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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    Earlier I mentioned how the low-impedance entry level HFMs heapdhones sucked balls from the Folkvangr. The same is true of mid-end low-impedance Audezes. We know it's a problem when these fine modded Audezes from @rhythmdevils sound better with the impedance multiplier (using that horrid Topping / Magnius / HDVD800 TPA6120 chip) turned on. It's not the end of the world, but really, I'd much much rather power these cans with the iFi Zen CAN amp or the Monoprice LAuX. Without the impedance multiplier, the Audezes sound dull, soft, obviously underpowered. With the IC, they sound insipid. However, if people haven't anything better, then I'm sure it sounds great. Using planars with the Folkvangr is a waste IMO. It doesn't add any magical color, or if it does, other things are so bad.

    PXL_20220713_005320640.PORTRAIT.jpg

    Here's a measurement at -10dBu into the Audeze LCD-X as an actual load. I'm not a measurement fascist, but this about 20db SINAD.

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -10dbU into Audeze LCD-X as actual load
    High-Gain
    upload_2022-7-12_20-3-25.png

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -10dbU into Audeze LCD-X as actual load
    High-Gain and Impedance Multiplier turned on
    upload_2022-7-12_20-7-6.png

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -10dbU into Audeze LCD-X as actual load
    Low-Gain and Impedance Multiplier turned on
    upload_2022-7-12_20-8-36.png

    The best I could get Folkvangr to sound with the Audezes is at low-gain with the impedance multiplier off. (Yes, the IC multiplier sounds that bad). But again, the Folkvangr seems pointless doing this. It's still dull and weaksauce sounding, just a bit less than at high-gain which was terrible. With suitable headphones (higher impedance), the amp just sounds better at high-gain anyway (regardless of measurements).

    Schiit Folkvangr
    1kHz steady state sine -10dbU into Audeze LCD-X as actual load
    Low-Gain and Impedance Multiplier turned off
    upload_2022-7-12_20-13-57.png
    upload_2022-7-12_20-16-14.png
     
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  2. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    I just sent off the modded LCD-X loaner and while I had it here I tried it with Folkvangr. I agree they don't really gel with the amp well, like they were missing some of the clarity and impact they should have had. The LCD-X seemed much happier off transformer coupled amps or solid state amps. Folkvangr is far more flexible than Crack, my only other OTL, but still seems happiest with higher impedance dynamics.
     
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  3. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    I am not surprised the Head-fi report was not corroborated. Seems common that OTL + planar = weaksauce

    See a lot more harmonic content in the highs when there's a 60hz tone than 6khz. Is that expected behavior based on some inverse proportionality rule regarding power : frequency or is that actually odd?
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2022
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Probably hum contributing in some part.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Minor correction: Grados and maybe certain other low-impedance but high sensitivity headphones sound great too. The Folkvangr was made for Grados. Throw in ZMF Atrium (Marv mesh), Elex, Utopia, HD800S, etc. Anyway, I wanted to close this review out with this. I figured I'd throw in a full analog high distortion effective 12-bit source. Bonus points for album ID. Yup. Non digital source. Tube amp.

    PXL_20220713_034541911.jpg
    Micro-Seiki BL-91 turntable, CU-180 copper mat, VPI SDS speed controller (secret menu to 96W), SAEC 407/23 tonearm, Shure M95HE cartridge -> Mani 2 -> Folkvangr (Telefunken EC88CC driver tubes) -> Grado RS1X (Gerod ear pads).

    Notes:
    1. It's a Japan spec table that takes 100V, so using the VPI SDS to down voltage to 96V. Normally the SDS reduces voltage to 70V, but I've always felt this was too low, depending upon stylus and drag. Even on my VPI with the heavy platter, I used the secret menu options to push it up to 86V.
    2. The BL-91 usually comes with a thick rubber mat. The copper mat has a more energetic sound, a little bit more modern. Add the center weight too. It's still a vintage sounding table, but the copper mat and center weight pushes it a bit more toward modern sounding tables, not by much though.
    3. Shure M95E cartridge. Rather pedestrian. Cheap but not made anymore. I've heard it sound not so good. On this table with this arm, it's sound fantastic. They don't make tonearms like this SAEC anymore.
    4. The Gerod ear pads (Amazon) are like a shallower Grado bowl. The flats don't work with the RS1X (high end shelved down). The regular bowls are too classic Grado. The Gerods are somewhere in between. The highish output Z of the Folkvangr on high gain does the rest for the bass.
     
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    Last edited: Jul 12, 2022
  6. Qildail

    Qildail Friend

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    The album cover underneath is Roxy Music's Avalon. Can't mistake that. The white label says it’s probably a 1982 issue of some kind — but just to show off a bit, it’s Side A because the fourth track is short. How'd I do?

    That standing partition (?) is gorgeous. All those toys in the rack and that’s the thing that caught my eye first in the whole setup.
     
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  7. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Yup, first side. Second side has a small fifth outtro tack with the sax. And I used to think that guy on That's Incredible! who could identify the records by looking at just the grooves was amazing. It's bums me out because album covers were a big deal back then.
     
  8. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    Much like movie posters have become as boring as your average intern with photoshop could come up with.
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    [​IMG]
     
  10. joch

    joch Friend

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    Mine came in today, and I had Clears to try out (on stock tubes), and they don't sound bad at all. The impedance multiplier didn't seem to have too much if any effects on the sound. The HD600 takes to the FV very well. But I'm surprised that Focals work well too.

    I know my limitations on writing my impressions, so excuse me for not going into details. On my quick listen (stock tubes and 15 minutes warm up), most of what @purr1n and @roshambo123 mentioned applies. While I would not say the sound is wet, there is fluidity(?) to the music that is different than a T4, which is within several hundred bucks of each other in price. The T4 does have better grip (OPT coupled?), but the FV at this point still not burnt in yet and with stock tubes is still engaging.

    Some other thoughts:
    • I though I saw some initial posts that the temp was 100C (instead of F) which worried me before seeing the numbers from the FLIR. It's not really that hot, but they're tubes so heat will radiate from them. It's like a fever temp "warm"
    • For the price, I don't think I'm going to see another high performance OTL that can hang with the big kids. Purr1n put out a list of tube amps with "ratings" and most were OPT coupled, so the FV may be a unique value here.
    • Tube rolling is limited to a pair of matched inputs. Good: save some money. Bad: rare 6922's can be very expensive.
    • Ability to play sensibly lower impedance headphones is a real bonus since most OTL amps' working limit is higher.
     
  11. joch

    joch Friend

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    Don't mean to take this off topic: so the iFi Zen CAN is a good match for the 2021 LCD-X? Is this the same one that Drop had a collaboration for the 6XX?
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n Burned out

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    Yeah, T4 has more grip, part of it is output transformers, the other part is minimalist solid-state parts. I didn't find as much difference on tube rolling on this amp compared to others with respect to technicalities or magic aspects, but tonally there were differences. It's not like a phonostage were rolling tubes makes a huge difference. Personally, I'd grab affordable 6DJ8/6922 types for their tonal characteristics rather than go for the rare expensive types. The Genalex GL mentioned earlier would be good driver tubes if one wanted a less dark sound.

    I am assuming that it is. That the iFi Zen CAN is the one that Drop had on collab, but without the Drop's custom HD6XX EQ. @iFi audio can you confirm this is the case? I really wish Drop had consulted us on the EQ circuit for the HD6XX. EQ's is much as an art as it is a science. Anyway, that little amp was great sounding, powerful. I've always wanted to follow up and do a formal review on it.
     
  13. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Shipping delay slowly ratcheting up, now 4-6 weeks. I'm curious how many are left.
     
  14. PacoTaco

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    I'm not ifi, so I may be wrong, but I believe the ifi sig series uses higher end components in it than the normal ifi zen can. It has different distortion specs and SNR (which don't matter much) on their respective pages. They've said as much on other sites, anyway.
     
  15. TamHo

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    I like my Zen can signature paired with my hd6xx and focal hp. But don't like that amp on my LCD2, blunt and soft sounding
     
  16. roshambo123

    roshambo123 Friend

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    Idea: For fun, someone should try LISST in their Folkvangr and report what it sounds like.
     
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  17. Paul Scandal

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    Deep pockets suddenly have 30% less money in them, the spending spree is over.
     
  18. Dandrac42

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    My Schiit Folkvangr Tube Rolling Impressions (So Far)

    These are my tube impressions with my Schiit Folkvangr with the limited number of Input Tubes I have.
    I have loosely given points to things I listen for . Minus points for stuff I wish was better. Plus points for stuff that is better than expected with Impression notes. I am listening with Utopias with my least colored DAC my Hugo2 through the RCA outs on lossless Qobuz with a number of my favorite songs. Please be nice with criticism since I am not a audio reviewer or even involved in the audio industry. Please take my impressions with a healthy grain of salt because everyone's ears are different. Hopefully someone might find this helpful. Here we go.

    Genalex Gold Lion Gold Pin E88CC/6922
    Speed 0
    Tone +1
    Bass 0
    Midrange 0.5
    Space/Air +1
    Open, Holographic, Might have a smidge of extra energy, Just a general all around good tube, Nice little soundstage surprises here and there on songs you thought you knew.

    JJ Gold Pin E88CC
    Speed -1
    Tone -1
    Bass +1
    Midrange -1
    Space/Air -0.5
    Easy Listening, Good for overly bright recordings, Not Offensive, Chill, Ok soundstage

    OTK Diamond17 (Stock Tubes included with Folkvangr)
    Speed 0
    Tone +1
    Bass -1
    Midrange +1
    Space/Air +1
    Wow looks Nice all lit up. Good Air. Tubey :). Midrange recession. Decent "Thump". Sounds and looks expensive (Whatever that means, my notes are not amazing). Smooth. Good for taming sibilance. Bass seems slow.

    Replacement Schiit Clear Tubes that were sold for Mjolnir2 ( Canadian Maybe?) No markings just clear tubes
    Speed -0.5
    Tone +0
    Bass -0.5
    Midrange +1
    Space/Air +0
    Has a pleasant "warmth". Decent "Thump". I wish the soundstage was bigger. Has a natural quality that makes you want to listen longer that I can't really explain.

    Phillips PCC88 (7V Heater? Does that make a difference ? No indication on box)
    Speed +0.5
    Tone -1.5
    Bass -1
    Midrange 0
    Space/Air +1.5
    A touch sibilant. Clear. Long Warm up time, took another 10 min for full volume, The air is so nice :). Polite, Delightful on Dark Recordings. I wish instruments and vocals were separated apart better. Needs Sub bass.

    GE JAN5670W with 6922 adapters
    Speed +2
    Tone -1
    Bass -1
    Midrange -1
    Space/Air +2
    Can be sibilant but very clear. I was exited because I thought that the warm up time would be faster since tube is smaller but no :(. Lacks sonic "warmth". Wow Airy ! Holographic. Exiting ! Great for gaming. Transparent sounding . Needs to be cooking hot for full effect. Roller Coaster Ride. Did I mention it sounds exiting? Well it needs to be said once more.

    1966 6DJ8 Amperex Bugle Boy with retro cartoony White Logo
    Speed +1
    Tone +2.5
    Bass -0.5
    Midrange +2
    Space/Air +1
    Full sound Wow. Reminds me of a BBC dip on a LS3/5A. Depth is great. Quick Warm Up time. Polite. Holographic. The beautiful Midrange is much better than expected. Air is not over or underdone. I wish for a smidge more sub bass. Multiple smiley faces on my barely legible notes.

    Sorta Conclusion :
    Wow I thought Gold Lions were my favorite since they were the most expensive but no.
    Amperex Bugle Boys are no joke !
    Schiit actually included decent 'tubey" sounding stock tubes with the Folkvangr
    E88CC JJ Gold Pins were disappointing IMO.

    Thanks for Reading my possibly incoherent Ramble.
     
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  19. will_f

    will_f Friend

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    I’ve had the Folkvangr for a couple weeks now and my opinions have changed a little since I first got it. Note that my opinions are inexpert, subjective and biased, so consider that when reading below.

    First off, I’ve really come to love this amp, especially with recordings that have good spacial imaging and headphones that image well. I won’t say it sounds like you’re there at the concert, but it’s easy to close your eyes and pretend you are. It handles layering better than any other amp I’ve heard (not saying I’ve heard a lot of amps- I haven’t) and it pulls crazy amounts of detail. It’s also very euphonic- I love the way it makes guitars sound.

    2nd, I’m not convinced I have the perfect headphones for this amp, but I’m also not convinced this amp is particularly picky (for a transformerless tube amp). It drives all my headphones (including my AFC) as well or better than my WOO, though the Woo has substantially more power. Efficient headphones with great mids, layering and dynamics seem to generally be a good match. The best match in my collection is my VC, but none of the others sound what I would consider bad, provided the volume level isn’t outside the amp’s comfort zone. Of course, if one spends almost $2k on an amp, “not bad” isn’t really good enough, but I think most owners will find their favorite efficient headphone sounds really good if not extraordinary. At some point I’d like to try the FV with a pair of Atriums to see if I’m missing anything, but I’m very happy with my VC.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2022
  20. ColtMrFire

    ColtMrFire Writes better fan fics than you

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    Atriums were especially fantastic on Folkvanger from what I sampled at the Texas meet. Try getting on the loaner if you already haven't.
     

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