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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Running 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.
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.
Tel: 01494 956558
Good: overall sound quality, ease of use, compact
Bad: power light
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
tanja20th June 2017 at 5:09 pm
“Schiit” is pronounced like “sheet” in German. It’s a dialect thing from northern Germany. And, well, it means the same as “shit”.
Peter29th July 2017 at 11:40 pm
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!
Paul Rigby30th 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 🙂
Bob Balducci5th 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.
Greg dugan15th February 2018 at 1:17 pm
Hey Bob I had the same thing happening with my schitt mani. I was using the Audio Technica atlp 50 at the time which in time I will upgrade to a more efficient table. I noticed the noise from a hardon and Kardon older stereo amplifier. I still love the sound that came out of the schitt mani. The Audio-Technica tables are great for the money and I noticed though that the ATL p50 was very light and did not have a grounding wire but I was hearing like the radio station coming through the phono preamp in the background after the record went off. I was thinking that it may be affecting the music even though it was still sounding good I exchanged it for the Audio-Technica 80 lp60 turntable which was about 2 pounds heavier still didn’t have a ground wire I guess they don’t believe in one but the biggest thing I did was buying the emotiva ta 100 integrated amp for about 400 bucks not only did it blow away the very respected Harman and Kardon 2 Channel receiver it matched well with the shirt mani phono amp. The emotiva has a wonderful day and a wonderful phone no amp but it did not sound as good as the separate preamp of the mani but it took away all the excess noise that was coming through the preamp and was quiet from the floor up and man I and very happy with the sound of the vinyl with the Audio Technica coming through. I don’t know what you’re using as a turntable and I’m sure you’re happy with your phono preamp but I had the same problem and it may be just something as simple as it being too close to the speakers but believe me I was so happy mentally just knowing that background noise was gone not only do I recommend highly the schitt mani phono pre amp but they emotiva ta 102 grade amp for $400 sounds like the FMJ arcam amps that cost three times as much believe me I’ve bought plenty in the last 20 years and these two gyms have really upgraded my system I can only imagine if I am I able to buy a raiga or project table in the near future that’s about where my price range ends but the audio-technica’s not bad at all for just playing records and getting a pleasant sound especially with those two being the brain of it all and of course a set of good speakers will always be the finishing touches maybe that will help but good luck to you
Thierry10th June 2018 at 12:39 am
Maybe coming from your set up,the Mani I use is dead silent.
Paul Rigby10th June 2018 at 12:56 pm
Hi Thierry – can you elaborate please?
Dave Normal5th February 2021 at 3:18 pm
Late to the table, but it may still help you or others: I had a similar issue with an audible hum from my Adam Audio T5v active speakers when using the Mani as source. After all the usual troubleshooting of swapping out cables, moving interconnects away from mains etc, I finally fixed it by plugging the Mani’s walwart PSU into a different power strip from the rest of my equipment. Bizzare, but it worked. All traces of hum have disappeared.
Mel17th 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?
Paul Rigby18th 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.
Mel4th 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)?
Paul Rigby4th 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.
Mel24th 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 Rigby25th 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/
Mirek Mes6th April 2018 at 11:43 am
Hi Paul!I would be grateful for the information where in the UK I can buy Schiit Mani in region of £120-£140?
Secondly -to compare Schiit Mani vs Musical Fiedelity LX2LPS-which one would you recommend?
Paul Rigby6th April 2018 at 1:29 pm
Hi Mirek – try here: http://www.electromod.co.uk/schiit/preamp/mani/ The MF is very good but I might lean a bit towards the Mani, when you factor in price/value too.
larry abrams18th April 2018 at 1:53 pm
Keep the Mani AND WALWART AWAY FROM THE TURNTABLE AND IS NO NOISE.
Dave28th April 2018 at 2:36 pm
Hi. My setup is Rega rp3 with exact cart, Rotel ra10 amp and Dali zensor 3’s. I’m wondering if the shiit mani would improve the sound. Some of my vinyl sounds good , (but could be better) and others not so good especially at lower volume. Thanks. Dave.
Paul Rigby29th April 2018 at 9:59 am
In short, Dave – yes 🙂
Dave29th April 2018 at 4:32 pm
Thanks Paul . 👍🏻
Roy27th August 2018 at 11:07 am
Hi Paul, I have a Technics Sl 1200 MK3 (no previous DJ use) turntable with a Nagaoka MP110 stylus, a Cambridge Audio Azur 840A amp and KEF LS50 speakers with two REL T9i subwoofers. I’m just getting back into vinyl after 35 years and was wondering if the Schiit Mani would fit well into my system or would you recommend the newer Cambridge Solo. Appreciate your thoughts. Cheers Roy
Paul Rigby27th August 2018 at 11:36 am
Hi Roy – both are excellent. In this case, it’s a question of cash because the Cambridge is around £100 more than the Mani. If you can afford it, go for the Cambridge.
Arthur1st January 2019 at 6:11 pm
How does the Mani compare to the Tisbury Domino?
Paul Rigby1st January 2019 at 7:14 pm
Good question, Arthur. Must admit that I have no idea. I think my review request must have fallen down the back of the sofa 🙂 I have heard good things about it from my colleagues, though. From what they say, it competes well. Let me take your query as a reminder. I’ll give them a ring.
Ariel24th January 2019 at 2:29 pm
Hello, would a Schiit mani provide better audio compared to my Denon x4200 receiver phono? I am using the Music Hall Ikura turntable with 2m blue cartridge.
Paul Rigby24th January 2019 at 3:43 pm
In a word, Ariel? Yes. An external phono amp will always be better than an internal model.
Marc5th September 2021 at 7:07 pm
Sorry for the late reply. Tried my brother’s Schiit Mani against my internal (optional ) Arcam Delta 290’s phono stage, I thought the 290’s phono stage was of a very similar standard with the 290’s, the 290’s sounding a titchy bit deeper and possibly slightly better highs. The middle gain settings on the Mani was a bit louder than the 290’s. The low gain setting on the Mani was quieter. I didn’t try the high setting. Recruited my wife to see what she could hear… said similar. The Mani was a huge improvement on my other brother’s Yamaha amp.
Sim4th February 2019 at 9:11 pm
How does the Mani compare to the Rega Fono MK3? Im leaning towards the MK3 despite being more than double in cost.
Paul Rigby5th February 2019 at 10:56 am
Hi Sim – well, you’d expect the Mani to be better if you looked at the difference in price and it’s the Mani I would go for. Both are excellent though.
Ariel14th February 2019 at 1:41 pm
Hello Paul, I recently bought a Schitt and Lounge Audio MK3 just for fun. I am using the MH Ikura and 2M blue cartridge and so far I think I like the Schitt better. Vocals like from Adele are so clean and clear compared to the Lounge. While sound is subjective, Is it possible that the Schiit is really that much better then the Lounge that costs $322 shipped? Have you had the opportunity to listen to a Lounge?
Paul Rigby14th February 2019 at 3:12 pm
Hi Ariel – I think you’ve already answered the question 🙂 Trust your ears and go with them. They’re the most important measuring equipment you all ever have. I’ve yet to hear the Lounge but, really, if you love the Schiit then it doesn’t really matter.
Anna22nd June 2019 at 12:31 pm
Hi Paul, thanks for your review. It looks like you have a Trichord dino Phono stage in your set up. Do you use this also with mm cartridges? My question really is have you compared it with the Shiit mani and if so, which one sounds best? I would like to upgrade from my current Rega fono mini A2D and wonder whether the Shiit mani will be an improvement or do I have to aim higher? If so should I get the Trichord dino (without the upgraded power supply) or the Arcam rphono? Or any other suggestions? I am using mm cart on an Edwards audio turntable. Focal aria speakers. Thanks
Paul Rigby23rd June 2019 at 10:21 am
Hi Anna – The Dino sounds better but it’s also way more expensive. So it should 🙂 I would certainly aim higher to received an appreciable improvement. Can I ask if you have a budget figure?
Anna25th June 2019 at 8:32 pm
Thanks for your reply Paul, well my budget is somewhere between £300-£600. The higher figure would be if there was a really really good one that could warrant such a lot of money. It seems wrong to spend more on a Phono stage than what I paid for the whole turntable including tonearm and cartridge… what’s the best I can get in your opinion?
Paul Rigby26th June 2019 at 12:30 pm
Hi Anna – I take your point but please remember what a Phono amp does. It’s a really specialised bit of kit. This is the thing that takes that tiny, tiny signal that comes from your turntable’s stylus, and amplifies it enough for your main amp to then take over. Your main amp can’t cope with the task – it’s too much to handle for it. The Phono amp is thus a critical part of the turntable, in effect. It’s part of the turntable jigsaw. Without it, the music stays stuck at the point of the stylus. The phono amplifier is often unjustly under-estimated. Spending serious money on this box is money well spent. That said, I appreciate you’re on a budget, so I’d go for this little box, an excellent product offering very high value for money: https://theaudiophileman.com/110-phono-amplifier-review-moon/
John Wingate22nd October 2019 at 6:23 pm
TY for the write up! I am running an rp3 through a Mani as well. It seems as though my setup has lost some punch and separation after an upgrade from AT LP60. I was curious as to what gain settings you found most flattering for the Elys2 cart. Love to hear your thoughts on this!
Paul Rigby22nd October 2019 at 6:40 pm
Hi John – if there’s one thing I’ve learned it’s to take recommended gain settings as nothing more than that…recommended. What I would advise you to do is to go through them, one at a time. Zero the volume before each change in case of wild gain changes. Then up the volume gradually, listen to a test recording of your choice and see what you think. Reviews, as it where, each setting. See which one grabs you, which one fits your ears. You may find the best one is not ‘recommended’ at all! 🙂 That’s happened to me on several occasions. That’s what I do with every phono amp I get in for review now. Works every time.
Bulgar29th October 2019 at 7:37 pm
Great article, love your work. Could you review Mofi Studiophono ? Maybe even Studiophono vs Schiit Mani (also if you already tried Tisbury Audio Domino) ?
Paul Rigby30th October 2019 at 12:47 pm
Hi Bulgar – very nice of you, thank you. I did request a heap of MoFi stuff and they agreed to send but nothing ever arrived. And I’m not sure why. I need to try again obviously. Same with Tisbury, oddly enough. It may be that people forget and I forget to remind them and…life stuff. I’ll put them on my ‘to do’ list.
Patt15th June 2020 at 2:48 pm
Hello Paul. I wondered if you could give me an advice on a phono between the Mani and Rega Fono mini A2D for my Rega Planar 3 (2016). As I live in Thailand, the Rega Fono Mini is available at around $170, but there are no Mani around here. Therefore, if I were to get a Mani, I’ll have it shipped from the UK, which would cost me around $200. The price difference is not that big. But I only have one shot for a phono. Your advice would be much appreciated.
Paul Rigby16th June 2020 at 9:00 am
In that case, grab a Fono, Patt. It’s on your door step, it’s in one piece, you have a return route if required, etc. Go for that.
Patt17th June 2020 at 9:19 am
Thank you so much, Paul. Please keep up your good work. I’m very new to the vinyl world, but have really enjoyed reading your work.
Paul Rigby17th June 2020 at 9:56 am
That’s very nice of you, Patt. Thanks for reading!
Pawel15th August 2020 at 2:26 pm
I have a pair of Sennheiser HD700, Schiit Vali headphone amp currently paired with Schiit Modi DAC connected to my laptop and am planning to buy my first turntable (still not decided but it will be either of the Rega Planar 1, 2 or 3).
Do you think the Schiit Mani would be a good phono to use with the headphone amp? The main reason I’m considearing it is that it will be aesthetically pleasing stacked with the Vali (as my current Modi/Vali setup is) but am not sure about the sound.
Paul Rigby16th August 2020 at 12:21 pm
Hi Pawel – the Mani should work well with any of the Rega turntable you list there.
Neil18th May 2021 at 2:15 pm
Hi Paul, I am in the market for a phono stage and would like your advice as you have reviewed my narrowed down list. My current set-up is a Rega RP6 turntable (new model) with the Exact MM cartridge, Audiolab 6000A amp and Dali Zensor 5 speakers. I am currently using the Audiolab amps internal phono stage which sounds good to my ear, however I would like to try and improve things further to get the best out of the RP6. The phono stage option I have opted for are either the Schiit Mani or the more expensive, Moon LP110 V2. I know the Moon will be the best option but I would like your opinion on where the Schiit Mani sits on a scale between the Audiolab internal phono stage and the Moon LP110 V2. For example, if the Schiit Mani is closer to the Moon I would probably go the Schiit and save some cash but if the Schiit is closer to the Audiolab then the Moon is my best option. Any advice you could give is appreciated.
Paul Rigby19th May 2021 at 9:24 am
Hi Neil – the built-in phono amp is fine but you’re wise to think external. The Mani is a great budget design, highly recommended. The Moon is about two rungs up the ladder from that. Both are great performers but the Moon offers better quality.
John Garnet5th April 2022 at 2:37 am
May I suggest that, if you haven’t already done so, you arrange to check out the latest Mani 2, which (in my system detailed below) is a huge all-round improvement on the old Mani 1 upon which you favourably reported above. There aren’t too many reviews of it yet, but one individual who recently heard the revised version labelled it “fantastic”. I agree; it’s a £146 (delivered) bargain. In addition it was received in Northern England from the manufacturer in Texas, USA via FedEx in less than 3 days after ordering, and in my view deserves a hearing.
Rega P3 (2021) improved/Goldring G1042/Mani 2/Marantz NR1711/Wharfedale Evo 4.2/Mogami 3082 cabling
Paul Rigby5th April 2022 at 9:57 am
John Garnet5th April 2022 at 9:58 am
Hi Paul; Mani 2. A magnitude better Schiit…
John Garnet12th October 2022 at 1:07 am
Hi again Paul,
I guess by now there is a good reason you’ve rejected reviewing the Schiit Mani 2 which is a pity, because there are currently many great reviewers extolling its sonic virtues, some even pitting it favourably against £1000 phono preamps. This includes, of all people, a certain (and also well-respected) Michael Fremer who wrote “It’s quite remarkable performance re-sets the bar for under (and over) $200 MM/MC phono preamps.” I would have loved to hear (and better yet watch) your views…
Paul Rigby12th October 2022 at 9:58 am
Never fear, John 🙂 I plan to grab one and do a review. Not immediately, might be a month or two away. But it’s on the list.