Triple Schiit: Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr

schiit_trio_05

By now everyone knows what the Schiit name is all about. Yes, as they have evolved almost overnight to be one of the hottest name in the industry, people have moved from making a fun of the name to talking about their gear in respect and enthusiasm. Whoever is responsible for the branding and marketing of Schiit definitely deserves an honorary degree from the Harvard Business School. Anyway, we may have missed the early wave of Schiit amplifier reviews, but thanks to Michael at Dontblameyourears.com and my good friend Andrew, we are proud to present our take on three of the Schiit amps: Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr.

Some of you may know what those different Viking names mean, but for a brief recap, the Asgard is the first and lowest priced model: Class A, non inverting FET solid state headphone amplifier. The Valhalla is the midline, OTL (output transformer-less) vacuum tube model, while the Lyr is the hybrid, currently flagship model amp, boasting a solid bragging rights of 6W maximum output.

Build quality of the Schiit amps are quite flawless, and while they don’t ooze the same high-end finishing touches I see on Burson or Woo Audio amps, I’d still give a solid thumbs up for the build quality. All three Schiit amps are based on the same base chassis, with only minor variations in the top grille area to accommodate the tubes for the Valhalla and Lyr models. Volume knob, headphone jack, rear panel layout, everything is great. Now let’s move on to the sound evaluation.

SOUND AND COMPARISONS

Three models, Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr. My love with amplifiers began with solid state models that most of the time offer better technicalities and impact than vacuum tube models. But after my exposure with the Woo Audio 6, the Hifiman EF-5, Pete Millett’s Starving Student, the Zana Deux, and the Manley amps, it’s probably safe to say that I’m now pretty much a tube guy. So, how strange it is when I found that my love with Schiit amps actually begins with the solid state Asgard amp, and even by the time I’ve finished writing this review, is still on the Asgard amp. Mike, you’ve probably been listening to too many tubes that you’re sick of their mellow warm sound. Well, guess what, I actually found the Asgard to be the smoothest and warmest sounding amp of the trio. Did I get a faulty Asgard? Is there anyone else out there that has done a triple Schiit comparison and found the opposite? I don’t know, but let me explain more.

So this is the general picture: the Asgard is the warmest and smoothest sounding of the three. The Valhalla actually had a clearer sound with more sparkle in the low treble. It had a more solid state-like clarity and sparkle, but it’s not exactly dry sounding. It actually reminds me a lot of the sparkly treble in the Grace m902 amplifier section, which is a chip-based solid state headphone amp (I know, it’s totally unrelated, chip amps and tube amps). But I definitely won’t describe the Valhalla as having the traditional “tubey” sound. The Lyr has a thick lower mid-upper bass area, which progresses to a fairly lean treble section. Though the Lyr and the Valhalla are the two pricier model, but the Asgard is actually smoother overall , and likewise the tonal balance was more linear. In short, I actually find my my ears to prefer the Asgard first, Valhalla second, and Lyr last. Have my ears gone wrong? Have I gotten allergic to expensive amps? Is there a conspiracy theory behind this article?

Well, one thing for sure is that your wallet is going to love me for this. And if your wallet loves me, then you’ll probably go back to check out my future reviews. And that’s all good. But in all seriousness, I just unplugged the input cable from the Lyr, plugged it back to the Asgard, and find that my ears still agree to what I typed on the previous paragraph. The Asgard had a more linear frequency balance without being flat or boring or sterile or all that nasty stuff. As for the soundstage, the single ended, zero feedback, all FET design of the Asgard gives me a wider and deeper soundstage than what I heard on the Lyr (actually the Valhalla as well). The Asgard is simply amazing! I was so excited with the Asgard that I actually pitched it against the Burson. Yes, the flagship amplifier of the nice guys at Burson who happens to be the site sponsor of Headfonia. Well, not quite up there, the Asgard is quite two steps below the Burson’s resolution, detail, articulation, and most importantly PRaT. But still, this is one of the nicest $300 solid state headphone amps I’ve ever auditioned, even more than the now discontinued Gilmore Lite amp from HeadAmp. Oh, wait, did I type $300? I must have made a mistake because the Asgard actually sells for $249. I can hear your wallet screaming in ecstasy already.

Yep, that’s right, the Asgard is the real Schiit!

Okay, let’s move on to the Valhalla. It’s a nice amp, but it just happens that I am less excited about the Valhalla than I am with the Asgard. But this is how the Valhalla sound. In all fairness, you get a better level of technicalities on the Valhalla than you do on the Asgard. One, things sound clearer on the Asgard. Two, you get more sparkle, more shimmer on the treble. And no, it’s not the annoying treble kind either. Remember guys, this is a tube amp, and treble always behaves well on full-tube amps. Soundstage is actually wider and deeper on the Asgard, but instrument separation is clearer on the Valhalla (though at the end I’d still pick the Asgard’s overall soundstage performance as the better one). While the Valhalla can’t be said to lack mid or bass, the voicing is actually more top-down (frequency curve wise) rather than bottom-up or mid-centric. Hence, I don’t find myself hearing as much mid and low body as I would’ve liked. I suppose this is going to be the better amp for thick low headphones like the Sennheiser HD650. But at the moment, with the Sennheiser HD800, I do like the Asgard better. Also, I do think that the Asgard is overall still smoother, top to bottom than the Valhalla is.

Next up is the Lyr amp. This 6 Watts maximum output amp indeed does a good job of driving the Hifiman HE-6, even more than Hifiman’s own EF-5 amplifier, but I’d still say that the HE-6 runs best out of speaker amps. With the Lyr, you get a sound that is warmer on the mids and lows than the Valhalla, and at the same time regaining the wider and deeper soundstage that you get with the Asgard (It’s still not quite as deep as the Asgard, but pretty close). You get more treble than the Valhalla, and definitely more than the Asgard, but the treble actually loses some body and is dryer than what you hear on the Valhalla or the Asgard. It doesn’t has a nice sparkle like the Valhalla’s, and it’s is not as smooth as the Asgard’s. I have to admit that when moving to the Lyr, I thoroughly enjoy the additional body in the upper-mid bass that I didn’t hear on the Valhalla. It gives the music a more proper weight, and although the body doesn’t extend to the lower bass, still I thoroughly enjoy that bump. So in one hand I enjoy the Lyr more than the Valhalla because of the lower end body. On the other hand, the leaner treble is also dryer sounding, and on this section I very much prefer the Valhalla’s treble. The lean treble, paired with the bump in the bass also gives the Lyr a slight incoherence in the sound. While as a whole the Lyr and Valhalla are quite fine sounding, I ended up going back to the Asgard as it has the smoothest sound from top to bottom, without lacking any mid and low body or being incoherent anywhere in the sound.

When someone comes up to me and asks me for a recommendation on the Schiit amps, this is how I’m going to give the recommendation:

  • Lyr: get it if you need to drive hard to drive Orthos.
  • Valhalla: get it if you find your headphone leaning too much to the dark side and you need a brighter amp to balance things out.
  • Asgard: the best all rounder and the one that I’d recommend primarily.

It continues on Page 2

Triple Schiit: Asgard, Valhalla, and Lyr
3.88 (77.52%) 161 votes

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301 Comments

  • Reply March 4, 2016

    Sylvex Dragonskin

    I’m looking at getting the HD700. A lot recommend the Crack but I can’t solder. Which are 3 cheapish options besides that? And I’m worried about the treble, so tube amp is the best way right?

    • Reply March 4, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Tubes like Crack, Lafigaro 339 or Solid state like A20 and V200

      • Reply March 4, 2016

        Sylvex Dragonskin

        Ty for the answer but I was looking for less expensive things. So 300-. Music and for gaming alike would be my usage. Guess I’ll be researching some more.

        • Reply March 4, 2016

          Patrick.C

          Why specificly a HD700? Loving analytic and cool sound signature? For your case (cheaper) a fidelio x2/akg k701 and a fiio e10k would be ideal.

          • Reply March 4, 2016

            Sylvex Dragonskin

            Only heard great thins about it. Those sound airy and philips has a boomy bass. Not as comfortable either. And not so good quality, but Philips is alright. 😀

            • Reply March 5, 2016

              dalethorn

              Philips X2 is $199 USD on Massdrop now, so quite a bargain compared to Sennheiser.

              • Reply March 5, 2016

                Sylvex Dragonskin

                Oh true, but it’s heavy and too much bass for me. I’m not a bass-head, I want clarity and detail. I’ll try to listen to the HD700 first as the treble concerns me since most people don’t like it.

                • Reply March 5, 2016

                  dalethorn

                  I just went through everything I know and came up with 4: AKG K712, Grado SR325e, Senn Momentum v2, and Shure SRH-1440. Three of these are open, and the Momentum is closed I think. The Momentum may be tilted toward the bass too much (don’t know), and the 1440 may be too bright. But that’s the best I found.

                  • Reply March 6, 2016

                    Sylvex Dragonskin

                    Thank you for this, I’ll be sure to try to listen to these and also the 1840. I just feel like I want an upgrade from my HD598 although these are wonderful compared to my Logitech G35.

          • Reply March 5, 2016

            Headfonia_L.

            I wouldn’t recommend the X2 to someone looking to buy the HD700 or that kind of sound signature

  • Reply January 9, 2016

    Khloe85

    Can we expect a Valhalla 2, Lry 2 and Asgard 2 review??

    • Reply January 9, 2016

      Khloe85

      I read the comment about Schit not liking Headfonia.

      • Reply January 9, 2016

        dalethorn

        They’ll get over it. Everyone needs an honest review eventually. Right now Schiit is enjoying great business, so that means there will be plenty of discussion across the Web.

    • Reply January 9, 2016

      Headfonia_L.

      Probably maybe not but never say never. I’d like Dave to do it.

      • Reply January 10, 2016

        Dave Ulrich

        I don’t see that happeneing. I emailed them a while back for a review of their new Bifrost (I was a fan of the Bifrost Uber), but they never got back to me. My Asgard 2 review wasn’t hugely positive, so that bridge might be burnt.

        • Reply January 10, 2016

          dalethorn

          What they should do is call you – Skype or whatever, and discuss it on the phone. Then nothing is written down. “Hey Dave, would you mind taking a look at our new amp? If you think you won’t like it, send it back at our expense instead of panning it….” And then admit nothing, deny everything as usual. So much better that way. If I don’t like a product, I either won’t review it, or if I do review something I dislike, it’s only when the manufacturer refuses to communicate at all. That’s pretty rare.

  • Reply November 18, 2014

    Alfred Tolentino

    If I already own a Valhalla 1, is the WA3 just a lateral move? using DT990 600 ohm.

  • Reply November 5, 2014

    Alfred Tolentino

    How bad is it to try to hook up the Valhalla 1 to a Sennheiser momentum on ear with low impedance? Can I damage my headphones or will it just sound like crap?

    • Reply November 6, 2014

      Headfonia_L.

      Just polug it in and out before turning the power on/of. Why would it sound bad?

      • Reply November 6, 2014

        Alfred Tolentino

        thanks, Oh, I’ve read that the impedance mismatch may cause undesirable sound quality…

        • Reply November 19, 2014

          dalethorn

          Even some of the “bad” mismatches don’t necessarily sound bad. Supposedly a lot of classic headphones were designed for amps with output impedance of 120 ohms, yet most of those sound good on most modern headphone amps.

  • Reply August 9, 2014

    Daniel

    Have you had a chance to try out the 2nd iteration of these? If so how do you think the Lyr 2, Valhalla 2, and Asgard 2 compare? Would Asgard 2 still be your favourite or do you prefer the Lyr 2 or Valhalla 2 now? Also don’t forget about Tube Rolling… You may be shocked at how a better/different tube will make the sound more to your liking.

    • Reply August 9, 2014

      L.

      For some reason Schiit don’t like us. you won’t easily see Schiit reviews on here any time soon. sorry

      • Reply August 9, 2014

        dalethorn

        That’s really odd – the review was very favorable, and even though it didn’t recommend the amps according to their prices, I don’t see anything that would make them unhappy.

    • Reply August 10, 2014

      Dave Ulrich

      I did a review of the Asgard 2, and I thought it was fine, but it didn’t rock my world.

  • Reply July 18, 2014

    Alberto Martinez

    I want to pair my AudioQuest DragonFly v1.2 with Asgard and Senn HD600, is it a good combination? Thanks.

    • Reply July 19, 2014

      dalethorn

      That should work very well. Just get a high quality cable from the Dragonfly to the amp.

      • Reply July 19, 2014

        Alberto Martinez

        Which ones do you recommend to me? I live in Spain, best placer to but Schiit and cable? Thanks a lot

  • Reply May 23, 2014

    Apogee

    Out of curiosity which one of these amps would you think would pair best with the T1. Also have anyone tried the Icon audio HP8 MKii

  • Reply April 10, 2014

    Andrew Jones

    Hello hope everyone is well. I was wondering can the astgard 2 run a set of MrSpeakers alpha dogs. Thanks

    • Reply April 10, 2014

      L.

      It should be ok, but I haven’t tried it myself

  • Reply November 17, 2013

    Owen

    mike, im wondering which amp will be best for Q701
    , coz the cofounder said Lyr is the best match for k701

    • Reply April 10, 2014

      L.

      who said that? I don’t think there is such a thing as a best amp for the Q701, just read a lot and listen to several amps and buy what you like most, that’s my advice

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