Schiit Vali 3 Hybrid Headphone Amplifier

General Information

Schiit's newly announced Vali 3 Hybrid Headphone Amplifier!
100 volt plate voltage!
Totally new re-design.

Latest reviews


Headphoneus Supremus
Schiit Audios New Vali 3 Hybrid Headphone Amplifier
Pros: 1. 100 Volt Plate Voltage
2. No Price Increase !
3. Black or Silver
4. Unique Case Design - Heat Reduction
5. Totally Redesigned Layout
6. Accepts "Exotic" Tubes
Cons: 1. Switch on the back. (smile)
2. Addictive. (smile again).
Ok here is Jason Stoddard’s latest Vali design. Vali has a long lineage. The OG Vali, Vali 2, Vali 2+, Vali 2++ and now Vali 3. Phew! That’s a lot of Vali’s and I have had them all. The best of the bunch for me was the Vali 2+. A ton of tube types and adding adapters a ton more options. The thing that caught my eye with Vali 3 was the new re-design layout and the upping the plate voltage to 100 volts.


Simple Design - New Case Cover

Nothing like moving the bar higher. Tubes like voltage. Tubes can operate better at higher voltages, linearity and gain etc. Most of the low-cost headphone amps run at lesser voltages. So having 100 volts is potentially better all around. Schiits Lyr 3 and Lyr + uses 100 volts. . Vali 3 now joins that club.

Vali has come from 45 volts to 60volts and now 100 volts.

Even with upping the voltage the overall THD is about the same as Vali 2 ++. How does Jason accomplish this? Well, he states “That’s because we chose to reduce the overall loop gain through additional degeneration, which resulted in similar measurements”. Engineering speak. But even with this Vali 3 doesn’t measure as well as other Schiit amps like Magni or Midgard. It measures more like a tube amp (1,000-10,000x higher distortion than Magni). So, if you’re looking for a measurements amp this is not it. But, yup always a but…. if Vali 3 sounds great and its measurements are what they are. What does that tell you? Hmmm.

Schiit moved the ¼ phone jack over to the left side. They did this on Magni first if I recall correctly. Folks complained about the volume knob and the phone jack being too close to each other. Well, Schiit listened and its way over on the left. Issue solved if that was an issue for you. Smile.

Take a look at the pictures of Vali 3 and Vali 2+. Totally reworked layout. Count the electrolytic caps. Better circuit flow according to Jason. Same power supply as prior Vali 2++. Power is still totally linear. No Switchers here. Slow turn on and fast turn off to protect cans from transients.


Vali 3 Vali 2 +

Jason thinks this amp is “cute”. Actually, he states is “stunningly beautiful”. I think he is really proud of its new top case with the “dimpled” or “depressed” tube socket area. What a simple way to get most all of the tube heat out and away. And its easy to remove the tube, versus adding a socket saver! Simple elegance to me. Only 2 screws vs the 6 on Vali 2+ and 2++.


The “Simple Dimple”

Schiit’s description states “Class-Crushing Tech”. That’s due to the 100 volts for a $149 product. It’s a Class AB amp with a bipolar output stage. A hybrid for sure. It uses Schiit’s own Coherence current feedback “magic’ (topology). No op amps. Discrete. Cap Coupled. I opened the case and there are no less than 12 electrolytic capacitors. A decent ALPS pot. A real ceramic tube socket. Not plastic. All parts to my trained eye are first rate. And for those that come from the BH Crack cap coupled family….no its not easy to muck with the coupling caps! It would definitely void the warranty. Not a good idea here at all.

I would not recommend taking of the cover at all. For reviews I do for internal pictures. The volume knob was very difficult to remove. It looks like it might be super glued on. You could easily damage your volume pot. No need to go inside…”no user serviceable parts inside” is a warning on the rear lower chassis.


No User Serviceable Parts Inside

Even though the power switch in still on the back the gain switch is on the front vs the Vali 2+ and Vali 2++. I like this.

Tubes, well now you can plug in that WE 396a directly into the Vali 3. No adapter needed. Vali 3 supports 6N3P tubes at the get go as well as 5670’s, 2C51’s, 6CC42’s, and CV4013’s. A 6N3P comes stock.

Power Specs:


Maybe not enough power for Susvara's but more than enough for 95% + of headphones out there. With all my 6 cans at present 29 ohms to 420 ohms there was never a moment that the cans did not have enough voltage or current to hurt your hearing…..

Low gain is 1X. High gain is 5 (14db). Looking at the specs the output impedance on low gain is .5 ohms and high gain at 1.8 ohms. The specs are indeed better using low gain. In most of my listening I preferred the low gain setting. IMO high gain was just too much for my headphones. The dac I used for most listening has a variable output. Almost like a pre-amp into an amp thing. I also used Schiits Modius E and their MB2. The amp has enough resolution and transparency to me that allows you to discern any dac differences. Which dac is better is going to be subjective as always. Your ears. Your Choice.

For me this is a very nice looking and very capable hybrid tube amp. Not like an BH or other OTL amps. Not at all. But it does have tubey traits and you can hear differences in sound depending on your dac and source material.


Good Stuff Inside!

So how does to compare to my Vali 2+. Lets say I could do with either. The differences with my ears are not that great. Honestly. Both are superb. I did some blind listening and had a hard time discerning between them. With just the Vali 3 I heard more differences changing out tubes. The stock tube as good as it is, the WE396a here is just a tad better all around. Even the Ericsson CV4013 was better. How better. Well for me it was more open and spacious, euphonic etc. Subjective for sure.


Vali 3 with Stock 6N3P vali 2+ with JJ ECC82 Adapter

With Rad 0’s HE1000Se’s and HD 650’s…. the amp was dead silent at max volume with low or high gain. Switching in-between low and high gain at max volume there was no audible clicks. Turning on the amp and off just a slight tick…way down there. Something I would not do normally. I turn down the volume, unplug cans and then power down the amp and other stuff.

Some thoughts on sounds: Stock tube. 6N3P

HD 650, 300 Ohm, 102 mw/db: Dead silent at full volume no music playing low or high gain. With high gain music will rise to ear bleed levels. Great synergy, sweet sounding. Quality of sound dependent on source material, dac etc. Prefer Low gain.

Rad 0, 29 ohm, 98 db/mw: Dead silent at full volume level no music playing low or high gain. With high gain music will rise to ear bleed levels. Great synergy. A bit warmer, darker…more from headphone traits than from the amp. Al di Meola’s “Kiss My Axe” CD was light and airy. Prefer low gain.

Hi-Fi Man He1000SE’s, 35 ohm, 96 db/mw: Dead silent at full volume level no music playing low or high gain. With high gain music will rise to ear bleed levels. These are brighter cans than most. Some folks reporting the Vali 3 is too bright for their ears. For me with these cans this would be exacerbated due to the nature of the He1000SE’s sound profile. IMO this was one of the best pairings. LOW gain. Not HIGH gain. Bass here was the best for accuracy and tonality, timbre…Awestruck at times with these cans and this amp. John Hiatt’s The Best of CD, and the track “Feels Like Rain” was an ethereal experience. Russ Freemans Nocturnal Playground and the track “What She Really Wants” …was a 10. That good IMO.

Changing out tubes IMO is very subjective and a hybrid amp without a tube out is well not as tubey at a full blown OTL like a BH Crack etc. There are differences but again your going to have to decide between that decent stock tube and a WE396a that costs a ton more…..enjoy the journey!


Tubes like this work just fine in the Vali 3. Read the Manual for Compatibility.

In conclusion I think Schiit has another hit on its hands. For the cost of $149, add a Schiit MB2, same format and your home free for many hours of great listening. For me there is enough of that tube influence in the overall sound but still all the clarity and transparency I need. Best of both worlds!

I have no IEMS, and did not use the pre-amp. Vali 3 is built in Texas! The only China part is the wall wort. I like that Schiit supports US companies in California and in Texas.

IMO This is the best Vali yet

Jason Stoddard mentions this in his announcement. But in short tubes were designed to operate "better" using higher voltages. Often hundreds of volts.
Back in electrical technology classes in college we put together circuits that used tubes. Part of the design process was to look at a tubes design characteristics that the tube engineers built a tube to operate "at". Using graphs and drawing "load" lines and choosing optimal operating voltages so the tube when amplifying would not clip and distort as signals were amplified. Higher voltages allows the tube to operate more linear. Hope this helps.
Kelvin will
Ordered mine and excited to give it a listen. Thanks for the informative review!
Just got a ECC 82 adapter to try 12AU7A's in the Vali 3. It works just fine and IMO it beats the stock 6N3P by a wide margin. Clearer, more transparent, crisp etc...JJ ECC88 was the tube tested. Excellent results.


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