Schiit. In. Stereooooooo!
Since its inception, Schiit has been focused exclusively on the headphone market. Of course there was never anything stopping you from using one of their DACs with a home stereo, and the Ragnarok can drive speakers perfectly well, but home based two channel just wasn’t what Schiit was after.
Well, for those of us that have been clamoring for Schiit to put their engineering might into a genuine, dedicated power amp and line-stage preamp, the wait is finally (almost) over. The amp, which Schiit calls Vidar, puts out 100W into 8 Ohms, doubles that into 4 Ohms, and doubles that in bridged mono mode into 8 Ohms. The price? $699. You might be thinking, “oh sure, another ICEpower amp or Gainclone chip amp, yawn.” You don’t know Schiit. The Vidar’s 100 watts come from a Class A/B topology, with no capacitors or DC servos in the signal path, fed by a linear transformer (most likely an EI or C-core type as Schiit has yet to put a toroidal transformer in anything). The Vidar fills a significant gap in the market, coming in above bargain bin Emotiva amps, but still well below even the otherwise very reasonably priced Odyssey Khartago. I’m certainly itching to try one out.
Of course an amp isn’t very useful without some sort of volume control, and while some of Schiit’s existing headphone amps can double as preamps, the company went ahead and built not one, but two dedicated line-stage preamps anyway. Saga is the smaller of the two, and can operate either passively or via a 6SN7 tube hybrid buffer stage. Volume is controlled by a relay switched stepper with 64 steps – el-cheapo volume pots need not apply. On the back are five single-ended ins, and two outs. Yours for $349.
Saga’s big brother Freya ups the step count to 128, and is fully balanced end to end. It also offers a third operational mode: passive, tube gain via four 6SN7s, or a solid state, JFET buffer stage. On the rear are two balanced and three single ended inputs, and balanced and single ended outputs, with the price coming in at $699. As impressive as the Vidar is, I think it’s Freya that really steals the show. Balanced, tube driven preamps with remote volume control just don’t exist anywhere near this price, even from other factory direct companies. Well done Schiit.
The two channel market desperately needed someone to come along and pop the absurd pricing bubble that’s been building in the home stereo market over at least the last decade. Five and six figure amps that weigh more than I do and require their own dedicated 20-amp circuits are neat, but they are about as relevant to the average music fan as the McLaren P1 is to the average car enthusiast – cool to watch on Top Gear, but you’re likely to never even see one in the wild, let alone own one (I’ve seen plenty of Schiit in the wild. Just saying. -Alex).
A Freya/Vidar system together costs about as much as a typical mid-tier integrated amplifier, and my money is on the Schiit combo to win that fight. Of course the proof is in the pudding, so I eagerly await the chance to get my hands on some samples. Watch this space.