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This is the 28th in a series of reviews dedicated to the concept of 32Ohm Audio as embodied by the store of that name in downtown Portland/Oregon and described here - Ed.

Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Ancient Audio Lektor Prime, Apple iMac 1TB (AIFF files up to 24/192), Weiss DAC2, iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF, ALAC), Sieben Technology dock, Onkyo NS-D1 iPod digital-direct dock
Headphones: ALO Audio recabled Audez'e LCD-2, Sennheiser HD800, beyerdynamic T1 and AKG K-702; stock audio-technica W5000; stock Grado PS-1000; HifiMan HE5LE with optional silver wiring and grill mod; Hifi Man HE-6 [on review]
Headphone amps: Trafomatic Audio Head One; NuForce HDP; Woo Audio Model 5; Burson Audio HA-160; Meier Audio Corda Concerto, Antelope Audio Zodiac+ [on review]
Headphone stand: Sieveking Sound Omega
Cables: ASI Liveline interconnects and power cables, Furutech GT2 and WireWorld Starlight USB A-to-mini-B cables [on loan], LaCie and Entreq Firewire 800 cables, Entreq USB cable, Black Cat Cable Veloce S/PDIF cable
Review Component Retail: $249

"Our Singapore distributor SLT Technologies has been pleading with us to see if you'd like to review one or more of our products. Now that we've caught up with backorders we can finally address their plea. Is there any interest in one of our low-cost headphone amps? If not, I totally understand. We'll have some new products coming out shortly you may be interested in." Signed Jason Stoddard. Co-founder. Schiit.

Caught off guard. I told Jason what I tell everyone. I'm interested only in overpriced trophy hifi. Stuff like his just doesn't make the grade. But the man proved relentless. "I think I'll send you an Asgard to start with. That should drive pretty much anything you have by way of headphones. Our OTL Valhalla tube amp would have a hard time with your orthos. And that's putting it politely. The Asgard meanwhile runs a Jfet/Mosfet input/output topology. That's not power Jfets or depletion-mode Mosfets as you fancy in your FirstWatt amps but because we run single-ended Class A, we do avoid most of the typical enhancement-mode Mosfet issues. Then I can send you a Lyr in a few months when it's out. That will be a 6-watt hybrid amp—yes six watts or 40V peak-to-peak into 32Ω—which we designed specifically for orthodynamics. But it also drives our HD800s and other high-impedance phones insanely well." I reiterated to Jason that I couldn't in good conscience review a $249 US-made headphone amp. Too many Chinese lovelies were batting eyelashes at me for double or triple the coin. But audiophiles are deaf. The man didn't take no for an answer. Next thing I knew I had a tracking number. Crap!

Caught up. Actually it's Schiit. Audio. The name is an obvious conversation starter. Their website lingo is similarly loosey-goosey. But neither Jason Stoddard nor Mike Moffat have their head down the you-know-what hole. Like Kevin Halverson who successfully leveraged Muse Audio and diversified OEM contracts to launch HRT with affordable asynchronous USB DACs built entirely in the US—think Streamer family—they've sync'd up with our times. Today's introduction to music isn't via clock radio. It's via iPod and ear buds. To introduce better sound to the iTunes nation requires better headphones. Those need better headphone amps. That's where the Schiites come in. PC audio also begs for better DACs than computer sound cards. Wasn't Mike Moffat a digital man? "We're still working on where his DACs will come in. With his 'I won't do what anyone else does, I'll do it right' philosophy, I don't think they'll be insanely cheap either."
The either was in response to a question. How could Schiit possibly afford international distributors given that the Asgard sells for all of $249, the 4-tube Valhalla for $349?

"Yep, international distribution is tough. We do it mainly on quantity and slow-boat shipping as you expected. As new products come it, it gets easier since we're moving up the chain (Lyr will be $449.)

"And no problem with opening up our products. You won't find any surprises. I actually think it's great to show off how simple the overall topology is. Just, er - be careful to stick to the screws on the edges of the chassis. There's 4 screws on the bottom at the right side of the Asgard that hold the output Mosfets to the chassis. Unscrewing those would end up being a bad day."

Let's take a closer look at a good day.

But first, what's in the shipping box? Cradled in robust foam cheeks, the Asgard comes with a power cord, 6.3mm-to-3.5mm converter, 3.5mm-stereo-to-twin-RCA leash and a warranty registration card. iPod readiness isn't lip service. Whether from an iPod's inferior 3.5mm headphone output or an analog dock to bypass Apple's volume control; whether with a 6.3mm terminated big headphone or mini-plug ear buds, the schiitment includes everything you need to enjoy iTunes right off the bat.

What's inside the metal box then?