Alternatives to Schiit (style / visual)

Heya,

I own a Modi / Magni stack and looking for next tier upgrade. What I like a lot about Schiit products are their minimalistic and sortof analog design style. It comes across classic. However, Schiit products in Europe are very expensive. For comparison, a Schiit Asgard 3 costs $279, in Europe it costs $378,-.

So I’ve been looking at other brands, SMSL, Topping, but to me they’re all very digitally. Have a display etc. So I was wondering if maybe anybody can make some suggestions on brands or products that have this minimalistic looks. Maybe I’ve been overlooking some.

Would love to hear!

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What is your budget? Or are you just looking for companies to consider in general (some don’t have offerings below $1,000).?

As a side note. Even at nearly $400 Asgard 3 compares favorably with amps in the $500 price point. Granted that when I purchased mine it was still at the $200 MSRP. Not my current amp though.

Just looking for companies to consider. But to give an indication, I’m perfectly fine spending €300,- on an amp or a dac. That Asgard 3 with ESS card costs €460,-, that’s fine by me. And if there’s not really an alternative for Schiit, than Schiit it is. I just feel that paying an extra 100,- on top could perhaps be spend elsewhere. So that’s why I’m looking if there are any other companies to consider.

iFi and their products are cool…Zen Dac 3 for example should be within your budget and available in most EU countries…

I like IFI’s Zen series for their looks and materials. I don’t like how they portait themselves as a premium brand but their products offer much less specifications compared to other brands in the same price bracket. Makes you feel as if you’re paying a lot for their marketing.

Compare their Zen Can Signature, which is their $300,- amp, to the Schiit Midgard ($219) or Toppings. You get a whole lot more beefier specs. Sure, I know that nobody needs 4.8W on their headphone, but Ifi doesn’t feel to compete on specs but in return don’t compete on price either.

I think their thing is their implementation of the Burr brown chip set which offers a slightly warmer sound than a lot of their competitors and depending on the model, IEM match, Xbass and XSpace etc… whether any of that’s worth it will ultimately come down to what you intend to drive power wise, sound signature preferences and transducer synergy it’s not always Watt’s = :moneybag:in my experience.

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Definitely that it’s not perse watts that matter.

JDS Labs Element III is about as minimalist as it gets for a DAC-amp combo: Element III MK2 - Shop JDS Labs

That’s even more difficult to get in Europe. Also, I already own a Magni / Modi stack for which I’m looking to upgrade.

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What price range are we talking about here? You mention Asgard 3 as an example of the price difference but didn’t offer a budget. That would help.

Either way, for headphone amps I’d look into Lake People. They’re based in Germany. Their aesthetic is more industrial but it’s also minimalist.

DACs are gonna be tougher. I agree with @Ohmboy that iFi can be an option, but unfortunately they are falling off as of late, IME. I recently reviewed the SMSL DO200 Pro and found it to be remarkably smooth and analog sounding - moreso than any other “Chi-Fi” DAC I’ve heard. If you’re budget allows, you can also look into Soekris DACs. They’re a Danish company so should be relatively straightforward to acquire in Europe. Furthermore, Soekris and Lake People often pair together extremely well - but Soekris in particular has a starting cost around 750 Euro, IIRC. Chord’s Mojo 2 portable DAC/amp also works well as a desktop DAC and sounds great, and should be easier to acquire in the EU.

I hope this helps :beers:

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As you’re just looking for ideas, would you consider a minimalist all in one?

Fiio K9 AKM (not Pro)
Hifiman EF500

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Amps - Lake People/Violectric. Straightforward, well-built. European.
Some common ground in sound profile too.

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The old Fiio K9 ESS (not the pro version) has been replaced by the AKM version but is still a great all-in-one. And you can find remaining stocks for quite a bit cheaper than the AKM version.

I like that K9 yes. Not sure about the differences between the AKM and the ESS in terms of sound. I’m using a Hifiman Ananda Nano which is a bit on the bright side.

Two brands that I would add that give good quality and are pretty easy to obtain in the EU are Aune and Earmen.

I am fond of the Earmen stack (my most used desktop set up) and the Aune S9c is an excellent device.

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Thanks everybody for the input! Did some checking out, I think I’ve 3 contenders for my next setup.

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