Before we get to our Schiit Magni 3 Review, let’s consider that the headphone amp can be a vital piece of equipment in some environments. There are some that use them for personal use, but there are others who have to have them. Recording studios, for example.
The idea of the headphone amp is not to deafen you or just create an enormous increase to the sound signal. It is to make the sound that you are listening to cleaner and controlled. And this applies especially where the peaks of output are concerned.
There are headphone amps that cater for the individual that conventionally have one socket. There are others with multiple sockets for use in recording studios. This allows the musicians to hear each other if they are in booths and have no visible or audible contact.
In brief, the headphone amp is just a small power amplifier. It ensures that headphones with a low sensitivity are driven harder to make them louder. This is because of the extra voltage provided by the amp.
Today they are common in professional environments, and you will even find them in ‘hobby’ studios at home. The audiophile and hi-fi enthusiasts will also often be found with one. They come in a range of sizes and price tags. And of course, with differing performance levels.
But just buying a headphone amp and assuming it will be what you need could be a mistake. It will really depend on what you need it for.
In this review, we are going to focus on the Schiit Magni 3. This is a headphone amp made for the consumer, but not your ordinary consumer. The audiophile and hi-fi enthusiasts we just mentioned demand a high-quality of headphone use. The headphone amp may well form part of their equipment.
But before we look at this Schiit Magni 3 headphone amp, let’s learn a little about the company who manufactures it.
Founded in 2010 in California, they might be considered newcomers to the manufacturing business. You might think so, but the two founders have dozens of years of experience between them.
What they make is not what you will often see in the shops. It is usually inside the things that are inside the things that are for sale in the shops.
They make a range of very specialized products. There ‘things’ often make other things work better, and might never be seen. But they also make very visual or perhaps we should say audible products. Headphone amps are something they excel at, and it is one of those we are going to cover in this review.
As they say, the clue is often in the name, and so it is with this. The Magni 3 you might realize is not the first headphone amp they have produced. The Magni 3 had predecessors in the Magni Uber and the original Magni. This amp replaces both of them.
There have been many of the features, and the operations from the Magni and the Magni Uber consolidated into this new amp. Taking the best and bringing it all together in one new unit. From the originals, the basic core functions remain. Everything else is new or upgraded. In producing the new Magni 3 they have achieved an amp with a far greater performance level.
However, it must be said, the Magni 3 is still Schiit’s entry-level dedicated headphone amplifier. It is also their most cost-effective. It is a fully discrete, current-feedback stage amp. Current feedback amps are notably much easier to use than Voltage feedback amps (VFA’s) though the results are not always as good.
So, let us have a closer look to see what is under the bonnet…
The Magni 3 is not an expensive headphone amp. In fact, if you make a price comparison, it definitely fits its entry-level status. But don’t let that make you think that Schiit has cut back on the quality of the build. Nothing could be further from the truth. If having stable and rugged equipment is your thing, you are going to love this.
It is not a cheaply put together, to replace it at the earliest opportunity type of product. Just the feel of its metal casing and its superior finish will tell you that. As a ‘first’ headphone amp, this will last you a lot longer than you might be planning. You get the feeling from the quality of the build that if it’s somehow knocked over, you can just pick it up and carry on.
Its build is actually quite small and not imposing at all. It measures 5 by 3.5 by 1.25 inches but is heavier than it might look at first at two and a half pounds. That is the difference between metal and a plastic build. The aluminum casing is well-made and adds a certain styling to it. The casing only interrupted by the air vents positioned on the top.
On the front, there is just a volume control and a ¼ inch jack socket. On the rear, left and right input and outputs and a Hi/Lo rocker switch.
It is an all-bipolar, fully complementary, dc-coupled current feedback design. And it has no capacitors built-in anywhere to interrupt or block the signal path. It has a Linear supply which, to be honest, is quite bulky. Briefly, this uses a 24VA/14VAC transformer to take the AC voltage and then filters it to produce a clean DC signal.
The downside is this makes the unit that plugs into the mains a bit like a brick. Often called the ‘wall-wart’, it is not an uncommon sight with some products like phone chargers and some computer peripherals. But it is rather cumbersome. The Magni 3 has preamp outputs built-in allowing you to connect it up to powered monitors.
Sometimes when referring to the sound of something, we often say it is good. Often what we mean is that it is good for the price. In the case of this headphone amp, it is just good.
It is often hard to describe a sound that is neutral, but that is exactly what it is. It is not too bright in its reproduction. Therefore the headphones that are naturally that way inclined aren’t going to have too much top. Likewise, those phones with a darker edge aren’t going to sound too low-frequency obsessed.
In fact, it has inherited from its predecessors a very balanced sound across the frequencies. You will find headphone amps that will suit certain types of headphones. In the best traditions of sound reproduction, the sound of the Schiit Magni 3 is flat and neutral and will suit most headphones.
We don’t know if Schiit designers were actually trying to create an amp that gave this kind of tone and timbre. If they were, then they have achieved that. Creating natural sounds can sometimes be a struggle for solid-state amps. It is often the domain of the tube amp, and we wouldn’t say it has a fully tubed sound. But it is closer than most. It certainly hasn’t got that digital, clinical sound that most solid-state amps tend to have.
It earns points for the sound, and when considering how good the sound is, we must remember one thing. We said it before, the sound is good. It is not just good for the price.
We hinted at its performance in the last section, but here we will emphasize it. The Schiit Magni 3 has a wide scope of operation, and it is going to suit most headphones. It is an amp that will perform very well right across the board. It has a dynamic sound that is surprisingly detailed.
If you’re going to pair it up with sensitive in-ear monitors (IEMs), they will be fine. You might have to crank the volume up a bit, though.
The performance is impressive and hints at a higher price tag. But then that is one of the things so good about this amp. Entry-level price point it might be. But the performance level is far higher.
Schiit Magni 3 Pros & Cons
- Outstanding power delivery considering the price, and enough for virtually any pair of headphones.
- Smooth audio quality.
- Impressive build.
- Vastly improved the sound quality of most headphones we tested with it.
- Oversized power adapter in a wall wart design.
Head a Pair of Quality Headphones To Go With Your New Amp?
What We Think?
There are headphone amplifiers that are designed to work with specific types of headphones. This is not one of those. One of its assets is that it is going to provide good sound with just about any headphone it works with.
Of course, what people want from a sound will be different. What is suitable for one will not always suit everyone. And we are certainly not saying that in an attempt to be a jack of all trades, it ends up as a master of none.
This is a very high-performing amplifier that produces a refined and defined sound. And it does so at an extremely cost-effective price. A headphone amp this good does not come along very often. A headphone amp this good at this price point, rarely. If you are looking to acquire an amp for your phones, it is definitely worth a very close look. We do not think you will be disappointed.