not due to variations in recording. I could switch to a different amp using the same usb port and DAC and it'd be perfect! On day two at one point it sounded great for 45 minutes and then went back to normal.
I thought maybe it was noisy power or something but I got the A2 to be dead silent. I did notice an improvement in sound when I used cables with tons of shielding and USB cables with ferrite beads. It didn't last long though. Yes, I tried many different cables.
At times the bass would randomly get bloated and the low mids would get shoved forward somehow. At one point I was sure that my A2 had died. Nope.
So I gave my ears and amp a rest and tried again the next day with my HD-650. Same results but even worse sound compared to the Q701.
I tried Xbox 360 Optical to E17 DAC to Asgard 2. This combination was awful and warmth overdose. Fallout 3 seemed incredibly muffled and dark. First time I've ever heard bass bleed in that game and I use my HD-650 with it all the time. It felt like everything was abnormally thick/full. More than it should be. E17 has some warmth, but not a lot. Switching to the Q701 was a little better.
I then tried a docked Ipod Touch 2G to A2. IMO the 2G is kind of bright. Not any warmth at all coming from it's amp/dac. Similar sound. Still got that muffled/fuzzy sound from my HD-650. Closed in soundstage and lacking detail. Just sounded too dark.
I also tried a Denon 1920 CD player to A2. A little better, but the A2 seemed to be giving everything it's own coloration. The bass from each setup wasn't very well controlled at all.
HD-650/Q701 sounded amazing from the O2 and Micro Amp with not much change between them. I understand that maybe the A2 is not meant to be 100% transparent, but not sure. Please note that I would switch to other amps and everything was perfect so it's not an issue with my ears or setup. At times I felt my ears were playing tricks on me but that's not the case.
So in the end I returned it and the unit is fine. I guess the A2 sound is just not for me. After all that time i'm out of about $68. Not a big deal. Return shipping costs about $35 (should have went UPS/Fedex) insured and you have the 5% restock (which is perfectly fair). I wish I could say I just had a lemon but guess not. Perhaps i'm too picky, but I don't think so. I also spent maybe $50 on a new powered hub and RCA and USB cables to make sure it wasn't my fault. Couldn't wait for Monoprice so I had to buy overpriced stuff locally. I even bought a new USB card and no change in the audio.
With how it is I imagine it would OK for me with a Grado or Beyerdynamic DT-880 or something considered brighter/thinner. I guess I just didn't like it with the 598, DJ100, HD-650 and modded Q701. I thought the Magni was pretty OK and felt like it sounds better than the Asgard1/2 but it's not warm at all (don't care) to me and is a LITTLE bright/thin. The O2 and Micro Amp are close to perfect. To me the Micro Amp is like an O2 on steroids and with all those rough edges taken off.
I feel a bit bad reviewing this but why should I? I spent my hard earned money on the amp and it didn't work out. I use to have a lot of money but now i'm mostly on a budget. I have nothing against Schiit and I love their Modi. I should have just gotten a Bifrost instead.
BTW I had an Asgard 1 years ago and didn't like that either so I guess it makes sense why I wouldn't like the Asgard 2. I did feel it was fair to give it another chance.
EDIT: The review details are messed up so don't go by that. I gave the Audio Quality a 2 out of whatever.
EDIT 2: My only idea as to why this didn't sound good or randomly bad is due to external interference. Not from noisy power or computer etc. None of my other amps have any issues. Probably impossible but that's all I could come up with. Like I said before it SEEMED to sound best with ferrite core USB cables, heavily shielded cables etc.
I live in a 3 story building with 12 apartments total.
Pros - Warmth, Detail, Speed, and Accuracy
Cons - No optical input, nothing else.
I'm going to keep this review brief and to the point. This amp is freakin' awesome for $250 and it has a high/low gain meaning it's capable with almost any type of headphone you can throw at it besides orthos. I use it with my DT880s and they sound way more fun and not boring like they used to. So ya, just buy this amp. There is no transformer hum and the noise floor is very low. So disregard earlier reviews because some of the first units produced were defective. Best $250 I've spent in the past few years. BUY IT
Pros - Looks nice, solid state, 5 year warranty
Cons - Hum, build quality isn't very good, nothing special
Bought one of the original Asgard 2s from Addicted to Audio in Australia. It had quite an annoying transformer hum, but I thought I would get used to it. I didn't. It was very annoying, particularly when using my powered desktop speakers at a low volume. It wasn't too bad with headphones (even open headphones). But still I really didn't find it acceptable, even at this price range, it should have been noticed before Schiit began shipping them out.
The Asgard 2 looks nice. I didn't love the finish though, it kept getting smudged with oil marks. Would be nice if it had an aluminium finish similar to a macbook pro. But that's a small issue.
Build quality was average. One annoying thing was the power plug at the back was loose from when I first took it out of the box. Very loose, to the point where it would sometimes randomly turn off while I was listening. Really poor.
The sound was really nothing special. Couldn't differentiate it from my Audioengine D1 (which is actually a DAC before headphone amp)with my HD600s and HE-400s in blind testing. Quite disappointing. It's not that the sound was bad, it was quite neutral and it definitely gave the headphones the power they needed but so does the D1 for a much lower price.
Most likely my expectations were too high, but it was rather disappointing. I also didn't like my interaction with Jason from Schiit (although most people here do). He responds promptly, but I found him short and rude. I definitely did not feel like a valued customer.
Fortunately Addicted to Audio have been great and have taken this very average amp back for complete store credit so I can try something else.
Pros - Wonderful instrument focus and separation, spacious soundstage, mid-bass slam and solidity like I've never heard before.
Cons - Front led light a little too bright.
First my bias: I am a jaded audiophile for over 20 years who still use my Linn Sondek with Lyra Helikon and all tube Conrad Johnson phono stage and preamp; writing this because it's rare that such a modest and inexpensive product has been so much fun to use for me. This company deserves all the success that will come its way. My first choice is always tube but because this amp is going to be on my desk with all sort of loose things and paper that may cover it up accidentally, I opt for the solid state Schiit.
I use this with 3 in-ear earphones, Shure E3C, Etymotic ER6i, VSonic GR07, and one over-ear headphone, Grado SR80. The amp is fed by my beloved Centrance Dacport. The Centrance Dacport itself is a combination DA converter and headphone amp and as such could be used to feed my earphone directly. In effect I will be comparing Centrance vs. Centrance + Asgard 2. Music is lossless, some straight digital, some conversion from my LP collection.
The amp is *solidly* built and feels so much more sturdy than its humble $250 cost. I love the feel of quality of the volume control - solid and smooth. There is no audible whatsoever through my headphone/earphone. The transformer has a hum only if I have my ear right pressed against the surface of the amp; it is a non issue and I wouldn't even know to listen had I not read about this on the forum. The amp feels very warm to the touch - almost as hot as my Krell FPB 600 LOL (I love it - this implies class A amplification!). Those who own Krell, Classe, etc., I don't need to explain more. Those new to audiophilia: high end power amp runs hot like this - absolutely normal and a sign of high voltage and/or high current. Good stuffs for your phone drivers .
To keep things in proper context, I obviously will not compare the Asgard with my main digital gear through all-tube Conrad Johnson ART preamp, but will concentrate on the improvement of sound over my desktop/laptop computers/ Ipod, and more specifically the Centrance Dacport. The Asgard has a detailed full-range sound typical of a good solid state amp, with hefty bass and wonderful instrument focus and separation. The high frequency does have an extra "sparkle" to it, typical of solid state amplification and unlike the sweet yet still detailed high end of tube amp. This extra sparkle means the Asgard is great if you are a detail freak, but may not be a good match for brighter sounding headphones.
So, with respect to perceived frequency response, a notable difference is higher up on the frequency range, the Centrance is a sweet and mellow, whereas Asgard is brighter and more detailed. Which one you would prefer is a matter of personal preference and headphone matching. At the low end of the spectrum, the Asgard's mid bass is nice and full, yet still very tuneful, not bloated. The solid bass provides a solid foundation to the sound. Here, clearly Asgard is better than Centrance.
Regarding soundstage, as great a product the Centrance is, it really could not compete with a dedicated amp that has a significantly more hefty power supply like the Asgard. When I switch from Centrance to Asgard, the soundstage becomes noticeably more spacious. Voice and instruments become separated in space instead of flattened together in one layer. It's a very pleasant effect and makes headphone audio that much more fun. Singers sound "bigger," more like a real voice and less "miniature" through Asgard (vs. Centrance).
With respect to earphone/headphone matching:
Asgard + Grado SR80i: the Grado has a lot of sparkle on top, so although it doesn't bother me, I would think a tube amp would be a better match. But then I have a bias for tube stuffs and always recommend tubes to anyone new to audiophilia (there are tube equipments in both of my main audio system - CJ pre for both Krell+Thiel, and VTL+ Magnaplanar). Bottom line is audio about matching and preference: if you are into sweet, mellow sound, best to look for a tube amp for Grado. Those into detailed high end and bass slam, this combination of Asgard + Grado would be fine.
Asgard + VSonic GR07: a match made in heaven, solid, powerful, punchy, detailed, spacious. Bring on all the audiophilia cliche here. This is a highest recommendation, without hesitation.
I am so impressed with the quality of this Schiit that I am tempted to try other products in their line, for example those yummy tube amps (...if I have the space, the wife is not going to be pleased if I have a tube amp next to my laptop on our dinner table). I wish Schiit all the success; they deserve it.
Pros - good sound, good size, gain switch, price
Cons - none so far
Bare with me here as I dont write these things for a living or anything...
Just unboxed mine. It was delivered at 1 pm it is 4:15pm and the case is still cold from being in the truck. Must have been frozen in the truck/plane to still be this cold three plus hours later.
No blemishes that I can see, volume pot has smooth motion. Once it warms up a bit more I will give it a good listen with HD650's, HE-500's, SR325i's and report back. I will be using my Modi as the DAC.
Ok, so first and second impressions were not so good. I plugged in the Asgard 2 and let it warm up for 15 minutes or so. Then hooked up the HD650 and got muffled sound and distortion in the right channel at all levels. The Asgard was only warm on one side (right side near the headphone jack). So I figured I better wait till it was good and warm. 45 minutes later it seemed to be warming up nicely. Plugged the HD650 back in and same thing (muffled and distorted).
Let the troubleshooting begin. First thing I did was unplug the USB cable from the laptop and plug it back in. BANG!! Fixed the problem. Not sure what the cause was but it works now. Might have been an initialization issue with USB or the Modi?
So, on with the third impressions. It seems to take a long time to get hot 'n' ready for action, about an hour and fifteen minutes? Maybe it was still frozen on the inside?
I used a soundtrack from Eureka Seven with some tracks I am very familiar with to test. HalCali - Tip Taps Tip, Flow - Days, and Denki Groove - Niji. I listened at an elevated level to analyze the sound, higher than I would normally listen to for long periods.
This is comparing the Asgard 2 to the Magni using the Modi as DAC from an MX11 laptop, Foobar Flac.
Can hear a slight hum when my ear is about five inches from the amp. Hum is slightly deminishing with time, still there though. Now my ear has to be half an inch form amp. Still not noticable with phones on.
The Magni drives these phone OK but seemed to be lacking detail and low end punch. Still sound good, though. Just not quite there.
With Asgard 2 the phones prefered the high gain setting. Seemed to get better separation and more punch. Opened up the soundstage a little more. There was more definition and detail. Bass was very good where needed. Mids cleared up some. Highs were more pronounced (could hear a hisssss when "ss" were sung). Like it was maybe a litle bright, but not bad. Definitely felt more lively with the Asgard 2.
On low gain volume pot needed to be at ~2 o'clock, high gain it was at ~11:30 to 12.
With the Magni It seemed like there was someting between me and the music. I have heard others say veil, or like there was a towel over a speaker that masks the sound. It wasn't quite that bad but it was just lacking energy?
The Asgard 2 cleared most of that away in high gain. It made them wider (soundstage) and deeper and higher. I can hear the separation much better. Gives the bass more energy and clarity (not as punchy as the HE-500 but a good improvement non the less). Again there was a hiss when 'ss' were sung. Maybe a little more pointed that the HE500's but still not bad. Mids are fuller and more distinct.
Volume pot was at ~12 noon only high gain for these phones.
SR325i (G-cush and T-shirt mod)
The Magni does not really like these phones, with the G-cush alone they are way to bright and shrill, peircing and painful for some songs. The T-shirt mod under the G-cush tames that so they are tolerable but I don't typiclly use the Magni with these due to this issue.
I was expecting similar results with the Asgard 2, but that's not the case. The Asgard drives these phones just fine (with the mods). Wide soundstage, good mids and highs, but the bass is not there. The other two phones above are quite a bit more full than these phones. The Grados sound much better with my modded x-fi in my main computer rig and that's probably where they are going to stay.
So, overall the Asgard is a good step up from the Magni, as I would expect it to be. Next I think I will get a Bifrost and see how that changes things.
Hope this helps some of you fence riders jump in this Schiit pile with us...
Added HD800 below only Asgard 2 referenced
So, after about eight hours of listening here are my impressions of the Asgard 2 driving my brand new HD800's as compared to the HE-500's.
First off, I was underwhelmed by the bass when I first started listening. The headphones literally came off the truck and were hooked up mintues later (the UPS dude gave me a funny look when I came running to get the box ). They were very cold from shipping, so cold in fact that condensation formed on the metal part of the head band. The bass was there but not very pronounced. I decided to let them warm up at least close to room temps before starting the eval. I had been listening to the HE500's at the time, also so that might have been a factor (warming the amp up for the HD800's ).
After about half an hour I tried again. Much better but still not a lot of bass there. That's why I decided to give a good long listen. A mix of Asgard 2 and straight form my computer's modded X-Fi. Seven hours later (watching hockey on TV(muted), listening to music. Who needs to hear the commentators anyway, bunch of useless info they spew...well any way back to the task at hand.
The Asgard 2 does a respectable job of driving these phones. Bare in mind this is the first time I have heard them ever, so I am comparing it to the others phones I have (see the earlier post).
Comparing them to the HE-500's there is less bass in the HD800's but what is there is crisper and more defined. The HE-500, um, ?mushes? or muddies maybe? the bass some. Some may want more quantity. I noticed the recording/song style had a lot to do with it, some songs were just fine, others seemed to be lacking. The HD800's have MUCH better mids more ?forward? and pronounced. Very good with vocals (Alison Krauss, Anita Baker). The highs were also more present, but never got to much. Especially liked the attack on guitar strings, made their presence felt. The HD800's felt a lot more balanced in the presentation, showed better separation, and greater detail. Soundstage was slightly bigger.
The comfort of the HD800's is on a whole new level, after half an hour I almost forgot I was wearing them. This is a set of phones for the long haul listener as evidenced by the eight hour session I just completed, could not do that with the HE-500's would need breaks periodically. Also did not have to mod the HD800's as I had to with the HE-500's and Grados for comfort.
The volume pot didn't need to be as high with the HD800's, also. About 10:30 versus almost noon with the HE-500's both on high gain.
So the upshot is that the Asgard 2 does a very good job, IMHO, driving the HD800's and it is very worth trying it out for yourself. I plan to compare this to a friends Bottlehead crack once he gets it built (or maybe I should do one, too? hhmmmm...poor wallet is gonna have fits).
Let me know if there are specific questions.