Info

a short diary of some part of my life.

Disclaimer: Since the first time I saw Red Wine Audio, I knew this guy is basically selling cheap parts and designs for a ton of money.

But I didn’t expect how he did this: https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/vinnie-rossi-ultracapacitor-power-supply-review-and-comparison-to-uptone-lps-1.1853/

Downloadable PDF Version


View this document on Scribd

Oops
Photo by Amir of ASR
Oops again
photo by Amir of ASR
What???
Photo by Amir of ASR
SMPS! The real surprise.
Photo by Amir of ASR

This is basically a con. Yes, he did pull the product but I don’t believe he didn’t know. Please read Red Wine Audio factory tour below. As you can see, his operations are small. Vinnie knows what’s going on inside his house.

Red Wine Audio factory tour: https://6moons.com/industryfeatures/redwineaudio/tour.html

Vinnie Rossi interview at Part-Time Audiophile: https://parttimeaudiophile.com/2017/02/10/vinnie-rossi-interview-the-man-behind-lio-pure-dc-4evr-and-the-imod/

Downloadable PDF Version


View this document on Scribd

Even after getting caught, he still tried to BS his customers: https://audiophilestyle.com/forums/topic/30401-the-vr-mini-ultracapacitor-power-supply-thread/

Downloadable PDF Version


View this document on Scribd

I totally agree with a fellow’s statement below:

I think the problem is that the internet allows any incompetent garden shed operation to set up and sell product and be commercially successful.

The gullible and technically ignorant audiophile audience is ripe for the marketing from all these amateur “manufacturers”.

Can you imagine how he can actually produce anything worth your money? I’d not pay a cent for anything he makes.

On a personal note, among my hobbies, I find audio is the priciest and full of scams. There are good companies out there, but you have to pick and choose carefully.

Schiit Modi 3, RME ADI2 DAC, Audio-gd Reference 5 DSP

I’ll cut to the chase.

I have the following gears for comparison purposes:
– Schiit Modi 3
Audio-gd Reference 5 DSP
– PS Audio DS DAC (not pictured as it is sitting on my audio rack with lots of cables tied onto the back of the rack, btw the rack is a beauty: Symbol Audio Dovetail)
– Denafrips Ares II (not pictured)

The comparisons were made using my headphone system. The headphones are:
Sennheiser HD6xx
– Campfire Audio Cascade (yep, after so many bitchings about ALO Audio, I hold their first headphones in high regard)
– Grado RS2e

Yes, the last two headphones are very colored. I like them because they are fun to listen to and offer completely different experience from one to another. Unlike DACs which are hard to differentiate, headphones and loudspeakers are not.

Headphones amps used to power headphones above:
– Schiit Magni 3+
Woo Audio 6 SE

My thought process was to use two different amps to basically give some options. The Magni 3+ is a sublime solid state while the Woo is a superb Class A tube amp.

Build Quality

They all offer very solid build quality. There is no product used from bad audio company here. At first, I thought the most attractive was off course the PS Audio DAC. My friend who visited me told me it looks like a Canon printer.



I can’t say I disagree. 😆
If I want to go down to nitpicking detail, I prefer all jacks to be chassis mounted. My Modi 3 has developed looser RCA connectors.

Chassis Mount Jacks

Sound Quality

To level the playing field, I always use this album as a reference point: https://www.hdtracks.com/#/album/5bffce2cc6e102670ab3facd

With the exception of PS Audio DS DAC and Audio-gd RE5 DSP, most my DACs sound neutral. This is all you should know really.

Again, if I want to go down to nitpicking details, the RME DAC performs the best out the bunch. It’s incredibly detailed and transparent. The DAC is not fatiguing like some high end DACs can be (I’m looking at you Mytek Brooklyn…).

This RME DAC actually makes my Cascade more listenable. I thought the Cascade was somewhat producing slightly convoluted sound. I was not hearing clear enough passages between notes. There is not a clear sense of space. at least with Modi 3 and Ares II. I can use the Cascade for hours, a very rare case for headphones to me. Cascade becomes more precise in terms of imaging, instruments separations and soundstage. Bass thumps are not so overly boomy anymore. I’d even claim that now, Campfire Audio Cascade has become my favorite headphones.

With Grado RS2e, the German-made DAC does not improve much of Grado’s sound traits or at least as much as it improves Cascade. It does offer similar improvements on sense of space. I love the Grado phones as it is. Actually there isn’t much to improve. Or it could be that this particular Grado is not very sensitive to small changes. To me this is a win.

One interesting find that I very much appreciate is the availability of fine sounding headphone amps in the unit. To keep this short, unless you want to have transformers-coupled tube amp sound signature, you need to daisy chain the ADI2 DAC FS with an amp like my Schiit Magni 3+. Not only if you drive your headphones direct, your headphones will sound better but also the simplicity. I do not favor using a longer signal path in between DAC and amplifier unless a preamp or a separate headphone amp brings something different on the table. So, after I paired it with Magni 3+ and WA6SE, I drove my headphones direct from RME ADI2 DAC FS. You’ll get extra airness and impacts. It’s an audio bliss how this small unit can offer so much and sacrifices nothing in sound quality.

If I want to compare DS DAC and Ares II, I would have to use a headphone amp. There is a small noticeable inferior detail retrievals. Driving my headphones direct is simply superior. Does it fare well against Paul McGowan‘s beloved DAC and Denafrips’ cheapest DAC? Yes, it does. Both DS and Ares II DAC sound warm. This can be a very pleasing for some tracks. DS DAC basically masks imperfections. The next question what Hi-Fi exactly is? RME ADI2 DAC FS is hi-fi.

Ares II fares better, although not without its flaws. Ares II somehow lacks punches. It does not have the same surreal listening experience if you play good recordings. It’s far too flat and uninviting. This Ares II will definitely go for sale soon.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a very sensitive IEM. My only IEM is Sennheiser IE8. The IEM headphone jack drives both the IE8, Cascade and RS2e just fine. It’s completely silent. There is no background noise, period. According to AudioScienceReview.com, RME ADI2 DAC FS IEM output measures the best, even when compared to the venerable THX AAA 789.

AudioScienceReview.com

RME ADI2 DAC is feature-packed. I’m a proponent that no speakers sound the same in various conditions. Headphones are not room-dependent but our ears are shaped differently. If micro adjustments are needed, RME has the features to do so.

I won’t cover all the features, they are just too many. You can read the manual, it covers everything. The manual is an interesting read; read it before you decide to buy it: https://www.rme-audio.de/downloads/adi2dac_e.pdf

Even without its’ features and functions, ADI2 DAC FS is a superb sounding DAC. Its’ features are basically the deal breaker. I’d pick RME ADI2 DAC FS over DACs listed above.

Happy listening!

When I wrote my Schiit Vidar review, I didn’t expect Schiit to be this stoopeed. As it turns out, they have plenty of issues. I think it is best to avoid buying any Schiit amps at this point. Jason needs to take a very careful look at his designs.

Here is the link to amirm’s thread on how to fix hum/buzz issues with Jotunheim at ASR: https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/fixing-hum-buzz-issues-with-schiit-jotunheim-headphone-amplifier.3733/ 

No wonder my class D amp is running circles over class AB Schiit Vidar.

Here is Schiit Jotunheim measurements done by amirm of ASR: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/review-and-measurements-of-schiit-jotunheim-and-ifi-idsd-black-label-dacs-and-headphone-amps.3717/

And design overview by Head-Case.org gangs: https://www.head-case.org/forums/topic/12921-schiit-jotunheim/

The measurements above further confirm my preference of HeadAmp Gilmore Lite mk2 over Schiit Ragnarok. What a pity…

Handling Problems

Jason offered to replace Vidar at their cost when they were having issues with speaker cables pairing:

“We’ll also notify Vidar owners in the same batch as Chris’ amps that if they are experiencing operational oddities, we’ll swap them out at our cost.”

I don’t think we have seen him doing the same for Jotunheim grounding issues, he should have at least notified by email to every single customer for a safety recall.

So much for a guy who warned himself not to go bust like Great American Sound by having too much service loads.

I really do not believe Schiit has the engineering chop to make something superbly designed and assembled, like Benchmark or RME. The key is to do it right the first time and be reactive to customers complaints. So far, to my eyes, Schiit only acts when a guy who operates a website on real audio measurements exposes Schiit’s flaws and defects!

Recently, Jason went on, writing about how Schiit have been very transparent about their failures and improvements. Well, they didn’t want to admit anything at first, until the issues were posted everywhere. Go figure… Make your own conclusions.

Edit: Looks like Amir of ASR has the same impressions as me.

This is the power amp I’ve been waiting for. I’ve pretty much disregard Schiit Ragnarok. Sure it’s an integrated amp, but there is no remote and the power output is only 60 watts. Really? Vidar might be a real giant killer. Does it live up to my expectations? We’ll find out below.

As usual, here is my current setup of my listening room. This isn’t really my listening room, but my bedroom.

  • Room
    Thick concrete floor finished with wood parquet. There are med-hard foam under the parquet.
    The ceiling is calcium silicate boards with rubber sheets cut in small pieces placed in between the suspension mounts, mainly to dampen excessive vibrations from tiny movements of the roof; these are not purposely built for audio, but to extend the life of the ceiling.
    Under the roof, there are hard foams here and there, acting as sound deadening.
    The roofing material is glazed ceramic.
    Walls are bricks covered with dense plaster.
    There are acoustic panels placed here and there.
    The window frames are YKK aluminum, rubber sealed (multiple). Just like suspensions for the ceiling, all window mountings use rubber O rings to dampen potential vibration.
    Basically, everything is built to last and to dampen vibration.
  • Power
    Wall outlets for audio are individually grounded. I use an isolation transformer before my power strip, PS Audio Quintet. Quintet has different zones for DAC, preamp and power amp.
  • Source + DAC: Mac Mini + Schiit Eitr + Schiit Modi Multibit / Wyred 4 Sound mINT
    Mac Mini is powered thru an APC UPS. Most of the time, I use iTunes + BitPerfect. I find no noticeable difference compared to Audirvana Plus. iTunes is huge win for convenience.
    Schiit Eitr, Modi Multibit, and W4S mINT are plugged onto PS Audio Quintet on the same zone. The DAC zone.
  • Cables
    I use mainly Blue Jeans Cable RCA when possible. By possible, I mean if the cables are exposed, I prefer to use better looking cables that I made myself. The materials are mainly silver-plated copper, silver soldered and terminated with silver plated RCA plugs. Basically the stuff ALO Audio is using, sourced direct from the manufacturer in Taiwan.
    For digital cables, I use exclusively Blue Jeans Cable 1505F coax cable and Sys Concept high transmissivity optical cable.
    Keep in mind that I’m not a cable believer, I believe, the shorter the cable, the better. I use boutique cables for their looks. And I’m just too lazy to sell them off.
  • Speakers
    Selah Audio Tempesta. A transparent pair of speakers. Enjoyable too. Mounted on Sanus speaker stands with IsoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet.

Build Quality

I really think Schiit is stepping up the game. Vidar is noticeably better built compared to other Schiit products I own. The aluminum top is nicely grained. There is no gouge like I can find on other Schiit products. It’s almost perfect. Looking at the top part of the PCB, the surface mount parts used are neatly placed. Hopefully, I won’t find poor soldering job under it.

Schiit Jotunheim poor soldering job. Photo by Spritzer @ head-case.org
Modi 2 USB poor soldering job. Photo by amirm of audiosciencereview.com – Modi 2 teardown

The binding posts are high quality as are the input jacks. I still prefer chassis-mount RCA jacks. I welcome the use of a proper power switch. I dislike ancient switches. Power switch is unfortunately still inconveniently located at the back, thankfully, there is work around. I can control the power on and off from my PS Audio Quintet power strip.

The edges are nicely chamfered.

I must say, Vidar looks absolutely beautiful. Even better in person. Schiit styling in general is modern, clean, and good looking. You can’t say the same thing if you have seen Krell’s in person or even my beloved ModWright KWA 100. The chassis is a very clever mix of cost saving and looks. Basically the powder-coated steel part acts as a base for PCB, transformer, and input/output jacks; the heatsinks act as part of the structures; and the L shaped nicely grained aluminum top finishes off the structure. If there is one thing I would like to request for a change, it’s the sharp edges on the heatsinks.

Looks:
Vidar: 9.5/10
KWA100: 7/10

Sharp edges

Sound Quality

First of all, you must be wondering why I am using a puny Schiit Modi Multibit + Schiit Eitr. I couldn’t bring myself to buy a Schiit Gungnir. I was considering to acquire Gungnir years ago. But as I said before, I put a large chunk my budget on speakers and room treatments. Then an amp. Then a DAC. I will probably come around and purchase Schiit Bifrost Multibit, mostly for its upgradability.

I did run Vidar for two whole days, it’s not hot, it’s warm. So for those who are worried, the big-honking heatsinks will burn your audio cabinet, it won’t.

The chain:

  1. Mac Mini + iTunes + BitPerfect
  2. Schiit Eitr
  3. Schiit Modi Multibit / RME ADI-2 DAC
  4. Schiit Saga + Tung Sol 6SN7
  5. Schiit Vidar
  6. Selah Audio Tempesta & KEF LS50

By using mostly Schiit products, I expect they have immaculate pairing.

In my Schiit Saga review, I wrote that Vidar is a letdown. My tiny Wyred 4 Sound mINT is surprisingly and amazingly superior. Yes, my mINT has seen more mileage but I don’t believe in burn-in and I’m not the kind of person who is leaving my gears on all the time.

No matter what I throw at Vidar, be it well recorded music (real instruments recording), it is inferior to mINT. In a way, I am a bit taken aback. With all the hypes Jason wrote on the Vidar page, how they seem to despise Class D amps

This Class D amp trounces Vidar fair and square. I don’t even use mINT’s onboard DAC, I’m using Modi Multibit and even running Saga driving mINT as a power amp.

My Wyred 4 Sound mINT amp section sounds better than my Vidar driving 84db sensitivity speakers. They are making noise that they dislike a Class D amp, well here it is, a jack of all trades integrated amp, running circles at Vidar.

Vidar feels slower, clunkier, and not very agile.

I’d say that this W4S integrated amp is like a light but fast European/Japanese sport cars. It does not have a huge amount of torque but when it accelerates, it feels like a dream. Its’ handling is also very good, going thru different passages are a breeze.

Vidar is like a typical American muscle car. Big, heavy, torquey. But it does not accelerate and handle well. It feels confused and fuzzy. (This has nothing to do with Vidar made in the US.)

mINT is airy; wide, open, precise expansive soundstage. While Vidar feels much more compressed and constraint. There is a good video on YouTube that explains similar findings for Jotunheim and Mjolnir 2:

W4S mINT produces better bass. Details? Again, mINT is better. Vidar is probably warmer. mINT is quite neutral. The thing about being neutral is that you can get away with mix and match. A lot of people are doing mix and match for the audio gears, to get better gear matching. I do not want to do that. It’s a hassle. I want a neutral sounding gear because you can play whatever music you can and all of them will sound good. The real differentiator is instruments separations. With Vidar, I feel like I cannot pick which is which. mINT has no problem at all at this. So, there you go, my preference is clear.

After I wrote the paragraph above, I was thinking to myself, W4S mINT is really that good. Could it be just me who experiences these things? I fired up Safari. I found these:

– https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/opinions-on-wyred-4-sound-ice-amps

Not one, but two similar impressions.

Yes, it’s its’ bigger brother. But hey, what are the chances of it being exactly the same other than the power output. One thing that I realise from downgrading to mINT from STI-500 is that I sacrifice nothing in sound quality.

I thought the weak point is the absolutely garbage Modi Multibit (this is by far the worst sounding DAC that I have auditioned, sounds like a mid-fi). So, I swapped to RME ADI-2 DAC. Vidar still sounds meh, though better than when paired with Modi Multibit.

The other differentiator that is also very very noticeable is instruments sound reproduction, Vidar fails in a big way. My wife plays piano and guitar. She plays piano almost everyday at home, I know what a good piano sounds like. Vidar fails reproduce the sound of a real piano.

A guy came to Schiitr thinking he could try out Vidar. He got this:

I like the talk Paul McGowan gave during his PS Audio BHK Signature amp intro on YouTube. He is striving to reproduce real instruments sound. What is it that Schiit is trying to do here with Vidar? As Dr. Gilmore wrote about Jotunheim, sounded like sh*t then, sounds like Schiit now.

Compared to ModWright KWA 100, coming soon…
(probably not needed, comparing KWA100 with Vidar is just not worth my time)

Keep in mind, most people will probably be happy with Vidar. Schiit has a cult following.  It’s just I have mINT + very good speakers in my possession. And It’s not like I can get rid of Vidar easily. I was looking at one of McIntosh cheaper integrated amps. I love integrated amps. No cable clutters. Now that I own a complete set of Schiit 2-channel speaker set-up, I may regret the decision not to go for an integrated amp.

I think Schiit is very good at marketing. They are competent production managers but you can find a good production manager if you look seriously. How come their price are so cheap? Have you ever looked at their products solder joints, how they put together most of their products, and their smaller units build quality? Do it. I have, some have and they are not impressed.

I’m not a fan of Jason’s creations. His amps can be hit and miss. His Jotunheim sounds mediocre (try A/B vs. Gilmore Lite, if this surprises you, if you have the chance at a local meet, try comparing Ragnarok vs. Gilmore Lite!). His Valhalla 2 sounds decent but not great with a high impedance headphone. But I did love my Lyr 1.

And suprise… the most recent event with Schiit Sol – their first turntable, Jason decided to offer full refund or be public beta testers for them. This is why anyone should not buy a first gen product from them, including the new Bifrost 2 with Unison USB input.

I really don’t know what they are after really. Are they trying to reach a certain price point and that’s it? You know, one other thing that I find interesting. On YouTube and 6moons, there are factory tours of amp makers. Of all of them, only PS Audio, McIntosh, and ModWright put a great care to their listening rooms. The rest of the packs, they simply settle with bare-bone listening rooms. This tells you why some sound great and others don’t.

Sound Quality: 5/10 – avoid
Build Quality: 9/10 (with reservation)