I purchased this unit new in March 1919. The Freya is a nice sounding
preamp with several virtues and one vice that prospective buyers should think
about. First the virtues:
The Freya has three output modes,
passive, JFET buffer, and tube gain.
Each mode sounds good, but they sound different from one another. The passive output doesn’t do anything to the
signal except allow you to regulate the volume.
The JFET buffer send the signal through a solid-state preamplifier
that I think sounds richer than the passive stage. The tube output gives you a sound that has
more bloom, transparency, and delicacy.
I prefer the tube sound, but I have seen several reviews by owners who
prefer one of the other outputs. I have
listened to all of the outputs for extended periods. Passive is useful if you really want to hear what
your upstream components (DAC, phono preamp, etc.) sound like, but I preferred
the JFET and the tube outputs.
The Freya has two balanced
inputs and one balanced output. I regard
this as a major benefit because balanced operation generally lowers the noise
floor. If you don’t have balanced cables
the Freya also has three singled ended (RCA) inputs and one single ended
output. You can use a combination of
balanced and single-ended inputs.
The Freya comes with nice a
little aluminum remote that selects inputs, outputs, and controls volume and mute. Changing volume causes little clicking sounds
that are normal. The clicks are caused by
mechanical relays in the relay-switched stepped attenuator. Other than the aforementioned clicks the
volume control is silent and allows extremely fine adjustment.
The Freya’s vice depends on
your listening habits. If you use
the passive or JFET buffer, the tubes will burn, and this will shorten their
life. The Freya MUST have tubes in sockets in order
to operate, so there is no practical way to conserve tube life. Consequently,
if you are like me and turn on your rig in the morning and listen to it as
background music all day long you will quickly go through tubes regardless of your
output selection. On the other hand, if
you listen only for a few hours in the evening after dinner, or whatever, constant
tube replacement shouldn’t be a major issue.
But you should understand that tubes must be replaced on a regular basis.
I am shipping the original "No
Name" 6H8C tubes that came with the unit.
They still sound pretty good. Four matched 6NS7 JJ tubes purchased through
Schiitt will cost you $100. They sound better
than the 6H8Cs. They are also better in
my experience than Tung Sol 6NS7 tubes (that Schiit no longer uses). You will notice a faint hum or crackle with
the 6H8C tubes if you put your ear next to the speaker (or if you have better
ears than I do) but it should not be noticeable under realistic listening
conditions. JJ tubes were quiet until
they wore out and developed a hum.
Tubes aside, at the price,
the Freya is a very good solid-state preamp operating in passive or JFET. I’ve been playing it in JFET for months and
it sounds fine. You may never want to
buy tubes, or maybe you will become fascinated with tube rolling.
Overall, I have been quite
happy with the Freya. I may not be your
forever preamp, but it has virtues that will allow you to experiment and learn
what sound qualities you appreciate most. You can evaluate your sources with
passive mode, and maybe get into building a balanced system. I don’t know of another fully balanced preamp
for under two grand.
As for me, I am replacing the
Freya with a Freya +. The new version turns
off the tubes when one of the other modes is selected so I can have it both
ways – JFET all day and tubes for listening with a little bourbon at