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    Schiit Audio Reference System Review Part 2

     

     

    It's five below in evidence.
    The winded eves and sideways snow.
    His eminence has yet to show.

    - Eddie Vedder | Strangest Tribe

     

     

     

    It's literally five below here in Minneapolis. Last night, there was literally sideways snow. Thus, there isn't a more appropriate Pearl Jam song to use for review than Strangest Tribe from the bands' Lost Dogs compilation (Tidal). I'll get into that a bit later. It's time for number two, the Schiit Audio reference system review part two. It feels great to be back in my listening chair after the past several months of burying my head in html and php code working up to the Superphonica launch. My HiFi system feels as important to me now as it has ever felt. Sometimes a break from an item of importance can remind us how much we enjoy that item. It's easy to get complacent or even jaded when one has access to nearly any HiFi component in the world. This break from my system has erased all complacency. 


    Note: If you missed part one, here's a link.

     


    On With the Schiit Show


    This time around I spent extended time with both the Sonus Faber Venere S ($5,000) and Focal Sopra N°1 ($9,000) connected to the Schiit reference system. I wanted to use speakers that are priced a bit higher than the Dynaudio X34 used in part one, and I wanted to test different speaker loads with the system. With respect to price, it's common for HiFi buyers to spend the most money on loudspeakers. Given this fact, I searched for loudspeakers that fit the ohm and sensitivity bill and fit within a reasonable price range to be paired with the Schiit system. 

     

     


    Sonus Faber Venere S



    venere_S_tools.jpgFirst a couple dry details. The Venere S is the Signature, or flagship model of the Venere line of loudspeakers from Sonus Faber. It's a three-way design, manufacturered and assembled by hand at the Arcugnano, Italy factory. The speakers feature drivers designed by Sonus Faber including a 1.1 inch fabric dome tweeter, 6 inch polypropylene textile cone midrange, and three 7 inch aluminum cone woofers. The Venere S covers a frequency range between 40 Hz and 25 kHz, with a 90 dB sensitivity and 4 ohm nominal impedance. Like all Sonus Faber loudspeakers, the finish is what I'd expect from a handmade Italian product. The Venere S comes in black, white, and a wood finish.  


    Back to Pearl Jam, cold weather, Schiit Audio, and the Venere S from Sonus Faber. Using the Schiit Vidar amps in mono configuration requires a balanced connection. This is cool with me because I much prefer the noise rejection of balanced interconnects. Connected to the amps is the Schiit Freya preamp and the Schiit Yggdrasil DAC with the USB Gen 5 and Analog 2 updates. 

     

    Getting warmed up for my listening session I started with my PJ4CA Tidal playlist. A little Pearl Jam is good for the soul. My immediate reaction to the Schiit / Venere S system was wow, these speaker match very well with the electronics. Mush better than my TAD speakers. On Pearl Jam's cover of Victoria Williams' Crazy Mary, I could hear all the garbage in the recording, and the emotion was still present. Through my TADs, the song was a little dead and emotionless. It's kind of crazy when a $4,400 system can make $5,000 speakers sound better than $42,000 TADs. Such is life. 

     

    The one item that was lacking in this reproduction was the last few percent of detail. On some systems this is evident at low volume levels. Not the case with this specific setup. As is typical in HiFi, the price goes up like a hockey stick when one wants that last few percent. For most people, $4,400 for almost everything will suit them just fine.


    What started as a warm up listening session kept going as I couldn't stop enjoying this time relaxing and listening to great sound (with my cat sitting behind my head in my listening chair). A few more Pearl Jam tracks were in order. On Yellow Ledbetter, the hihat had huge space around it. I could visualize the depth in this very rock and roll recording that was likely made without audiophiles in mind. On Dead Man, the bottom end was fantastic. I also felt as if I was in the vocal booth with Eddie Vedder. 

     

    Then came Strangest Tribe and everything gelled together. As soon as I heard Eddie's baritone sing "It's five below in evidence. The winded eves and sideways snow. His eminence has yet to show." I thought it was made to be. The weather here in Minneapolis has been cold and snowy. This song really hit home. Jeff Ament's bass comes into the track at about 1:15 very softly, but provides the foundation for the song. Listening through this system, I heard just enough of the bass, appropriately enough, but I wanted more. The bass-junkie in me wanted more, but more isn't in the song. 

     

    I listened to this track on repeat several times. It has never been one of my frequent-listen favorites, but the closeness and connection I felt when listening through this system made it seductive. I wanted more. 


    On Pearl Jam's Gone, I could tell Matt Cameron was playing Zildjian cymbals as he smashed the crash and tapped the hihat. There was a brash sound to the cymbals as he hit them, no softness allowed here. This system reproduces it as it should be reproduced. It would hurt my parents' ears, this rock and roll music, but I love every bit of it. A less than good system would have smoothed over the cymbals in this track and homogenized the sound. Not so with Schiit and Sonus Faber.


    Pearl Jam's Black is my favorite song of all time. It sounded absolutely delightful through the Schiit / Sonus Faber system. Each instrument had its own space. Within these spaces, each drum and cymbal had its own space. Yet, when listened to as a whole, the sound was one. It wasn't not a bunch of pieces of a puzzle sitting with inches between their edges. Black sounded like the song that first sent me into a Pearl Jam binge as a sophomore in high school. The song is the same, but the sound is much better than the stock Delco radio in my 1990 Chevrolet Beretta. The whole is much greater than the sum of the parts as it transported me back in time, and to each concert where the crowd joins-in to sing da da do do dodo do (Pearl Jam fans will instantly know what I'm writing about and hopefully feel the vibe as well). On this version of Black, the original, Rick Parashar playing the "da da do do dodo do" on a Fender Rhodes piano is likely the most unmistakable part of the track as it comes to an end. Listening, I can picture each tap of Rick's finger as he plays the simple yet perfect backing piano. 

     

    Isn't this what a great HiFi system is supposed to do? At least give us a chance to visualize an event, be taken back in time, or be transported into the recording studio (in this case London Bridge Studios in Seattle, Washington). Schiit and Sonus Faber have done it well.

     

    Elvis Costello's North (Tidal | HDtracks)album is a favorite of mine that I hadn't listened to in a long time. I've always loved the sound of the vocal on You Turned to Me. Through the Schiit / Sonus Faber system the foundational piano sounds gorgeous, just as Costello's deep and smooth vocal puts the listener at ease. Elvis will never win a vocal contest, but that's beside the point. His so-so vocal ability sounds fantastic. It's about the performance and how much of the performance a HiFi system lets through or conveys. The piano at end of this track has terrific decay. Hearing this is what's beautiful about a great HiFi system. At a live show, the crowd would be clapping already, right over the top of the piano decay. At home, I played this a few times only because it's beautiful. That's the power of a great system. 

     

    I could listen to this track, this entire album, on this system, all day long. In fact, my fondness for Elvis Costello has been brought back to life because of this album, on this Schiit / Sonus Faber system.

     

     

     


    The Focal Sopra N°1


    Note: I Had to switch speaker cables from the Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 to a pair from little-known 512 Engineering in Northern California. The switch was required to get rid of a loud hum through the loudspeakers. These amps are a bit more finicky than other amps I've had in my system, namely the Constellation Audio Inspiration series and Pass Labs XA160.5. I haven't had to switch speaker cables to remove a loud hum prior to using the Vidar amps. 



    home-audio-enceintes-haute-fidelite-sopra-enceintes-bibliotheques-sopra-n-1.jpgFirst some dry detail about the Focal Sopra N°1. Focal calls this a two-way bass-reflex high-end bookshelf loudspeaker. My only complaint, not really aimed at Focal, is that we need to stop calling these types of speakers bookshelf speakers. Nobody has a bookshelf large enough for them and a bookshelf would be a terrible place to set them. Compact is the category, OK people? Anyway, Focal has pasted all the patented and trademarked technologies all over the Sopra N°1, like only Focal can do. Focal makes everything and has invented so much speaker technology it's crazy. Most other manufacturers would just be called assemblers. Especially when they put Focal drivers into their speakers. 

     

    The Sopra N°1 features a 6.5 inch midrange driver and a 1 inch beryllium inverted dome tweeter. At +/- 3dB these speakers cover from 45 Hz to 40 kHz, with a nominal impedance of 8 ohms and a sensitivity of 89 dB. Like most Focal speakers, they come in an array of cool colors including Carrara White, Black Lacquer, Imperial Red, Electric Orange, Graphite Black, and Dogato Walnut.


    The Sopra N°1 were the best match for the Schiit reference system when compared the Dynaudio X34, Sonus Faber Venere S, and my TAD CR1 Compact Reference loudspeakers. Perhaps it's the combination of the Sopra's 8 ohm nominal impedance and 89 dB sensitivity that makes them the best match. Plus, at $9,000 they have to sound better than the Venere S and X34 or Focal would be laughed out of the user forums everywhere. Anyway, let's get to listening.

     

    The opening of Elvis Costello's track Could You Be True from the North Album, sounds incredibly rich and textured through the Focal Sopra N°1 loudspeakers and the Schiit reference system. The strings, with layers of lows, mids, and highs, sound better in this setup than anything I heard through the other loudspeakers. Similar to the piano in other Costello songs on this album, the strings have wonderful decay that seems to last forever. This can be heard fairly well at medium to high volume levels. The decay just isn't there at low levels, as it is when I use the same loudspeakers combined with the Constellation Audio Inspiration electronics. In other words, it's not he speaker's fault.

     

    Listening to Joni Mitchell's album Hits (Tidal), on the track Woodstock the fuzzy and eerie "tremoloed" Wurlitzer electric piano comes through this system in what I'd call the antithesis of a crisp Steely Dan recording. This song has life, it has warts, and it brings out emotion. The Schiit reference system and the Focal Sopra speakers convey every bit of this beautiful ugliness. Joni's vocal through this system has a refinement that isn't matched on the Sonus Faber or Dynaudio speakers. Perhaps it's my fondness for beryllium tweeters or just that this system is much better. 

     

    A more audiophile type of recording and one that got me started with Classical music is Reference Recordings' Bolero! Orchestral Fireworks (Tidal | RR). Track one, Colas Breugnon: Overture is both fantastic sounding and a fantastic piece of music. This track has a dynamic range score of 21, yes 21! By playing this track I can hear both the limitations of the Schiit electronics and the limitations of the Focal loudspeakers. The easy one is the Sopra loudspeakers. These are compact stand-mounted speakers that reach down to 45Hz (-3dB), so they just can't reproduce a full orchestra. It's physics and I don't think anyone at Focal would tell me differently. That's why Focal produces the larger Sopras and Utopias. When playing frequencies within its wheelhouse, the Sopra N°1 is a fantastic loudspeaker. 

     

    The Schiit system, while really good with many types of music, may struggle just a touch with something like Bolero from Reference Recordings. This album has fine details to be heard at the lowest and the loudest of volume levels. Soft and tiny little bells, followed by huge crescendos, followed by the texture of a string section laying the groundwork for an elegant flute passage. For the most part this all sounded really good and more than satisfying. Because I'm a knuckle dragging audiophile I have to take everything to the limit and attempt to compare the Schiit reference with other high level components on the market. It would also be a disservice to suggest the best in the business can be had at Schiit prices, when it's my belief this isn't the case. 

     

    Compared to the Constellation Audio Inspiration system that is my everyday reference, the Schiit reference system doesn't have the last few percent of detail, low level resolution, and seemingly endless punch and power. The Schiit system reproduced Colas Breugnon: Overture with detail, delicacy, and the grandiosity it deserved. Enough so as to please all but the most discerning or "diseased" listeners. 

     

    Switching gears just a bit, I listened to the Steve Hoffman Audio Fidelity 2016 remaster of Rage Against the Machine's self-titled debut album (Amazon). What a fantastic album, made to sound as good as I've ever heard it. Through the Schiit / Focal combo tracks such as Killing in the Name and Freedom were powerful yet controlled. On Killing in the Name, this system reproduced everything from the hard-hitting deep bass line to the delicate but powerful crash and hihat cymbals and exhaustion inducing drum performance. Even toward the end while the musicians are making serious noise, the tap of the hihat can clearly and easily be heard through the Sopras. The crunch of Tom Morello's lead guitar throughout the track is wonderfully abrasive and nicely conveys what Rage is all about. Playing Rage Against the Machine will max-out the capabilities of the Sopra N°1 loudspeakers long before the capabilities of the Schiit system are maxed-out. Again, it's just physics. Rage is meant to be played loud and on full range loudspeakers. 


    The overall tone and sound presented through the Focal Spora N°1 speakers is that of a pretty refined system. Refined was the first word that came to mind after I tapped play on my iPad Pro for the first time. What does refined mean? That's a tough one to convey. The sound through this system is varsity level, while the other speakers are on the junior varsity team. Instruments have better tone, the soundstage seems to be more appropriately contained, and most importantly I can hear more detail through the Focal speakers. Keep in mind that without three speakers in one's listening room, it's very likely the sound of any speaker I've used would be more than satisfying. It's the Focal Sopras that really enable the Schiit reference system to show what it's made of, both good and bad. 

     

    If I had to pick the Schiit system apart, I'd say the preamp is the weakest point, followed by the finicky-ness of the amps. With the right match of cables and speakers the amps are absolutely terrific, but one must understand there may be issues. Buying a $699 Vidar to pair with your $10,000 speaker cables, may cause one to toss the speaker cables if they don't pair well with the Vidars. Some audiophiles aren't comfortable with that scenario, while others would be happy to sell the cables for something that fits with the system. No judgement, just facts of audiophile life. 

     

    The Freya preamp is good, but it doesn't set the audio world on fire. I definitely have no problem recommending the Freya to people looking for low price and high performance. The Freya is a great preamp to start with because one may not have to spend any more money if he/she is satisfied. I always tell people to start with the least expensive component they're comfortable with, then work to the more expensive stuff. The Freya makes sense in so many situations. I've talked to a few Freya owners who've used different vacuum tubes with the preamp and had great results. During this review period I wanted to use the Freya how I believe most people will use it, and that's in its stock configuration. 

     

    Lastly, based on my conversations with people in the industry, unrelated to the Freya specifically, I've gleaned that the best preamps aren't easy to design and manufacture inexpensively. I think Schiit did a great job with the Freya, but I'm also being honest by mentioning what items I like least about the Schiit reference system.

     

     


    Wrap Up

     

    This has been a really great experience reviewing the Schiit reference system. It's really crazy just how much sound quality and build quality one can get for $4,400 or less. I'm very happy I brought in Dynaudio, Sonus Faber, and Focal loudspeakers to supplement my TAD CR1s. Each of the speakers I brought in work great with the Schiit system. Selecting the right pair is a matter of taste, budget, appearance, availability, and cohesion with the rest of the system. I don't recommend using TAD Compact Reference with the Schiit Vidar amps. I just wasn't thrilled by the sound.

     

    Now that I've spent serious time with the best Schiit has to offer, I am extremely comfortable recommending Schiit Audio to my friends, family, and other audio enthusiasts. One can spend all the time in the world looking at the specs, reading the manufacturers blurbs, and reading what others have to say in the forum, but without actually getting the stuff in one's system it's very hard to make a solid decision. Come to think of it, the Schiit reference system may be my default, go-to, recommendation for all the people that ask, what should I get? The price is low, the quality is high, and they may never need to purchase anything more expensive. Good Schiit indeed.

     

     

     

     


    Products in this review:


    Schiit Audio

     

    Loudspeakers:

     

     

     

     

     

    Associated Music:

     

     

     

     

    Associated Equipment:

     

     

     


    User Feedback




    glad it's warmed up to five below - I hope that isn't near the hatching temperature for black flies tho...

     

    Does the Venere series have that weight on a rope suspension thing that Sonus Faber uses on some speakers?

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    It's been frozen down in Houston.  People who grew up here say it's the coldest winter since 1973.  I love Schiit's philosophy on the DAC.  Just play PCM up to 192.  

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    Quote

    is that we need to stop calling these types of speakers bookshelf speakers.

     

    That's why lots of makers call them "stand mount" speakers nowadays....

     

    I own a Freya as part of my "secondary" system, but I've heard it in some pretty good primary systems. No, it isn't as good as some $5-$10K

    preamps. But it is as good  as  many $2-3K ones, and I think that's what counts at it's price point.  It's a true audiophile component, IMO. I prefer the JFET mode, and think you can hear more subtlety and detail in that mode as compared to the passive or tube modes, because of the cleaner sound in JFET (as opposed to tube) and the fact that it "drives" the system better than passive mode. 

     

    The Freya is a great starter piece, and to really better it, you have to get seriously into the high end. For many people and systems it would be all you would need and spending more probably wouldn't get you a lot. 

     

    The "Schiit Reference"  system  sounds like a bargain in the audio world that gets you a good piece of the high end without putting yourself at the far tail of the curve of diminishing returns on the dollar. 

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    Devestating review. The Vidar can't drive the TADs requiring the use of easier speakers...and the apparently unsuccessful hunt for a great pairing that could approach the reference high end system. Beneath the grudging admission of lower resolution and love of engagement / musical wholeness lays the unspoken criticism of soundstage, imaging and dynamic force.

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    I don't recall him saying the amps wouldn't drive the TADs.  What he said was "I don't recommend using TAD Compact Reference with the Schiit Vidar amps. I just wasn't thrilled by the sound."

     

    Nice informative review.

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    If your speakers are efficient enough, a single Vidar paired with Schiit's Saga preamp can be very satisfying for a very low expenditure.

     

    Not to mention that Saga needs only one 6SN7. Much cheaper to roll tubes. (I really can't imagine most folks being satisfied with the stock tubes for long.)

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    8 hours ago, firedog said:

     

    That's why lots of makers call them "stand mount" speakers nowadays....

     

    I own a Freya as part of my "secondary" system, but I've heard it in some pretty good primary systems. No, it isn't as good as some $5-$10K

    preamps. But it is as good  as  many $2-3K ones, and I think that's what counts at it's price point.  It's a true audiophile component, IMO. I prefer the JFET mode, and think you can hear more subtlety and detail in that mode as compared to the passive or tube modes, because of the cleaner sound in JFET (as opposed to tube) and the fact that it "drives" the system better than passive mode. 

     

    The Freya is a great starter piece, and to really better it, you have to get seriously into the high end. For many people and systems it would be all you would need and spending more probably wouldn't get you a lot. 

     

    The "Schiit Reference"  system  sounds like a bargain in the audio world that gets you a good piece of the high end without putting yourself at the far tail of the curve of diminishing returns on the dollar. 

     

    Right on @firedog and thanks for the added information about your preferences as well. The Freya is really good. I hated to mention a point of this system that could be holding it back or that is a weak point, but I believe it's a necessary evil. I know people will read into this much more than we can imagine, but my words were selected carefully, meaning that I was accurate in my description not that I was dancing around anything. 

     

    This system could be the best bargain in HiFi. If someone can go down to a single Vidar and a Gungnir or Bifrost DAC, this system gets int he price range of mid and low fi, but performs at a HiFi level. 

     

    Thanks again for the comments.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    2 hours ago, GUTB said:

    Devestating review. The Vidar can't drive the TADs requiring the use of easier speakers...and the apparently unsuccessful hunt for a great pairing that could approach the reference high end system. Beneath the grudging admission of lower resolution and love of engagement / musical wholeness lays the unspoken criticism of soundstage, imaging and dynamic force.

     

    The Vidars aren't spec'd to drive the TADs.

     

    You are reading way way way more into my words than I could ever imagine. I don't dance around anything. I say it like it is. 

     

    I have zero criticisms about soundstage, imaging, and dynamic force.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    1 hour ago, jimx1169 said:

    I don't recall him saying the amps wouldn't drive the TADs.  What he said was "I don't recommend using TAD Compact Reference with the Schiit Vidar amps. I just wasn't thrilled by the sound."

     

    Nice informative review.

     

    Exactly @jimx1169

     

     

     

     

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    4 hours ago, mourip said:

     

     

    They did. Last October.

     

    I just wish they could use the USB port with a small app to let end users update their own firmware. Many, many companies do this. That would have dropped the upgrade price a quite a bit and saved the large shipping costs.

     

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    You’re suggesting the Schiit reference system with the Veneres and Sopras is close to or almost to the level of your Constelation + TADs? That’s what this review seems to be suggesting.

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    I understand your rationale for using the stock tubes that come with the Freya.  But they hold the preamp back.  You need to get some good NOS tubes in the Freya to hear it's true performance.  I put the stock tubes away permanently.

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    1 hour ago, GUTB said:

    You’re suggesting the Schiit reference system with the Veneres and Sopras is close to or almost to the level of your Constelation + TADs? That’s what this review seems to be suggesting.

     

    I don't suggest anything in my reviews. I say what I mean. Stop reading into everything.

     

     

     

    53 minutes ago, Ralf11 said:

    I'd like to hear your thoughts on Schiit not doing DSD and similar HiRes...

     

    also, a Vidar Benchmark shootout... on Maggies...

     

    I don't really care if manufacturers do DSD, DXD, MQA, ETC...

     

    I have many versions of my favorite albums and I can convert from any format to any other format to make do when necessary.

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    I haven't seen apeaker cables causing problems with amps for a long while, now, a resurface.

     

    "

    The Focal Sopra N°1


    Note: I Had to switch speaker cables from the Wire World Platinum Eclipse 7 to a pair from little-known 512 Engineering in Northern California. The switch was required to get rid of a loud hum through the loudspeakers. These amps are a bit more finicky than other amps I've had in my system, namely the Constellation Audio Inspiration series and Pass Labs XA160.5. I haven't had to switch speaker cables to remove a loud hum prior to using the Vidar amps. "

     

    Chris, can you elaborate on the loud hum, you heard, any guess on what frequency?

     

    In trying to understand why the instability occurred, here's a picture of the Wireworld and the 512 Engineering (a guess here since there's no direct catalogue structure as such).

    image.thumb.png.055ea5a70da3e54dfa61017c7d17365e.png                        image.thumb.png.b0856f566fd61d320bcad5eb9eca80fd.png  

     

    The speaker cable from 512 Engineering is your classic Litz construction, low capacitance, low resistance, compared with the Wireworld at high(er) capacitance, since each conductor has a layer of insulation between. I don't think the Wireworld could pick up any hum by induction since it's twisted, so maybe the 'right' length reacted with the Schiit amp adversely. This usually happens when the source impedance is unstable, or is 'weak'.

     

    512 Engineering produce symmetrical (balanced) transformers, good to find another source, other than that hopeless lot in Oregon. 

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    On 1/19/2018 at 6:42 AM, GUTB said:

    Devestating review. The Vidar can't drive the TADs requiring the use of easier speakers...and the apparently unsuccessful hunt for a great pairing that could approach the reference high end system. Beneath the grudging admission of lower resolution and love of engagement / musical wholeness lays the unspoken criticism of soundstage, imaging and dynamic force.

    What is the point of your comment?  Who in their right mind would choose these amps to drive $42K speakers?  

    I doubt anyone expects this budget system to provide SOTA performance, just good musical enjoyment.

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    20 hours ago, GUTB said:

    You’re suggesting the Schiit reference system with the Veneres and Sopras is close to or almost to the level of your Constelation + TADs? That’s what this review seems to be suggesting.

    No, it does not...  Maybe you should actually read the review and not "read into" it.

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    1 hour ago, barrows said:

    No, it does not...  Maybe you should actually read the review and not "read into" it.

     

    Schiit's marketing blurb on their site says:

     

    "Okay. Let’s blow up this high-end nonsense. Here’s your ultra-high-end amplifier, without the ultra-high-end price. Welcome to the revolution."

     

    Strangely this ultra-high-end amp can't handle the TAD CR1s, one of the best standmounts regardless of price.

     

    What's not said about the sound of the Schiit system is just as interesting as what is said. For example browse What Hifi reviews -- lower-price gear reviews never have anything to say about soundstage and imaging, but high-price gear does have something to say about this areas without fail. Essentially, pro reviewers don't rate gear on an even playing field presumably so that they can always publish positive reviews.

     

    This is a very positive review. The humming issue is well know and the review doesn't ignore that but does gloss over the severity of the issue as most users won't have access to what appears to be very expensive boutique cables with a limited distribution.

     

    Constellation + TADs would have very strong soundstage and imaging performance. Sopras are no slouch either. But the review has nothing to say about these areas except for the air/space dynamic. Dyanmic performance is also a key metric that goes undiscussed.

     

    As far being an ultra-high-end amp, everyone already knows that's not true, and this review does admit that much but indirectly and with the apparent intent to minimize the difference.

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    21 hours ago, The Computer Audiophile said:

     

    I don't really care if manufacturers do DSD, DXD, MQA, ETC...

     

    I have many versions of my favorite albums and I can convert from any format to any other format to make do when necessary.

     

     

    Do you own SACDs?  If so, how do you convert them to a PCM format?

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    Good review. The ring of truth comes in how you looked at the performance as a system. In any technology, a system isn't just the sum of its parts, it's some kind of function. I've heard really inexpensive systems - inexpensive end to end - that sounded better than some poorly thought through (or poorly matched) really expensive systems.

     

    I've experienced this "systems" issue myself. I've got a set of Gradient Revolution speakers that blows away every one who hears them. Then my Krell integrated died, and I got an Anthem integrated, similarly rated on power and other characteristics to the old Krell, to hold me over. I was SO disappointed in the sound. Flat, lifeless. Was it the Anthem integrated? I tried it with other speakers... it sounded wonderful with the other three sets of speakers I tried it with - two much cheaper than the Gradients, one significantly more expensive. I ended up moving a Peachtree integrated to the room with the Gradients. It's so much less expensive than the Krell, lower power than you'd usually match up with them, but I think it sounds way better. BTW, that Peachtree integrated was unimpressive with two other sets of speakers.

     

    I've also experienced cable differences. The GoldenEar Reference in my AV system hated my ultra-high end cables that had been in that system for a long time, but have a love fest with some middling ones. Those ultra high end got transferred to the Peachtree Gradient system, and have found a home. For some reason, they match beautifully, and raised the whole system. 

     

    So the speaker differences, cable differences? If you had found all the swaps to be linear in performance based simply on price and individual component performance, I'd have been skeptical.

     

    I can't explain all of it. But I sure can hear it. 

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    On 1/19/2018 at 7:42 AM, GUTB said:

    Devestating review. 

     

    Later you state "This is a very positive review."  Which is it?  Devastating or positive?

     

    You again state "Strangely this ultra-high-end amp can't handle the TAD CR1s"  Again, nowhere in the review does it say the Vidar's can't handle the load.  Set up as mono-blocks in the review the Vidars should provide 400W into an 8 ohm load and even more into a 4 ohm load.  TADs are on the lower end of the sensitivity rating (from the TAD website "Sensitivity: 86dB (2.83V @ 1m free space)) but the Vidars CAN handle the load as specified on the TAD website.  The reviewer merely stated that he didn't prefer the combo. 

     

    However, I AM a little perplexed that the reviewer's remarks in the comment section state "The Vidars aren't spec'd to drive the TADs" when I believe the specs on Shiit's website would suggest otherwise.  Mr. Reviewer, care to explain?

     

    Schiit's mantra is to provide high quality gear at affordable prices.  Most of us expect their gear to "punch above their weight" and to provide a high level of value to the consumer.  The fact that the reviewer didn't prefer the sound of the TAD speakers with the Schiit system doesn't diminish the fact that the Vidar is an amp that competes with amps that are ultra-high-end.  Every magazine that reviews amps/speakers has come to the conclusion that some amps pair better with some speakers and not others.  This review is no different.

     

    I suspect that you have an axe to grind with Schiit or maybe you're an audio elitist that turns your nose up at anything other than gear that is the best of the best.  I suspect you've spent some money on some gear that makes you happy.  I respectfully suggest that you take a few hours enjoying your gear.

     

    The review ends with: "Come to think of it, the Schiit reference system may be my default, go-to, recommendation for all the people that ask, what should I get? The price is low, the quality is high, and they may never need to purchase anything more expensive."  Devastating?  Hardly.

     

    As an aside, audio enthusiasts/audiophiles are an odd bunch that can be hard to please.  On the one hand, if gear they like is compared to much higher priced gear and ends up in second place they state "the reviewer should compare to similarly priced gear."  If, on the other hand, their gear is compared to lower priced gear and comes out ahead they shout "The reviewer should have compared it to some higher priced gear!!"  Lose-lose for the reviewer.

     

     

     

     

     

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    26 minutes ago, jimx1169 said:

     

    Later you state "This is a very positive review."  Which is it?  Devastating or positive?

     

    You again state "Strangely this ultra-high-end amp can't handle the TAD CR1s"  Again, nowhere in the review does it say the Vidar's can't handle the load.  Set up as mono-blocks in the review the Vidars should provide 400W into an 8 ohm load and even more into a 4 ohm load.  TADs are on the lower end of the sensitivity rating (from the TAD website "Sensitivity: 86dB (2.83V @ 1m free space)) but the Vidars CAN handle the load as specified on the TAD website.  The reviewer merely stated that he didn't prefer the combo. 

     

    However, I AM a little perplexed that the reviewer's remarks in the comment section state "The Vidars aren't spec'd to drive the TADs" when I believe the specs on Shiit's website would suggest otherwise.  Mr. Reviewer, care to explain?

     

    Schiit's mantra is to provide high quality gear at affordable prices.  Most of us expect their gear to "punch above their weight" and to provide a high level of value to the consumer.  The fact that the reviewer didn't prefer the sound of the TAD speakers with the Schiit system doesn't diminish the fact that the Vidar is an amp that competes with amps that are ultra-high-end.  Every magazine that reviews amps/speakers has come to the conclusion that some amps pair better with some speakers and not others.  This review is no different.

     

    I suspect that you have an axe to grind with Schiit or maybe you're an audio elitist that turns your nose up at anything other than gear that is the best of the best.  I suspect you've spent some money on some gear that makes you happy.  I respectfully suggest that you take a few hours enjoying your gear.

     

    The review ends with: "Come to think of it, the Schiit reference system may be my default, go-to, recommendation for all the people that ask, what should I get? The price is low, the quality is high, and they may never need to purchase anything more expensive."  Devastating?  Hardly.

     

    As an aside, audio enthusiasts/audiophiles are an odd bunch that can be hard to please.  On the one hand, if gear they like is compared to much higher priced gear and ends up in second place they state "the reviewer should compare to similarly priced gear."  If, on the other hand, their gear is compared to lower priced gear and comes out ahead they shout "The reviewer should have compared it to some higher priced gear!!"  Lose-lose for the reviewer.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Devastating when reading into what isn’t said about it. Very positive if taken at face value. 

     

    The TAD CR1s are amongst the best standmounts in the world. They weigh 100 lbs and are considered a value in the world of high-end speakers at $40k. A linear A/B power doubling dual mono amp should drive the CR1s just fine — except if the amp just can’t handle the phase swings / instant current / impedance peaks / etc of a high-end, high-performance loudspeaker. Looks like the review relied on finding a high-performance speaker match which was found with the Sopras. Of course, the vast majority of people interested in the Vidar would never consider $9k speakers. Actually, they sounded great at AXPONA paired with the lowly Salk Song3 Towers, which would probably the budget limit of most Vidar buyers.

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    23 hours ago, JSeymour said:

    I understand your rationale for using the stock tubes that come with the Freya.  But they hold the preamp back.  You need to get some good NOS tubes in the Freya to hear it's true performance.  I put the stock tubes away permanently.

    I'd agree entirely.

     

    The OEM Sovteks that came with mine can be heard to crackle and pop - they sure didn't do much for my face's smile muscles. They've been retired in favour of current generation TungSols, as a low cost starting point. Over time, I'll consider NOS options.

     

    I can understand why Chris kept the tubes stock. It's another area where you'll get widely varying opinion, rock and a hard place stuff.

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    47 minutes ago, GUTB said:

     

    except if the amp just can’t handle the phase swings / instant current / impedance peaks / etc of a high-end, high-performance loudspeaker. 

    Where, exactly, are you getting your information to make that comment?  Certainly nothing which was mentioned in this review.  And you are commenting on this review are you not?

     

    "Devastating when reading into what isn’t said about it."  Do you often put more stock into what isn't said vs. what is said?  If so then I doubt any reviewer could meet your standard.

     

    I'd like to add that the fact that the reviewer didn't like the sound of the TAD/Schiit combo is not disparaging towards Schiit or TAD.  It is merely a statement that he doesn't like the combo.  He obviously likes the TAD speakers and he obviously likes the Schiit equipment.  Do the two have to be mutually exclusive?

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