James Michael Hughes auditions a powerful pint-sized preamplifier and energy amplifier mixture….
Saga S Pre / Aegir Energy
£350 / £1,000 RRP
Since its formation in 2010, California-based Schiit Audio has change into well-known for nice US-built audio merchandise at very reasonably priced costs. The Saga S is an energetic/passive line-level preamp, whereas the Aegir is a stereo/mono energy amp delivering a claimed 20W output into 8 ohms or 40W into 4 ohms.
The Saga S has 5 analogue line inputs. At 230x150x50mm, it is a compact little unit that pulls 15W of energy and runs cool. It affords customers a alternative of passive operation or energetic with a J-FET output stage. There’s additionally a Saga Plus model at £400 with a tube output stage. Whether or not energetic or passive, the Saga S produces unity achieve. You may evaluate energetic and passive modes whereas the music performs. The quantity management makes use of relay-switched thin-film resistors in 64 separate 1dB steps. Most output is 5V, and a pleasant distant management is included.
The Aegir mono/stereo energy amp affords a alternative of unbalanced stereo operation or balanced mono operation in bridged mode. Claimed energy output is simply 20W at 8 ohms, however this doubles to 40W with 4 ohm audio system and jumps to 80W into 8 ohms when the amp is bridged. Whereas 20W would not appear a lot, subjectively, the Aegir sounds surprisingly gutsy and dynamic. After all, my utilizing 102dB delicate Klipsch Cornwall IV audio system helps enormously right here, but when your audio system are lower than 90dB environment friendly, and/or you’ve a giant room and hear at highish quantity ranges, it may not be your most suitable option. Schiit’s similarly-priced 100W Vidar 2 could be a greater wager on this scenario.
The Aegir is a quasi-Class A, DC-coupled wide-bandwidth design with no capacitors within the sign path. To decrease warmth and scale back present draw over a pure Class A design, it runs in Class A for the primary 10W. Even so, it nonetheless will get fairly heat, usually between 35C and 50C. It normally takes an hour or extra earlier than temperatures over 35C are reached. Left idling, it appears to settle round 37C. Massive heatsinks on each side of the housing guarantee that is adequately dissipated. Most energy consumption is claimed to be 450W, however throughout common/regular use I measured simply 75W. Schiit says that its proprietary Continuity circuit eliminates transconductance-droop, extending the sonic advantages of Class A operation past this 10W boundary.
Claimed frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz inside 0.1dB, or 3Hz to 500kHz -3dB. A big 600VA transformer is used, with seven separate windings for particular person circuits inside the amplifier. A achieve of 22dB is claimed. Case measurement is 230x330x100mm, and the amp weighs 10kg.
Each the Saga S and Aegir feel and appear very well-made and are very quiet electronically and bodily. With an ear near the Aegir, I might nearly detect a faint, barely-audible transformer buzz. With my ear proper by the speaker drivers I heard nothing. So, successfully, the amps are silent.
The quantity management on the Saga S makes a barely mechanical clicking sound because the relays change out and in. Quantity ranges could be adjusted utilizing the equipped distant. Regardless of utilizing delicate audio system, I discovered myself enjoying with the amount knob set excessive at across the two o’clock mark. Amplifiers that use a traditional potentiometer for quantity function a logarithmic resistive monitor to go well with the ear’s non-linear response to loudness ranges. However the Saga S’ quantity management has a linear response in mounted 1dB increments and so behaves otherwise.
Whereas the Aegir is up and working inside seconds of switch-on, the Saga S has a built-in delay of about one minute earlier than it may be used. Though there is a passive possibility, the Saga S can’t operate with out energy. It’s because relays are used for the output and quantity management. Whereas I felt the passive possibility was in all probability a shade extra impartial, energetic added a bit of heat, which I most popular. Nevertheless, it wasn’t an evening and day distinction.
I largely used the energetic setting, however the two had been shut and sometimes it wasn’t simple to inform one from the opposite. I used a brief 0.5m cable between the pre and energy amp. Presumably should you used considerably longer cable runs – say 4 or 5 metres – there is likely to be extra distinction between energetic and passive, as a result of the previous must be higher at driving lengthy runs of cable.
The Aegir has RCA phono and XLR inputs, however the latter is for balanced operation with the amp in bridged mode. Including a second Aegir and utilizing a pair bridged will improve output energy, however you may want a preamp with balanced XLR outputs like Schiit’s Freya S or Freya Plus.
First impressions had been of a vivid, crisp, ahead, sound, however after an hour or so it eased up and have become sweeter and extra relaxed. When absolutely as much as temperature, this combo is impactful, has glorious readability, a good highly effective backside finish, a easy liquid midrange, and a transparent, ethereal treble. Whereas the tonal steadiness is not precisely euphonic, neither is it skinny, dry or laborious. The Aegir sounds completely advantageous when first switched on, however improves because the optimum temperature is reached. The sound turns into fuller and extra evenly balanced.
Switching between the preamp’s energetic and passive choices, the previous is a tad richer and sweeter – a shade extra full-bodied, should you like. Subjectively, there’s maybe a slight improve in degree with energetic engaged – possibly 0.25dB? It is exceedingly small however simply audible should you hear fastidiously.
I discovered the Saga S and Aegir to be very involving to take heed to. Outcomes had been participating and informative, and there is a good freshness to the sound that could be very interesting. The music sounds crisp, clear and properly balanced; it is quick and full of life, with good tempo and loads of affect and immediacy.
Frequency response extends properly into the sub-sonic areas. For these with a great sub or audio system able to reproducing the bottom frequencies, this helps impart a powerful sense of richness, weight and depth to the sound. Certainly, I used to be mildly shocked when a deep floor-shaking organ pedal abruptly entered – seemingly from nowhere – throughout the hushed shut of Strauss’s Alpine Symphony with Andris Nelsons on Deutsche Grammophon. Such huge weight and authority had been utterly surprising!
Whereas this kind of factor is noticeable on blockbuster recordings with deep, highly effective bass, it’s also obvious on common recordings. The presence of those very low frequencies offers the highs extra tonal sheen and helps to create a extra holographic, three-dimensional soundstage. Taking part in Antonio Forcione‘s album Contact Woodenthe replica had spectacular tempo and chunk, with plenty of twangy assault from guitars and percussion. When guitar strings had been being struck laborious, you may actually sense the aforementioned lustre.
But the Saga S and Aegir are about extra than simply delivering quick main edges and explosive dynamics. The mix sounds fairly refined, too. Outcomes had been very clear, being free from edge and harshness, regardless of being crisp and speedy. There’s a lovely purity in regards to the sound. You sense sign paths are quick and clear, with out pointless parts introducing smearing or colouration. An impression of immediacy and affect is the hallmark of responsive circuitry that is not getting in the best way of the music.
This grew to become clear whereas enjoying an ECM New Sequence CD; Elegies by Jorg Widmann. The principle work – Messe for giant orchestra – sounded impressively dynamic and highly effective. The room was full of sound, and the varied wind and string devices projected strongly and purposefully. But I used to be stunned after I checked sound stress ranges utilizing a meter. Subjectively, what had appeared loud was solely averaging about 55dB with occasional peaks as much as 60dB. Primarily based on what I used to be listening to, I might have guessed the sound was possibly 6dB to 10dB louder; later within the piece, some peaks reached 70dB. However the Aegir didn’t sound strained; these heavier climaxes expanded very naturally, with ease and charm. Tonally, the orchestral sound had a pleasant wealthy sheen to the higher frequencies, plus a sensible palpable sense of depth.
Lastly, I needed to strive Shostakovich‘s Preludes and Fugues for Piano with Alexander Melnikov on Harmonia Mundi. Particularly, the 14th Prelude with its explosive trills impressed me a lot after I listened by way of Lavardin’s ISx Reference amplifier. Occurring reminiscence, the £1.3k Schiit pre/energy produced comparable affect to the £4k Lavardin. Presumably, the Schiit was a tad more durable and extra forceful, whereas the Lavardin sounded equally dynamic however only a tad sweeter. I used to be left very impressed.
Schiit Audio’s Saga S and Aegir is a superb sounding pre/energy combo that gives excellent efficiency and very good worth for cash. You’d need to spend an enormous quantity extra to get one thing that performs considerably higher. Construct high quality and end – whereas possibly not fairly the final word in luxurious class – evaluate favourably with merchandise costing extra. But it surely’s the sound that counts, and offering you keep inside its energy compass, this compact mixture delivers cracking outcomes.