Schiit Magni 3 Affordable Headphone Amp and Preamp

(Editor's Note: I very happy to place the first of what I hope is many reviews from Tyler Schrank in the pages of InnerFidelity. Though you might remember him from his visit to my home in 2015 for the "Big Sound" event. Known as "Hands" on the headphones enthusiast forums, Tyler has a long history of critical headphone and electronics listening and commentary. He also does quite a bit of headphone modification and measurement on his DIY headphone measurement system. No need to go on and on, if you're a regular reader of superbestaudiofriends.org you already know him, if you're not, well...sit back and enjoy. This guy's got chops.)

I'm going to make a bold statement right out of the gate. Schiit has rewritten the rules for budget headphone amplifiers with the Magni 3. Then again, they've done the same for other product categories multiple times in the past. Whether it be their $2399 Yggdrasil DAC down to the $179 Eitr USB->SPDIF converter, they offer high-performing, value-oriented, and often game-changing gear. So, perhaps that isn't so much a bold claim as it is more the norm for the company.

Schiit Magni 3 ($99)
The Schiit Magni 3 is Schiit's entry level, lowest priced, dedicated headphone amplifier. The standard and Uber options have been consolidated into a single, new amplifier. Only the name and core functionality remain. It offers greater performance through a new, fully discrete, current-feedback gain stage, and a linear power supply. As Jason Stoddard of Schiit put it in the official announcement:

It's an entirely new topology, one that offers considerably higher bandwidth, together with lower distortion and noise, than any other Magni before it. In fact, Magni 3's gain stage is substantially similar to the one used in the $699 Vidar speaker power amplifier.

The listed specifications are impressive. 2W RMS per channel into 32 ohms, low distortion and noise, and low output impedance at both gain settings. The amplifier itself is rather small, measuring 5"x3.5"x1.25" and features Schiit's signature look with the nicer aluminum top from the Magni 2 Uber. Schiit claims it's a "no excuses, do-all" amp, even at $99.

I personally enjoy the look and feel of Schiit's products. They're usually no-frills and have more of an industrial sort of design to them. Their less expensive products often have some rougher elements to them, such as sharper corners on the aluminum top, but this does not bother me. If you, for some reason, come in frequent contact with the casing of your amplifier, you may want to consider this.

Schiit_Magni3_Photo_RearPanel

I also know some have voiced concerns about having power, gain, and other switches on the back of Schiit products. Depending on where you put your amp, this could be a minor inconvenience. Still, the Magni 3 has one switch for power and one switch for gain. It's easy enough to reach back and flip what you need without looking. I have no qualms with this and find it perfectly usable. If you keep your amp turned on in your bedroom, you may find the front LED too bright. Some have recommended light-blocking films to cut down on this.

Another possible downside, depending on your perspective, is that Schiit needed to use a wall wart for the transformer to keep the size of the amp small. You'll be trading desk space for power strip space. But, hey, you can't have everything at this price point, and I believe having everything in a larger, more refined case, would make for a noticeably more expensive amp.

Speaking of wall warts, I did want to mention my experience purchasing the amp from Schiit. Their product page said the amp was on backorder due to a shortage of the transformer wall warts. I ordered nonetheless. To my surprise, they shipped the amp with their "Cthulhu" floor wart, which is $24 by itself, just so customers could get their amps sooner. Talk about great customer service without asking! Plus, the floor wart is great if you don't have immediate room on your power strip or don't want to power multiple of Schiit's smaller devices without using a separate wall wart for each. Very nice!

Anyway, the Magni 3 feels solid and has some minor, but expected, compromises for its low price point. But let's take a listen and see if this truly is a "no excuses, do-all" amp.

COMPANY INFO
Schiit Audio
24900 Anza Drive
Unit A
Valencia, CA 91355
info@schiit.com
(323) 230-0079
ARTICLE CONTENTS

COMMENTS
Rthomas's picture

Nice to see Hands on IF. He is super picky and knows his gear. I wonder if I'll live long enough to see the release of a headphone that makes him sell his beloved HD650 :D

veggieboy2001's picture

Great review...as usual. I'm very glad to see other sources tapping your talents.

I hope to read many more!

cspirou's picture

Excellent review although I wish the preamp functionality got some mention. The Magni 2U was the device that showed me that the addition of a preamp can improve the sound considerably and not just impart it's own signature. I'm sure the Magni 3 is similar in this regard.

Before I had a Modi 1 and a chipamp. Modi 1 doesn't have the best grounding so a lot of noise got through. My chipamp has a built in pot and I had it in my head that it was better not to insert an active component in the chain because it could only make things worse. The only reason I started using the pre-outs was because I was getting tired of switching the cables between the M2U and the chipamp. So I was surprised when the noise dropped substantially after the addition of the M2U, as well additional clarity from my amp.

So while I agree that you might be better served looking at Schiit's line of preamps, I feel like if you bought a Magni 2U/3 only for preamp functionality that it would still be well worth the money.

bradleyp's picture

I was just wondering about how the rca outs sound, then I found this post. I imagine a substantial percentage of folks who use the headphone jack will run a pair of monitors or other powered desktop speakers off of the unit, too. That's why Schiit put 'em there. Is the pre-amp functionality an active line stage or passive attenuator?

cspirou's picture

It's active. If it was passive I wouldn't have hesitated so much.

It's basically just the headphone output with 75ohm resistors attached to it.

mnaganov's picture

I've read this sentence and I'm not sure I've understood it: "I remember falling for the Objective 2 amplifier hype several years ago. My world turned upside down the day I A/Bed an amp that measured similarly but sounded better."

Could anyone please provide any links describing this experiment? What was O2 compared to—Magni 3 or something else?

Pokemonn's picture

Toslink > Chord Hugo2 > Stax SRM-727(solid state) modified > Stax SR-009
its one of the lowest distorion headphone system in fact.
but surpringly it sounded dead boring for me. spec war has already over.
also O2 sounded boring for me.

sciencemajor's picture

Boring is good, means it is accurate.

Pokemonn's picture

Music listening is NOT measurements.

Tyler Schrank's picture

Oh, this was years ago. 2012, maybe? I can't recall exactly. There was a ton of O2 hype on Head-Fi and the like around 2011-2012, and I still see it recommended today on sites like Reddit. I picked up a Leckerton UHA-6S Mk2, which also had objectively excellent specifications, did an A/B test, and found the Leckerton to sound noticeably better, more refined, than the O2. I had bought into the assumption that similarly measuring gear should sound the same, and that turned out to just not be the case. I wanted to be purely scientific and got my ass handed to me! Made me feel a bit crazy for a bit, but I accepted it for what it was. (And, I might add, I did quite well in Tyll's A/B amp comparison test, so I think there's really something there.)

Magni 3 I've been compared with amps like the Massdrop CTH, Massdrop ZDT Jr, and my personally modded Eddie Current S7. The Magni 3 is no slouch and arguably more well rounded than any of these amps, which are more specialized for certain headphones.

mnaganov's picture

Thanks for recalling all those details, really appreciate that!

Three Toes of Fury's picture

Howdy @mnaganov.....the history of O2 does have some roots in mystery as i recall..I'll paraphrase here as i dont want to miss quote, but it'll get you enough to google if interested in learning more....there was a person who posted alot in the community as NWAVGUY. He/She was critical of higher end gear and designed or claimed to design the O2 which JDS built and supplied. The idea being that it was as good as or better than alot of much more costly amps and this was further proven by comparisons of amp specs. This situation led alot of folks, myself included to check it out. My experience with it has been good..its a nice sounding amp and even has the option of portabability with two onboard 9vlts...however I prefer the sound quality of the Magni and Magni2 over it.

Peace n Living in Stereo

3ToF

mnaganov's picture

Yes, I'm aware what O2 is, and about its history. In fact, it were NwAvGuy's posts that sparkled me to start learning audio electronics and solder up a couple of headphone amps. At least, NwAvGuy succeeded as an evangelist :)

I was just wondering why you were labeling the rise of O2 as a "hype", and what you were comparing it to. Thanks for all those explanations!

I think, it's not a wonder that with the advances of technology it's now easy to beat O2 both in price and quality, which Magni 3 seems to be demonstrating.

stalepie's picture

Have you ever subjected yourself to blind tests to see if you can tell the difference between volume-matched amps and DACs?

Three Toes of Fury's picture

great idea @stalepie....personal bias is such a difficult thing to remove from the equation...blind testing seems to be the most honest way to reallllly differentiate.

stalepie's picture

To answer my own question, he recounted an experience with blind testing a couple of years ago here in this article...

https://www.innerfidelity.com/content/big-sound-2015-participant-report-...

He says he could tell amps apart with the HD800, but fared worse with the HE1000. ("I didn't ace the HE1000 blind test like I did with the HD800. I did better than 50/50, somewhere around 11 or 12 out of 15 "points," if I'm remembering correctly.")

sciencemajor's picture

so, the placebo affect, obviously.

dogface_jim's picture

I find experiences like this very interesting because it speaks to some inadequacy in how we spec / measure gear. The typical suite of measurements may not encompass all audible phenomena, especially when you consider various nonlinearities and all possible interactions of measurable attributes... but if you can hear it, it should in principle be possible to measure. Good instruments are more sensitive and exact than ears, after all.

Any thoughts on how you could, in theory, quantify what you heard? Do yo think it had to do with distortion, FR, IR, something else?

SonicSavourIF's picture

My experience so far with headphone amps O2, Meyer Audio Corda 3Move, Headphone outs of my Marantz receiver, and Marantz CD Player is, that there is not much difference, exept, that the Marantz receiver delivers more bass (probably due to output impedance) and is not really usable since you can barely turn up the volume (it's the full amp behind the headphone section apparantly. Of course, this could also be the reason for the perceived difference). Both the ODAC/O2 and Corda 3Move give you worry free PC Audio especially with sensitive cans, since you do not have to use noisy output jacks of computers and laptops anymore. But frankly, my HD650 with its 300 Ohm impedance straigt out of a laptop is also not noisy and the sound is fine and loud enough. Same goes for Ipod classic.I don't hear any improvement with a headphone amp. Regardless of volume.

Boy was that a disapointment that all the talk of „you need a headphone amp to up your game/Without a headphone amp you are missing out sooo much./It's a night and day experiene blabla“. I also remember not accepting this and trying to find minuscule difference which I would label „night and day“ convincing myself that there was soo much difference with a dedicated amp. Simply pathetic.

At the here discussed price point at least, I might consider giving headphone amps another try just for fun. Although I fear I already know the answer: Audiophily is more about constantly worrying about your sound quality overlooking, that you already have excellent sound. For sure it is not about enjoying music, but worrying about your equipment instead. At least, that's what got me sucked into it. Luckily, albeit quite late, my scientific mind started kicking back in. Thanks brain, now I can just enjoy music.

Pokemonn's picture

sorry current science really doesn't cut it .
mankind’s understanding of nature is still less than 0.01% of God creation according to some scientists.
and you should remember that understanding of human brain has not archived yet. its 21st century’s homework.
so we still don’t know what is the best sound.

I recommend to read this good old article of Stereophile.
https://www.stereophile.com/features/203/index.html
as Tyll said before, distorion is really yummy!

SonicSavourIF's picture

No, (audio) electronics are pretty well understood. Proof of it are far more complex electronics like computers/signal processing electronics/etc and above all measurment systems that are feasable to day (in different fields of physics). Open questions, like you are vaguely refering to, lie in fields that are way beyond audio, ableit there being enough interesting questions in perception for example.
I'm feeling, that the audiophile world likes to take the inherent remaining uncertainty of any empiric theory and take it as an excuse to believe whatever fits their view. Typically electrical engineers like to joke about audio being „practically DC“ because many physical effects that are frequency dependent are practically irrelevant in the low frequency range that audio is.
Why am I even answering this...

mnaganov's picture

What you are saying is a good point. I think, a lot of "A/B comparisons" that we read about will turn out to be flawed if you get a real scientist to evaluate them. Heck, a lot of scientific studies published in peer reviewed journals later were found out to have flaws in their methods. It's really hard to perform a true unbiased comparison.

SonicSavourIF's picture

that's true, you don't need certainty in a publishable quality to get a grip of things. I can only invite people to try it themselves and be honest to themselves (even if they have spent some money on gear). If you cannot hear much of a difference in an unmatched test, there is no reason why there should be if you go through a tidious level matching process etc. For myself I concluded, that even if a difference exists, it is so minuscule, that it will not affect the pleasure of listening and stopped worrying about it.

Raymund's picture

If you cannot hear much of a difference in an unmatched test, there is no reason why there should be if you go through a tidious level matching process etc. For myself I concluded, that even if a difference exists, it is so minuscule, that it will not affect the pleasure of listening and stopped worrying about it.

I agree with @SonicSavourIF's subjective opinion. If a difference exists in the sound of competently designed headphone amplifiers (e.g. those with no audible noise or hiss with IEMs, like the O2), it is so minuscule, that it will not affect the pleasure of listening to your music.

sciencemajor's picture

A/B means not blind, so a worthless sighted test.

buckchester's picture

I have had the same experience as you. You only need a headphone amp if you can't achieve the volume levels you require. No sound quality difference is in well constructed solid state amps. If you do a blind test and guess right once that's not good enough. You have to be able to reliably tell the difference, otherwise there is no difference or it's too small of a difference to matter. If you want to improve the sound of your headphones you should look to EQ (like Sonarworks) not amps, dacs or gee whiz cables.

stalepie's picture

What concerns me is that these products actually don't sound the same. That means they aren't providing "inner fidelity" or "high fidelity." It means the audio makers view themselves as like a cook putting their own finishing touches, a little extra spice here, a little thickener there, to make it tastier than the competition. A few years go by without measurements being done by third parties to provide a check and you're left wondering if any product is accurate or if they've all gone off in their own directions.

sciencemajor's picture

Placebo Effect.

dogface_jim's picture

I would just say that if you're listening on something like a laptop or a phone, there is no guarantee that the analog components are capable or competently designed. Many of them are fine, but not all.

For example, on my work laptop, any pure bass tone below say 50hz I play through the 3.5mm output gets horribly distorted. I can't pin it down exactly, but it sounds like some frightening combination of extreme crosstalk and soft clipping.

Won't speculate as to the underlying issue, but the laptop will play fairly loud thru IEMs - but not with good quality on anything.

geniekid's picture

I thought the comparison to the Vali 2 was very useful and would have appreciated more comparisons to other existing amps.

"Some amps might have an airier soundstage with greater depth and layering. Some amps might have harder hitting and cleaner sounding bass. Some amps might sound a bit clearer and more detailed overall, more resolving, without adding sibilance, brightness, or other fatiguing traits. And some amps are just generally going to sound more "real" and "tangible."

What are some of these amps?

Tyler Schrank's picture

If you want all of those things, and I do mean all (cleaner and harder hitting bass, airier and more 3D stage, greater resolution without being fake, more tangible overall, etc.), I'm partial to recommending the TOTL tube + output transformer coupled amps from Eddie Current, with a used, and preferably modded, Super 7 being about the cheapest you can do if you can find one. Even then, given the tube nature, it still might not be what you're looking for if you specifically want a SS sort of sound. And I'm more of a tube guy at the end of the day, so I'm biased. I'm trying to get more SS amps in house for more familiarity.

Now, EC isn't the only place for well-rounded, TOTL amps. ECP puts out some really great SS amps, and they can be pretty pricey. And I haven't been up long, so I'm having a hard time thinking of other options at the moment. :)

Point being, if you want an amp that has all around excellent performance and plays nice with everything, you'll probably end up spending well north of $1K to feel like you handily bested the Magni 3.

Now, amps like the Massdrop ZDT Jr, which I can't fully review specifically due to it not being readily available for purchase all the time, are more resolving and tangible sounding than the M3 (with the right tubes!) BUT suffer with bass quality.

Personally, I'm more partial to the ZDT Jr over the Magni 3, but I know it isn't as well-rounded and has more trade offs. It also works best with dynamic headphones, like the HD650. No so much with planars or really sensitive stuff. To me, and for my needs and tastes, the ZDT Jr is the "better" amp. But trying to recommend more specialized amps as better or worse to the general populace is asking for trouble. Not to mention, the amp seems picky with tubes, and the stock Russian ones are so-so.

And my main point there is you can find amps under $1K that best the Magni 3 in a few areas, but at the expense of other trade offs. Maybe the bass will be looser (i.e. ZDT Jr). Maybe the treble timbre will be rough or steely (i.e. Mjolnir 2 rougher, Jotunheim more steely). Maybe it will only work with one type of headphones. And so on. Plus, you'll get tons of disagreement about more particular amps, whether they're good or bad. Plays more to individual's tastes. I do hope to review more of these "specialized" amps in the future, but what excites me about the M3 is that it's kind of a no-fuss, no-worry amp for $100 and sounds great doing it across the board. Easy to recommend to about anyone.

geniekid's picture

I think the content in your response is very interesting, but I understand due to its context-specific nature why it might belong in a forum/thread post instead of a review article targeting the general populace.

Regardless, I appreciate your response and look forward to reading more stuff from you.

tili's picture

timbre of an amp? yeah...

Three Toes of Fury's picture

1) Welcome: Welcome Tyler!! Outstanding review. Thank you. I very much look forward to more from you going forward.

2) Schiit Talk:

(Ill try to be brief (not easy). The last time i tried to post my experiences with Schiit, on another site, I was berated, made fun of, mocked as a creator of "noise", and touted as an @ss kisser. Regrettably there are some in this community who view positive feedback as a negative. Or "noise" in the signal to noise metaphor. My ONLY interest is to share my experience and knowledge with others to help the community make educated and informed decisions when looking at gear.)

Schiit does outstanding work with their audio gear. I cannot comment on the magni3 as i havent snagged one yet but i have extensive experience with its two predecessors, the modi line, fulla line, and lyr line. For those of you with lots of experience with Amps, DACs, etc, you likely know Schiit and know where you stand. For those of you who are not familiar and havent made the plunge yet...the Magni3 that tyler reviewed is a PERFECT jumping in point. It is reasonably priced, well reviewed, and WILL make a substantial difference in your headphone listening. I run Magni's at work and at home. They are low profile, easy to run, look slick, and sound awesome. Build quality and reliability are top notch. Most of all i believe Schiit delivers some of the highest sound-quality-for-money-paid within the industry.

As far as companies go, Schiit really cares about the audio community. Jason's chapter by chapter postings on headfi give a great glimpse behind the curtain and provide a great education for those looking to learn more. My personal first hand experience with the company has been exceptional.

As for comparisons...ive played with other amps in the Magni price ranges (including the aforementioned O2 and some lower level tube gear) and always come back to Schiit.

Peace .n. Living in Stereo

3ToF

sciencemajor's picture

.

rockofeller's picture

How does this compare to the opamp in the Chord Mojo? I'm driving Focal Utopias!

Tyler Schrank's picture

Haven't heard that one, so can't say for sure. Sorry!

chrolls's picture

First of all, great review!

Second of all, I've almost fallen under the impression that you HAVE to have a dac amp combo, like they're "incomplete" without each other. Does it really make that much of a difference? Thx in advance, I appreciate it!

Tyler Schrank's picture

I'm sure you're aware that DAC differences are going to be relatively minor (save for a couple weird exceptions). Amps are a bit more noticeable, but still tough. Headphones make the biggest difference, by far.

I think it may be wise to at least have an inexpensive but solid DAC that checks off the usual list of good specs, since that may be an improvement piping audio straight out of a PC, for example. And, even then, you might not be able to hear the difference. Sometimes it takes training, and sometimes it just doesn't work out, but that's also not necessarily a bad thing. This hobby brings out the crazy in all of use, and keeping your sanity is a plus.

The Modi is probably a good place to start. If nothing else, the Modi/Magni stack is convenient. But you can find similarly performing DACs around $100 from a variety of companies, used or new. Really a tough question to answer unless you're ready to try out all sorts of stuff, so I recommend just getting something nice but not too pricey for peace of mind.

chrolls's picture

Thx! I don't really get to demo any gear so I'm limited to what I can gather from trusted, well-informed sources. This helps a a lot! Between sbaf and Tyll, I've had my eye on upgrading to the magni from my total bitHead (which Tyll was involved with from his time at Headroom if I'm not mistaken?) for a while as it is to pair with my he4xx. This might just put me over the edge.

Speaking of which, pretty sure I know the answer given how well-rounded you've said this amp is, but I'm assuming this amp plays well with planars?

tony's picture

No.1 )
After all these years, those dam little switches on the back are still a total pain in the ass ( shitter ), I've complained. I have to keep my Amp out where I can reach behind.

No.2 )
The Company Name is an embarrassment. These are Marketing people ??? ( it feels like they're giving everyone else the middle finger )

No.3 )
The LED does need covering with a jeweled Translucent covering and the Main Vol. Knob is too-dam slippery ( I've had to replace mine with a wooden knob).

I'm an Asgard 2 owner and I'm mostly happy with it. ( until I decide which PS Audio System to invest in ).

Performance wise, the Valhalla 2 with Russian Glass ( from Kevin Deal ) transforms into a World Beating little Amp.

Overall, Schiit stuff is made kinda cheap and lite, it holds up ok, it's nothing special. ( especially compared to the British Stuff )

On the other hand;
Schiit Culture, Schiit Guru'dom and the ongoing Saga of the Schiit Owner are vibrant things to claim association with, like going to an Amway Group Meeting.

Schiit needs a Line of accessories like Shirts, Hats, Tote Bags, Pens, Zippo Lighters ( for happy-tobacci ) and all the other misc. ( stuff that Harley Davidson boosts their monthly Sales numbers with ) ! I contributed the Idea of a Black Schiit Shirt with a little power switch screen printed on the back.

Well, somebody is gonna be the cheapest out there, the least expensive thing yielding useful performance, the lowest financial Risk investment, someone has to be the "training wheel" outfit: Stoddard & Moffat chose to be those people. god bless em !

NwAvGuy and his designs pass the test of time, I know of Mastering Engineers that own and use his DAC & Amp.

Tony in Michigan

flathearing's picture

So much superlative codswallop in the above review; indeed a characterisation of SBAF in general. And of course EC had to be mentioned somewhere, SBAF being a jumped up billboard for them.

Want a giggle - have a look at Marveys spidogram detailing the varying degrees of 'plankton' inherent in each piece of Schiit. Don't know what I'm talking about? Good, then head to Audio Science Review or similar for insight into Schiit's engineering chops eleswhere, or lack thereof.

Lest anybody forget or not know, don't forget that lots of these amp shilling types suffer from sensorineural high frequency hearing loss. It's a fact of age, and makes subjective takes all the less worthwhile. Word to the wise...

Tyler Schrank's picture

I'd point out that I'm actually quite young and seem sensitive to upper frequencies. Probably one reason I run NOS DACs.

We all have different tastes, even on SBAF. We hear what we hear and like what we like, and we're open and honest about it. We can be biased too, as is true for anyone. You should see if there are any SBAF folks in your area you could join for a meet sometime! We'd love to have you and try out all our gear together. :)

roscoeiii's picture

Hi Hands,

You mentioned that you'd compared M3 to the Massdrop ZDF Jr and Cavalli Massdrop Hybrid. I saw a comparison to the ZDF above, how does the M3 compare to the Cavalli Hybrid? Thanks for the great review and being so active in this comments section.

Tyler Schrank's picture

The MCTH is more similar to the Vali 2 than the Magni 3. So, you'll get a bit more of that tube air and layered staging, a bloomier low end, and a slightly more tangible sound (very hard to describe in words) relative to the M3. The MCTH is more forward, slightly more aggressive, and and slightly more immediately engaging than the Vali 2, and maybe just a hair so more than the M3 (both of which are a little more laid-back in comparison).

The downside to the MCTH is that it can be a bit rough and fuzzy sounding, albeit a lot of this is due to the new production, stock, Russian tubes. They need a lot of burn in time. You can get smoother sounding tubes, usually NOS, to fix this up. But, even then, the Vali 2 is a bit more laid-back, a bit more neutral, but not quite as dynamic or detailed. The M3 is kind of in the middle of being forward or laid-back, has good dynamics, sounds cleaner than both, doesn't have quite the same sense of air, and yet still retains a natural, pleasant tone.

The MCTH is probably best suited for waking up laid-back headphones. It seems to work well with planars and dynamics. The Vali 2 is better suited for fairly balanced sounding dynamic headphones in my experience. The M3 is just agreeable straight down the line with about anything you plug into it. Still, doesn't mean you can't enjoy the MCTH or Vali 2 more for your own tastes and equipment.

Impulse's picture

Quite a useful comparison this one...

I'm hoping to compare them myself eventually, as I'm in on the CTH drop and I've been eyeing a Magni 3... But this gives me a pretty good idea how suitable they'll be for the different roles I have in mind for em.

My aim is to pair the CTH with PM-3/HD650 for living room use... Whereas the Magni 3 I just want as a cooler running less delicate alternative to my tube amp for gaming, heh. Got an Asgard 2 already that would work but I wanna reclaim some desk space too!

sciencemajor's picture

Well it is always sad to see someone fall for the placebo affect.

Bansaku's picture

Seriously, you keep spamming "placebo effect" yet don't back up your statement. For someone with the moniker "sciencemajor", that's embarrassing, yes?

Numbers on paper are absolutely meaningless without observation to back up the hypothesis. This is the backbone of what makes science what it is; Theory followed by observation, rinse and repeat. So how exactly are these people experiencing a "placebo effect" when in fact, they are practicing their own form of science? They read the data on paper, compare, listen, compare, so on and so forth with each new piece of electronics.

In the world of audio, subtle is often quite apparent. Trust your ears and not some internet smarty pants.

tili's picture

sighted listening has quite apparent effects on what you hear due to confirmation bias. therefore those observations are pointless aside from psychoacoustics. however it is still fun. fun is allowed, fun is the reason we are here. just don’t call it science

xnor's picture

People also swear that watered-down water can cure various diseases. They even have scientific studies that conclude this. Some of them properly controlled DBTs*. Most fail however (and some of them even get published! ;), and it's the same with the more or less scientific audio tests that have been conducted.

So homeopathy doesn't work, it's a scam and even a well known one (just like high end audio) ... and yet people still fool themselves and each other, build "careers" and their whole lives on it.
It's kinda sad.

*) If you wonder why then research the various problems with NHST and challenges in statistical inference.
In case you don't, here's the short answer: we fully expect positive studies even though there is no real effect.

"The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool." - Richard Feynman

I've said this years ago and I'll say it again: the main cause for _real_ audible differences is differences in FR (in amplifiers due to different output impedance), which is easily measurable.

tili's picture

I wish Schiit products weren’t overpriced in EU compared to US prices

Martin.'s picture

In Norway, the only reseller of Schiit products sells the Magni for 193 USD. That's double the price. But you can get them cheaper used.

Tyler Schrank's picture

I still don't think I'd complain paying $200 for this. It's less of a crazy value, but a value nonetheless. You can do much worse for much more!

cspirou's picture

I was wondering if you can comment how this compares to the Apex Butte? The amp has been featured twice on Innerfidelity, both as commercial product and DIY, and I believe you made one as well. The price point is close too.

Tyler Schrank's picture

I'll have to drag my Butte out and do a direct comparison, but the Butte to me always seemed to be difficult to dial in right with opamps and possible feedback settings. Plus, I got a particular bad pot on my Butte. The Magni 3 seems more "no fuss or worries" in terms of sound for me.

touho's picture

Thanks for the review, it was a nice read.
I'm curious to learn how this would differ from the Arcam rHead that was also reviewed earlier? The heaphones would be HD650. I'm basically trying to figure out which one would be the better fit.

sestar's picture

Hi, thanks for the review. Do you (or does anybody) know, how the Magni3 compares to the Jotunheim?

Robin Landseadel's picture

So Tyler convinced that I wanted one of these gizmos—have a Fiio X1, Fiio Mont Blanc 12a headphone amp and hours and hours of daily use at my desk. If I could improve the overall sound quality of eight hours of my day for $100, then make it so.

The differences between the two headphone amps all conform to Tyler Schrank's descriptions. The Mont Blanc was a step up from the X1's built-in headphone amp—more "juice", more current, more "oomph" and low-level detail—but compared to the Magni, it's compressed, a little overdone in the bass [or underdone, depending on whether or not the bass boost control is engaged] and kinda "dry" sounding. There's a baked-in overall smoothness/liquidity to the Magni's sound, almost but not quite like tubes, maybe more like Luxman gear. I've heard cleaner, but I'll never afford it. And I've heard way more expensive that sounded outright terrible. I've been around the block and back via the alley, been put down, washed up, erased out. I've inhaled more than my fair share of solder fumes. I've been down on the bottom of the world full of lies. I've had dangerous looking Veal cutlets at Norm's.

I know my way 'round these parts.

Being as I once was a recording engineer of Classical music and will always be collecting and listening to such, there's one "feature" of the headphone amp that really intrigues me—the accuracy and clarity of representing the self-noise in older recordings, particularly pre-Dolby, early stereo recordings where the tape hiss should be in your face. Right now I'm listening to the very fine Dvorak 9th symphony recording of George Szell/Cleveland Orchestra, recorded in the late 50's/early 60's. There's more tape hiss audible via the Magni than I've heard in years, but what's unusual is that the "hiss" has a more particulate and specific quality than I recall from previous auditions, including years and years of listening to live feeds via Stax Electrostats with a tube amp/energizer. My $135 combo of the Magni & the [used, so $3.50 for the headphones, $12.00 for the replacement pads] Sony V-6's beats the Stax gear in many musically important areas, notably bass, dynamics and the ability to clearly play musical rests. The background is so black, it just disappears.

Probably the best price/performance ratio I've heard in anything ever.

BubbaJay's picture

I was down to either the Vali 2 or Magni 3 and after leaning toward the V2 early I went with the M3 in the end. From all the glowing reviews and the fact it's only $99 it was too good to pass up. I know it won't have the soundstage or 3D presentation of the V2 but as long as its soundstage is marginally better than my current Magni 2 I'll be fine with that. After reading how it pairs with the Mimby I'm looking forward to hearing my Schiit stack.

dpcaudle's picture

Reading the above comment, I'm kinda in the same boat. I'm trying to decide between the Magni 3 or Vali 2. I've got a Sony Walkman NWZ-ZX1 that I'm pairing with some Meze 99 Classics and a Schiit Loki EQ for a nifty little desktop set.

But which way to go, the Magni 3 or Vali 2? I've got a Magni 2 Uber, and am happy with it, but am curious in regards to the Magni 3 (as an overall improvement to the Magni 2 Uber) or going to the world of tubes with the Vali 2.

I love detailed sound with a little bit of warmth, soundstage is important to me too.

Does anyone have some words of wisdom to help me out of my mental jam?

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