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Micromega MyZic: Ooh la la, a French-made headphone amplifier

Micromega's MyZic desktop amp brings out the best with in-ear and full-size headphones.

The Micromega MyZic Steve Guttenberg/CNET

The Micromega MyZic is the first headphone amp I've tested that's made in France. The amp shares its chassis and design with the Micromega My Series of components: a phono preamp, wireless streamer, and an integrated amplifier that will come out later this year. The MyZic's street price runs $269.

MyZic sounds like a bona-fide high-end component, but some buyers may quibble with the ABS plastic construction. It seems rugged enough, and it's certainly lightweight. Connectivity is limited to just the basics: a high quality Neutrik 6.3mm headphone jack on the front panel, and stereo RCA inputs and outputs on its back side. The horizontal rotary volume control is an unusual design touch. There's no on/off switch, plugging-in a headphone turns MyZic on, unplugging puts the amp in standby mode. The front panel LED glows red when it's in standby and white when a headphone is plugged in. It's one of the few small amps with a built-in power supply (it doesn't use a wall wart).

The MyZic measures a tidy 1.5x5.5x5.75 inches; that's a good deal smaller than the $249 Schiit Audio Asgard headphone amp I used in some of my comparison tests.

The MyZic sounded transparent with my Sennheiser HD 700 headphones; switching over to the Asgard, the sound was a tad warmer and richer but less clear. This headphone has a higher than average impedance (150 ohms), but both amps drove the HD 700s well. The treble detailing and air were better on the MyZic.

I next tried a pair of low-impedance (35 ohm) Hifiman HE-400 headphones, and again the sound differences between the two amps were consistent. With the 30 ohm UE 900 in-ear headphone, the differences were more obvious. With the Asgard I heard a small amount of hum in the background coming over the UE 900s; the MyZic had less background noise and sounded clearer overall.

Back with the HD 700, I compared the Bob Dylan "Blood on the Tracks" Sony SACD with the newly remastered Mobile Fidelity "Blood" SACD. The Sony version seemed mushy, dynamically compressed and spatially flatter than the MF disc. The MyZic made it easy to hear the difference between the two discs.

On the other hand a lot of new CDs, like the National's "Trouble Will Find Me", are so compressed, processed, and hazy sounding that the differences between the two amps were irrelevant. I really like the tunes on the National's new album, but the sound is pretty atrocious.

The MyZic and Asgard are very good, and I can't say the differences between these two are huge, but the MyZic just edged out the Asgard. However, the newly revised Asgard 2 has just come out, so we'll have to see if it's as clear as the MyZic.

The Micromega MyZic is available on Amazon.