I don’t own this amp but I have read complaints that the signal to the pre-out is always active, no matter whether you have headphones plugged in or not. So you would need another way to mute your power amp or powered monitors when using headphones. Or turn them off when using headphones.
Just now realized, zeos reviewed these on his patreon. Guess that’s something for people to look forward to… Wonder if he will also get the jot 2
Yeah, and that wood interconnect almost made me want a Schiit stack.
For this of you who have it: https://snakeoilsound.com
Wow nice one!
Pretty cool interconnect. Looks like they are trying to blow the stack apart with a brick of C-4.
It’s been a wild few weeks for me with sound gear. After lots of encouragement and positive feedback from this forum I reached out to a few audio companies and asked to review stuff for them. Schiit was one such company and graciously agreed to send me a Magnius for review. The only condition they asked for was to read this review first to do a “tech fact-check.” I agreed, as I also want to be sure I get my Schiit straight. [A Schiit rep read this review before posting and did not ask for any changes or edits.] Also, I don’t plan to spend too much time on the tech aspect of it because really what we’re after here is the sound, isn’t it?
The TL;DR version of this review is that the Magnius is an outstanding value in this measurement-focused, sorta-budget-kinda-low-cost category of headphone amps. I haven’t heard all of this type of amp yet, but I’ve heard a good number. To my ear the Magnius is 1) the best sounding example of its type of amplifier so far and yet 2) it still doesn’t quite reach the standard that Schiit themselves have set for how good a $200 headphone amp should be.
I must declare a bias I had going into this review. I owned the THX-based SMSL SP200 for several months and while I was initially impressed I rather quickly became aware of its shortcomings. Namely, it had harsh, brittle treble, mediocre spatial re-creation, and was bettered by the far less expensive JDS Labs Atom amp on timbre. Since multiple sources described the SP200 as nearly sonically indistinguishable from other THX amps I have developed a bias against THX amps and other amps that take the same measurement-focused design approach. It’s my current position that up to about $150 the measurement-focused amps sound great and are price appropriate, but the SP200 just didn’t offer much of value beyond what those entry-level units already offered. So, when Schiit dropped the Magnius at $200 while making claims they were getting into the measurement game I was equal parts intrigued and skeptical. With that declared, let’s dive into the details…
ABOUT THE MAGNIUS
As I said, I’m not going to get deep into the tech, so you get this one paragraph on design. I’ll stick close to what Schiit’s website has to say about the Magnius. It’s a fully balanced headphone amp rated to deliver 5 watts of power from its balanced output at 32 ohms. That makes it more powerful than most THX amps out there. On Schiit’s description page, they describe the Magnius thusly: “Magnius uses a handful of very high-end integrated circuits, including buffers with feedforward, exotic fully differential op-amps, and powerful current-feedback outputs in a composite configuration to reduce THD and noise to vanishingly low levels.” I read that as Schiit saying they have combined elements of the feedforward topologies found in THX and similar amps with more traditional solid-state designs. Schiit clearly plants their flag with the very next two sentences on their description page, though: “If you’re looking for measurements, Magnius is our best-measuring amp. And it out-measures a whole lot of other gear out there, at much higher prices.” [emphasis mine] Clearly Schiit wants in on the what is obviously the hopping market right now of relatively low-cost, measurement-focused headphone amps. So, since that’s the measuring stick they want, I’ll compare the Magnius to several such amps later on in this review, as well as Schiit’s own Asgard 3.
The Magnius includes a single-ended RCA input, a balanced XLR input, and both single-ended RCA and balanced XLR pre-outs on its back panel. The main power switch is also in the rear…a uniquely Schiit-y feature that at some point needs to go away, but is what it is for now. The front panel has both SE and balanced XLR headphone outputs, a gain selector button (2 levels, high and low), an input selector switch (RCA and XLR), and the volume knob which is connected to an Alps potentiometer. The build is rather solid. The construction is a fairly light but solid aluminum chassis and the power supply is an external power brick, which brings the unit’s weight down a fair amount. The power brick itself is integrated into the plug. I get that this power supply is cheap and helps the amp reach a price point, but there are also cheap power supplies that don’t integrate the big brick part into the plug. That’s a big, bulky thing to plug into a power strip and I wish Schiit had used a cheap power supply that had the power brick mid-cord. Some will argue with me on this, but that kind of arrangement is more friendly to my setup. Back to the amp itself…there’s a red LED inside the chassis that can also create a cool light pattern as the light filters through the ventilation holes in the top of the chassis. But that’s about it as far as build and features. It’s a pretty simple unit in that it’s a really no-frills design that is meant to take a music waveform in and make it come out taller. So on with the…
The bulk of my time with this review was listening through Magnius’s balanced input and balanced headphone output. I checked performance using the single-ended input and found that it really did not differ noticeably from the XLR input, but the unbalanced headphone output is definitely not up to the performance level of the XLR headphone output. If you buy this amp, make sure that it’s to use the balanced headphone output. The thoughts that follow will therefore be based on my listening from the balanced output.
Remember the bias I declared in the first section? The Magnius almost made me eat crow…almost. The Magnius has that same ultra-clean sonic presentation of the amps it’s trying to compete with and that cleanliness makes a great first impression. I also quickly noticed the treble was not as sharp as I remember the SP200’s being and the spatial presentation – soundstage and imaging – were better than I expected as well. The overall signature is quite neutral, and there’s a good overall mix of smoothness and detail. The bass was extended and controlled and the mids were smooth with reasonably natural timbre. The overall sonic presentation reminded me of what I hear from the Asgard 3. That’s a good thing. For my money the Asgard 3 is the sonic benchmark at $200, and honestly probably is still the sonic benchmark up to $300 or maybe even $350. That puts the Magnius in pretty good company. To my ear there was really nothing noticeably wrong with the sound. So why the ‘almost’?
The ‘almost’ comes from the fact that the Asgard 3 just gives you a little bit more; a little bit more detail, a little bit more soundstage width, a little bit tighter imaging, a little bit more instrument and vocal separation, a little bit more natural timbre. The A3 doesn’t have that immediate “woah, that’s clean!” impression that the Magnius offers. It takes some time – a couple dozen hours for me – to “hear past” the shiny object that is Magniu’s sonic cleanliness. That is not to say the A3 sounds dirty or noisy – it most certainly does not! – just that the Magnius has such a black sonic background that it’s attention-grabbing in its own way and makes a first impression that lingers. It was biodynamic-driver headphones (a level 3 Lawton modded TH-X00 and a ZMF Eikon) where the differences between the Asgard and Magnius started to reveal themselves. Then, slowly, planar-magnetic driver headphones started showing the same thing (HiFiMan Edition X V2, Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-3 both prefazor). Finally, even with classic dynamic-driver headphones in the same price class as the Magnius and Asgard (Beyerdynamic DT-880 600 ohm balanced modded, Massdrop + Sennheiser HD6XX) those same differences started to come out. The Asgard just wrings out slightly more from every headphone I tried. These differences were hard to parse out initially but once I did the Asgard’s improvement in individual technicalities summed up to a more natural and involving listening experience. The Asgard’s sound just drew me in more quickly and left me wanting to stick around longer. That does not mean the Magnius is not engaging or enjoyable – there were several hours-long listening sessions I really enjoyed with – just not as much as I do with Asgard.
COMPARISON WITH OTHER AMPS
I already compared the Magnius to the Asgard 3 above. I also mentioned some of my long-term-memory recollections of how Magnius compares to the SP200; the Magnius was much closer to the A3’s performance than the SP200’s. Yes, that should be taken with a grain of salt because of the time between, but I was on the lookout for the flaws I remembered from the SP200 in the Magnius’s sound and I didn’t find them. I am also currently reviewing (now finished!) the Topping L30 and the Geshelli Labs Archel 2 GMR. Both of those amps have a similar ‘wow that’s clean’ initial presentation like the Magnius does. The L30 has a much smoother sound than either of the other two. The Archel 2 GMR sounds a hair more treble-forward than Magnius, though not by much. The Magnius sounds wider, has more coherent and even soundstage than either of the other two, and is more detailed with slightly more natural timbre than either of the others. Magnius also had a bit more slam and control in the low-end than either L30 or GMR. These differences were not large but they were easier for me to parse out than the differences between the Asgard and the Magnius. At $200 the Magnius, to my ear, sounds appropriately superior to the L30 and GMR at $130 and $150, respectively.
I tried the Magnius with the balanced outputs of each of the iFi Zen Dac, SMSL SU-8, Schiit Modius, and Schiit Bifrost 2, and from the single-ended output of the Topping D10. Unsurprisingly it was most at home with the Schiit DACs, but they have a competitive advantage here. The best combo was Bifrost 2 + Magnius, which again isn’t surprising since the BF2 is 2.5x the price of any of the others. Combined with the Modius – let’s call it the Schiitius stack because that’s funny – the Magnius still sounds excellent. When Schiit claims on their website that the Schiitius stack could be an “endgame” stack for measurement-focused listeners, they may not be joking. It’s a solid combo for the price that’s only sonically bettered if you swap out the Magnius for the Asgard 3, IMO.
I must congratulate Schiit for what they’ve accomplished with the Magnius. Going into this review I thought the Magnius would be more-or-less a balanced version of the same sound obtained from the <$150 measurement-champ-amps floating around out there in abundance now. In actuality, it’s closer to the livelier, more natural, more engaging sound of the Schiit’s own Asgard 3 amp, but also not…quite…there. The Asgard 3 remains the best sounding amp, to my ear and that I’ve heard so far, up to at least $300. Yet, the Magnius impressed me enough to give me hope that amps of this type will eventually catch up to the Asgard and come down even more in price. We all win when that eventually happens. I recommend the Magnius for users who’s primary goal is to get that black sonic background in their sound. Right now I don’t know of a better price/performance option on the market. You should also consider the Magnius if you have a bad ground loop problem in your system and can match it with a balanced DAC and are on a budget.
I hope Schiit lets me hang onto the Magnius a little longer. I hope to get the Topping A90 in here someday soon and it would be an awesome comparison point. What do you say, Schiit?
[They said YES!]
I’m still working on an iFi Zen CAN review. Then, I will post a round-up post of <$200 amps. Stay tuned!
Thanks for reading, all. Enjoy the music!
as always… Rock solid work here!!
Thank you, sir!
That was a great read @WaveTheory! Nice work again. I hope Schiit has the Jot 2 headed your way soon!
Schiit is not sending me a Jot 2 directly but a very generous forum member has stepped up and offered to send me theirs for a review and then onto them when I’m done. Should be relatively soon!
Interesting to see the Z review of this aligns pretty closely with my experience. Makes me wonder if my ears are broke
hey hey hey…a broken clock is right two times in a day!
Hello people. I am very new to this hobby, and I picked up the Magnius/Modius by using some Christmas-Gift money. I have skimmed through this thread, and noticed the Magnius’ SE output in particular does not compare to the entry-level Magni 3+/Heresy. I’m not regretting my purchase though, because I plan on getting T60RP’s as a self-birthday gift. Right now, the only cans I own are some KPH30i’s, and I also have the BLON BL03. I like to spend big to future-proof myself. I will also mention that I owned and returned a pair of Sennheiser 280Pros. I liked the sound, but the clamping force actually fatigued me.
Having said all of that, since I an new and all, I have many questions.
As long as I have the correct cables, can I drive every headphone balanced? I am under this assumption because the Meze 99 Classics, Sennheiser 6XX, and Fostex T60RPs have detachable cables, but they also sell proprietary balanced cables. I ask this because, I’m curious if something like the Beyerdynamic DT1990 can be driven balanced with something like Hart Audio Cables.
For a newb like me, I don’t think I ought to care about the SE output being subpar, as this thread denotes. With that in mind, I have my eyes on the Beyerdynamic TYGR 300R as a comfort upgrade to the KPH30i’s. Would it be reasonable and possible for me to plug a Heresy to the Modius, just to get the most out of the KPH30i’s (and eventually) the TYGR’s? Or can I go about with the Magnius’ SE, and not miss out on much?
The DT 1990 specifically cannot be run balanced unless the headphones are rewired for it by someone who knows that they are doing. Any headphone that has wires running separately to each cup can be run balanced. Single entry (like the DT 1990) take a bit more research.
I have a guess as to your second question, but would rather leave it to someone more familiar with the Magnius… so admit I don’t really know.
Finally got my Schiit (Stack). I apologize for the dust, but I thought I’d spice things up with my current IEM’s (BLON BL-03 and Tin P1) and a balanced adapter. Out of frame, I have my KPH30i’s resting on a foam block, and Yamaha HPH-MT5’s on my head.
I’ve been using the BTR5 (next to Tin P1 Case) as my desktop AMP/DAC until I could afford the upgrade. Really loving listening to all my music with this Schiit already
I’m already thinking of getting the 6XX and T60RP Argons later on down the road, and of course drive them balanced.
Personally, I don’t think I’d sweat the SE stuff very much. Try going back and forth with the headphones you have that have both cables. Can you tell the difference? For things like the KPH30i, I certainly wouldn’t worry about making them balanced… unless you’re just doing it for fun.
Also, I could be way wrong on this, but I purchased a Hart cable for my K7XX and I am running them balanced through both the CTH and Magnius. I haven’t had any problems.
What kind of problems do people experience when running a SE headphone like the K7XX balanced?
Any ‘issues’ are likely to be related to running single ended from an amp where the primary design focus was on the balanced output. The single ended out tends to be a bit of an afterthought with lower power and quality in many balanced amps.
I’ve seen people claim that you will damage something. Anything to that?