Headphone Amp : Schiit Audio Magni (Part 3)

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5/26/2014 9:24:52 PM

The lad from lancs

While lacking the stage width of the much costlier Meridian Prime, the Magni can swing from out-of-the-ear stereo to in-the-head mono with convincing solidity and a wonderful retention of low-level details. The title track of George Formby’s When I’m Cleaning Windows – His 52 Finest 1932-1946 [Retrospective RTS 4104] was recorded the year Quad was founded – 1936 – yet it sounds refreshingly ‘full frequency’ and as rewarding as anything decades younger. Then again, the playing is peerless.


Schiit Audio Magni review 3

Schiit Audio Magni review 3

Speech therapists would love the Magni: with the B&Ws, I heard every nuance of his Wigan accent, his inability to keep a straight face and that spectacular ‘banjolele’ strumming. And the orchestra! Slick, like you wouldn’t believe: woodwinds and trumpets were vivid, if reduced in scale. Of course, being pure mono, it’s entirely in-your-skull, but the experience is enough to make you thirst for a bottle of stout. To chase your whelks.

Even better is his ‘Chinese Laundry Blues’ – suddenly there’s rich bass and an increase in level. Hard to fathom that it’s even older: from 1932.

But I followed it with the audiophile-grave live material on Little Feat’s Rad Gumbo: The Complete Warner Bros. Years [Warner 8122796057], where the Magni was able to flex its muscles, spread its wings. It embraced the rhythmic fluidity, the funk that made this band so genuinely inimitable.


Schiit Audio Magni review 4

Schiit Audio Magni review 4

This in itself is enough to warm most of us to so inexpensive a headphone amplifier. Headphones are unnatural at the best of times, and yet they represent the future mode of listening for the multitude.

Which raises a point: at this price level, should we be as concerned with sonic absolutes as much as we should be grateful just for the sheer musical fun on offer? I have often maintained that one cannot approach product X at $168.96 with the same expectations of something costing $1,689.61… or $16,896.08. So, had this device measured badly, or had a weird suck-out somewhere, or cut off at 60Hz, or any other measurable crime, I wouldn’t care.

I love this little baby. No Schiit.

Hi-fi news verdict

While challenged by units costing $84.48 more – small change to many – the tenets of this series dictate that every pound counts. I am not suggesting that I’ve heard every headphone amp below $168.96, but I can’t imagine this much glorious sound from anything less expensive. It joins NAD’s PP2 phono amp and a bunch of Pro-Ject Boxes in a select group of components that let you wallow in decent sound for under a ton.

Sound quality: 83%


A quick shot of some amazing open back headphones used with the Magni

A quick shot of some amazing open back headphones used with the Magni

Lab report

Second only to the Teac HA-501 in raw power output, Schiit’s Magni is surely the most the most capable single-input headphone amp at this very affordable ~$168.96 price point. Rated at 1.2W/32ohm, the Magni delivered a full 2W/25ohm under test (<1% THD) with a maximum output voltage capability of 8.95V into 47kohm. Couple this with the engineered low output impedance (sub-1ohm to 2ohm from 20Hz-20kHz depending on volume position) and the Magni will drive even the lowest impedance, power hungry ’phones with relative ease. The DC-coupled output stage also offers an incredibly flat and extended response, to within ±0.01dB from 1Hz-5kHz before rolling very gently away to –0.18dB/20kHz and –2.8dB/100kHz.

The +12.5dB gain is more than sufficient and there’s enough headroom to accommodate inputs in excess of 6V at lower volume settings. Distortion increases linearly with output level from 0.001% at 1V to 0.5% at 5.3V (all at 1kHz) and also with frequency, reaching 0.012%/20kHz. Driving a 25ohm load, distortion increases very slightly to 0.002%/1kHz and 0.02%/20kHz but the general trend remains the same. The harmonic complement varies somewhat with gain, being mainly 2nd harmonic at +12dB but with equal 2nd-4th harmonics at –6dB. Arguably the Magni’s greatest feature, aside from its prodigious power output, is its fabulously wide 98dB A-wtd S/N ratio – another figure for the record books at this price and well beyond.


  • Maximum output (re. 1% THD into 47kohm): 8.95V
  • Max. power output (re. 1% THD into 25ohm): 1996mW
  • Output Impedance (20Hz-20kHz): 0.86-1.03ohm
  • Maximum gain: +12.5dB
  • A-wtd S/N ratio (re. 0dBV): 98.4dB
  • Frequency response (20Hz-20kHz/25ohm): +0.01dB to –0.18dB
  • Distortion (20Hz-20kHz, re. 40mW): 0.0016–0.020%
  • Power consumption: 5W
  • Dimensions(WHD): 127x32x89mm