I go away for a few years and... some crazy Schiit ensues (or, a Magni 2 Uber mini-review)
May 8, 2015 at 12:35 AM Thread Starter Post #1 of 1

SunByrne

500+ Head-Fier
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So, I've always really been more of a speaker guy, but I found Head-Fi in 2003 (first review ever here, Sony MDR-V6 vs. Sennheiser HD280—interesting that both of those are still around). When my second son was born, he was a really light sleeper and that fueled some interest in headphones, and back in 2004 I bought Senn HD 595s (the real 120-ohm version, not the looser and more grainy-sounding 50-ohm version) and ATH-A700s and then in 2005 a Headroom Desktop amp/DAC and was basically sated. My son became a heavier sleeper and I instead upgraded speakers (Ascend Sierra-1 NrTs) and I stopped hanging out at Head-Fi. Still used the Headroom unit as my main DAC for years, but into speakers instead of cans.
 
I would briefly swing by whenever I was looking to make a new purchase, like when I decided I needed some nicer portable stuff Head-Fi delivered, as always, with great recommendations. Got me some ATH-M50s and a FiiO E11 (there was no E12 yet) and that's been a great rig.
 
The power switch on the the Headroom finally failed (and they don't make amps anymore, and it's just a bit out of warranty), and so I was looking for a new DAC. Head-Fi came through again, and I got a Schiit Bifrost Uber, which was a monumental upgrade over the DAC in the Headroom. Like, crazy better. Like, how on earth can this thing be this good for that much money? Well, whatever, I thought, digital tech changes quickly, and the old DAC was like 10 years old.
 
But it left me without a headphone amp. I didn't really worry about it, though, because I was basically never listening to them other than when on the move anyway.
 
But for some reason, I recently decided I did need to break out headphones at home again. Still not sure why. My receiver (an old NAD C740) has a not-utterly-horrible headphone out on it but... yeah, OK, it's pretty bad. I decided I needed (OK, wanted) a headphone amp. "This is silly," I told myself, "you never listen to headphones at home anymore. You absolutely CANNOT justify spending real money on this." I surfed over to the Schiit web site (since I love my Bifrost) and there was the Magni 2 Uber. For $150. "That's not real money," I told myself, "and it'll get me off this kick, zero damage done."
 
So, here's the thing: I paid something like $700 for the HeadRoom rig. It was definitely solid but never spectacular, but that's what you got for that kind of money in 2005. I was very used to how it sounded.
 
My Magni 2 Uber arrived two business days after I placed the order, and I connected it up, plugged in the Sennheisers and... HOLY SCHIIT.
 
Seriously, what the heck happened over the last few years? HOW CAN A $150 AMP SOUND THIS GOOD?
 
I switched back and forth between the HD595s and the A700s. Sounded great on both. I threw super-clean 24/96 recordings at it, and badly-compressed 128k MP3s at it. I threw violins at it, I threw thumpy dance-club bass at it, I threw acoustic guitar at it, I threw finicky female vocals at it, I threw metal at it. 
 
"Cool" the little Magni said, "I can actually handle all that. What else you got?"
 
My strong suspicion is that the top end of Head-Fi gear is just as amazing as ever, and from surfing around a little I can see the top end is just as spendy as it ever was. But the affordable end, well, it just wasn't like this in 2009 (the last time I went to a Head-Fi meet). $150 got you cheap opamp/buffer amps. I know Schiit basically doesn't believe in opamps and I totally get why (hey, I took a circuits class in college... in 1988), but I didn't think fully discrete could be like this at this price point—I thought it would have be much more compromised. I mean, sure, the amp's not perfect, but for $150 I certainly didn't expect it to be even in the ballpark of being this good.
 
So, the future is here... and wow, it's awesome. I had no idea.
 
The only real problem is that even with this, it still doesn't sound as good as my beloved Ascend speakers. I think the real bottleneck is the headphones themselves. 
 
So, what's new there? Ohhhh, those ATH-R70x's look sexy. And the reviews, well, dang... I think I'm going to have to pick up a set of those. So, little Magni, to answer your question, what else I do I have? I think I might just have to have a go at you with some new 470-ohm beauties—let's see how you like those.
 
Hmm, looks like it's going to cost me more than $150 after all... and I'm thrilled. This, then, is the danger of gear that's much better than what you expected—you need other, better gear, to keep up. Damn, you, Schiit, why'd you have to be so good? 
atsmile.gif

 

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