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.
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.
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.
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.
Selah Audio Tempesta. A transparent pair of speakers. Enjoyable too. Mounted on Sanus speaker stands with IsoAcoustics Gaia isolation feet.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- Mac Mini + iTunes + BitPerfect
- Schiit Eitr
- Schiit Modi Multibit / W4S mINT / JDS Labs EL DAC
- Schiit Saga + Tung Sol 6SN7
- Schiit Vidar
- 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:
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 + 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. But I did love my Lyr 1.
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)