Schiit Audio Asgard 3 Review

Schiit Audio Asgard 3

vs Magni 3

 

 

While the Asgard 3 has the Magni 3 beaten for power, it simply pulls away from it in terms of class. The Asgard 3 has a tendency to remove a degree of ‘glare’ and harshness in the treble that can rear its head at times with Schiit’s most affordable amplifier, and in turn, the Asgard 3 presents an ever so slightly warmer take on proceedings. This could be interpreted as being ever so slightly ‘veiled’, but there’s nothing missing in terms of detail nor resolution – it simply has more richness to its timbre and less focus on treble in its presentation. 

vs Questyle CMA600i

It might be a case of Class-A adding similar flavour to both amps, but I found these two amps much harder to pull apart sonically as timbre-wise they both have largely similar presentations. The Questyle has a more vivid treble presentation that’s drier sounding with tighter structural definition, and ‘Devils Pie’ by D’Angelo reveals it to also have slightly more weight and impact in bass when quickly swapped between one and the other using an A/B switcher. 

Asgard 3 + Focal Stellia

This is an absolute treat of a match. The Asgard 3 balances the hyper-aggressiveness and dynamics of the Stellia with a dose of refinement and silkiness. The bassline in Radiohead’s ‘Codex’ feels almost liquid in texture, the Asgard 3 is able to control the low-end with grip and authority. This pairing is able to render the texture and decay of the brass and vocal parts in particular with stunning realism. Despite being a seeming mismatch in terms of price-tag, the Asgard 3 will happily reveal all the capabilities and refinement of the $2,999 USD flagship closed-back from Focal. 

Asgard 3 + Sennheiser HD600

The venerable HD600 can be somewhat of a chameleon with different sources, but it’s like peanut butter to the Asgard 3’s jelly. I could swear that I’m listening to Waxahatchee’s ‘Lilacs’ over tubes with this pairing, there’s that much rich body and ‘denseness’ in the mid-range. It’s interesting to note that and the treble feels genuinely laid-back here, but in the best way possible. What’s interesting about this pairing is that it captures much of the magic of a tube pairing, minus much of the expense, uncertainty and inconsistencies that come with tube rolling. 

Asgard 3 + Grado PS500e

The metal and mahogany hybrid Grados are probably the liveliest headphones I have on-hand, and also the most prone to becoming fatiguing depending on its upstream source chain. However, when paired correctly they reward with a signature that’s hugely exciting and revealing. The Asgard 3 allows the PS500e to dig-deep into the detail and nuance inside intricate passages of music, but also gives the Grados an altogether more ‘mature’ characteristic – it’s by no means subdued, but it gives them some much-appreciated body and upper mid-range depth. 

Asgard 3 + Final D8000

The flagship planar from Final Audio really is the last word when it comes to balancing finesse with brutal power. The Asgard 3 only happily gets the 60-ohm D8000 to adequate listening levels at 9 o’clock on high gain, and really unleashes the ‘velvet sledgehammer’ that lurks within this heavyweight Japanese masterpiece. The Asgard 3 paired with Final’s flagship delivers a hugely dynamic rendition of Faith No More’s ‘Falling To Pieces‘, rewarding the listener with both macrodynamic ‘slam’ as well as transient finesse from fast passages in the treble department. It’s a thoroughly enjoyable pairing and lovers of planar speed and dynamic punch really ought to give it a try if they get the opportunity.

Multibit Dac vs Topping E30 

This was the most inconclusive test I managed during the review process, but I wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to test the amp itself with different digital inputs for comparison to understand how they were affecting the sound. Using Roon I paired a ‘Zone’ with both DACs, and plugged the Topping E30 into the analogue input of the Asgard 3. After volume-matching, I was able to quickly switch between them at the exact same point in the track without delay. Frequency-wise, there was no difference whatsoever between each DAC, with no emphasis nor dips that made one stick out versus the other. Initially, I was unable to pick them apart in a blind test. However, after further listening and closer analysis, the AK4493 DAC on the E30 did give a greater sense of spatial depth and separation, whereas individual tracks via Schiit multibit were smoothed together to provide a more intimate effect.

Conclusion

The Asgard 3 gives-off all the vibes of an American muscle car: it’s big, brash and burly and you feel like you’re getting a lot of metal for your money. It has an easy-to-love utilitarian design, and like the muscle cars of today, the Asgard has actually gone and gotten itself better at handling and packs a bunch more features in than it used to. 

The Asgard 3 impressed me with how versatile it’s proven to be with a range of headphones, and it ought to be able to power all but the most obscure of insensitive headphones well into the future. At $199, it’s a stone-cold bargain and absolutely worth the step-up from the tier of entry-level amplifiers that sit below it. If you already have a DAC in your system and you’re happy with its performance, then simply add that to the bare-bones amplifier-only Asgard 3. The stock Asgard 3 amplifier earns a place on our recommended buy list where it sits in good company with other recommended desktop amplifiers.

Spending an additional $100 or $200 on the DAC is a slightly more difficult value proposition to grapple-with considering that you can buy an external DAC (including one of Schiit’s own) with more inputs and features for a similar price. However the streamlined, all-in-one form-factor is genuinely pretty appealing (so long as USB is going to work as your digital connection), so if space is a consideration then it may well be worth it for you. Whether you want to go a bit spicier and add ‘True Multibit’ depends on how important that technology and the philosophy behind its implementation is to you. The differences between DACs are certainly subtle at the best of times, so it’s probably worth some serious research and consideration. Having spent the best part of a month listening solely to the Asgard 3 + Multibit DAC, I have to say it’s pretty addictive and I wouldn’t want to change a thing about how it sounds, so the proof about Multibit’s benefits might lay right there. 

Overall, the key benefit of the Asgard 3 is that you don’t need to worry about a thing. There’s no need to go worrying about whether balanced is “worth it” – it’s simple, single-ended and single-minded. There’s more power then you’ll ever need, and you won’t need to worry about upgrading or buying anything else for a long, long time. Schiit even offers a 5-year warranty with the Asgard 3, so they reckon you’ll probably be happy with one being parked on your desk for the foreseeable future. 

 

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Matty's a musician, music-fan, and 'gear-phile' from Sydney, Australia. Outside of his day-job in creative advertising, Matty enjoys live music, lawn bowls, craft beer, and spending far too much money collecting vinyl.

    23 Comments

    • Reply May 11, 2020

      McLambo

      Great review
      Now; how to get one in Europe (NL) curreny???

      • Reply May 11, 2020

        Hermanni

        I think there is a website ( schiit audio europe.com ) or something if I remember correctly. There you can buy Schiit stuff if you live in EU.

        • Reply May 11, 2020

          McLambo

          Thanks for the tip Hermanni. I’ve been eyeballing this site for weeks on end, but they have no stock whatsoever due to the coronavirus outbreak I suspect.

          Guess I’ll just have to be patient…. :X

    • Reply May 11, 2020

      MhtLion

      Great review. I agree the value is higher as AMP only.

    • Reply May 11, 2020

      Pal

      What a pity no planar pairing in the review 🙁

      • Reply May 12, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hi Pal, I have my Aeon Flows back in the house now – I’ll add some impressions after a listen.

        • Reply May 12, 2020

          Pal

          Super. I enjoyed reading your review. Thanks.

        • Reply May 22, 2020

          Jakob Kloppenborg

          Looking forward to it.

    • Reply May 13, 2020

      Bencomo

      Good morning ,
      thanks for the post, good job

      I am a producer of electronic music
      work at home with Akg 702 62 ohm,
      Beyerdinamic Dt 880 250 ohm
      and, an Apollo Twin as a
      sound.

      What would be the ideal complement:
      A20, Crack, Valhalla 2 …?

      Greetings .

      • Reply May 22, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hello mate, the amp mentioned in this article would be a pretty solid starting place for the headphones you’ve mentioned.

        • Reply June 7, 2020

          Bencomo

          Thank you very much MATTY for answering a greeting.

    • Reply May 13, 2020

      Bencomo

      Good morning ,
      thanks for the post, good job

      I am a producer of electronic music
      work at home with Akg 702 62 ohm,
      Beyerdinamic Dt 880 250 ohm
      and, an Apollo Twin as a
      sound.

      What would be the ideal complement:
      A20, Crack, Valhalla 2 , Asgard 3 …?

      Greetings .

    • Reply May 13, 2020

      Jim

      Excellent review! Have been using my Asgard 3 for the past 4 months and continue to be amazed at how well it performs. The A3 may well be the best bargain in headphone amplifiers presently available.

      How does Schiit do it?

    • Reply May 20, 2020

      hole io

      Great post! I didn’t knowral of these resources and I’m going to go check them out now!

    • Reply May 20, 2020

      Joe@Thailand

      Thank you very much for a great review. I love it that you always mention volume pot when you review headphone amp. I love amp with good volume pot.

      I have watched your interview on the headphone show. It seems like you like and enjoy listening to Sennheiser HD 600 very much.

      Could you please tell me why you like this headphone so much? I am thinking about buying this headphone as well.

      Thank you very much for your answer 🙂

      • Reply June 25, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hey mate, the HD600 is a very easy headphone to love. Firstly, because it’s comfortable and fits like a glove. Secondly, because it sound so incredibly natural – voices and instruments sound wonderful and it pairs so well with many genres. Being a 300 ohm headphone it also works nicely with OTL tube amps, which adds another element to its performance.

    • Reply June 17, 2020

      Jakob S: Kloppenborg

      Has anyone tried Planar with this?

      • Reply June 17, 2020

        Matty Graham

        I’m doing some follow-up listening now with the Final D8000, I’ll add some impressions to the comments. Short version: wow.

      • Reply June 28, 2020

        Jim

        Yes. I use my Asgard 3 with my Hifiman HE4XX and my Fostex T50RP MK3, and the A3 has
        plenty of power for both headphones. IMHO, both are excellent pairings for under $400 US.

    • Reply July 19, 2020

      David

      Great review. I own multiple Asgard 3s and use it for headphone and preamp duties. The reviewer has done a great job with regard to headphone use, but I want to comment on it with regard to preamp use. I have compared it with many preamps in my own system including Boulder Amplifier, Bryston, Classe, Pass, Soulution, Spectral, Threshold, etc. It has outperformed every preamp that I have put it up against up to $15K and it is better than some even more expensive. The pot is a good one, but many $5K to $15K preamps have stepped attenuators which are better in channel balance and separation. Since I have 40 years of electronic design background I modified a SAGA S and Asgard 3 so I could use the input switching, stepped attenuators, remote control of the Saga S in front of the Asgard 3 that I bypassed the input switch and the volume pot. The result is the best sounding preamp that I have ever tried in a very high quality system. My advice, consider this as the bargain of the decade as a preamp!

      • Reply July 20, 2020

        Matty Graham

        Hi David, thanks for stopping-by and taking the time to comment mate. I hear you regarding the pre-amp section on the Asgard 3 – in fact, it’s still the volume control on my desktop nearfield set-up a couple of months later. I’d love to see more about your ‘Franken-schiit’ arrangement, it sounds awesome!

    • Reply August 6, 2020

      Keith

      Another nice review Matty.

      On the strength of your Grado Hemphone review, I ordered one and wonder what you make of pairing the Hemphone with the Asgard 3? I know you mentioned the Asgard in your hempphone review, but is this a perfect match or should I consider something else?

      Keith

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