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This is the 34th 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.

Reviewer: Srajan Ebaen
Financial Interests: click here
Sources: Apple iMac 1TB running OSX 10.6.6 with Pure Music 1.74 in hybrid memory play with pre-allocated RAM (AIFF files up to 24/192), Burson Audio HA160D as DAC, Weiss DAC2 in 176.4kHz mode, iPod Classic 160GB (AIFF, ALAC), Pure i-20 dock, Cypher Labs Algorhythm Solo
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 loan]; Ortofon eQ7
Headphone amps: Trafomatic Audio Head One; NuForce HDP; Woo Audio Model 5; Burson Audio HA-160; April Music Aura Note Premier; Meier Audio Corda Concerto, Antelope Audio Zodiac+ [on loan]
Headphone stand: Sieveking Sound Omega, ALO Audio
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: $449

  If you've reached this page directly, rewind to the real beginning on Schiit the company and their first two products, the Asgard Fet/Mosfet amp and the Valhalla OTL version. This will avoid unnecessary repetition and paint the complete picture - including plenty of photos from a 'remote viewing' session of the Schiit facilities. - Ed

Not Jean-Paul but bel mondo power. That would be Schiit's Lyr with its 6 watts of 32Ω go juice. It's what makes this small $449 headphone amp one of the most powerful on the market. The rationale for this attack on the power throne is twofold. Inefficient but popular planarmagnetic headphones by Audez'e and HifiMan (so-called orthodynamics) actually need an honest fistful of watts to get their lazy 50Ω butts into high gear. Into their impedance Lyr delivers a solid 4 watts. "That said, Mike Moffat really likes the Lyr also with his 600Ω beyerdynamics". In cases of high Z there's big headroom for practically unlimited dynamic range and—perhaps more important still—superior clarity from high-current control. Whilst still quoting Schiit co-founder Jason Stoddard, "about your earlier Valhalla comments it's funny since the first versions were all heavy, syrupy and slow - very typical tube amp sound. Thanks to Mike who's been using variations on this theme since the Theta preamp days, it only took careful selection of four resistors and an increase in the power supply voltage to completely turn it around."

As a hybrid, Lyr combines twin triodes for 20dB of single-stage* voltage gain with Mosfets for current gain. The amp is direct coupled front to back with an op-amp based DC servo. This 2Hz to 200kHz (-3dB) wide bandwidth circuit runs no feedback but a "current-sensing adaptive output topology which allows the amplifier to dynamically adjust to the load. The primary benefits are essentially single-ended class A operation for high-impedance headphones (300 - 600Ω) moving seamlessly to push-pull class A and finally into class AB as current needs increase. This provides much higher overall efficiency and allows us to package 6 times the power into the same 9 x 6.75 x 3.25" chassis as Asgard and Valhalla while running slightly cooler." Stock glass is a pair of Slovakian JJ ECC88 dual triodes. Tube rolling with any 6DJ8/6922 substitute is encouraged however.

* "The JFETs we use in Asgard would go pop in a big hurry if we used them here and while we tried high-voltage BJTs, they didn’t sound as good. We did play with depletion-mode Mosfets but they were noisy so tubes were the right choice for the job at hand."

"Lyr uses two separate internal transformers together with over 20,000uF of total filter capacitance and four separate supply rails to feed all the components. Lyr is biased very heavily into Class A and actually runs hotter bias than Sumo's old 60-watt speaker amp! Figure that it makes over half a watt in single-ended Class A and even more before it gets into push-pull operation."

To return to Lyr's apparent main attraction, peak swing into 32Ω is a mighty 40 volts. In casual Schiit slang this "will make the magic smoke come out of your headphones". So make no mistake, yes with such power you could blow up your expensive Sennheiser HD800 or beyerdynamic T1 if you cranked up the juice without wearing them. Anyone sane and not stone-deaf couldn't while actually listening. A 400 horse-power street rocket is potentially lethal too but only if not treated with respect. To author such a beast, the Lyr designers—have to—trust the intelligence of their audience not to do anything stupid. By implication it also means that a Lyr owner will possess a machine that'll properly drive any known headphone on the market. At least in the Schiit catalogue that makes it the only truly universal model (and needless to say 120dB IEMs would seem silly in this context).