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Schiit Mani 2 Review (Phono Stage)

Rate this product:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 1 0.7%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 22 16.1%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 74 54.0%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 40 29.2%

  • Total voters
    137

amirm

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Mani 2 phono preamplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $149.
Schiit Mani2 Review Phono Preamp Stage Budget.jpg


Naturally the unit looks like other Schiit products and seems to even have the previous Mani skin given the lack of "2" designation in the front. Fortunately the back clarifies that:
Schiit Mani2 Review Phono back panel power supply Preamp Stage Budget.jpg


The transformer buzzed badly when plugged in (easily audible at 4 feet). This was without connecting it to Mani 2 so is an issue with the transformer not having proper mounting (or its quality). Hopefully this is limited to my sample.

There are a lot of configuration switches that are placed underneath:

Schiit Mani2 Review Phono Switches Control Filter Preamp Stage Budget.jpg

I don't need to tell you that it is a pain to rotate the unit with cables attached to change settings. I understand the need for circuit optimization and cost to do so but doesn't provide much comfort when it comes to messing with the unit.

Schiit Mani 2 Measurements
Measurements of distortion and noise is a bit of a disaster in phono stages because of lack of standardization in gain and vagaries of ground loop/mains leakage. I used to get around the former by adjusting the input and arriving at a fixed output. Folks complained then that the input voltage was too high relative to output of actual cartridges. So I changed my testing a while back to keep the input fixed at 5 mv for moving magnet and 0.5 millivolt for moving coil. This unfortunately allowed noise to dominate the measurements for the most part, not distortion. Such is the case clearly here:

Schiit Mani2 Measurements Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


With no gain switches set, the amplifier gains drops to 30s which is too low relative to its competition. So I chose to use input gain set to High and output set to Low (abbreviated HL). Using that, we see that there is a 60 Hz mains spike that dominates measurements resulting in a SINAD equal to it at around 81 dB. This lands the Mani 2 near the top of our scoreboard:

Best phono amplifier review 2022.png


But due to inaccuracy of the SINAD measurements for the reasons mentioned, the ranking is not quite correct. To wit, Mani 2 has much lower noise than original Mani. Here are its measurements:

index.php


Notice how the noise floor past 1 kHz flattens in the original but keeps sloping down in version 2. Original Mani got lucky with lower mains output which boosted its score (with a different gain setting). I played with different gain settings on Mani 2 and what I reported above is the best I could get.

The most important test for a phono stage is how it implements RIAA equalization that is baked into LP format. Here is how Mani 2 performs:

Schiit Mani2 Measurements Frequency Response Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


The variation is quite small which is nice (original Mani was also good in this regard).

There are two filter switches provided for rumble/low frequency noise. They are labeled 6 dB and "+6 dB." I could not figure out what the second one meant until I measured it:

Schiit Mani2 Measurements Filter Frequency Response Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


The second, +6dB switch does nothing by itself (green line). However, if you activate "6 dB" switch and then toggle that as well, you get a much earlier roll off. Both of these slow filters cut into the frequency response so would be nicer if they had higher slopes and ideally programmable which is not in the cards in this type of product.

To see how much headroom we have with respect to ticks and pops saturating the phono pre-amp, I vary the input to see where the unit clips:
Schiit Mani2 Measurements THD vs Input Level Distortion Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


These are fairly low clipping points so best to keep your LPs clean (although improved from Mani).

Changing frequencies instead of level we get much improved response compared to original Mani:

Schiit Mani2 Measurements THD vs Frequency Level Distortion Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


This is Mani:

index.php


The SINAD thing was bothering me :) , so I ran a sweep versus frequency where only THD is captured (no noise):

Schiit Mani2 Measurements THD vs frequency Phono Preamp Stage Budget.png


This is exceptional level of distortion relative to what is coming from the source so distortion is not a factor. Just worry about mains noise/hum.

Conclusions
Good to see Schiit taking another shot at improving a budget phono stage which was already very good especially in its price class. In every way that I can see, Mani 2 outperforms the original while keeping the cost so reasonable.

I am going to put Schiit Mani 2 on my recommended list.
-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
Last edited:

LTig

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Measurements of distortion and noise is a bit of a disaster in phono stages because of lack of standardization in gain and vagaries of ground loop/mains leakage. I used to get around the former by adjusting the input and arriving at a fixed output. Folks complained then that the input voltage was too high relative to output of actual cartridges. So I changed my testing a while back to keep the input fixed at 5 mv for moving magnet and 5 microvolt for moving coil.
This can't be correct. 500 microvolt makes much more sense.
 

PeteL

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I’m not an avid LP person, but I do enjoy them. Some records sound very nice.I have the original Mani and I have nothing of note that I feel wrong about. Sounds good to me but wondering really with this medium if there is real significant performance when you move up the ladder. This is certainly a budget class item, consirably so when compares to he rest of my chain. Am I missing out? Can I get much more from my LPs? If I was gonna go and put the money,what do you afficionados recommend? There are a few reviewed here but they all seem to be in the budget category. My current chain is DL-103->AU320 SUT -> Mani. On a Td-126 MK2 and a Denon DA309 arm.
 

SoundsGood2Me

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Every time I go to AXPONA I hear all the vinyl spinning and it makes me want to rekindle my record collection.
Then I A/B it w/CDs and dust grows on my turntable.
I've since put my record money towards SACDs, a MUCH HIGHER ROI
(dammit pic not related, I looked for 15 min for my turntable setup, I give up)
 

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DDF

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That's decent overload performance. Absolute worst case groove velocities are ~ 50 cm/sec. Multiply this by the cartridge sensitivity (mV per cm/s) to assess overload with any given table. Example my Stanton 881MkII is 1 mV/cm/s, so this Mani 2 would just barely handle worst case music conditions. These are hot levels though, the Shure test record only goes up to 14 cm/s, for context.

A good test to add would be transient overload recovery using a time trace. It gives an indication if the preamp reacts nasty to groove pops
 

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Leiker535

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Mani 2 phono preamplifier. It was sent to me by the company and costs US $149.
View attachment 188725

Naturally the unit looks like other Schiit products and seems to even have the previous Mani skin given the lack of "2" designation in the front. Fortunately the back clarifies that:
View attachment 188729

The transformer buzzed badly when plugged in (easily audible at 4 feet). This was without connecting it to Mani 2 so is an issue with the transformer not having proper mounting (or its quality). Hopefully this is limited to my sample.

There are a lot of configuration switches that are placed underneath:

View attachment 188730
I don't need to tell you that it is a pain to rotate the unit with cables attached to change settings. I understand the need for circuit optimization and cost to do so but doesn't provide much comfort when it comes to messing with the unit.

Schiit Mani 2 Measurements
Measurements of distortion and noise is a bit of a disaster in phono stages because of lack of standardization in gain and vagaries of ground loop/mains leakage. I used to get around the former by adjusting the input and arriving at a fixed output. Folks complained then that the input voltage was too high relative to output of actual cartridges. So I changed my testing a while back to keep the input fixed at 5 mv for moving magnet and 0.5 millivolt for moving coil. This unfortunately allowed noise to dominate the measurements for the most part, not distortion. Such is the case clearly here:

View attachment 188734

With no gain switches set, the amplifier gains drops to 30s which is too low relative to its competition. So I chose to use input gain set to High and output set to Low (abbreviated HL). Using that, we see that there is a 60 Hz mains spike that dominates measurements resulting in a SINAD equal to it at around 81 dB. This lands the Mani 2 near the top of our scoreboard:

View attachment 188737

But due to inaccuracy of the SINAD measurements for the reasons mentioned, the ranking is not quite correct. To wit, Mani 2 has much lower noise than original Mani. Here are its measurements:

index.php


Notice how the noise floor past 1 kHz flattens in the original but keeps sloping down in version 2. Original Mani got lucky with lower mains output which boosted its score (with a different gain setting). I played with different gain settings on Mani 2 and what I reported above is the best I could get.

The most important test for a phono stage is how it implements RIAA equalization that is baked into LP format. Here is how Mani 2 performs:

View attachment 188739

The variation is quite small which is nice (original Mani was also good in this regard).

There are two filter switches provided for rumble/low frequency noise. They are labeled 6 dB and "+6 dB." I could not figure out what the second one meant until I measured it:

View attachment 188741

The second, +6dB switch does nothing by itself (green line). However, if you activate "6 dB" switch and then toggle that as well, you get a much earlier roll off. Both of these slow filters cut into the frequency response so would be nicer if they had higher slopes and ideally programmable which is not in the cards in this type of product.

To see how much headroom we have with respect to ticks and pops saturating the phono pre-amp, I vary the input to see where the unit clips:
View attachment 188742

These are fairly low clipping points so best to keep your LPs clean (although improved from Mani).

Changing frequencies instead of level we get much improved response compared to original Mani:

View attachment 188744

This is Mani:

index.php


The SINAD thing was bothering me :) , so I ran a sweep versus frequency where only THD is captured (no noise):

View attachment 188745

This is exceptional level of distortion relative to what is coming from the source so distortion is not a factor. Just worry about mains noise/hum.

Conclusions
Good to see Schiit taking another shot at improving a budget phono stage which was already very good especially in its price class. In every way that I can see, Mani 2 outperforms the original while keeping the cost so reasonable.

I am going to put Schiit Mani 2 on my recommended list.
-----------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/

Nice improvements. The ability to change capacitance is supreme for the pricetag though, making picky but legendary cartridges like the 540/440sMls accessible for us poor plebs.
 
Last edited:

tomelex

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Thanks for the review and data. I had ordered a Mani in early January and they messaged me today saying they’re actually sending me the Mani 2 instead since it just dropped. Pretty exciting!
Good on that company, that is more than most companies would do, they would clear out the older stock using you. Color me impressed. Also, I thought the placement of the normal set and forget settings via the bottom was pretty novel really.

Thank you Amir for another great measurement suite for us.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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A good test to add would be transient overload recovery using a time trace. It gives an indication if the preamp reacts nasty to groove pops
What would that test look like? A step that causes clipping and see how long it takes for the output to die down?

I think I tried something like this but couldn't get it to work.
 

don'ttrustauthority

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I’m not an avid LP person, but I do enjoy them. Some records sound very nice.I have the original Mani and I have nothing of note that I feel wrong about. Sounds good to me but wondering really with this medium if there is real significant performance when you move up the ladder. This is certainly a budget class item, consirably so when compares to he rest of my chain. Am I missing out? Can I get much more from my LPs? If I was gonna go and put the money,what do you afficionados recommend? There are a few reviewed here but they all seem to be in the budget category. My current chain is DL-103->AU320 SUT -> Mani. On a Td-126 MK2 and a Denon DA309 arm.
If you read Jason's post on this release, he says M2 is audibly improving M1. I assume he means with lp and not digital sources, but I've been wrong before.

Very disappointed I can't spend another $1k to get this kind of performance. I'm sure many people around here will accuse Schiit of manipulating people into buying an inferior type of playback and trying to get them to buy tubes for the wrong reason.
 

don'ttrustauthority

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Thanks Amir. Nice to see another solid offering from Schiit. This should do the job fine for most setups.
What unit would you suggest where the Mani 2 comes up short? What is better, for how much?
 

PeteL

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If you read Jason's post on this release, he says M2 is audibly improving M1. I assume he means with lp and not digital sources, but I've been wrong before.

Very disappointed I can't spend another $1k to get this kind of performance. I'm sure many people around here will accuse Schiit of manipulating people into buying an inferior type of playback and trying to get them to buy tubes for the wrong reason.
Sure, I believe we shouldn’t get into all this hidden agenda thing, and politics. It is objectively an improvement and I like Schiit proposition. It’s not that. Personally, I may be wrong but I feel that the fact that I am using a step up transformer, cancels out some of the goodies that this new version would bring to my benefit. The original is not optimal with a DL-103, but there are people that are more experts in term of cartridge loading and all that. My setup sound better to my ears with the SUT, I don’t ear a noise floor or interference neither, I think this unit brings more flexibility but I honestly doubt, in my case, that those improvements are beneficial to my case, unless i wanted to drop the SUT. Then it could be night and day. Was mainly wondering if there are products out there that are really next level. Like real, objective significant improvment on my reproduction chain. Maybe this is it and I’m wrong, it looks like little incremental updates, which is alright in itself, heck it’s just a bill fifty, but thinking if I do switch I’d like the gem out there.
 

DDF

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What would that test look like? A step that causes clipping and see how long it takes for the output to die down?

I think I tried something like this but couldn't get it to work.

RG dynamics studied this back in the 70s and came up with a phono preamp torture signal (page 25 here) of "an RIAA preemphasized 500 Hz square wave, passed through a single-pole filter (-3 dB at 60 kHz) and ending up with a rise time of I microsecond"

The audacity manual here implies ~ 3ms is wide for an aggressive pop, vs the 1ms pulse adopted by RG, but 1ms to 3 ms is in the right ballpark.

RG designed their phono pre gear for 140mV overload as shown here, so that's a worthy amplitude. It's in line with the absolute statistical worst case cutting levels for peak music of ~ 70 cm/s which equates to ~ 70 mv for your average cartridge sensitivity (starting page 232 here).

For test results if you want to provide a figure of merit, I'd go with settling time to 5mV. There's a lot of latitude for interpretation but my thought process was:
  • choose a time at which amplitude settles back down to a high but typical level for music
  • Here indicates 5 cm/sec. For the assumed standard cartridge, that's 5 mV
 
Last edited:

DHT 845

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50hz hum dominates sinad? O shit :)
They are not able to design simple PS?
 
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