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Review and Measurements of Schiit Valhalla 2 Headphone Amp

amirm

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#1
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Schiit Valhalla 2 headphone amplifier. It is on kind loan from a member. The Valhalla 2 costs US $349 from Schiit itself.

I recently measured the older and discontinued Schiit Valhalla. This is what Schiit says about the improvements:

1565578380866.png


As you can imagine, the look and feel of the Valhalla 2 is almost identical to other Schiit units:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier Audio Review.jpg

The volume control is large and feels good.

I am not going to bother showing you the back as it is just a input and RCA outs mirroring the headphone out. And built-in mains power supply.

The Valhalla had the worse distortion metric of any headphone amplifier I have tested. Has the Valhalla improved? Let's find out.

Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements
I set the unit to low gain, fed it 2 volt and matched the volume to produce the same:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier Audio Measurements.png


We have a nice step up in performance. SINAD (signal over noise and distortion) is up to nearly 80 dB in good channel versus just 44 dB with the original Valhalla. Second harmonic dominates as it did there.

Mains hum and buzz introduces but is not dominant enough to impact the measurements of SINAD. Playing with grounding made no difference. And oh, I checked and the chassis is properly grounded to mains earth/safety terminal.

We have channel mismatch of about 0.5 dB which seems to be typical of a lot of these tube products.

The improved SINAD lifts the status of Schiit Valhalla tube amp to nearly that of Lyr 2:
Best Headphone Amplifiers Measured and Reviewed 2019.png


Frequency response is flat in audible band which is good:
Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier Frequency Response Audio Measurements.png


Signal to noise ratio is good at full volume but drops precipitously at 50 millivolt output:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier SNR Audio Measurements.png


Lowest Noise Headphone Amplifier Reviewed.png


So likely the Valhalla 2 will be a buzz and hum factory with high efficiency IEMs.

Digging further into distortion using intermodulation signal pairs of 60 Hz and 7 kHz we get:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier IMD distortion versus power Audio Measurements.png


Dominant impairment is distortion and it rises at less than 1 millivolt and climbs from there.

32-tone version produces this:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier Multitone Audio Measurements.png


We have decent gap between distortion and signal peak of 85 dB. That is quite a bit better than 70 dB we got with the Little Dot MK II headphone amplifier.

THD+N vs frequency shows constant level of distortion or noise:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier THD+N vs Frequency Audio Measurements.png


Most important data is the amount of power relative to distortion so let's go there with 300 ohm load:
Lowest Noise Headphone Amplifier Power at 300 ohm Reviewed.png


Depending on where you stop on the rising distortion curve, there is fair amount of power as is typically the case with tube amplifiers.

Switching to 33 ohm load though, shows dismal output power ratings and distortion:

Lowest Noise Headphone Amplifier Power at 33 ohm Reviewed.png


Channel imbalance with respect to volume control position is good:

Schiit Valhalla 2 Tube Headphone Amplifier Channel Imbalance Audio Measurements.png


Since there is no output transformer, Schiit must be using an output capacitor and hence, its output impedance is frequency dependent:

Best Headphone Amplifier Output Impedance Measured.png


As noted, there is also dependency on gain setting. In low gain, there is half as much output impedance. With high gain, you are likely to get some frequency response variations depending on the frequency dependent impedance of your headphone.

Listening Tests
Using my Hifiman HE-400i with its low impedance immediately showed the weakness of such tube designs with inability to drive much current. While you could get reasonable sound at lower volume levels, as you got close to maximum volume the bass got heavily distorted. So definitely avoid this amplifier if you have a low impedance headphone.

With the much higher impedance Sennheiser HD-650 headphones, the situation changes as well as it did with the original Schiit Valhalla. There was plenty of power here. I could detect some rise in distortion though above about 2:00 o'clock on the volume control with the highs getting exaggerated. But that was pretty loud and would not be normal listening level.

I detected no fidelity improvements in my listening tests over solid state amplifiers.

Conclusions
The clean up of the design in Schiit Valhalla 2 over the original is quite obvious in measurements. Alas, at the end of the day it is still a tube product with ability to drive high output impedance headphone. Lower impedance headphones are just not suitable to it and Schiit stating otherwise is misleading.

Subjectively, the sound is fine with high impedance headphones. But why bother when you can get a solid state headphone amplifier that drives high and low impedance headphones equally well?

If you are itching to have a tube headphone amplifier, the Schiit Valhalla 2 at $350 seems like a good option. It won't get my recommendation with this type of performance but you have already ignored my advice in wanting a tube amp anyway. :)

-------
As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Please support reviews like this by donating using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
 

Hugo9000

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#3
Thank you, @amirm , it's nice to see a such a prompt followup to the discontinued model review with this new one. I hope that will please a few who complained of (possible or perceived) 'unfairness' in reviewing an old product. (Seeing that there is resale value due to their brand marketing and the large number of fans of their products, I personally think it was quite valid to review a product that sold in significant numbers and will still turn up in the used market, but maybe I'm strange in that view.)

This is my favorite part in the current model review:
It won't get my recommendation with this type of performance but you have already ignored my advice in wanting a tube amp anyway. :)
:D
 

THW

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#5
100 mW with -45 dB SINAD?

you may as well just get a good solid state amp like the Atom, lol

even the DX3 pushes out more power and has far lesser distortion to boot, and that’s an all in one unit unlike this which is a dedicated unit
 

garbulky

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#6
I have a problem with blatantly false manufacturer specifications. Where could they get an 800 mw figure at 300 ohms? As looking on your graph, in no planet does it touch it. Unless there's something wrong somewhere, it's clear it doesn't get anywhere close to that.
Considering its main function is as an AMP it's not cool for there to be such a gross innacuracy in stated specs.
 

amirm

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#7
In general, they only test one channel if they don't say otherwise. So that doubles it. In the case of this amp, if you keep increasing the input, it will keep increasing the output. So perhaps that is how they drove it with very high input levels.
 

garbulky

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#8
In general, they only test one channel if they don't say otherwise. So that doubles it. In the case of this amp, if you keep increasing the input, it will keep increasing the output. So perhaps that is how they drove it with very high input levels.
??? It doesn't add up! How can it reach 800 mwatts even if you double it? What kind of distortion would that be at? Like 100% THD?
 

amirm

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#10
??? It doesn't add up! How can it reach 800 mwatts even if you double it? What kind of distortion would that be at? Like 100% THD?
I drove the amp with 4 volt and it produced this:



This is with 2 channels driven. If you just drive one channel at 100% distortion, you will get there!
 

garbulky

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#11
I drove the amp with 4 volt and it produced this:



This is with 2 channels driven. If you just drive one channel at 100% distortion, you will get there!
Wow. I was only half joking there, but looks like you are right. Jeez. I don't think that's a fair spec for them to state even if they could get it to 800 mw if the distortion level is that high.
 

JohnBooty

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#16
I love imagining peoples' thoughts when they make Schiit/shit jokes in 2019.

"Oh man, I bet nobody ever thought of this before... this one's really gonna make the boys chuckle!"

:rolleyes:
 
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#18
I love imagining peoples' thoughts when they make Schiit/shit jokes in 2019.

"Oh man, I bet nobody ever thought of this before... this one's really gonna make the boys chuckle!"

:rolleyes:
Exasperation and endless scorn at any cultist who would buy their products and fall for their stupid marketing. From the front page of their website:

"Yes, that is our name. Shih-tah. It's a proud German name, host to a long line of audio engineers who slaved away in crumbling Teutonic fortresses as lightning lashed the dark lands outside, working to perfect the best amplification devices in the world...
Or, well, no. Yep, Schiit is our name, and it's pronounced, well, like "hey man, that's some really good Schiit!" And now that we have your attention..."

Just stupid. So their products are generally shit. Their marketing is shit. And people who repeatedly fall for it are...

Foolish.
 

amirm

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#19
And people who repeatedly fall for it are...

Foolish.
I get your sentiments :) but let's not go after owners this way. After all, I fell for their marketing and recommended my son buy a few of their products years ago.
 

garbulky

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#20
@amirm
Fyi: I contacted schiit regarding the power spec and they told me that they don't comment on other people's measurements but their specifications (of 800 mw @ 300 ohms) are accurate.
 
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