New Schiit Freya or used Conrad Johnson PV-10AL/BL, or?

Looking to buy a line stage tube preamp with an $800 budget. Considering the options. I can use this preamp with either a Vincent SP-331 or McIntosh MC2200, whichever is a better match.
Dfc79476 b7e2 448b 8f7b 3aed2a5e9ad4kalali
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I really like the PV-10, as a fun, musical preamp but it is also a little noisy. :)

If I had one again I would mod it and reduce the overall gain significantly.


Does re-sale matter to you? If you buy the  Conrad Johnson PV-10AL/BL used you can re-sell it for close to what you paid for. If you buy the Schiit Freya new and find it doesn't mesh well with your system your re-sale price most likely will be at a loss.

A little more analysing here to find the best of what to choose from, instead of just plucking from the air.

If you look at the input sensitivities of both Vincent SP-331 or McIntosh MC2200, they need very little to drive them to full output, only 1.2v at (47kohm) for the Vincent and only .75v at (50kohm) for the Mac.

The Schiit Freya will be the best, a very good match for these in all modes, (passive, tube or S/S) as it have very little gain, which is a perfect match for these amps
The Conrad has way too much gain, and as a result the volume control will be very loud even down low in the range.

Cheers George

George is spot on on his analysis,your best choice for under 1k is the Freya.Can be used in passive or tube gain mode and definitely sound better than the cj or Mac.

I had a Freya but didn't really like it and sent it back for a refund during the trial period.I'm a very picky and fussy audiophile,Might work great for you.

At your price point I can't think of any other than a Freya,Your always taking a chance with the older gear.

Best of luck to you,

I also like George's analysis.  You may need to change the tubes on the Freya,  but I hear its quite nice.... as George mentioned about gain. On the Freya, be prepared that each stage,  Passive,  SS and Tubed will all have a different amount of gain. It can throw you off a bit.  Tim 
Thanks for everyone's input particularly George for taking the time for looking up the specs of my amps. The (unusually) high gain in most if not all of CJ preamps is a valid concern. The MC2200 does allow to toggle the input sensitivity between 0.75v and 2.5v which might work with the CJ pre but I'd rather keep my options more open. That Quicksilver pre also looks real good.
I have the Freya and it is very nice.I haven't heard the CJ but I did look at them when I was searching.The Freya also has 2 outputs which work well for me.One set goes to 2 Emotiva XPA100 Monoblocks and the other set goes to a Primaluna Prologue 5 .I rarely use the passive,it is either the Jfet or the Tube output.The Freya is made in America as well.Plus ,I kinda like their Schtiik and I can say I have some good Schiit man.
With the Freya you are getting a brand spanking new preamp Plus,the tubes are plentiful and mostly affordable.
You should also consider the Mapletree Line 2, you cannot do better at the $800 price point.  It can also be customized for inputs, outputs, gain, whatever you want. Hard to find used and they sell quick but new ones do look nicer. 
also looked at those ,super nice and I got a reasonable quote from Lloyd with HT Bypass but I ended up with the Freya as they had one ready to ship.The money was burning a hole in my pocket!
Line 2CHT  was the one I got quoted a little more than the standard because of the HT bypass.The specs are:

includes the PS 2C power supply, tubes, line cord, and power interconnect cable. The Line 2CHT will have 3 line inputs, with Input 3 being your HT channels. The selector switch position next to Input 3 is labelled HT and it bypasses the Input 3 signal directly to the output jacks, of which there are two pair. You can power off the PS 2C when in HT mode. There is not a "REC" output on the HT model.

@kalali-- I just picked up a Freya a few days ago, mostly to try a balanced passive.  I've only been able to put a couple hours in it, but, FWIW, some very preliminary initial impressions, most echo what others have said.  It needs more burn time and more actual listening.

--the passive is better than the built-in volume control on a cheaper DAC (although it's supposed to be a decent volume control).  a little thin-sounding, comparatively, but transparent with very good detail.  like it just for the passive.  it hope it works as well for the better DAC when I swap it in later.

--the clicking for the volume control on the Freya is a bit disconcerting, at first, but that's how it's supposed to be.

--the difference in gain from passive to JFET to tube is very steep.  takes a few seconds to try to level out, if trying to compare.  also, i'd suggest not clicking from passive straight through to tube, if you were already cranking it in passive.

--I don't yet love the JFET.  Seems to add just a hair of glare and shoutiness.  Take that with a few grains of salt, though.  It's way too early with too limited gear to make a solid criticism of it.

--The tube output sounds ok, and adds some richness (and a tiny bit of noise) and loses a little bit of detail, but this is with just a few hours and on the fresh stock tubes.  It is not a very "tubey" sound.  Very, very neutral compared to most tube pres I've heard, particularly those that use 6sn7.  With time and/or with vintage tubes, I hope it comes "alive."  At this point, it will have a very long way to go, if one is hoping for an appreciable amount of tubeliciousness.

--is the switch on the back really the only way to turn this on and off?

Anyway, so far, I think it's a versatile cool piece.  Seems well constructed, but, of course, no billet aluminum, no multiple copper sub-chassis, no Porsche paint, etc.

Probably a completely different sound from the CJ.
I do wish it had a remote power  on/off.The remote It does volume & input selection.The Freya is in the Harmony Database which is nice.I also wish there was a way to turn the Tube section off when not used.They will eventually make some "Solid State Tubes" for this i read somewhere.They call the ones they make LISST Tubes (linear, integrated solid-state tube) .6BZ7 currently is the tube this will swap out THEIR stuff.
If you wouldn't mind me tagging your post, I too would like some input on choosing a preamp for my Levinson no. 334. I currently have an aged Classe' cp60. I was considering the Schiit Freya or a used Ayre k5xemp. My source is an Ayre cx-7emp.

You should have been more patient. I have had 14 tube preamps thus far. Most of them are well regarded like Quicksilver, Belles, Cary, Rogue, etc. The Mapletree is easily in the top 5 of the bunch.
Maybe I need to try the Freya, a lot of chatter about them these days. 

Lol,I do get impatient once I've decided to get something.I really did like the dual output feature of the Freya when I was pondering my purchase.That kinda helped swing the decision and ,at the time,there weren't any used Mapletrees I could find.I really don't mind buying used at all.The Primaluna Prologue 5 was used but like new.
Rotarius that’s a nice line up of Pre’s.Which one did you like the best,or what stood out about each of them

If you doubled your budget,you might want to look at the Linear tube audio MZ2s.Lot's of good reviews either professional or users on this one.I have one on order but won't get it for 2 weeks,the only drawback is the remote only controls volume but if it sounds as good as what I'm reading I can live with that.


Thanks again for all the great input. Its very helpful. The Mapletree piece looks like a really great option - thanks for the suggestion, but . I’d consider that over a Freya assuming that the build/wait time is not outrageously long.

axememan, the Mapletree L2C does appear to have two outputs. Did you mean Freya allows you to select the output and L2C doesn't?

Axememan, the stand out ones for me were Belles 20A and the Cary/AES units I have owned along with the Mapletree.  Those would be SLP-88, AES AE-3 DJH and a modded AE-3.  I did not like SLP-308 or the AE-3 MkII as much as the others.  In stock form the AE-3 DJH is a giant killer with the right 6sn7s.  
The ones I did not like at all were Audible Illusions 2D, AVA T8 and a Chinese one, Antique Sound lab or something like that. The rest were fine, probably just a system match thing.   
You are correct on the Mapletree 2 outputs.No,the freya does not ,they are both live at all times.
PS: to those thinking about the $699 Freya. That don’t need balanced.

There’s also the Schiit Saga at half the price $349!!!, single ended (no balanced), 5x inputs, 2 x outputs, active tube or passive outputs (no s/s) output. It still has a remote control, and again relay controlled 64 positions volume control 1db increments, which is plenty I use 48 with no problems.

Cheers George
I don't need balanced but wasn't sure if Saga was in the same league (as Freya) sound quality wise. Anyone with experience?
Beside being single ended only, same passive, same relay controlled volume control, except 64 position instead of 128.
Tube buffer is bit different, unity gain, output impedance 180ohms  on the Saga, and 5 gain, 210ohm output impedance on the Freya.

Cheers George
@kalali. Put about 25 more hours into the Freya. It’s been steadily opening up and it responded to changes in equipment. The passive is really great, particularly after swapping in a Cary DMC600. It’s better than the built in volume control. It seems to let a greater difference between the Cary’s tube v. solid state output show through, especially at lower volume. That’s really what I got the Freya for. If that’s all there was, I’d be happy.

The JFET has calmed down some, but is still my least favorite of the three.

On the tubes, I got impatient waiting for the stock tubes to break in and swapped in a quad of RCA vintage 6sn7gt and then pairs of Sylvania GTA chrome tops and GE GTB side getters. They made a huge difference, and seems the Freya is very responsive to tube-rolling. Not as tubelicious or as responsive as my Cary pres, but there was indeed an appreciable amount.

I suspect I’ll probably be listening to the passive, most often. So, while I might try them, I probably won’t be leaving TS BGRPs or Ws in there to burn up. Hell, I think they cost nearly as much as the Freya.

Between the two outputs and upsampling options on the DMC600 and the three outputs on the tube-rolling, it could be a tweaker’s dream (or nightmare).

Anyway, just thought I’d report back that, even though it’s still early, I think the Freya is a good buy at $699, new. Worth a try, even at risk of losing the shipping and restocking. Lots of options.

**There is also a fairly new set of Omega speakers in this setup, so some small part, except for the tube-swap, which was immediate, could be attributable to them breaking in, as well.

stfoth, thanks for the great review, appreciate it. I'm thinking the main reason for my interest in getting a tube preamp is to experience this so called "tubey" sound that everyone talks about. At the end, I might not like it as much - which I doubt, but just feel the need to experience it.  Great word by the way: tubelicious!
Is there anything cheaper than Freya in terms of preamp with no DAC? Just for volume control and remote.
Do the Mapletree remotes allow input selection?
Mapletree Line 2  - I looked at these because everyone says hey have excellent sound.  I do believe that.  However, if I am going to drop $800.00  I do not want control knobs that are from the 1940's.  I have seen antique radios with these same style of knobs.   I know, you cannot judge a book from it's cover.  My opinion only, I think they are ugly looking.  They look like they were made in someones garage.  I just cannot get past that.  The Freya if even a close competitor is very nice looking and the route I will go unless something else strikes me before I buy.  The Freya has a remote too. 
If you use balanced and single ended for different sources , be careful . I bought the Freya , it produced a loud hum through my speakers . I couldn't have both single ended and balanced plugged in at the same time . had to return it .