Have you upgraded from a Freya?

I have had a Freya+ for a few years and like it a lot, but still get to thinking what another notch up the ladder might bring. Looking for feedback and impressions from folks who have upgraded from the Freya.  I mainly use the solid state buffered mode, my listening sessions tend to be shorter and I don't turn on the tubes very often. The rest of the chain past the preamp is Coda #8 -> LS50's.


I own a Frey+. Just as fun piece of equipment and for burning in cables. It is very good for a budget preamp.

It is good to put as much money into your preamp as possible. Typically for me it has been of equal or greater cost than my amp (over the last 50 years). It sets the tone… and since it works with lower voltages it needs to be of really high quality.

Looking long termed, think about investing as much as you can. Tube preamps are very natural sounding and reliable. Consider a used Audio Research, Conrad Johnson (not older than about 10 years), VAC… maybe (hesitation) Rogue (not in the same league in reliability).

I have the CODA #8 and also LS50’s. I have the Freya+ with the Benchmark AHB2 amp and KEF LS50 + KC62 sub. I mainly use the tube setting and have grown fond of this pairing.


The CODA #8 sounds incredible with the Benchmark LA4 preamp. Each week, I tend to listen 60% with the LA4 on the #8 and 40% with the 3x more expensive CODA 07x preamp. I just love the LA4 + #8 combo. I also loved the AHB2 + 07x combo. The 07x + #8 is what I am listening to now as I post this, and it is a nice change of pace for me.

I upgraded to a Supratek Cabernet. It is an obvious improvement, bigger sound, bigger sound stage, more natural sound. I thought things sounded great when I had the Freya+ but now it sounds harsh in my system. Granted, with the customization of allowing me to use 12sn7 as well as 6sn7 the Cabernet cost 4x what the Freya+ did so it better sound better!

Be prepared to spend a sizable sum to get a significant improvement.  I just upgraded from the original Freya to an Atma-Sphere MP 3.  The Atma is 10 times the price of the Freya and considered to be one of the better preamps available at any cost.  Is there an improvement?  Sure.  But it also shows me how good the Freya really is.


Be prepared to spend a sizable sum to get a significant improvement.  I just upgraded from the original Freya to an Atma-Sphere MP 3.  The Atma is 10 times the price of the Freya and considered to be one of the better preamps available at any cost.  Is there an improvement?  Sure.  But it also shows me how good the Freya really is.

Thanks for the response and insight, good to know. Based on my experience and what everyone else says, I was pretty sure the Freya was a high performer. I am intrigued by the Benchmark LA4, though it may just be a lateral move with a different sound.



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Just an update, I acquired a used Coda 07x to mate with my #8. I am not as excited about as I expected to be, but still evaluating. My primary issue is that it is not great for low volume listening, which is my primary mode. Great soundstage and detail, but lacks a degree of liveliness that the Freya delivers at lower volumes. 

I have some other options on my list, the Holo Serene and the Benchmark LA4. @yyzsantabarbara You have extolled the virtues of the LA4, can you comment on how it does at low volumes? I am also concerned that the level of detail it seems to offer might lead to fatigue, any comment there?


Something broke on my Freya so while it was in the shop for repair I tried the maker of my amps preamp. The electrocompianet 4.7. A stunning change and while it’s expensive for a volume knob since I only have one source it’s the anchor of my system. I’ve even gotten by with cheaper amps because this seems to articulate so beautifully. No idea why, but the Freya was fun playing with tubes but that gets old when you could be focusing on the music. 

@dain Thanks! I will check that one out. I only have a single source as well, but as we know a good preamp makes all the difference.

The Freya+ is fun to use, but it lacks some of the usual features of a classic peamp. I still prefer good ergonomics in a preamp, meaning clear selector functionality, ideally a display with settings information or at least indicator lamps for selector settings and volume settings. It has a remote, that’s good, but the panel indicators are tiny and cryptic, sub-optimal. I don’t expect large-print-edition markings, but a quick glance at a well-designed panel should give you a clear indication of its settings and status. The power switch should be located in the front, and it isn’t. This is particularly important with a preamp that you should turn off when not in the room. There aren’t any of the traditional tone and balance controls, a peculiar omission in a device that is meant to use traditional tubes. As for tubes, the Freya+ is good for the tube-rolling-curious user who might also prefer the option of returning to SS use only, with the passive setting or with LISST tubes in place and still have a fully functional device. Any preamp with running tubes will get warm, but the Freya+ could keep your coffee hot (jk) and so placement to allow heat dissipation is essential. It isn’t a device that belongs in a confined space. I don’t want to seem negative, and I think mine sounds nice, but it is an audiophile device, for someone who is not a casual audio user but who likes experimenting with equipment, tubes, settings, etc.

@chenry Agreed the ergonomics are not so great on the Freya. I have "enhanced" the volume knob so that I can see the setting from more than a couple feet away. I tend to have mine on all day and use the buffered mode for that reason. The temperature of the case in tube mode is scary, enough so I would not leave it unattended. For occasional use the tubes do sound good though.

@zlone I have owned the CODA 07x (for 1 year), the Benchmark HPA4+LA4, Schitt Freya+, Topping pre90, and the Holo Serene. I have decided to keep only the LA4 and Serene.

The 07x is warm, fairly detailed, and slightly noisy. In the end that noise was bugging me to no end, so I sold it. I only really heard it on very quiet passages but once I knew it was there it was always on my mind.

The Freya+ was good (especially for the price) but not as good as the 07x and not as detailed as the LA4. So sold that.

Both the Holo and LA4 are 2 of the quietest preamps around (along with the pre90). Being quiet leads to amazing low volume listening. That was the main reason I bought the HPA4 about 8 years ago. I had to listen late at night at low levels as the baby was sleeping. It was great when I added the HPA4, compared to going DAC direct to amp. Direct to amp at low levels tends to be the weakness of digital volume controls in DACs. At low volume the sound is all there with the LA4 and Holo. It is just lower in dB. With other noiser preamps you can lose some of the sound like bass at low volume.

I am using the LA4 with a CODA #16 and I think CODA amps and Benchmark preamps are a perfect match for my tastes. I moved the CODA #16 to my office this morning to keep it safe from visitors (next 4 weeks) and listening to it with the Holo is another pleasure. Just amazing.

My preamp shopping days are done. I think the Holo and LA4 are perfect for what I want in my system.



@yyzsantabarbara Thanks, it sounds like the LA4 is what I am looking for and I will take the next step.

I sold mine. I like the matching pre amps that are made for the amp. The synergy is the best imo.

Following up as promised. I am really enjoying the Benchmark LA4, it is quiet, exceedingly neutral, offers great detail and is good for low volume listening. But of course I want more! "Exceedingly neutral" might be the highest compliment for preamplifier purists, but I remain curious about the sound of other preamps. The other preamp I have on my list is the Holo Serene and I would be interested to hear from others that have had this preamp in their stack, and ideally from those that have compared it to the LA4. ( @yyzsantabarbara  🙂)

The Serene is also know to be dead silent and very neutral, but I have seen hints that it might add a little tinge of flavor or musicality. The latter term is hard to define, but one of those things that you know it when your hear or feel it. I am also interested in other options in the solid state space, I am not interested in tubes at this time. Any Schiit Kara owners yet? I am very curious about that one as well.


I tried an LA4 and I didn't keep it long. It wasn't so much as neutral as it was forward and fatiguing. I'm sure someone will chime in with the old adage that it was just showing me the true nature of my system. But a Hattor Audio "The Big" preamp, which is what I currently use, is much more enjoyable. And since it's purely passive, there is nothing to color the sound or "enhance" it. It just sounds better to me. 

So if you like the LA4, you are probably in the majority. It just didn't work for me.



@ozzy62 what was the package that you selected for your Hattor. I have been thinking of getting one of these to play with. 


I got the Big version with four inputs and three outputs. The resistors are AMRT from AMTrans. Similar to AMRG, but Arek says they are even better.

@zlone Glad you liked the LA4. The Serene is a touch warmer and maybe preferred by some, such as this guy who compares the Serene to the HPA4 (same as LA4).

Review Holo Audio Serene Level 1 preamplifier - Tastefully Serene - Alpha Audio (alpha-audio.net)

I agree with this review but I like the LA4 the most still, but it really depends on the chain of gear it is hooked up to.

I like the LA4 and Serene so much that I tossed the shipping boxes. My preamp shopping days are done. I would not change these 2 for anything. I do not want sound added from my preamps, other gear in the chain already does enough of that.

I also have a Schitt Mjolnir (sp?) preamp. I got this because my Magtech amp does not have a Standby switch (long story). I think this preamp is the best one in Schitt’s lineup. It is sold as a headphone amp/preamp. The headphone amp is not powerful enough for my RAAL phones. I use the preamp with a Schitt Aegir amp and it is almost the best I have heard the phones.

I tried the Mjolnir in place of the Holo Serene in my office with the Magnepan LRS+ and Magtech amp. It was a real fun listen. Much warmer (but not too much). I was really impressed and it was definitory a better preamp for me than the Schitt Freya+ that I sold.



BTW - I had the LS50 with the CODA #8 and it was very good in my small office. However, the LS50 Meta is much better to my ears. Most people are saying it was only a minor improvement. In my system I thought it was a big improvement. I did not want to get rid of the LS50 Meta but I gave it to my nephew to take to university.

I now use the Magnepan LRS+ ($999) in the office and it is much better than the LS50 Meta in most aspects. I think the LS50 Meta was a bit sharper focused on the images but I only did a few hours of A+B tests and I was trying to find something.

The CODA #8 should be very good on the LRS+. The CODA #16 is incredible on the LRS+.

Thanks for the feedback folks.

@ozzy62 Beautiful piece of gear that Hattor, and very attractive pricing. I could not find any specs, specifically output impedance, on the site. Given it is passive, that would figure heavily into any decision. I tried the passive on the Freya+ for a while, but it seemed a bit dull compared to the buffered and tube stages. That is my only experience with passive, but I am not against the idea.

@yyzsantabarbara I do plan to upgrade from LS50's someday soon and will likely give the LRS+'s a listen. I plan to move to a slightly larger room this winter and that will open up some possibilities in that area. Interesting thoughts on the Mjolnir, I looked at it, seems like a pretty amazing piece of gear.