Unexpectedly low volume with Schiit Saga + Vidar


Hi all, 

I was hoping someone could shed some insight into what feels like low total volume from my system.   I recently upgraded my amplifier from an NAD 316BEE to a Schiit Saga Plus + Schiit Vidar.  Given the Vidar is fairly dramatically more powerful than the 316 (and weighs about 4x as much), I was really surprised it didn't seem to boost the total volume of the system at all.  I have the knob on the Saga + preamp all the way up and it's solid, but it's a long way from "blow the doors off the place."  I also don't really hear anything out of the speakers until the volume knob on the preamp is to about 11-noon.  

The signal path is as follows: 
Spotify > Airplay > Airport Express > Saga > Schiit > Magnepan MMG.  

Yes, the Spotify / Airplay volume are maxed out, such that I'm feeding as much signal into the Saga as I can.  I have the same issue with my turntable (Rega P2 > Schiit Mani).  I know the MMGs aren't the easiest speaker in the world to drive, but it just really seems like this amp should be able to crank them up to seriously high volumes.  

Thanks for the help!
Alex


aslawson
My understanding of the Saga +, it is a zero gain device, offering passive output, meaning, the source is driving the amplifier. You have a choice between passive, and passive with a buffer, used for driving longer cables, and helping with impedance situations. Most preamps have a gain stage, the Saga S does not. Hope this helps.
That seems to make sense, as I get about the same total volume from taking an 1/8th > RCA stereo cable and plugging directly into the vidar.  

Seems I may need to get a preamp with some gain....

Any thoughts? 
Look into the Freya units, as they offer a gain stage ( 12 db I believe, which is gain = 4 ).
It seems like that's what I'm going to be needing.  

I assume my sources that I'm putting into the preamp right now don't have much power behind them and that's why the volume is so low. 

Would something like a streaming DAC (I have my eye on the Cambridge CXN v2) likely output "hotter" and therefore result in more volume? 

The typical output voltage of most sources today, is about 2 volts. I use a passive unit ( no gain stage ), but my speakers are very high sensitivity, so passive gives me plenty of output and drive, between any amps I run, from my sources ( I prefer passive ). Active vs passive is a topic that has been discussed here plenty, but it is dependent on the matching of the system components. I would think, a preamp with a gain stage, would benefit you.
I get what you're saying.  I'm sure if I had a different set of speakers this would be very loud. 
Not just a different set, but a more efficient set. However, I do not recommend buying speakers for this reason. If you like a particular pair of speakers, there are always matching products to get you there ( in your case with the Maggies, a preamp with the added gain ). 
That's fair.  I love the Magnepans.  I think I need to get the Freya rather than the Saga.  
Sounds like your analog source before the Saga is too low in gain.
As even with the Saga being unity gain the Vidar is 27db gain and the Maggie although a little low at 86db, you should have enough gain if your source is to Philips/Sony digital Redbook standard of 2v output.
Freya would be an option as it has a bit of gain.
If you know a good tech he could give the Saga some gain, by changing one resistor per channel in the feedback network.

Cheers George
My 3 sources I’m using are:
Airport Express DAC via 1/8" > RCA
Google Chromecast Audio via 1/8" > RCA
Rega P2 Turntable > Uturn Pluto Phono Pre > RCA

The airport express DAC outputs at 2v RMS. I’m just really surprised this combination doesn’t result in more output.

How unusual is this issue? Am I delusional thinking I'm going to get ear shattering volumes with the MMGs and the Vidar? Is 12dB of gain from the Freya going to be dramatically different? 
You're going from 40 watts to 100 watts, about a 4dB increase. Subjectively, a 10 dB increase in power is what is needed for us to perceive "twice as loud". I hear no perceptive change in loudness between my 200 watt and 100 watt amplifiers at the same volume setting. What you should hear is a better overall balance with the Vidar as it is better able to maintain voltage at lower speaker impedance loads.  
Looking up the specs on the NAD shows 39dB gain compared to the Saga+Vidar total of 27. The tube stage on the Freya+ is 12dB so that should put you back to about the same level.
The way I understand it is the gain is an increase in voltage but in order to not distort there needs to be enough available current to support the signal accurately. So a 400W amp with 24dB of gain won’t sound as loud as a 100W amp with 30dB of gain. Sometimes the distortion is what makes it feel loud though. I remember cranking up my first big clean amp and having no clue how loud it actually was compared to the consumer receiver it replaced until I didn’t hear the phone ring. 
Your problem is not your speakers.
 Recently bought a Freya for a friends system. Even with tube stage volume is about 11 o clock before any sound comes out, around 3;00, for decent volume. Schiit said this was normal.
I think I'm going to get a Freya.  Then maybe get another vidar and run monoblocks down the road. 
I use efficient speakers with a Freya (older and utterly collectable "original" version that YOU CAN'T HAVE) and a small SEP tube amp, but previously wasn't using particularly efficient speakers...the Freya tube gain worked fine with the less efficient speakers (89db as opposed to the alleged 99db of my current Heresy IIIs) but the other 2 output options were somewhat weak. I get it. Now of course all the gain options work but obviously the tube gain that I prefer kicks gigantic earballs, so to speak. The Freya + should get your Vidars off the dime without have to use 2 of 'em or my name aint' Wolf Garcia, which in fact it is not but...uh...so what?
The tube gain on the Freya does get pretty stellar reviews.  Sigh -- this project is costing a lot more than initially intended.  May as well buy a true streamer while I'm at it....