I also noticed that the Freya+ runs incredibly hot. After a long day of listening, it smelled like melting rubber and hot steel, and I couldn’t leave my hand on the chassis for too long. Again, that’s just the nature of tubes, the things put out enough heat to cook a chihuahua. I just make sure my toddler doesn’t lick it after its been on for a few hours, and otherwise it’s good to go. Something to be aware of, though. Adding the Freya+ to a small room will be like adding a tiny space heater. It needs room on all sides of it to make sure there’s enough airflow to keep everything coolish; so those with tight cabinets might want to double check that everything will fit and flow just fine.
I started using my CXNv2 as a Roon endpoint outputting into the Bifrost 2’s coax input. Since I’m so deep into a jazz hole that I’m not sure there’s any way out for me at this point, I put on Ambrose Akinmusire’s new album On the Tender Spot of Every Calloused Moment sourced through Qobuz at 24bit/96kHz. I love Akinmusire’s almost harsh, squealing sound, like a TV tuned to static and cranked to max volume. He has this ability to make his horn scream and break in really incredible ways, and he’s really pushing his sound on Tender Spot. The overall image of his trumpet felt defined, and there remained a nice bloom on its lower end. I want to say a tube bloom, but that makes it sound like a bad thing, like a bloat. But it really isn’t—more like a pleasant softness to the signature, as if the attacks were slightly less sharp and the decays were lingering just a touch longer.
In general, though, the Freya+’s sound wasn’t overall heavy in the tube presentation—didn’t have an overabundance of that cliché “warmth” or whatever. It was more like it took the better qualities of tubes—such as the deep, rumbling lows, which I know a lot of people don’t love—and used just enough to give the whole sound a more spacious feel. The midrange was solid and smooth, and the high-pitched wails Akinmusire sometimes reaches never felt harsh or overly sharp. For me, that’s the best aspect of tubes. They take the sound and make the pointiest ends just a little bit softer, while giving the midrange a really pleasant, wide-open feel. Maybe that’s distortion I’m hearing, and if so, give me more distortion. Keep feeding me those pleasant lies, tube daddy.
Of course, there was the Bifrost 2 doing work in there. I swapped out the Freya+ to get a sense of how the Bifrost 2 sounded, and it beat my CXNv2 over the head with its tight dynamics and sense of rhythm. It also far outpaced the HINT 6’s built-in DAC, which I’d been happy with up until that point; so, thanks for that, Schiit. I also tested the Bifrost 2 out in my desktop setup, and found it impressively energetic. Where the Freya+ strayed into nice, gentle, kind softness, the Bifrost 2 was unabashedly detailed.
Together, the Freya+ and the Bifrost 2 made a nice little loop where the Freya+ wanted to soften the whole sound while the Bifrost 2 wanted to sharpen it all up, and the overall presentation ended up taking the best of both qualities. I suspect Schiit listens to pieces of its gear in concert with each other, which makes good sense. There are a lot of people out there building Schiit stacks and full-on Schiit systems, as they’re reasonably priced, relatively attractive, and overall very solid values.
But anyway, back to listening. I put on Khruangbin’s new album Mordechai at 24bit/96kHz via Qobuz. His spacey stoner-rock vocals and lead guitar mixed with tight, almost reggae-like beats really played up the strengths of both the Bifrost 2 and the Freya+. Grooves sounded tight and ready to leap out of the soundstage. The combination of the wide-open bass with the Bifrost’s unrelenting edge gave the presentation a rumbling depth that really kept the music rolling.
The instrumental closing track “Shida” was a particular standout for me. The shimmering lead guitar was set deep back in the soundstage, with tight drums on top, but everything retained the spacious and melodic aspect that makes Khruangbin stand out. There was just enough snap on the drums, just enough sparkle on the guitar to create that really lovely swelling feel. Earlier in the album, on the track “If There is No Question,” the vocals echo and bounce around the mix, and really benefit from the Freya+’s tendency to bloom and present the midrange in big, efflorescent crests.