As a new convert to higher-end audio gear, I was curious about headphone pre-amps and DACs. While I haven’t yet dropped $5,000 on a set of speaker cables, I am willing to give some things a try.
My first purchase? An Asgard 2 from Schiit Audio. First introduced in 2013, this headphone amp and pre-amp does one thing and does it well: you plug in your regular outputs – be they a computer or audio system or whatever – and listen to the sound on headphones. A pair of RCA outputs on the back let you pump the sound into powered speakers and a simple switch sets the gain – either 6db or 18db.
The tech behind the box is fairly esoteric and you’ll read things like “[it features a] high-voltage, JFET gain stage that feeds a high-current Class A MOSFET output section” all around the web. This simply means it amplifies the signal to a delectable degree without introducing noise or feedback. This means you can hear “more” of a song because everything – from the lead guitar to someone tapping a pleather chair in the background – becomes clearer.
I listened to this pre-amp using a pair of Grado SR60es and a pair of Yamaha HS8 8-Inch speakers. These have both served me in good stead for the past few years and I’ve enjoyed editing music and podcasts on them. Then I plugged in the Asgard 2.
The result is, to be clear, night and day. Audio pumped through the $149 Asgard 2 is great. While I’m not going to go into superlatives, as I said before the clarity and quality of the sound goes up immensely and you’re able to jack up the volume without blasting out your ears.
The benefits are immediately apparent and for the price tag this is a great amp if you’re looking to enter the world of better audio and don’t want to get endless amounts of expensive gear. I was never a huge fan of the audiophile gear out there – it depended too much on buzzwords and pseudoscience for my taste. However, the Asgard 2 is quite simply a powerful amp inside a dense package and everything – from the simplicity of the interface to the massive heatsink that is the case – screams careful and educated design. Best of all? These things are made in California, from the transformer to the PCB. This shouldn’t matter but it’s nice to see.
Will you be transported to the highest highs and lowest lows by putting this device onto your audio chain? No. Will you get a solid improvement to your audio? Absolutely. And that’s more than enough to justify the Asgard 2’s minimal price.