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Nexus™ Balanced Preamp & Headphone Amp

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Ships 1-3 days





Tubes, schmubes. Who needs tubes when you have an insane, fully discrete, solid state preamp running on 64V rails—something so over the top that the likes of this haven’t been seen for 30+ years. Welcome to Kara, the all-new do-all Nexus™ preamp from Schiit Audio.

Nexus™, Elevated. Literally.
Yes, literally. Our exclusive differential Nexus stage usually runs on +/-17V or so. Great stuff. But Kara’s +/-32V rails are insanely over the top, giving it the capability of swinging near 100V on the differential output, and contributing to the best-performing, best-measuring preamp we’ve ever made—near -120dB THD+N from balanced.
Smart Headphone Capability, Standard. 
A headphone jack? On a Schiit preamp? Yes. Because you shouldn’t have to buy a dedicated headphone amp if you only use headphones occasionally. But that also doesn’t mean a cheapie op-amp headphone amp; it means the same discrete gain stage used for Kara’s outputs, coupled with a smart protection system that guards against headphone mishaps.
Still the Best Volume Control
Kara, like Freya+, includes a 128-step relay-switched attenuator, rather than a traditional potentiometer. This means essentially perfect channel matching and near-unmeasurable distortion. You also have the opportunity to run the relay potentiometer purely as a passive attenuator, with no gain stage at all in the path. It’s your choice. 
Standard Remote Control 
Did we forget something? Not at all. Kara comes with a standard remote control that gives you the convenience you want for all of its functionality. What’s more, the volume control syncs with the remote, so there’s no confusion as to what volume you’re at, and no endlessly spinning encoders. 
Designed and Built in California
By “designed and built in California" this is what we mean: the vast majority of the total production cost of Kara—chassis, boards, transformers, assembly, etc—goes to US companies manufacturing in the US. Our chassis are made minutes from our facility. Kara PCBs are done just over the hill from us. 
5-Year Warranty and Easy Return Policy
Kara is covered by a 5-year limited warranty that covers parts and labor. And if you don’t like your Kara, you can send it back for a refund, minus 5% restocking fee, within 15 days of receiving it.

Balanced to Balanced

Gain: 1 (0dB)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 3Hz-500KHz, -3dB
THD: <0.0002%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 4V RMS 
IMD: <0.0002%, CCIR 
SNR: >129db, A-weighted, referenced to 4V RMS 
Gain: 4 (12dB)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 3Hz-300KHz, -3dB 
THD: <0.0004%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 4V RMS 
IMD: <0.0004%, CCIR 
SNR: >123db, A-weighted, referenced to 4V RMS 
Balanced to SE, x1 Gain
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 3Hz-500KHz, -3dB
THD: <0.0003%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 2V RMS 
IMD: <0.0003%, CCIR 
SNR: >123db, A-weighted, referenced to 2V RMS 
SE to Balanced, X1 Gain
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.1db, 3Hz-500KHz, -3dB
THD: <0.0015%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 4V RMS 
IMD: <0.0022%, CCIR 
SNR: >122db, A-weighted, referenced to 4V RMS
Headphone, X1 Gain

Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 1W RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 1W RMS per channel (yes same as 32 ohms)
SNR: >123db, unweighted, referenced to 2V RMS
Crosstalk: >-90dB
Output Impedance: 0.25 ohms

All specifications limited by APx555 analyzer capability
Topology: Nexus™; current feedback with nested differential stages; discrete summed single-ended outputs with high-current headphone capability; intelligent headphone oversight and protection
Input Impedance: 10K ohms
Output Impedance: 75 ohms SE, 600 ohms balanced
Crosstalk: >110dB typical all modes
Inputs: 2 XLR pairs plus 3 RCA pairs, selectable via front switch or remote
Outputs: 1 XLR pair plus 2 RCA pairs, selectable via front switch or remote 
Volume Control: relay-switched stepped attenuator with discrete thin-film resistors, 128 0.625dB steps
Power Supply: One 48VA transformer with dual series regulated +/-32V rails with Quietude™ topology; plus regulated 5VDC for microprocessor 
Power Consumption: 22W typical
Size: 16” x 8” x 2” 
Weight: 11 lbs

Measures good? Must sound like ass, right?
Guess again, bub!

So how did you pull off this magical feat of good measurements and good sound? 
Fully discrete like fully discrete should be (that is, simple, highly linear, low overall loop gain, low overall feedback), plus egregiously high op-amp-destroying rail voltages, plus our unique Nexus™ topology, a fully balanced, differential current-feedback schema with dual high-impedance terminals, unlike a typical Supersymmetry or instrumentation amplifier topology.
I didn’t understand any of that.
Cool. Let’s leave it as “it measures great without a ton of feedback.”
And feedback is bad?
We don’t like using feedback as a bandaid for a nonlinear gain stage. But that’s, like, our opinion, man. Other have other opinions.
Okay. Moving on. A headphone jack?
Yes. You’re an observant one, aren’t you?
Care to answer why there’s a headphone jack, when you make a ton of different headphone amps?
Because you shouldn’t have to buy a headphone amp if your primary system isn’t about headphones. It’s totally fine if you listen to headphones only occasionally. So, in the same way that our headphone amps have preamp outs too, we decided to add a headphone out to our Kara preamp.
So it must be a crap headphone amp, right?
Nope! It’s actually exactly the same discrete gain stage we use for Kara’s single-ended outputs. We also included headphone detection and headphone fault sensing to make sure your headphones and the preamp are both safe. Heck, that was most of the firmware work on this one!
Oh yeah that’s right, you had another solid-state balanced preamp, Freya S. How does that compare to Kara?
Cool, let’s break it down.
  • Much higher performance: Kara kills Freya S from all outputs, in all modes.
  • Much higher rails: Freya S was +/-17V, Kara is +/-32V. More volts more linear.
  • Now with headphone jack: none on Freya S, yes on Kara.
  • 2x bigger power supply: 48VA transformer in Kara, 24VA on Freya S.
  • Better controls: More rational front panel layout on Kara.
So what’s the difference between Kara and Freya+?
They’re totally different preamps. If you want a tube preamp with a lot of flexibility (including differential buffer mode, and the ability to run LISST solid-state tubes), that’s your preamp. Otherwise Kara costs less, doesn’t use tubes that wear out, and gives you a headphone jack.
I don’t understand preamps. What can I use a preamp for?
If you have only one source, and it has a volume control, maybe you don’t need a preamp. But if you have a system with more than one source, and you want convenient remote input switching and remote volume control, a preamp is a good idea. You can also pair it with our DACs for convenient remote volume control, since our preamps don’t cost like the total debt of a small nation-state.
So cheap is good?
Absolutely. Because even before the excuse du jour of “inflation,” audio pricing has gotten really stupid. Go ahead. Start looking at preamps that use a sophisticated, perfectly-matched relay-switched stepped attenuator instead of a volume pot, and you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that Kara is in a class by itself. That is, a class with a three-digit price tag, not a four-digit price tag (that doesn’t start with, like “5,” either.)
I don’t like cheap. I distrust cheap. I like nice things.
That’s cool. We like smart design and efficient construction that make great sound affordable to more people. But if you literally have $100 bills hand-stitched into toilet paper so you can wipe your butt in wretched excess, then by all means, find something that costs more. Just don’t think it’ll automatically be any better. 
So I can run Kara fully passive, no gain stage at all?
Yes, no problem. Just don’t expect it to convert single-ended to balanced or anything like that. It is, after all, passive.
But Nexus gives me differential output, right?
Right. Nexus converts single-ended inputs to balanced inherently, since it’s a differential in, differential out gain stage. In Kara, it also provides two levels of gain: 1 (like a buffer) or 5 (for systems that need more gain.)  
What’s the big deal about a relay-stepped attenuator?
Unlike a typical potentiometer, a relay-stepped attenuator gives you perfect channel matching down to the lowest level of the volume knob. It also makes cool clicking noises when you turn the knob. In our minds, this is the best way of doing volume control. There’s only a couple of thin-film resistors in the signal path at all times, rather than a potentiometer wiper. And it doesn’t use a “volume control chip,” which we believe proper only to cheap receivers. But then again, a lot of people think we’re crazy. 
What if I don’t need balanced inputs and outputs?
Then consider Saga. Or one of our headphone amps, if you have a simple system. They all have great preamp outputs, from Magni on up.
So what’s a Kara?
In Norse mythology, Kara was a Valkyrie—as in, she was tasked with transporting the warriors who died in battle to Valhalla. And if you’ve ever battled difficult audio gear, maybe you’re ready for a well-deserved celebration with Kara.