Enter iFi's iDSD Pro Signature DAC/pre/headamp. I usually listen to it in pure transistor mode, resampling to DSD 1'024 disabled. On Final's D8000 and Meze's 109 Pro, tube mode gets too fat, never mind the 'overdrive' tube+ option. On a Baroque Johann Melchior Molter concerto for the high D clarinet with the phenomenal Thomas Friedli on the short blackwood, the median recorded level is very low. In iFi's high-gain mode, volume knob at 1:00, I had ideal SPL. Unlike my other cans, Magna's higher resolution and quicker transducer tech cottoned on well to Thorsten Loesch's NOS GE5670 twin triodes. To my ears tube+ mode still got too creamy and 2nd-harmonic enhanced. Yet for the first time since I bought this deck, I really enjoyed tube mode. With Magna the textural gains were finessed enhancements, not overt and personally objectionable alterations. Even DSD 1'024 + tube mode was delightful and didn't get too soft or fuzzy. This first and foremost spoke to the cleanliness of Magna's driver tech. It really responds to what we feed it. Personal tastes determine the 'what'. Magna just guarantees safe passage. Booking it next were my Western Electric 300B. I've heard, reviewed and owned numerous 300B amps. I've reviewed two 300B preamplifiers. All of them were transformer coupled. Only the grounded-grid Vinnie Rossi circuit eliminates output transformers and coupling caps. Direct-coupled 300B sound different. Unless you own an L2 Signature, you won't know. Nothing you've read about 300B SETs applies. Suddenly we get mega bandwidth with fabulous treble extension, speed, dynamics, micro resolution, bass crunch – everything we love about transistors but presented in a different more fluid and space-centric light.

Tube mode signified by the yellow logo and setting of the left toggle; resampling to DSD 10'24; high gain.

To prep this landing, the cubic volume of our bony skull enclosure is finite and fixed. The only ways to possibly broaden headfi's headstage is, 1/ futuristic surgery which puts our ears on stalks to stick out more, 2/ ultra-fat pads which move our drivers farther apart. Saying that the Audirvana Studio ⇒ Singxer SU6 ⇒ Laiv Harmony ⇒ Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature ⇒ Kinki THR1 combo made Magna sound even bigger should strain credulity. Neither did my head get bigger nor did I fatten up the pads to increase distance. Bigger couldn't possibly mean wider. Yet bigger it certainly was. How? The Japanese apparently grow square tomatoes so they stack without the gaps of round tomatoes. Gapless fill is an apt image for the sensation inside my skull. My hybrid combo of DHT and lateral Exicon Mosfets packed the sonic images tighter. That left no room that wasn't sound. It reads pretentious yet is my attempt to suggest the primary sensation of greater image density. Tokyo subway time.

It's often said that what headfi can't ever do is match the acoustic chewiness of speakers. Now this headfi did. The stuff sounds are made of—oscillating air molecules?—had grown still more robust and material. But two other aspects had improved as well. Dynamics spiked higher for the macro, flickered more intensely for the micro. Triangle strikes, violin flageolet, short pan-flute pipes and such rose higher and more brilliantly. That's back at my direct-coupled DHT packing ~700kHz bandwidth. There's no treble phase shift. By turning my virtual materializer beam to 11, subjective speed and transparency had retreated in lockstep. I now had far more planar attributes just without their blurry edges, polite treble and elephantine bass. But Magna had clearly been to the meatpacking district. Once again it parlayed honestly what I put in front of it. Now it majored on colour temperatures, tonal substance, locomotive dynamics and the type of sink-your-teeth-into sonic substance which at least in my experience usually has headfi trail speakerfi. Lovers of Harbeth, Living Voice Avatar and Spendor speakers would have felt right at home.

My next change moved to the Kinki amp's XLR input preceded by Sonnet's Pasithea DAC hanging AES/EBU off the same Singxer SU-6 USB bridge. I wanted to skip the Harbeth groove into a racier feel stripped of some excess weight. I'm more of an adrenaline and space junkie than comfort and max tone listener. I needed to know what my favourite residential hardware chain for Magna was before I made any comparisons. And yes, that small print played to Magna and my taste. By implication, the final choice could mean slightly less favourable conditions for my alternates. This simpler chain without boutique tubes in a very expensive separate preamp created more inter-image spacing. It increased the sense of oxygenation, of aeration or top-down illumination. It was microdynamically still twitchier if less ballsy in macro mode. Very much by necessity, it had slimmed to allow speed-related traits to the fore. It now felt spaciously more nuanced whilst materially lighter. Like Sauron's all-seeing eye in the tower of Mordor, my mind's eye could more easily zoom into a dense mix like "Seed" from Øystein Sevåg's Bridge to isolate small details. In this hardware constellation, the planar attributes weakened, the ribbon traits strengthened. Given my sonic stripes, that had my final vote. Simone Ragionieri meanwhile who penned for us a 2nd opinion on Immanis would probably have favoured the Vinnie Rossi route.

At this juncture I knew that my only headphone which could hang with Magna was Susvara. So I decided against drafting in Final's D8000, Sonorous X or my vintage Audeze LCD-2 and LCD-XC. Reviewing isn't a blood sport. Though Susvara is a planar, it always struck me as closer to electrostats whilst offering bass power and reach I've not heard from Stax. Susvara's notorious inefficiency does require correct amplification. My go-to amp has been the upstairs Cen.Grand Silver Fox in BTL mode. I have proper voltage gain also with my Sonnet/Kinki combo so comparing Susvara and Magna on that was next. Already clear from these games of musical thrones? Magna was a most chameleonic headphone. It took on the personalities of preceding gear with more variability and scale than normal. It also differentiated more between individual recordings than less astute transducers which apply varying degrees of sameness. My ears were crystal that Magna's built-in body, substance and mass didn't need extra help from ancillaries.

That had me settle on kit of very high resolution and excellent transistor tone. All of my favourite amps—Bakoon AMP-12R, Enleum AMP-23R, Kinki EX-B7, LinnenberG Liszt, Nagra Classic Amp, Goldmund—drive Exicon lateral Mosfets in class AB. It's no surprise that I really fancy these transistors for headfi, too. With Susvara a known reference to make a useful comparator, we can now contrast specific attributes. The less said about build quality, the better. Here Susvara was always an embarrassment. Magna drove that nail yet deeper. My original HifiMan pads crumbled and tore to get replaced with fenestrated Dekoni beauties. My original perf leather band is nearing breakage at the narrow ends. Susvara's stainless steel metal parts aren't stainless to require regular cleaning to look the €6K part. That said, it's a lighter construction so super comfortable. On my head Magna feels equally comfortable but certainly heavier. As the following mugshot shows, Magna's lateral expanse is modest and wearing my anti-glare computer-monitor specs beneath the plush pads posed no issues.