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Review and Measurements of Schiit Mani Phono Stage

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#21
Welcome to ASR. :)

Have you made any objective test measurements which can demonstrate and/or support your subjective findings?
Hi! The only thing I can measure is the DC offset at the output which was about 1.6mv. Because the next (and last) stage (Topping TP60) is AC coupled at its input, the output caps on the Mani were redundant.

Below is the link to a needle drop of my lightly modded Mani quickly captured thru the mic input of my Dell laptop. It's a terrible way to record... but its what I have at the moment.

Pat

Needle Drop
 

SIY

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#22
Here I go again... If you're handy with a soldering iron, you can bypass the two larger Wima box caps that AC couple the output. In my "baby system" the Mani plugs into a Topping Tp60 which is AC coupled at its input (upgraded to Clarity CMR). No need in my case for double blocking. The direct connected DC offset was about 1.6mv so still very low. The DC connected output does not change "timbre" but the midrange resolution is improved and the sense of soundstage space opens up. A 1.6 amp 16v AC power transformer from the local surplus store delivered a smoother sound in the high frequencies, better perceived transients and further opened up the soundstage. Adding two additional caps after the main regulator again (slightly) improved the openness of the soundstage. In total, $130 for the preamp, $10 for high current wall wart, $3 for additional supply bypassing caps, and my particul example really sounds quite good. Compared to my primary, extensively reworked Quicksilver tube phono pre, the little Mani gets about 70% of the way there at about 5% of the cost.
Unless the caps were incredibly badly chosen for value, an effect on the actual sound from removal or replacement is highly unlikely.
 
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#23
My phono stage for years was the ProJect Tube Box SEII, which was great, but I wanted to get away from tubes so sold it for the Vincent Pho-8. After seeing so much positive feedback on the Mani I decided to buy a B-Stock one from Schiit to compare with the Vincent.

I received my Mani yesterday and I've discovered something very troubling about it.

Here is an audio sample, the same record but one ripped with my Mani and one ripped with my Vincent and normalized to -1 db in Audacity:
View attachment 29419

Uhh what? Why is the Mani so much louder? It looks dynamically compressed to me. Next, I ran the files through TT DR Meter and got this:
View attachment 29420 View attachment 29421

What in the world?! Is the Mani compressing dynamics? I have a old rip of the same song from my ProJect Tube Box SEII and did the same analysis:

View attachment 29422
About a half db worse than the Vincent and 2 db better than the Mani! What is going on here? I didn't think phono stages could effect dynamic range but it looks like they can.
Interesting....
I've added additional power supply capacitance in my Mani and also a 1.5 amp wall wart (vs 500ma stock) and thought it sounded notably better with the additional power stiffness of those two updates. Considering that it sounded different with those updates (drums were clearer, high end less grainy) it seems the stock Mani is maybe current starved in stock form?
 

SIY

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#24
@ClosDeLaRoche Is it possible that the frequency response is off between the two units? That would include effects of cartridge loading from the preamps' respective input capacitances. That could definitely cause the sort of differences you're seeing when normalizing to peak rather than average.

Do you have a test record to check this with?
 
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#25
@ClosDeLaRoche Is it possible that the frequency response is off between the two units? That would include effects of cartridge loading from the preamps' respective input capacitances. That could definitely cause the sort of differences you're seeing when normalizing to peak rather than average.

Do you have a test record to check this with?
40 db gain on the Vincent and 42 db gain on the Mani, both set to 47k loading.
Nope I do not own a test record.
 

SIY

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#26
Input capacitance differences (the actual, not what the spec sheet shows) can have a large frequency effect with most MMs. And one or the other of those preamps could have different RIAA equalization accuracy. That's more likely than one of the preamps having a built-in compressor.
 
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#27
Input capacitance differences (the actual, not what the spec sheet shows) can have a large frequency effect with most MMs. And one or the other of those preamps could have different RIAA equalization accuracy. That's more likely than one of the preamps having a built-in compressor.
Huh, cool. So... this may not be the case with other cartridges? I'm rocking a Denon 301 Mk2 into a Denon 300LC Step Up Transformer. It's the only cartridge I own so I cannot test with anything else. Maybe another member can do the same test I did and report back? My personal rig may be an isolated case and the Mani may just be a crap pairing with my other gear. Or the Mani shows compressed dynamics with plenty of other rigs and there is a serious design flaw with it. More data would answer this.

But for me, I'm selling the Mani and keeping the Vincent.
 

solderdude

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#28
You cannot use the DR meter with vinyl. As you found out it gives different readings.
What you are seeing is not dynamics related but frequency response related.
DR meter 'looks' at peak levels vs averaged levels during a song.
When the Vincent has more upper treble (as SIY explained) you get higher peaks but not higher average levels and thus different readings while the actual dynamics stayed the same.

Amir's measurements do not show any compression.

Your outcome will be the same. I would sell the Mani if you are pleased with the Vincent.
Just don't blame 'compression'
 

SIY

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#29
Huh, cool. So... this may not be the case with other cartridges? I'm rocking a Denon 301 Mk2 into a Denon 300LC Step Up Transformer.
The transformer is a 1:10 stepup, with the cartridge being a 33 ohm source. So the chances that the load for the transformer secondary are optimum in both preamps is low, and that would cause exactly what you're seeing in your captured waveforms.

Getting a transformer set up properly isn't hard, but it does take some test equipment. At the prices people charge for them, IMO setup ought to be included, but usually isn't.
 
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#30
Ok, I think it's time to join the conversation. I've been reading this forum for months. And I owe special thanks to Amir for the Topping D50 test (one of the best purchases I ever made). But I thought I would never register, for I just lack the scientific knowledge. But this is too interesting, for the measurement matches perfectly with my subjective experience. An experience no one else had, AFAIK: everybody seems to like the Mani's sound except me. I've had it, tried it and, on a purely subjective and uncontrolled but very sincere basis, I found it had precision but also heavy compression. In (sighted, alas) comparison, it sounded compressed even compared to the Sony PS-HX500 internal phono stage. The Rega Fono MM (first edition) was a dynamic monster in comparison. I'm an impulsive, impatient, person and resold it after 2 weeks of use. That happened last year. A few days ago, I was thinking: maybe there was something wrong in my setup, it's not possible that it sounded so bad and everybody's enthusiastic. And now I see this graph. Nice synchronicity, Jungian or not. I hope an explanation can be found. Maybe the Mani is really good if one understands in what context it should be used. I can't wait to see how it will end.

My phono stage for years was the ProJect Tube Box SEII, which was great, but I wanted to get away from tubes so sold it for the Vincent Pho-8. After seeing so much positive feedback on the Mani I decided to buy a B-Stock one from Schiit to compare with the Vincent.

I received my Mani yesterday and I've discovered something very troubling about it.
 

restorer-john

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#31
Getting a transformer set up properly isn't hard, but it does take some test equipment. At the prices people charge for them, IMO setup ought to be included, but usually isn't.
At the prices some charge, they could throw in the test equipment and still make a killing.
 
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#32
I experimented more tonight.

Test 1) I have a needledrop of a classic rock LP, ripped by someone else with a system totally different than mine, and the same pressing of the same album in my vinyl collection. I ripped a sample of the record with both the Mani and Vincent, then compared the DR of all three samples.

All of the samples had the same dynamic range.

I did the same thing with another classic rock LP. Same result.

Test 2) I ripped a different song, this one a dubstep 45 rpm single (same genre of music as the track I ripped last night). These dance 45's are a lot louder than rock LPs so I adjusted the levels and ripped the track.

This time the Vincent showed about a half db better dynamic range.

Test 3) I re-ripped the same song as last night and repeated the experiment.

Same result, way more dynamic range on the Vincent.

Test 4) I think I know what's going on here. One more test, this time let's rip the two dubstep records again, both rips with the Vincent, and keep the recording levels exactly the same. I wonder if the one record where the Vincent shows significantly more dynamic range needs less of a boost to hit -1db when normalizing?

YES! The track in "Test 3" needs a 2 db of a boost to normalize to -1 and the track from "Test 2" needs a 4.6 db boost. The delta here is exactly the same as the difference in dynamic range between the Vincent and Mani. Seems like the track in Test 2 is a half db over what the Mani can handle before compressing the signal, and the track in "Test 3" is 2.6 db over.

Given this information, if you have a cartridge with a high output or listen to loudly-mastered vinyl I would suggest not buying the Mani.

(And on a side-note, I remember reading a post on reddit about a Magni 3 owner who listened to movies on the amp and hated the sound. Dynamic sounds, like explosions, sounded compressed. Turns out the Magni WAS compressing dynamics with the hot signal coming off of the computer and once he turned down the volume from the source the Magni sounded fine. This is strong evidence that the Mani does the same thing.)
 
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#33
Neorealist -welcome to the forum. And so you don't feel alone in your observation about the Mani- I've loaned mine out to four friends (3 of the 4 with decades of LP listening experience) plus have personally given it at least three long listening sessions spread over days. None of us was impressed )-: . Personally -If all you need is MM -I'd take the ART DJ Pre II over the Mani. Have also compared it with the Lounge Audio III (which I really like) , the iFi iPhono (both the original and the II) and the Hagerman Bugle (which I'm very impressed with). We are very lucky to live in a era when the number of really good outboard phono stages just keeps increasing and some of 'em ya can actually afford to buy.
 

amirm

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#34
Test 4) I think I know what's going on here. One more test, this time let's rip the two dubstep records again, both rips with the Vincent, and keep the recording levels exactly the same. I wonder if the one record where the Vincent shows significantly more dynamic range needs less of a boost to hit -1db when normalizing?

YES! The track in "Test 3" needs a 2 db of a boost to normalize to -1 and the track from "Test 2" needs a 4.6 db boost.
LP is a very unreliable format for such tests. Once we were testing demagnetizers for LPs. Virgin LP was bought, captured when new. And then after demag. To my surprise, it subjectively sounded different and better after being "demagnetized." This was proven by objectively analyzing the waveform.

For the next test, two new LPs were purchased, one with demag, and the other as is. Now the two were identical showing that demag didn't do anything. But that two back to back plays of LPs are different subjectively and objectively.
 

Wombat

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#35
LP is a very unreliable format for such tests. Once we were testing demagnetizers for LPs. Virgin LP was bought, captured when new. And then after demag. To my surprise, it subjectively sounded different and better after being "demagnetized." This was proven by objectively analyzing the waveform.

For the next test, two new LPs were purchased, one with demag, and the other as is. Now the two were identical showing that demag didn't do anything. But that two back to back plays of LPs are different subjectively and objectively.
I didn't realised that Audio Vinyl had ferrous fillers. ;)

I did find that during the 1970s 'oil crisis' that recycled vinyl had embedded label fragments and 'popped' surface bubbles as well as more surface noise and rice-bubble noises. A few of us were there. :cool:
 
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#36
I ran one more experiment tonight. My hypothesis is this: the Mani reduces dynamic range only if it receives a signal that is sufficiently loud, the evidence of this being the loss of dynamic range on "Livin' Different" (the title of the dubstep track that is causing problems with the Mani) while maintaining full dynamic range with the quieter classic rock LPs.

So, tonight I put a Schiit SYS in the signal path, after the SUT but before the Mani, and used it to reduce the strength of the signal to the Mani. I ripped a sample of "Livin' Different" and got this:

mani with sys photo.PNG


WOW, almost exactly the same result as the Vincent


And just to be 100% sure this test is reliably giving me the same reading, I took the SYS out of the signal path and ripped one more sample:

mani livin dif test 3 photo.PNG


Same as it was yesterday, and the day before that.

One more with Mani's 30db gain setting

mani 30db gain photo.PNG


There we go! Finally!

Here is what we can learn from this: a 0.4 mv MC Cartridge with a 10:1 SUT (which is 3.6 to 4mv I believe) will overload the Mani set to 42db gain with loud records.
The Ortofon 2M Red and Blue is 5.5 mv.
Grado Prestige is 5mv.
Nagaoka MP-110 is 5mv.
The 42db setting on the Mani is supposed to be the correct setting for these cartridges....
 
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Sal1950

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#37
I did find that during the 1970s 'oil crisis' that recycled vinyl had embedded label fragments and 'popped' surface bubbles as well as more surface noise and rice-bubble noises. A few of us were there. :cool:
This is the first time I've heard someone else mention this phenomena. Couldn't put to a time frame to it for sure, but back around 2008 when I was ripping all my vinyl, I came across a few records that I hadn't played for many years from the 70s to early 80s that had developed defects that made them almost unplayable. On close inspection with a magnifying glass, I could see these divots in the grooves looking almost like someone had pushed a hot pin into the record groove distroying that groove and deforming the groove on either side. A few of these were some of my favorite records that I would have returned or replaced had I been aware at the time I was still using them. But it had been a couple decades since I had played these LP's, having made the swing totally to CD.
 

anmpr1

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#38
I did find that during the 1970s 'oil crisis' that recycled vinyl had embedded label fragments and 'popped' surface bubbles as well as more surface noise and rice-bubble noises. A few of us were there
There were a lot of problems during that era. But even before. If you look at hi-fi mags from the '50s and '60s you'll find plenty of reader's letters complaining about the quality of records. In the early days, records were not shrink wrapped, and some stores would take them back if defective. Usually stores would just resell those that were brought back. Once shrink wrapping became the norm, some stores bought their own shrink wrap machines to resell returned product. You learned to live with 'small' problems, because there were no good alternatives.

The old joke was that CBS stood for Cost Before Sound. But even imports, like DGG and Phillips, had some horrendous quality. A big change happened in the '80s, with audiophile records: direct to disc and half speed mastered, using quality vinyl. From my experience, today's records are much better in the quality department.
 

Sal1950

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#39
A big change happened in the '80s, with audiophile records: direct to disc and half speed mastered, using quality vinyl. From my experience, today's records are much better in the quality department.
The really big change was the Compact Disc. Thank God for "Perfect Sound Forever". ;) LOL
 

Zerimas

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#40
I noticed that your tests didn't seem to include anything about the accuracy the RIAA filter. S/N ratio is important, but I would imagine how correctly the RIAA curve is implemented has an affect on the overall "sound" of the unit. I don't know. Maybe the differences aren't pronounced enough to be audible.
 

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