Perhaps 50% may have been an exaggeration. Maybe 63%. You guys have to remember that at this point in the hobby, where I've pretty much owned, heard, and measured everything in terms of amps and headphones, I'm much more into DACs now. I've had a chance to own or borrow for extended periods up to two dozen DACs and related gizmos (there's probably a lot more I've forgotten about and or just didn't want to say anything because it sucked so badly) ranging in price from $99 to $10,000.
In actuality, the differences between DACs is small. Extremely small to the uninitiated. But DACs are a make or break thing for me. I'm in-between "uber" amps right now having sold my ECBA and returned the DIY T2 (originally on 99 year lease). While I truly did almost pee in my pants and exclaimed "Holy Schiit, it's better than the Lyr" (referring to the Lyr with boring sounding stock tubes) upon my first listen, I came to appreciate the Vali even more because it was the amp currently in the house which let me discern the individual qualities of the DACs I had on hand including: 2x $2k+ DACs, an DIY NOS DAC, a bluetooth DAC, a cheapy combo DAC, Gungnir, and in their specific configurations: coax, USB, USB/i2s converters, custom power supplies, etc. The fact that the Vali was semi-portable was plus since most of these DACs along with their setups are scattered about the house.
Is the Vali the last word and what I would prefer to use for my DAC evaluations (which are always ongoing)? No. But it serves a purpose while I am waiting for my uber amp. And even after the uber amp is delivered, I know I'll have something cheap that kicks well above its weight class as a bedside rig.
And by the way, very little gear I've heard "kicks well above its weight class". That term is way overused and should be applied to or only occur no more than once a year on average. I certainly haven't found a DAC which I would give that moniker, although the Bifrost uber may be a candidate (I have not evaluated it enough to feel comfortable saying that.) In terms of headphones, practically everything is a rip-off, although I applaud the efforts of Mr. Speakers and HiFiMan. In terms of other amps, maybe the ECS7 gets the nod for "kicks well above its weight class."
Edited by purrin - 12/1/13 at 5:28pm