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For a headphone amplifier, 6 watts per channel is huge

Schiit's uber Lyr 2 headphone amp sounds big and bold, says the Audiophiliac.

The Schiit Lyr 2 headphone amp. Schiit Audio

The Schiit Lyr 2 is far more powerful than your average headphone amplifier, most of which top out with a small fraction of a watt. The Lyr 2 has up to 6 watts on tap -- but don't worry, the power won't break your headphones.

Hey, just because your Ferrari 458 Italia pumps out 570 horsepower and has a top speed of 202 mph doesn't mean it can't cruise at 55. The Lyr 2 similarly allows listening at whatever volume suits your mood, and brings out the best sound from any headphone.

The amp is small enough to fit on a desktop, at just 9 by 6 by 2.25 inches (228 by 152 by 57mm), and the all-metal chassis feels solidly built and weighs 6 pounds (2.7 kg). There's a pair of 6BZ7 tubes poking up through the top panel, and you can substitute 6DJ8, 6922 or ECC88 tubes to change the Lyr 2's sound a bit. If you want to steer clear of tubes, check out Schiit's Asgard 2 fully solid-state headphone amp ($249, £210, AU$389).

Back to the Lyr 2: up front you have a volume control, a quarter-inch (6.3mm) headphone jack, and a power-on LED indicator. The rear panel hosts one set each of stereo RCA inputs and outputs, and power on/off and gain (high or low) toggle switches. You can use the Lyr 2's RCA outputs to drive a set of powered desktop speakers, like the Audioengine A5+s . When you plug in a set of headphones, the Lyr 2's output to the speakers is automatically muted. There's no wall wart dangling off the Lyr 2's rear-end; the power supply is built into the chassis.

A quickie comparison with the new Marantz HD-DAC1 headphone amp/digital converter perfectly illustrated the Lyr 2's strengths. With my Oppo PM-1 headphones the Lyr 2 uncorked superior dynamics, brawn and heft; the Marantz was thinner, dimensionally challenged and much less fun to listen to. In fact, try as I might, I couldn't find anything the Marantz did better. The Lyr 2 has soul -- oodles of it -- whereas the Marantz was a major disappointment.

I loved what the Lyr 2 brought to the sound of my Audio Technica ATH-M50x headphones. There was more "substance" to the sound, more weight, more body and the soundstage was more expansive.

To take full advantage of the Lyr 2's abundant wattage I plugged in one of my power-hungriest headphones, the Hifiman HE6, which has humbled most amps, even ones that sell for thousands of dollars, but the Lyr 2 was up to the task. The Lyr 2/HE6 combination is remarkably clear, and even the latest version of the Audeze LCD 3 headphones sounded muted and drab by comparison. With lesser amps the LCD 3 sounds better, but with the Lyr 2 the HE6 pulled way ahead.

Schiit Lyr 2 rear panel Schiit Audio

Most tube headphone amps aren't suitable for use with in-ear headphones, which are more sensitive than full-size headphones, so the tubes' background hiss/noise levels can be audible when playing music with in-ear headphones. The Lyr 2 had no noise issues whatsoever with my Ultimate Ears UE 900 in-ear headphones, and the sound quality was miles ahead of what I heard from a Yamaha A-S801 integrated stereo amplifier's headphone jack. The Lyr 2 sound was fuller-bodied and more natural sounding than the A-S801's.

The Lyr 2, like all Schiit products, is made in California, and the warranty runs 5 years, although the tubes' warranty is 3 months. Even so, Schiit claims the tubes should deliver up to 5,000 hours of play time; and when they wear out replacement tubes are inexpensive.

The Schiit Lyr 2 retails for $449 in the US, £360 in the UK and AU$899 in Australia.