Weekly Update – New Schiit, AK, Henry Audio And More

The ol’ email box was hot to trot this week with updates and new products ready to hit the market. As audio starts to prep for the holiday season, the show circuit also revs its engine with Rocky Mountain Audiofest in early October then Capital Audiofest in November. As with all things cyclical, we the hifi faithful find ourselves once again staring down the barrel of another round of eagerly anticipated updates from personal audio favorites Schiit Audio and Astell and Kern – no word yet if the next cycle will jump model numbers straight to “X”.

From Schiit its the 3rd incarnation of their budget (seriously, budget) headphone amplifier Magni that now retails for a mere $99. This standalone amp pairs nicely with the also budget DAC Modi 2 ($99) for a solid Schiit sandwich of separates temping all who want to get a taste of the hobby’s core without all the wallet drainage. The micro-sized amplifier also acts as preamp (with headphone mute) for those interested in a desktop setup with both loudspeakers and headphone capabilities. From the PR release:

“Magni 3 is rated at a full 2W RMS per channel into 32 ohms, thanks to an all-new, fully discrete, fully-complementary current-feedback gain stage, together with a linear power supply with over 6000uF of filter capacitance and a 21VA transformer… Magni 3 features virtually all of the flexibility and cosmetic touches that distinguished the previous Magni 2 Uber from Magni 2—at a price that’s $50 lower. Magni 3 is ready to be a complete desktop control center, with included gain switching, preamp outputs, and automatic preamp output disconnect when headphones are inserted. Magni 3 also features an anodized, brushed aluminum top panel.”

Astell and Kern has three new products debuting at RMAF this year. The first is and update to the AK70 portable player that now makes it AK’s first dual DAC product for under $1k. Sporting Cirrus Logic chips for both left and right channels, the design is intended to “produce a wider soundstage and better stereo separation”. The power output for the headphones has increased to 4.0Vrms to the balanced 2.5mm 4-pole connector. The player is also capable of exporting sound out through the USB connection, allowing users to use the player as a true digital source with a separate DAC taking care of the decoding responsibilities. Expect the new AK70 to be available in October for $699 at retail.

The partnership between Jerry Harvey Audio and Astell and Kern for the JH universal line of IEMs has been launching a steady stream of high performance earphones into the market for a few years now. The latest addition to the Siren Series collection is a entry level model produced in Korea (where AK is based) and utilizes three 3-way balanced armature drivers and Jerry’s FreqPhase technology. The new IEM is called Michelle Limited and comes with two cables, one with a standard 3.5mm termination and a second 2.5mm balanced for connection with devices like AK’s that feature the jack. The Michelle Limited will also debut in October and retail for $399.

Lastly, AK is updating their accessory line with a new CD-Ripper Mk.II ($400). AK has tried to make it easy for legacy audiophile to import their collection of spinning discs with a one-touch CD import option. Files can be saved as either FLAC or WAVE and draw metadata from Gracenote’s data service wirelessly. The new ripper is directly compatible with any WiFi enabled player from Astell and Kern.

More Rocky Mountain announcements have fluttered in as the event quickly approaches. Norwegian-based Henry Audio has decided to take a swing at digital audio with a $249 DAC. Designer and CEO Borge Strand-Bergesen has built a AKM4430-based system, featuring the company’s chipset and an “all-in-one” design with “precision oscillators from Golledge with an Atmel AVR32 programmable microcontroller chip and ADP151 low drop out voltage regulators running at 3.3V”. The DAC is available stateside from distributor CalReps and available to demo at RMAF next month. The international site also offers a sales interface at http://www.henryaudio.com. The website information is fairly straightforward, but adds this little interesting DIY/kit tidbit:

“Henry Audio USB DAC 128 mkII is the result of an international collaboration. We are proud to offer a product which both sounds great right out of the box, and which is an open design. All the source code and schematics are Open Source.”

Danish manufacturer Aavik is debuting a new entry level integrated amplifier at RMAF as well. The Aavik U-150 will retail for $12k and is offered up as a new addition to the 300 series already in production from the company and shares some similarities with the U-300 ($30k). From the press release:

“In standard configuration the Aavik U-150 amplifier has three line inputs and a powerful 300W output section. The amplifier has an option of adding DAC section (PCM-DSD and MQA) and a MC-phono stage to the mix. Thus making the Aavik U-150 a full featured High-End Audio system all in one beautiful box. The Aavik U-150 is developed on all the experiences gained by the development and manufacture of the highly praised Aavik U-300 and as thus, it carries most of the Sonic DNA from its famous larger sibling. The sleek and sporty exterior design expression is very “Nordic”. With very simple and intuitive controls and the clear and easy to see dot-matrix displays the U-150 is very straight forward to operate.”

That’s 300W into 8 ohms, and 600W into 4. I’m not personally familiar with the term “Nordic” in terms of aesthetic design, but the modern and simple approach of the amp is still very much my cup of tea. DAC and photo options will be an extra cost on top of the base model featured here, pricing on both those elements is still TBD according to LA-based distributor Ozan Turan. You can check out the rest of the Aavik line as well as his other offerings on his site: www.highendbyoz.com. That’s High End by Oz for those of you with slight dyslexia, not High End Boys with a “z”.