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Review and Measurements of Schiit LYR 2 Amplifier

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit LYR 2 tube Headphone Amplifier and Preamplifier. It is on a kind loan from a member. The LYR 2 is discontinued but was a very popular device for its time. I think it sold for US $449 when new.

The unit fits the typical mold of Schiit products:

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier Preamplifier Tube Audio Review.jpg

There is nice, heavy feeling volume control in the front and 1/4 inch headphone jack.

The owner was kind enough to not only send me his set of Octal LISST solid state tubes and a set of 6BZ7 tubes. I tested both. FYI I spelled the solid state tubes "LSST" in my slides.

The back of the unit is self-explanatory:

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier Preamplifier Tube Back Panel Audio Review.jpg

I though the output was a real pre-amp but seems to be a direct tap from the headphone out (possibly with an inline resistor).

A power supply is included in the unit which makes it very heavy for its size.

In use, the LYR 2 cooks and cooks good. The entire chassis but especially the right side gets extremely warm. It does this with either tube options. The heat generated must be coming from the output stage and/or power supply. It certainly runs too hot for my taste and likely shortens the lifetime of the components inside.

Pre-amplifier Measurements
I was set to test the unit both as a pre-amp and a headphone amplifier, starting with the former. But after a few tests I realized they are one in the same so this section is truncated.

Let's start our dashboard view with LISST solid state tubes:

Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST tube Audio Measurements.png


The volume control was adjusted to output 2 volt for the same 2 volt input ("unity gain"). THD+N and hence SINAD is dominated by the second harmonic, giving us a SINAD of 89 dB.

Oh, there is a typo above: it should high gain drops to 77 dB, not low gain.

Switching out the LISSTs for the Canadian 6BZ7 tubes costs you dearly in performance:
Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier 6BZ7 tube Audio Measurements.png


Our headphone amplifier champs have no worries with respect to Schiit LYR 2:

Best Headphone Amplifier Reviewed 2019.png


Frequency response was excellent with either tube option:

Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST and 6BZ7 Frequency Response tube Audio Measurements.png


Here is the intermodulation distortion versus level up to unity gain:

Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST and 6BZ7 Intermodulation Distortion tube Audio Measu...png


The "real tube" clearly underperforms the LISST solid state solution.

THD+N versus frequency was an eye opener:

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier 6BZ7 Tube THD vs Frequency ohm.png


The LISST option holds distortion down until just 200 Hz after which it increases proportionally with distortion (in log scale). In some sense then, our dashboard using 1 kHz tone is favoring the unit.

Switching to 6BZ7 produced that continuously high THD+N although it seems to beat the LISST at highest frequencies (???).

I was curious if we were seeing ultrasonic junk instead of real harmonic distortion so performed an FFT spectrum analysis of 1 kHz against 10 kHz:

Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST tube FFT Audio Measurements.png


Focusing on the blue curve which is at 10 kHz, we clearly see harmonics at multiples of it going up to 80 kHz so there is real non-linearity there.

The 1 kHz tone in red clearly has lower harmonic peaks, confirming what we saw in THD+N vs frequency.

Next, let's compare the same using 6BZ7 tubes:

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier 6BZ7 Tube FFT ohm.png


Harmonics are the 1 kHz tone are not at almost the same amplitude at 10 kHz (see dominant second harmonic). No wonder then that the curve is flat. You have distortion at all frequencies at the same level.

I only measure SNR using the LISST:
Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST tube SNR Audio Measurements.png


Full range SNR is good. At 50 millivolt output, not as much:

Headphone Amplifier 50 millivolt SNR Measurement.png


Headphone Amplifier Measurements
The above measurements apply to headphone output jack as well so I did not try to duplicate them. Let's instead focus on power versus distortion and noise:

Schiit Lyr 2 Headphone Amplifier LSST tube 300 ohm Audio Measurements.png


The LYR 2 flexes its muscle with very high power output of 488 milliwatts at 300 ohm. My minimum level is 100 milliwatt and the LYR 2 easily sails past this. This means there is ample volume with any high impedance headphone.

Replacing the LISST with 6BZ7 just adds distortion starting at 1 milliwatt in low gain. However, in high gain its performance was similar to LISST. This means that the distortion we see must be due to output stage, and not the tube pre-amp.

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier 6BZ7 Tube Power vs Distortion 300 ohm.png


Let's try a 33 on load to stress current delivery:
Schiit Lyr 2 Headphone Amplifier LSST tube 33 ohm Power Audio Measurements.png


We have tons of power here, clocking at whopping 2.3 watts in high gain. Alas, there is a lot of distortion at that limit.

Changing to 6BZ7 makes little difference:

Schiit LYR 2 Headphone Amplifier 6BZ7 Tube Power vs Distortion 33 ohm.png


So distortion mechanism is definitely the output stage.

Measuring intermodulation distortion, this time plotting that against *output* power gives us:

Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST tube IMD vs Power Audio Measurements.png


Sorry, ran out of time to run the same test with real tubes but you can predict it based on previous IMD versus distortion graph.

Output impedance using the LISST which should be the same as tubes was a low 2.6 ohm:
Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance Measurements and Review.png


Channel imbalance was very good:
Schiit Lyr 2 Preamplifier  Amplifier LSST tube Channel Balance Audio Measurements.png


The control doesn't lose its mind until you get 60 dB of attenuation.

Headphone Listening Tests
My backlog of equipment to be tested is insane so I did not have time for rigorous listening test. I fired up the LYR 2 with 6BZ7 tube in high gain using Sennheiser HD650 headphones. Power level and hence authority was impressive. I could easily clear out any cobwebs in my ears without even going to max volume. The sound though, seemed a bit "grungy" (yes, that is a technical term -- see Amir's dictionary of made up subjective terms). Turning up the volume seemed to make it worse.

I switched to LISST tubes and that was a relief. I had the same amount of power but now what was there was very clean.

Conclusions
When used with LISST solid state tube replacements, the Schiit LYR 2 provides thundering performance which should impress anyone coming form no headphone amplifier or a more anemic one (which would be most of the market out there). Power is the #1 determinant of headphone performance and the LYR 2 delivers.

The tube option which is the reason for existence of this unit, makes no sense to me. It only adds "bad" distortion both in measurements and informal listening tests.

Given how hot the unit runs, I would steer you toward JDS Labs Atom but the feel of that unit is not in the same class as the LYR 2. The Drop THX AAA 789 has the build quality but availability is poor. If you can pick up a LYR 2 with LISST tubes, it will be a reasonable alternative.

Overall I can recommend the Schiit LYR 2 with LISST tubes. Not recommended with tubes however.

-------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

I always write about unreasonable complaints from my pink panthers in my reviews. But their latest bit is actually a good cause: the whole gang wants to go to Africa to get to know their "roots." I think it is a good idea for them to know their true identity. Such a trip is very expensive so please donate generously using:

https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 
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graz_lag

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solderdude

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#8
it's DC coupled so depending on what you feed through the Lyr, it gets to the headphones. If you're using a dac with some problems in DC offset, it could easily fry your headphones, indeed everyone that had this problem reported a loud pop/noise (like the guy with the T1).
The specifications indicate it is not a fully DC coupled amplifier.
2Hz-700KHz, -3dB means there is a coupling cap in there somewhere or DC servo.

In any case the output seems DC coupled... unless the big green caps are actually output caps (cannot see)
When it is DC coupled Schiit would be wise to add DC protection in there. There is already a relay in the signal path so would be really easy to implement and perhaps costs only $ 2.- or so in extra parts. It doesn't look like there is. It appears to be just a simple timer circuit.

It is possible though that DC could appear on the output (resulting in a loud and sharp 'tick' when the relay kicks in) that could destroy headphones.
Add to that TH-X00 drivers are 25 Ohm and the Lyr-3 can deliver peaks in excess of 8W in it (when something bad happens)
It is very easy to kill those headphones by accident (poor connecting tube in a socket for instance creating a pulse).
The 600 Ohm T1 would be harder to kill this way. Maybe it was the T1 itself that simply crapped out. We will never know for sure.
 
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graz_lag

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#12
I thought it was Italian for distortion...:rolleyes:
should be "distorsione" then :) yup, I'm italian :D
It's a new funny word distortino.
The specifications indicate it is not a fully DC coupled amplifier.
2Hz-700KHz, -3dB means there is a coupling cap in there somewhere or DC servo.

In any case the output seems DC coupled... unless the big green caps are actually output caps (cannot see)
When it is DC coupled Schiit would be wise to add DC protection in there. There is already a relay in the signal path so would be really easy to implement and perhaps costs only $ 2.- or so in extra parts. It doesn't look like there is. It appears to be just a simple timer circuit.

It is possible though that DC could appear on the output (resulting in a loud and sharp 'tick' when the relay kicks in) that could destroy headphones.
Add to that TH-X00 drivers are 25 Ohm and the Lyr-3 can deliver peaks in excess of 8W in it (when something bad happens)
It is very easy to kill those headphones by accident (poor connecting tube in a socket for instance creating a pulse).
The 600 Ohm T1 would be harder to kill this way. Maybe it was the T1 itself that simply crapped out. We will never know for sure.
whoops, haven't seen the frequency response, I misread the specs in the schiit page where it says that is DC coupled with DC servo (whatever the hell does this means, since a DC coupled design excludes a DC servo and vice versa) but referred only at phono stage.
Then, it's possible that a fault in the amplifier circuit could possibly be responsible of the DC offset at the output.
 
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#13
Disappointed but not surprised that the preamp out is really just another headphone out. This explains my experience trying to use Lyr 2 as a preamplifier -- I needed volume control for a power amp and I had the Lyr 2 on hand, but the result was bad enough that even my casually listening roommates could hear the difference.
 
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#14
Disappointed but not surprised that the preamp out is really just another headphone out. This explains my experience trying to use Lyr 2 as a preamplifier -- I needed volume control for a power amp and I had the Lyr 2 on hand, but the result was bad enough that even my casually listening roommates could hear the difference.
lot of products uses this trick to power the pre outs. Even Teac with its top of the line UD-503 and UD-505 for example, uses its circuit to control both headphone out and pre out, a cheap way to offer this functionality. It's quite the same thing as a speaker amplifier using a resistor to route the signal at the headphone socket.
 

JohnYang1997

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#16
Ok at least good amount of power.
Now I'm curious how amir would think of ragnarok.
I personally think it's really good. Both original and 2nd gen. And i prefer low gain.
 

JohnYang1997

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#17
Disappointed but not surprised that the preamp out is really just another headphone out. This explains my experience trying to use Lyr 2 as a preamplifier -- I needed volume control for a power amp and I had the Lyr 2 on hand, but the result was bad enough that even my casually listening roommates could hear the difference.
Despite of lyr2 here, good headphone amps do make good preamp. Headphone amp should be more capable as a preamp.
 

Dana reed

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#18
I've had one of these for a while and can confirm that the stock tubes don't sound good relative to the LISST, subjectively. I did buy a pair of Gold Lion new production tubes, and those sound quite good. My favorite amp with HE560.

When you measured the output impedance was that in hi or lo gain? The unit is supposed to have sub 1 Ohm impedance in low gain.
 

L0rdGwyn

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#19
It is too bad they did not provide more tubes to try, great review though, thanks Amir.
 
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#20
I've had one of these for a while and can confirm that the stock tubes don't sound good relative to the LISST, subjectively. I did buy a pair of Gold Lion new production tubes, and those sound quite good. My favorite amp with HE560.

When you measured the output impedance was that in hi or lo gain? The unit is supposed to have sub 1 Ohm impedance in low gain.
Where did you get those tubes? After I get this amp back from Amir, I may try some tube rolling.
It is too bad they did not provide more tubes to try, great review though, thanks Amir.
Sadly, I don't have any other tubes for this amp (yet). I have been using it exclusively with LISST after I found that I subjectively preferred their sound. Curious to see that Schiit have now discontinued them, I wonder why?
 
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