Hey all, yep, Vali is coming. A real production version of Vali will be at RMAF, together with the Ragnarok prototype. I expect we'll ship about 3 weeks after that. The ordering page with complete information will go up when we're ready to ship.
Jude, Purrin, and a handful of other early listeners had hand-built "production qualifiers" to help us confirm what we were hearing, and to make sure everything was ready for production. While we've also had a few early prototypes running 24/7 for the past 6 months to help confirm tube durability, we also wanted to do a beta test, so to speak.
So are we deaf for pricing it at $119? Sure, maybe. You guys know us. We're not going to tell you "you'll see god without drugs" when you listen to our stuff, nor are we going to say "of course if you spend more, you get more." Because you don't. Not always. It depends on your cans, and what your own sonic preferences are. Fully half the email responses from Schiit are something like, "We never comment on competitive products," or "We do not speculate on perceived sonic differences." Maybe we should be waving the banner as hard as a used-car salesman. But we don't do the hard sell, nor do we price things at any more than we have to, regardless of what they sound like.
As to how Vali happened...it was a lark, like a lot of our projects. I have a pile of dead product ideas on my shelves that will never see the light of day, because we're always trying something new and interesting. And it doesn't always work out. A lot of these projects get to fairly finished form. Some of them have to take a few twists and turns, but eventually make it. But if it doesn't sound good, or if it's an answer to a question nobody is asking, it gets shelved.
When Vali started, it was one of those what-if projects. It could have gone nowhere. But we heard it and liked it, so we started production planning. For the tech-heads out there, Vali uses 6088 pencil tubes, triode-strapped, with a discrete Class AB follower afterwards. It won't win any awards for low distortion or noise, and the output impedance is a highish 8 ohms. But it is a serious tube amp. The 6088s are run on 60V rails, which is great for a tube with a maximum plate voltage rating of 67.5V. All supplies are regulated, including the HV supply, the output stage rail, and the heater. Yes, this thing has DC heaters. It uses the same wall-wart as Magni, with a voltage quadrupler to get the rail voltages we need.
So, downsides? Sure.
I mentioned the higher distortion, noise, and output impedance. Vali isn't a great amp for IEMs.
Also, microphonics. These little tubes may sound great, but if you rap on the chassis (or even plug in some headphones), the tubes will ring for a while before they settle down. The solution? Long listening sessions, not on a paint shaker table.
And, finally, no rolling. The tubes are soldered in the board, with a 1-year warranty. Expected lifespan is in the 15-20K hour range, so they should last much, much longer than that. Even listening 4 hours of listening a day, every day, that's almost 10 years at 15,000 hours.
So there you go. Vali. Coming soon. I hope you like it!
If the tubes do die out outside of the warrantee time, is it possible to send the Vali in to get it serviced?