Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
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Peter J

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Fair warning. I'm gonna march right into "we don't talk about it" land with this post. I've read countless times on many forums about "it's all about the music". This often called out to justify yet another purchase of gear in pursuit of the "holy grail" of audio reproduction. I say...."maybe....or maybe not".

The truth is I like gear and I'm not ashamed. I like all sorts of gear, but spend bigger on a few things that really trip my trigger. I like to look at gear, I like to use it, I like to change it sometimes and add to my collection. I occasionally make gear. I even sell some from time to time. I just like it, OK? Not spending the grocery or mortgage money. It's an indulgence. My interest ebbs and flows along with my interest in other things. It's not about ego or one-up-manship. It's not to impress the neighbors.

It's because I have a proclivity for shiny boxes with piercing LEDs and it's my god given right to have it around! Some like guns, some like cars or motorcycles. Others enjoy wine or cigars. I want gear...

Oh, and I like music too.

And Jason, I'm buying your Schiit in spite of your admonition not to. So there!
 
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Rensek

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@Jason Stoddard

Great Chapter, I have been fighting this battle myself with some disposable income the last few weeks. I've got about 400 dollars burning a hole in my pocket, and I'm endlessly trying to determine the best audio bang for my buck. But in reality it's going to a secondary system I won't use all that often. HP jack on my tablet and a Bluetooth speaker work just fine if I am honest and give up the hollow emotion of more.

The last few days I have been telling myself I should enjoy what I have and put that money towards something else. Thanks for being another voice of reason.

On another note, are we going to get a full chapter on the creation of Aegir? You touched on several things previously that I was hoping you would expand upon in your chapter coinciding with Aegirs release.
 
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Xcalibur255

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Derrick Swart

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Xcalibur255

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2019 Chapter 6:
We have one early listener who really really really loves clarity and detail. The stuff he loves I’m rather ‘meh’ on, because I like harmonic and tonal richness. He thinks I like stuff too warm. I think he likes stuff too neutral.
You know Jason this is the first time I can remember you clearly stating your sonic preferences like that. It makes me think I might have been pretty happy with a Ragnarok in another life. While I love my Yggdrasil I've never dipped my toes into the amp side of your business because I somehow just assumed your tuning focus was on neutrality. I'm sure I've failed to see many many things written by many many people that probably could have dispelled this assumption, but on this day it's a good reminder to myself how easy it is to not see the forest through the trees once an initial assumption or bias has formed in one's mind.
 
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@Jason StoddardOn another note, are we going to get a full chapter on the creation of Aegir? You touched on several things previously that I was hoping you would expand upon in your chapter coinciding with Aegirs release.
I did a pretty full Aegir chapter last year, but I'm going to do a deeper dive into Continuity in a future chapter, so I'll clean up any loose ends there.
 
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Derrick Swart

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2019 Chapter 6:
Onsanity


Or, Being Happy With What You Have


As we launch Aegir, I’m beginning to get a lot of questions like this: “I already have a couple of Vidar monoblocks, should I upgrade to Aegir?”

Sometimes these questions start a whole cascade:

“Oh yeah, and when Sol comes out, are you gonna have a ‘better’ phono stage than Mani, because maybe it’s time to upgrade that too.

“Oh, and if it has balanced outputs, maybe it’s time to go from Saga to Freya.

"And speaking of balanced outputs, maybe I should go from Bifrost to Yggdrasil.


“And while we’re talking about that, when is a more expensive DAC than Yggdrasil gonna show up?

“And by the way, how about an even more expensive preamp than Freya?”

Holy moly guys, let’s take a pause here. Because I really gotta be blunt and ask: do you really just like buying things?

No, seriously. Do you just like buying things?

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s cool if you just like buying things. Hell, I like new shiny stuff quite a bit. But growing up in a not-so-wealthy household with one crazy budgeting parent and another insanely cheap one, I’ve never quite shed the scrimp and save mentality. Twenty years of running an ad agency with relatively deep boom and bust cycles didn’t hurt, either. So I’m not in danger of FOMO buying sprees.

But I’m not you. If you have tons of disposable income that is nice and stable and predictable, and you like buying things, knock yourself out. Go ahead. Talk yourself into trying thousands of dollars of gear. I’m not going to stop you.

But, at the same time, I’m not going to encourage you to do so. Hence this chapter, looking at some ways of assessing, and perhaps moving away from, the insanity of gear churn.

Because maybe it’s time for some, ahem, Onsanity.


A Particular Individual

Now, let’s go back to the question that started it all: Aegir vs Vidar?

In this case, we can actually be helpful. And, if we’re lucky, we can extend this example to some general guidelines. Maybe. We’ll see.

Let’s look at the situation, though. You’re comparing two amplifiers, both similarly priced. One is a low-power, high-bias Continuity™ design, and one is a high-power, lower-bias Class AB design. They both have the same basic feature sets, but one allows you to de-bias the output stage with a front panel button. One has a warning about hot rooms (Aegir) and closed spaces. One doesn’t. Both can do stereo or mono, in the same way.

So, how do you choose?

If it was me, I’d probably start with a yes/no list something like this:
  1. Do I have the money to easily buy this product? As in, you’re not giving up food/shelter/transportation/travel/etc in order to purchase it, you’re not going to put it on a card and pay it off over time, you’re not going to use one of those fancy ‘get it now and pay it off later’ services with a silly Web 3.0 name, and you’re not going to plead with your SO to buy it for you. If the answer is no, stop right here. You’re done. Come on. Be real.
  2. Am I lacking something this product will do? If you already have an amp, you’re already listening to speakers. Is the amp that bad? Does it really need to be upgraded? Really? Seriously? Again, if the answer is no, it’s probably time to move on.
  3. Am I really unhappy with my system? No, really. If you’re content, why look at other products? What if the new product doesn’t work so well with your system? Now you’ve spent money and time and not gotten any better result. Be careful. Maybe it’s best not to change anything. Another no? Maybe best not to poke the bear.
Okay, so you’ve answered “yes, yes, and yes,” above. What about Aegir vs Vidar?

Here’s how I’d break it down:
  1. How efficient are your speakers? If they’re less efficient (say, 86db or less), you probably want to stick to Vidar. Or mono Aegirs. But mono Aegirs are more than twice as much money. And they put out a lot of heat.
  2. How loud do you listen? Okay, so you have less efficient speakers, but you don’t go above noon on Freya. In this case, either amp will probably be fine. Oh wait, you’re a headbanger? Stick with Vidar.
  3. What’s your room temperature? Both amps run pretty warm, but only Aegir has a warning in the owner’s manual about maybe needing a fan if your room is above 30 degrees C. You may want to stick with Vidar if you don’t want to turn on the A/C.
Hopefully that helps a bit.

“Wait a sec!” You cry. “There’s absolutely nothing there about how the amps sound! How are we supposed to choose if you don’t talk about sound?”

Okay, fair question. It’s one I’m not super comfortable with, because it gets into some awful sales-y practices, and it doesn’t take into account your particular system. More on that later. Here’s what I will say: In my opinion, when used within its output limitations, Aegir will typically sound better than Vidar. It’s a richer, more cohesive amplifier. However, it’s also a much less powerful amplifier, so it DOES have more limitations. AND, it’s dangerous making blanket statements like “A is always better than V.”

So...consider your own system.

(And do this only after answering ‘yes’ to the three questions above.)


Systems Diversity

What’s good for one system is not necessarily good for another.

Wait. Stop. Go back and read that again.

Actually, no. Read this:

What’s good for someone else’s system may not be good for yours.

(Oh yeah, and that goes about 10000% if ‘someone else’s system’ is a random dood on the intartubes who may or may not be being paid by another manufacturer, or who may or may not be good at this whole ‘subjective review’ thing.)

(Ah, and this is not to disparage the many independent reviewers out there. Just a reminder not to take literally the first thing you read as gospel, and to remember that the world can be a very gray place.)

And, here’s the kicker: even if it’s a reviewer using the product in the same exact system you have, it still might not sound good to you.

“Wait, what?” You ask. “How can that be? Shouldn’t both systems sound the same?”

Yes, they should.

But you may hear differently.

You may have different sonic preferences.

In fact, you almost certainly do.

So, even if it’s exactly the same system, that review (or your friend’s opinion) may mean absolutely nothing. Because you hear differently, and have different sonic preferences.

I see it all the time. We have one early listener who really really really loves clarity and detail. The stuff he loves I’m rather ‘meh’ on, because I like harmonic and tonal richness. He thinks I like stuff too warm. I think he likes stuff too neutral. It’s entirely possible that we can pass the same headphones back and forth on the same prototype system and I’ll love it and he’ll hate it.

So yeah, it’s a horribly gray world. I completely understand why some people retreat into a stance that “the measurements are all that is meaningful,” because that seeks to provide some order. You know, because if some numbers are higher than others and some are lower than others, then at least there is some standard, right?

Well, except that measurements don’t correlate especially well to what people hear.

Except that people hear differently.

Yeah. Best to go back and read that again. Again.

Because...those two statements taken together mean that we will never be able to have a “subjective quality” or “ear quality” measurement on an Audio Precision. There will never be a measurement like “97.34% of the original concert experience,” or “92.3 points on the Absolute Audio Perfection Scale.”

Never.

Why? Because everyone hears differently.

Here’s the problem: Who’s the arbiter of the Original Concert Experience? Who’s the creator of the Absolute Audio Perfection Scale? Do they hear like you? Or, if it’s a blended metric, like the Olive-Welti curve, who were the listeners? Are they listeners that immediate turn the bass and treble up all the way in their car? Do they do smiley-face equalization on everything? Again, do they have your same preferences?

In short, you don’t know. And even a panel of trained listeners may not give a weighted curve that youlike.

Because you hear differently. And you have different preferences.

“But that’s inconvenient,” you say. “That means I literally have to try everything in my specific system and see if it works for me.”

Yes. And yeah, that sucks. I get it. It’s a pain in the rear end to have to order and send things back, or visit a dealer and bring things back. It’s a complete collapse back to pure subjectivity, and all of the attendant messiness that it creates. Because if everything is subjective, then who’s to say that the color of the equipment or number of magic hologram stickers or price of the hand-braided yak-hair cable or the wireless Schumann Resonance tuner or a green paint pen or NOS gallium transistors may make all the difference in the world to you.

But then again, maybe that in itself is an argument for Onsanity.



The Penalty of Sidegrading

There’s a lot of talk about “end game” gear. But there’s less talk about the possible penalty of constantly swapping and changing and looking for an end game: endless sidegrading.

You know what I’m talking about.

It’s the endless Groundhog Day of audio.

You got a great new DAC that’s way warmer and richer than the old one...but it doesn’t resolve as well.

You got a shiny new amp that has insane punch and dynamics...but it’s a bit prickly in the high end.

You got fancy new headphones that resolve stuff you’ve never heard before...but they’re kinda bass light.

And so...

You pick up another new DAC that’s more resolving, but it’s kinda dry.

You pick up another new amp that’s more tonally rich, but it hits like a wet noodle.

You pick up new headphones with bass, but the resolution just isn’t there.

And so...

You swap it for another DAC that reviewers have promised to be a giant killer...but it’s kinda dead sounding.

You swap for another new amp that reviewers are loving...but it doesn’t sound anything like they said it did in your system.

You change up to brand new headphones from a company noted for their great headphones...but this one appears to be a miss.

And so...

(And so you get it. You just keep churning, and getting nowhere.)

“Well, that’s easy,” someone is saying. “You’re just not spending enough money. Go up the chain enough, and all those compromises go away.”

Oh really?

No, seriously: oh really?

Be honest now.

It couldn’t be that you’re just more invested in it, and therefore it must be better, right?

Because, in my opinion, a Fulla 2 can be an end-game system. Magni and Modi, surely. Heck, I’ve gone crazy and I usually use a Vali and a Modi Multibit on my work desk.

And yes, I’m completely serious.



What Can You Be Happy With?

That’s the real question, isn’t it: what can yoube happy with?

I’ll admit it. I’m pretty easy to satisfy. A Vali 2 and Modi Multibit is plenty good. I’ve rarely been disappointed in that stack. Now, it isn’t the most resolving bit of kit on the planet, and it doesn’t hit super hard, but it’s tonally very pleasant and it’s a relaxing, involving listen. It may be a little too rich for something like, say, the Audeze LCD-2 classics I like, and in that case I might want to go up to Lyr 3 or down to Magni 3 and Modi 3. Or even Fulla 2, which works great with them.

“But I thought you liked Mjolnir and Gungnir Multibit,” someone might ask.

Sure. Sure I do. When I have plenty of space, that’s a great combo. It’s also a whole heckuva lot more expensive. It also runs fairly hot and eats a ton of desk.

Bottom line, there’s room for every kind of system. Some people are gonna be totally happy with a Ragnarok and Yggdrasil on their desk. Me, I don’t have that kind of space. I can appreciate it for what it is, but I don’t feel any need to have it just for the sake of having it.

On the other hand, some people will think that Fulla 2 is overpriced. Yep. I get it. In that case, there’s no shame in running earbuds on your phone.

If you love music, and you’re happy with your system, that’s really what matters, isn’t it?

Here's to less insanity...and more Onsanity.
Superb!
 
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Derrick Swart

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If those were half the price I would be very tempted, despite missing by low frequency F3 target by 10 hz or so.

I appreciate the recommendations regardless. Sometimes somebody else can point you to what you are unable to stumble upon yourself.
Absolutely! That is how i got to my ATCs
 
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ZoNtO

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I like harmonic and tonal richness.
Was this something that you addressed with the Nexus circuit in preparation for Ragnarok 2? If I have one complaint about the Ragnarok 1.5 it's that it can sound a bit harsh and clinical, mostly at higher volumes.
 
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RCBinTN

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Well done, Jason. And, perfect timing as well.
Exactly my reason for staying with Gumby and not heading to Yggy.
I am happy in my space :)
 
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FLTWS

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There’s also a big fun factor in buying and trying and comparing and sharing. I’m retired and you’ll never see a pile of Levinson, McIntosh, Chord, etc., in my sig but I can play with a big pile of Schiit. I buy only from disposable income, save it or spend it. My interest/curiosity keeps me playing on and I am confident there will not be a second (and there never was a first) coming of “a concert hall in my living room” with “perfect sound forever” no matter how many tubes I roll, cables I swap, or how expensive the hardware is. But I don’t find that a deterrent to enjoying my listening time at home. In my experience well designed and built components in the chain between the recording and the transducer aren’t as wildly different in sound as I would expect based on what I usually read, generally much more subtle than that, but fun to try and ferret out. The SQ of recordings and the sonic capabilities and flavors of transducers, on the other hand, are all over the place. I’ve been at this over 5 decades and I am rarely disappointed as my only true reference is the concert hall and no pile of boxes, wires, transducers, or SOTA recordings is ever going to give me a "Holodeck" of music. But being actively involved can provide its own satisfactions. I’m constantly comparing performances of the same works by different conductors, orchestra’s, labels, etc. Throwing in a couple of extra pieces parts of redundant hardware just adds another dimension to my listening enjoyment, learning experiences, and understanding. Its all fun (unless something breaks, of course).
 
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Rowethren

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That post was pretty close to the heart for me to be honest. I quite often get to the point of obsession about a purchase even when I don't really need it and then almost feel regret afterwards. I think the yes no questions at the start really stand for everything in life and I am going to take them very much into my mind and remember them the next time I think about buying something I don't really need. In all honesty I am very very happy with how both my speak and headphone systems sound right now, more so than ever before!
 
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RCBinTN

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One of the best things about Head-Fi, to me, is that we can create profiles showing our gear.
Can't say how many times I've read a person's profile, saw something in which I was interested, and followed up via PM.
I personally learned much more using that approach, than I ever did via open posting on threads.

My point is ... some folks literally have 15 HPs, 25 IEMs, 16 amps, and you get it.
Now seriously, when does 95% of that gear ever get used?
Time to donate ... PM me for shipping address :)
 
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FLTWS

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Was this something that you addressed with the Nexus circuit in preparation for Ragnarok 2? If I have one complaint about the Ragnarok 1.5 it's that it can sound a bit harsh and clinical, mostly at higher volumes.
If I ever find an amp that can play fortissimo with the same lack of strain and any congestion as pianissimo, I could be done with my personal quest. :smile:
And I'm talking no louder or quieter than what I hear from the rear of the concert hall.
 
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One of the best things about Head-Fi, to me, is that we can create profiles showing our gear.
Can't say how many times I've read a person's profile, saw something in which I was interested, and followed up via PM.
I personally learned much more using that approach, than I ever did via open posting on threads.

My point is ... some folks literally have 15 HPs, 25 IEMs, 16 amps, and you get it.
Now seriously, when does 95% of that gear ever get used?
Time to donate ... PM me for shipping address :)
The phones are in the mail. You like "Beats" right?
 

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