Saturday, December 14, 2019

Short Review: Schiit Mani

With a new Thorens TD 309 turntable in the house, the Dual CS5000 still manages to live on to play less-than-mint records or non-audiophile recordings.  So it was goodbye Pioneer DVD player that I used for CD playback.  Since the Classe Five preamplifier only has one phono input. I needed a separate phono stage.  There are several budget options available but I zeroed in on the Schiit Mani.  US-made, handsome, the silly name, and designed by Mike Moffat.  What's not to love?

How does it stack up to the Classe?  Not bad at all.  The Mani is a little edgier, not as big and dynamic, and also lacking the inner detail.  But it certainly sounds better than I expected: fun even though it doesn't exactly have the smoothness of a good tube unit, or even a FET based preamplifier.  Oddly enough, the lack of detail works well with the Dual CS5000 turntable, removing some of the veil and analog playback artifact noise.  I'm reminded of a more "really nice CD Player or mid-priced DAC" sort of quality to the sound.

The longer you keep this unit on, the better it does sound.  Given the low power requirements, why not?  With the new KEF Q350 speakers, the Mani does sound way better than I expected at this price point.  Of course many will disregard anything using op-amps but my experience with the Audio Sector Phono Stage disabused me of that notion.  Recommended for budget systems.