Schiit Magnius headphone amplifier review: Affordable overkill

The California-based audio buffs at Schiit have a new amp available for those wanting balanced output and it delivers ear-breaking power without breaking the bank.

8

No need to beat around the bush on this one. The Schiit Magnius doesn’t really make sense for the gaming-centric audience we serve here at Shacknews. It’s not marketed for such purposes and Schiit (as well as many other vendors) have other products more apt for hooking up your gaming headsets. The Magnius is a headphone amplifier designed to do one thing and do it for an extremely fair price — dump a buttload of clean power into any of your audiophile headphones equipped with mini-XLR 4-pin cables. At this task, it performs stupendously while also offering some nice bonuses for users with powered monitors and other dedicated audio playback equipment.

Bigger and blacker

The Schiit Magnius paired with the matching Modius balanced DAC.
The Schiit Magnius paired with the matching Modius balanced DAC.

Folks familiar with the products that Schiit has been producing for years will be accustomed to the conventional silver metallic aesthetic the company has used since it launched back in 2010. In recent years, some products have been offered with darker-colored variants, but the Magnius headphone amp comes in every color you could want, so long as it's black. While it is a similar height to the popular Schiit Magni and Asgaard amps, the Magnius needed nearly twice as much width to house its circuit board and components. It is a cosmetic match for Schiit’s new Modius DAC, with the company pitching the pair as an endgame-quality audio stack that can pair well with even the world’s most difficult-to-drive and expensive headphones.

The Magnius offers a pair of line-level RCA stereo inputs as well as a conventional 1/4-inch (6.5mm) headphone output jack. While it works perfectly fine in this configuration, the real attraction is the pair of balanced 3-pin XLR inputs and mini-XLR 4-pin headphone output jack. When paired to a DAC or other source with 3-pin balanced XLR output, the Magnius is capable of delivering enough power to deafen anyone in about 2 seconds. Acquiring permanent hearing loss in this fashion wouldn’t even be that bad because the signal will be so clean. 

Schiit claims that the Magnius is capable of delivering 6000mW (that’s 6 full-fat watts) when presented with a 16-ohm headphone load, 2600mW at 50 ohms, and 500mW at 600 ohms. For reference, the headphone amp in an iPhone produces ~45mW at 16 ohms. The Magnius delivers this power with noise levels that are hilariously lower than the threshold of human hearing and low enough that the noise measurements are nearing the practical limits of most conventional testing equipment. Schiit offers their own testing results and the power claims for the Magnius have also been verified by a third-party source. In the simplest of terms, when fed a clean input signal, the Magnius is capable of blowing you out of your seat (so much as a headphone could do) with pure, unsullied sound.

Close-up of the Magnius PCB.
Close-up of the Magnius PCB.

Rounding out the package is the inclusion of an Alps RK27114 analog potentiometer. Potentiometers handle the volume control of such an amp, where better units offer the best-possible channel balance and total lack of noise. The Alps pot in the Magnius sells for more than $20 wholesale by itself and delivers on the promise of precise channel balance, even at the lowest output levels (an area where all my other amps struggle). The Magnius is designed and built in the USA with domestic parts, save for that pesky wall wart. My biggest gripe with the build of the amp is the wall wart, but corners must be cut somewhere to keep the chassis size down and materials cost under control. An internal power supply would drive up the final price, negating some of the affordable appeal the Magnius brings. 

The amp can also act as a preamp with volume controls for both the single-ended and balanced outputs on the back side of the chassis. I tried out running a set of XLR cables from the Magnius to my M-Audio BX8 powered monitors and within a few minutes of listening, my face was locked into an ultra-smarmy grin, much like you would see from one Pepe the Frog. The Magnius was a clear upgrade as a simple volume controller over what I have been using, but buying this headphone amp just to have a good volume knob for my monitors would be super-wasteful. Thankfully, the outstanding headphone amp circuitry attached to the volume controller on the Magnius makes such a purchase a real necessity for me (this is how I talk myself into buying things I don’t actually need instead of saving for retirement).

When matched against my other headphone amps, I did notice that I was occasionally hearing mains power noise from the Magnius, particularly when the central AC unit powered up in the house or when the refrigerator compressor cycled into duty. I can’t be certain it is a fault of the Magnius as the same noise was not audible when in preamp mode with my monitors. It could be the mini-XLR 4-pin output of the amp or simply the balanced headphone cables I have on hand. 

Loads of inputs and outputs allow the Magnius to be the command center for your desk audio.
Loads of inputs and outputs allow the Magnius to be the command center for your desk audio.

As the only units I had with me sporting balanced input capability, most of my listening was done with the Sennheiser HD650, Sennheiser HD6XX, and Hifiman HE4XX. This is the first amplifier I’ve owned that could drive the Sennheisers to uncomfortable output levels without needing to be put into high-gain mode. Power is available for days. The total lack of noise meant that I was only hearing my music and the headphones, as the amp itself does nothing to color the sound. 

For testing, I paired my SMSL SU-8 DAC to the Schiit Magnius via 3-pin XLR balanced outputs. The pair performed wonderfully together save for the fact that their XLR jacks are on opposite sides of each other, meaning my fancy 6-inch XLR cables were worthless unless I positioned the units perpendicular to each other. I am now staring at the Schiit product page for the matching Modius balanced DAC with a sweaty brow. My current setup works and sounds great, but how much cooler would it be if all the parts were a cosmetic match?

Who needs this?

I really don't need the full Schiit stack, but I want it.
I really don't need the full Schiit stack, but I want it.

The Schiit Magnius does what it advertised to do with almost no heat output and no additional noise. It is a product made in the USA that delivers unmatched performance at a previously unmatched price. Does it make sense for those who aren’t waist-deep into the audiophile headphone hobby? Not at all. Is it cool? Hell yeah, brother. If you have headphones that need loads of power and can be hooked up to a balanced amp, you could do much worse than the Schiit Magnius and spend way more money doing so. 8/10 signs of permanent hearing loss


This review is based on a sample provided by the manufacturer. The Magnus headphone amplifier is available directly from Schiit for $199

Contributing Tech Editor

Chris Jarrard likes playing games, crankin' tunes, and looking for fights on obscure online message boards. He understands that breakfast food is the only true food. Don't @ him.

Review for
Schiit Magnius
8
Pros
  • A seemingly bottomless supply of power
  • Generates little heat
  • Features an excellent pot for both volume control and preamp use
  • Can work with single-ended and balanced gear
  • Attractive pricing for the performance
Cons
  • Uses wall wart for power
  • Overkill for normal gaming usage
  • Possibly amplifies mains power noise
From The Chatty
  • reply
    October 2, 2020 7:15 AM

    Chris Jarrard posted a new article, Schiit Magnius headphone amplifier review: Affordable overkill

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 8:13 AM

      Does it have Bluetooth? Will it work with my AirPod pros?

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 8:18 AM

      Why would you use this in place of the Schiit Hel which is going for 149?

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 10:38 AM

        The Modius is only an amplifier, and it has balanced outputs which some audiophiles (or audiophile-adjacents). In a nutshell, balanced audio is a type of connection that reduces the interference from EM interference resulting in better sound quality. For most people it's not necessary, especially for just listening to audio on headphones but when you get into more expensive and more sensitive equipment it get more useful.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanced_audio

        • reply
          October 2, 2020 10:39 AM

          heh, I didn't finish my thought in that first sentence. good job deject.

        • reply
          October 2, 2020 10:40 AM

          What's a Modius?

          • reply
            October 2, 2020 10:46 AM

            oh sorry I meant Magnius. Modius is a DAC from Schiit that is designed to be paired with the Magnius.

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 10:57 AM

        Better potentiometer for more precise volume control (smaller pots develop an imbalance at lower volume levels).
        Balanced XLR output (this is the main one?) very good for both balanced headphones or studio monitors.
        Much more power (Hel: 1200mw @ 16 ohms vs Magnius: 6w(2.2 unbalanced) @ 16 ohms) for harder to drive headphones.
        Slightly better signal to noise ratio.
        In addition to being balanced, XLR connectors don't suffer from ground loop interference in my experience either.

        The negative is that it is 50 dollars more... and you need a DAC with it (another 100+)
        90% of people would be totally satisfied with the Hel, but if you have studio monitors or stuff with XLR inputs (or you are bothered with volume balance at lower levels) then this is a great choice.

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 11:07 AM

        It’s better.

        • reply
          October 2, 2020 11:26 AM

          You're one of the few shackers where this response just works.

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 11:24 AM

        If you wanted balanced input/output for some reason or you had a set of headphones that needed more juice than the Hel can muster. Or maybe if low-volume channel imbalance is the bane of your existence so you wanted a nicer pot.

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 8:32 AM

      ooohh nice!

      Im current using a schitt stack Modi Multi + Magni 2U with a switch I rigged up to swap from my Darkvoice 336SE from time to time.

      The Magnius + Modius would be super cool to have.

      I also just noticed they have this neat little gadget. ( https://www.schiit.com/products/sys ) im thinking about picking up to replace the ghetto ass switch im using now.

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 9:04 AM

      ZOMG!!!

      https://snakeoilsound.com/collections/all

      mini-connector for Magni + Modi / Magnius + Modius

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 9:41 AM

        That's pretty cool. I bought the Schiit PYST RCA cables as they are pretty short. I saw some connectors like that when I bought my stack but I saw reviews saying they were a bit short so the stack wouldn't sit quite right. The PYST cables are super good quality RCA cables fwiw.

      • reply
        October 2, 2020 10:43 AM

        this is a neat solution, especially for the balanced connectors.

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 9:36 AM

      Sweet fuckin' Schiit stack bro. My Modi 3/Magni 3 stack is a bit jealous (but also very adequate for my Focal Elex headphones).

    • reply
      October 2, 2020 9:43 AM

      Check out this Schiit guys

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