Schiit Audio, now that’s quite a unique name isn’t it? And yes, you read it right, you say it just like that naughty word that you were never allowed to say growing up as a kid. All sarcasm aside, I have recently been questioning why people spend $500+ dollars on headphone amplifiers when they can get just as good performance out of something that is half the cost. Yep, the Schiit Valhalla is a $349 headphone amplifier, but it sounds nearly twice that price.
Schiit Audio really is something. Yes, I know their name is what people will be talking about the most, and who wouldn’t? It’s one of the most weird (yet quite genius) company names I have heard in a long time. How Schiit Audio become so popular is absolutely anybody’s guess, because whoever is behind marketing is one bright fella. Their amps however, are another story all together. Yes, their name seems to coexist perfectly with what some of these amps are all about, because trust me, the stuff that Schiit has been releasing, is some really, really nice Schiit.
First things first, what exactly is the Valhalla? Well, it’s a triode OTL tube headphone amplifier, and the name comes from Norse mythology. Why? I don’t know, ask Schiit Audio, because all of their headphone amps seemed to be in relation to the Greek mythology one way or the other. Now, instead of talking about the technical specifications, the build, or anything of the sort, let’s talk about pure sonics, all right? I know everyone is dying to hear just how good the $349 Valhalla really sounds.
The Valhalla is quite a unique headphone amp, that’s for sure. It doesn’t follow the rules that tubes have gone by, it’s missing that lushness and warmth that a lot of tube amps are known for. However, hook up the Valhalla with a warm headphone, and your almost sure to get good results. In a nutshell, the Schiit Valhalla is a detailed headphone amp with a touch of lushness in the midrange and an extra bump or two in the lower sections. So, now that we have the summary down, let’s take a deeper dive and see what the Schiit Valhalla is really capable of.
As I said earlier, you should really pair this with a dark headphone, something like the Sennhesier HD650, which in my opinion, is a very good pairing. The treble region of the Valhalla is something that has grown on me since the day I picked this bad boy up. It’s not bright, but it isn’t smooth either. It has better extension and adds a lot more sparkle to the top end on my HD650’s. The midrange boasts an impressive amount of clarity. It has a touch of lushness, but is far from being warm and seems to bring the vocals of the laid back acoustics on my HD650.
The low end of the Valhalla seems to be a bit weightier, but isn’t exactly a significant improvement. The HD650 already has a pretty rock solid bass response, and while the extra weight and punch seem to give it a little more surge, the Valhalla isn’t the most bass heavy amp. The soundstage on the Valhalla is good, but it can’t compete with high end tube amps. I’m noticing more depth and width out of the HD650’s, but it’s not a significant amount. To my ears, the Valhalla doesn’t exactly sound like a traditional tube amp, the clarity and the very non super lush like mids make for a more solid state sound than the typical tube sound.
Every one of Schiit’s amps are made in America. Impressive, right? Taking into consideration that this amp only sells for $349 and features some of the highest quality components I have ever tested, it’s pretty awesome that Schiit was able to make such a fantastic product made in the USA and at such a low cost. The Valhalla has a nice brushed aluminum chassis all around the perimeter. The sides and back are also made up of a perforated metal coating (this thing gets exceptionally hot, so it’s nice that Schiit let in some breathing room) and features a power slot, an on switch, and two RCA slots.
The front portion of the Valhalla features a volume knob, a 1/4 inch opening, and an embossed Valhalla lettering, so nothing new there. On the top Schiit’s logo can be seen as well as a pair of 6N1P triode input tubes and 6N6P triode output tubes. Instead of me ranting of for the next 2-3 paragraphs, let me sum up everything about the design in one simple and easy to understand sentence. The Valhalla is one of the sleekest and sexiest tube amps that I have ever set eyes on.
I’ve been extremely impressed with the Schiit Valhalla. The sonics it pumps out are very good considering the price you pay at just under $400. Sure, it won’t outperform amps in the $800 range, but the Valhalla is a very good bang for the buck product. I think I may have finally found a good enough amp for the HD650 without having too spend thousands of dollars on a WA2 or WA5LE.
Edited by Austin Morrow - 12/22/11 at 12:01pm