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Newport 2014: Schiit Faced

DSC_0179 hiresnewportlogoforwebOne of the first stops at these shows has to be a visit to the Schiitheads. It's just mandatory. Whether or not they've brought new toys, these guys manage to pretend to be down to earth. It's only when you start talking to them that you realize just how completely mad they are. This year, though, they actually did bring new toys. They brought four of them. First up were refreshes for Schiit Audio's venerable Lyr and Asgard amps. The new Lyr 2 ($449) now sports a fully regulated power supply and a vanishingly low noise floor for some *very obvious* improvements. The Asgard 2 had some sort of upgrade done to it, but I neither paid close attention to the spiel nor listened to it. I ignored the spiel in part because I was drooling shopping, and staring at a very-close-to-production model of Schiit's Ragnarok integrated amp. Okay, sure, it's a fully balanced headphone amp. Whatever. You can plug speakers into it, meaning that I can now have Schiit lying all over my living room. You'll be looking at 60 watts into 8ohms with this thing, and I can't wait to hear whether the liquidity it presents over headphones will carry over to my Tannoys.

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The real reason that I blew off the headphone amps, though, was the new Mani phono preamplifier. Yes, Schiit does analog. It’s MM/MC capable, it has (minimally) adjustable loading, and it costs a whopping $129. Let me say this again: It costs $129. I spent more than that just on beer this weekend.

The Mani is just insane.

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It sports passive RIAA equalization, and, based on what I heard at the show, it delivers a kind of tonal subtlety and detail that’s simply unavailable at this price. Given that I was listening to it through open-backed headphones in a room full of friendly people, I can’t say anything about the noise floor. I wasn’t paying close enough attention to say anything about the dynamics. Yeah, I was basically just drooling.

I’ve had too many friends ask me how to get into vinyl over the last few years. I’ve always been able to talk them out of a Crosley. I’ve even been able to talk them up past Audio Technica. The sticking point has always been the phono preamp. At $129, the Schiit Mani eliminates that sticking point.

I have extra turntables that aren’t getting enough use. I’ll be buying one.

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