Schiit Folkvangr Review - Measures like shit, but sounds GRRREAT

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Jun 30, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    I really wasn't planning on covering the Folkvangr - too much Schiit ya know - giving you guys an opportunity to say something first. However, due to popular request, I guess I will go ahead. A few months ago, I heard a late prototype, maybe one album (Pixies - Surfer Rosa), before Jason took off (with the prototype) to California. I was impressed enough, offered a few tidbits on how it sounds in another thread, but really didn't want to say more until I got some more personal time with it. I really don't have much to add. My initial impressions with the prototype have not changed.

    DSCF0227 (Large).JPG
    Folkvangr stacks neatly over the Gungnir (A2). ZMF Atrium pictured above.

    I especially loved Grados (the new X models with the F-cush pads) with the Folkvangr. There's some special synergy going on there because most Grados with their efficiency (they really don't need a dedicated amp) sound worse via most amps. I suspect drier sounding headphones such as HD800 would do excellently as well. One would almost be tempted to say that the Folkvangr works best with bright headphones, but this isn't true either. I felt in my gut that it would pair well with the Atrium and I was not wrong. Here's the deal: change the source, use any headphone. Be a "source first" audiophile (the highest level attainable - we can debate this later in another thread)

    As many of you are familiar with the Valhalla 2, the Folkvangr is basically the Valhalla 2 on steroids, not only more muscular, but having gone through a cutting phase - shedding excess fat, while picking up some smooth poses for the judges. Gone are the Valhalla 2's veil and slightly prickly highs that we must assume comes from the coupling capacitors. The Folkvangr is direct coupled with no capacitors in the signal path, but servos to offset DC. I suspect bipolar power rails for the white cathode follower. Basically what we have is a push-pull power amp without output caps or output transformers. The output tubes on the Valhalla have been increased from one per channel to four. Yup. all of this is pretty crazy.

    While I would say that the Valhalla 2 thick sounding, I wouldn't do the same with Folkvangr because "thickness" comes with some bad connotations. The Folkvangr is bassy, hits hard, posses heft and great bass sustain, but somehow it doesn't come off as thick. I wouldn't call the Folkvangr bloomy either. There's a sustain and spookiness to voices (Adele, Florence + the Machine, Lucinda Williams, k.d. lang, etc.) and guitars (AC/DC, Scorpions, Van Halen, crappy guitar play from Coldplay, etc.), but it's not of the overly wet reverb type (Feliks OTL amps, Freya, etc.). The quality is more in the timbre and overtones than in the time domain. The thickness and bloom are inner, not outer. There's nothing being smoothed over or smeared. There's some "vintagey" tone going on here, not too different from what the Burl B2 Bomber DAC does.

    I found it easy to crank the shit out of the volume of the Folkvangr. I don't do this as often as I used to because listening at 95-100db SPL is not good for our hearing, particularly as we age. My point is that sometimes it's a blast to listen at concert volume levels. The Folkvangr not only obliges, but loves to do so. Audiophiles who prefer more pleasant and forgiving dynamics may want to go elsewhere. I want that snare drum or cymbal so rattle me, but yet at the same time not kill me with "needle-in-the-ear" artifacts not present in reality (I have a five piece drum set with a loud bronze snare in a dedicated music room in the house).

    Perhaps the Folkvangr doesn't have the finesse, nuance, and subtilties of SET triode amps of which I listen to on almost a daily basis. However it brings with it a high level of energy, rockin' rhythmic drive, crisp articulation, and a beautiful interpretation of voices and midrange instruments. In a nutshell, the Folkvangr is a shit-load of fun. It makes me want to grab the drummer in the house (my daughter) and jam with her while I'm on the bass.

    P.S. I'm hoping it measures like shit because there are only 250 being made. No one is getting a discount. No one is getting an accommodation. Even if John Atkinson or some royal highness of audio reviewer asked for 5% off, I'm sure they won't get it. I don't need this, but there's a good chance I may buy one for myself. It's not like that $1800 is going to be worth anywhere near $1800 next year. Finally, let the objectivists laugh at us and mock us for our stupidity. Topping wishes they can make stuff sound this good.

    The Folkvangr will be at the Texas Audio Show.

    PXL_20220630_231011761.PORTRAIT.jpg
    Note ton of ventage surround tube Folkvangr tube bay. Cold air from bottom and sides come in. Hot air goes up.
     
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    Last edited: Jun 30, 2022
  2. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Ambient temps at 76-77F.

    Folkvangr not stacked on top of anything. Tube bay is hot at 37.8C or 100F (a very hot day in SoCal). Rest of chassis is cool.
    Screenshot_20220630-182649.jpg

    Folkvangr stacked on top of Gungnir. Folkvangr chassis at 37.8 or 100F (a very hot day in SoCal). Gungnir chassis is a few degrees cooler.
    Screenshot_20220630-203715.jpg
     
  3. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Is it valid to compare to the Woo WA33? I'm inclined to do this comparison myself by carting my Folkvangr down to TSAV, if it seems warranted.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    I would be curious on your take. The WA33 is Woo's best amp. It's very good. Here's my rankings, because everyone loves rankings. I think rankings are dumb. But peeps like this kind of shit. Note that specific synergies with headphones, power, impedance, and so forth are not considered. Just a general ranking of capability and sound.

    upload_2022-6-30_22-16-12.png
     
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    Last edited: Jun 30, 2022
  5. Azimuth

    Azimuth FKA rtaylor76, Friend

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    This list is awesome! Thanks for the work.

    I noticed you did not include some amps like Schiit Valhalla and ECP T1. I don’t know if T1 would be included since it is a parafeed tube amp and didn’t know if Valhalla was left off this list on purpose either for one reason or another.

    Oh, and DNA Stellaris is on the list twice. Maybe Starlett?

    This could be a thread on its own.
     
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  6. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    WA33 is Push-Pull Class A (at least according to Woo). I believe that makes it the most similar on your list to Folkvangr, which is why I thought of it.
     
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  7. rlow

    rlow A happy woofer

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    Decware Zen Taboo IV doesn’t make the list?
     
  8. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Added them all. Fixed.
     
  9. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    GONAD dashboards.

    Oh lordy, I think Jason is trolling ASR. Like really giving Amir and his cult the finger. FWIW, I prefer listening at high-gain - it's more engaging. No doubt the presentation of the Folkvangr is colored, as I said "vintagey", but this is way more distortion than I believed. Goes to show you that perhaps distortion isn't that big of a deal. Or perhaps that it's the kind of distortion that matters more. Or maybe open loop with a good amount of distortion sounds better than a million db of negative feedback.

    There's much we don't know about distortion, of what sounds good or bad. Actually, there is a good amount we do know. Just stubborn people don't want to understand.

    Low gain:
    upload_2022-6-30_22-20-52.png

    High gain:
    upload_2022-6-30_22-21-58.png
     
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  10. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Still waiting for someone to ask where they can buy a Zbarb amp and what kind of circuit Diablo 3 is.

    Those numbers are hilarious btw. Amir will need to get a pink panther eating a cyanide cap and shooting himself.
     
  11. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Zbarb is most fun. Made some seriously high GR levels (140+) with the occasionally good pick-up groups even being slightly under-leveled. Super rewarding to be the one that supports and allows others to excel.

    DSCF0228 (Large).JPG
    Pink Panther stabs self in neck at seeing the measurements

    [​IMG]
    The Folkvangr is a statement to steady-state signal measurement objectivists


    --

    Reality check since the GONAD panels are autogenerated by AP scripts:

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine 0dbU into 300-ohms
    High-Gain
    upload_2022-6-30_22-31-16.png

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -10dbU into 300-ohms
    High-Gain
    upload_2022-6-30_22-36-36.png

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -20dbU into 300-ohms
    High-Gain
    upload_2022-6-30_22-37-21.png

    This brings up some points of learning:
    • @atomicbob has questioned that even with the lower voltage levels subscribed by us as testing standards here (0dbU, -10dbU or 0.775mVrms, 0.254mVrms respectively), which are much lower than ASR's 2Vrms and 4Vrms, could we still be measuring at levels which are too high?
    • We see distortion FFTs which are clean with respect to higher orders at lower output levels (per @atomicbob's crap factor). Not only that, when levels get higher, we see a nice triangle where each successive harmonics is lower than the prior. Might this be an indicator of distortion characteristics which are more benign or more easily masked?
     
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    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  12. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    D3 for me is like the insane hot ex that shows up at your door once every 4 years and then you wake up two months later wondering wtf happened and press uninstall swearing "never again"
     
  13. Cspirou

    Cspirou They call me Sparky

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    Lmao measurements

    Aside from the harmonic distortion, 120dB noise is really good for a tube amp
     
  14. Qildail

    Qildail Friend

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    I had pretty much sworn off tubes for logistical reasons (tube prices, physical space, etc.), but man is this tempting at this price. Lucky for me (maybe) by the time I get around to actually committing to it they'll all be gone...
     
  15. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    How long before pics of folkvangr in the 2022 Amateur Christmas Tree Tube Rooooler Invitational

    2 stupid toob questions b/c they will come up sooner or later:
    1. Do we need 8 matched 6N6P tubes in the back and 1 matched pair of 6N1P in the front, matched pairs across each channel + respective slot, or does it break down in a different way with a different kind of coupling? Matched octets aren't exactly easy to come by.
    2. Would gooder-er toobs improve sinads in this particular amp?

    Sounds like this would be a fun amp not only with energetic or euphoric type sounding headphones hence Atrium and Grado, but possibly the Audeze house sound as well.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2022
  16. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    Not bad for an $1800 amp that comes with a 5 year warranty and without a long procurement lead time. It may be time to sell my WA6-SE.
     
  17. Pancakes

    Pancakes Friend

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    Only the 2 input tubes need to be matched.
     
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  18. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Random point, but I find it bizarre that all of Schiit's website photos show Folkvangr with the tubes off. Like, why? Turn that shit on, it looks awesome. The tubes are on in the Valhalla 2 photos.

    This also makes me realize Schiit has slowly been getting rid of the hole for the white power LED on the front of the chassis on many models. I know some people bitch about the light but I always liked it.
     
  19. atomicbob

    atomicbob dScope Yoda

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    If time permits I would like to also have a chance to measure the Folkvangr.

    Here is an animation of your data:
    20220701 Folkvangr 1KHz distortion spectrum.gif

    It would be interesting to see these measurements at -30 and -40 dBu.

    HD800 family produces approximately 100 dB SPL at 1000 Hz and 0 dBu (0.775Vrms.)
    I find my preferred listening is at 70 dB SPL average with peaks to 80 and valleys to 60 which correspond with -40, -30 and -20 dBu levels. The -20 dBu distortion spectrum demonstrates only D2 significantly present at -45 dBr, or approximately 0.56% distortion. 2nd harmonic isn't directly perceived by most people until it is well over 1%, usually closer to 10%. So I might infer the crap factor for this amp may be quite low, probably around 0.003%.

    The only potential issue I see from these measurements is the 60 Hz mains noise at -75 dBu. That is my threshold of perception with HD800 and HD6x0 headphones. I prefer AC mains noise to be lower than -85 dBu. But again, I am in a very quiet environment with background ambient often lower than 25 dBA and 30 dBC. Sometimes as low as 10 dBA. Most listeners may not perceive AC mains hum until above -65 dBu.
     
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  20. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    I'm actually curious to see if there's an inevitable price hike on the used market after Schiit sells out, with people going "BC LIMITED EDITION!"
     
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