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Schiit Vali 2+ Review (Tube Headphone Amp)

Shadow12347

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Ahh memories... Before I found this site, my first DAC and amp was a Schiit Modi 2 with a Vali. Kept hearing about that tube magic... In comparison to my mobo soundcard, yeah I think it was certainly better, especially with nicer headphones that the soundcard couldn't drive to acceptable levels. That said, I quickly wanted to upgrade because it just didn't sound that good still.

I ended up getting a CTH to replace the Vali, and while it was a slight improvement, it felt more like a side-grade... I saw the reviews, and read all the "mods" that you must do to the CTH to make it sound amazing: tube rolling, Lab Grade Linear PSU, "balanced" cable etc. and shocker, nothing worked. Then I figured the DAC was the problem, so after doing a lot searching, the general consensus seemed to be to get a Bifrost Multibit... The exact second I plugged it in and started listening, I knew there was something just completely broken with the DAC... It sounded awful!

That's when I stumbled upon Amir's review of the original Topping D50. I saw the measurements, didn't really know what they meant at the time, but at least I had some tangible data to go off of... I had never seen anything like this before, and honestly wasn't sure if I trusted it, because I'd been burned on audio multiple times now, but I sold the used Bifrost I got off eBay, and got a brand new D50 for $150 less. Funny enough, the main reason I got this DAC was because, at the time, there weren't very many affordable DACs that people considered an "upgrade" from the modi 2 that came in black... I wanted to match my CTH, and I hated having the silver bifrost, or silver modi 2 with it, but I needed at least some confirmation from some site that this DAC had merit, and seeing Amir's review gave me that lol. Once I got it, it was the complete opposite experience as the Bifrost, because the second I plugged it in (still with the CTH mind you), I heard things I never knew existed in many of the songs I loved. It quite literally brought me to tears.

I didn't even realize until much later that this site was dedicated to reviewing all sorts of audio gear. I just thought the D50 review was a one off post by some random guy on the internet (sorry Amir xD). When I saw the reviews for the Bifrost Multibit, the CTH, and the Modi 2, I was completely blown away, because the devices' performance in objective measurements shown here lined up perfectly with my completely subjective experience I had with each of these DACs/Amps before I even knew what any of this was. This amp reminds me of why I love this site, and why I am thankful that I was rescued from subjective audio reviews :p
 

Mojo Warrior

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Opinions matter. But this entirely dependent upon who is expressing that opinion. Some have credibility based upon proven evidence and others do not. Experience should inform us as to whose opinions should matter.

I have heard some wax on very nostalgic about the superiority of tube amplification. I bought into that myth, twice. I personally purchased two different, highly regarded and praised in professional reviews (I'm looking at you TAS and Stereophile) tube amplifiers to put into my highly resolving system. I even returned one amplifier to the manufacturer thinking it was defective. I could not bear the the added distortion and dismal S/N ratio. I even auditioned very expensive tube based systems at several high end audio "salons". I never walked away with any doubt about the flaws in their sound.

I accept that someone might prefer that type of sound and they can spend their money as they see fit. But the opinion that in some mysterious, magical and convoluted way, that it is superior music reproduction is suspect on several levels. No one has ever provided accurate, scientifically valid measurements that can prove this because it does not exist.

There are numerous graphs of the measurement of sound which is clearly beyond the capability of any human to hear. To claim that some unknown hobbyist can hear things that cannot be measured is beyond belief.
 

sarumbear

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actually it’s mostly the mains hum, which is not audible i would assume.
You are forgetting that the 1st and 2nd harmonics are almost at the same level as the fundamental.
 

Merkurio

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Would love to see a video explaining how to train our listen in order to detect these audible distortions :) @amirm
 
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amirm

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The HiFiMan Arya has a sensitivity of 91.2 dBSPL and 42 ohms of impedance, not sensitive by any standard.
I have zero trust in such numbers. They are marketing values. Please don't go doing math on them.
 

raif71

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Thread Notice: This is an official product review thread. Keep your conversation and comments relevant to the reviewed product please. Arguing about audio consumption philosophy and the pros and cons of each belongs in a separate thread.

Please and thank you.
Thank you for reminding. IMHO, I see just a little salt and pepper to spice up the thread is all and some people like to take the occasional red pill to experience the distortion :cool:
 
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amirm

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actually it’s mostly the mains hum, which is not audible i would assume.
Why not? Amplify that enough and it becomes audible with sensitive IEMs and such.
 
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amirm

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Would love to see a video explaining how to train our listen in order to detect these audible distortions :) @amirm
It is not an easy thing to teach unfortunately. It took me six months of intensive work to get there. Best advise is what I said in the review: use a low impedance headphone with this amp and turn it up. You can easily hear the distortion there. Then you can move up the impedance ladder where the effect becomes less.
 

Merkurio

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It is not an easy thing to teach unfortunately. It took me six months of intensive work to get there. Best advise is what I said in the review: use a low impedance headphone with this amp and turn it up. You can easily hear the distortion there. Then you can move up the impedance ladder where the effect becomes less.

Is there another way to "induce" distortion in not-so-flawed designs?

I have a DX3 Pro and would like to train my ears for this.
 

GimeDsp

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I can't stand waiting for new reviews!

Well, in the meantime at least I know some gear not to buy.
From now on I'm only getting good panther gear. I'm sick of wasting money on meh.
 

mhardy6647

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1631669382808.png

whoa. Burn-in.

:cool:
 

DeepSpaceus

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I have zero trust in such numbers. They are marketing values. Please don't go doing math on them.
Well, there are about a million other posts across multiple forums on the internet on the power required to drive the HIFIMAN Arya. But if you don't want to believe the manufacturer specs or the millions of posts about one of the best regarded in the world then I guess there is nothing more to be said. I guess you are always right and know better than everyone else
 
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amirm

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Well, there are about a million other posts across multiple forums on the internet on the power required to drive the HIFIMAN Arya. But if you don't want to believe the manufacturer specs or the millions of posts about one of the best regarded in the world then I guess there is nothing more to be said.
Ask me why and I explain it. Here is the frequency response of the Hifiman Sundara:

index.php


With identical input voltage, the response varies from 85 to 105 dB. Exactly what single number are you using to define the sensitivity of the headphone? Answer is none. A clever manufacturer could pick that peak at 105 dB and declare that as bigger numbers are better in the minds of people. Yet, most of the power you need is sub-bass where the output is 20 dB worse. That is 10X difference.

In the case of headphone amps, I have not found a substitute for detecting adequate power than my ears. Whether something plays is secondary to whether it is distorted or not. I play content with deep bass and listen for overall fidelity.

As you see, there is proper analysis and insight behind what I said.
 

D!sco

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Had some thoughts about this one. I have a very amateur music performance background, and harmonics have been ruminating in my mind with respect to measurements. For those of you who don't know, harmonics in instrumentation are essentially multiple pitches adding to one another naturally. On a stringed instrument, this happens when a string plays two notes simultaneously, an overtone and undertone, creating a pleasing resonance.
This is a guitar based on creating sympathetic undertones and overtones, which is where the body of the instrument feeds back into the strings, causing them to vibrate on their own, adding to the "width" and sustain of the sound. This is also, technically, harmonic vibration.
While I'm not a fan of tube amps most of the time, looking at the Vali graph, I think I get it. There aren't just a few small high 2nd harmonic peaks, but a noticeable bass boost. I can see this as being the reasoning for bad solid state amps being referred to as "shrill" or "harsh" while tubes are "warm" and "inviting". This also makes sense as a product of their time. Tube amps are harmonic dominant, full of distortion, and fickle. Performances on them are just like that, with the affects of a tube amp feeding back into the guitars and sustaining these rock and jazz chords forever. I'm sure that without a real objective experience some highly distorted amps sounded good, or appropriate for the music being played.

All this is to say, while I don't own any tubes, I get it. It's not a sound quality thing, it's a music thing. I just think that times and tastes are changing. Like I always heard: we don't need expensive equipment, we need better songs and masters. I'd love to hear this thing and stack it up with the Magni 3.
 
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