Schiit Audio Vidar Power Amplifier Review
Schiit Audio has always toyed with the idea of separates as a natural progression upward in their product lines. While smaller, budget aspirations like the $99 Fulla headphone amp/dac have always been around, much more online buzz (and most likely sales) have revolved around the buzz-worthy Schiit-stack of $99 separates, standalone ladder dacs and tube-based gear the Southern California company manufactures.
So it only made sense that designer Jason Stoddard would eventually end up back within the thralls of the loudspeaker world after a stint with amplifier company Sumo some years ago. On the plate for consumption today is the $699 power amplifier Vidar.
Vidar in Mono Configuration
The stereo amplifier runs 100W per channel (into 8 ohms), but can also be operated with a tandem with another unit for full monoblock operation. In this mode the Vidar accepts only balanced inputs and outputs 400W per channel into 8 ohms. The intent here from Schiit is a clear pairing with their own Freya pre, which appears as a clear collaboration for both aesthetics, connections and a matching pricepoint. We reviewed the amplifier with the enlisted help of the Freya and found the pairing to be quite pleasant overall. Also leashed to the experience was a pair of TAD Micro Evolution One (ME-1, $13k) which provided the much needed transparency for evaluation. The three-way standmount makes pretty sounds via a coaxial mid/high and carries a nominal impedance of 4 ohms and a sensitivity of 85bB.
External dressing fit very closely with the rest of Schiit audio’s lookbook. The heat sinks that line either side of the amplifier are actually the sides of the casework, similar to some Sumo designs from a few years back. Removing these metal bricks from their shipping box can be a somewhat dangerous endeavor if not prepared with some caution. The heat sinks by themselves are not sharp on the edges but the 22 lbs of weight each block has does provide adds some pressure, so take care removing the coverings and setting them down. The size is about half of the typical width of a component shelf, but dual monos will require a little bit of breathing room on either side as the amps do get fairly warm. They are a bit on the compact side, considering they are not class D topology. It’s doubtful a rough competitive analysis will find anything smaller on the market (or likely cheaper for that matter) given the spec list.
The typology is class A/B, Schiit also claims no caps in the signal path and a very non-invasive protection system governed by sophisticated microprocessor oversight system. On the power supply side we see a non-switching linear design and with no fan for cooling, just the previously mentioned heat sinks.
The amp can only be operated in SE for stereo, and balanced XLRs for two monos, but pairing with the Freya was a matter of two cables and really presented a solid offering of both matching looks and complementary sonics to each other.
Bass tests proved perhaps the most impressive of the spectrum, where control was exceptional, even at high volumes and heavy load. Listening to Marcus Miller’s Miller Time from Live In America reaction times and shove were outstanding. Firm control of the situation was everywhere, with no excess flab to be found. But mids and highs were not to be outdone. The experience of listening to the system is close if not on par with many of the other front ends I’ve heard the TAD MEs partnered against at audio shows. That’s something considering the least expensive comparison totaled $6k, with higher end offerings topping much more than even that. That smooth purity of energy and tone from the very high end is hinted at here and there along the way.
Comparisons to Benchmark’s DAC3 + AHB2 brought a different shade of pigment to light. While neither combination was particularity colored, the Benchmark system was much more analytical in nature. That’s not to say the Schiit gear wasn’t detailed (it very much was), but rather the approach from the LA budget company was just a tick more organic, and therefore by proxy, a bit easier to listen to. A pleasant natural tone emanates from the Freya + Vidar combination that even the demanding TAD ME1 was able to gobble up with tactile and responsive results. Like Shakira’s hips, the TADs don’t lie. The standmounts put out what it takes in with startling transparency – the Vidars don’t muddle around, and authoritative responsiveness gets banged out with relative ease.
Is the Vidar the best amp on the planet? No, its not. But it gets you there a lot further on $700 than most. It’s a path that looks somewhat familiar to the personal audio offerings – showing off what separates can really do for enthusiasts looking to move to the next level. While $1.5k isn’t something that drops out of everyone’s wallet on a regular basis, most hi end aficionados would agree it’s next to nothing in the realm of mono block configurations. But importantly, consumers get a rightful taste of what separates can mean to a system. The good parts, the juicy parts and the acoustic purity of hobby wrapped down into a 9” x 13” twenty two pound box.
More info: Schiit Audio