I had originally planned to include the JDS Labs Objective2 headphone amp ($129) in this review, because it has for several years been a well-regarded entry-level model, is similar to the Magni 3 in price, and is also made in the U.S.—plus I happen to own one that I acquired through a Massdrop offering. But when I hooked up the Objective2, it worked for about a half an hour after which I was greeted with silence. I tried a recharge, but the fancy rechargeable batteries were dead, Jim. So, instead of a sonic A/B we will look at how the two amplifiers’ features differentiate them. Yes, they both drive headphones, but the Objective2 uses internal batteries for its power supply, so it can be used untethered from a power source. The Objective2 also includes a simple crossfeed circuit. In power output, the Magni 3 produces 230mW into a 600-ohm load while the Objective2 only produces 8mW. The Magni 3 also has better signal-to-noise figures, with an SNR greater than 108dB at 1V RMS, while the Objective2’s measured S/N figure is 105dB at only 400mV.
If desktop use will be the primary application for your headphone amplifier (and if you also need or want an analog preamplifier) I feel the Magni 3 would be a better option. But if you require a headphone amp for portable and travel use, the Objective2 has a far more useful feature set. Finally, the Magni 3 comes with a five-year warranty, while the Objective2 has a two-year one.
I suspect there are very few budget-priced mass-market components that can, if compared in matched-level A/B testing versus more bespoke options, acquit themselves as well as the Schiit Magni 3. For $99 it provides a simple and cost-effective way to drive a wide variety of headphones at or near their optimum sonic potential.
And while the idea of tethering a $3k+ pair of headphones to a $100 headphone amp might seem like a mismatch, if that component is the Schiit Magni 3 you would be surprised at how synergistic such a pairing can be. With Schiit’s 15-day no-questions-asked return policy, why not try it at home, for yourself, with your own hard-to-drive cans? I suspect that you, too, will be impressed. I’ve been around the audiophile block a few times, and I’ve seen more than a few so-called giant-killers in my day, but the Magni 3 could be the one of the savviest, high-value, high-performance audio purchases you will have a chance to make in your lifetime, or mine.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Solid-state headphone amplifier
Outputs: Single-ended ¼" stereo, one pair of RCA single-ended outputs
Output power: 3W RMS per channel into 16 ohms, 2W RMS per channel into 32 ohms, 1.3W RMS per channel into 50 ohms, 430mW RMS per channel into 300 ohms, 230mW RMS per channel into 600 ohms.
Output impedance: Less than 0.3 ohms at either gain setting
Dimensions: 5" x 3.5" x 2.5"
Weight: 1 pound
24900 Anza Drive, Suite A
Valencia, CA 91355