The building that is home to Schiit Audio resides just a few hours north of Los Angeles. The Made-In-The-USA company is housed in a unassuming commercial building with no outward facing signage other than a small logo placed upon the entryway.
Tremendous growth has pushed the company’s employee count up to a 16 members along with sales numbers that would make many an audio company green with jealousy. Granted, Schiit Audio’s budget economics put them in significant contrast to much of the high price, low volume approach from the high end but the significance of their rampant progress in the upward direction can’t be overlooked.
No product category appears to be out of reach for Schiit Audio. In recent year’s the company has produced amplification and DAC options that range from $79 to $2,299 and everywhere in-between. Amps run either solid state or tube topologies and the company even produces a $129 phono pre that services both moving coil and moving magnet technologies.
All of this electronic wonderment is constructed and assembled in the USA. The shiny red boards are from the east coast, the casework is banged out in the San Fernando Valley and the rest is designed and assembled together in the space in Velencia. I have been on many factory tours since I started this audio journey, and the Schiit space I saw was impressively big for a company that didn’t exist less than 6 years ago. The company is even expanding beyond its current confines by assimilating the shipping space from its adjacent buildings. Assembly and repair take place underneath the high-ceiling warehouse and office space decorated with music memorability, catchy advertising copy and a few electric guitars.
Along the far wall, stacked together and placed on what looks like cafeteria trays stands a majestic monument to the burn in process. All devices get quality checked and burned in for a minimum of 1 day (some products up to four). Tubes are matched and amps are auditioned before they get sent out.
Generally parts come ready to be assembled to the warehouse. Internals are soldered and lids are attached at stations like the image above. If the product is digital, two to three programs are also loaded into the silicone before being tested.
The space required for all this construction and storage is even more than Schiit had initially available. Recent expansions needed to be made in order to create more room for shipping and construction. In addition to the warehouse, the building also houses office and design space for the rest of the company’s operations.
Vistiors to the office space will currently spy some test gear consisting of the latest hot “budget” audiophile loudspeakers. Attached to Schiit’s flagship headphone and loudspeaker amplifier Ragnarok ($1,699) in the upstairs office were a pair of Magnepane and the Spatial M4 Turbo – both highlights for the more wallet-friendly end of 2 channel. In a separate rig, a pair of Zu Omens with a custom paint job can be found along with an assortment of bookshelf options stacked along a wall. Traditionally the company has been firmly panted in personal audio, but recent room displays at audio shows are eluding to even more expansion into loudspeaker audio than just the combo Ragnarok amplifier.
The men at the helm of Schiit consists of Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffat (formally of Theta). Pictured above with designer of code (and engineer) Dave Kerstetter, the team has expanded the company from very Apple-like beginnings in a garage. From my conversations with Jason, it becomes clear that the company’s digital acumen has no doubt contributed to that success. Forgoing the dealer network of old, the company sells direct from its website and harnesses a digital savvy that few audio companies have yet to grasp. Of course, the task of digital marketing is made easier by products that reign in at less than $300 bucks, but its hands off approach is surprisingly effective considering most consumers buy their wares sight-unseen. As of such, the weight of online communities like Reddit (who favor budget values) is paramount to their success. Providing both a substitute for the audition process (via user recommendations) and direct-to-cart lead generation, the entire process could be mistaken for an impulse buy at the checkout counter given the right personality. Its no doubt a good mistake to make for the masses. The forward-thinking of models like this that long existed in other realms of commerce have been very slow to be adopted by audio manufacturers, who in many cases attempt to filter all sales through a single phone call touchpoint. The company appears to have its branding appropriately aligned with intended market. Many attempts to bring traditionally 2 channel brands “down” to the headphone market hit like a round peg to a square hole. But Schiit Audio has struck a chord with its fan base, and if I had to guess, I’d say it was a power one. Like a root and 5th firmly planted through a Marshall stack the in the dirty basement of a punk club at 2am on a Saturday, the company is making an impression among its impressionable audience.
Schiit has been at its San Clarita location since 2013. The plant is conveniently located in the area’s largest industrial park and not far from home and highway exit. Jason also likes San Clarita’s business-friendly sensibilities. The northern LA location no doubt presents itself as more cost-effective proposition than other industrial options close by. Professional growth in Santa Monica and the “Silicon Beach” area have caused a massive influx driving real-estate to inflated levels, even for Los Angeles. Schiit maintains its margins while keeping to its US roots, a feat which has become increasingly rare in audio.
More info: http://schiit.com