I just had all of these amps around to compare, so I want to share my thoughts on these. Maybe it helps someone looking for a ~200€ Amp, especially when the Asgard 3 is not available. (“There is another”)
This is not a full review, just some of my opinions after a month. For those seeking for more insights I’d recommend checking out WaveTheory’s posts in this forum or go on to YouTube.
So what do we have got?
1.) Zen Can (Mine was 189€): I used only the unbalanced in and out! A solid unit. The sound quality is not as refined as the Asgard or the G103 but there are no big flaws either. Everything sounds how it is supposed to sound. What it does nicely though is to give some weight to the sound. The base and the mids are slightly thicker. Overall the sound is a little bit more inviting and laid back. Also: You get “the button”. How much you benefit from this depends a lot on the headphone, their quality and impedance. With the extra base my DT770 simply distorted most of the time but boy did my Sundaras take it well. The 3D is fun to play around with, the impact is not as big tho. It pushes the voices a little bit further away and separates the treble in just another way. The sound becomes lighter.
So this amp I’d say is a nice little device, especially if you’re into “the button”. I guess how well it will serve you depends on the headphones and the user’s taste.
2.) A50s (185€): I used only unbalanced out!. I call this the soft one. This one is gentle with your ears. When listening to this amp you first notice the evenness in the sound. All the sonical regions are very well balanced. I’d say it’s the most neutral and balanced one of the four. At least it feels that way. And there is a reason for it: The A50s is sluggish on the edges and details. It takes some of the details away. Even a song that should sound sharp, sibilant and painful is fine to listen to with the A50s. This makes for a very balanced and easy listen experience without jumpy treble-peaks piercing your ears. On the other hand it causes loss of detail. When a guitar string is plugged the impact and refinement is just not the same.
In comparison with the Zen Can: I wanna say the A50s is better controlled and maybe better organised within the soundstage while the Zen is more impactful, detailed and sparkly.
One major flaw: The A50s has so little power coming out of the unbalanced output. When paired with a 2Vrms Dac we’re speaking of ~0,5W @32Ohms. My 50€ Dac-Amp-Combo from FX-Audio puts out more power…
So this amp I’d say is for those that want a very pleasing, unedgy sound with a lot of balance. Maybe for those that tend to get pain from listening to music with headphones.
So how do these two stack up against the G103 and Asgard 3? Well, they don’t. The next two amps are just another class. The differences are not insane but very present in comparison.
But they come in at almost ~80€ more, that’s more than a third of the cost and not a small difference for some.
3.) Asgard 3 (260€): At this point everyone in this forum knows about the glorious Asgard. It is better than the other ~200€ amps in about every sonical category. The sound is slightly warm, with some extra weight in the base. Treble remains present at all times though. What this amp does particularly well is soundstage and three-dimensionality. A headphone that can take advantage of this does really come alive on this amp.
The major flaw of this amp is the availability. Schiit products are almost always backordered and are stocked only in the US.
4.) Lake People G103 (270€): Wow, this guy actually stacks up against the Asgard. The sound signature is different to the Asgard but the sound-quality is on the same level. The G103 focuses more on a studio sound. The treble is more present, the mids, especially the vocal, are separated more clearly, the base is not as strong and full but I wanna say better controlled? It seems like the G103 wants to make sure that you at all time can hear everything very clearly while the Asgard tries to give you more impact and more of a wholesome experience.
Only the soundstage is definitely not on the same level. It’s slightly less wide and the three-dimensionality that the Asgard does so well is lacking. The question in this regard is, whether your headphones can take advantage of that. The imaging might be superior on the G103.
For that soundstage reason I liked the Sundaras better on the Asgard. The Sundara sounding relatively thin also takes great advantage of the weightier sound. The HD660s on the other hand I preferred on the G103 because the extra clarity and separation works really well for this headphone. So it is a give or take and depends on preference.
What we can take away from this is that the G103 could be the alternative for the Asgard if you are in Europe or the Asgard is yet again out of stock.