*”Thank you!” to Jason at Schiit for the Modi loaner. You rock! Also thanks to Nick for the Asgard loaner (Dude, seriously, in the future don’t let your kitten nibble on your high-output electronic devices, unless you want a Kitten kebab named Roasty McFlufficans.)*
The gear used during the testing of the Magni and Modi includes: the Aune T1 USB DAC and amplifier with a Telefunken 6922 tube upgrade, as well as the stock tube. A Fiio E10/17, V-Moda M-100, JVC DX-1000, Hifiman HE-400/500/6, Cowon J3, Hisoundaudio Studio V, Clear Tunes Customs CT-200, Kimber GQMini RCA to 3.5mm Interconnect as well as The Atratus by Epiphany Acoustics.
There is no question this $99 Amplifier is Schittastic. I really enjoy this Amp. I feel that the Magni is a “Grey Area” amplifier that is lost in translation somewhere in the void of the Audio Universe. The Magni is that weird kid that sweats a lot and sits in the back of the class, but happens to be exceptionally talented. It doesn’t fit in with portable amplifiers and also does not get along with desktop amplification. Despite that, I think the budget-conscious buyers out there are going to fall in love with this little piece of Schiit. It is a great entry level Hi-Fi amplifier that will be adored by anyone who does not want congestion on their desk at work, inside their college dorm room or perhaps even on their bedside table. I can see it working extremely well in these types of situations, but never as a primary home amplifier for Orthos.
Schiit designed the Magni to only work with 115v US-Style wall outlet adapters. Sorry, friends overseas, but you are all Schiit out of luck. This kind of upsets me the more I think about it. Hopefully, Jason will include a nice adapter for other outlets or at least make mention of where you can find a safe converter of some type. Construction is marvelous and feels great. The volume knob feels rock solid and shows no sign of wiggle. The headphone output adapter also does not give off a static “pop!” when plugged in or removed. It’s the little things like this that make me happy. Unfortunately, all you get is RCA-in, a volume knob, power switch, 1/4 headphone output and a cute tiny power indication light. Budget amplification in its rawest form. No bass boost, no gain switch. Nodda. Cutting costs seems to be the general theme here, but you don’t hear me complaining.
*The Hifiman HE400 is unquestionably the most popular headphone I’ve been asked to talk about. So, let’s focus on that for a bit. The HE400 is a wonderfully bassy and clear Ortho that is extremely efficient. Light amplification is more than enough to get great sonic qualities out of it. The Magni’s 1.2watt output is generally overkill for use with the HE400. I would not call the Magni a great match up for this Hifiman headphone, it just lacks the bass quantity to get the job done by itself. However, I would call it an ok amplifier for the Hifiman HE400. The Magni is more well suited for use with the Hifiman HE-500′s sonic qualities than any other Ortho I can think of. This is a smoother sounding amp with very good clarity all around. Sadly, the HE-400 really showcases too much sibilance with the Magni for my ears. 1,200mw into 32ohm is very good for $99 and will drive any Ortho with plenty of volume. Drives the HE-6 (one of the most inefficient headphones there is) to high volume nicely but a few watts short on output power to even start to let the HE6’s bass shine through. Stick to cheaper headphones or speakers with this amp. I am not comfortable recommending a $99 amplifier with $400-$2000 headphones, but I think the Magni does a good job with the likes of the HE-500. But, then again, so does the Aune T1 all by its lonesome. If you need a stepping stone amplifier, something very cheap that will be used for a short time until you can afford something nice, I say go for it. Oh by the way, the Asgard has serious competition right now. There is no doubt the Asgard has better sound stage all around, but it sounds more grainy to my ears.*
The Magni is well suited for use with the more budget oriented IEMs and surprisingly worked out very nicely with my ClearTunes CT-200 Customs. I detect a very small amount of hiss, but it goes completely unnoticed when music starts up. She’s quiet…real quiet. Once again, I run face first into the sound staging issues that Schiit is infamous for. They don’t really tailor their products for use with the more vast and spacious gear out there. In this case, the Schiit house-sound stands firm. I can’t really recall any portable amplifiers that sound as clear or as smooth as the Magni…and I’ve been through dozens of portables this year alone. I feel safe in saying the clarity on the Magni for this price is a 10/10 and that clarity is on par with portable amplifiers 4x its price. I am very happy with this little thing and will definitely be recommending it for anyone on a budget. It would only be replaced with one of the newer generation Cmoy JDS Labs if I were using a bassy headphone. Those new bass boost Cmoys are no slouch, they are awesome in their own right these days so choose wisely. If you need the extra power output, the Magni is the better choice. If not, then don’t stress out because the Cmoys are also very good despite the power-to-portability ratio. I’ve never kept any portable amplifiers I have ever owned, but I do want to keep the Magni. By that fact alone, I think my ears pick up more clarity through the Magni than they have with any portable amplifier I have ever heard.
Next page: The Modi…