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
sestar's picture

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

Pervez74's picture

Really mind-boggling work using the weblog. I truly do much like your own organization work upon and can remain with regard to much more publish through a person because publish offered me personally pleasure and provides a few helps you to perform exact same function the following. Right now click here TV comparison chat Many thanks a great deal with regard to good post.

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.

Pages

X