When you name your company Schiit, you’re pretty much asking for a deluge of horrible puns and fourth grade humor (see above and below).
Yet despite its playful moniker — and a truly hilarious FAQ — this small California-based outfit of audio industry veterans is dead serious about designing affordable, audiophile-quality headphone amps. And its latest is a doozy.
As with Schiit’s previous lineup, the solid-state Asgard (tee-hee) and triode tube Valhalla, the Lyr sticks with the company’s Norse naming conventions: Lyr is the name of Menglad’s hall in Jotunheim, the land of the giants. But unlike the previous two offerings, the Lyr is, um, completely insane.
Let us elaborate. This hybrid (tube/MOSFET) headphone amp pushes out a whopping six watts RMS per channel into 32 ohms. If you don’t speak audiophile, that’s about 10 times the power of your average headphone amp and enough to make most ear cans spontaneously combust, should you get ambitious with the volume knob.
So why would anyone need all that power? Schiit’s answer: Why the hell do you need a 400-horsepower engine or bacon-wrapped hot dogs? Valid points, but that extra muscle also translates into near infinite headroom and dynamics that other amps in its price range can’t touch. Put another way, the Lyr makes your great headphones sound even better. A lot better.
As anyone who’s gone from an anemic built-in amp in a computer to something more robust knows, a decent amp can make or break a pair of headphones.
Plug a pair of power-hungry orthodynamics from a company like Audeze or HiFiMan into your iPod and you’ll hear, well, nothing. Plug them into the Lyr and they’ll spring to life with jaw-dropping clarity and detail. Indeed, it’s when this amp is used with difficult-to-drive headphones that it truly shines.
Unfortunately, we didn’t have any orthos on hand, but we did match up the amp with our favorite pair of AGK 702s and a friend’s Sennheiser 650s. The results were stunning in both cases. The Lyr warmed up our cold, calculating 702s, adding a depth of soundstage that was incredibly precise on albums like Massive Attack’s Mezzanine. It showed zero distortion on Kraftwerk’s The Mix and a combination of Herculean power and finesse on tracks like “A/B Machines” from Sleigh Bells’ debut.
Granted, the magic wasn’t all-encompassing: Crappy recordings still sounded crappy. But overall, the Lyr did sonic justice to nearly everything we threw at it.
Still, the new Schiit is definitely not for everyone. If you’re perfectly happy with the buds that came with your iPod, don’t even bother. On the other hand, the Lyr is a no-brainer for anyone who’s recently invested in a decent pair of low-impedance cans, or plans on cozying up to some in the near future.
Yes, you can pay a lot less for a headphone amp, and there are plenty of great ones on the market. But you also drop $450 and never have to worry about driving any headphones again. Ever.
Simply put, the Lyr is exquisite overkill in almost every respect. And paired with a decent DAC, this is one headphone amp even the son of Odin could get behind. Plug in and you will truly feel like you’re in the hall of the mountain king.
Photo by Jim Merithew/get-gadget
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