Looking for a relatively affordable headphone amplifier that isn’t a piece of Schiit? Well, the Magni 3 doesn’t fit that bill due to its manufacturer’s comical name, but don’t be fooled by the terrible pun–this headphone amplifer is a great entry amp for the budding head-fi enthusiast.
I picked up the Magni 3 on Amazon for about $119 at the time (this was probably about 8 or 9 months ago). This would be my third headphone amplifier as I experimented with some of the different lower-budget products available on the market. For the purposes of this review, do note the following:
- Source: Desktop PC using both Spotify and some FLACs
- DAC: Schiit Modi 2 Uber
- Headphones: Hifiman HE-400i
The front of the device features the Schiit logo and the Magni name, a cylindrical gain adjustment knob, a white power status indicator LED, and a 1/4” female audio jack to connect your headphones. The construction of the device is nice and lightweight, but premium-feeling with the smooth metal body, rounded edges, and drilled cooling vent on top. My only complaint here is with the gain adjustment knob. While the body is made of metal, the knob is a plastic material that is textured/brushed to look like stainless steel. It also has some play in it and causes other issues–but more on that further down.
The rear of the device features RCA input from your DAC or source, a gain switch (hi or lo), and an RCA output option. The power switch and power adapter jack are also located on the rear. Footprint wise, the device is stunningly smaller than product photos would have you imagine, checking in at only 4.5 x 5 x 1.4 inches. Luckily, this small device packs a bit of a punch–especially if you’re not used to using a headphone amplifer, and it does so without generating much heat.
I’ve spent the better part of the past year listening via the Magni 3 and have yet to come up with too many complaints. I listen to just about everything with the exception of country and heavier metals. The rest of the spectrum is game, including various genres of rock, pop, jazz, indie, alternative, anything and everything electronic, big band, and choral/choir/orchestra.
The most noticable difference to me was how smooth everything sounded. When I first got a headphone amplifier, I thought of making things louder, and with that, I envisioned harsh treble, rattling bass, and just a general loudness where the details get lost. Not to worry, though, because that couldn’t be further from accurate with the Magni 3.
Over the course of the past 9 months I can conclude that bass and lows are beautifully smooth with no unwanted noise or grain–just clean, strong bass. Listening to Billie Eilish’s ”Bad Guy” without the amplifier provides some dull knocks on-beat and some slurred bass line that gets lost toward the lower end. Through the Magni 3, the lower end is cleaned up tremendously. The bass line has a heavy groove to it with specified and unique pitches, varitions, and direction. The beat offers an actual thud that you can feel.
Trebles feel placed and smooth; no troubles with fatigue were had in longer listening sessions. Listening to ”Water Night” by Eric Whitacre offered soaring and swelling soprano notes that were not at all garish or fatiguing. Various phrases which are difficult to listen to direct from the source, are not at all jarring with the Magni 3. The phrases swell beautifully, as directed by Mr. Whitacre, and have tremendous placement and energy.
The mids and vocals surprisingly did not get muddled or lost at all with the overall amplification. ”Sir Duke,” from legend Stevie Wonder is incredibly forward and crisp, and the vocals are not at all muddled or lost amid the numerous instruments and rhythms accompanying him. Each instrument is heard clearly and the vocals are completely…unable to be ignored.
Everything seemed to have its place, including silence, especially during pianissimo phrases in choral music or in the ethereal ”Formed by Glaciers” from Kubbi–which was actually silent. With the exception of one scenario: when adjusting the gain knob. I noticed after a month or two that when turning the gain adjustment knob, some noise, grain, and scratchiness could be heard. The knob did eventually start to feel cheap and flimsy compared to the metal body, which is an oversight, in my opinion. But I digress.
The other notable thing for me was that the Magni added a slight; warmth to the sound, when listening without an EQ. While some prefer this, others won’t, and that’s okay. Luckily that can be adjusted in software equalization should you so desire.
Overall, the Magni 3 is clean-cut, smooth, and easy listening for a relatively small price tag.
While the availability of the Magni 3 has dropped a bit since I purchased the amplifier, and its successors the Magni 3+ and Heresey have become popular, the Magni 3 remains a solid choice for driving many headphones in a simple, straightforward fashion that you’ll never tire of. I can gladly recommend it without hesitation.
Schiit Audio founded by audiophiles Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat and–despite the German-sounding name–is a US-based company producing fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps, the first DTS home theater surround processor on the market, and much more. More information on Schiit Audio can be found on their website, https://www.schiit.com/