Schiit Lyr+ Review (or random thoughts about it)

Discussion in 'Headphone Amplifiers and Combo (DAC/Amp) Units' started by purr1n, Oct 5, 2022.

  1. scblock

    scblock Friend

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    I really appreciate Schiit and SBAF making this available for a loaner, and @jexby for the Starbucks handoff and pleasant chat. Sorry it took a while to get these impressions together.

    I mostly compared the Lyr+ to my Lyr 3 with HD650, HD8xx, and the Audeze Euclid IEM loaners. I ran the Lyr 3 with the stock (from time of original purchase) Russian Tung-Sol tube, and the Lyr+ with the provided Tung-Sol and Rogers tubes along with trying out the solid state mode.

    I'm going to keep this fairly short, I think others have covered the details pretty well. I wanted to focus on just a few things.

    First, the sound. The Lyr+ is definitely from the Lyr family and shares a lot of strengths and weaknesses with the Lyr 3. I'd say it's slightly quieter in general, though the headphones I was using don't show noise floor issues much. It's still warm, still rich without going overboard or getting sloppy, though maybe slightly closer to neutral. I'd say (with Tung-Sol tubes in both) the Lyr+ slightly edges out the older amp for overall enjoyment, but the differences are not huge. The Lyr 3 is one of my favorite amps with most headphones and the Lyr+ is similarly good. I didn't really test the solid state mode much other than confirming it works. It sounds good, but I prefer the sound with tubes in almost all cases and experienced the same with this amp. I think the solid state mode is interesting but of limited utility.

    Other notes on use and quality of life:
    • The Lyr+ runs warm, but after hours of use it was a lot cooler than my Lyr 3 which has always been firey hot
    • The stepped attenuator is nice but probably not a major selling point for me. As @jexby noted, it seems to ramp up really slowly before accelerating. Normal listening volume with HD650s was above 11 o'clock on the dial in both low or high gain. With this much movement needed even in high gain combined with perfect channel matching I wonder if the gain switch is even needed.
    • The stepped attenuator acts more like a traditional potentiometer in use than the one in the original Saga. Less clicky, and the knob is directly tied to volume. Thumbs up.
    • I didn't think the remote would seem like a big upgrade from the Lyr 3 for an amp I would use at my desk, but in practice it was extremely nice to have. Remotes are good; I wish the Folkvangr had one.
    • The Lyr+ takes away the expansion IO card for additional features like the stepped attenuator, remote, and solid state gain stage. For me this falls on the wrong side of the trade, as the Lyr 3 with multibit DAC card is an extremely convenient and great sounding all in one. It may not be the greatest DAC in the world but it's super nice to have the option.

    Overall, I love my Lyr 3 and this amp is ever so slightly better on the whole. Sound is a little higher end, it runs a little cooler, and has a remote. But for me at least it's not all an improvement and not enough of one to give up the amp I already have.
     
  2. Qildail

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    The longer loaner period gave me an opportunity to carry the Lyr+ around the house and test it against various arrangements, although I didn't really have a good place to test the pre-outs (my existing integrated amps get grumpy when fed "hot" sources). One particular combo, feeding Lyr+ from Freya S; resulted in a nasty (ground loop?) hum once the Lyr+ was over "two o'clock" volume. I couldn't replicate this with any other arrangement in the stand (other amps on the same Freya output and cables; other sources to the Lyr+; tube changes). Not wanting to pull the Freya out and set it up again across the house for a different outlet, I'm writing this one off as Ground Loops Are Weird (tm), but something to be cognizant of if you have extended chains.

    My favorite combo ended up being the Modius E (a DAC I've become a big fanboy of lately -- can I beat this drum some more, please?). Gungnir A1 sources were richer but less sharp overall than the Modius E; overall clarity and background was about even to my ears. My older Cambridge DACs were really not a very good fit at all for Lyr+ -- the tube mode just smeared too much of my beloved Wolfsons; Lyr+ solid state mode was better, but I still would place my Cambridges behind Modius and GMB-A1 in that arrangement.

    The tube-mode/gain combo button was less than wholly intuitive, and even after a couple of weeks the muscle memory hadn't quite kicked in on it for me. Most of the time I resorted to grabbing the remote to make those changes. I have nothing to back this up but my intuition, but I feel like it was designed in a set-it-and-forget-it style; and the lack of free space in the form factor just enforced that model. The volume knob and its mute-unmute functionality, as mentioned above me, takes some getting used to if your listening style is making constant small volume adjustments. Of the two tubes provided, I enjoyed the Rogers tube more and felt it presented less smear and better detail over the Tung-Sol. Your mileage will vary, of course, but tube rolling here will likely be akin to Vali 2+(+) -- it'll make a difference, but not such a difference as to send you through a portal into the Tube Nervosaverse.

    Brief comparisons, soundwise: I would call it almost a dead tie with ZDT Jr (tube choices will tip the balance here); much less bloom and better bass control than Asgard 3; cleaner and tighter, but narrower stage versus Valhalla; less full range richness but less prickly than Jot 2; more sensitive to minor volume differences but wider stage than Magni 3+. Maybe not a completely fair comparison since it's long OOP, but Mjolnir 1 to me still has better slam and better command at lower volume levels.

    If I was recommending a bare-slate setup to someone, Lyr+ would be a strong contender for someone with a couple of inputs (like a turntable with a built-in preamp), a set of powered bookshelves, and a 6XX on the side; but it has to compete directly with its predecessor and the existing Jot 2 + DAC for the "desktop solution" kit. It's the best Schiit head-amp I've personally heard, overall summed, but if you have a Lyr 3, Jot 2, Valhalla, or Mjolnir setup you like already, you'll probably find very little here unless you're really, really hell-bent on chasing decimal points with very specific chains and headphones. If you're in that kind of a chase, you're probably not in this price range anymore anyway.

    At the end of the day, Lyr+ feels like an chameleonic evolution, rather than a revolution -- taking ideas from other Schiit products (power from Jot 2, bass from Asgard 3, stage from Valhalla, anti-nervosa from Vali, hybrid capability from Lyr 3) and trying to make them a new whole greater than the sum of those individual traits. There are still things that those other amps do as well or better, and the loss of modularity hurts (a lot in my opinion), but Lyr+ feels like the beginning of something that could turn out to be a game changer -- I'm interested to see what "Lyr 5" looks like in a year or two once this idea has had a full cycle to mature.

    Being able to try gear out for multiple days for only the cost of shipping is the real joy of these loaners. Many thanks to Schiit for the loaner, @julie for the logistics, and the mods for allowing me to participate.
     
    Last edited: Dec 4, 2022
  3. MellowVelo

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    Many thanks to Schiit and the SBAF community for making this loaner possible. We owe an extra debt of gratitude to @julie, who brings order out of chaos.

    I’m a relative noob with tube amps. Although I’ve heard them at meets, this is the first time that I’ve used one at home, so I don’t have any other tube amps to which I can reasonably compare. Nevertheless, this loaner was an insightful experience, although probably not for the reason you’re thinking.

    I did my listening with my vinyl rig: Dual 701, Ortofon Super OM 40, Darlington Labs MP-7, and Focal Elear with Utopia pads. I listened exclusively with the Rogers 6SN7. I wanted to try the Tung-Sol 6SN7, but I didn’t have time. My main point of comparison is the Headamp GS-X Mini, which is my daily amplifier. One of the reasons that I purchased the GS-X Mini a few years ago is that it has a touch of warmth, unlike most of its solid-state brethren. If you’ve never heard the GS-X Mini, it’s quite different than the other Headamp offerings, like the GS-X mk2, which sounds cold and etched. The GS-X Mini is best compared to solid-state gear from manufacturers like Pass Labs, who use their engineering skills to design solid-state gear with tube-like characteristics.

    I’ll cut to the chase: the Lyr+ is a fine and capable amp. I enjoyed listening to it in my system, and it commits no mortal sins. This leads me to my main takeaway: although the Lyr+ is a fine and capable amp, it’s not different enough to get me excited. Overall, the GS-X Mini is a more resolving amp. While the timbre of the Lyr+ is slightly smoother with a touch less grain, I’m really picking nits here because I do not find the GS-X Mini to be grainy. Overall, what is marginally gained in timbre is lost in resolution.

    I should note that these impressions are on the high-gain setting. On high gain, the Lyr+ and GS-X Mini are pretty evenly matched in macrodynamics and microdynamics. On Random Access Memories by Daft Punk, the Lyr+ allowed the wide dynamic range of the vinyl pressing to shine. The Lyr+ also had a fair amount of microdynamics, although the GS-X Mini is stronger in this regard. In comparison, when I switched to the low-gain setting, the Lyr+ really suffered in dynamics and made the amp sound noticeably less engaging than the GS-X Mini.

    At the end of the day, does the Lyr+ sound nice? Yes. Is the Lyr+ different enough to make me want to shake up my system? No. But here’s where things get interesting: although the Lyr+ doesn’t overly excite me, it does make me wonder what could be possible with a high-end, all-tube amp in my system. To be honest, I’ve resisted using tubes in my home system because of tube nervosa, but what if I could have the smooth, grain-free timbre of the Lyr+ with the resolution and dynamics of the GS-X Mini? This is the question that I have been left to ponder. For the first time in my life, I’m actually entertaining the idea of incorporating tubes into my system.
     
  4. SnowPuppy

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    Appreciate the review. Seems like the Lyr+ did pretty good compared to an amp that now costs 3 times as much.
     
  5. MellowVelo

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    Yes, there is a lot of value packed into the Lyr+. As always, the law of diminishing returns is real. The GS-X Mini does not provide a threefold increase in fidelity and enjoyment. Nevertheless, the GS-X Mini is still the better amp overall. Lyr+ will get you 80% of the way there. If you want the additional 20%, you pay a lot for the remainder.
     
  6. joch

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    @MellowVelo were you running single ended in/out of the GSX Mini during the comparo with Lyr+?
     
  7. MellowVelo

    MellowVelo Friend

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    I was running single-ended in/balanced out of the GS-X Mini. The supersymmetry circuit automatically converts single-ended to balanced without extra circuitry or signal degradation.
     
  8. SnowPuppy

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    Actually for a 20% improvement over the Lyr+ the GS-X Mini is not such a bad price.

    With my Lyr+, at first, I thought it sounded very good with decent resolution. Overtime I really started to notice lots more prereferral information on live material such as room acoustics and audience. Really in some ways on par with detail I hear with HD800S and the Ragnarok 1.5. I changed the tube from Tung-sol to a Upscale Audio Electro Harmonics cryo Kevin's stash tube. I do not really believe in cryo but I will say the Upscale Audio tube is much better than the Tung-sol. I am getting a significant increase in resolution and even better liquidity and listenability. Got a pair of HE1000 v2 at the new reduced price and love them. They are a really good match with the Lyr+. I got curious and hooked up my TT to the Lyr+ and that blew my mind. My TT is fairly modest being a Pro-ject The Classic with some upgrades and a Ortofon 2M Bronze cartridge. The sound quality is a significant step up from the Bifrost 2/64 with the recordings I have. Not only better resolution and clarity with the TT but simply a more pleasant listening experience. Gave me a new respect for the Lyr+.
     
  9. MellowVelo

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    The Lyr+ with a decent vinyl rig will provide countless hours of musical enjoyment. Wise people would stop here.
     
  10. fraggler

    fraggler A Happy & Busy Life

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    I think this is my first successful loaner (pulled out of a bunch prior), so thank you so much to all of SBAF for making it possible to hear this. I am also not very good at critical listening and describing what I hear (and why I hesitate to get in on more loaners), so feel free to disregard everything that follows.

    I only got maybe 2 hours of listening in during the week and a half I had it. Therefore, my only impressions were in comparison to the SW51 both fed by an OG BF2. I primarily used the Rogers tube included in the tour and my slightly modded HD800s since I used those most recently.

    These two amps definitely presented music in very different ways. I liked both very much.

    I found the Lyr+ to be warmer, more laidback, and more normalized than the SW51. What I mean by normalized is that more elements of the mix were clearly audible, but I'm not honestly sure what is "correct." In a recording of Itzhak Perlman's Carmen (my go to for sense of space/venue, piercing brass, scale), I could more clearly hear the castanets(?) than from the SW51, but it made it a little harder to envision the big space where the recording was made. With the more withdrawn sound on the SW51, it sounded like they were further away, making their placement seem more imaginable. I preferred this a little bit more.

    That said, the clarity and forwardness of the SW51 can make the opening of the piece almost too intense to my ears, where the Lyr+ added some weight to the sound while reducing some of the pierce of the opening brass. And definitely when midcentric vocal music was on, I got extra warm fuzzies from the Lyr+. The added heft of the Lyr+ overall was quite welcome, especially with the HD800s. If I wanted a long session listening amp, the Lyr+ would be the one.

    Like I said, I really liked both, but I am honestly not sure which one I would choose if starting over. I like the idea of the Lyr+ more since it can be run with and without a tube, can easily act as a preamp, matches my DAC, etc. Not to mention a very smooth, easy to listen to sound. BUT, I still like the SW51 presentation of music just a tiny bit more, especially for classical (which is the only genre that I put real headphones on for now).

    If I were to clear the decks and start over with a single amp to handle all of my audio needs, I think the Lyr+ would be the winner (maybe I will change my mind once I get to listen more to my Piety).
     
  11. yotacowboy

    yotacowboy McRibs Kind of Guy

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    dammit, had a much longer review typed in and like an idiot I didn't save it out to a text file... then the page refreshed and I lost it...

    Anyhow, Lyr+ has me kind of questioning some things. Losing my more typical review to the digital ether sort of makes me want to write a haiku or something more brief.

    Here's why I'm frustrated with Lyr+: it's technically superior (on technicalities) than a lot of stuff less than $1k I've had in my chain recently. And the feature set is super fucking cool. But it's still not any bit more engaging than the vast majority of Schiit headphone gear I've had/currently have. It's still "wall of sound". It's missing midrange nuance, spaciousness, and tonal correctness that something like Piety totally nails. I guess I'm just kind of frustrated that something like Piety can be the red-headed stepchild of a manufacturing non-starter, yet not see (or hear) some related characteristics in tone, and emotional engagement come to light in a more expensive, more technically advanced amp like Lyr+.

    Sorry I f-ed up my original post; I can totally write more if anyone wants me to walk down the specifics from FR to note fundamentals to soundstaging/headstaging and macro/microdynamic balance, etc.

    Edit: also, sorry that in my haste I also neglected to thank SBAF and Julie especially for allowing me to participate in this loaner! Much thanks!!
     
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    Last edited: Dec 21, 2022
  12. zonto

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    LYR+ LOANER IMPRESSIONS

    I just finished up my leg of the Lyr+ loaner tour and wanted to share quick impressions. Chain was: Pi2AES --> Mogami 3173 AES cable --> Yggdrasil Analog 2 AES input --> Mogami 2497 RCA cables --> Lyr+ (with stock power cable and Tung Sol tube) --> Focal Utopia headphones. I listened exclusively on low gain, and only for one evening for a few hours. It was supposed to just be an hour or so, but the amp was so engrossing that I ended up listening until after 10pm when I finally gave up to go eat dinner.

    The Lyr+ is the first tube amp I've used at home since the Torpedo 3 (which I liked initially, and didn't like after having the upgrades performed) and the Valhalla 2 (which ownership and subsequent sale predates my acquisition of Utopia). I try to listen around 70 dB average, as measured by my iPhone on the NIOSH app (uncalibrated).

    I haven't used headphones much in the last couple years. After replacing my Ragnarok integrated with Coda separates for use with the Maggies in the living room system, I tried an Asgard 2 for a while. Didn't like the sound and stuck it in a closet. Just never wanted to listen to music with it.

    When I powered up the Lyr+, I knew from the first song or two that it was leaps and bounds above the other Schiit amps I had tried. I listened to mostly stuff I had been listening to elsewhere recently: Incubus - Make Yourself, Blink-182 - Dude Ranch, a few other tracks from Drive-Thru Records bands, and The Beatles - Revolver (most recent super deluxe release). I meant to listen to some pop and classical, but didn't get around to it.

    tl;dr: The Lyr+ is the best headphone amp I've tried for the Focal Utopia.*

    Summary of listening impressions:
    • Great bass guitar growl and detail. Easy to hear bass lines.
    • Great imaging. Utopia helps here obviously. I heard more minute placement of singers on a couple songs.
    • Awesome detail in the cymbals, which were not strident or annoying. Solid trails after crashes leading into silence.
    • Resolution is impressive. I noticed a few parts on songs that I hadn't heard before, even when listening on the work desk setup (Vanatoo T0 + Rythmik L12) the same week. I also heard different layers of vocalists on a couple songs where I hadn't noticed before. I don't typically sit and try and pick stuff apart either; rather, I just listen to music I like and note if something new jumps out.
    • The amp is also very involving. I was air drumming and such almost the entire time. This was the best experience I've had listening to Dude Ranch outside from in a car system with subs when driving around as a teenager. Really fun!
    • The Lyr+ may have less subbass response than the Ragnarok. I listened to Eminem - Killshot near the end of the session and the lowbass lines didn't stand out to me as much as I remember. Of course, when using the Rag I was using XLR in and using the XLR output of the amp as well, so that could have something to do with it. I don't listen to much music with super low bass, so this seemed fine to me if it was the case. I didn't compare directly to the Ragnarok of course (which is also in the closet).
    I really liked the amp, and may purchase one in the future depending on how future demos of other amps go. I don't have room for a DNA or EC tube amp, and don't like tube upkeep/nervosa anyway, so have been on a quest to find a reasonably priced solid state amp that brings me listening enjoyment with the Utopia. Still need to hook up my Piety and maybe try the DSHA-3F/N, Pass Labs HPA-1, and maybe a couple others. Hard to justify some of these considering how little I use headphones anymore, so the Piety and/or Lyr+ are appealing from the value perspective. :)

    Thanks for letting me participate in the loaner!


    * Going off of memory, this includes in no particular order: Asgard 2, Ragnarok v1.5, ECP Torpedo 3 (probably second favorite, before upgrades), Ragnarok 2 loaner, Jotunheim 2 loaner, Bryston BHA-1 loaner, and the AAW Black Amp loaner.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2023
  13. E_Schaaf

    E_Schaaf MOT: E.T.A Headphones

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    First impression of the Lyr+ after a few hours of continuous listening - I like it.

    I spent some time comparing the jack straight out of my LG V60 phone (runs on ES9219 chips) vs the phone into the Lyr+ with the tube engaged into my headphones. The V60 is a kind of warmer-toned ES implementation to my ears, but has an otherwise typical DS DAC kind of presentation. On its own in high-gain mode, the V60 has enough output to drive my headphones with plenty of headroom. I was using Lyr+ in high gain mode and ran the pot around 12:00-2:00 depending on the track with the phone output at 100% for a strong but not ridiculous listening level.

    I heard subtle improvements in pitch differentiation and tightness in the bass, got a few extra rows of distance in the headstage for a more out-of-head sound, crisper airier highs, and better imaging definition. In general I’d describe the sound as micro-focused, with good nuance, and a touch of macrodynamic restraint. I didn’t notice any significant loss of clarity. The kind of liquid, high-gloss, slightly soft-on-leading-edges, floppy ear massage bass sound of the V60 direct out became much more solid, with more shades of grey in the mids, more top octave pricklies (in a good way), but perhaps a bit less black in the blackground, and a smidge less rumble / bass sustain.

    I find the presentation engaging and accessible. I don’t hear it as warm or round as others do, in fact, I’d say it transformed the sound of my source in the opposite direction for a neater, more articulate, less euphonic presentation. Perhaps using a phone with a low output impedance and low-ish output voltage as a source instead of a desktop DAC has some odd interaction with the topology of the amp giving me a different presentation, but I enjoy the sound regardless.

    The chassis is very cool to look at, and the finish of the aluminum feels smoother to the touch than some other Schiit equipment I own.

    I’ve had a difficult time finding amps lately that I didn’t feel killed off some clarity or engagement factor with my very-easy-to-drive headphones as compared to plugging the headphones directly into a battery powered device’s HP jack. With that in mind, I enjoy listening through the Lyr+ without many caveats. The fact that I can hear a difference tells me the amp is not invisible (no amp is), but I enjoy the signature it imparts on the sound.

    I'll spend some more time listening over the course of the next few days and perhaps rig it up with my bigger R2R DAC and analog sources I use with my speakers and see if that changes anything. But for now, the context above is how I would use it most often if I were to own it.
     
  14. caute

    caute Friend

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    Very interesting read from a similarly interesting perspective. Great impressions, thank you for sharing! Brass tacks, is it more or less engaging than the Piety, with your own headphones or other dynamic makes that you may have tried?
     

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