Schiit Audio

schiit

#1

Schiit Audio are a well known brand, especially in the headphone space, offering a variety of high-value, made-in-the-USA, DACs, amplifiers and accessories … ranging from a sub $100 all-in one unit, all the way up to a high-end flagship DAC and headphone/speaker amplifier.

About their name … they say it best:

Yes, that is our name. Shih-tah. It’s a proud German name, host to a long line of audio engineers who slaved away in crumbling Teutonic fortresses as lightning lashed the dark lands outside, working to perfect the best amplification devices in the world…

Or, well, no. Yep, Schiit is our name, and it’s pronounced, well, like “hey man, that’s some really good Schiit!” And now that we have your attention…


This the spot for general discussions about the Schiit Audio brand.


#2

I have a big pile of Schiit audio products sitting in my review list and prior to launching into those actual reviews, I felt it’d probably be a good thing to actually put up the brand thread for them (individual products will get their own threads, as usual).

While I am planning some all-up comparisons for their DAC line (e.g. back-to-back comparisons with all four multi-bit DACs) as well as their headphone amplifiers, a teaser is my normal way to start such things …

So without further ado, here’s a shot of their latest entry-level USB DAC, the $99 “Modi 3” (simply referred to as “Modi” now), stacked with their diminutive Vali 2 tube-hybrid headphone amplifier ($149), and paired with a Massdrop x Sennheiser HD6XX headphone ($199).

I’m hard pressed to come up with a more musically rewarding, capable or convenient system for $447. The synergy between these three components in particular is excellent - yielding a better result than I would expect from the already solid performance each piece exhibits on it’s own.

You can get close, and save some money with HD58X headphone, which would bring you in under $400. And you could shave off another $50 by replacing the Vali 2 with a Magni 3, and be at $347. But I think you lose a little of the magic at work here by doing so (but then I personally prefer the HD6XX over the HD58X and the Vali 2 over the Magni 3 anyway).


#3

The Schiit Magni 3 was my first dedicated headphone amplifier (not counting a Dragonfly Black combo unit). The first one died on me within the first 15 minutes of using it. Its replacement has a volume pot with pretty severe channel imbalance at low volumes and a propensity for collecting static. That said, it does put a very respectable amount of clean power into those headphones that need it, and it’s my favorite amp for use with my LCD2C. It’s also a nice looking piece of equipment for the price.


#4

Good topic. I been wanting to know more about their. I’ve heard nothing but good things. I have been looking at Mjolnir amp for awhile.


#5

This is the setup I use on the daily, and it is a great value as you had said. Can’t wait to hear everyone’s thoughts on these components. I have been a Schiit fan for a while.


#6

I recently got their entry-level Fulla 2. I had some static trouble till I replaced the old headphone adapter and USB cable I was using with new ones. Very nice sound now.


#7

This might be sad to hear…but, I have never played with Schiit lol! Ok seriously though never used any of their products, hopefully I’ll remedy that in the near future, just need to decide on what product to jump in at =)


#8

Yggdrasil obviously :grin:


#9

There is always talk about the Schiit product line around the different forums. They do on the whole get a lot of love (more on certain forums than others) but it’s a make I haven’t tried myself. It’s not as easy (though you can) to get hold of in the UK as it is in its country of origin the US.

This issue aside there have also been rumblings about QC. But aren’t there always with popular products. Then there is the whole ho har around the implementation of the multi-bit Dac’s and whether or not it’s snake oil. I am not casting any aspersions but just saying that these are some of the questions it would be nice to discuss in the thread. With reviews and impressions from people I trust it could help myself and others with purchasing decisions in future. I think it’s mainly the Multi-bit Dac thing I don’t really get. Does it make a discernible difference?

Again just to reiterate I am not knocking Schiit products in any way. I would just like some impressions from more experienced users who’ve used them and could perhaps cut through all the nonsense sometimes said on other forums.

-Paul-


#10

Yes, that would be an interesting one about which to learn. I myself have never heard an R2R DAC (at least, not that I know of :slight_smile: ). I’m not interested in buying one, but if I ever get myself to a meet or something I’d certainly love to try it.

One of the things I love about our forum vs some others is that we tend not to go overboard on generalities. Someone can have a bad experience with a brand without it becoming a pariah and someone can have a great experience with a brand without it getting labeled as the second coming of Christ.

Based on my limited personal experience with Schiit, along with stuff I read online, I get the impression that Schiit aims to provide somewhat special, bespoke designed equipment, built in the expensive U.S. labor market, all at a competitive price. In a field as niche as desktop headphone DACs and amps, this seems like a tall order since they can’t just rely on copying some reference designs and so need to invest at least a little in R&D. I don’t know what their sales figures are in Europe but it sounds like they’re not very widespread over there, and I’m guessing they don’t have a big presence in Asia, so they seem to be mostly limited to the U.S. market. That makes it hard to amortize development costs over a large volume of goods sold, so some cost cutting in materials, build and/or QA seems inevitable.

Some of the recent Schiit hate stems from comparisons to Chinese made equipment like that from Topping, in which Schiit equipment often measures objectively worse by “traditional” measures. I find these comparisons interesting, because they’re a bit of an apples to oranges comparison:

  1. A lot of Topping’s stuff relies heavily on integrated circuits (ICs) from big names like TI, Sabre, etc. whereas at least some of Schiit’s stuff (like the Magni 3) uses discrete circuits, which require more effort to design and build to a consistent quality

  2. Topping uses relatively cheaper Chinese labor whereas Schiit uses expensive U.S. labor

  3. Topping has an international presence, not to mention a giant home market, so they likely get better economies of scale

Now, the IC vs discrete thing is interesting because IMHO discrete doesn’t necessarily offer tangible advantages over IC and imposes quite a few costs, but from an audiophile perspective, discrete implementations are certainly more “special”.

I also find it counterproductive that people sometimes criticize Schiit for being too marketing oriented. The reality is that the more successful Schiit becomes at expanding their sales volume through marketing, the more they can afford to spend on continuing to design interesting products and hitting a price/quality balance that works.

Sometimes I feel like we audiophiles want fully discrete, bespoke circuits that sound amazing and measure well, all for $99 shipped and with a 5 year warranty. The only way that can conceivably happen is VOLUME.

In the meantime, I feel like we need to be willing to either:

  1. Accept more use of ICs
  2. Accept some cost cutting on build and/or QC (assuming the manufacturer still stands behind the product to a certain extent)
  3. Accept stuff that doesn’t always measure well

I personally prefer options 1 and 2, but reasonable people can disagree.


#11

I think with the upcoming @Torq reviews in the pipe that could help with the discussions, being a trusted reviewer. But yeah, I agree, more discussion helps, I read a bunch of bad reviews/measurements coming from a couple of sites and I think it became a bandwagon bash…not going to lie it swayed my purchase of a schiit stack at the time.

I think in regards to the multibit DAC I have not heard it, but based on my limited DAC experience I think it would have a discernable difference…how discernable is up to the end user :wink:


#12

Some very good analysis Percy I couldn’t agree more on all of your points. I don’t knock Schiit for its marketing campaign and I thinks it was a brilliant bit of marketing to be honest with regards the name. I think most audiophiles within Europe are aware of Schiit products as the major forums are to one extent mainly Frequented by larger numbers of US audiophiles where Schiit has its largest user base. It’s a company quite often discussed and as it’s often a gateway product into the audiophile market is well liked. It has recently become quite a polarising topic of late as you’ve allured to because of the measurement and discussion of its Dac’s. ASR’s site (of which I am now a fan) has done a lot to further this discussion. I also think that there’s a lot of fanboyism floating around some forums which makes for entertaining reading at times.:slightly_smiling_face:.

-Paul-


#13

Even as someone that reviews a fair amount of gear (and touches a lot more that I don’t write about for various reasons) I think reviews are most useful as a way to narrow the options down to an actual audition list.

From there, buy based on actually liking something you’ve had your own ears on.

My personal standard is that, for my own rigs, I don’t buy gear that I either a) can’t directly audition or b) if the only way to audition it is to buy it first - then it has a reasonable return policy.

Failing that, the product/brand comes off the list.


#14

Typically yes - audibly and in terms of measurements.

As to which approach is “better”, that you have to answer for yourselves - using whatever criteria work best for you personally.

In my case I have more than one multi-bit DAC and more than one delta/sigma (or other topologies) DAC, from multiple brands. I doubt this is likely to change anytime soon.


#15

I have owned Schiit products and currently have Topping products. They both are fine. They do have, to me, a different sound – at least comparing my Schiit Fulla 2/Magni 2 vs my current Topping DX7. It could be a ESS vs AK thing too, but the Schiit gear was a little warmer while Topping was analytical and colder.

I don’t knock on Schiit stuff. I think they are attractive, priced competitively, and do their job. I know there’s a lot of push-back and complaints, but it’s also something that comes with popularity too.

And most of the time, you only hear the complaints on the internet, because the vocal minority is loud.


#16

Schiit makes pretty good Schiit. I recently sold a Gumby (Gungnir MB), and it was a fine DAC. My only beef with Schiit is there is no telephone based customer service, and they repeatedly fail to meet order time frames. Not so long ago, I had a Yggy on order that was supposed be delivered within seven days. A month later the DAC had not been shipped and I decided to cancel it when Schiit customer support extended the shipping date an additional undetermined amount of time. I had a similar problem ordering an EITR last year. Although they make good products, they need to be more upfront amount delivery timeframes.


#17

I have a stack of Schiit Audio gear that comprises my work listening system. I am an application security engineer and I spend my work day providing static source code analysis for a large US government agency.

For those who do not know what I just said, let me say that I look at other people’s programming source code for faults that would allow a hacker to take advantage of, when the application is deployed.

My work system is used every day and I have gone through a few iterations before I settled in on a final system configuration. My Schiit Audio system is made up of the following stuff:

  1. The playback source is a Toshiba 17 inch laptop w/24GM RAM and 1.5TB SSD internal storage
  2. The first Schiit Audio component is the Schiit Audio Wyrd and it’s job is to clean up the USB signal
  3. Next comes the Schiit Audio Modi Multibit DAC
  4. I added a Schiit Audio Loki tone control to my system so I had an old fashioned tone control
  5. My headphone amp is the Schiit Audio Lyr 2 amp w/NOS Philips 7DJ8 tubes
  6. All of the above drives a set of Focal Clear headphones

The USB cables used in this system are Pangea Silver USB cables and all of the analog ICs are Kimber Heros w/WBT connectors.

The sound quality of the above system is very good but I noticed that the Magni 3 headphone amp was mentioned. I need to say something about that unit.

It is decent for the money but don’t expect a $100 headphone amp to perform miracles. I owned the Magni 2 Uber and still own a Magni 3. That little amp is very good for the money but, like I said above, don’t expect miracles. I tried driving my Focal Clears with the Magni 3 and it has enough clean power to do the job but the high frequencies are a bit strident sounding.

It reminds me of the bad old solid state amps back in the 1970s. The worst of these had that high frequency sound that wore you down and made you want your tubed amp back. The Magni 3 is a good little amp with headphones that do not have the best high frequency resolution.

When I used the Magni 3 with my Focal Clears, the sound was not pleasant to listen to for long periods of time. I substituted my Schiit Lyr 2 in my headphone system and it fixed that problem. The Lyr 2 is a much better headphone amp than the Magni 3 but it also costs more than 4X as much.

Schiit Audio has replaced the Lyr 2 with the Lyr 3 and I have not had the opportunity to hear that model but reviews have claimed that the Lyr 3 is better than the Lyr 2. I like my Lyr 2 very much so the Lyr 3 should be pretty dammed good.

With all the above said, my headphone system is very good and does the job well for me. My downstairs headphone setup is a Stax Lambda Pro setup, so I am used to very good headphone sound.

I have auditioned much more expensive headphone amps and DACs. The Schiit Audio models are competitive across the board and you won’t miss anything with Schiit Audio gear. The very high end Schiit Audio models are rated as among the best components available.

I feel that Schiit Audio is a very good company that makes very good components. You can spend a lot more and not get any more performance. It is worth considering their products.

Ed


#18

The Magni 3 is definitely not my favorite for my dynamic driver headphones, for which I often prefer the Ember II tube amp or, oddly enough, my Topping NX4. I do really find that it works well with my LCD2C, whose naturally dark sound doesn’t mind a little extra sharpness up top.


#19

I still have the Magni 3 in its original box. I only used it for 2 months. I suppose I should sell it but it was so cheap I don’t want to get involved with shipping headaches or it won’t be worth it.

I gave my old Magni 2 Uber to my youngest son with a set of original Sennheiser Momentums. I asked him just a few days ago and he said he uses them every day. I hope I am breeding an audiophile. That way someone will want my stuff when I get that final curtain call.

Have a good evening,
Ed


#20

I hope he gets a job that makes him able to afford this hobby. :wink: