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Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Review

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Freya S balanced preamplifier. It was kindly loaned to me from a member who bought it used. The Freya S costs US $599 from the company plus shipping cost.

The design language is identical to other Schiit product although in the widescreen format looks more attractive:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Review.jpg

The volume control is stepped attenuator and you hear the chatter of the relays as you adjust them. A gain switch toggles between passive, active with "0 dB" gain and 14 dB of again. There is a mute button and input selector. A remote control is provided which I did not use.

There is good bit of connectivity is provided:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Back Panel inputs outputs balanced Review.jpg

I performed all of my testing with balanced input, and balanced output.

I know this is like all other Schiit products but sure would be nice in this case to have a power button in the front, than in the back. I do turn my pre-amp on and off and would hate to reach in the back to do so in my main system. It is one thing to have it this way in a desktop product but for a stereo system, it is not convenient.

Preamplifier Audio Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard, feeding the unit 4 volts and measuring 4 volts out in passive mode (volume set to max):
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode Audio Measurements.png


Performance is exceptional because it is what my Audio Precision analyzer can do. :) Distortion products are at or below -150 dB. What is left is a bit of noise which reduces SINAD to 122 dB. Speaking of that, here is the signal to noise ratio:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode SNR Audio Measurements.png


I was surprised when I selected "0 dB" active mode and it produced fair bit of gain at max volume. So I had to dial that back to still get 4 volts out:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode Ative 0 dB Audio Measurements.png


Sad to see one channel lagging so much behind the other. You can see this is due to second harmonic difference. This persisted throughout the testing. To wit, here is the "12 dB" gain mode:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode Ative 14 dB Audio Measurements.png


Signal to noise ratio takes a hit in higher gain mode so avoid it if you can:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode Ative SNR Audio Measurements.png


Intermodulation distortion and noise relative to level gives another reason to avoid high gain mode:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Passive Mode Ative IMD Audio Measurements.png


There is little frequency dependency here which is good:

Schiit Freya S Preamplifier THD+N versus Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Frequency response is flat in all three modes:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


But note that in passive mode, the output impedance will depend on volume position and can change the frequency response of the power amplifier after this unit.

The stepped attenuator does its job in producing superb channel matching relative to volume position:
Schiit Freya S Preamplifier Level Matching Audio Measurements.png


Conclusions
If you can live with passive mode, you get superb, transparent performance with a very accurate volume control. Active low gain mode, if operated as good as the better channel would also be excellent. Alas, one channel is worse there to the tune of 9 dB. I wonder if Schiit has a specification for channel differential and would fix this under warranty. You should not need the high gain mode if you are fronting a DAC with proper output levels.

As it is, the Schiit Freya S is good but given the channel distortion issue, I can't fully recommend it. If that is resolved, then it is a very good preamp and one that I could recommend.

EDIT: a second sample was sent in by the company which fixed the channel distortion discrepancy. See: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...s/schiit-freya-s-preamplifier-review-2.11543/
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#5
I been wanting to try the tube version Freya, but I couldn't find any measurements anywhere, I hope someone sends it over to you.
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #7
Does passive mode do anything, or is it just a passthrough at that point?
It goes through the volume control and of course you can switch inputs.
 

firedog

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#9
I been wanting to try the tube version Freya, but I couldn't find any measurements anywhere, I hope someone sends it over to you.
If it anything like the original Freya tube version, the tubes sound fine - not overly "tubey" - but not as clean and clear as the transistor jfet stage. Fine if you want the tube effect. But Schiit claims this model has a much improved sounding tube stage....
 

Tks

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#11
The power toggle on the back seems odd. Aesthetics is one thing but so is functionality. :rolleyes:
Maybe I'm lost since I'm a headphone guy and pre-amps isn't something I use (got powered speakers). But why would a power switch be a bad thing?
 
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amirm

amirm

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Thread Starter #12
Maybe I'm lost since I'm a headphone guy and pre-amps isn't something I use (got powered speakers). But why would a power switch be a bad thing?
It is not a bad thing. The bad thing is it being on the back as opposed to front.
 

Tks

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#13
It is not a bad thing. The bad thing is it being on the back as opposed to front.
Ah, don't know why this plain-as-day fact didn't cross my mind seeing as I've own Schiit amps in the past, this should have been obvious as that was a tad annoying even on a desk. I can only imagine how annoying it is on a rack.

With the power topic still lingering, I was wondering, is there a good or simple way of measuring how much power a device is using in some real-time fashion? Was always curious between analogue and digital audio gear in this respect.
 

pkane

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#14

Matias

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#15
@amirm typo on the title "Reivew".
 

Wes

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#17
Thx.

But can I suggest something other than "design language" - design could mean engineering

or ergonomics

design language is often used to mean visual esthetics, and I think it denigrates real design, i.e. engineering - here circuits
 
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#19
It goes through the volume control and of course you can switch inputs.
Amir,
What is the input/output impedance in passive mode?
You should also test common-mode rejection in balanced mode, in this case in the 0dB mode. The passive VC would have no CMRR.
 

Daverz

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#20
Would it be possible to measure how the output impedance changes with volume in the passive mode?
 

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