I have had my eyes set on one of Schiit products for some time. Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat are incredible engineers and their products speak for themselves. They are also a company that I must keep an eye on. I can learn a lot from them. Look at their branding and website, they’re hilariously funny!
Before I got the Lyr, I was searching for a HeadAmp Gilmore Lite, an AMB M3 or a HeadAmp GS-1. I have had a fair share with various amps, this will be my last, so this has to be really good. I like small amps. I don’t think a single-ended headphone amp needs a big enclosure; most of them are empty space anyway. On the other hand, I also want a tube amp badly, whether it’s on the output, the input or both. I made my choice to have a tube amp due to its ability to fine tune the sound by swapping the tube valves. And there is something magical about tube valves, its glow, its sound, beauty of the past.
Honestly, at first I didn’t expect the sound to be this good, nor the chassis or the build quality.
The usual setup:
Source: MacBook Air (w/ BitPerfect or Audirvana Plus playing mostly ‘good’ music ripped from CD or downloaded from HDtracks & iTunes)
DAC: CEntrance DACport
Amp: Schiit Lyr (various tubes – see below)
Headphones: Grado RS1i
(w/ stock tubes)
So, the sound… It’s fairly transparent to the source. If an inferior source (NuForce uDAC-2) is used, it will sound bad. If paired with the excellent Wyred 4 Sound DAC-2, it sings. It drives my Grado RS1i (my only full-size headphones) with prowess and confidence. There are tons of power reserve left. I don’t have the chance on trying out an ortho with it. When I do, I’ll post an update here. The RS1i is an efficient headphones. Efficient is strange sometimes. Sometimes, when you put more power to it, it doesn’t sound any better. I suspect what Schiit is giving it is not merely more power but finesse that most inferior amps lack. Low level listening session suddenly becomes enjoyable.
Keep in mind that if you are planning on pairing a Lyr with sub-par DAC, forget it, it won’t perform. The amp will perform at its best when paired with a superb DAC. And just like the importance of a great-sounding DAC, it’s even more important to get the best headphones that you can afford. Get a pair of headphones first, then a DAC and an amp. While the Lyr can perform well when fed with great source, it’s not as transparent as I would like. I want it to be a little more detailed and produce a bit more immediacy. The soundstage is also a bit constrained and not as airy as some of the best single-ended amp (tube and solid state) that I have tried. I guess tube-rolling will definitely help here. This is the real hassle of having a tube amp, most of the time, they won’t perform at their best with stock tubes.
I never have any problems with hum or noise. My Lyr is dead-silent, even when I turn up the volume. If you have hum/excessive noise problems, check your electricity. You might want to consider getting some sort of a power conditioner or an isolation transformer.
That’s enough for the sound. What about the build quality? Have you ever owned an amp that is produced by one of the well-known headphone amp manufacturers that uses aluminum for its entire chassis? If you have, say a Woo Audio amp, the Schiit Lyr (and all Schiit products) has a much better build. All screws are well positioned and fastened. Woo finishes look sloppy at best. I don’t think Schiit will let the kind of sloppy fit and finish as Woo amps have passes QC. It is that good. To be fair, Woo Audio chassis finishes do look bad (I have owned a few Woo Audio amps). What about its PCB, fitment, soldering job? It’s just as good as or better than the most well-built electronics out there. Schiit’s overall build quality is up there comparable with high-quality well-known brands, thousand of dollars gears. I think this is a testament how much Schiit cares about their products. And I’m sure it will easily last a lifetime or more.
The only design flaw that I can think of is the tubes are seated deep into the chassis which make them really hard to remove. Use a piece of masking tape to pull the tubes.
Please don’t judge it by the price. Price does not always equate with quality. Try it, give it some time to warm up and you will be rewarded by the great sound it produces. They spent a bit of time explaining why achieving the price they offer is actually possible. I think this is the ultimate single-ended headphone amp. I’ll be following Schiit, they will be around for some time, producing yet another bombastic line of products.
(for tube rollers) stop here if all you want to use is stock tubes.
This section will be updated as I get more tubes.
stock (GE 6BZ7) Vs. JJ
forget it, waste of money
stock Vs. 1963 Telefunken 6DJ8
stock Vs. JAN Phillips 6922
stock Vs. NOS 6N1P Russian (Valhalla’s)
stock Vs. Amperex 6DJ8
The most detailed so far…
stock Vs. Siemens 6922
stock Vs. Mullard CV2492
This are the tubes to get if you want to turn the Lyr to lush-sounding tube amp…
I’m liking the Mullard. They are my fav…