Everything old is new again.

Tone controls of various types were standard on everything in my youth. Somewhere in the 80’s(?) the “purity” of the signal chain became a mantra and those controls disappeared from most audio gear. You lived with the shortcomings of the recorded source material in the name of accuracy and truth to the original source. Whether one enjoyed listening without controls wasn’t a consideration for serious audiophiles.

Well, Schiit Audio has gone back to the past to resurrect the lost tone controls. Loki provides frequency adjustment points as follow:

  • +/-12dB at 20Hz and 8 kHz
  • +/-6dB at 400Hz and 2 kHz.
Not Your Father’s EQ
 
Best of all, Loki allows you this level of control, while retaining transparency. Instead of a stack of noisy op-amps attached to open-frame, dust-collecting sliders (like EQs you may have used in the past), Loki 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 offers the transparency and flexibility you need.

There can be any number of reasons for using one; tame hotly recorded highs, an aggressive or recessive midrange in the chain somewhere, or add a bit of fullness to the bass end. Or perhaps you want to listen to your recordings in a different light depending on mood…or whether you hear Laurel or Yanny that day.

Components and recordings just aren’t perfect so having tone controls could be just what your system needs to sound its best. This is especially the case when you’re saving up for that new power cord or amplifier.

Build

The physical box is very small and light (much more so than the Schiit Audio Jotunheim).

The Schiit Loki is incredibly tiny and lightweight. That’s a good thing on a desktop with a PC, mini speakers, etc. I personally prefer something at least Jotunheim-sized and would really like something Mjolnir 2-sized with 2 more controls in the in the 1K to 6K range and maybe 2 discrete channels to accommodate in-room speaker set up. Maybe one could buy two Loki Mini’s (or Maxi’s?) and use one for each channel for in-room applications.

I really don’t care for boxes I have to hold down with one hand while twiddling knobs or making connections. But Schiit Audio is all about the value for your dollar so compromises will always be a part of the equation. The Loki is only $149.

Sound

The Loki goes between my DAC and headphone amp(s) and is SE only. I’m using a pair of Danacable Sapphire Reference Mk.2 interconnects.

I own a variety of headphones; My Top 3 are the:

  • Sennheiser HD800
  • Focal Utopia
  • Abyss Phi

My goal in using the Loki is not to make all three sound the same. I like them for their differences in overall sound presentation. I try not to rank my audio gear (good/bad, day/night, yes/no, first – second – third-etc.); I like to appreciate each for those qualities they excel at.

The Schiit Audio Loki operates in the analog domain, (I have no experience with digital tone controls). The most important thing is that with the controls in their neutral (“null”) position I hear absolutely no difference between those neutral settings and the bypass mode. As far as I’m concerned Loki is completely transparent when the controls are not engaged.

My primary use is with my Schiit Audio Jotunheim and Sennheiser HD800. The Jot’s a bit aggressive and forward (overall) in the midrange and can add brightness. The HD 800 gets a little help in the bass and cut in the highs when needed. The Schiit Audio Loki worked beautifully in tuning the sound across these components and made listening much more enjoyable.

Loki is not a 12 band, 2 channel equalizer, but its simplicity allows it to be of advantage with my Jotunheim and HD800. I honestly did not find it necessary with my Utopia or Abyss Phi, or any of my other headphone amps, so I don’t use it with them.

The key for me is “less is more”. A heavy hand on any band, especially the bass one, only increases distortion in the headphone driver. It can be initially impressive to max out the bass and say wow (provided one doesn’t destroy the transducer), but it rarely contributes to a realistic or natural sound.

The Schiit Audio Loki allows you to granularly tune without being obtrusive. It’s quite gentle and intuitive in its operation.

 

Likes

  1. Transparent and neutral in bypass mode or with controls in the “null” position.
  2. Simple in operation, no expensive test equipment needed to set up, trust your ears and easy does it
  3. Priced at only $149.00

Trade-offs

  1. Only 4 frequency hinge points, I’d like 2 more strategically placed between 1K and 6K and move the one at 2K to make for better integration with the 2 new ones.  (And while I’m blue-sky-ing, make it balanced too!?).
  2. Loki is a little too small and light. It feels like I need to put a weight on top to keep the weight of the IC’s from pulling it off the shelf.
  3. The 4 knobs “null” point notches are not at the 12 o’clock position.

Summary

The Schiit Audio Loki does what it is supposed to do and nothing more. All in all, a handy tool to have in my tool bag of useful audio accessories.

Whether you’re a purist or pragmatist, your system won’t sound perfect every time. The Schiit Loki is an incredibly convenient device which provides granular control while maintaining a fantastic level of transparency and purity. I love the fact that it tunes gracefully rather than heavy-handedly.

There’s no shame in adjusting to a sound that’s more musical to you. For $149, it’s a wonderful piece to have around.

-One Old Audiophile

For more information on this super fun, high-quality tone control, check out the Schiit Audio Loki’s product page.

 

 

Support Audio Bacon on Patreon!