Here are my mini Valhalla 2 impressions. This amp really deserves this. I was expecting more info/reviews on it. Connected via Foobar2000 > AMB y2 > Valhalla 2 > Sennheiser HD800 and Hifiman HE560 preorder.
I don't even need to go over this. We all know Schiit has stellar build quality.
Noise, gain, potentiometer:
There is no noise on low gain, with high gain I hear a very faint hum/buzz at 3 o' clock to the very end of the potentiometer. I always use low gain for the HD800 to avoid interference and they're efficient enough to work fine with more headroom to spare on low.
No channel imbalance with both the HD800 and HE560 either. Some of their cheaper amps like Magni have quite a bit of channel imbalance at low volumes.
The stock Russian tubes actually aren't bad at all, they appear to be Novosibrisk 6N6Ps and Voskhod 6N1Ps.
I rolled in Matsush1ta E88CCs w/ Mullard tooling (about $80 a pair) and actually somewhat preferred the standard tubes, which are dirt cheap too. Why? The soundstage is just too damn big on the Matsush1tas, everything sounded distant. The Matsush1ta tubes would work best with Grados or something with a forward/up close soundstage IMO. The HD800 already has a large soundstage and doesn't really need the extra boost.
Sound w/ HD800:
And just to be fair I did my impressions with the stock tubes.
The HD800 pairs well in standard form. Just a tiny bit of treble emphasis/glare is removed and there is a bit more “meat” to the mids which really helps balance the HD800 out.
Schiit says, “If you’re expecting syrupy, tubby, euphonically colored tube sound, you’re in for a shock.” on Valhalla 2's description. I agree with them, and I felt the same way with the original Valhalla. Both are not heavily colored amps, and you're not going to achieve the stereotypical ”tube sound” with them. That may be a pro/con based on preferences.
Compared to my Emotiva Mini X speaker amp (which was certainly not optimal for the HD800) due to noise, high gain, and little volume control, Valhalla 2 has a notably larger soundstage, especially with the Matsushi1a tubes. I level matched both amplifiers with an SPL meter and switched back and forth. The main difference that popped out was the soundstage size. It wasn't very subtle either.
Sound w/ HE560:
Again, I used the stock tubes to be fair.
With the HE560, they actually get very loud on high gain, even with huge dynamic range tracks (17+ on the DR index scale) and there is still room to spare on the volume knob. Although it gets loud enough, it's lacking mainly in the bass.
When pushed hard, the bass is audibly distorted/muddy. Not only that, but sub bass has less weight and it just sounds sloppy in general. Other than that, it isn't too bad with the treble, mids, and everything else compared to my Mini X. So, if the Valhalla 2 could get that loud and do fairly decent with the HE560 I imagine that efficient planars like HE-400 should do fine like Schiit says in their FAQ.
Edited by JustinBieber - 9/14/14 at 3:45pm