Review: Schiit Asgard Headphone Amp

Just because my audio expertise falls somewhere between Cupertino-issue earbuds and Justin Bieber doesn’t mean I want my music to sound like Schiit. Or does it?

At first glance, the Schiit Asgard Headphone Amp seems to be the kind of fully discrete (non-tube), single-ended (drains juice but sounds great), Harry Potter–in–hardcover–sized, brushed-aluminum beauty that even a Luddite could love.

But on first listen, the Luddite may realize it’s the kind of specialty device best left to the audiophile. While I did notice a perceptible increase in general clarity when I listened to some lossless White Album tracks on my Grado RS-1s, the improvement was pretty subtle. We’re not exactly talking swimming in an infinity pool as opposed to a drainage ditch here, people.

However, after some coaching I was able to hear an improvement in separation. That said, I did notice, for the first time ever, that the jet engine backs the entirety of “Back in The USSR.”

I thought my observations warranted a few second opinions. (Not the jet engine thing. That’s a fact.) So I passed it on to two get-gadget staffers who know a lot about music, which, as it turned out, is where their similarities ended.

The first liked the Asgard so much he wanted to buy it. His reasons? A nice smoothing of the frequency response, good price, U.S.-made parts, buttery volume controls and the beautiful design.

But the second echoed my assertion, reporting only a small decrease in muddiness at the high and low frequencies when listening through his Sony MDR-7506 headphones. He suggested that using low-impedance cans (which Schiit already urged us to do, but no one listens to Schiit) as well as plugging it into a decent stereo instead of an iPod, might yield more-exciting results.

What does this all mean? Well, if you are very sensitive to bad vibrations or spend a lot of time listening to Aphex Twin, the Asgard is a good bet, as it pretty much indisputably makes music sound better. If you still listen to the earbuds that came with your iPod, you would probably be wise to invest in some good headphones before you start dropping money on this Schiit.

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