With a legion of followers, Schiit have been in the audio game for a while and have organically grown from simple and humble beginnings. Headed by Jason Stoddard and Mike Moffatt, the company have held a strong value for money philosophy and have constantly released affordable yet high quality gear earning them many accolades amongst audiophile circles.
Latest to be released are a selection of pre-amps including: Saga S, Saga +, Freya S & Freya + which have been touted as improved iterations of previous products. The new editions are part of Schiit’s new “Project Thunderdome” category where buyers dictate which products stay and which should be discontinued. This review shall be focusing on the Freya+ pre-amplifier which is a welcomed addition to Schiit’s already popular predecessor.
At a price of $899, the Freya + is said to offer refinement over the original Freya with higher performance, enhanced features and an all new included remote control.
Box and design
The Schiit products come well packaged in a large cardboard box. As with all Schiit products, the white cardboard features minimal packaging which exudes class and sophistication. The stack comes with each of their respective power cords (UK, US, Australian or Euro) as well as the factory new production Tong-sol tubes.
On the topic of design, the brushed aluminium chassis of both the DAC and amp are truly stunning. Like their more budget version products, the design is a real testament to Schiit’s craftsmanship and premium appeal. The Freya + also incorporates a “fastenerless” chassis which provides an updated and sleeker look compared to the original.
Build & Features
The Freya + hosts a new tube stage incorporating noise-cancelling semi-circlotron output buffers and DC heaters. The result is said to reduce noise levels by a significant 20 decibels. The new JFET buffer allows conversion of single-ended signals to balanced allowing multiple sources to be used. The tube shutdown mode is another welcomed implementation which turns tubes completely off unless they are being used improving the signal to noise ratio and preserving the life of the tubes. Finally, and quite excitingly, the Freya + has a motorized remote-controlled pot providing convenience and an added touch of class in the home-setting.
On the front of the Freya plus are 3 LEDS (the Mute, Buffer & Tube) – each of which indicate the mode the Freya is on with the Tube LED indicating tube gain (SE to balanced conversion as well as a 12 dB gain). To the right are the mute and output select buttons which respectively switch the mute function on/off and switch between output staging of passive, differential buffer and differential tube gain. The potentiometer offers tactile volume change with the IR sensor for the remote found on the far right of the device.
On the rear of the Freya plus, there are both balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs allowing users to connect multiple sources whether it be RCA inputs or external amplification outputs. Next to these are the power switch and power outlets of the device.
Internals & Power Supply
Incorporating a unique topology, the Freya possesses a 48VA transformer with regulated 300V rail plus a 28VA transformer with regulated +/- 18V rails. The overall power consumption is 40 watts with an input impedance of 10K Ohms.
The Freya + establishes what the original set out to do with its involving and holographic sound as well as the convenience of controlling multiple sources from one device. However, there are some differences between the new model and its predecessor. For example, the Freya + captivates more of a warm sound with some midrange thump and smoother vocal delivery. The tube gain is also noticeably quieter which is more evident across sensitive audio gear; a complaint which the old Freya had often received. As with the previous model, the passive mode offers a solid-state flavour with a more transparent and revealing sound albeit with less soundstage and harmonic bloom compared to the tube gain. The tube gain also impacts a more holographic sound stage with height and depth while also adding some weight to the lower frequency spectrum.
It is worth noting that with the supplied 6SN7 Tung-Sol tubes, the Freya + has greater synergy for more resolving DACs such as the Schiit Yggdrasil and Audio Gd D-27 compared to more analogue sounding sources like the Rega DAC.
With the added remote control motorized pot, the Freya Plus enters a whole new level of user convenience and feature-led experience. As with the Schiit Ragnarok, the Plus has a relay switched 128-stepped attenuator which gives near perfect channel matching and comfortably clicks with each turn. My one gripe was that with the previous Freya the remote control volume did not track to the potentiometer. However this has been resolved with the latest edition albeit with a slight delay from initial volume control press to the motorised tracking. One thing to note is that Schiit have let go of the previous screw-in volume pot in favour of a seamless design. Fans of a more uniform look may prefer this but pragmatically, the screw did offer some sort of bearing for volume levels in low light settings.
Mode switching is instant and very convenient with no significant decibel gain when switching to the tube mode. Also convenient is the tube shutdown when not in active tube mode which prolongs tube life and distortion-free performance.
Schiit have taken their already well-received Freya pre-amp and have incorporated modifications that fans of the company have eagerly asked for. With a remote control set to the potentiometer and near distortion-free tuning, the Freya plus represents a newly improved pre-amplifier that would work well in any audiophile’s set-up. The chassis feels and looks incredibly sleek and with the new fasterlessness design fits well with Schiit’s ‘Made in America’ product range. Nestled at the top of their price-performance curves, Schiit does not disappoint with this new amplifier which adds a delightful tuning yet flexible approach when dealing between existing source components. It will be interesting to see if there is enough demand for this product to survive Schiit’s ‘thunderdome’ idea. For this reason, I would strongly urge readers to try this product for those seeking a smart pre-amplifier solution.
Schiit Freya + Pre-Amplifier Review