Schiit Audio has been a favourite brand of mine for some time. I just think what they do to make things affordable is good for the hobby. I was especially impressed with their Saga+ preamp that sells for a lowly £390. Combined with a Vidar amp for £700 from them, it created a very musical and punchy presentation on my upstairs Wilson Audio TuneTot system. But I was a little hesitant to review the Aegir initially as I don’t exactly have a collection of efficient speakers lying around….but I was curious…
The Schiit Aegir amp is intriguing because I have always loved the sound of Class A amplifiers. I just love what they do to the mids and highs. Luckily I secured two very efficient loudspeakers for the review, the Tekton Designs Moab speaker at 98db efficiency and the JBL L200 which take just one watt (!) to produce 84db of volume.
First some background on the Aegir amp. Power output is 20 watts into 8 ohms or 40 watts into 4 ohms. The idea here was to make a Class A version of the Vidar, but the story is a little more complicated than that. They came up with a Continuity circuit, based on technology they used in their Lyr 3 headphone amp. In their own words, “Technically, Continuity is a way to eliminate transconductance droop outside of the Class A bias region, and extend the benefits of Class A biasing. It also solves the NPN and PNP device mismatch problem, since it uses both NPN and PNP devices on both rails. It’s still a very hot-running amp, though, with over 10W of Class A standing bias.”
So the bottom line is that we should hear the benefits of Class A but it obviously works its best with very efficient speakers. So I arranged for some high efficiency speakers to listen to the Aegir at its best.
But first, a caveat. I am a tube guy. I mean I like high quality solid state but give me the midrange of a good neutral tube amplifier any day. Audio Research? Doshi? VAC? It’s all good. But I do confess that it’s hard for a solid-state amplifier to impress me. D’Agastino? Pass Labs? Constellation? Sure. But one that costs a mere £800? Hmm, we will see.
This one comes well packaged and is self-contained for RCA input operation but if you like balanced inputs, there is one balanced input so you have to run mono. I did not receive a second unit so I listened to the RCAs only. The casework is classic Schiit. Gently angled brushed aluminium with an operate button on the front which pulls it out of stand-by mode and an on-off switch in the back. Speaker terminals appear to be WBT and the banana connectors I used fitted snugly. There are two long and relatively sharp banks of heat dissipation fins running the length of the amplifier, and the amp puts out quite a lot of heat. Designed and built in California, the Aegir had a very solid feel and was quite heavy.
For sound evaluation, I went over to my friend Barry’s house where highly efficient Tekton Moabs were set up as both a two-channel system and a seven-channel surround system, but we listened in two channel mode only. The Moab speakers are fairly wild with what appears to be 15 tweeters in an array but are actually dome radiating drivers in an MTM array providing midrange. I like this speaker due to its presence in the midrange and some quite good bass performance. At first, we hooked up the Aegir to the Moab and used an Oppo 105 for digital playback. The Aegir did not sound all that great at first, but I looked at Barry and said, don’t panic, this amp takes a while to get going. We let it ‘cook’ for an hour and things really got going.
Barry and I have a CD collectors’ group in Atlanta so we are ‘old-school digital’ in that regard. I brought a stack of CDs I was familiar with and Barry has a huge collection and he tossed in a few gems as well.
Right off we listened to ‘The Dog Song’ from Cookie Marenco’s dynamite Blue Coast Collection SACD sampler [Blue Coast]. The opening guitar chords were simply natural and lifelike. This was solid state? Garett Brennan’s vocals were smooth and detailed. Dynamics were strong. A transient guitar pick in the middle of the song left a bit of a punch in my belly.
Next up was La Roca from Todd Garfinkle’s MA Recordings. A magnificent recording done presented here in 16/44 from a needle-drop done on a Continuum Caliburn. Yes, you read that right. We were listening to an LP of a digital recording then put on a CD sampler. Weird but sounds really great. It’s like the LP adds some analogue qualities…but the soundstage width and depth which Todd always seems to get right is what we came here for. The Moabs got this perfect. There is a sense of spaciousness and naturalness on this album which some consider Todd’s best work. Timbre of instruments is spot on. Instrument placement is set up nicely and it’s a bit odd hearing this from the listener’s chair because the Moabs are huge towers. Well done, Tekton!