Amplifier Review

Schiit Mani phono amplifier: Good Schiit?

American outfit, Schiit, has released a new budget phono amp, Paul Rigby reviews the Mani

OK, I’ll pause a second while you think of 101 additional different jokes surrounding the name, which is apparently German and pronounced ‘Shih-tah’.

Aimed squarely at the budget or entry-level user looking to investigate this new fangled format called vinyl, the Mani is a basic and easy to use phono amp that, although designed and built (not just assembled) in the USA, arrives with a Chinese-made wall wart power supply.

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Spanning 127x89x318mm and weighing in at 450g, the solidly constructed, silver coloured miniature amplifier supports MM and, admirably, MC cartridges (although load options are few).

The Mani provides four switchable gain modes, accessible via a small cluster of fiddly DIP switches, situated under the chassis: 30db, 42db, 47db and 59dB.

The front of the box is a simple affair that is dominated by a blindingly bright power light while the rear provides the usual phono amplifier connections and a toggle power switch plus grounding point and access socket for the wall wart power supply.

SOUND QUALITY

At this price point, most users will tote a MM-based turntable but I did briefly test it with my Benz Glider MC while spinning a slice of prog rock and Yes’ Yours Is No Disgrace. Despite a relative lack of dynamic extension and upper midrange insight, the Benz offered an admirably ordered soundstage and bass definition.

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Switching to more realistic testing conditions and the Rega RP3/Elsys2 MM, it was noticeable how relatively high the gain was on the Schiit compared to my reference Cambridge. Popping the volume down a touch, I was able to enjoy the open and airy midrange which added distinct length on the treble tails during cymbal strikes. This was helped by the welcome instrumental separation, possibly a result of reduced noise during the design, as seen in our tests. Certainly, the vocals from Jon Anderson were smooth and the accompanied vocal harmonies were sweet and easy on the ear.

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The Schiit could also get down and dirty and, again supported by our tests, the phono amp was able to squeeze extra bass from the tiny Roth speaker cabinets giving the Chris Squire bass a more meaty, emboldened bite while the acoustic guitar strums from Steve Howe had an open, rather exposed, string effect. That is, the guitar sounded more like a group of strings being strummed than one tone being produced en masse.

Moving to Mars, the Bringer of War from Holst’s The Planets, it was evident just how scratchy those introductory strings were, adding more portent to the oncoming onslaught, while the following, strong string effect managed to retain a smooth presentation, despite the impact of its entrance.

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The enhanced separation added complexity and depth to the soundstage also helped to control the brass in the upper mid region, reducing listening fatigue.

Users who purchase an introductory budget system often have one eye on the upgrade path further down the line so, with this in mind, I installed a pair of the newly introduced Q Acoustics 3020 stand mounted speakers (£190) which would, in fact, be part of an ideal upgrade path for this very system. The Mani could relax a tad with these speakers because they were easier to run, it also allowed me to lower the volume on the amplifier which helped to de-stress the presentation a touch.

01f228_399d474ea7de47b4acbc4846ba846cb0Running Holst through this new pair of transducers showed that the introductory string scratches were almost insect-like in their progress producing involuntary itching from this reviewer. Similarly, the clarity and transparency of brass within the upper mids was impressive as was the bass response.

CONCLUSION

Despite the glaring power light that threatens to burn any passing retina (a piece of tape should be used to cover the offending article), this compact and easy to use phono amp offers good value for money and excellent sound quality, for the price. Also, the Q Acoustics speaker test shows that there is plenty of good music to be squeezed from the Mani which bodes well for its inclusion as part of a system targeted for future upgrades.


SCHIIT MANI

Price: £120

Website: www.electromod.co.uk

Tel: 01494 956558


Good: overall sound quality, ease of use, compact

Bad: power light

RATING: 8

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SYSTEM USED

Avid Acutus turntable, SME IV arm, Benz Glider MC cartridge

Rega RP3 turntable, RB303 arm & Elys2 MM cartridge

Cambridge 540P Phono Amplifier (MM)

Trichord Dino phono amp (MC)

Cambridge Azur 651A Integrated Amplifier

Roth OLi RA1 speakers

Q Acoustics 3020 Speakers & Q Acoustics Stands

Black Rhodium Twist Speaker Cables

Tellurium Q interconnects

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10 Comments

  • Reply
    tanja
    20th June 2017 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Paul,
    “Schiit” is pronounced like “sheet” in German. It’s a dialect thing from northern Germany. And, well, it means the same as “shit”.
    Cheers
    tanja

  • Reply
    Peter
    29th July 2017 at 11:40 pm

    Hi Paul,

    Thnaks for this helpful review!

    I’m in the market for my first vinyl-setup and the Elipson turntable caught my eye. I prefer a separate phono-amp for this turntable and would like to know how the Cambridge CP1/CP2, which should be very similar to your reference phono amp the 540P, compare to the Schiit mani? Which one would you recommend?

    Thanks in advance!

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      30th July 2017 at 10:46 am

      No problem and good luck with building your hi-fi chain. The Cambridge is nice, very nice and if you go for that then you won’t regret it…but I’d still go for the Mani 🙂

  • Reply
    Bob Balducci
    5th August 2017 at 3:21 am

    I own a Mani and enjoy the musical sound it produces. However when the music is not Playing there is considerable amount of noise coming from the unit via my speakers. Personally I feel this noise must be added to the music perhaps reducing the quality of the music. I may play with a different power supply or do a battery thing to see if the noise can be reduced or eliminated. If that fails It becomes time for me to consider a costlier product. Too bad as I think the s ok in its price range. If someone has run into this noise problem and solved it please do not hesitate to share.

  • Reply
    Mel
    17th September 2017 at 10:52 pm

    Hi, i am tempting ro buy SCHIIT MANI PHONO AMPLIFIER. I am currently using a Technics SL-B20 (Cartridge AT311EP), with a Yamaha A-S501 phono amplifier. And a pair of good(approximately 10 euros per metre) wires with shield from outside noise.
    My question is should i see significance change to the sound quality?

    Cheers
    Mel

    • Reply
      Paul Rigby
      18th September 2017 at 10:31 am

      Absolutely. Firstly, because this is an external model and you won’t be using the Yamaha’s internal phono amp. That, in itself, is an improvement. The Mani is also superior to much of its competition too in sonic terms, for the price. So – win-win, therefore 🙂 Next, you really need to upgrade your turntable. In fact, I’d be tempted to suggest that you put the money for the Mani into a budget for a new deck first and buy the Mani later on, when funds allow. Keep the cartridge, though. That’s fine.

      • Reply
        Mel
        4th October 2017 at 8:47 pm

        Hi, thank you for your reply.

        Worth buying a new turntable? Or only with Mani i will improve my listening with my current system?
        On the other hand If i choose to buy a new turntable(on a budget around 350$) would you suggest to buy a new or a used(i have found an SL1600 MKII used about 330)?

        Cheers
        Mel

        • Reply
          Paul Rigby
          4th October 2017 at 10:10 pm

          To answer, I’ll say this. You need to remember how music is created on a hi-fi. It comes from the source. When music emerges from this source, that…THAT…is the best it will ever be. EVER. When it leaves the source it can be tweaked, the tone might change, it might be blanketed by bass for example, etc, etc. Changed is not ‘better’ though. The detail, the stuff that makes music vital and essential, that comes at the top of the chain. The turntable.
          Next? The Technics is fun but not audiophile. It’s the sort of deck to have a laugh with. Your, what, 5th turntable? A fun thing. Something you keep in the bedroom or hobby room. Away from the main system.
          Look for a deck that tries its hardest to do the job that is most important, extracting the truth from vinyl. Ideally? You’d need a Rega Planar 1 – the new one. But I hear that is super expensive in the US. My advise? Save a bit and buy a Project DC Carbon for around $399.

          • Mel
            24th October 2017 at 9:18 pm

            Hello again, what is your opinion for a used Pro-Ject 1 Xpression? At $130.

            Thank you for your replies.

          • Paul Rigby
            25th October 2017 at 10:09 am

            Hi Mel – lots of ‘ifs’ on this one. Basically, it’s an excellent turntable. A couple of years old but still handles itself extremely well. I would have no problems in using one myself.
            Any second hand model will include wear and tear, though. You need to check the bearing, the arm, the electrics, etc. I would also budget for a brand new cartridge on this one (so you will need to add the cost to the price). Don’t assume and don’t make do with the original if you want to gamble with the health of your vinyl. I would encourage you to examine the deck before you buy (or requests a detailed video to be mailed to you) to make sure that everything works. This feature might help, the buying from eBay/second hand section would apply to you: https://theaudiophileman.com/turntable-buyers-guidefor-raw-beginners/

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