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Schiit Freya+ Pre-amp Review

Rate this preamp:

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 89 49.4%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 60 33.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther

    Votes: 19 10.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 12 6.7%

  • Total voters
    180

amirm

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of Schiit Freya+ selectable passive, active solid state, and tube pre-amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,199 plus shipping.
Schiit Freya + Plus Active solid state Mode Preamp Review.jpg

I am a fan of the wide aspect ratio Schiit audio products. They look a lot more classy than their compact versions. What I am not a fan of is rear power switch (especially for a tube amp), and controls with cryptic symbols. Luckily there are not too many of them and you can memorize them. Stepped relay volume control means chatter when you change volume with some static in the output but probably worth it for the channel match.

Unusual for a tube product is balanced input and outputs:
Schiit Freya + Plus Active solid state Mode Preamp Balanced Back Panel Review.jpg


The included tubes are "matched" JJ 6SN7.

Given the three operational modes and many inputs and output variations, I chose to only test balanced input and outputs.

Gain settings are odd. While I can appreciate the pass-through mode being at 0 dB, the active solid state is also 0 dB while the tube mode is much more at 12 dB.

Schiit Freya+ Balanced Measurements
Let's start with passive mode with unity gain which required max volume (best case scenario for passive mode):

Schiit Freya + Plus Passive Mode Preamp Measurements.png


Naturally we more or less get the analyzer response. I am not going to show you the degraded performance as you decrease volume with this or other passive pre-amps. See my other reviews on this.

Switching to active SS mode produced surprisingly high penalty:
Schiit Freya + Plus Active solid state Mode Preamp Measurements.png


Look at the very large third harmonic. I expected the Freya S performance which is far, far better SINAD of 111 dB. Disappointing.

Switching to tube mode takes performance many more steps lower:
Schiit Freya + Plus Tube Mode Preamp Measurements.png


Power supply noise interferes and modulates the high harmonic spikes. The amplifier is quiet for a tube product:
Schiit Freya + Plus Tube Mode Preamp SNR Measurements.png


And gets much better in the other two modes:
Schiit Freya + Plus SNR Preamp Measurements.png


The active tube mode is capable of very high output:
Schiit Freya + Plus THD+N vs Level Preamp Measurements.png


Notice however how fast distortion sets in using active solid state mode. You can see the same in IMD test:
Schiit Freya + Plus IMD Distortion Preamp Measurements.png


Crosstalk is extremely good:
Schiit Freya + Plus balanced crosstalk Preamp Measurements.png


Frequency response has a low frequency roll off even in solid state mode:
Schiit Freya + Plus Passive Active Mode Preamp Frequency Response Measurements.png


I wonder if it is capacitor coupled?

There is little frequency dependence in distortion profile which is nice:
Schiit Freya + Plus THD+N vs freq Preamp Measurements.png


Schiit Freya+ Listening Tests
Performing proper AB tests is made challenging due to much higher output level/gain of tube amp. Likely this is the reason for positive remarks for tube mode. And the fact that selecting the tube mode can cause a 45 second mute. I managed to still do a half-decent test by cycling from tube to the other two modes which is instant. And even in reverse by switching back to tube mode quickly before it decided to time out for 45 seconds.

Testing consisted of RME ADI-2 Pro as the source, driving the Freya+, which in turn drove Topping A90 Discrete as a headphone amp. I used my Dan Clark Stealth for listening tests. I set the volume to max when comparing passive mode to active solid state. There, I could not detect much of any difference. Sound was very good and essentially reflected the fidelity of my source.

Tube mode was not so situated. I could easily hear the grungy distortion that it was adding. Low level detail was hidden and impact in some notes gone. Mind you, these are clearly audible to me in AB test. In the absolute, it may be harder to hear the impairments. I ran through a number of clips and in no case did I like the tube mode. If I let it have much higher volume, then preference for it was much easier. But not when levels were matched.

Conclusions
The Schiit Freya+ is a disappointment. It seems to be a product mostly from Schiit's past where even solid state buffer mode has a lot of distortion. Likely it is a low feedback mode thought to make better sound. Thankfully the distortion that it adds is low enough as to not be audible to most people. And the good dynamic range will be a relief as far as background hiss.

The tube mode is just bad. Only in audio folks sell muddy water as a better substitute for clean and clear water. :( Copious amount of distortion combined with power supply noise that modulates the same (causing jitter like sidebands), both objective and subjectively (to my ears) only reduced the fidelity of music. No spatial qualities changed other than muddy background that took away some sense of space for music. You have to have drank the "tube sound" Kool-Aid undiluted to think this means better fidelity.

Overall, I see no reason to purchase this pre-amp. A much better bet and far better product is the Schiit Freya S. It is half the price and performs so much better.

I can't recommend the Schiit Freya+. Company can do better and is simply choosing to not do so. Disappointing.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

fordiebianco

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I quite liked my Nobsound NS 10p preamp a while ago which I tube rolled with some matched GEs. £49. Much more cost effective when you want to add distortion.
 
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I got over most of my interest in tubes shortly after discovering ASR, but the vastly different distortion profiles (alongside its ultra-clean passive mode) makes the Freya+ an interesting product for those who might afford it. What are the odds @amirim will get to retest this using Schiit's new LISST "solid state tubes?"
 
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amirm

amirm

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mhardy6647

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Are the tubes (and/or their sockets) really as mis-aligned as they appear in the photo?
If so... shame, shame on the company for such cheesy construction in what I'd consider a fairly expensive product.

If not:
nevermind-gildaradner.gif


;)

... And even in reverse by switching back to tube mode quickly before it decided to time out for 45 seconds.
Oooh, that sounds like living dangerously.
I salute you, sir! :)
 

abdo123

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By the way just in case people missed it, the distortion in the solid state active mode is 100% intentional. I don't think anyone can design a pre-amplifier with 120dB SNR without knowing what they're doing or without doing extensive measurements every step of the way.

There is also barely any distortion below 1 Vrms, which means most people won't even play the pre-amp at levels anywhere near where the distortion rises, it's just a Hocus Pocus move from the company to capitalize on all fronts.
 

AdamG247

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The @amirm “Machine” just keeps grinding out the Reviews and no rest for the wicked. You must have been a nightmare to work for? :oops:
 
Last edited:

Joe Smith

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Tubes...ha. Solid state tubes? Double ha.

Overall I am a Schiit booster but some of the higher-up products leave me scratching my head. A muddled mix of "the people demand it" and "gee, that would be interesting to build".

I think eventually I will want to get a Saga S preamp just for the input functionality + remote control, but see no need to go beyond that.
 

PeteL

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I have to say I don't hear all that grungy distortion in tube mode, but granted I don't run the volume at max, and it's probably more detectable with headphones which I never use with my Freya +. To me all 3 modes sound great. even with impactful music. I must be going deaf.
 

lc6

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By the way just in case people missed it, the distortion in the solid state active mode is 100% intentional. I don't think anyone can design a pre-amplifier with 120dB SNR without knowing what they're doing or without doing extensive measurements every step of the way.

There is also barely any distortion below 1 Vrms, which means most people won't even play the pre-amp at levels anywhere near where the distortion rises, it's just a Hocus Pocus move from the company to capitalize on all fronts.
That ~122 dB SNR was in passive mode, which likely means just a pot plus maybe a few DC isolation caps and other passive components. Provided decent-quality parts were used, not much to "design" in that mode except a proper PCB layout.
 

Toni Mas

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These guys are selling audio gear as would sell any other kind of psychoactive stuff... This is part of the audiophile business as we all have been warned / experienced before, but this still seems to have a strong appeal to some folks in search of some kind of exotic audio fantasy...
 
Last edited:

Gorgonzola

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This is a review, detailed measurements and listening tests of Schiit Freya+ selectable passive, active solid state, and tube pre-amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $1,199 plus shipping.
View attachment 220768
I am a fan of the wide aspect ratio Schiit audio products. They look a lot more classy than their compact versions. What I am not a fan of is rear power switch (especially for a tube amp), and controls with cryptic symbols. Luckily there are not too many of them and you can memorize them. Stepped relay volume control means chatter when you change volume with some static in the output but probably worth it for the channel match.

Unusual for a tube product is balanced input and outputs:
View attachment 220769

The included tubes are "matched" JJ 6SN7.

Given the three operational modes and many inputs and output variations, I chose to only test balanced input and outputs.

Gain settings are odd. While I can appreciate the pass-through mode being at 0 dB, the active solid state is also 0 dB while the tube mode is much more at 12 dB.

Schiit Freya+ Balanced Measurements
Let's start with passive mode with unity gain which required max volume (best case scenario for passive mode):

View attachment 220770

Naturally we more or less get the analyzer response. I am not going to show you the degraded performance as you decrease volume with this or other passive pre-amps. See my other reviews on this.

Switching to active SS mode produced surprisingly high penalty:
View attachment 220771

Look at the very large third harmonic. I expected the Freya S performance which is far, far better SINAD of 111 dB. Disappointing.

Switching to tube mode takes performance many more steps lower:
View attachment 220772

Power supply noise interferes and modulates the high harmonic spikes. The amplifier is quiet for a tube product:
View attachment 220773

And gets much better in the other two modes:
View attachment 220774

The active tube mode is capable of very high output:
View attachment 220775

Notice however how fast distortion sets in using active solid state mode. You can see the same in IMD test:
View attachment 220776

Crosstalk is extremely good:
View attachment 220777

Frequency response has a low frequency roll off even in solid state mode:
View attachment 220778

I wonder if it is capacitor coupled?

There is little frequency dependence in distortion profile which is nice:
View attachment 220779

Schiit Freya+ Listening Tests
Performing proper AB tests is made challenging due to much higher output level/gain of tube amp. Likely this is the reason for positive remarks for tube mode. And the fact that selecting the tube mode can cause a 45 second mute. I managed to still do a half-decent test by cycling from tube to the other two modes which is instant. And even in reverse by switching back to tube mode quickly before it decided to time out for 45 seconds.

Testing consisted of RME ADI-2 Pro as the source, driving the Freya+, which in turn drove Topping A90 Discrete as a headphone amp. I used my Dan Clark Stealth for listening tests. I set the volume to max when comparing passive mode to active solid state. There, I could not detect much of any difference. Sound was very good and essentially reflected the fidelity of my source.

Tube mode was not so situated. I could easily hear the grungy distortion that it was adding. Low level detail was hidden and impact in some notes gone. Mind you, these are clearly audible to me in AB test. In the absolute, it may be harder to hear the impairments. I ran through a number of clips and in no case did I like the tube mode. If I let it have much higher volume, then preference for it was much easier. But not when levels were matched.

Conclusions
The Schiit Freya+ is a disappointment. It seems to be a product mostly from Schiit's past where even solid state buffer mode has a lot of distortion. Likely it is a low feedback mode thought to make better sound. Thankfully the distortion that it adds is low enough as to not be audible to most people. And the good dynamic range will be a relief as far as background hiss.

The tube mode is just bad. Only in audio folks sell muddy water as a better substitute for clean and clear water. :( Copious amount of distortion combined with power supply noise that modulates the same (causing jitter like sidebands), both objective and subjectively (to my ears) only reduced the fidelity of music. No spatial qualities changed other than muddy background that took away some sense of space for music. You have to have drank the "tube sound" Kool-Aid undiluted to think this means better fidelity.

Overall, I see no reason to purchase this pre-amp. A much better bet and far better product is the Schiit Freya S. It is half the price and performs so much better.

I can't recommend the Schiit Freya+. Company can do better and is simply choosing to not do so. Disappointing.

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

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
I owned a Freya + for period of time and concur with Amir's listening results. Likewise I found not much loss going from Passive to Buffer modes though I preferred the Passive. My impression of Tube mode's limitations was the same as Amir's.

I think it's notable that the Freya S has much better Active test results than the Freya +'s Buffered Mode.

I terms of SQ, (subjective of course), my Sonic Frontiers Line 1 SE+ tube preamp is much superior to the Freya +. I would love to have Amir test the SF but don't trust the logistics that would be involved shipping it back & froth to him.
 
Last edited:

TK750

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Are the tubes (and/or their sockets) really as mis-aligned as they appear in the photo?
If so... shame, shame on the company for such cheesy construction in what I'd consider a fairly expensive product.
Isn't that just the perspective? The lens of the camera is clearly to the left of the tubes in the top photo. If you look at the photo of the rear, the camera appears to be more or less in line with the right hand tubes (as you look at the picture) and they look aligned to me. Apologies if I have misunderstood what you were saying.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Isn't that just the perspective?
No, that tube is crooked. I tried to straighten it but it is in there very solid. Probably could be made to be straight but it was fine as it was so I didn't mess with it too much.
 
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