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The overpoweringly gorgeous Lyr hybrid tube headphone amp


December 30, 2010

Schiit Audio has developed a headphone amplifier which produces 6W RMS per channel into 32...

Schiit Audio has developed a headphone amplifier which produces 6W RMS per channel into 32 ohms, and has been designed to bring out the best in high-end, orthodynamic headphones

Schiit Audio is set to release a new headphone amplifier which pumps out ten times the power of a typical model. The Lyr has been principally developed to drive high power orthodynamic headphones coveted by audiophiles for their excellent soundstage, and which require more juice than a personal media player's amp can provide. The power amp also features an adaptive output technology that dynamically adjusts depending on the headphone load.

Given that the high-power hybrid design of the Lyr headphone amplifier produces 6W RMS per channel into 32 ohms – which may well hospitalize your average pair of phones (and probably the user too) – Gizmag put the simple question of "why" to company co-founder Jason Stoddard.

"Beyond Why not ? – which, to go off on a tangent, I think is probably still one of the most important reasons in the world for doing anything," Stoddard told us. "If nobody experimented with anything, where would we be? Living in caves. So, I'm totally comfortable with Why not ? That said, there's a very good reason to have a super-powerful headphone amp, and that's due to the recent popularity of high-end, orthodynamic headphones."

"These planar-magnetic designs require a lot of power," he continued. "Forget driving them from a computer or iPod. Even most headphone amps aren't up to the task. These headphones include the Audeze LCD-2, and HiFiMan HE-4, HE-5, and HE-6. They have retail prices that range from US$500 to US$1,200, so they aren't for everyone. But for someone chasing the best headphone sound on the planet, they're top contenders."

Hybrid design and adaptive dynamics

The Lyr amp has an impedance of 8 - 600 ohms, gain of 20 dB and frequency response of 2 Hz - 200 kHz, -3dB. Its total harmonic distortion of less than 0.1 per cent, 20 Hz-20K Hz, at 1V and its power consumption is 30 W. As you might expect of such a beast, it does generate some heat during operation but is said to operate slightly cooler than other Schiit offerings – and, yes, the name is pronounced exactly as you think it might be.

Stoddard also told us that the Lyr features something called a Dynamically Adaptive output stage, which is described as "a current-sensing adaptive output topology which allows the amplifier to dynamically adjust to the headphone load. The primary benefits are essentially single-ended Class-A operation for high-impedance headphones (300-600 ohms), moving seamlessly to push-pull Class A and finally into Class AB as current needs increase. This provides much higher overall efficiency."

This means that the Lyr automatically senses the current needs of the headphone load, rather than simply acting as a passive source and if the current needs of the headphones are low, it can operate similarly to single-ended Class A amplifier. If needs are high, the device can switch to either push-pull Class A, or move out of Class A entirely into Class AB.

The Lyr benefits from a hybrid tube/MOSFET discrete design, with JJ ECC88 tubes for voltage gain. Users can fine tune the device's sonic characteristics by swapping out the supplied tubes with any 6DJ8, 6922, or ECC88 type, up to and including 6N1Ps, varieties. The single voltage gain stage, and DC-coupling at input and output, is claimed to give exceptional transparency and enhanced dynamics with no overall feedback.

Built for lasting performance

Like all Schiit Audio products, the Lyr is made in the USA, using components that are primarily sourced in the U.S. – and there's not an integrated circuit in sight. It's constructed with longevity in mind and is intended to be something you can pass down to your children. According to Stoddard, unlike other powerful audiophile headphone amplifiers on the market, it's also "easy on the wallet."

There's no soundstage tweaking like with the Zo and Dolby doesn't even get a look-in. The Lyr is a straight headphone amplifier designed to bring out the best in high-end orthodynamic or high-impedance cans.

It's available now for pre-order, is priced at US$449, and has a likely shipping window of March 2011. Purchase does come with a warning though, the company says that it will "not be responsible if you blow up your headphones with it !"

About the Author
Paul Ridden While Paul is loath to reveal his age, he will admit to cutting his IT teeth on a TRS-80 (although he won't say which version). An obsessive fascination with computer technology blossomed from hobby into career before the desire for sunnier climes saw him wave a fond farewell to his native Blighty in favor of Bordeaux, France. He's now a dedicated newshound pursuing the latest bleeding edge tech for Gizmag.   All articles by Paul Ridden

wow, what happens if part of the amp breaks off?

I guess you'd have a total piece of Schiit

30th December, 2010 @ 06:36 am PST

This may well be a great product but am I alone in thinking the company name is a little unfortunate?

It brings to mind Rolls Royce's efforts to market the Rolls Royce Silver Mist in Germany.

Steve Lane
30th December, 2010 @ 07:10 am PST

Anyone know how to pronounce the manufacturer's name? Please tell me it doesn't rhyme with "Hit"

Dan K
30th December, 2010 @ 12:14 pm PST

It would be interesting to know how well this thing drives a set of small monitors as well... 6w should be plenty.

Dan K
30th December, 2010 @ 12:21 pm PST

I guess it's not quite as funny as selling the Chevy NoVa in spanish speaking countries. (va = go in spanish)

Dan K
30th December, 2010 @ 01:17 pm PST

Worries about the maximum power output of an amplifier are irrelevant; assuming the design is at all competent, higher power means better handling of transients, not louder continuous play. During 35 years in the audio industry I've seen many times more speakers and headphones burned out by underpowered amplifiers than by overpowered amps. This appears to be a nice product, though the market will probably be limited to a certain type of buyer; it may be true to say that all Lyrs are geeks'.

Gary Fisher
31st December, 2010 @ 04:29 am PST
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