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I like it, with major caveats

A Review On: Schiit Vali

Schiit Vali

Rated # 20 in Desktop Amps
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Posted · 40938 Views · 8 Comments

Pros: Interesting sound

Cons: Hiss

An interesting introduction for me to tube sound. No idea if this is a faithful representation of the genre.


When I turned it on it the first time, left channel had lots of hiss. But the signal was equal in both channels, when playing music. So I decided to keep it for a while. After a few hours, the hiss evened out, but still was noticeable with the following equipment. Hiss was with only the headphones connected to the amp, no sources or cables.


Monoprice MEP-839
Grado SR 60
Focal Spirit Pro
Sennheiser HD 280 Pro

RP HTF 600


The nominal impedance of HD 280 and HTF 600 are 64 and 56 Ohms respectively. The hiss though lower than in the others, is still clearly audible to me, especially in quiet passages of classical music.


When I contacted Schiit service, I was told this is working as designed and that some level of hiss is normal for tube equipment with these headphones. Again, I have no way of comparing this to any other tube equipment.


I still kept it because I was going to use this in a noisy work environ. And it was fun to listen to. And they got a few points for a funny user manual.

To me, this is unacceptable if used in a quiet listening area.


After a couple of months of using a few hours a week on average, the hiss seems to be worsening. Chain: computer -> USB -> micromega mydac -> HD 280. I'll wait a little more and if this trend continues, hopefully send it in for some service.


The other amps I have are the PA2V2 and a Grace m901.

My rankings in ascending order: PA2V2, Vali, m901.

The Grace seems the most neutral of the three to my ears.


If I had to pick a genre that this excels for me: Jazz and Blues.


The Vali has an 6.5 ohm output impedance. Any low impedance/high sensitivity headphone is going to have hiss on the Vali. The Vali really isn't suitable for the headphones you are using if you are bothered by hiss. The Magni would have been a better choice. The Vali works best with mid to high impedance heaphones. I use my Vali with the Grado 225 and there is noticeable hiss when there is no signal or with lower level sections of classical music. It's not a huge deal for me. 90% of the time I use the Vali with my DT880's. 
From personal experience that's not an issue all tube or hybrid amps have as the hybrid tube amp I have is completely silent regardless of headphone. I haven't heard the Vali but my EF2A hybrid amp(which sadly I can't find information on it's output impedance) has no hiss once so ever on any of my headphones, even on headphones as low a 8 or 16 ohms. My Magni has a noisy and hissy background compared to my EF2A.
This review was 100% about hiss, which is to be expected given the headphones used.  What did you find "interesting" about the sound?
Yeah it is all about hiss and there wasn't a mention of what was interesting about the sound. An amp shouldn't be that noisy and hissy even if there is an impedance mismatch, it sounds more like a shielding issue more than anything. I do know some tubes are more prone to noise more than others, which could explain it if the type of tubes used are known to be noisy and there likely isn't proper shielding on the amp to prevent it from picking up excess noise, which I found the case with the Magni.
 I didn't say mismatching isn't an issue, I know higher impedance headphones pick up less noise. It's because the amp is noisy. I've heard many amps with higher output impedance with low-ohm headphones and the headphones were silent.
Thanks for the comments.
I agree I could have described the sound better. I did not like the sound of instruments in classical music - for instance, pianos didn't sound right to me. Brass instruments in Jazz were excellent to my ears. It could very well be the rest of my equipment and my ears.
I have also read that 32 Ohm grados work fine with Vali. For me, it did not.
I was saying other amps with higher output impedance I heard don't have ahiss or noise issues. And based on what is said about the Vali is that at least some units are noisy.
i am using K712 pros and the hiss is making me insane..... i thought i was able to remedy it by moving my router (which did help significantly) but now the next time i use it i hear the hiss start out super small (which is acceptable to me) but slowly but surely it gets way too noticeable.... if anyone has any suggestions about what has helped them, please PM me. i think they pair great with the K712's but only when it can be quiet. cant figure this out to save my life. about to save my money for something else 
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