Schiit Asgard 2 vs. Lyr 2 (vs. Asus XONAR essence st)
Sep 22, 2014 at 11:09 PM Thread Starter Post #1 of 10

NickJ

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With the acquisition of my new headphones (Hifiman HE560), I decided I wanted to step up from my Asus xonar essence ST soundcard to some dedicated amplification. Although the HE560 has low impedance, it is inefficient, and I assumed that having some additional headroom might improve dynamics and impact (the thing I wish the HE560 did better). Having heard good things about Schiit and having carefully examined their return policy (pretty good), I decided to order the Asgard 2 and Lyr 2 to compare. I created a play list that included male and female vocalists, synthetic and natural instruments, bass heavy and light tracks, well and poorly mastered material, and decided to just spend my day off with them. In all cases I used the DAC in the soundcard. I also had my wife (who has better hearing than I do) weigh in on a couple of tracks. What I found (and what she corroborated) was a little surprising.
 
Asus versus Schiit
 
Compared to the Xonar (which is a great little soundcard) both dedicated amps are totally and obviously better. My wife described the Xonar as sounding "more like pop music...you know, like on the radio. It is just fun and simple." I have to say that this non-audiophile language pretty much nails it. It wasn't as though the soundcard was bad, it was just that everything lacked depth, "3-dimensionality" and sounded more compressed. In someways this made it sound like the different ranges of the song stuck out more. Here is the midrange, here is the bass, etc. One some music this sounded fine. On others it made everything flat and lifeless. Compared to this both Schiit amps were more dynamic, had a larger soundstage, and had a more nuanced presentation that allowed you to get deeper into the track.
 
 
Lyr 2 versus Asgard 2
 
Conclusion first. The Lyr 2 is a better amp and I prefer the Asgard 2 anyway (and it is the one I am keeping). The Lyr 2 presents a more detailed, nuanced, and precise sound and image. Overall, the sound is more punctuated (some might refer to this as fast). If you listen to large, complex symphonic recordings exclusively, there is no doubt you should go with the Lyr 2. On the other hand the Asgard 2 is warmer (not in temperature, they are both really hot, and the Lyr 2 is the hotter of the two), and bigger sounding. I have a feeling this Euphonia is a biproduct of higher second order distortion in the output. Normally this is the type of sound that is applied to tube amps, but in this case the solid state was way more "tubey" than the tube amp (I didn't do and rolling though, and have very little desire to do so). In the end this largeness helped the HE560 by filling out the low end (if not actually giving more impact), by providing a little warmth and soundstage. The HE560 is already plenty detailed, more than enough to make many of your recordings sound sub-par. The Asgard 2 is somewhat compensatory then. It is a silly word, but musicality and my ability to emotionally connect with the music is improved with this combination. That said, I think I liked the Lyr 2 slightly more with my AKG Q701s (which doesn't need help with the sound stage or sounding big...with the exception of the low end). It is hard in some ways to let go of the Lyr 2, it might sound great with other headphones if I don't stick with the HE560. On the same hand big dark headphones might not sound as great on the Asgard 2. But the reality is that even though there are differences between the Lyr and Asgard, they are not enormous or really anything more than subtle. Given that I like the sound better with the he560s and the Asgard 2 is half the price of the Lyr 2, keeping the Asgard doesn't feel like much of a long term risk anyway. 
 
Note: I ended up doing most of my testing on low gain, but switched over to high gain for some comparison. Everything I observed seems to apply to both gain settings, but for whatever reason (I have some theories) is less pronounced with the high gain setting.
 
Oct 7, 2014 at 5:38 PM Post #3 of 10

paulcs

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And I thought the lyr 2 was suppose to be head and shoulders better than the asgard2... I gues I wi) just keep my asgard 2


I haven't heard the Asgard (1 or 2), but I really like the Lyr, and feel obliged to defend its honor. I'm not a big fan of the Lyr's stock tubes, however, and the OP might clear up some of his issues with some tube rolling. Some tubes are better than others. Some are a lot better.
 
Personally, I'm thrilled with the performance of my Lyr recently. I'm not recommending that NickJ change course, however. Tube rolling started out for me as a pain, a necessary evil, and then it started to become more enjoyable. Enjoyable enough to become a hobby. An expensive hobby inside of an expensive hobby. Dutch tubes. English tubes. German tubes. Tubes from the old Soviet space program (my personal favorite). Treating dates of manufacture like wine vintages. Minutia around a technology that's been obsolete for decades.
 
It's probably safer to stick with solid state.
smile.gif

 
Oct 8, 2014 at 2:35 PM Post #5 of 10

NickJ

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I want to be clear, I think the Lyr 2 is the "better" amp. That better is indicative of clarity and precision in the reproduction of sound. However, I PREFER the Asgard 2 with my main headphones (HE560s), because of the way that they "color" the sound (primarily second order harmonic distortion down low...I am guessing). The Asgard 2 sounds warmer and bigger to me, but is a little less precise. It is possible that I could have the precision AND the soundstage if I had swapped the tubes on the LYR 2, but I was pretty happy with the Asgard 2 as it was. Could things get better? I am sure, but with more money and effort that I wasn't terribly interested in expending at this time. I would rather spend that time and money listening to other headphones, as headphones can have an impact on the sound many orders of magnitude greater than amplifiers (in my opinion and experience).
 
In other words, Ekul, if you are happy with the Asgard 2, I am not sure there is a reason to "upgrade" as the difference is not monumental and both are good amps. That said if you WANT to keep messing with your system and have the money and time to try it out...why not? You can always return it (minus a 5% restocking fee).
 
Nov 1, 2014 at 2:58 PM Post #7 of 10

Boogirl

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Lyr 2 versus Asgard 2
 
 That said, I think I liked the Lyr 2 slightly more with my AKG Q701s (which doesn't need help with the sound stage or sounding big...with the exception of the low end).

I was wondering, does the Lyr2 remedy the low end issue with the Q701s? I am considering this amp because I love my Q701s but also require more low end from them. Right now, I'm using an Audio GD NFB 15 which is great in all respects for the Q701s, with the exception of the low end.
 
Nov 3, 2014 at 11:35 AM Post #8 of 10

NickJ

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  I was wondering, does the Lyr2 remedy the low end issue with the Q701s? I am considering this amp because I love my Q701s but also require more low end from them. Right now, I'm using an Audio GD NFB 15 which is great in all respects for the Q701s, with the exception of the low end.


In a word, no. I don't think there is an amp out there that will turn the q701s into a bass lovers headphone. If you did increase the bass you would ultimately change the presentation of sound anyway. All that said, I think the representation of bass on the Q701s does get a little better and have (maybe) slightly more weight moving from the ASUS sound card to either of the more powerful headphone amps, especially on high gain mode. I don't know anything about the output of your current amp though, so it might not be an improvement at all moving to a schiit amp. 
 
Simply put I feel the same way about the bass on the Q701s as I do of the HD800s. The bass is there, it is resolved, but it is no way visceral. I think the amp further improved bass definition, but I don't think it really made it any more visceral. I think this may just be a limitation of super open designs with dynamic drivers.
 
Nov 29, 2015 at 7:23 PM Post #9 of 10

watchnerd

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I haven't heard the Asgard (1 or 2), but I really like the Lyr, and feel obliged to defend its honor. I'm not a big fan of the Lyr's stock tubes, however, and the OP might clear up some of his issues with some tube rolling. Some tubes are better than others. Some are a lot better.
 
Personally, I'm thrilled with the performance of my Lyr recently. I'm not recommending that NickJ change course, however. Tube rolling started out for me as a pain, a necessary evil, and then it started to become more enjoyable. Enjoyable enough to become a hobby. An expensive hobby inside of an expensive hobby. Dutch tubes. English tubes. German tubes. Tubes from the old Soviet space program (my personal favorite). Treating dates of manufacture like wine vintages. Minutia around a technology that's been obsolete for decades.
 
It's probably safer to stick with solid state.
smile.gif

 
I'm considering buying a Lyr 2, but tube rolling is definitely a double edge sword.  I got into it with my tube phono stage.
 
It can lead to madness!
 
May 21, 2016 at 1:24 PM Post #10 of 10

Nin9

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Hi there, I know I am replying to an old thread of yours but I am currently in a similar situation that you were once in. I am running a xonar STX with the Q701 and I have a pair of K7xx's on the way. Do you think it would be beneficial for me to buy an external amp and just use the STX as a dac? I am also looking at an Asgard2 but does the improvement in sound justify the cost?

Thanks
 

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