For the rather compact size of 9 x 6 x 2.25” (or 22.9 x 15.2 x 5.7 cm for the metric lovers) the Lyr 3 sports quite some weight with its 6 pounds (2.7 kg). The case is fully made of aluminum and in my opinion is well finished. I have not spotted any CNC marks or scratches. The top and side has some ventilation holes in them for better air flow, it’s a discrete tube-hybrid after all.
One thing I really like is the volume knob, which is finished nicely and rotates very smooth. Unfortunately there seems to be some grounding issue with the Lyr 3 (or with mine at least) as I do get some hum through sensitive monitors when I touch the unit. This is not as audible with full sized headphones.
Something else I’m missing is some sort of protection cage for the tube. Something that protects you from burning your hands on that valve, as these things get really hot.
I really like the design of Schiit’s gear. It’s very simple but stylish. I have seen other simple designs that don’t bring across any style and are just flat boring. The Lyr 3 is not, I find it gorgeous. One thing I would have liked though, were matching colors of top/front and the sides. The gray/silver mix is not my cup of tea. That’s personal again though. You might like it.
Using the Lyr 3 is pretty straight forward. You have a power switch on the back and an input and gain switch on the front. With the front left switch you can set gain (bottom – low, top – high) and with the right switch you set input (given you have more than one). On the right-hand side of the unit there is the headphone output and with the volume knob you control the output. It’s all very easy and self-explaining in the end. You can’t really make any mistakes in my opinion.
For years I have been a sucker for good tube amplifiers, their average size and accessibility here in the third-audio-world (at least portable and headphone related) have always been a turn off for me though. The only exclusion was the transportable Continental Dual Mono, which I miss heavily since I sold it. I really like the warmth a good tube can bring into the signal. The Lyr 3 was a very welcome new addition in that regard. It’s compact enough for my small apartment and I can put it high enough so the little hands of my kids won’t reach it. Don’t want them to burn their fingers on this goodie.
For this section I think it’s best to divide the respective functions into separate sub-chapters. Best is to start with the pure amplifier as a base and then go over the respective addons one for one.
Pure amplifier mode (Tung-Sol 6SN7)
For this I have used the glorious Chord Electronics Qutest as d/a converter, as it fires one of the purest signals I know. The British DAC is set to its reference filter (white) to disallow any coloration of the sound before it reaches the Schiit analogue input.
The Lyr 3 did exactly as I have expected it from a discrete amplifier. It sounds wonderfully smooth and organic, some might call it analogue sounding with its nice warmth.
Bass is punchy, rich and well extended. It reaches down low into deep sub-bass regions with decent rumble. Low ends don’t possess too high impact or slam, but they have excellent resolution and texture. The sound is very dynamic and has a certain je-ne-sais-quoi to it that just keeps my feet bouncing. Its boosted mid and upper bass do give slight coloration to the lower mids which results in a nice warm sound that is set out to be enjoyed on long runs.
Midrange shows the greatness of the traditional tube sound. Warm, lush and impressively organic every instrument and voice gets reproduced. There is excellent texture again in the midrange and the slight warmth in the lower registers make them really pleasing. The Lyr 3 really has a nice musical approach to everything, and that is what makes the Schiit a great amp.
It puts music enjoyment before any technical sound. The Lyr 3 however has exemplary layering and imaging where the position of each performer is easily pointed out from a deep dark background.
The sound stage is nicely spread in even dimensions out of your head. Separation of instruments could be a touch better with a hint more air in the room, but that is at the cost of harmony. Upper mids are of richer tonality with great timbre and glow, especially some bells can become really addictive to listen to. The resolution of the midrange is wonderful with Qutest, as it transports a very high amount of information to the amplifier.
Tube amplifiers are well known to iron out some peaks in the treble region. If you have a pair of headphones that show a particular spike in some higher notes, then a tube amp should get rid of that. The Lyr 3 has a soft treble that is not overly energetic, but it is like upper midrange very rich and well textured.
Part Two on Sound after the jump