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Schiit IEMagni Review (Headphone Amplifier)

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the just announced Schiit IEMagni headphone amplifier. It was sent to me by the company for testing and costs US $119.99.

Naturally IEMagni looks like other Schiit products which I tend to like in black a lot more:

Schiit IEMagni 3 Review Headphone Amplifier.jpg


Operationally I wished the volume control was farther to the left as when you have a headphone plugged in, I had trouble getting my fingers around it.

The back side says "Magni 3" but don't be confused as this design is similar to op-amp architecture of Schiit Heresy:

Schiit IEMagni 3 Review Headphone Amp.jpg


What is new is addition of a third gain settings of -10 dB (company spec -- forgot to measure it). This is naturally intended for sensitive IEMs which then allows the more linear range of the volume control to be used as well. Of course we also need very low noise output so we will have to see if IEMagni delivers there.

Schiit IEMagni Measurements
I test headphone amps at unity gain meaning I feed them 2 or 4 volts (unbalanced/balanced) and adjust the gain/volume control to get the same voltage. I start with the lowest gain setting to get there but in this case, I could not so had to use medium gain:

Schiit IEMagni 3 Measurements.png


Distortion is well below best case audibility threshold so IEMagni is verifiably transparent with respect to distortion. It naturally lands in top class of all headphone amplifiers tested:

Best headphone amp reviewed.png


Let's test for noise:

Schiit IEMagni 3 SNR Measurements.png


Most excellent!

most quiet headphone amplifier review 2021.png


So the claim of ultra low noise for IEMs is proven.

Frequency response is exceptionally flat and extended:

Schiit IEMagni 3 frequency response Measurements.png


Those of you wondering if your high-res music is amplified by your headphone amp, you see that it most definitely is.

Most important here though is the amount of power so let's start with 300 ohm load:

Schiit IEMagni Power into 300 ohm Measurements.png


My target here is anything north of 100 milliwatts and the IEMagni delivers more than three times as much so you should not have any issue driving the most inefficient high impedance headphones.

Switching to low impedance of 32 ohm, we see some strain:

Schiit IEMagni Power into 32 ohm Measurements.png


As long as you stay in low or medium gain though, performance is superb, easily besting the once king of headphone amplifiers, Massdrop THX AAA 789.

We see the same strain as we step through larger set of impedance steps:

Schiit IEMagni Power vs Distortion vs Load Impedance Measurements.png


I was disappointed of the channel matching in this specific unit:

Schiit IEMagni Channel Match Measurements.png


Fortunately as mentioned, you have the low gain mode to compensate. I hope other samples do better than this one.

Schiit IEMagni Headphone Listening Tests
I started my testing with the Ether CX 25 ohm headphone. Here, on medium get I could get good volume. Switching to high gain generate far higher volume but I got distinct distortion at the upper end of the volume range. Mind you, I could not listen for more than a second or two at this level so not a practical concern but there it is.

Switching to Sennheiser HD-650 provided absolutely superb performance to loudness levels you can't imagine! This amp loves to drive high impedance headphones.

Conclusions
The race that started a couple of years ago to deliver absolutely transparent yet high power headphone amplification continues with yet another great example and at budget price. Schiit has succeeded in pushing the noise level while at the same time providing a very useful negative gain setting. It is not quite as capable with low impedance and inefficient headphones but for most applications, it should still deliver stellar performance.

I am happy to put Schiit IEMagni on my recommended list. Great to see the Heresy architecture live on in other iterations, demonstrating there is value and customer demand in totally transparent headphone amplification.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

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amirm

amirm

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We have certainly created a much larger market for transparent audio products and awareness around what is or is not transparent.
 

vaidd

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Great amp. Is the volume knob new? What's the material and is it removable? Thanks.
 

tankas

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Operationally I wished the volume control was farther to the left as when you have a headphone plugged in, I had trouble getting my fingers around it.
I would imagine it should be better if the amp will be kept on the left side of the table/used with a left hand.
 

MZKM

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Hmm, so same [similar] price as the Heresy but add another gain setting (50mW SINAD is much better) and is a bit more powerful. Cons though are the volume channel matching and that while SINAD is similar, this has much lower 2nd harmonics but much higher 3rd harmonics, thankfully both levels are super low.

I own the Heresy and enjoy it, and I actually do like the splash of red (even bought a red 3.5mm adaptor to match).
 
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daftcombo

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Very nice! Only concern is channel imbalance.
Especially if used as pre-amp for speakers (I suppose it is the aim of the RCA out?), because in my experience channel imbalance is more benign with headphones than with speakers.
 

Matias

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sarumbear

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We have certainly created a much larger market for transparent audio products and awareness around what is or is not transparent.
ASR sure did that. I think the main reason is @amirm offering a testing facility which is not related to the designer nor the manufacturer.

When I was doing work experience at the EMI Central Research Laboratories in Hayes, UK (no longer exists) the testing and the R&D and manufacturing groups were in separate buildings. They treated each other almost like enemies. (Very much like in the stories about Macintosh and Apple II teams during the development of Macintosh.) The prototype of the CT scanner that EMI was developing was failing at the hospital in Wimbledon (can't recall its name now). Finally they send in the testing group and within days they found out the cause, the fix was applied and EMI became the first company in the world to make a CT scan of the brain.
 

Vini darko

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Funny that it stuggles with low impedance yet claims to be for iem's. Some pretty ugly channel matching too for highly sensitive iem's. However it will be a quality buffer for power amps , almost L30 good.
Edit : I see no switch for the rca out/ headphone operation and is it a preout?
 

sarumbear

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Very nice! Only concern is channel imbalance.
Especially if used as pre-amp for speakers (I suppose it is the aim of the RCA out?), because in my experience channel imbalance is more benign with headphones than with speakers.
The 0.8dB difference in SPL is equal to moving your head 9cm from the speaker centre!
 

Vini darko

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ta240

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This happens when design prevails over engineering I guess:
Probably the safest bet would be to have the knob in the middle - equally good for left-handed and right-handed users.

I admit, it might short circuit my brain if they started moving the knobs over now so things didn't line up. They'd have to offer two versions; the OCD (lines up) and the new. :)
 
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