Schiit Lyr 2

Schiit Lyr 2

Specifications

Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 2Hz-500KHz, -3dB

Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 6.0W RMS per channel

Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 4.0W RMS per channel

Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 660mW RMS per channel

Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 330mW RMS per channel

THD: < 0.01%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS, gain = 8 mode (worst case, stock tubes)

IMD: < 0.01%, CCIF at 1V RMS, gain = 8 mode (worst case, stock tubes)

SNR: > 98db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS, in gain = 1 mode

Crosstalk: < -65dB, 20 Hz-20KHz

Output Impedance: 0.7 ohms (high gain), 0.3 ohms (low gain)

Gain: 7 (16.9db) or 1 (0 db), via rear switch

Topology: Dynamically Adaptive Class A/AB, noninverting, hybrid tube/MOSFET, single voltage gain stage, DC-coupled input and output

Protection: standard muting relay for delayed turn-on and fast turn-off

Power Supply:  Two internal power transformers, five internal regulated rails, with over 30,000uf of filter capacitance

Power Consumption: 30W

Size: 9 x 6 x 2.25”

Weight: 6 lbs

All measurements made on a Stanford Research SR1+ Audio Analyzer

Build Quality & Features

Talking about Schiit’s build quality in 2017 seems a bit redundant. As always, they favour their minimalist aesthetics coupled with a tough metal chassis. The volume pot, which is not utilising a stepped attenuator, feels solid to the touch and…turns well? My unit, which was purchased used from a gentleman here in the UK, has socket savers installed – which is handy due to how much I’ve swapped tubes on this thing.

Yes, it runs quite hot – depending on which tubes you use. Hotter than the Asgard 2, which I once thought was quite toasty. This is part of the tube experience however, so I’m used to it. That being said, the LISST solid-state tubes make the amp run considerably cooler.

The edges on this particular unit are quite sharp, and I’m not sure how that is. The Valhalla 2 had smoother-but-still-defined sides. I feel like this would actually cut if it slips in your hand, and I took extra precaution when filming the video component of this review.

Also standard Schiit fare, the on/off and gain switched are located in the back of the chassis. Also, the LED is white, and its brightness doesn’t bother me so much – although I know some people who have especially bought material to dim it. On the topic of lights, a large amount of the orange glow that you’ll see comes from little lights on the board itself, inside the chassis, and not from the usage of tubes. I would guess that Schiit did this to provide a more picturesque tube glow to their consumers, as the type of tubes used in this amplifier are not known to glow boldly and brightly.

Sound

The sound of the Lyr 2 can be summed up as punchy, dynamic and lean. With the stock tubes, it does not venture into stereotypical warm and “gooey” territory – often expected when discussing tube amplifiers. It shares this characteristic with the only OTL tube amplifier in Schiit’s range, the Valhalla 2. Both amps, with stock tubes, are lean and bright at times.

However, the Valhalla 2 has advantages in its wider staging and more laid back sound – along with its more natural detail presentation. The Lyr 2, however, is substantially more rambunctious in approach. It has narrower staging and a more boxed-in sound overall, with detail retrieval being a bit muted in stock form (again, compared to the Valhalla 2) in order to maintain its own sound signature. That sound signature is one that is very much like a solid-state amplifier – one that is very fast (almost staggeringly so compared to more neutral solid-state amplifiers like the Audio-GD NFB-28) and punchy in approach.

The punchiness in the bass reproduction of the Lyr 2 is possibly one of the first aspects you will notice. No matter what tubes I swapped onto it (more on that later), this characteristic did not dwindle in the slightest – definitely due do the hybrid design and solid-state stage. This can prove to be too frantic for some people, however, as you can’t quite swap out its ability to be this way. For example, my Feliks Audio Elise OTL tube amplifier has two slots for power tubes and two for driver tubes, and both can be rolled with a tube pairing to a configuration that you desire. Need more punchiness and dynamics? Use Mullard 6080 power tubes, and so on.

The Lyr 2 only has the ability to have its driver tubes swapped out, and thus only gives the illusion of being truly roll-able. I’m not discounting the differences, there are several and I’ll go through some below, but whatever changes that are made are tacked onto how the amp sounds on its own – and it will always be fast, punchy and dynamic.

I don’t find the stock 6BZ7 tubes very impressive, they are both thin in sound and rather hazy compared to other offerings. There’s also a certain uncleanliness to the treble and upper midrange that I can’t shake, especially when using the Focal Utopia. There’s also a lack of depth, particularly with percussion instruments like drums – toms sound thin and lack the body of a live sound. The treble is also a bit etched and unnaturally hard, and not quite like someone would expect from tubes – stereotypical or otherwise.

I would recommend the Lyr 2 if you plan on getting started in the tube-rolling side of this hobby, but on a budget and without consideration for full customisability that comes with power tubes/rectifiers along with driver tubes. I do recommend that you swap out the stock tubes however, and fortunately I’ve had the chance to compare a few sets.

Driver Tube Pairings

Schiit LISST Tubes

These are the only alternatives that Schiit themselves sell. The LISST tubes, which can be used on either the Lyr 2 or the Mjolnir 2, are designed to turn the hybrid tube amps into fully solid-state offerings. What the LISST tubes do, however, to the Lyr 2’s sound is solve a problem while introducing others.

First and foremost, this is the full realization of the Lyr 2’s design – fast, punchy and dynamic. While the stock tubes could feel a bit anaemic in bass depth, texture and amount at times - the LISST tubes introduce a hefty thump to the low end of the amp. The problem is that this can overwhelm some headphones that benefit from a more controlled bass experience, something that the Lyr 2 manages to do with any of the actual tube pairings that I have. With the Utopia, it introduces more mid-bass, but with bassier headphones (like the ZMF Eikon and ZMF Atticus) – it becomes a bit ridiculous in how much it drowns out everything else.

The midrange also feels a bit hollow and lifeless, compared to tube offerings on the Lyr 2 (including stock). It almost sounds recessed compared to how the amp usually sounds, leading me to believe that the LISST might as well be called a V-shaped solid-state option for the amp.

The speed of the LISST tubes can’t be denied however, and double kick drum patterns in metal music will especially show how relentless they can be. I’m just left wondering why this would be a strong enough reason to buy the Lyr 2 over another solid-state amplifier. I suppose it runs a bit cooler than using tubes, if that’s a consideration for you.

So far, it will definitely seem that I am pretty down on the Lyr 2. Not so. If anything, I just find the problems with the Schiit-offered tubes to counter the need of having a tube/hybrid amplifier. Thankfully, this can be rectified at some cost.

Tesla 1960s OEM ECC88 6DJ8 Rožnov – Czech

Put on your party hats because this tube set emphasizes bass in a bigger way than the LISST tubes, but does not lose much texture and actually extends further. The 1960s Teslas have a mellow sound overall, but do not sound recessed in the midrange like the LISST. With a slightly warm tilt, the midrange also contrasts to the stock 6BZ7 tubes. The actual cleanliness of the midrange is superior to the stock tubes but there is a definite masking of some details.

The bass, however, is one to be heard. On the ZMF headphones, it simply slams hard and does so in a manner that doesn’t drown out the midrange – again, like the LISST does. Keeping up with the rest of the LISST options, it’s also quite fast but I’ll admit that it decays a tad slower than all my examples today. The bass texture is also quite well done, and not as one-note as the LISST. The treble is quite soft, but present and not too constricted.

As these are quite inexpensive, at $30 a matched pair, I would recommend them to anyone who wants a more bass-focused sound that does not sacrifice midrange at the altar. My criticism of this pairing for the Lyr 2 is that it does mask micro-detail a fair amount, which is especially noticeable on the Focal Utopia. As far as fun options go, I’d take this over the LISST (if that wasn’t already obvious).

Genalex E88CC/6922 Gold Lions

This, in my opinion, is a must have tube set if you own the Lyr 2 – and, until recently, was my favourite pairing for the amp. The Gold Lions have a stronger tilt towards warmth than the 1960s Teslas, but lack any of the audible distortion that was masking detail while using the Czech tubes.

The Gold Lions remind me a bit of the Cavalli Liquid Carbon that I used to have, but benefit from the Lyr’s fast sound quite heavily – meaning that it’s never sluggish with any of my headphones. This honestly makes me wonder how it would be on another amplifier, one that doesn’t share the Lyr’s qualities quite so much – as it honestly sounds like a hybrid itself, of a laid back sound coupled with speed and decent dynamics.

The midrange has a very nice amount of body to it, and is quite layered in its approach to sound. Vocals are especially enjoyable to listen to with the Gold Lions. Bass does not extend as far as with the 1960s Teslas, but has great texture, body and control regardless. The treble is also far cleaner than either stock tubes or the Teslas – and isn’t etched as the LISST either.

These tubes bring the Lyr 2 closest, in my opinion, to the stereotypical “warm and gooey” tube sound that people talk about. What I commend them for is the ability to do this without losing out on detail retrieval, treble clarity or presence. The lack of audible distortion also adds to its flavour as a top pick in Lyr 2 tube-rolling.

Tesla E88CC 1970s Military Cross Swords – Gold Pin Rožnov – 198 - Czech

This tube set’s main focus is in the midrange. However, I would not classify it the cleanest experience out there. It’s less grating than the stock tubes, however, due to its less harsh treble. Bass extension lags behind the 1960s Teslas and midrange body and warmth fall behind the Gold Lions – making this my least used aftermarket tube. For what it’s worth, it does have a slightly wider stage than the other tubes I’ve described thus far.

The sound is also quite “tubey” and does not share any of the hardness of the stock or LISST tubes. Where those are both dry, this is a wetter listening experience that has a certain texture that I could describe as slightly sandpapery in the midrange. There is detail retrieval, but it is rough and uneven and distorted guitars can sound quite unpolished in presentation. I wouldn’t call it a smooth experience, but I found myself quite liking it with classic rock genres – it almost multiplies Led Zeppelin’s sound by itself in some ways.

6N23P-EV / 6H23P-EB NOS/Russia

I’ll just start this assessment off by saying that these are, by a sizable margin, the priciest of the aftermarket tubes on this list. You can pick some up for about the same price as a pair of LISST tubes, and this is definitely more to my liking than the solid-state option. In fact, this is my favourite pairing for the Lyr 2 overall.

This is because of the very impressive amount of detail retrieval, air and overall cleanliness that this tube pairing has. The midrange is not thick or warm, but has a silkiness to it that lets vocal harmonies and instrumentation remain effortless and natural in presentation – all coupled with the Lyr’s inherent speed. The bass does take a slight backseat in volume, but is still controlled and this is a small trade-off for what it provides overall.

One reason, I’ve noticed, that some folk prefer tubes is because the very best options will provide more nuance to a recording. In this digital age, the average consumer is far removed from any imperfections that might have come about in, say, a vinyl album. For the general population, the MP3 format has squashed down music into a space-saving experience that chops off information to do so. Sure, we can use lossless formats and have our chosen DACs decipher the information in a manner we appreciate, but the end result is too clean and by-the-numbers for tube aficionados.

After getting this tube set, I realized that there was truth in what I’ve seen others say – that the best tubes are not necessarily warm or “gooey”, but rather as clean as a solid-state amp with the added delicate timbre and nuance that comes from a tube option. Indeed, that is the case here – with everything from cleanly picked guitars to pianos feeling better exposed and realistic. There is no added bloom, but there is also no etched treble. Any sense of artificial sound is gone, with the only remnants being the solid-state (punchy, dynamic etc. etc.) stage of the Lyr 2 itself – making me wonder how this tube set would sound in other amps.

Highly recommended if you are looking to pick up a Lyr 2.

Amping

This is the most powerful SE-only amplifier that I have reviewed to date in terms of pure wattage. I have no doubts that this will drive planars (I don’t have any on hand currently however) to their potential – save for the Hifiman Susvara or HE-6.

Conclusion

When I reviewed the iFi Pro iCan, I criticized just how little change there was between the solid-state, tube and tube+ modes. When I reviewed the Schiit Valhalla 2, I did not do any tube rolling on it and focused on its stock sound. This is my first experience with rolling, and I honestly believe that it’s a safe and simple one for a newcomer to tubes.

That being said, it’s a bit difficult to recommend the Lyr 2 if you only plan on using the stock 6BZ7 tubes, or even the LISST upgrades. I would encourage you to explore, there are still so many options that I have not heard personally – such as the E88CC SIEMENS Gold-Pins (made in Germany) that I was recommended a few times during my time with this amplifier. I can’t review every pairing out there, but I hope I made it clear that I consider the Russian 6H23P and the Genalex Gold Lions my favourite of the bunch – and the best performers overall.

Unless you insist on the driving power, and only have the budget for the single-ended option and care not for balanced (Schiit Mjolnir 2 exists for that), I think the Lyr 2 is an admirable stepping stone from a background with solid-state amplifiers and into the world of actual tubes – a scary but very interesting place that can hurt your wallet. Alternatively, if you want a solid state amplifier with some wiggle room in sound-sculpting (and want to avoid going off the deep end of tube amplifiers), then this is a nice option for your purposes as well.

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