Schiit Valhalla

Willy 2 Streams

Pros: Buttery smooth unfatiguing tube sound; built like a tank.
Cons: Farts tube noise and possibly DC offset when 1st turned on...
I've owned an EarMax and Sennheiser HD 580's for 20 years, so I'm already familiar with tubed OTL headphone amps. The linestage of my old Quicksilver started developing some noise, and I didn't want to send it back, so I started using my EarMax as a simple linestage. This worked amazingly well, but made headphone listening inconvenient. When I saw that AudioAdvisor had one of these original Valhallas for $199.00, clearance, I couldn't resist.
    My original plan was to use this unit for my yeoman line stage, and retire the EarMax back to headphone amp duty. Once I fired it up, it took all of 20 seconds to realize this was NOT a good plan.
This particular unit farts loud clicking as the tubes warm up. That's not so bad, but it seemed to be passing some DC offset, because the protection circuit of my Odyssey Kismet monoblocs kept engaging; the 1st this had ever happened. So, I turned the Valhalla off, replaced the EarMax as my linestage (which is always impeccably behaved), and made the Valhalla my headphone amp, as that's what it is designed for! 
    It took another 30 seconds of listening to find that this was a VERY good plan! Cut to the chase...buttery smooth, unfatigueing, but revealing triode sound at its best! With my 300 ohm HD 580's, this amp is even a better match than my EarMax. Highs are rolled off in absolute terms, but not so badly that you feel you're missing out on anything. Unbelievably smooth mids, powerful and quite tuneful bass. Buttloads of gain, very quiet for an all tube design. Probably not the best amp to pair with low impedance headphones; it is clear these tubes like being a voltage rather than a current source. Pair this amp with a 300 ohm or higher set of cans, you will NOT be disappointed. Tube farts aside, this amp STAYS! Whether you do classical, or grunge, this amp serves this music RIGHT. And as an aside, I have to note that the build quality of this amp is like a four figure headphone amp, not an entry level one. Unbelievable!  Highly recommended. ONE CAVEAT:This amp does indeed pass DC when it is first turned on. So to save the drivers in your headphone, it is better to power it up 1st, then WAIT a MINUTE before you connect your cable. Same goes with powering down. Disconnect your headphone cable 1st, THEN power it down. You'll have no problems that way. FWIW, this amp does need some warm up time to sound its best. Don't even THINK about listening until the volume knob gets warm...that's when you can start. But the longer you leave it on, the better it sounds. That said, I'd not leave it on ALL the time, because you'll go thru your tubes too fast, that way.
Makiah S
Makiah S
teee hee, tube farts <3
but yea Schiits Gear is built rock solid, glad your enjoying it :D an nice review 
Out of curiosity, have you heard the Valhalla2 for comparison?  I recently bought one and it has a little bit more of a SS sound than I expected.  Seems like the original may be "tubier".


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: releaxed yet capable treble, not overly warm/lush, timbre and neutrality, price, build quality,
Cons: excessive heat, diminishing returns,
After upgrading to the Valhalla, I thought I'd give it a review while comparing the lower end Magni that I upgraded from. Keep in mind these are all subjective thoughts, what may be a con for me may be a pro for you based on your preferences.
Non sound impressions: Build quality, as always, is excellent with Schiit. I can't find a single thing wrong with how it was constructed, it's solid, and even though it has a pretty compact size, it weighs a lot more than you would think. Compared to the Magni, it runs much, much hotter, but that is expected from a class A tube amplifier. The potentiometer works better on the Valhalla, it has less channel imbalance at lower volumes and is more precise than the Magni's potentiometer. The Magni's high gain seems to make the potentiometer almost useless, especially with low impedance headphones.
Bass: I can't notice any difference in the bass, they are both equal in impact and extension.
Midrange: The Valhalla adds a little more "meat" to the music and harshness is smoothed over. For example, Electric Guitars sound fuller, more laid back, and richer. The Magni sounds a bit thinner and brighter with the Electric guitar. 
Treble: The Valhalla has less emphasis on sibilance and treble, however, the treble is still well extended and is there when needed, it doesn't sound overly warm or lush like a stereotypical tube amplifier. Cymbals and hi-hats still have a good sense of air and dominance, but the Magni renders them with a sharper, brighter tone. If you have been reading other reviews, the general consensus is that the Valhalla is actually quite bright for a tube amp, I agree. The Magni in comparison is a bit brighter, sharper, and more uncontrolled in the treble. However, the Magni can be much more exciting because of this, the downside is that it is more fatiguing and less forgiving of lower quality sources.
Soundstage: I don't notice much of a difference at all versus the Magni. The Valhalla sounds just a touch wider, deeper, and less in your head.
Song tests: (Source is a Schiit Modi, 320KB MP3s or FLACs, and a Sennheiser HD600)
Avenged Sevenfold, God Hates Us, Rock
Valhalla: Neutral and flatter. The Valhalla has more realistic timbre on the instrumentation versus the Magni.
Magni: Brighter and more colored. The Magni has less realistic timbre on the guitars and drums, but, it is much more exciting. The guitars and drums are thinner and have more of a "pop/snap." The vocals, while more sibilant and sharper, are more exciting.
Winner: None, tie. Do you prefer accuracy or an exciting sound?
Flying Lotus, Table Tennis (Feat.Laura Darlington), Electronic
Valhalla: Even though I was able to download this in a lossy format, this song isn't mastered too well, the Valhalla has less sibilance and everything is more laid back and lightly smoothed over with less peaks in the treble. 
Magni: Sibilance is more present, the Magni is not forgiving of the recording. The guitar at the end is a bit sharper with quicker decay, the tennis balls and respirator in the background are more prominent. Treble gets a bit peaky.
Winner: Valhalla, much more smoother and forgiving.
Miles Davis, So What, Jazz
Valhalla: Towards the start, the drums on the right had less air and weren't as prominent on the Valhalla. When the trumpet abruptly starts at 1:29, the Valhalla sounded less sharp and didn't have as much glare. Good timbre on all the instruments as well. Once the trumpet goes crazy again at 3:25 on the left, the Valhalla once again sounds smoother, less sharp, and easier on the ears.  
Magni: Towards the start, the drums on the right had a bit more air and sounded a bit more dominant and in your face. When the trumpet abruptly starts at 1:29, the Magni 
initially renders it with a sharper tone. Timbre is alright, but the Valhalla is ahead by a hair. Once the trumpet starts up at 3:25, the Magni again rendered it with a sharper than natural tone.
Winner: Valhalla, better timbre and more controlled.
Snnop Dogg and The Doors, Riders on the Storm, Hip-hop/rap
Valhalla: The clapping in the beat is less prominent and has a slower decay (Fades away slower). Less sibilance and sharpness, sounds less in your head, but not by much.
Magni: The clapping in the beat is more prominent and has a quicker decay (Faded away quicker). The Magni has slightly more sibilance and sounds more in your head, but again, not by much.
Winner: Valhalla, more resolving in the soundstage and smoother.
A quick breakdown.
Bass impact/extension: Valhalla=Magni
Mids: Valhalla>Magni
Treble quantity: Valhalla<Magni
Soundstage Depth/Width: Valhalla>Magni
Timbre: Valhalla>Magni
Detail:Valhalla=Magni (It can be argued that the Magni's treble exaggeration leads to fake detail perception, so I'm marking this as a tie.)
That about sums up my thoughts between the two amps. I must emphasize that the difference between the two is minimal, most of the differences I noticed was with critical listening and A/B testing. The reason why I only have four songs in the comparison is because in most songs, I really couldn't pinpoint much of a significant difference, other than "it sounds slightly less bright." The Valhalla is a diminishing return and it is not that much better than the Magni, in fact, on some songs it sounds even worse. I enjoyed the Magni with metal and rock, it had a more exciting and involving presentation, but, for the most part, the extra treble was unwelcome in most of my music. When I listened to lower quality music, I appreciated the Valhallas more forgiving nature. I also preferred the Valhalla for jazz, classical, and instrumentals for its more realistic timbre and pleasant tonality.  
This is a great breakdown! Thanks for saving me some money.
I know this is an older review, but it was a great read! Solidifed my choice for the Magni since I listen to only metal and rock. Bravo! 


500+ Head-Fier
Pros: Tons of juice, good punch and control, beautiful midrange, dead quiet, good looks.
Cons: Nature of tubes, heat.
I used this amp mainly with a pair of HD 650 and it does what it is supposed to do: it has way more power than I need, it's quiet and it makes everything sound in its place. I have never heard other tube amps before, but I didn't get the "lushness" or the "tubey" thing , at all. It may be there, but it's just to tell you that if it is there, well, it's subtle. To my ear, this is neutral. I have no idea why exactly or how to explain it, but it has a "better" sound to me, more control, than my previous Fiio E10 and Aune T1 for what it's worth. Overall, a really good sounding product from my experience and I'm still enjoying it as much as the first day I got it.

Now for the bads... Well, if you ever thought about buying this amp, you are probably already aware of its "downsides". They don't lie on their website: this thing gets toasty. After a few hours, the volume knob gets really hot to the touch, but I don't care really. It takes arround 10 seconds for the amp to work when you power it on, and it takes like 10 minutes to completely power off. Tubes makes sounds (clicks) when they change temperature, but again, I couldn't care less.

If you read the previous paragraph correctly, you will understand that there is no real cons to this amp. In my book, this thing is a winner. It has the looks, it has the sound, it's made in USA, its 350$ and it has a killer warranty/customer support. 

To be honest, if you asked me why I bought this amp over let say the Asgard 2 (or any other amp really), well I had a good price on my unit at the time as it was opened-box and the Asgard 2 wasn't available (and it ain't still) in a Canadian retailer. Would I buy the same amp today? Maybe yes, maybe no, but I would probably get a SS like the Asgard or a Violectric because they are more versatile. But do I regret my purchase? Absolutely not. For it's intended purpose, to power my HD650 on my desk at home, this thing gets the job done with flying colors. 
The Valhalla is one of the best amp for the HD650, much better than Asgard (IMO). 


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Soundstage, Neutrality, Price, Size, US Made
Cons: It wasn't free?
I had been looking for an amplifier for my Sennheiser HD650 headphones and tried many amps that cost much more than the Valhalla over the last 6 or so years. It's almost like they designed this amplifier to bring out the best of this particular headphone. If you are also a 650 owner and have always thought that they are a bit "veiled" in the mids/highs, and like me have done the mods (foam, cable) and you still feel that after all that's been done that the 650's still sound a bit "dark", then do yourself a favor and check this amplifier out. Seriously, before they realize they can be charging a bit more for it.
I had started my quest for the perfect amp for my 650s with Solid State designs, and before the Valhalla, it was paired with the (awesome) Headphone amp on my Crane Song DAC; we're talking about a mastering-grade DAC and monitor controller here folks, and it costs nearly three grand. I still felt that the mids and highs were a bit scooped. A fellow audio engineer suggested I try tube amps. I have heard some very good (and very expensive) tube amps with the 650s and a lot of them (interestingly, most of the really expensive ones) colored the sound a bit too much for my taste. I love the neutrality of the low end that I get from my SS amp, and all of the (really expensive) tube amps I tried colored the sound so much (and then I remembered that we audio engineers understand that if we want neutrality from amplifiers, that Solid State is the way to go). I decided to end my quest realizing that I already have a high-end SS amp in my Crane Song DAC, and simply felt that the 650s could not sound any more neutral and wrote the 650s off as a pair of headphones that simply could not be linear, as tube amps had let me down in the sense that they aren't neutral and colored the sound a bit too much to use in a critical listening situation (most audiophiles are fine with this because coloration is more accepted for leisure listening than it is for critical audio work, where neutrality is most desired).
I found out about Schiit and the Valhalla amp a few months ago, and several reviewers said that it sounded neutral for a tube amp, and this is what honestly got me interested. Again, a large portion of the audiophile community may not want this, and I've already seen reviews/comments from people who say to try different tubes because the amp isn't colorful enough. This got me even MORE interested. I got my amp about a month ago and all I have to say is: WOW. The sound stage is amazing. I'm hearing more details in the mids and highs that I had not heard from my 650s, all for under 400 bucks. Obviously I'm not interested in more coloration and love that Schiit offers a full set of replacement (matched) tubes for $40! I could not wish for a better tube amp for my 650s. I have absolutely zero interest in searching for matched NOS tubes, especially knowing that there will never be another set that's going to sound the same. I won't have these issues with the matched tubes that Schiit sells for this amp (and if there is a difference, I'm sure it won't be that drastic). I plan on ordering a couple of spare sets to have (I'm not going to wait until the tubes that came with the amp wear out before I order a few sets to have for backup).
For the audio engineer that loves the sound of the 650s but wants a more linear sound from this model headphone, this amp is a dream (and a steal under $400).
Great review. Looking forward to pairing my HD650s with a Valhalla I just picked up from a fellow Hi-Fi'er.
I'm confused. If valhalla sounds neutral, why not just buy a SS amp?
@ Gamergtx260: You either didn't read the review, or failed to understand it. Read the last paragraph again (not the last sentence).


New Head-Fier
Pros: Wider soundstage, better dynamics
Cons: Not as warm and cuddly as I hoped
I'll start off by saying I prefer solid state to tube. I always found tube to be rather limiting and muddy, and I'm sure its just because I haven't listened to or owned really good tube gear.

I started off my Schitt journey with the Asgard, then got the Bifrost, and then decided to try the Valhalla. I found the Asgard/Bifrost combination to be a bit dry and clinical for my tastes. I wanted something a bit (as the marketing went) red dress in a smoky room... hehe. So after some hemming and hawing and saving, I splurged for the Valhalla. I figured I could sell my Asgard to make up some of the money....

Well I was impressed. But not how I expected to be. The sound was more dynamic, more full, but I really didn't pick up any of the red dress and smoky room "life/lushness/organic/etc" I was hoping for. I still find the sound to be a bit on the clinical side for my tastes. I can't argue - this Valhalla sounds better than the Asgard, I am hearing more in my music than I did with the Asgard, but it wasn't a huge upgrade. If I was to do it again, I would get the Asgard and be happy with it. But Valhalla is a BIT better, so of course I have to keep the Valhalla after listening to it. haha.

The Valhalla chassis gets every bit as warm as the Asgard, but the Asgard is warm on the bottom and the Valhalla is warm on the top. I have to be a bit more cautious about leaving it on, as it will burn out the tubes quicker of course. So at lunchtime, I turn it off, where with the Asgard I left it on without worry.

Headphone-wise I used it with a variety of cheaper units:
Panasonic RP-HTTF600, Monoprice 8323, Beyerdynamic (DT770 250 ohm, DT880 250 ohm, DT990 600 ohm), Grado SR80i, AKG271 MKII, Bowers & Wilkins P5, Sennheiser HD-280. The Valhalla handled all of them well, even the 600 ohm. I never felt like I was pushing the amplifier very hard with any of these. I also have some JH Audio JH-5 IEMs but I didn't test those because they are not supported on this amp.

I listen primarily to 24/96 vinyl rips that I make on my home system (Clearaudio TT, Grado Reference cart, E-mu 1212m ADC, after a thorough vacuum clean of the vinyl - i am pretty anal about it). I listen to a variety of genres, and find myself enjoying this amp for rock/pop type of music. Like most of the Schiit offerings, it doesn't have qualities that (to me) favor certain types of music - very neutral sounding.

In conclusion, the tubes adding something to the sound, but not quite what I was looking for. I wish I could have some more Red Dress and less Lab Coat, but honestly overall its a very capable unit for the price and regularly brings smiles to my face. The more I turn the volume knob, the better it sounds - and isn't that what its all about?
Tubes generally have more bass output that is the muddyness you describe. Solid State amps are more sterile sounding, less natural. 


New Head-Fier
Pros: quality. cost.
Cons: ???Can't think of any.
I use my Valhalla to drive my Beyerdynamic's T1's with the Cowon J3.Holy Schiit!!!!!Even my wife can hear the difference. I really enjoy the sonic landscape from this system. :)


New Head-Fier
Pros: High Quality, Nice Design, Clean Board, Great Customer Service
Cons: With Stock tubes give Solid State sound - Tube rolling suggested
Well after having a really bad experience with Amazon (they never sent me my Valhalla), I waited about a week hoping they could get one on stock (because magically they run out of them after I purchase mine). I decided to contact Schiit Audio´s guys. It was November 1st at 11pm when I bought it directly from their website, and also I sent them an email. It took less than an hour before they contact me and told me my order would be shipped earlier next mornning. Then I said well I need it this saturday (november the 3rd) and they offer me overnight saturday included delivery. I got it before noon. I am really impressed with their support.
The amp is really simple to setup, is really well built, the tubes sound very neutral and do not skip any detail. But lacks of deep bass, but let me tell you that bass is present and defined.
It has a 5 year Warranty! Wow...
I did not give a Overall 5 stars because IMO Audio Quality should be enhance with other NOS tubes.
Great Headphone amp, you wont be dissapointed!  very well constructed and designed. I will wait if "burn in" will improve perfromance! And other tubes do their job!
Go and get it! you wont regret.
Miguel V.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Tubes
Cons: Heat
Fantastic Amp, Love it!
Sounds Soooo good, I'm at a loss for words!
Night Crawler
Night Crawler
Schiit like this always makes me smile. :)
@Night Crawler LOL, its the same schiit everyday, speaking of which im gonna take a schiiit brb :))

Austin Morrow

Headphoneus Supremus
Pros: Huge price to performance ratio - fantastic sound
Cons: Won't drive orthodynamics
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. 
Sonic Impressions
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.
The Design
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.
Final Thoughts
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.
You should get your hands on the Schiit Asgard. I would love to hear how the HD 650s do paired with the Asgard.
Austin Morrow
Austin Morrow
The HD650's pair very well with the Asgard. A lot smoother than the Valhalla with less treble,but a more layered soundstage.
These look so great too! I mean I know it's about the sound, but you can't overlook aesthetics! :wink:


Pros: Value for money, great sound, no noise
Cons: No tube rolling
This is my first tube amp for headphone listening, and is also my first piece of kit for my listening upgrade. That being said, the Valhalla sounds great with my lackluster headphone output  from my iPhone and using the less talked about V-Moda Crossfade LP headphones.
As you can see, the Valhalla is going to compliment almost you put to it. I noticed an immediate stage and sound improvement and this while using lossless (FLAC) through the amped headphone output. I truly look forward to using the amp with at a minimum line-out / digital output source.
I've tried the Valhalla through fuzz-rock, jazz, heavy metal, vocal songwriter genres and it has performed very well. Unfortunately, the V-Moda are tuned a bit to the low end so I can't speak of the highend veiling that @Skylab mentioned, but even with these headphones the highs were still clear and distinguished. I am looking forward to testing with my newly ordered Sennheiser HD598. The amp definitely opened up the bottom end and gave a nice large sound.
As a test, I tried some lowly Sennheiser HD201s and you definitely noticed the extra volume required by the amp going from a 32 Ohm to 24 Ohm and from what I've read from Schitt is the Valhalla's sweet spot is a 300 Ohm set like say AKG 701/702
-- Edit --
I've since been using the amp with my AKG 271MKII and Sennheiser HD598 and I'm very pleased with this amp.
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You listen to metal, how well does the HD 598 do metal? And how does the HD 598 do when paired with the Valhalla?
The HD598 is quite revealing and laid back. Depending how you like your metal to sound it may not be what you're after. The bass is tight, but lean and smooth throughout. If you want more kick to your bass and more dynamic listening then I would highly recommend instead the Beyerdynamic DT770 Pro 250Ohm version. I haven't tried but if you prefer an open headphone the Beyerdynamic DT990 250Ohm should be similar but I haven't tried it. I would be inclined to think that the 600Ohm versions of either Beyer would be as good or better too.
Regarding pairing with the Valhalla, the HD598 pairs well. I really enjoy it's clarity and smooth sound. THe DT770 Pro 250Ohm works really well too and shines when paired with the Valhalla.


100+ Head-Fier
Pros: Great sound and build quality, five year warranty
Cons: none
This is a great desktop headphone amp with an incredibly natural sound. 
Comes with 5 year warranty and Schiit has very good customer service.
The only disadvantage is that you cannot tube roll in this amp (it only works with the stock tubes), which is actually not such a bad thing for a tube noob like myself.
Any idea how it sounds with Hd800 or new 800S?


Reviewerus Prolificus
Pros: Excellent value for the money
Cons: Not ideal for low impedance headphones

REVIEW – Schiit Audio Valhalla Tube Headphone Amplifier

What Sort of Schiit is This?
I read, as did many of you, the head-fi threads about the very popular and attractively priced Schiit Asgard.  But to be quite candid, I personally had about as much interest in an inexpensive solid-state headphone amp as I did in weeding behind my garage.  As such, I have never heard the Asgard.
Good thing I read those threads anyway, though, since I learned from them that Schiit was coming out with an inexpensive TUBE headphone amplifier.  Now THAT I was interested in.  I emailed Schiit’s Co-Founder, Jason Stoddard, and he agreed to send me a Valhalla loaner to review. 
When the box arrived, I actually burst out laughing – I was surprised how small the box was.  Could a real tube amp actually be in there?  The packaging was really nice, though.  The tubes were in their own sub-box, in custom foam.  Amazingly, a nice 1/8” – RCA cable was included, although honestly I think they could have skipped that and saved the money.  A ¼” to 1/8” adapter was also included, which makes a little more sense, but again, given almost all headphones come with one, not sure that was needed, either.  But hey, it was thoughtful!
Installing the tubes was super-simple (but of course it’s something I have done hundreds of times in other amps).  Not much else to the set-up.  I used the Valhalla primarily with the Beyer T1’s.  The Valhalla is output transformerless, and while Schiit doesn’t specify an output impedance, and while they specify it working with headphones as low as 32 ohms, typically, for dynamic headphones, anything below 150 ohms or so is going to be a bit of a crapshoot in terms of good synergy, due to the lack of damping factor you can have when the headphone impedance is near to or lower than the output impedance of the amp.  As I learned recently, planar headphones like the LCD-2 are not affected by damping factor in this way, but nonetheless they require a lot of current, which a small OTL amp like the Valhalla isn’t likely to be able to crank out.  And indeed, Schiit does not really endorse the use of the Valhalla with the LCD-2.  On the other hand, the Beyer T1, being 600 ohms, should be a great match on paper, and, as you will see, was in practice as well.



The Valhalla appears generally to be well made.  Let’s recall, we’re talking about a made in the USA tube amp for $349.  That’s pretty impressive.  The Valhalla is nice looking.  While the fit and finish was not 100% perfect, it was darned close.  And the amp was astonishingly silent – absolutely no hum or noise I could hear even with the volume control at full rotation – this was a real surprise to me.  I was impressed.
That’s some GOOOOOD Schiit
That said, when I first plugged it in and put on some music, I was not too impressed.  It sounded bright and veiled.  However, I know that TUBES need a good few hours of burn-in for sure, let alone amps.  So I played music on it for about 12 hours, and then tried again.  Things were quite different.  The sound was already really very good after this period.  By 20 hours, it had basically settled in.  It might have improved a little more as I went along, but I wouldn’t swear to that.  Certainly I noticed no change past 50 hours or so.
Here is what the Valhalla is: an outstanding sounding headphone amp for the money.  It’s dynamic, essentially transparent, and essentially neutral.  There may be a very slight top end reticence, and a very slight lack of power at the very bottom, but these were not all that noticeable really.  In general the sound was engaging, enjoyable, and was better than the majority of the under $400 tube amps I have heard.  It’s also dead quiet – I had no hum or hiss, or microphonics issues from the tubes used.   This was a pleasant surprise.
What the Valhalla is not: a “tubey”, “syrupy”, or overly-lush amp.  Far from it.  It has just a dash of tube romance in the mids – just enough to believe that the tubes are really in the circuit – but that’s about the extent of that.  If you’re looking to warm up your icy headphones or source with the Valhalla, I recommend that you save your money.  It will not do that for you.  That just isn’t what the Valhalla is about.  The Valhalla is a darned good headphone amp for the $349 asking price, regardless of whether we are discussing tube versus solid state.  It will, also, drive high-impedance headphones very well, which many inexpensive solid-state amps might struggle with (whereas it’s not ideal for low-sensitivity, low-impedance headphones).
What it also is not is a “giant killer”.  While I think it’s an excellent amp for the money, it does not sound as good as the more expensive tube amps I have, all of which outperform the Valhalla.  This is no great surprise, not is it in any way a negative to the Valhalla.  But nonetheless, it would be a mistake to buy the Valhalla hoping it outperforms $1K tube amps, or even $600 tube amps – it does not, IMO.
Now the details.  The mids had just a touch of tube lushness, which was nice, and in general were very well rendered.  Vocals are clean, clear, and present.   Electric guitars had the right crunch and tone.  The amp isn’t overly plump, but it absolutely never sounds threadbare or thin, which is simply the case with what I hear from a lot of solid state amps in this price range.  The performance in the mids is nowhere near what I get from something like the WooAudio WA2, Decware Mini-Torii, or the Leben CS300X, but those amps are 3-10 times the price of the Valhalla!  For the asking price the mids are good.  Compared to the WA2, they sound a little cloudy and opaque.  Maybe more than a little, actually.  But again, that’s not really a fair comparison.  Taken on its own, the Valhalla has a very pleasant midband.
After break in, the bass performance was pretty impressive.  The powerful kick-drum on “Bladecatcher” from Mastodon’s “Blood Mountain” was rendered full force, and was nice and tight.  It has to be full to be heard over the absolute chaos that the rest of the song doles out, and the Valhalla pulled this off.  The Valhalla was also revealing enough that I could hear the distortion that is present in this recording due to overmodulation.  Don’t blame the messenger!  It’s on the record.  The fat bass lines from Phil Lesh in “Lazy Lightning” from The Grateful Dead’s “Dead Set” were also meaty and Phull.  Phil-bombs will be plenty powerful on the Schiit (sorry, just can’t help it…)
The treble is a touch on the sweet side, but again, not much.  It’s nicely detailed, too.  It’s not the absolute last word in clean or transparent up top, but it’s certainly not bad.  Here again, it lacks the nuance and transparency of my more expensive tube amps, but taken on its own it’s very good performance, and especially for the money. 
There is also a very slight occasional softening of vocal sibilants, which some people might actually find they really like.  Patricia Barber’s voice on “Late Afternoon and You” from “The Cole Porter Mix” is pretty close mic’d, and via the Valhalla, there was a little less sibilance than is actually on the recording.  So if you are the kind of person who just HATES sibilance, whether the recording contains it or not, the Valhalla is a good choice of HP amp.  It definitely doesn’t emphasize sibilants, and at least in some cases seems to de-emphasize them a little (which of course comes at the expense of having the treble be a little bit on the soft side).  Again, this effect is slight, but it’s there.
Soundstaging was generally also quite good, with believable images, and decent dept and width.  This wasn’t really the strong suit of the Valhalla, and the absolutely holographic imaging that I get from my high end tube amps was not in evidence at all with the Valhalla.  One of the reasons I prefer tube amps over their solid-state counterparts, as a general rule, is for the soundstaging – I have only heard really palpable imaging via headphones with the better tube amps.  Given that in general tube amps are really not much different tonally from the majority of SS amps, in spite of what people may want to believe, this imaging ability of great tube amps is one of the things that sets them apart, for me.  Unfortunately, I did not get this from the Valhalla.
The one tube amp I had on hand in the same price class as the Valhalla was the J Sound Lab “Headphone” which costs the same exact amount - $350.  The Valhalla is the clear winner, there, however.  The J Sound Lab is a VERY warm, tubey sounding amp.  It colors everything connected to it in that way.  While there a few headphones I like the effect with, in general I find the Valhalla to be the much better sounding amp – more neutral and balanced, and as such easier to match sonically with more headphones.
No Rolling in this Schiit
Schiit designed this amp very specifically for the tubes that are in it.  They believe that for an entry-level tube amp, the benefits of tube-rolling are outweighed by the hassle and expense.  And maybe they are right.  Sure made the review easier!  But just something to be aware of.  I love tube rolling, but I already have a ton of tubes.  For someone who is new to tube amps, this really does kind of simplify things.  If you want to buy an amp and experiment with tweaking the sound by choosing different tubes, you will need to look elsewhere.
Bottom Line
If you want some Schiit, choose based on what headphones you have.  The Valhalla was a delight with the T1.  Many others have reported the Asgard is a delight with orthos and planars like the LCD-2.  So you want to choose your Schiit right, based on what cans will be used.  As long as you pair it with something appropriate, the Valhalla is a whole lot of headphone amp for the money.  Enthusiastically recommended – and in fact, I am buying the review unit – I couldn’t bear the idea of sending it back.  Am I going to start listening to the Valhalla and stop listening to my high-end tube amps?  Ummmmm…No.  But the Valhalla is a great reference point for entry level tube-amp performance, and so I wanted to keep it on hand as a reference.  It’s value is that good.
You know, I just listened to "Bladecatcher" right now, and now am listening to the whole "Blood Mountain" album, and have only now discovered the distortion due to over-modulation, haha. So I've seen many recommend this amp for the DT990/600Ω, would you recommend it as well?
What dac would you recommend for this? I'm using the E17 and thinking of picking up the Valhalla.
In the CanJam Jason mentioned that topology of Valhalla is "White Cathode Follower". The naked PCB looks similar to Aikido-WCF which is an excellent topology. I have built one myself but the cost of parts exceeded what Valhalla is selling for. Great product!