When did equalizers become unfashionable? They were sold with almost every hi-fi system for a few decades and the vintage audio crowd displays them with pride across their Instagram feeds. When did “tone control” become an ugly word with the audiophile crowd? The Schiit Audio Loki Mini+ is for the rest of us.
Our community preaches keeping the signal path as short as possible; a practice that I agree with, but there is a dogmatic rigidity in regard to tone control that makes very little sense. Cables are a form of tone control. If that were not the case, we would find the most neutral sounding cables we could source for $50 and call it a day.
Like most things created by Schiit Audio in California (the company has expanded its manufacturing to other states during the pandemic to keep up with demand — take a look at their delivery times right now), the Schiit Audio Loki Mini+ is very affordable. $149 affordable.
Why is it so hard for other manufacturers to design and manufacture quality high-end products domestically and keep the products affordable? Schiit sell their products direct from their website so you’re not paying the distributor and retailer — saving you a lot of money in the process.
Making Bad Recordings Sound Better…Maybe
Wait. What? Isn’t that why you purchased a better sounding hi-fi system in the first place.
Jason Stoddard from Schiit Audio sums it up this way.
“Let’s face it. Is everything you listen to recorded perfectly? Of course not. Some recordings aren’t paragons of tonal purity. And your system…let’s be honest. Some speakers and headphones are a bit bright or a bit dark. Loki Mini+ lets you adjust for these imperfections.”
Audiophiles are probably running for the exits because adding another component to the signal path creates the possibility of a degradation of sound quality — but does that always have to be the case?
Why do audiophiles use loudspeaker cables with networks integrated into the design?
Do those networks create a better impedance match between the amplifier and loudspeaker or do they act as form of tone control?
Modern DACs now include multiple filter settings to adjust the sound of your digital playback — another form of tone control.
Schiit Audio contends that the “Loki Mini+ transforms your system without getting in the way, or making itself known. Forget noisy, bad-sounding equalizers you may have used in the past. Loki Mini+ uses a single, discrete, current-feedback gain stage, coupled to passive LC filters for 3 bands, plus a gyrator for the bass.
It also uses sealed Alps potentiometers with rational adjustment ranges to allow for fine control. Coupled with a 100% passive bypass setting, Loki Mini+ offers the transparency and flexibility you need.”
What Kind of Schiit Are They Trying to Pull Here?
The Loki Mini+ only has one set of inputs so you’re limited to a single source; unless you decide to insert this in the signal path in-between the pre-amplifier and power amplifier in your system. There is also a bypass switch to take the Loki Mini+ out of the path altogether.
The choice of frequency bands is interesting; 20Hz, 400Hz, 2kHz, and 8kHz.
Those of you who love fuller bass response will find a lot to like here. It won’t turn your tiny 2-way bookshelf loudspeakers into floorstanding bass crunching monsters, but it does fatten up the low end and create the illusion of greatest extension.
The midrange bump at 400Hz is near the top of the lower midrange.
The range of adjustments at the various frequencies is +/-12dB at 20Hz and 8kHz, and +/-6dB at 400Hz and 2kHz.
Build quality is typical Schiit and made in America for only $149.
Don’t Use That Tone of Voice With Me…
Of all the loudspeakers that I own, the Magnepan LRS and PSB Alpha P5 are the most neutral sounding and proved to be ideal guinea pigs for the Loki Mini+.
Natalie Merchant and Nick Cave both benefitted with both loudspeakers from minor adjustments at 400Hz and 2kHz. Merchant could sing about breakfast foods and I’d swoon — I actually heard her sing in a church many years ago and I wanted to propose on the spot. Not entirely kosher for a nice Orthodox Jewish boy but her voice just parts the sea for me.
Nick Cave’s voice pulls me in like the tractor beam on the Death Star and it’s easy to understand why he’s become even more popular with age; he’s never going to be velvety smooth like Sam Cooke or Freddie Mercury, but there’s some power there. Nobody else sounds like him. That growl.
The midrange of the Magnepan LRS is incredibly clear and transparent sounding; it’s almost scary how good this speaker is for $650 — but it could definitely use some added warmth in the upper part of the range.
The Loki Mani+ allowed me to boost both singers just enough to maximize the illusion that they were in the room with me. That added layer of texture that made them sound more human.
The LRS also don’t have a lot of bass below 50Hz (certainly not anything with any visceral impact at louder levels), so they definitely benefitted when I used the 20Hz setting with electronica and synth-pop. Depeche Mode, Erausre, the Cure, and Yazoo all had more impact and sounded less thin.
Adding the Schiit Audio Loki Mini+ isn’t going to transform your system like a new amplifier or source component, but it will allow you to improve the sound of really bad sounding recordings and have some fun with excellent ones.
For more information: Schiit Audio Loki Mini+ Equalizer