High-end audio can be a rather expensive hobby, but every now and then I stumble across something really amazing that's priced for the real world. The Schiit Audio Asgard headphone amplifier looks and sounds like an overpriced high-end audio component, but it sells for $249!
How good is it? Much better sounding than run-of-the-mill headphone amplifiers, the sort designed around inexpensive integrated circuits found in home theater and stereo receivers. The Asgard is a no-holds-barred Class A, single-ended, zero-feedback design. Pardon the audiophile jargon; let's just say the Asgard is built like a serious piece of high-end gear.
Look inside and you see individual resistors, capacitors, transistors, etc, configured in a proprietary design by Schiit Audio's founders, Jason Stoddard, formerly of Sumo, and Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta Digital (two pioneering American high-end audio companies). The Asgard's chassis, circuitboard, and power transformer are all sourced from American suppliers, and the amp is built in Newhall, Calif. Oh, and Stoddard, his wife, or Moffat actually listens to each and every Asgard before it leaves the premises.
The Asgard's clean lines and elegant proportions strike me as distinctive, I love the look. The brushed, all-metal chassis' fit and finish are excellent, easily on par with high-end electronics that sell for four times the Asgard's price. That's no exaggeration, it's really nicely put together. I mostly listened to the Asgard with my Ayre C-5xe SACD/DVD-Audio player, but you could hook it up to any stereo analog connection.
The amp is fairly compact, and can be placed horizontally or vertically. The chassis measures 9 by 6.75 by 2.25 inches, and it weighs 4 pounds. Accessories include a 3.5 mm to 6.3 mm headphone plug adapter, and a high-quality 3.5mm to male RCA cable adapter.
The amp's high-current design makes it suitable for use with all sorts of headphones, rated from 8 to 600 ohms, and it worked perfectly with my favorite Grado, Hifiman, Phiaton, and Sennheiser headphones. A lot of companies toss around phrases like "high-current design," but judging by the amount of heat the Asgard generates, I believe the claim.
It runs very warm to the touch, and even so, Jason Stoddard told me the Asgard was built to have a 20-year lifespan, or at least 5 years if left on continuously. How many $249 consumer electronics products can you buy with that sort of life expectancy?… Read more