Schitt Audio Aegir amp

SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
34
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18,545
Hey guys, first post here since I moved back to the US about five years ago. It's a right circus here but I guess you already know that.

So I just bought this amp that I had never heard of just a few months ago: the Schitt Audio Aegir. I was looking for a mini DAC for my computer audio setup - it's my second system, so to speak. I have these really lovely PMC DB1s sitting here with some nice desk stands, but had nothing to run them with except a 30 year old Yamaha integrated that I found in my in-laws' basement. It didn't sound good and I thought the problem might be with the inputs. So I found Schitt Audio in the process of looking for a little DAC/volume control, which I bought and liked ($99 for a USB DAC based on a great chip, a nice volume control, and a nice mic input for good measure - it's aimed at streamers). But, it didn't fix the problem. The Yamaha was not sounding so good, and was cutting out once in awhile. The poor horse was on her last legs.

So I ended up trolling around the Schitt website and noticed this amp, the Aegir. They have a very nice little class AB solid state amp that does a lot of watts that was well-liked. The Aegir is a Class-A version of that amp. It is $100 more and does about a tenth of the power. It isn't exactly Class A - they claim it's better in some respects, but shares the characteristics: runs hot, gives fewer, "better" watts, and sounds sweet. I was intrigued - the specs were really good and if it really sounded like a good, 25-30 wpc Class A amp, the $799 price tag wasn't bad.

So I found that Stereophile had not only reviewed the amp and loved it, but has put the amp in the "A" section of it's Recommended Components list - a solid $2k cheaper then the second-least expensive amp on the list. And damn, I have heard some of the "B" rated amps, and they are really amazing! This was almost outrageously high praise for the little Schitt. I couldn't resist. I am trapped in my #%(&ing house and have nothing else to do, and thus, I ordered one. My wife doesn't know yet. It could be a problem but so far so good.

I've had it two days. It does get hot, they weren't kidding. But this little system - a PC connected to the Schitt Fulla via USB, connected to the Schitt Aegir, connected to PMC DB1s - sounds UNBELIEVABLE. It's only been two days - and let's face it, these are incredible speakers and they are way to good to be on a desk (though I do have great desk stands) - but I am telling you, this amp is really special. It's clean, quiet, the sound is sweet for a SS amp but not puffy at all, and it just sounds effortless, airy...switching with the Yamaha, if you had told me we were hooking up a $5k amp and let me listen, I would have believed it all the way. And I am a terrible, awful snob, with ears so golden you could see your reflection in them if you weren't already blinded. There is no such thing as a truly great sub-$1000 amplifier (except maybe some of the Hypex-based class D stuff - they are amazing - but Class A? Forget it). Except...here we are.

This runs single ended in stereo, but is fully balanced when bridged (literally - there are two RCA jacks and one XLR jack on the rear panel). The thought of having two of these as monoblocks is truly frightening.

It's only been two days but I have to strongly recommend that you at least read up on this amp. It is a very interesting design for a power amp, with microprocessor control, and it really doesn't sound like anything else on the market. The best I can do describing the sound is that it has a little bit of the naturalness of a good tube amp, but it is fast like a solid state, with great rhythm/damping.

I have heard that Schitt has considered a UK distributor, but for now you'll have to deal with customs fees and VAT. At least you won't get charged US sales tax but then you'll get worked over on your end. So this will increase the price and make it hard to audition, which could make it less appealing. But it is a fascinating design from an unusual company, and you simply have to have a listen if you ever have a chance.

Anyway, I miss the UK, although the thought of your country with all the pubs closed is terrifying indeed. Not as terrifying as our situation, of course, but still, not good at all. All the best!
 

Al ears

Moderator
Nov 23, 2008
1,551
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20,070
Nice write up.
To correct you Schitt Audio has a UK website so if you are prepared to buy on spec then you can avoid import charges...... but not that cr@p dollar / pound conversion fiasco. :)
 

SpursGator

Well-known member
Jan 12, 2012
34
18
18,545
Good to know! I did not think they had sorted their UK distribution, but I just found the site.

I have no idea if the rest of their kit is as good as this amp. I suppose they are not exactly a secret given their ridiculously high rating on Stereophile, but I was still surprised. You never know about those magazine ratings bwah ha ha.

They do accept returns but with a 15% restocking fee (at least over here). So it isn't wholly on spec. The exchange rate is a killer right now but the price point is still 800 sterling with VAT included. I just had a look at the current WHF Best Buys in amplification - at this price and even further north, the amps are class AB amps with 50-80 wpc. I've heard both of the Cambridge amps on that list (and liked them both actually) but we are talking two different leagues of sound here. I have not heard the current low-end Naim Nait but I did own the older version of it (the Nait 5) and loved it for many years. The Schitt amp absolutely destroys the Nait at a very similar price. I would say that the Schitt rhythm and timing is Naim-like, maybe slightly behind it by a hair. But that is playing to the Nait's strength - the transparency, space, and warmth of the Schitt, frankly, embarrass the Naim, badly. It's class A sound at Naim's Class B entry point - not to mention how far ahead of mainstream AB competition at the price (Cambridge, NAD, Marantz).

To be fair about the prices, these are also integrateds, with volume controls, multiple inputs, and in some cases, digital inputs and/or bells and whistles. The Aegir is just a power amp. But that is the advantage, in a way. A lot of people are using DACs, either in their PC or tethered to it, as a source, especially in their offices. Almost all of these have volume controls. So many people, especially younger people, have no need for phono stages, multiple sources, etc.

The internet has allowed so many smaller companies a legitimate chance to take a clean-sheet approach to designing audio kit. The legacy brands - sorry that's unfair, the market leaders - have a lot invested in a particular technological approach, a traditional dealer network, a large product line, a lot of existing customers, etc. Plus they are corporations - I have worked for several technology corporations and one can only question the dominant orthodoxy of the company to a certain limit. The technology available to amp designers in 2020 was not on offer back when the ancestors of these models were designed, and the orthodoxy was established.

Of course, there are exceptions. NAD springs to mind as a company that tried to innovate, in their case, by going to Hypex and working with a small, innovative company with low overhead that had taken a completely different approach. It is noteworthy, however, that NAD had to go to Hypex for their incredible Class D breakthrough, despite having an R&D budget that is presumably many orders of magnitude beyond what a Dutch audio startup has available. It is a credit to the humble nature of the company that they were not so blinded by their own brilliance to see that they needed some fresh ideas from outside. Note, also, that NAD now essentially has two separate ranges of budget amplifiers, because it isn't like they STOPPED doing what they were doing.

Here the thing for consumers of audio: it's a great time to be alive. 17 years ago I bought that Nait 5 for almost a thousand quid. And I did love it despite it's annoying quirks - it may not have been the cleanest amp but watt for watt, that amp sure had a boatload of boogie in it. I am not picking on Naim, and in fact I choose them because I like them - would be unfair to use this example with a company I didn't like:

But take a Nait 5 or its modern equivalent for 800 pounds. Now let's remove from the price 6 of the inputs, the volume control, the circuitry for the external power supply, and the tape loop. Now let's get rid of the entire cost of running their worldwide dealer network - all the commissions, all of the travel and demoing, all of the support requirements of running a channel. Now let's take away the dealer commission - I don't know what it is but maybe, 20, 30%? Now all the overhead of being part of the big Focal group and having to pay a "tax" to corporate (profits) - take that out too.

How much money is left for JUST THE AMP - the only part that a big chunk of buyers need? 200, 300 quid? Now consider that Schitt Audio (and the like) have none of that, from the history, the legacy tech, the cost, the commissions. That is why it is so much better - Schitt are spending 2-3 times as much on the AMPLIFIER. Of course its better.

It's tough on the industry, and this is being replayed across many industries. But it's great for consumers. And it means that you'd better have a damn good reason to buy a big brand's kit (and there ARE good reasons for many people). Think of it like trainers: if you buy a pair of Nikes, you are paying $160 for a pair of shoes that cost $8 for some barefoot kid in a little hut to manufacture. When you buy Nikes, you aren't paying for the shoes - you are paying for the athletes and celebrities. LeBron James has been paid hundreds of millions of dollars - literally - to wear Nike shoes and not get arrested or abuse women. Where do you think that money comes from?

But you still might want a pair of Nikes because you like Nikes. That's okay! Someone could build a far, far better shoe for $40 a pair and sell them for $80. The Nikes are the best sellers because people love Nikes (and LeBron James and Harry Kane and what have you). They also like Nikes because they have bought Nikes before and know what they are getting. I absolutely was holding my breath over this amp. If I'd ordered a Naim, I would have known I was getting a great product. Not as good as this one, but I would have KNOWN, and that is worth something too, something real.

Anyway, sorry to ramble. Amps do this to me.
 
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