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Dealing with Schiit Audio

I was originally going to review the Schiit Hel 2 external sound card, a headphone DAC/AMP combo, but i'm really not in any position to do so since a) it's the first and only decent external sound card i've owned and b) i only have one pair of headphones and they aren't great. What i am in a position to do however is review Schiit, the company, based on my interaction with them. Here's the story...

I originally ordered a Hel 2 from their website and waited for it to show up in my mailbox. And i waited, and waited, and nothing. I was never sent a tracking number or anything else regarding the status of my order and so i finally contacted them and asked what's up. The rep said that there was a supply problem and that the Hel wouldn't be available for another 6 to 8 weeks. That's great, i said. Were you planning on ever telling me this??? Again i waited and i eventually decided that i didn't really need the Hel and so i canceled the order and ordered a Fulla. During this period i had sent a few emails informing them that, because their 1/8 to 1/4 in. stereo adapter that shipped with their devices was considered junk by several reviewers, i wanted to make sure i was sent a good one since i had none. Although they (as in, more then one person) addressed part of my brief mails, not once did anyone acknowledge my concern regarding the adapter and i mentioned it no less then 3 times.

To my surprise i received the Fulla shortly after i order it and was quite excited to have it ... right up until the point where i plugged the f'n thing in to test it. It was DOA. The power LED never lit. I tested with a powered USB hub and, nothing. I tested with a dedicated power supply and, nothing. I tested with different cables and, noting. Most of the reviews i've read regarding Schiit equipment have been exceedingly positive, however a few reviewers mentioned quality control issues. You can add another one to the bunch. I sent the Fulla back and re-orderd the Hel 2, pleading with them to place me high upon their list since the Fulla was DOA. I didn't expect them to do so since they obviously don't fully read or respond to emails, but to my surprise i received the Hel in short order, and it worked!

Given my limitations i mentioned earlier, i'm reasonably happy with the Hel, however there is a latency issue and the microphone gain seems to be anemic. Regarding latency, this may be due to my operating system; Manjaro Linux with the KDE desktop and Pulseaudio sound system. Listening to music is totally fine, but watching a video results in roughly a 200-300 ms delay between a mouth moving and the sound hitting my ears. Hopefully i'll find a way to fix the problem. Regarding the mic gain issue, one of the major reasons i wanted an external DAC/AMP combo with a mic input was to cleanup the microphone noise floor which the Hel does wonderfully, however i have to crank up the gain very high (about 85% or better) to get a good sound level and i expected more from a $200 dollar AMP. The Hel also takes a rather long time to boot after powering it on. If you keep it powered on this obviously isn't a problem, but i tend to turn it off when i'm not using it.

In the end, i'm not trying to sway people away from Schiit, but i would suggest using caution. The problem i had with their Fulla DAC/AMP had nothing to do with my machine since i tried to power it with 3 different devices, yet it never powered up. When i returned the Fulla i enclosed in the package a note stating the procedures i used to troubleshoot it but, as i expected, i never received a reply. If you decide to deal with Schiit Audio, good luck. I suspect you won't experience the problems i did but, then again, you never know.

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