First off, I would like to give a huge thanks to Schiit for sending me the Hel to review! What is your opinion on sound? I know for me I want the best I can get. I just enjoy it better, whether it be music, gaming, or watching a movie. If you have experienced this then you know what I am talking about. When you have anything paired with great sound it enhances your experience. For example game on a laptop speakers and then play the same game on a decent sound bar and you will know exactly what I’m talking about. That’s where these DAC/AMPs come in. These are basically a digital to analog converter that sends the signal through the built in amp. The sound differences can be significantly better. Hook one of these up and you will unlock your full listening experience. The DAC/AMP we are featuring today is from Schiit audio. Yes, I will try to keep the puns to a minimum but I cannot promise!
I will be testing the Hel with several different audio setups. First I am going to use a 4 year old set of beats headphones. Great headphones when they came out but have had tons of use and are becoming a little dated. Next I am going to be using a Yamaha RX-V377 Receiver paired with a JBL E150P sub and 2 Klipsch Icon KB-15 bookcase speakers, using the preamp out connection. So now that we have all the details out of the way let get to it. Find out if the Hel lived up to the hype, all in the conclusion of the review.
If you want the ultimate in a transportable gaming DAC/amp, you’re looking at Hel. Yes, Hel. As in the Norse underworld. That’s why it’s black and red. Or something like that. In any case, Hel delivers like 40x the power of a typical computer headphone output, plus it has a podcast-quality stereo-compatible electret mic input. It’s also an amazing DAC/amp for music, and with a separate analog input, preamp output, and gain switch, it’s ready for all your desktop needs.
Schiit got started in 2010 when two audio industry veterans decided it was time to shake things up a bit. The two audiophiles are Jason Stoddard, formerly of Sumo, and Mike Moffat, formerly of Theta. Together, they have designed dozens of audio and A/V products, from the Andromeda III to the Cobalt 307 to the DS Pre and Angstrom 200.So, yeah: fully balanced differential power amplifiers, fully discrete I/V conversion stages, audiophile D/A converters, relay-switched stepped attenuator volume controls in preamps. the first DTS home theater surround processor on the market . . . we’ve done a ton of stuff.
So What Now, and Why So Much Headphone Stuff?
In the old days, audiophiles went up the food chain from the table radio to the console stereo to separate speakers the size of refrigerators and monoblocks that would cook a cat. Today, nobody starts with a table radio. Everyone—and we mean everyone—starts with headphones.
So, yeah. We do a lot of personal audio. But that doesn’t mean we don’t have products that are totally comfortable in a speaker-based system, from industry-leading preamps and amps, to literally every DAC we make. Whether you’re looking at personal audio or at a speaker-based system, we have fun, affordable products that’ll put a smile on your face.
So What Makes Your Products Special?
Mike Moffat separately aligns each molecule of every JFET, using a special Absolute Zero containment suit…er, well, no. What makes them special are three things:
True Multibit™ DACs and Unique Digital Filter
Today, virtually every DAC uses a reduced-bit technology known as “delta sigma.” Multibit DACs have largely gone by the wayside, thanks to less-expensive delta-sigma technology. The few multibit DACs that exist either use NOS (new old stock) D/A chips, one of two or three still-extant multibit chips, or build their own R2R ladders at high cost. We’ve always believed that multibit DACs provide the best sonic performance, especially when coupled with Schiit’s unique, DSP-based closed-form digital filter. This is why we’ve brought them together in our unique True Multibit topology, using current-production, medical/military grade D/A converters.
Innovative Analog Approaches
On the analog side, we’ve also taken innovative approaches, each uniquely designed for the task at hand. Even our least expensive headphone amplifier is essentially a miniature, fully discrete, DC coupled, current-feedback power amplifier. We’ve introduced the Continuity™ output stage to address the transconductance droop that is inherent in Class AB amplifier designs, developed unique balanced topologies like Nexus™ in Ragnarok 2, and created a seamless blend of tube and solid state with Coherence™in Lyr 3.
Designed for the Real World
The real world is a complex place, which is why all of our products are overbuilt. Pick up any of our products, and marvel at their weight, heft, and solidity. Even our smallest products are made of aluminum and steel. The larger products use high-quality C-core transformers, extensive power supply filtering, and precision low-noise regulation.
All of our products are developed with the latest APx555 audio analyzer, as well as a full half-dozen Avermetrics analyzers for in-line testing. We we burn-in every product from Asgard on up for a minimum of 1 day to help catch any early failures. (Ragnarok and Yggdrasil get 4 days each). We also keep very close tabs on any service and support needs, so you can rest assured of years of great sound.
And—it bears mentioning—we believe that close-coupled, local control of all of the aspects of production delivers better products. That’s why we design and produce our stuff here in the USA, with the vast majority of parts cost going to US-based companies manufacturing in the US. We need all of that clarification in there because some people have played games with what “Assembled in USA” means. When we say it, it means that our chassis guys are right over the hill in the San Fernando Valley, our transformers are made here in California, our boards come from the east coast (of the USA), and we design, assemble, and test everything here in Valencia, California.
Why don’t you check out our Schiit?
Now let us move on and check out the Features and Specs!
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