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Schiit KARA Preamp and Headphone Amp Review

Rate this preamp and headphone amp

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 4 1.8%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 17 7.5%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 91 39.9%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 116 50.9%

  • Total voters
    228

respice finem

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The dog can hear the difference between DSP filter response at 20 kHz better than we can.
But it doesn't help us a Schiit :) If we can't hear a difference, this difference is useless for us.
 
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MRC01

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Jason forwarded these for more clarification:
...
I have some reading to do.
Perfect - thank you.
That's what I've seen called a "series attenuator", not a ladder. And your original reply is then correct. It's simpler than a ladder, requiring fewer resistors. The drawback is that max output impedance is twice as high as a ladder, 5 kOhm instead of 2.5 kOhm.
 
OP
amirm

amirm

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Applause to all companies willing to send their products to Amir. That is in itself a quality sign.
Indeed. Schiit now not only does that, but is one of a handful of companies producing Audio Precision reports itself. It is an incredible turn around for the company compared to the old days and model for others to follow.
 

DMill

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I am still amazed that we had to depend on magazine reviews/stereo salespeople to some degree to buy stuff that was expensive and had a highly respected name and now finding out it was actually not much good at all. Companies like Schiit are exactly what we need.
There does seem to be a lot to like about the company. I have one of their DACs, it works fine. They still have a few tube driven devices, but I don‘t see them pushing them as superior. Just, if you like tubes, we got em. I do appreciate that they are ”assembled” in a place that offers fair wages. They already have an extremely loyal fan base and if they keep making stuff like this it’s bound to increase.
 

SCG

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For anyone interested in the design philosophy that went into the Kara with some good data and history along with compares to Freya + and Freya S.


Some are going to howl at how much effort went in to removing the HP while playing music vs how it measures with low impedance HPs, oh and the tech that sounds like a$$.
 
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restorer-john

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. Who uses that?

I often use the headphone jacks on my full size HiFi. Preamps, CD players, vinyl played at night when everyone is asleep etc. Headphones are not just for desktop and portable gear.
 

Rottmannash

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Very nice! And way more inputs than my Topping Pre90, not that I need them presently. Would like to see RCA in/XLR out.

I'd miss the per-input volume memory of my Pre90, which I now find indispensable.



Why is the balanced output impedance so much higher?
It has XLR in and RCA out.
 

Rottmannash

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The volume control does not need to be an actual pot. It could simply be a rotary pulse generator: Turn it clockwise and it generates pulse(s) incrementing a 7-bit counter (with a limit of 0..127) that drives the relays that control a discrete resistive attenuator. Turn it counterclockwise, and the opposite happens. Much easier to implement, more reliable (no gradual wear) and accurate (a "linear" pot may not be very linear) than having an actual resistive pot read by an ADC.

To make this whole discussion more fact-based, it would be helpful to see @amirm 's graph of the dB volume linearity and channel mismatch of this DUT.
Don't know if this matters but on the Freya+ the volume knob has quite defined detents when turning and the volume change once one turns past 1:00 is quite dramatic compared to the steps from "off" to 1:00. The volume slowly increases predictably then appears to double in intensity from 1:00 and 3:00 and the pot still has a ways to go before maxed out.
 
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Hart

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Indeed. Schiit now not only does that, but is one of a handful of companies producing Audio Precision reports itself. It is an incredible turn around for the company compared to the old days and model for others to follow.
I am sure a great review by ASR must boost sales significantly. Especially the smaller more esoteric shops. I am guessing you won't get any product from Marantz, Anthem, Carver, Arcam etc....
 

MRC01

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Applause to all companies willing to send their products to Amir. That is in itself a quality sign.
Indeed. Schiit now not only does that, but is one of a handful of companies producing Audio Precision reports itself. It is an incredible turn around for the company compared to the old days and model for others to follow.
FWIW, this, and seeing T.M. Noble's participation here is why I've bought some Schiit myself and recommended it to friends.
 

nagster

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@amirm
Thank you for your review.
I have a question. The rotation range of the volume knob is about 300 degrees, from the minimum volume (7 o'clock) to the maximum volume (5 o'clock)? Or is it an infinite rotation encoder?
From the board image, it looks like a 300 degree type, but I'm not sure exactly.
 

30 Ounce

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Is the power switch on the back? Can’t tell if any of the front buttons turn it on.
 

SCG

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Sorry, I meant a measurement of RCA in/XLR out.

I'd like to see XLR to RCA (using as a sub out) well at least now we have 2 sets of RCA to RCA measurements and between the 2 sets of XLR to XLR measurements we can extrapolate both ways.

I have a question. The rotation range of the volume knob is about 300 degrees, from the minimum volume (7 o'clock) to the maximum volume (5 o'clock)? Or is it an infinite rotation encoder? From the board image, it looks like a 300 degree type, but I'm not sure exactly.

7-5 o'clock rotation with hard stops, volume also changeable via remote, no infinite rotation encoder.

Is the power switch on the back? Can’t tell if any of the front buttons turn it on.

As most of their stuff, it's on the back.
 
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T.M.Noble

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FWIW, this, and seeing T.M. Noble's participation here is why I've bought some Schiit myself and recommended it to friends.
Glad to hear I have been of some help to this community. All the Schiit talking aside, we enjoy what we do and we are constantly trying to bring great products to your door at reasonable prices.

Stay tuned, more to come.
 

SCG

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Looking forward to some of the 'more to come' at the Schiitr meetup next week, looks like one of them might be tied to Jason's presentation at LA CanJam end of this month.

For those of you that despise subject reviews on the Kara, nothing to see here.

It does give some idea of the relay clicking sound (near-field) when changing volume, in fact made me think my Kara was acting up, as the sound was overlayed in the video without warning. Also fyi, never had the issue he had, even when trying to replicate.
 
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Joe Smith

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Glad to hear I have been of some help to this community. All the Schiit talking aside, we enjoy what we do and we are constantly trying to bring great products to your door at reasonable prices.

Stay tuned, more to come.
TM, I hope you guys are considering offering a preamp sometime that has an available phono card slot. I love the feature set of the Saga S but the lack of a phono pre, having to have a separate box for that, is what's stopping me.
 
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Dougey_Jones

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The preamp performance is quite good, but I want a balance control too.
Yep, and a HT Processor bypass.

If Schiit reads these forums, the omission of a balance control is what's prevented me from buying the Freya+, and now the Kara. It's a slap in the face to those of us with hearing imbalances and completely ignores the fact that people live in imperfect spaces and may not be able to configure their speakers in a perfect triangle with the MLP.

Not sure why this reality was completely understood by equipment designers for decades and now in 2023 is basically ignored. I'm willing to pay for these features, make a version of the Freya+ or Kara that includes an HT Bypass input that automatically sets unity gain and a remote controlled balance control and I'll pay $1,000 for it.

My 25 year old Adcom GFP-750 has both of these features and both are remote controlled:

 
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