Which amp for my 1990 Pro + Motu M4? Schiit Heresy vs. Magni 3+ vs. JDS Atom Lab vs. Drop+ THX 789?

Discussion in 'Soundgear' started by spncart, Oct 26, 2021.

  1. spncart

    spncart Kapellmeister

    Dec 13, 2020
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    I just got the Motu M4 which I love but I need a headphone amp to make the most of my headphones for music production. So far I had a 880 Pro but I'm gonna get the 1990 Pro.

    I'm really picky with headphones because that's how I make most of my music, I don't have a proper studio. I need it loud and clear with as much as headroom I can get in this range, and perfectly balanced too because I am very sensitive to unbalanced signal in my ears through headphones.

    Which amp would be best? I need an amp that is:

    - transparent / uncolored
    - loud / lots of headroom
    - no distortion
    - well-balanced L/R (can't afford to have unbalanced signal in my hears due to poor build/manufacturing)
    - ideally in the 100 eur range but could pay up to 300/350 at blackfriday if it's worth paying a premium to ensure the best quality

    I can't make up my mind after reading a lot of conflicting reviews between:

    1. https://jdslabs.com/product/atom-amp/ (headphone amp + pre amp / 99 usd)

    => https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/jds-labs-atom-dac-review.14002/






    Finally, here is the channel imbalance versus volume position:


    Worst case error occurs as usual close to the end of the range. The above is in high gain mode. Switching to low gain should reduce the impact here.

    2. https://www.schiit.com/products/magni-1 (magni 3+ amp + pre amp / 99 usd)

    3. https://www.schiit.com/products/magni-1 (heresy amp + pre amp / 99 usd)

    => https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...gni-3-and-heresy-headphone-amp-reviews.10311/








    The channel imbalance was rather poor in Magni 3+ in the way it immediately showed such even at high volumes:


    Your soundstage them may shift a bit depending on what the volume setting is. In my brief listening tests though, I did not notice this but more testing needs to be done.

    I suspect the same volume control is also used in Heresy but here, it did a lot better:


    If the volume control is the same, and you have sensitive ears/headphones, then may have to sift through some units to get one with the right match.

    This is one drawback of getting an external headphone amplifier versus a combo DAC and Headphone Amp. The latter almost always uses the volume control in the DAC and hence has near perfect channel match.

    4. https://drop.com/buy/drop-thx-aaa-789-linear-amplifier (linear bipolar amp / 239 usd)

    => https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...easurements-of-massdrop-thx-aaa-789-amp.5001/




    Last but not least, let's look at channel imbalance as we manually vary the volume from max to min:


    Not as good as digitally controlled volume controls but very good nevertheless with just 0.2 dB of error right before muting.

    I liked the Atom first but then I read that the Schiit are more powerful (and in metal, vs. plastic for Atom).

    Then I read that the Heresy sounds more "analytical" and Magni is "softer, more analog" with discrete circuits.

    But it also said that they sound "digital" (due to being only a 'digital' integrated circuit)

    Then I came across the 789 which seems even more transparent and has a wider sound image (but more expensive, and maybe too wide for music production??)

    I also read concerns about L-R tracking for both the JDS Labs Atom and the Schiits (due to cheap volpots).

    => https://www.headphones.com/communit...-heresy-headphone-amplifier-review-comparison

    "Magni 3+ emerged as a definite, and fairly strong, preference when all was said and done"

    "I’d take the Magni Heresy out of those three as it shares the lowest price of the units compared, I like the form-factor better, the pre-outs would work better with my other gear, I own headphones that like lots of raw power and I significantly prefer the aesthetics (though I’d like it even better if it was all black)"


    => https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...en-the-schiit-heresy-and-jds-labs-atom.12476/

    "Feature wise, I think the only difference is the Atom has a 3.5mm in the back you could use instead of the RCA for input though i'm not entirely sure?"

    "I had the same dilemma, chose the Heresy due to looks, nicer build quality/heavier, the perception that the volume knob would be easier to use, and being slightly more powerful. The JDS has a 3.5mm input as well as RCA, so that’s a good feature if want It"

    "both amps the potmeter L-R tracking is a lot from the lottery: It means that if you turn the volume down low (the only spot where this happens) the balance between the 2 channels may be off by more than 0.5dB (which can be audible).
    Both amps use similar cheap volpots so you can be lucky and might not be. Some feel it's a problem others don't mind.
    The L-R tracking plots as seen in Amir's measurements are only valid for that specific amp and may be better, worse or different in other devices of the same brand/type.

    Mind you I have also seen poor L-R tracking with some expensive pots."

    => Schiit Magni Heresy: Best Headphone Amp Under $100?

    "I've been using the Heresy for 6 months now after trying out the 3+ for a few months then ending up returning it for the Heresy. I found the Magni 3 extremely boring, flat, terrible mid-bass and I was getting fatigued listening to it. It was no better than an FX Audio or SMSL amp. But this is me, my opinion with my particular set up; which is: X3 coax out > Modi 3 DAC > Heresy AMP > HD 58x. I'm in "budget" heaven and will be happy for a while. It's bizarre as I found the Heresy to be so much clearer, rich in detail with an acute analog sound as compared to the Magni 3+ which the bass was lifeless and the highs had no emotion. Heresy by a mile and I had both for around 5 months each therefore a lot of time spent comparing. But that's me. Try them both and see. Lastly, the 558, 58x, 6xx & Shure - SRH1000's are better suited for Heresy but hifiman 400i, DT 990 as well as AKG 7xx series are better with the Magni 3+ (as per vis-a-vis measurements by Steve R. at HiFi Specs dot com. peace."

    "I have both the heresy and 3+ and would say your assumptions are correct about the 3+. I enjoy the 3+ more then the heresy for pretty much everything. The soundstage and smoothness of the 3+ is very enjoyable to listen to. It’s the only amp I use as of now. I hope you get a chance to try a 3+ for yourself in the future."

    "Have you heard BeyerDynamics DT 990 Pro (250ohm)... If so, which would you pair them with? Thanks!

    Hi. I'd definitely opt for a slightly warmer sounding amp like the Modi 3+ or Asgard 3 to help with that treble. energy from the 990s."

    "How did the beyerdynamic 880 250ohm headphones sound? I have the same headphones that I use for music production and am considering the heresy amp. I find the 880s to be a bit trebly. Maybe the 3+ would be a better option? Not crazy about the silver though.

    Hi. The sound of the Heresy has only a slight edge so it shouldn't be too much of an issue. That said, I would still choose the Magni 3+ if you can get past your dislike of the silver colour-scheme.

    The discrete design of the 3+ will create the smoother sound. Generally, given two similar amps where one is discrete and the other uses integrated circuits (chips), the discrete one should sound better. I'm hoping to discuss this in an upcoming video. In short though, I think you're making the right choice."

    => Massdrop THX AAA 789 Headphone Amplifier Review

    "Have you seen the measurements for the new JDS atom amplifier? A lot of people have stated they feel like the difference between the atom and 789 is so slight it cannot be differentiated. I'm wondering if you think there is a audible difference between the two? I am currently listening with the HD6XX, so power is not an issue between the two. Thanks for the excellent video!"

    "I currently have it, and it is exceptional. Looking forward to seeing your review on it. Would love to hear how you think it compares to the 789 once you get to listen to the atom."


    Thank you for your help!!
    Last edited: Oct 26, 2021
  3. Lieglein

    Lieglein Platinum Record

    Nov 23, 2018
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  4. spncart

    spncart Kapellmeister

    Dec 13, 2020
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    Yeah but I discarded the Topping L30 - looks perfect on paper but it's Chinese and there's lots of mixed reviews regarding its quality control.

    "In Wolfs test of a pre-production unit it was really bad."

    "What was supposed to be wrong with it?"

    "Poor balance tracking. They are measuring and binning them to get ones with better tracking."

    "My amp has just arrived, what's bothering me is that number on the box doesn't match the number on the amp itself. I've ordered it on Aliexpress Aoshida-HIFI Audio Store they still haven't replied.

    Both numbers are higher then 2012, one on the box is 2016.... and on the unit itself it is 2026...."

    => https://www.amazon.com/Linsoul-Portable-Headphone-Amplifier-Audiophile/dp/B08H8J2J98?th=1

    "I'm not even going to open the box I'm going to turn around and ship them back... All those defective models in that recall... Headphones exploding on people's heads... I have a E30 which I'm very pleased with. But the stuff I've read online about the l30 is not positive and in fact it's kind of frightening. When I start hearing about headphones destroyed and destroyed on people's heads and houses burning down I get concerned."

    Topping L30 Damaging Headphones > https://forum.hifiguides.com/t/psa-topping-l30-damaging-headphones/20109/63

    Topping L30 xploding and taking headphones out > www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/topping-l30-xploding-and-taking-headphones-out.10422/
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  5. BEAT16

    BEAT16 Audiosexual

    May 24, 2012
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    Swissonic HAD-1 (119 €)


    Audio Converter and Headphone Amplifier
    • With USB 2.0 port
    • 24 Bit 96 kHz
    • Headphone output: 6.3 mm jack
    • Analogue stereo input: RCA
    • Digital input: S/PDIF
    • Digital stereo output: S/PDIF output
    • Surround multichannel playback via S/PDIF output (AC3/DTS Decoder)
    • For headphones from 32 to 600 Ohm
    • Power supply via 15 V power supply unit
    • Class compliant
    • Includes USB cable and power adapter
    30-Day Money-Back Guarantee
    3-Year Thomann Warranty

    [Teardown and measurements review] Swissonic HAD-1 DAC/headphone amplifier
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