Info

a short diary of some part of my life.

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/

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

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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.

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. 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 / W4S mINT
  4. Schiit Saga + Tung Sol 6SN7
  5. Schiit Vidar
  6. Selah Audio Tempesta

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.)

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 the DAC, Vidar still sounds meh.

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.

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 + fairly transparent pair of 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.

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 the 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. But I do love my Lyr 1.

In essence, 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)

I wondered when Schiit would be making a preamp for speakers, it should have a remote. They went further. My favorite preamps are Wyred 4 Sound STP-SE and Audio-gd P-2. I love passive preamps. All they do is controlling the volume. I could have lived with the STP-SE but as I wrote previously, I don’t need balanced outputs and I prefer something with a smaller footprint. The P-2 should fill my needs but it’s *ugly. I ended up with a Swiss-army knife integrated amp, a W4S mINT.

  • 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 covering 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
    PS Audio Quintet connected to a wall outlet for audio that is individually grounded and isolated. The Quintet has different zones for DAC, preamp and power amp.
  • Source + DAC: Mac Mini + Schiit Eitr + Schiit Modi Multibit
    The 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.
    The Schiit Eitr and Modi Multibit are plugged onto PS Audio Quintet on the same zone. The DAC zone.
  • Cables
    I use mainly Blue Jeans Cable RCA when out of sight. By out of sight, 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.
    The power cables are Zu’s, I can’t remember the model name.
    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.

Performance

The Saga features relay-stepped attenuator. I am a huge fan of relay-stepped attenuator, also found in the STP-SE. Once you use this kind of volume control, you won’t go back to ancient pots. For those who like low-level listening, this is it. Say good bye to channel imbalance.

Tube buffer? I love tubes, who does not? Vs. passive mode, tube buffer offers a little bloom. I feel passive mode bass extension is more precise, you can immediately notice the difference. Depending on the music I am listening to, vocals sound best with tube.

Saga is dead quiet on both modes, as expected. I have various NOS tubes, it’s fun to find out how each one performs. And I guess this is the main selling point. I don’t believe there is anything like Saga in the market.

I don’t like to talk about price but in this case, I want to. Most of the time, you don’t get what you pay for in audio world. So comparing how an audio gear performs based on price is completely irrelevant. Yes, there are expensive high performing gears out there, but there are also cheap high performing gears that perform just as good if not better than expensive high performing gears. If I read one reviewer who says, “oh yeah, this USD 350 is off course performing just like how it’s priced, this USD 3000 gear is off course a better product.” I’d just close the page.

Even if the USD 3000 gear is well engineered, you need to calculate how much this expensive product maker wants to make in the first place. Things are moving at a much slower pace, they don’t have the numbers. Add to that the incredible efficiency that Schiit practice. Then there is the dealer cut.

I’ve gone thru this path, very rarely that I found an expensive gear that performs cut and above superior to the cheaper counterparts. Regardless of price, the Saga is a high performance preamp.

How does the Saga pair with Modi Multibit and Vidar?
Honestly, I feel like the Vidar is a bit of a letdown. It’s a fairly decent power amp, no doubt. Wyred 4 Sound mINT as a power amp is my preferred pairing. I will eventually write a Vidar review. Stay tuned.

Paired with the mINT, I can literally point out which DAC used at the time. It’s completely transparent. Paired with ModWright KWA 100, the Saga is also very transparent. A transparent preamp will expose flaws in the chain. Modi Multibit is a warm DAC.

Build Quality

The first thing I notice is the aluminum top. It is nicely grained with the right amount of thickness. The corners are chamfered and finished without any noticeable gouge. It’s a looker.

Saga looks very handsome from a distance but when you look at it closely, The chassis has misalignments here and there. Not as bad as their smaller chassis but they can do better at no cost. It’s a non-issue for most.

I hope I won’t see these poor soldering job if I ever open it.

https://www.head-case.org/forums/topic/12921-schiit-jotunheim/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-fulla-v2-dac-and-headphone-amplifier.3154/
https://audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/hardware-teardown-of-schiit-modi-2-usb-dac.2082/

Let’s be fair, not everyone build their product as neat as Justin Wilson of Headamp. But bad soldering job is just sloppy and it looks like you want to make a cost cutting measure somewhere. I view buying an audio gear as a long term investment, an investment that hopefully last for decades. I don’t leave my gears active all the time like many do. So I expect what I purchase will last for a while.

I know many people like to frequently change gears but I don’t do that. Once I’m settled, I won’t care what comes out this year or the next. If I want to add another set-up, then I may set out seeking new gears. Besides, unplugging, plugging and moving heavy audio gears are not fun at all. After all, the goal is to enjoy the music, not comparing equipments.

This superb tube preamp gets my highest recommendation, whether you want solid state or tube, this will fit your needs. Passive preamp lovers? Checked! For the solid state guys, you may like the Saga as the tube buffer sounds like a superb solid state preamp. Sure, the tube buffer adds a bit of colors, you may end up liking it as much as I do.

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Wine bug bit me. I was introduced to this fermented grape juice when I was travelling across Europe 15 years ago. I lost contact to wine after a period of time until just a few years ago.

There is a lot to talk about. Wine like audio can be very delicate, complex, and expensive. I need to know what to buy, which wineries are actually producing great wines. It is easier to find bad wines than good wines. I do my best not to buy name brands, because most of the time, the money is mostly spent on buying the brand.

My choices are very limited to small set of wineries, family-owned wineries, wineries that practice organic-biodynamic viticulture or at least going that way but do not want / do not have the resources to get certified, smaller wineries I’d say.

There are also things that I need to avoid, such as: traditional corks and fake bottles.

Bottle Closure

Corks are what we usually find in most wine bottles, even the affordable ones. I like cork for its classic way of pulling it out. I like screwcap the least but it turns out, screwcap is the more reliable closure than a traditional cork.

Why a screwcap?
The best way to sum it up is the answer Stephen Henschke gave to Levi Dalton on I’ll drink to that Podcast. A reviewer tasted his wine, a blended wine, the reviewer was able to point out the grapes used in the wine. The wine used a screwcap. The other bottle used a traditional cork, all the reviewer could taste was red wine.

I’m aware most old world wine wineries and drinkers tend to disregard screwcap wines as being cheap. But what is important is the content, not the seal. I don’t want to find out that my wines are tainted or premox-ed when I open them. Yes, opening a cork is fun. I get it. There is a real alternative to traditional cork.

Domaine Ponsot is using a very interesting solution. They use Ardea seal. It looks like a cork. It opens like cork. It pops like a cork.

There is a thin sheet of PVDC under a screwcap that seals the liquid inside the bottles from getting out. There is a medical grade shield on Ardea seal that comes in contact with the wine. The Ardea one is better than a thin sheet of PVDC found under screwcap.

Ardea is also more durable to due it is actually injected into the bottle opening. I can’t really damage it without damaging the bottle itself. Screwcap on the other hand, does not take beatings very well. It can be dented and damaged. Once it’s damaged, the seal may no longer form a perfect seal.

Cork has its day. Screwcap is a great alternative. Synthetic cork – Ardea seal is the future.

Fake Bottles

Reading Rudy Kurniawan’s story is scary. I have to wonder everywhere I go, whether the bottle I’m going to buy is a real one or not.

If you have the time, read this thread: http://www.wineberserkers.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=61172

If you don’t have the time, read this article on Vanity Fair: http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/2012/07/wine-fraud-rudy-kurniawan-vintage-burgundies

From what I can see, other than the wine inside the bottle, it does not take a massive effort to replicate every single detail of the bottle and the labels. There are cases of fake wines everywhere, from France, Italy, England, to China.

According to many articles found on Google search, fake wines are not only notoriously found at auctions, but at restaurants as well. Even affordable wines are getting faked. Now, I only buy from official distributors. I don’t buy wines from second hand market.

Empty Bottles

There is nothing green about consuming bottles after bottles of wines. From my personal experience, making glass bottles cannot be made green at all. The heat, the materials used, and the trash. First of all, I do not drink that much wine. I only drink wine on special occassions and when I feel like I want to drink one.

I do not hold special preference to fancy bottles. I don’t mind getting generic bottles because what matters the most is the wine. If I have to trash my bottles, I will make sure that they will get recycled. So far, I have not thrown one away. Wine bottles can be repurposed.

Now, let’s veer away a little bit to the wineries.

I’m a big proponent of organic farming. Bio-dynamic farming is even better. I can’t think of a better time of getting wines than today. Grape farming has gotten a lot better these days than what it used to be.

I’m completely baffled when people say a 1945 wine (in this case DRC – Romanee Conti and other famous wines) is a great wine. There were wars during the time and after the wars were over, people were scrambling for foods. I’d imagine making wine was not even a priority at the time. Famine was a huge problem. The terroir was probably in much worse shape back then. I don’t think it took a short amount of time to recondition the land to even worth growing basic vegetables, let alone grapes.

After the war, there was the chemical industry revolution. This was the time when pesticides and synthetic fertilizers were heavily used. The lost: biodiversity, water pollution, and soil contamination. Decades of use of these chemicals destroyed pretty much everything we need in order to make good wines. This is one of the main reasons I do not buy old wines.

Many younger wine aficionados, they don’t fancy Bordeaux wines as much as the older counterparts. Bordeaux is famous for chemical-farming. The soils are not that special. They don’t really care about moving to organic / biodynamic farming. The trend of making big wines from overripe grapes.

The two major events above is the main reason why I think new world wineries can be better than old world wineries. Most often than not, new world wines are better.

New world wineries can be built on virgin soils. Australia is a good example where most farms champion organic farming. Since they are relatively a young country, the lands aren’t exposed to decades of chemical sprayings. Many have even started on virgin lands that had never been used for anything before.

Biodynamic farming involves every single living thing in a winery. Reusing everything, including re-purposing waste. The use of the land is not limited to vines, other plants can be planted and often times, they are produce and plants that can be used fertilize the soil. Horses, donkeys, even chickens can be found in wineries that practice biodynamic viticulture. It’s really a beautiful sight.

Wineries are now more open to the idea of going organic and bio-dynamic. Many have done it and many are trying to. I hope the results make the wines even better and it should. Most importantly, it’s good for mother nature.

Read this before you make your own conclusion: http://motherboard.vice.com/read/dnc-hacker-guccifer-20-interview

GUCCIFER 2.0

Hello! I received lots of questions from journalists and other people who are interested in my doings. Many thanks to all of you, it’s a pleasure for me!

Unfortunately, I couldn’t reply to each of you personally, especially given that you often asked the same questions. That’s why I decided to answer the most frequently asked questions here.

I divided them into three groups:

1. About me

2. About my activities and publications

3. About my political views

As you can guess, all special services are doing their best trying to locate and catch me. And I have absolutely no desire to help them. So, if your curiosity isn’t satisfied after reading this post, you may have my apologies. It’s a matter of life and death. But I can assure you that everything I do corresponds to my beliefs.

Letsgetitstarted!

1. A glimpse of…

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