The Schiit Mani is a small, effective phono preamp that’s been around for years. Sure, it has a funny name and sounds like your favorite curse word, but its popularity is due to its overall efficacy as a phono preamplifier.
But, does that mean the Schiit Mani comes without flaws?
Well, I’ve used this amp for a couple of years now, and in this Schiit Mani review, I’m going to go over my thoughts and experiences with this particular phono preamp. I’m going to let you know the good, the bad, and the ugly when it comes to the Mani so you can hopefully determine whether or not this preamp is worth your money.
Below, please take a look at some of the most affordable phono preamps on the market today, and see how each one compares to the Schiit Mani as you progress through this review:
|Pro-Ject’s Tube Box DS||$$$||★★★★||Gain adjustment 40/50/60 dB|
|Vincent PHO-701||$$$||★★★★★||Two-chassis MM/MC phono stage|
|Pro-Ject Audio Phono Box||$$||★★★★||MM/MC Phono preamp|
|>||Music Hall PA 2.2||$$$||★★★★★||Adjustable MC gain stage|
|Cambridge CP2||$$||★★★★||RIAA accuracy (0.3dB up to 50kHz)|
|Clearaudio Nano V2||$$$||MM/MC Phono preamp|
|Vincent PHO-8||$$$||★★★★||Separate Power Supply & Phono Stage|
|Emotiva Audio SP-1||$$||★★★★★||Supports MM and MC cartridges|
|Pro-Ject Phono Box RS||$$$||★★★★||Gain settings: 40, 50, or 60 dB|
|U-Turn Audio Pluto||$||★★★★||Does not have on/off switch|
Schiit Mani Build Quality
So, the first thing I really like about the Mani is how well it’s built. Coming inside a beautiful metal chassis, this preamp is relatively small, so you won’t have to worry it’ll take up too much space in your vinyl record cabinet.
In fact, the Mani is one of the smallest phono preamps I’ve used, measuring in at about 5” x 3.5” x 1.25”. And at roughly just 1 lb, you shouldn’t have any trouble moving this component from one room to the other.
And, for anyone that cares deeply about where their products are made, the Schiit Mani is made in America.
Now, one thing I always think is a wise idea is to make sure that you at least consider the option of future proofing yourself as much as you can. And that goes with anything technology-related.
For example, if you like buying physical copies of movies on Blu-Ray, it would be a wise choice to pick up the version of the film that also contains the 4K Blu-Ray copy, as well.
Because 4K will soon be as mainstream as Blu-Ray, and you’re not going to want to pay full price for the same movie again when 4K becomes the national home video standard.
The same is true when it comes to the Mani. In fact, one thing I really like about the Schiit Mani is its ability to work with Moving Magnet and Moving Coil cartridges.
So, even if you only use Moving Magnet cartridges and have no immediate interest in upgrading to MC cartridges, the fact that you won’t have to go out and buy a brand new phono preamp if or when you make that cartridge change is a huge plus.
Keep in mind, too, that the Schiit Mani can be had for just $129. That’s an incredible value when we’re talking about a phono preamp that is flexible enough to handle both MM and MC cartridges.
Lots of Control
A lot of people wonder why you one would ever want to get an external phono preamp when you can just use the built in phono section of a receiver or integrated amplifier.
Well, the two big reasons are sound quality (which we’ll certain cover later) and control. And with the Schiit Mani, you get quite a bit go control when it comes to gain.
In fact, if you pick up the Mani and flip it over, what you’ll notice is a handful of different buttons that, ultimately, give you 4 changeable gain modes at your disposal (30, 42, 47, and 59 db).
Again, this is extremely helpful whenever you chose to upgrade your cartridge. So, should you ever make the switch from a Moving Magnet Cartridge to a Moving Coil cartridge, and something appears to not sound quite right when the stylus hits the groove of the record, all you have to do is lift up the Mani and experiment with the controls a bit to get the music sounding good again.
Sound Quality of the Schiit Mani
In using the Mani for the past couple of years, and in comparing it against everything from a Marantz integrated amplifier’s built-in phono section to external phono preamps by Cambridge or Vincent, I think the Mani hands down provides the best value for your money.
For just $129, the Schiit Mani will provide you with a nice, fairly wide soundstage when playing records. I was impressed, too, by the clarity of the treble. Whenever singers, especially female singers, hit high notes, the Mani seemed to really allow the record to come alive. The music soared.
In terms of bass—there’s nothing too overwhelming to mention here. A $129 phono preamp can only do so much.
I’ve never been huge on having a ton of bass anyway, so it didn’t bother me. And I never tested the Mani with a subwoofer involved in the connection chain/path, either. But, even without it, the bass with the Mani seemed decent enough (at least for my tastes). But certainly nothing to write home about (although it wasn’t completely soul-less, either).
Schiit Mani vs Cambridge Azur 651P
In comparing the Schiit Mani to the likes of the Cambridge Azur 651P (which has since been replaced by the Cambridge CP2) and the Vincent PHO-8, I’d rank it square in the middle.
In testing out the 651P (the CP2 is essentially the same, although the CP2 now offers balance control), I found the music that came through the speakers to be a bit of a mixed bag.
On one hand, I liked that the music sounded more lively on the 651P. It just felt more lush and bold. But, it was an unrefined boldness, and to my ears, came across as a bit harsh at times, especially on the higher end.
I didn’t feel that way when it came to the Mani.
Although the 651P has since been discontinued, you can purchase the Cambridge CP2 for about $200. As mentioned before, it now comes with balance control on the back of the unit. And while additions are always nice, the truth is that if you’re having speaker balance issues (meaning, sound is coming in louder in one speaker than the other), you should consider re-adjusting your cartridge and making sure it’s setup and aligned properly.
Schiit Mani vs Vincent PHO-8
I would rank the Mani below the sound of the Vincent PHO-8. Although the Mani’s sound was quite good, to me, the sound of the PHO-8 just sounded right. It felt uncolored to my ears, meaning the music came off as being quite neutral as opposed to having the treble or mids or bass being overly emphasized or deemphasized.
This is, of course, all a matter of taste. And while I did like the PHO-8 more than the Mani, it’s important to know that the PHO-8 was a $300 phono preamp.
The Mani, on the other hands, costs only $129.
That’s why, despite my preference for the PHO-8, the incredible value of the Mani is undeniable.
My Problem with the Schiit Mani
I do have a problem with the Schiit Mani, and it’s a big reason why I no longer use it as my everyday external phono preamp.
After enjoying the Mani for over a year, I noticed a strange noise (it almost sounded like white noise or static) coming through my speakers.
At first, I thought it could be a speaker problem. So I swapped those out, but the problem persisted.
I then thought it could be the integrated amplifier I had the Mani plugged into. So I swapped that out for a different component.
The problem persisted.
After a while, I decided to just get brand new cables. So I bought some Moogami cables and connected them from my turntable to the Mani, and from the Mani to the integrated amplifier.
The good news? The white noise disappeared.
The bad news? Well, now I was getting a signal from a local radio station coming through my speakers!
In fact, whenever I would pick up and move the Mani around the room a bit, not only would the station come in better (a local R&B/Pop station, for anyone interested), but sometimes moving the Mani to a specific area in the room caused the radio station to move from the R&B station to a local Rock station).
Long story short, my wonderful Schiit Mani had been turned into a glorified portable radio.
I can’t say for certain that the Schiit Mani has a serious problem in regards to this issue. I have no information on that. What I can say is that, in perusing different music and vinyl forums, and seeing people discuss the Mani, there have been more than a handful of people mentioning that this issue has affected them, as well.
Now, perhaps it has more to do with radio signals or radio frequencies changing. Maybe, at the end of the day, the fault lies more with the radio station and its signal than with the Mani itself.
But I can say that this issue was never something that I encountered while using an integrated amplifier with a built in phono section.
And it never happened while using the Cambridge Azur 651P.
And it never occurred when using the Vincent PHO-8.
Only the Schiit Mani suffered this problem.
So, that’s something to definitely keep in mind when you’re considering this phono preamp.
Overall, I really think the Schiit Mani is a great little phono preamp. It provides very good sound, adjustable gain settings, and a nice, small build that will only cost you $129.
But, because of the signal interference issue I ran into (and was unable to ever fix, mind you), and the fact that other customers seem to have run into this problem too, I would say that the Schiit Mani is a truly fantastic option if you get a unit that never suffers from RF signal interference.
If you happen to get a unit that does suffer from this problem, you just might end up kicking yourself because you just didn’t spend a bit more money and invest in a phono preamp without a history of this nagging issue.
Below, take a look at a video review of the Schiit Mani by HiViNyws on YouTube:
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