Hello everyone. finally got to spend about 4 hours with the Vali today. My goal was to try the HD650's, DT 990 Pros and ATH-M50's with it, but I only ended up listening to 4 albums with the HD 650 and starting getting really sleepy so I'll have to put off my thoughts on the DT 990s pros and ATH-M50's for later.
Anyway here are my initial thoughts of the Vali with the HD 650's. Keep in mind I am still a beginner, and I have a very simple "budget" setup" so forgive me if my review sounds simple or stupid.
I'm simply using JRiver MC 19 as my source, with the Titanium HD used as my Soundcard/DAC, connected to the Vali with mid-grade RCA cables, straight to the HD 650's. I didn't change any settings in JRiver or made any changes other than simply unplugging my other amp (The FiiO E09K), and plugging in the Vali.
Sound differences between the Vali and FiiO E09K were immediate, although not as much of a change as I had expected (after reading so many impressions of this amp and everything that has been said about it so far, I thought my sound would be changing drastically). However that isn't the case with my setup. The immediate differences I noticed between the FiiO E09K and the Vali is that the Vali did add a little warmth to the over-all sound signature of the HD 650's (seemed to be warmer in the lower mids), but the warmth was subtle, almost "soothing". It wasn't overwhelming nor muddy and didn't seem to drown out other frequencies (the treble and highs were still very nice and crisp).
The other difference I noticed with the Vali compared to the FiiO E09K with the HD 650's is that the music that I listened to (only about 4 different albums today) seemed a little more articulate, and I DID hear little nuances that I did not hear before in the music that I listened to today. And no, I can assure you that it is not placebo effect, I am an active mixing and mastering engineer for my own music and for other bands (although I do not use headphones to monitor) so I am very adept to picking out subtle changes in frequencies and pressure waves. My point being is that over the years I find I can easily pick out instruments, and what adding or subtracting frequencies and envelopes. filters, etc. can do to affect their overall sound, and when mastering what they can do to the mix as a whole.
The Vali for me felt like there was a slight decrease in sub-bass. Kick drums had less thump, however they sounded more tight and accurate, which to someone like me who likes a darker, more bass heavy sound, it wasn't necessarily a bad thing. Kick drums sounded more natural and it was much easier to tell one drummer's kick drum, from another drummer's kick drum, almost as if I could picture in my head where they had the mic placement for the kick drum's recording - near (or even sometimes inside) the bass drum itself through a port hole, or very close or farther from the kick drum's head for recording. Bass guitar also had less of a muddy sound, it sounded cleaner and easier to pick out in the overall mix.
I didn't find much change in vocals, guitars, keyboards, or wind instruments, although like I stated earlier, I only listened to 4 albums (about 4 hours). Also, I didn't notice any change in the overall sound stage as some Vali users have reported.
In conclusion for my limited testing, in my case, the Vali is a huge step up in my "Budget" setup. Even though the FiiO E09k and Vali are roughly priced about the same, the Vali is a huge leap in improvement to my ears.
So for me, and my personal opinion, the Titanium HD->Schiit Vali->HD650 is a great combo and pair extremely well together. Like I said, I do only have a budget setup and haven't heard more expensive setups so maybe the Vali's signature is less apparent than it would be with more expensive/sensitive equipment. But for me the bottom line is that my setup sounds much better than it did before with only a small investment in the Vali.
Music listened to:
Tool - Undertow (entire album) 1993 @ an average bitrate of 944 kbps / Bit Depth - 16 / Sample Rate - 44.1 Hz / Format - FLAC
Dream Theater - Dream Theater (entire album) 2013 @ an average Bitrate 2953 kbps / Bit Depth - 24 / Sample Rate - 96kHz / Format - FLAC
Dream Theater - Awake [SHM-CD, Japan] (entire album) 1994 @ a Constant Bitrate of 320 kbps / Bit Depth - 16 / Sample Rate - 44.1 Hz / Format - FLAC
Megadeth - Peace Sells But Who's Buying? [SHM-CD, Japan] (Entire Album) 1986 (original) 2013 (SHM-CD, Japan Ver.) @ Constant Bitrate 1033 / Bit Depth - 16 / Sample Rate - 44.1 Hz / Format - FLAC
Remember I am still learning this stuff so if you find my review useless, I apologize, just giving my opinion from a beginner's point-of-view with a beginner setup. I hope it at least benefits someone who reads it.
Edited by TheGame - 12/6/13 at 11:09pm