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Desktop Amps item created by Jason Stoddard, Jun 9, 2010
Pros - Easy Non-complicated Perfection
Cons - It Gets Warm, But That's The Cool Part
The Schiit Asgard One Headphone Amplifier
Head-Fi is a roller-coaster! As consumers we are always blasted by the front page of Head-Fi and it's both easy to get confused and overwhelmed as to what would be useful in an audio set up. In the 1970s everyone had big audio receivers. These devices had phono amps and FM tuners. Some could power multiple speakers and headphones. These units were the hub of many a stereo. Manufactures would challenge themselves to add as many options as possible. If you look back it actually started to get comical as the units at one point had 8 track tape players coming out the front and turntables on top. It seems consumers were attempting to get the most options possible for their money.
Minimalism Hits The Streets:
Then something changed. Separates introduced the idea that a purist just wanted one piece of equipment to do the job. The equipment became simple and clean in look. Knobs were less and less and the simplicity was in many ways like art. Power-amps had only one switch, off and on. Maybe we were lucky and they added two meters to see what power was put out? Many understood that manufactures were putting as cheap of parts as possible to make those complicated music stations do everything. So out of this paranoia a return to simple quality started with single intent units becoming the new rage. The future was these separates were then stacked one on-top of another and the end result was you had all the options as the receivers offered only with better quality.
In 2010 a new company with a funny name showed-up but returned to the audio world the sexy simplistic minimalist design. They were different in their product look, the fact they were 100% USA built, and revolutionary in audio-concept ideas. What did this thing do? It was a headphone amp. Unlike the Asgard Two it didn't even act as a preamp. The back offered a place to input your power-cord and a set of gold-plated single ended inputs. It had a single on and off lever. That was it. The front held a volume knob and a 1/4 inch input for a pair of headphones. That was it. So for many just this simplicity was art. The fact that the bottom held 16 recessed Phillips screws had an industrial magic. The top? The top held only 4 flush Phillips screws and a gray metal air-vent. The sides, both right and left held gray metal air vents. 75% of the casework was this extruded aluminum single piece. So from a minimalist viewpoint it was very simple. The volume control again was just a simple machined aluminum knob. The volume knob only raised or lowered the volume. It did have one indicator, a single white LED which would inform you the amp was on. Could this be made any more simple?
More Interesting History:
To read about the Schiit Asgard One is a history about Schiit in a way. There was a small amount of fuss in the beginning and Schiit ended up putting a servo-relay which goes into action as to delay any power to the 1/4 inch headphone jack till a couple moments after the amp is turned on. The inventor of the O2 amp (NwAvGuy) claimed that Schiit put too much money into the fancy casework and that a diaphragm of an opened k701 headphone could be seen extruding to a dangerous level of extrusion upon turning the amp on. Schiit canceled the first production run of boards. The (NwAvGuy) the designer of the O2 amp ended up being updated on his Head-Fi Membership in the fireworks. The very first Asgards had a slight hum too. So maybe some would read all this and think Schiit is a second-rate company? Still if you read their account of the story they chalk it all up as a learning experience. We live in the information age and this baby being born had a couple issues, though nothing truly great in life is easy. It turns out that today the Asgard Two is the most reliable of all the Schiit products. So interestingly one of the first of the company products was attacked both on quality control issues and even questioned as to their manner of case work choices. Young companies with no history will at times actually become the target of people who just simply think they know better. It's only after history is made and respect is earned, that these "know it alls" tend to move on. Schiit now has a whole string of amps and DACs under it's belt, and has moved onto to bigger and more supportive real-estate. So our humble Asgard One now kinda sits as a simple piece of history. Most of us who have started business and have both won and lost in this game of chance have come to hold this gamble of sorts as cool. Cool too when stuff has a happy ending. In reality any small start-up has some guy holding his arm out, hoping it does not get cut-off. I have ended being joyful to be a part of this history that has enriched many of a Head-Fi members life. This review is a retrospect, and a reminder that some of the best things in life are simple. The photographs don't show a new product, but a product which has been used for years and years. A product with scratches and character.
This amplifier can be placed in line between a DAC or phono-preamp. You can run a simple RCA cable to a mini-plug to a phone or IPod. All it does is give you a little more power to drive your hard to drive full size headphone or even to get a better sound from your easy to drive headphones. Pretty much all the time your going to get an improvement. It's this simple "Magic-Box" effect that really comes into play here. Most of the time in audio, the most direct path is the best sounding. In our history of audio the idea of stringing equipment after equipment, just for the sake of using all the toys, has never been a good idea. The more inter-connects, the more convolutions and back paths typically get you farther from audio truth. It's just that the most direct path is normally the most pure and best sounding.
A Wire With Gain:
In concept this is what everyone wants. The idea of just getting a pure amplification of signal with no color or change is what the goal is. Sadly though audio life is never normally so simple. Normally the question is if the amp is getting out of the way, and showing us character we know exists elsewhere. Tube amps tend to add a very slight or at times very noticeable warmth to the audio chain. There is nothing wrong with viewing the world in rose colored glasses. At times this style of color can go on to make things more listenable. But in the end the color is in reality keeping us just slightly from audio truth. After a while the mind can figure out where the fuzzy effect is taking place and the area of signal that is being smeared. That is where solid-state comes into play. Solid-state when done right should be a reference tool of power. If your confident of your quality, it should then become an audio microscope used to view truth, allowing you to identify anything else in your system which adds color, and that's exactly what the Asgard does. It steps out of the way and just becomes clear as glass adding nothing or taking away anything from the signal.
The Asgard has a very detailed treble. There is a nice sound-stage and presence to everything. Having been used to tube amps I maybe feel that the Asgard is slightly bright, but that could just be me. The amp is in reality just being a wire with gain, completely with out color or introducing sonic artifacts of any style. Never are we finding the treble too bright or holding any distortion at any volume. I'm sure there would be equipment to study the distortion levels but none here in the range of human ear perception.
I have to say that this amplifier does a great mid range. I do own some amplifiers which tend to maybe excel at the mid range detail even just slightly better than the Asgard but that is really a reach. The overall romance here is how everything is in one single coherent placement. The treble connects naturally with the mids and the mids connect naturally with the bass.
Most of the time it could be stated that this amp produces the quintessential audiophile bass. That bass is not boomy or even present except when shown by the source. Maybe off-hand I would call this a little thin. Still not thin in a bad way but thin in a detailed way. If I was given the choice of heavy bass color or this combination of clarity and speed, I'm choosing this. Most of us have our amps which just exude color and boomy non-clear bass. Wanting something that for all intensive purposes is what an audio glass block is describes the character of the Asgard One. So you may wonder if that is boring? The amp has no outstanding character of it's own. It's not sexy in that regard. It really does nothing. It's a sheet of blank notebook paper, there is nothing written on it. It's that lack of personality which takes a while to learn to love.
The Sound In Ending:
It's not exciting at first. So in many ways it's an underwhelming experience which then grows on you as you learn the character of all your other pieces of equipment. The amp just has no personality of it's own. None. So really that's the best part. A no-nonsense approach which just gets out of the way. Clean and pure.
Just like the sound, the build takes a while to fully understand. There is nothing which stands out except this simple ease of use and clean design applications. I thought the on and off switch would become an issue as it sticks way out beyond the amp, but it has worked fine for years and years. It gets a little hot which may surprise folks at first. After you realize that getting hot is normal, you tend to ignore the heat. The volume knob has a super nice feel being both smooth and sturdy. The rubber feet they give you tend to work, but I could never fully get used to placing the amp on end. You can see how your going to get better airflow going end to end but the amp seems like it could get knocked over by a random nudge? All and all the RCA jacks are rock solid, the amp tends to just work as intended day in and day out.
You can read the specifications all day long. You can read the reviews or you can just get one. The new Asgard Two is pretty much exactly the same. It sounds the same but can also be used as a preamp. Even on the used market, these are reliable and strong values to find. It's not like they need to be improved on in any sense. The Asgard can power all but maybe the most power hungry headphones with ease. It's also quiet enough to run your most sensitive IEMs with no perceivable noisefloor or channel imbalance at low volume. Due to the simplicity of design the unit ends up having a number of applications being used as an amp for TVs with headphones, or home headphone cinema applications. You can hook it up on the other end of a phone for an amp, or hook it up to any portable DAC. You can plug a phone into it and have a complete Head-Fi station. At the 2016 retail they are a rare value and a great purchase on the used market, as this technology is never really going to be improved upon, how could it, it's just an amp? It's built great, with not a single piece of plastic to be noted. It's been explained as the least profitable product margin (per unit) the company makes but also gives them the least warranty trouble and ends up as a loyal cornerstone product in their history. This was the baby that started it all and got the plane off the ground.
This product just emits a very cool meat and potatoes vibe. It's not boring but at the same time creates no fuss. It's a down to earth product doing a down to earth job in an audio world floating in the hype zone far from reality at times. In ending it's kind of like an old car, it's heavy and just keeps working. It has stood the test of time and just sits there being what it is.
Pros - Detailed, Realistic Sounding, Bassier, Deeper, Smoother and Wider Soundstage
Cons - Larger that younger siblings; gets warm including the volume knob, but nothing crazy.
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.
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 an 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 to try 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 one inch 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 so minor I can't say it's even an issue. 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 place 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 sound "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.
I hope this helps anyone who maybe interested in the Asgard 2.
Pros - Looks good, warm and relaxed sound
Cons - Not a lot of treble, it may lack detail
Ever since I became fascinated with sound and music (two or three years ago) I quickly realized audio gear doesn't come cheap. I was forced to only really buy budget gear unless it was my birthday or some kind of holiday. Anyways, Christmas was a week away and I needed to pick a few headphones, a dac, and an amp. This time I could get something truly special, I looked around at reviews on head-fi and I found Schiit! After browsing Schiit's website and laughing from there faq, I knew the Asgard was for me.
Build Quality and Design
I think it looks great! At first I wasn't a huge fan of the power switch being on the back but it probably would have looked ugly on the front. The entire body is rock solid, nothing feels flimsy or loose and nothing pushes in when force is applied. If you've been reading reviews of the Asgard then you probably have heard a lot about how the amp gets EXTREMELY HOT, but it's really nothing to go crazy about. I personally like my gear to get hot because it gives a sense of power and strength, plus it makes my friends (Beats By Dre users) think it could power a city.
My headphone collection: Grado SR225i, AKG K702, Audio-Technica ATH-A900x.
I only really use my K702's for gaming because of their amazing imaging and soundstage but for music I was never really a huge fan. I love my a900x's! I use them for all music genres and gaming as well as movies although I don't really watch movies much because itunes sounds bad and blu-ray is too expensive. I use my Grado's mostly for rock and acoustic stuff. I sometimes use the tape mod and sometimes I don't, it really just depends on what I'm listening to. Before Asgard, I was using the dreadful Hifiman EF2A to power my AKG's (I didn't have the Grado's or A-T's at the time.) It was horrifying sounding! Trying to listen to John Mayer was like trying to wrestle five bears while wearing roller skates!! Nothing against Hifiman, but that amp just wasn't for me. My purchase made me feel terrible for a month so I decided I would research the heck out of any piece of audio gear I purchased next. After spending some time looking at different amps on head fi and other sites it was one week before christmas and I went with the Schiit.
As of now I really like my Asgard. It has a warm, relaxed, slightly dry and sterile sound signature. It's very smooth but I wouldn't call it watery or colorful and there is not a lot of treble really going on. At times I can get bored and I end up switching to speakers because of the lack of treble and perhaps detail. The way i'm describing it's sound may not seem pleasant but all of these unpleasant characteristics combine to make a nice smooth and relaxing yet powerful experience that goes well with Grado's.
Thats my review! As a head fi newbie I hope anybody that read it enjoyed it and maybe helped them make a decision. By the way, I only use lossless files when listening. Even though i'm just a teenager, I don't mess around with itunes and mp3's. Thanks again for reading my review.
Pros - weighty, looks great, powerful sound
Cons - slight hum
This was my first dedicated headphone amp. Before this, I ran a couple of component stereo receivers on my desk at work. I enjoy listening to my higher end home stereo system, and listening on my daily walk with my IEMs (in ear monitors)
Initial impression of the chassis is very nice. It looks solid, feels solid, but can get very warm, so position it accordingly.
I used it with my NOS Pacific Valve Fathom DAC, as well as straight from the computer. With a dedicated DAC, it obviously sounded better. After upgrading from my Pacific Valve NOS DAC to the Bifrost, I found it sounded even better. The two devices were better matched. The darker sound of the NOS seemed a bit fuller and brighter with the Bifrost.
Headphone-wise I used it with a variety of cheaper units:
Panasonic RP-HTTF600, Monoprice 8323, Beyerdynamic (DT770 250 ohm, DT880 250 ohm, DT990 600 ohm), Grado SR80i, AKG271 MKII, Bowers & Wilkins P5, Sennheiser HD-280. The Asgard handled all of them well, even the 600 ohm. I never felt like I was pushing the amplifier very hard with any of these.
I also plugged in my JH Audio JH-5 IEMs, and it also sounded good, but there was a very slight hum. I suspect the hum is also present in the other headphones, but the very sensitive IEMs could detect it more. I tried putting on a different circuit than my computer, tried using a non grounded plug adapter, and it just didn't go away.
This hum wasn't annoying enough to dissuade me from this amp, but I wanted to try their tube Valhalla, so I sold this one and upgraded. But to be honest, if I was doing it all again, I would just stick with the Asgard. The upgrade really wasn't significant enough with my headphones to be able to tell much. Surprisingly, the Valhalla was a bit brighter and had more bass, but it was very slight. I think this Asgard is that much of a good deal.
I listen primarily to 24/96 vinyl rips that I make on my home system (Clearaudio TT, Grado Reference cart, E-mu 1212m ADC, after a thorough vacuum clean of the vinyl - i am pretty anal about it). I listen to a variety of genres, and find myself enjoying this amp for rock/pop type of music. Like most of the Schiit offerings, it doesn't have qualities that (to me) favor certain types of music - very neutral sounding.
I'll post reviews of the Bifrost and Valhalla next. And if Schiit wants to send me some evaluation gear, I am happy to try their higher end offerings too, but for now, I'll keep saving up- The Gungnir and Mjolnir reviews will have to wait
Pros - Class A Sound
Cons - More of a headstage, cosmetically the LED does not match the Bifrost
Mike and Jason have now successfully parted me with a tidy sum, but when I listen to their gear I smile. I have an old pair of Grado SR-225's that I now realize I have never really heard. I had already owned the Bifrost for my stereo but I had been driving the Grados with what was to me a nice sounding chip amp but I got tired of feeding the hungry little monster pairs of 9v batteries.
I could wax prophetic for a few paragraphs but I will spare you the agony. The sound can be summed up as that sweet even order harmonic clarity characteristic of single-ended circuit designs. For me there is nothing that comes close to the purity and musicality of a single-ended class A amp.
The first couple times I put the phones on I had that sort of initial adjustment that I sometimtes get listening to my SET amp; it's sort of a feeling of being mentally jarred by the clarity of the music. The sound is neutral and well balanced, has the ability to handle big dynamic swings and the separation of instrumentation is excellent. It produces more of a head-stage than a sound-stage but maybe that is the Grados. Noise floor is non-existent, even on the sensitive SR225's. Oh and yeah...for the record, no need for A/B listening; the Asgard totally smokes the chip amp. I was expecting subtle improvement but the two are in totally different orbits.
In sum if you are ready to step into the world of dedicated headphone amps, I find it hard to believe anybody with a decent set of cans would be disappointed with Asgard. Given the reasonable price it can't be ignored. Oh, just in case it hasn't been mentioned in any of the 1,600 posts in the appreciation thread it runs hot - really really hot (and stinks a bit when new) but hot-running amps usually sound good. I do beg to differ with the instruction manual, it is an excellent coffee warmer...warranty be damned.
Here is how I listen:
#! Linux running MPD > USB > Bifrost > Asgard > SR225
Pros - Rock solid build quality, tons of power, great sound
Cons - turning knob up all the way results in random buzzing, not a huge issue but not sure what it's picking up or if it's just like that. On/Off clicking.
First off, when I got this thing it was a lot bigger than I was expecting. This is a hefty unit that's built to last and gets hot but not too much.
Turning on the mini switch in the back results in white LED (very rare to see a white LED on electronics, this is a huge plus for me). The knob feels solid, textured, and encourages you to play with it!
I might mention this is the first time i've ever owned a proper amp, i'm coming from a Asus Essence ST with built-in headphone amp which doesn't hold a candle to to this. I am however still using it as my DAC.
This amp really shines with my Denon D5000's the low end is incredible and the soundstage is pretty decent.
Pros - Sounds much more than $250, feels like much more than $250, low impedance output so it works with basically all headphones, made in USA
Cons - Runs a little hot...
Nearly every aspect of this amp can't be found for less money. You sould buy this amp for the sound, the value, and the customer service, oh the customer service. If Schiit isn't the industry standard in customer service I would be INCREDIBLY surprised. Jason makes the whole experience very personal.
As far as sound goes, it is incredible for the price point. Everything is very clear and it really brings out the bass as in it increases the quality of the bass, not the quantity. I don't know much about mids or highs but my Denon AH-D5000's sound amazing with this amp. Nothing sounds harsh or shrill. A (possible) downside is that it doesn't sound as full and thick as some of the competition but personally I like that because my D5000's can use some clearing up.
The build quality is top notch being made out of two pieces of aluminum, adding even more to the >$250 value. Overall I am very impressed with all aspects of this amp.
Pros - Sound, Design, Customer Service, Quality
Cons - None that I have found
What can I say, I love this amplifier. However, if you're reading this, I'd take that with a grain of salt, since I have little experience with amplifiers. In fact, this is my first 'real' headphone amplifier, and I must say, I absolutely love it.
First off, the fit and finish is excellent. I love the quality of this unit. The silver is a really nice color for it. It's a nice solid weight, not too heavy (is there such a thing?) and not too light. Feels like you are really getting something worth your while when you take this out of the box. Mine only came with the feet and power cord in the box. The power cord seems to be of nice quality. I really like the use of this type of cord as opposed to a wall wart style adapter.
The power switch has a real nice firm turn on and turn off, a nice solid feeling switch. I guess here is where I should mention that my amp has the relays, I can tell because a few seconds after flipping the switch on I can hear them engaging, and immediately after turning the switch off, I can hear them disengaging. The RCA hookups are real nice and smooth, work well with all my cables.
The volume knob and jack is on the front. The knob is excellent, nice and buttery smooth. The jack as a tight feel when I plug my headphones into. Real satisfying.
The sound. Well, I guess this is where my opinions come into play the most. I like the sound very much. Smooth sounding, and sounds relatively balanced across the audio spectrum. Really helps bring out the low lows in my headphones. Also seems to slightly create a slightly wider soundstage than straight from my iPod or laptop or something. Seems to have a nice amount of detail. It's a great match with my Monitor 10s. Really makes them sing. Sometimes, it's scary the things this combo can pick up in the audio track. Also works very well with my SE-50. They love the juice this can really pump out.
The low output impedance is a plus in my book, and coupled with the sound and design of this amp, I really think it's a great deal. Yes, it runs warm, but nothing crazy. And, I kind of like how it runs.
Sorry about the long review guys, hope it was helpful in some way. As always, this was just my experiences, and your mileage may vary.
Pros - Detail, Warmness, Design, Cost
Cons - Heat
I got an excellent deal on my Asgard and always wanted to test out a Schiit Audio product. I kind of underestimated them after someone saying that the Objective 2 sounds as nice as this for a lower cost. I've built over 10 Objective 2's myself and I have to say they can't touch the quality of this product. The thing they have going for them is basically portability. I guess you could say that the O2 is a portable Asgard. And when you go portable, as with headphones, you lose some quality but it's still there. Anyways, on to my review of this wonderful little amp. I would say that this amp is the clean and neutral sounding amp of the Bottlehead Crack. I once had the Crack and wish I never sold it, but this thing is the next best thing. I would say it's a 2010 version of the 1980 Bottlehead Crack look and feel. It isn't as warm as the Crack, but still has some nice warmness to it. It does get very hot, even the volume knob, so be careful. That is probably the biggest con which most people can agree. The Crack did get just as hot though because it was a Tube amp. I think Schiit could have made the vent the hole upper top to help escape some heat, but then again I have no idea how amps are designed. I think they should have realized that the volume knob gets very hot after a while. Anyways, if you can find this in the $200 range, get it and don't look back. If you have the extra money and like the sound of Tube's, like me and a lot of people, get the Crack. You can't go wrong with either. They both have many reviews claiming to sound just as good as several thousand dollar high end amps. One guy even claimed that the Asgard beats out the Lyr and the Valhalla. I can see why he would say that. If you like vocals sounding pure and clean, get this amp and pair it with a nice DAC.
Pros - Great sound, engineering, value, aesthetics, and service
Cons - No passthrough, so it's a pure endpoint device in your stack
(This is a repost of a review I did in the forums)
The Asgard has been on back order for about 2-3 weeks. It started shipping again this past week and I just got mine this afternoon (1/22/2011) and I thought I'd add my own impressions. Please go easy on me...this is my first ever review of an audio component and my first ever on Head-Fi.
Customer Service...or Jason ROCKS!
Like others, I am stunned by the incredible responsiveness of customer service. Certainly they have the benefit of a small operation and therefore an intimate connection to inquiries. Nevertheless, we should applaud a company who answers an email question within 10 minutes on a Saturday afternoon. Maybe I got lucky, but others have mentioned similar stories often enough that we have to just accept that they offer exceptional service and responsiveness.
Delivery time was also great. They handed off to the carrier when they said they would...although I should note that the speed of the actual transit is the responsibility of the carrier (FedEx home delivery in my case) and not Schiit.
As others have noted, the Asgard ships with a power cord, a 1/8" to 1/4" adaptor, a stereo 1/8" to RCA cable, and adhesive rubber feet. The RCA cable is very thick and sturdy. It is probably not the match of high-end audiophile cables, but its much better than the cables that come with most consumer electronics. The rubber feet are small and shallow--they give only about 1/8" of clearance.
I'm thinking about replacing them with some AcoustiFeet, which I like using for my computers. They could have helped some of the mechanical hum that some folks have reported. However, it's probably unnecessary...remember the speedy email response that so impressed me? The 6moon review mentioned the low-level buzz issue as well as a side note that Schiit was already working on the solution. I wanted to know if they had addressed it yet and Jason said that all units now shipping (they just came off of backorder last week) should have the fix. I can say that my unit seems absolutely silent.
I'm burning in the Asgard at home with a Senn HD590 and a Grado SR225. Both sound incredible. My previous amp was a Rega Ear demo unit that I bought at a steep discount from a local high-end stereo shop. The Rega was definitely a huge huge improvement over using my PCs stock headphone jack (or at least it was once I found and corrected a faulty cold solder joint). However, right out of the box I noticed vastly improved detail on the Asgard with both the Senn and the Grado. I thought that the Rega had opened up huge detail, but the Asgard really blows my mind.
I don't know the terminology most people use, so I can't say what it is about the sound, but I feel a stronger emotional connection to my music listening with the Asgard than I did with the Rega. I don't mean to be overly effusive, but some of my tracks sound as if the performer is running his or her fingers through my mind. I'm listening to an Ottmar Leibert piece right now and it's so good I feel little shivers between my shoulder blades. I keep finding excuses to come into the den for just one more "taste".
I can't hear the high-end roll-off that some people have reported. However, I should note that I'm an over-40 listener and I have definitely lost some high-frequency hearing (I really can't hear that "mosquito ring tone" for example). So it may be that there is roll-off occuring above my threshold to notice it. Who knew that my impending decrepitude would be a blessing in disguise?
This amp is ultimately going to end up in my office where it will most likely be used with a Denon AHD5000. I am really really looking forward to that!
No Snap, Crackle, or Pop
I really appreciate that there is no audible pop when inserting or removing headphones from the amplifier. Same with turning the amp on and off. This was a problem with the Rega.
Does this amp run hot? Compared to the Rega it sure does. I've had it running now for 5 hours (in the horizontal layout) and relative to the Rega it is very hot. However, in an absolute sense its just very warm...definitely not going to cook anything on it. I doubt it would even melt my daughter's crayons...not that I'm not crazy enough to try. I come from the PC world, so I would say that it is about as warm as a low-end passively cooled video card. I have absolutely no qualms about the amount of heat I'm observing.
Correction: I was checking the temp at the top of the case. The bottom of the case is significantly hotter...I probably *could* melt a crayon against the bottom of the case. Definitely going to find some bigger feet and/or setup vertically.
I only have a few minor nitpicks to offer. First, the Rega Ear has a set of passthrough RCA outputs with a manual cutoff switch. This is great for PC use...I hang the Ear off my DAC and pkug my computer speakers to the RCA passthrough connectors on the Ear. That allows me to easily enable or mute the external speakers while leaving the headphones plugged in full-time. I will miss that but I'll deal...somehow...(cue violins)...
Second, I'd prefer it if the brushed aluminum case were finished/coated. I like the current look but I'm not fond of the feel of bare aluminum. Still, it's not a big priority for me. I knew this from the forum comments and it didn't factor into my purchasing decision at all. (Correction: I got PM from Jason and the cases are "clear anodized"...I think this was mentioned before on this forum thread, but I had forgotten).
Third, it would be nice to include some feet with more clearance. Right now I have the Asgard lying on a pair of chopsticks until I can find my extra pack of AcoustiFeet.
I am very happy with this amp and I am pleasantly surprised at the low cost. To me, this amp looks, feels, and sound much more expensive. I would gladly recommend the Asgard to my friends and family.