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First impression of the Schiit Freya

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Posted on January 9, 2017 at 10:23:57
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
Old Preamp: Older Django passive TVC Preamp from DIY Hifi Supply
Amp: W4S ST 500
Speakers: Magnepan 1.6s with a heavily modified crossover
DAC: Schiit Gungnir Multibit
Interconnects: Neotech NEI-3004 Balanced Deep Cryo
Speaker Cable: Solid Silver Homebuilt
Power Conditioner: PS Audio UPC-200 (does not improve sound)
Music: Classical with lots of choral music
Player: foobar
Listening position: Nearfield
Volume: The softer side of moderate

Going from a stock (non-multibit) Schiit Bifrost to the multibit Gungnir made a big difference in sound, having more detail and clarity. This doubled my listening pleasure!

Now for the Freya: The volume control makes a clicking or buzzing sound in the preamp, not in the speakers, but this is really no big deal. What is a bigger deal is that the passive and active JFET buffer outputs cannot be used with balanced interconnects (edit: this is not true. All three modes can be used with balanced cables). Moreover, the tubs are active (lit up) in all the output modes.

I could not make comparisons between the three output modes because when I removed single-ended interconnects from Wired 4 Sound amp, the RCA cap broke off. This is the second time this has happened, and I believe this is a problem with these amps, although the manufacturer claims otherwise.

In listening to classical music, the Freya was impressive in that the tube output had a sweetness, a greatly reduced digital sound, and improved vocals that increased my listening pleasure by about 20-30%!!! I also listened to a few non-classical tracts. Led Zeppelin's "Achilles Last Stand" was a bit of a disappointment, but it was a very early recording that was never re-mastered. I also listened to Dave Brubeck's "Take Five" and loved the detail. I was never privileged enough to use high-end stuff, but I would be willing to bet that the Freya performance is excellent in comparison to its cost!!!


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

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RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 9, 2017 at 16:40:35
GregS
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Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
Thank you for your quick early impressions Scruffy! I have been thinking about trying this out but the XLR issue in the passive and Jfet modes is a bit disconcerting. I have a Sonic Frontiers Line 2se for 13 years or so and a Pass Labs X250.5 with a Krell SACD Standard front end. I was thinking the Freya might be a fun little unit though I wonder if it can better my line 2 Amperex tubed pre

 

Bummer, posted on January 9, 2017 at 18:54:06
Awe-d-o-file
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October 31, 2005
On the balanced thing. Glad you like the tube sound. Keep us posted after time. Also switch back to the passive for a quick listen to make sure


ET

"If at first you don't succeed, keep on sucking till you do suck seed" - Curly Howard 1936

 

regarding xlr not working on passive and Jfet, posted on January 9, 2017 at 19:26:55
GregS
Audiophile

Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
I just read the owners manual and it does not mention anything about this being the case. Have you spoken with them to make sure that your unit is not defective?

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 9, 2017 at 19:37:10
Utley1
Audiophile

Posts: 738
Location: NYC
Joined: July 30, 2010
I just e-mailed their tech guy before I saw your post. I have Emotiva mono blocks and was concerned about impedance matching 23.5KOHMS Then I checked the back of the preamp and it only accepts balanced outputs. Have a investment in cables,so that throws me. Very tempting BECAUSE OF THE PRICE.I have the Mag 1.7 so your review is most helpful. Thanks. I am using the old Crown 1982 SL2 which is essentially a passive preamp and would like to soften the Emotiva.

 

Never mind, just saw it in the manual...but, posted on January 9, 2017 at 19:37:48
GregS
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Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
is your source output an xlr connection? I wonder if using one source via a balanced connection and output to the amp balanced will allow for switching the tube/passive/jfet?

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 9, 2017 at 19:39:41
Utley1
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Location: NYC
Joined: July 30, 2010
Scruffy: I too listen to a lot of choral music. And that is where there is harshness.Oddly never on individual voiced. Has the Schiit cleared that up on the Maggies? Thanks

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 9, 2017 at 20:06:19
GregS
Audiophile

Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
If that is they way it is designed than why include the xlr inputsand output? One loses out on 2/3s of the kits features! If this is indeed the case I will not be purchasing one

 

Yes, both inputs and outputs are XRL in my setup, posted on January 10, 2017 at 03:15:13
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
I bought it for it being a tube amp, so I'm not too disappointed.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

Let me take a closer listen, posted on January 10, 2017 at 03:24:30
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
I know exactly what you're talking about and I'll try and select some choir music that I know had problems before.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 10, 2017 at 03:25:05
Greg Cz
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Consider the Saga...

 

And with the Saga, posted on January 10, 2017 at 06:12:00
msa
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Because I do not used balanced connectors, I did get the Saga and my impressions are the same as Greg Cz's. even though my set-up is entirely different: Sonos-Gungnir-Saga-Dennis Had's Inspire amp with KT-88's-M-Lore's.

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 10, 2017 at 15:33:06
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
I took a close listen to Dominican "Sisters of Mary - Mater Eucharistiae" which I know had harshness before and it's minimal, but it now exhibits a degree of glare on the instruments that I did not notice before. One piano sonata also showed signs of glare, but the of CDs I listened to were fine.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 10, 2017 at 15:41:51
Utley1
Audiophile

Posts: 738
Location: NYC
Joined: July 30, 2010
Have you any Handel Oratorios to try. I do not have my speakers braced as it would take up too much space, so I never could be certain if there is a speaker design problem, room placement or my electronics. I use an inductor 2555 and that has deepened the sound. As it not on all choral pieces I settle on the fac that it is a digital. Never found glare on a piano or organ . Thanks scruffy

 

I emailed Shiit Audio about the Freya..., posted on January 10, 2017 at 16:13:33
GregS
Audiophile

Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
This is my email
I was thinking about trying the newly released Freya pre amp in my system. I have read that one cannot use the Tube/JFET/Passive switching feature via the balanced signal chain. Is this indeed the case?


This was the reply:

"That is 100% incorrect. It works just fine in all output modes.

The confusion may come from the fact that the Freya does not CONVERT single-ended inputs to balanced via the passive or buffer modes, only via tubes. But that's single-ended inputs. Balanced is, of course, maintained all the way through.

Nick T.
Schiit Tech"

It seems perhaps something is amiss with the OP's unit?

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 11, 2017 at 03:37:01
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
I just got done listening to the Naxos version of the "Messiah" and it sounded great, but keep in mind that my Maggies have modified crossovers. Then again, I was hearing a lot of distortion on choral music before the tube amp. I have to think that the Schiit Freya took care of the problem, but that the Freya is prone to glare on certain CDs that I had no problems with before, but then the tubes are hardly burned in, and that new tubes that are known to reduce brightness may take care of this problem.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 11, 2017 at 04:30:00
Utley1
Audiophile

Posts: 738
Location: NYC
Joined: July 30, 2010
Pianos on our speakers should almost like live piano performances on many cds..The great KLemperer Beethoven Missa Solemnus,on EMI has loads of chorus distortion on my set up. Not with my previous hybrid electrostatic. It is still the best speaker I have ever owned. I hope the Shiit Freya really works to clear that up. Please let me know how it works out as you move along.

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 11, 2017 at 13:31:08
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
As most people know, the Magnepans can be bright, yet I never experienced any brightness until I installed the Freya. Out of about 50 or CDs that I have listened to so far, just 2 had a severe glare. All my music is on my computer, and I used an equalizer to cancel some of the brightness until I'm ready to purchase some tubes that are known to reduce brightness. But be assured that I've listened to enough choral music to say that the distortions are gone! It only took me about 10 years to get to this point. Keep in mind that the Freya comes with a 15-day trial period, so the risk in trying them in your system is minimal.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 11, 2017 at 19:31:27
AbeCollins
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Posts: 28059
Location: USA
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Contributor
  Since:
February 2, 2002

scruffy can you comment on the Freya's midrange and lower? Is it a somewhat robust and rich sounding preamp or more on the neutral to lean side? In other words, do you hear any of that tube magic that we read about especially in the mids?

You mentioned some 'brightness' with the Freya. Is this just good frequency extension up top in the treble or is this sense of 'brightness' possibly due to a lack of richness or robustness in the mids and lower?

Thank you!



 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 12, 2017 at 13:23:29
scruffy_
Audiophile

Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
I'm getting acclimated to the sound so that the tube magic that I heard when I first listened to them seems "normal" to me now. I'm listening to Brahms' Second Symphony as I write this and it's mostly mid-range that's robust and detailed. I can't really comment that much on the lows because that's the Maggies' Achilles heal and I seldom listen to music with that much bass... I just do not have the experience to comment on it much. But in listening to Dave Brubeck's "Time Out" CD, everything appears pretty much in order in respect to the bass guitar and sax, but maybe a little rolled off when it comes to the cymbals (this may be in the recording since it's been 5-10 years since I last listened to it). The brightness that I've been hearing is in CERTAIN female choral and CERTAIN piano passages that I do not think need be in that high of a frequency range, but more of a higher midrange glare. It a little strange because in some recordings these things sound just fine, and I never heard this type of a distinction with my passive amp.

I just ordered some RCA 6SN7GTB getter tubes that should tame the brightness with its warmth, and from what I've been told its "bountiful midrange."

Question: The tubes I just bought to mess around with are not matched. Can I just plug them into the preamp as are without destroying anything?


~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: First impression of the Schiit Freya, posted on January 12, 2017 at 14:40:57
GregS
Audiophile

Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
Hi Scruffy, have you figured out the issue with your unit? I sent an email off to Their support and if you're running balanced in and out the Tube, JFET, Passive switch feature should available. Is this now the case with your unit?

 

I was an idiot!, posted on January 13, 2017 at 01:53:51
scruffy_
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Posts: 1571
Location: Los Angeles
Joined: August 5, 2005
All three modes do work! The problem was just how I read the instruction without actually trying it out! Re-read my edited opening post where I pointed my error out.

I also think that what I have been calling "brightness" is really midrange glare that is present in poor recordings. The odd thing is that I never heard the glare being so pronounced with my old passive preamp.

I've been sitting here enjoying the tube mode instead of listening to the other two modes on the Freya. I now think the tubes that came with the Freya are doing a better job than what I gave them credit for.

The bottom line is that I'm now able to totally enjoy most of my choral music. The glare on certain CDs needs to be tamed using an equalizer in the midrange to enjoy. I'm now kicking myself for ordering the warm RCA tubes which will probably kill the extended highs and color the midrange.



~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Humility is the true mark of genius. Just get used to it."
-Anonymous

 

RE: I was an idiot!, posted on January 13, 2017 at 03:36:24
Greg Cz
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Posts: 74
Joined: March 12, 2001
You are not an idiot. We humble reviewers do the best we can with what we own. The new Schiit preamplifiers are so interesting they should be reviewed by the magazines who have broader access to equipment for comparison.

The Saga requires extended break in. At least 200 hours for initial reactions. I've lost track of the hours on my Saga, but it continues to improve in minor ways with time in use. Perhaps the midrange glare you experienced will diminish with more hours.

The Saga is a revealing preamplifier. If the recording is not the best, it will be a little forgiving and just sound ok. Quality recordings played through the preamplifier become musical audio gems.

 

RE: I was an idiot!, posted on January 13, 2017 at 15:57:43
GregS
Audiophile

Posts: 500
Joined: December 21, 2000
Thank you for clearing that up! See how those RCA tubes sound and don't worry about them not being matched; your pre will not blow up from that. One can never have too many tubes especially of the vintage ilk! It sounds to me like the Freya is leaning towards the leaner side of the Tube spectrum which isn't necessarily a bad thing. My Pre is often criticized as being this way but to me it is very dynamic and transparent. The Freya might be a lateral move for me tone wise and it doesn't have the same functionality of my current Sonic Frontiers Line 2se. I can't find fault with my unit but after 12 years one starts to get the bug. The Freya is relatively inexpensive and with the return policy I will try it out one of these days.

 

RE: I was an idiot!, posted on January 14, 2017 at 06:10:35
Utley1
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Did you have any problem match the amps to Saga? Seems it has much in common with the more expensive Wyred design?

 

Thank you scruffy_, posted on January 14, 2017 at 11:19:04
AbeCollins
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Thanks for further describing what you hear in the Freya. You commented earlier that you were hearing a clicking sound when you adjust the Volume. I believe those are relays that switch discrete resistors in/out of the attenuation path. Some high-end preamps do that including some respected passive units like the Placette Passive. The clicking sound is normal.

When you do get your RCA 6SN7GTB's, the right side tubes on the Freya provide voltage gain so those -should- have more noticeable impact on the preamp's tonal qualities vs the right side. Please keep us posted on what you hear! Thanks.

From the Freya Owner's Manual:
"If you're curious, the right tubes are for the differential voltage gain stage. The left tubes are for the cathode follower output stage. All tubes are of the same type on Freya."



 

RE: I was an idiot!, posted on January 14, 2017 at 12:24:54
Greg Cz
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Worked fine with my Musical Fidelity A 3.2cr amplifier.

As I mentioned in the post above, the Schiit preamps with to their unique price point, features and quality need a review by the audio magazines who have greater access to equipment. I really look forward to their insight into the Freya and Saga.

 

RE: I was an idiot!, posted on January 14, 2017 at 13:59:02
Utley1
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Also do not know he result of mixing balanced out put with unbalanced inputs..It seemed the Freya as I looked at the manual was perfectly capable of running completely unbalanced, like the Saga.. But I am not sure.Usually tube triode preamps weigh a ton....

 

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