Passive Schiit shootout: Saga vs. Freya vs. SYS

Discussion in 'Preamps' started by rlow, Mar 21, 2019.

  1. Argopo

    Argopo Acquaintance

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    Yes. Passive for a long time now.

    Sources:
    Marantz SACD player (Single-Ended out to Freya, or SPDIF out to Yggdrasil)
    T+A Dac8 DSD (Balanced out to Freya)
    Yggdrasil (Balanced out to Freya)

    Amplifiers:
    DIY M3 Balanced Headphone Amp (Balanced in from Freya)
    DIY Single-Ended Tube Amplifier (2A3 or 300B) (Single-Ended in from Freya)

    Speakers:
    Klipsch Heresy IIIs

    Headphones:
    HD800
    LCD-X
    HD600
    HD650
    AKG501

    With my speakers in my listening space (treated with GIK acoustic panels) I get a spacious soundstage that goes around the speakers, nice extension hi/low, detail, good imaging.

    It doesn't sound dark, soft or congested.

    Soundstage depth is problematic in my space because the speakers are only about 1-2ft from the front wall, and I have a television setup in between. Front wall to back wall is only 12ft. So, I can't blame the Freya for that.

    Also, changing output tubes in my tube amplifier does make a noticeable difference in presentation.

    But, I'm willing to try the SYS in my setup.
     
  2. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    I don't think anyone here is looking for a gain stage. That would seem to be contrary to the whole idea of a very simple passive as possible device. Balanced connections should have enough gain for most purposes I would think. If you need SE and gain that kind of defeats the purpose IMHO. As others have said, something to put between my balanced DAC and my Vidar(s) and be absolutely as transparent as possible.

    The remote adds complexity no doubt. I could live without it, but I expect most people would want it. I'm sure the added price would hardly be a deal breaker for anyone looking for something like this.

    And one set of XLRs in and out should be fine for most people. Can switch digital sources on the DAC anyway. How many balanced sources does the typical person feed their amp(s) (I'm actually curious to know)?
     
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  3. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Cool will be interested in what you think of it in comparison to Freya. You’re running a low-powered SET(?) tube amp into some high efficiency, horn loaded, floor sitting (I assume) speakers - pretty much the opposite of what I’m running after my preamps. I do have a couple of other pairs of speakers that I will have to test out with the setup - but I assume I will hear similar results since they’re still all going through Vidar, and they’re both still relatively low efficiency monitors like the Grahams (although the Grahams have a huge soundstage and image way better than the other two).
     
  4. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    A gain stage doesn't necessarily mean an 'active' stage.
     
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  5. winders

    winders Compensating for micropenis

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    My understanding is an active preamp allows you to amplify line level voltages above unity gain. Based on that, how can you have a gain in a preamp without it being active?
     
    Last edited: Mar 22, 2019
  6. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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  7. BeyerMonster

    BeyerMonster Rando

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    This result is somewhat surprising to me. What you're basically saying is that a single off-the-shelf pot sounds better to you than the stepped attenuators in the Saga and the Freya. Is there anything else different in this comparison?

    Historically, one of my favorite upgrades in terms of performance (not price) was a Placette Passive Line Stage. I figured most of the VIshay Resistor worship was besides the point, but it compared favorably to some other stuff like an Audio Research LS2 and I always thought a good chunk of it came from the exactness of the stepped attenuator.
     
  8. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    As I said in my post, it was surprising to me as well. Maybe the pot in SYS is more transparent, at the attenuation level I need, than the stepper they’re using? Or maybe it’s the simple circuit design, short signal paths, etc? Maybe it’s the impedance matching? Dunno.

    One thing I have discovered recently, now that I have monoblock Vidars, is that Freya passive mode using balanced outs seems to be much better than using the SE outs. I don’t know if this comes down to the balanced connection itself, running monoblocks, or whether the summing circuit in Freya going from balanced to SE is just not very transparent, but there’s a pretty significant difference going SE out vs. balanced out from Freya. Balanced out in passive mode with dual Vidars now sounds quite similar to going SE in/out from SYS to a single Vidar. A lot of the issues I described going into a single Vidar from Freya’s SE outs are no longer an issue using balanced.

    I still have yet to measure the input and output impedances - will do that when I have a chance.

    @Argopo did you end up getting/trying one?
     
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  9. BeyerMonster

    BeyerMonster Rando

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    @rlow it's a very interesting discovery for sure and one that I'm glad you took the time to share!
     
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  10. leafy

    leafy Rando

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    Does one still turn on the power when operating Saga or Freya in passive mode? Or, are they operable when not turned on? How does powerless passive compare to SYS then?
     
  11. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    They're both powered units - they need to be turned on to work even in passive.
     
  12. Ash1412

    Ash1412 Friend

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    I'm thinking they need power to switch relays for remote volume control. It'd be nice if there was a mode where the tubes didn't get activated if one just wanted passive though.

    EDIT: Just had a thought. How would the active Freya tube stage gain work with mono Aegirs? Would that gain boost help out with inefficient speakers? Calling on @purr1n for help.
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  13. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yes it would. Check the Aegir thread. Even Jason has suggested this I believe. The extra gain from Freya tube mode would be useful for speakers in the mid-to-high 80s for sensitivity - likely on the higher end of that since most manufacturers overrate their sensitivity. Also of course it depends how far you sit from your speakers and how loud you like to play them, and whether you use balanced or SE sources (balanced adding 6dB of gain). Otherwise you could run out of volume knob in passive/JFET mode, since Aegir’s gain is only 22db (vs Vidar’s 27).
     
    Last edited: May 9, 2019
  14. Don Quichotte

    Don Quichotte Rando

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    But isn't the Vidar supposed,to sound better when used as a mono amplifier, just like the Aegir reportedly does? Because if this is the case, then the passive balanced Freya is still worse than the single ended Sys as it decreases the sound quality of the mono, balanced Vidars to that of the stereo, unbalanced Vidar. Am I missing something?

    Maybe I'm missing the different interconnect cables used (at least the connectors are obviously different)... Have you used a similar cable in the two situations?
     
  15. Boops

    Boops Friend

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    Mono Vidar/Aegir requires a true balanced preamp, so you have to use Freya. Not possible to use SYS or Saga, which are single-ended. This is why there was talk up above about a balanced version of SYS that would make the monoblock configs possible.
     
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  16. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yeah I think Freya passive might be limiting the monoblock benefits TBH. I need to do more listening, but I assumed the difference would be immediate. But it’s not. SE out of Freya into a single vidar, vs balanced monos, the difference was immediate. But Sys going into 1 Vidar, vs the balanced monos, not so much. I need to do more listening with more tracks to make sure, but that’s what I found based on some limited listening time.

    My cables are different between XLR and SE - XLR are Kimber Hero, SE are Wireworld Oasis 7. If you to go by price, the XLRs should be better, but we’re not talking something crazy like a $5 cable vs $500 or something, if you believe that can make a big diff. The differences between these shouldn’t be that much.

    I may try to pickup a Goldpoint balanced volume control just to see the potential of the monoblocks, and to see if Freya is significantly limiting what they can sound like. Or maybe my particular usecase just doesn’t benefit from the monos - I probably don’t use more than 10 or 20 watts max even at peak volume. My speakers are inefficient, but they are small, 8ohm, and I only sit about 8 feet from them in a relatively small room.
     
    Last edited: May 10, 2019
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  17. Hooncake

    Hooncake Mid-Fi Purgatory Redemption

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    I read somewhere Vidar mono not necessarily better than Vidar stereo, possible even worse. Correct me if I'm wrong
     
  18. treboR

    treboR Almost "Made"

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    Are you referring to a post about the Vidar in stereo being louder than mono? Apparently the following setup was experimented with again and got the near ~6db gain as you'd expect in monoblock:

    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.o...view-check-first-post.4730/page-6#post-151900
     
  19. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Yeah I’m not sure how monoblocks could sound worse than a single stereo amp, unless you’re talking about the issues winders had with too much gain due to Freya tube mode gain plus the additional gain from balanced causing noise issues. This is probably related to the reason why Schiit lowered the gain in tube mode on the newer Freyas (mine is the old version with a crazy shitload of gain in tube mode).

    At any rate, I did some more listening yesterday and today to Freya in passive mode driving monoblock Vidars, and then comparing SYS running a single Vidar.

    The best word I can use to describe the difference is that Freya is simply more “veiled”. Everything gets a bit softer and more indistinct. Transients and slam is lowered, voices sound a bit more recessed and in some cases slightly muffled. Now this is nothing compared to Freya passive going SE out to a single Vidar, but to a lesser degree, the issue is still there.

    What the balanced monoblocks from Freya do bring is a wider/larger soundstage, but compared to SYS there’s a loss of bite and impact and separation between instruments, as well as a loss of timbre compared to SYS into a single Vidar. I’m enjoying SYS more with a single Vidar than I am using Freya in passive mode into monoblocks right now.

    So the moral of the story is, for my system:

    SYS + 1 Vidar > Freya passive + 2 Vidar

    Kinda screwy eh?

    Freya with great tubes though is still better into the monoblocks IMO. Unfortunately my good tubes are toast right now, so I’m on the hunt.

    Now like I said, my Freya is one of the older/original ones - perhaps running changes have improved things, who knows. But for now I need to either find new tubes, or find a more transparent balanced volume control/preamp for the Vidar monoblocks.
     
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  20. Kernel Kurtz

    Kernel Kurtz Friend

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    I've been toying with the idea of getting a Goldpoint. Hard to justify $500 USD though.
     
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