Ok guys recently I had a bunch of Schiit amps here to help me figure out how much power I needed to have a good musical experience with a set of Seas A26 , modern day Dynaco A25’s. Here are my results, thoughts and experience. Hope U enjoy!
Schiit Audio Speaker Amps Experiment for Old School 2 Ch Stereo
Are 2000 Watts Really Necessary?
I have always wondered how much power is really needed to have a decent 2 ch stereo experience with a set of decent speakers in a normal listening room. During these years my listening room was big, designed especially for listening per the Golden Mean Room specifications. Over the years I have gone thru mega-buck speakers, amps, preamps, cables, room treatments and have learned a lot. Now in my retirement years I stopped listening with 2 ch stuff and have concentrated listening to music with headphones. The hiatus for 2 channel listening went on for 10+ years. Then I was given a nice birthday gift of a pair of DIY Seas A26 speakers. The modern-day improved equivalents to the late 1960 Dynaco A25’s that sold over 1,000,000 of them.
The Dynaco A25 speakers are a simple 2 way design with a 1” dome tweeter and 10 inch woofer. The A26 Seas design includes a 1.5” dome tweeter and a new 10 inch woofer with a rubber surround. 1 Cu Ft. The kit was obtained from Madison Sound in Wisconsin. Cherry cabinets were built be a craftsman in Connecticut. Total build time from start to music was about 6 + hours. Really a simple DIY build. Old school.
So, my listening room has been relegated to a small room over our two car garage. An odd shaped room that isn’t the best for listening. But it has surprised me at how well things can sound. I am about 14 feet from the speakers. Speakers are on weighted stands, tweeters are right a ear level when I am seated. Room sides have a angular pitch and the ceiling is only 8 ft. An odd room for sure for hi-fi.
Listening Room Over the Garage. The Typical Bonus Room. Slanted Walls. 8 Ft Height. Flat on Top.
The experiment I have been wanting to do is how much power does one really need for a decent musical experience in this room with these speakers that are 88 dB SPL for 2.83 Volts/1 metre (1 Watt nominal input). 8 ohms nominal impedance. Can I have nice audio listening sessions in such a “small” room or am I wasting my time. How much power do I really need ?
Many fine folks gave me inputs as to how much power I would need, The formulas to figure out SPL’s at distances, all well and good. Even specific amplifier recommendations. But there is nothing like having the stuff in your room and testing for yourself. Does one really need 200 watts RMS per channel?
Enter Schiit Audio. Amazing company. Amazing Stuff. Amazing People. Just all around amazing experience dealing with them during the past years. I have used almost all of their headphone stuff. All good experiences. When Jason Stoddard starting making speaker amps, well that caught my eye and I always wondered how his designs would fair up to my old stereo amps of old. I went from the small wattage amps of the late 60’s to the 200 watt + per channel amps…Crown, Hafler, Adcom, DIY Dynaco etc…
Jason recently came out with two low wattage amps. REKKR and GJALLARHORN. REKKR is spec’d at 2 Watts RMS at 8 ohms. GJALLARHORN is spec’s at 10 Watts at 8 ohms. Both can be used in a monoblock arrangement as well. Priced at $149 and $299 respectively. I wanted to see how these small wattage amps would work with my Seas design A26’s in my small room. Would they be ok or would we need more power to please my ears ? Would they be able to produce 75-85 db spl’s?
Well after a discussion with Schiit two GJALLARHORN’s, and a VIDAR2 arrived for my testing. VIDAR2 is and old school class AB 100 watt RMS per channel amp, weighing in at a solid 22 lbs. More about this later.
(We decided to skip out on the REKKR’s for now).
So here is what I did:
Test 1 : A single GJALLARHORN.
Test 2 : Two (2) GJALLARHORN’s in Mono-Block setup.
Test 3 : A single Vidar 2 (Class AB)
Test 4 : A single Aegir (Class A with Continuity Assist).
Test 5: Dual Aegirs in Mono-Block setup
I recently purchased a Freya N preamp from Schiit. Why? Its no longer made. Tubes. But its balanced out (as well as SE etc) and I have a ton of tubes that will work just fine in the Noval version of Freya. The price was right and its here, a keeper preamp with a remote!! Freya has been replaced with a newer Kara version. Check it out….new and improved. But I have learned the old stuff is still as good as it was when it was new. YMMV.
So, we are working with a dac, into the Freya N, into the amps…Source is a laptop with Jriver MC 27 playing all ripped Flacs. I also use Qobuz for streaming and a Oppo BD83se Player for CD’s. The dac was a Schiit Modi Multibit 2. A $299 dac that IMO is just a stellar device. I compared to a $2500 dac many times and I prefer that little MMB2 dac…again and again. Sweet. I used a old “Rat Shack” SPL meter to measure SPL’s at my listening position. I didn’t use a 1khz test tone. All real music. I usually listen at 75 to 80 db, peaks a tad higher at times. Depends on my mood and quality of source material. Anything louder than this is well just too loud for my ears.
So first up was the single GJALLARHORN. Well I was surprised that this little 8 lb gem of an amp would be able to play the A26’s as loud as I would want. Easily hitting 75 db on average, even 85+ db range…90db and its getting really loud here for me. So the answer is a small amp like this capable of playing loud. Answer: Yes. Quality of sound ? Wait for it.
Test 1: Single GJALLARHORN
Even though the spl levels were in the range for “realistic” listening for the sane, the overall control of the woofer did not seem to be as good as I was used to with one of my other higher power tube amps. I guess that even with the smaller 10 “ woofers we need a tad more EMF to make things more coherent. If this were a persons first time mucking with stereo, I think this setup would do just fine as long as your speakers are on the efficient side of 88 db.( duh this means more sensitive)…
Test 1 Solid 90 db With Ease Peaks Even Higher.
Test 2: Two GJALLARHORNS…Get out the balanced cables and add the second GJALLARHORN. Immediate noticeable control of low end bass IMO this seems better. Better in that the bass is better defined to my ear, tighter, less distorted or wooly if that’s the word…. Just more solid sounding to me. Seems adding the second GJALLARHORN added a level of quality and refinement. Not a hard decision here for me. Two GJALLARHONS are better that a single one in this environment. Spl level easily 75-85 db peaks hitting 90db+ on the meter. Plenty loud for listening. The overall quality of sound was really decent. Could it be better?
Test 2 Two GJALLHORNS, Balanced Freya N, MMB2 Dac
Test3: Enter Vidar 2.
100 Watts RMS of solid power. But does it matter ? Well it does. Sorry but when I first listened I was floored at how alive the A26s became…OMG the bass, clarity just seemed to be so much nicer. Sorry GJALLARHORNS…your mono-block performance was nice but my taste quickly went over to the VIDAR 2 side. I got lost in listening for 2 solid hours. Its that good. Easily achieves the SPL level 75-85 db no issues at all (and much higher). I can not put a numerical number on how much better the overall presentation really is. Very subjective, but my brain likes the sound from the VIDAR 2 better than the GJALLARHORNS. If I had not had the VIDAR 2 here I would have not noticed this. Funny I was supposed to get an Aegir first but due to my poor communication I got a VIDAR 2 instead. I am glad I did. It’s a great amp and does work well, old school high wattage Class AB. 22lbs heavy! I did not have a second Vidar 2 to use in mono block mode. Aegirs are coming!
Test 3 Vidar 2 Class AB. 100 Watts.
Test 4: Single Aegir.
Well its not better than Vidar 2, its just different. Aegir is biased for 10 watts and Continuity helps above this. Spec’d for 20 Watts per channel @ 8 ohms. Spl’s were as high as the previous amps, plenty loud. Music was very “clean, clear but still musical to me”. Its sounds less warm to me and more on the trebly side…has to get my wife to sit down and tell me what she thought. She affirmed what I was hearing. Quite a difference between Vidar 2’s 100 watts to Aegirs 20 watts. So lets add the second Aegir for
Test 5, Dual Mono-Block Aegirs:
Well sir, this was a clear sonic surprise for me. Very clean, open transparent sound, from Oppo BD83se playing Dire Straits, I listened to the whole album…startling good here. My wife came in and said it sounds better than what she has heard with my tube amp…Hmmm. So I powered on my favorite Van Alstine Ultravalve 6CA7 refined Dynaco amp. Frank VanAlstine’s final re-iteration of the old Dynaco series stereo series tubeamps. Not made anymore…35 watts RMS per channel. Well the tube amp is indeed sweeter IMO, warmer and switching to the Aegirs, the music is a tad less warm, less soft, more tonally accurate. the drum swishes and micro details were easier to pick out. Well the experiment started out to be how much power do I really need for a good listening experience with 88 db sensitive speakers. Well the answer is simple but complex. Unfortunately, we humans are funny creatures at times. Full of bias and very subjective beings. If I was just starting out one GJALLARHORN would do just fine. But I am way over on the other side of an audio journey. I have been exposed to all kinds of audio stuff and to please me it just takes more than a single GJALLARHORN.
So the answer is any one of these amps is any of the configurations easily hit the SPL levels I listen to. But subjectively there is only one of these that my brain really likes.
The answer to this for me is the mono-block Aegir setup. Yup it’s the winner here for an overall wonderful musical experience. But its not necessary to produce the SPL’s. This setup has the SPL’s covered for me with an additional benefit of suiting my musical flavors. Win win here.
Two Aegirs, Mono Block
Comments on GJALLARHORN: For $299 this is a sweet deal of an amp. Solid. Most speakers that are 88db and north of this spec should play really well. A toroidal transformer, 30,000 uf of filter caps no fans and no switching supplies. This is a straight forward honest old school amp with an exotic, fully discrete, current feedback gain stage with Schiits Continuity S output stage. The power supply is a linear design. Remember Poppa Pass and his “the first watt” is the most important ! What also excites me with a $299 amp is that you can use it in mono-block mode…yup all set to go just purchase two of these and it becomes even better…30 Watts RMS! No capacitors in the signal path. And its over-current and over temperature protected. This amp makes a decent entry level for a small 2 ch setup, with many efficient speakers out there that would work very well with it. I would love to try these with some Klipschorns! Hide the amp(s) and demo the Klipsch’s and them watch the mouths drop when you reveal the amps! LOL. Dual Mono system for $600! Sweet.
Two GJALLARHORN are Better than “ONE’ !
Comments on VIDAR 2: Old school Class AB power house. 100 watts RMS is nothing to sneeze at. A wonderful simple built like a brick you know what amp. You can read all the design criteria and specs on the Schiit site. No need to cut and paste here. It’s a beast of an amp for $799 and they can be used in a dual mono setup as well. Or you can go the TYR route! OMG.
Comments on Aegir: A class A Vidar? Well its Class A for 10 watts and get the Schiit Continuity assist when entering Class AB with the magic transconductance droop circuitry when it goes out of Class A. Schiit states it provides “Class A” like performance. 20 watts into 8 ohms, 40 watts into 4 ohms and running mono you ger 80 watts into 8 ohms. Some Class A, but Class-A like up to the limits. The amp does run “HOT”. I had them sitting on a carpeted floor in my small room with AC on set for 76 deg F. They got “HOT” but just ran fine for a few hours, np here. The difference in one Aegir vs two Aegirs is not an order of magnitude different or better? IMO its just a setup that provides more potential bandwidth in potential source material at high listening levels. For my use case of 75 db +/- a single would do just fine. But I too am a human being and having two Aegirs sitting there just looks right! LOL!.
I would like to thanks Schiit for providing me the equipment for this experiment. Many folks have wondered if a small amp would drive loud speakers in a small room. A room like many of us have. Depending on your budget and the position in your audio journey either one of these amps will do just fine. As you grow and become a more critical listener you may desire an amp like a Vidar 2 or Aegir in dual mono setup. I was not expecting to like the Aegirs as much as I did. Funny how things work out. Something with the Class A thing that my brain seems to like a lot. One thing I do wish for is a higher power Aegir running a tad cooler as well but still providing a Class A experience. One can dream! This was an old school experiment with some 1969 design vintage type speakers meeting some 2023 technology. Anyone of these setups can answer the question I initially had, you don’t need 2000 watts but it doesn’t hurt! (well maybe your wallet). It was a lot of fun to do, even crawling around on the floor!
Disclaimer: All opinions are my own, YMMV. I get no enumeration from Schiit. All units returned to Schiit.
Many thanks to Schiit for the assist.