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Author Topic: Dogmatically Vigilant - An Even More Comprehensive Review of the Schiit Mjolnir  (Read 13914 times)

purr1n

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Dogmatically Vigilant - A Even More Comprehensive Review of the Schiit Mjolnir

I figured I’d write a proper review of the Mjolnir since “Mjolnir = WIN, EPIC” doesn’t exactly cut it. I’ll keep it short. I hate writing these things, since differences between amps are so much more subtle than that of headphones. I’ve had the Mjolnir long enough now to be sure of my impressions (and have them even out over different listening sessions and moods.)

Let me start with the “laid back” vs. “assertive” thing. Some amps are more laid-back others are more forward, aggressive, or let’s assertive. Forward may imply headstage, aggressive may imply something that’s unlistenable. So I am using the term assertive. The list below is copied directly from a HF post of mine with some minor changes:

“WTF SKYLAB” (Skylab, if you read this, please don’t take this personally!)
  Leben CS300
"RELAXED"
  Burson HA-160
  AMB B22 2ch DIY build
  AMB B22 4ch (various)
  Dynahi
  DNA Stratus (with Chinese tubes)
  BHA-1 (after 2 months burn-inhard to tell, keeps changing)
  Eddie Current S7 (with Anax's tube set)
  Eddie Current BA (with the current tubes I'm running)
  Schiit Mjolnir
  .
  Apex Arete
  Apex Peak
"ASSERTIVE"
  Matrix Quattro Amp
“SOLID-STATE GONE TERRIBLY WRONG”

I put a “.” as a marker to indicate a little jump. Take the above list with a grain of salt. It is very general and doesn’t consider specific or nuanced qualities of each amp. It should be noted that these conclusions were arrived at by making sure the tube amps were turned on for at least one hour and the solid-state amps were on for at least four hours. It seems the longer the Mjolnir is on, the smoother and more involving it sounds. This differences were arrived at using the BA as a reference. I will let Anax corroborate such wild claims if he so chooses.

My personal preference is toward the the “assertive” sounding amps. I don’t like sleepy or overly polite sounding gear. As we can see, I’ve put the Mjolnir on the more assertive sounding side of amps. Hence the Six-Moonish-esque phrase I coined: “dogmatically vigilant”. As Anax mentioned, the Mjolnir is like going to a rock concert, it’s going to keep you awake. It’s dogmatic, because it’s not going to gooooo the shit out of your HD800 into something it was never meant to be in the first place.

Now why would I care about the Mjolnir if I already had the BA? Well, however great the BA is at the spacious, openness, and micro-dynamic thing, it’s not perfect. Being a tube amp, the bass is always going to be a little bit rounded. Some tube aficionados may not hear this weakness, but others such as myself do. Ultimately, the point is that my version of the BA (PX4 or the modified PX25 version) still has a hint of that bass roundedness. Measured harmonic distortion for my BA at 0.5V into a 50ohm load at 100Hz is about 0.25%. Hardly bad for a tube amp. But I hear it.

As a quick side note, the Arete/Peak had excellent bass control and were super clean, but those amps were just a bit too assertive and etched for my taste. They also worked poorly with high sensitivity headphones like the W3000ANV because of noise. I feel the Arete/Peak are best matched with DACs which I feel are on the gooey side. It comes as no surprise to me that Todd at TTVJ owns one of these DACs as his reference. That being said, a few people who I know and respect love the Arete and Peak.

In terms of the combination of clean, explosive, powerful, extended, and controlled bass, the Mjolnir is only bettered by the Dynahi. The Dynahi has slightly more oomph and sounds more relaxed while doing it. If I get a chance, I’ll measure the Mjolnir and Dynahi bass distortion the same way as I did the BA. I bet the bass distortion results will be incredibly clean.

The final tuning of the production Mjolnir is shifted it down a notch from the assertive side found what I heard at T.H.E SHOW. As it currently is, the stock HD800's sound should range from slightly annoying to incredibly annoying. That’s because the stock HD800 does sound slightly annoying to incredibly annoying! Only the Burson HA160 makes the HD800 OK, but at great cost in other technicalities. Everything else I threw on it was superb (see headphone list at bottom.)

So all else aside, why I do love this amp? Because it sounds so involving. I don’t know if it’s true or not, but Jason supposedly said something along the lines that the Mjolnir is an amp that makes him not miss tubes. I wish he hadn’t said it so I could have said it first. I got my first hint of this, not at The Village Meet (the Mjolnir at that meet was supposedly just assembled the night before and it sounded bassy as hell, all over the place, and pretty much like shit), but at T.H.E. SHOW in Irvine, CA. (Kudos to Schiit for having real music available, and not that audiophile guitar instrumental garbage. Death to audiophiles who like audiophile music!) What struck me then was how involving the Mjolnir (+ Gungnir) was to me. It’s the kind of effect that makes us want to keep listening and not put the headphone down.

When I compared to the BA ($4000 + modified + $2000 vintage DHTs, if you can find them), the BA still renders those those micro-details and microdynamics better, and still has better instantaneous-dynamic-constrast and speed, etc. These aspects of sound reproduction are what constitutes “involvement” for me and what I hear in the best full tube amps such as the BA or HEV90. The fact that the Mjolnir, a solid-state amp at $750 can bring significant hints of this “emotional involvement” effect to the table, is simply amazing. Anax, who is not as familiar with the amp as I, having had a good listen to the Mjolnir (with the BA next to it), during our HD800 mod experiments, finally recognized: “Now I understand why you like it.”

I shouldn’t forget to point out that when I picked up the Mjolnir from the post office, I kept the headphones on until past midnight (taking a small break to help put the kids to bed... err, I think I just ignored the rest of my family that day). Those who know me know that I simply don’t do that with gear that sounds like shit or even merely OK. I know, I know, many HF's get all pissed off when people like me dismiss shit after 10 seconds. But then again, I've heard it all, I've built speakers that kick the shit out of 90% of the overpriced the crap at T.H.E. SHOW. I'm sure it doesn't take Michael Shumacher or JPM to figure out in 10 seconds that the chassis of race car is gonna be shit.

Up to now, I’ve hated most solid-state amps because I’ve found them too flat sounding and too compromised on the involvement factor. This is interesting because more than a few knowledgeable folks have opined that this is not necessarily a tube vs. solid-state thing, but rather a topology thing. Heck, I’ve done enough experiments and amp mods myself to know that up to a certain point (like when the amp is going to explode) less feedback equates to better sound but worse measurements. Maybe it’s this circlotron circuit thing at work?

So basically, the the Mjolnir and Dynahi are currently my favorite solid-state amps, with me giving the Mjolnir an edge because its presentation suites my preferences.


Misc Stuff:
DAC: PWD2 firmware 2.02 USB and coax from PC, NativeX, Auto Filter
Other Amps: ECBA TS BGRP + Osram PX25, KG Dynahi, Bryston BHA-1
Other References: T2DIY + STAX SR007 / HE Audio Jade (modified, but falling apart)
Headphones: HE400, HE500, HE5, W3000ANC, HP1000, LCD2r2 (B Grade), 13 different mods of the HD800
IC Cables: Whatever I could find.
Power Cables: Eat my shorts.


P.S. Make sure you use a DAC with real balanced differential outputs. (Lots of audiophile CD players tend to cheap out and use opamp phase splitters for the balanced outs.) This amp will actually make use of the differential outputs. It's actually got a 4-gang potentiometer.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2012, 11:51:17 AM by purrin »
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schiit

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  • Terrible gear for the least discerning listeners.
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Ah, this is silly. Don't you know all amps sound the same?

(Seriously, though, thank you for taking the time to give it a good listen--and for the feedback!)
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Lots o Schiit around here.

olor1n

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Good job purrin. You've alluded to your esteem of this amp elsewhere and you've laid it out in no uncertain terms here. I've not had the fortune of hearing the uber rigs and I know the Bifrost is limiting my chain somewhat but I understand precisely the pros you've detailed.

My quest to source the M51 locally didn't bear fruit so I now have a Gungnir preordered and paid for. If it's merely a slightly refined Bifrost it'll be a very good match for the Mjolnir and I'll jump off the headfi merry-go-round with contentment and great relief.

Jason knows the niggles I've had and I'm currently working through those with their distributor. I hope a middle ground can be accommodated, as I'm sure the end result will justify the persistence.
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fishski13

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good stuff.

i find that HPs with anomalies in the high mids and trebles benefit from a more laid back amplifier, especially with a leaner source like a BM DAC1.  i prefer the CK2III and B22 with the AKG K70x/K601 and Denon D2000 for this reason.  the BM DAC1 driving a K70x is a disaster.  but with better behaved HPs like the AD2000 (the 4K Hz ski jump to be totally benign to my ears) and T50RP, i find that a more assertive amp like a M3 with the AD8610 opamps to work well, and even the BM DAC1 isn't terrible, albeit too clinical and etched for my tastes.
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purr1n

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Good point. The headphones I used for the review can all be considered well behaved in the treble with the exception of the HD800, which we had to hammer into shape.
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Joh

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Ah, this is silly. Don't you know all amps sound the same?

(Seriously, though, thank you for taking the time to give it a good listen--and for the feedback!)

Jason,

I'm sorry that your post is inappropriate. Your post contains words. Without first paying tribute to us, words from MOTs tend to wreck the conversation in a thread.

If you continue to make posts in the forum without paying tribute, we may have to consider locking you out of the thread or removing the post altogether.

Please write a check for $1,000 to rhythmdevils. I hope you understand even if you don't agree. Errr, I mean: I hope you agree even if you don't understand.

Regards,

Joh

(cc: rhythmdevils)
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 03:11:53 PM by Joh »
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olor1n

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^ LOL!

Quote (selected)
I hope you understand even if you don't agree. Errr, I mean: I hope you agree even if you don't understand.

- would make for a great HF sig if it wasn't so antagonistic.  :)p13
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 10:20:19 PM by olor1n »
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rhythmdevils

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Please refrain from saying things that are true.  It's against our policy here.  If you can't stay on topic I will have to lock the thread.  I just deleted 43 posts from this thread that did not contain the word "amazing".  I will review them but I won't change my mind.

Sincerely,
rhythmdevils
« Last Edit: September 08, 2012, 08:56:02 PM by rhythmdevils »
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Joh

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This is the last straw. I am getting really sick of your attitude. Why don't you go over to the noob place and leave your angry rants there.

I hope you understand even if you don't agree. Errr, I mean, I hope you agree even if you don't understand.

Regards,

Joh

(cc: rhythmdevils)
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 03:12:13 PM by Joh »
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Questhate

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Great read, as usual Marv.

Jason wasn't kidding when he said "don't be misled by the midrange label, the balanced stuff is endgame material".

My quest to source the M51 locally didn't bear fruit so I now have a Gungnir preordered and paid for. If it's merely a slightly refined Bifrost it'll be a very good match for the Mjolnir and I'll jump off the headfi merry-go-round with contentment and great relief.

I was hoping the same thing with the Gungnir --> S7, but hearing how good the midrange stuff makes me really curious how the Statement all-out products are going to sound. I got my coworker to get an Bifrost + Asgard stack for his work rig -- which is really good for the price. But the SQ jump from that to the Gungnir + Mjolnir is huge. I'm expecting great things from the Statement stack. popcorn
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Aravind

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@purrin

This is the most "undogmatic" review i have ever read...  :)p6
a welcome relief from the run of the mill reviews...nicely done
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longbowbbs

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Man, I am starving...No fluff to sustain me....entering diabetic coma from lack of sweetness.......Must run to a place of hyperbole sustenance.....(http://www.head-fi.org/t/415214/the-leben-cs300xs-thread)  *poof*   :)p3
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I actually like what I own....
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