NEW Vali Schiit AMP!!!
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It's not too early, you simply won't ever get one.
 
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That's interesting. I like the Crack a lot with the HD650/600s (I too consider that combo a suitable end-game setup). Honestly, I wasn't sure if the Vali would hold it's own again the Crack (HD600/650) without doing a direct comparison myself.
 
IME so far, the Vali certainly holds its own with the Crack.. but I still feel a -speedballed- Crack is the more technically capable amp (when paired with the HD600).  I think it's important to consider the differences in topology between the two amps, as well.. i.e. hybrid vs OTL.  The hybrid is, naturally, going to be a little brighter.. since the OTL's higher OI does impact the HD600's bass and treble response.  I'm trying my best to take that into account.
 
The larger soundstage is the most notable difference between the Vali & my BH Crack.  The Crack simply offers more space in every direction.  It layers and separates better, too.  The Vali is no slouch as it makes use if its (comparatively smaller) soundstage impressively well.  I'm enamored with the Vali's tonal qualities.. again, it's very reminiscent of the speedballed Crack (which, IMO, tends to take the BH amp in a stereotypically 'solid-state'-ish direction).. and what makes both amps so very fun (and addictive) to use with the HD600.. a phone which I find to have a slightly dry character.  The Vali's solid state output seems really well done.  No etch or hardness to speak of.  The amp is smooth.. but resolves mightily... especially for $120.  If I had to level some criticism, where the Vali comes up short is control.. it could afford to be a little tighter in the mid- to lower-mid bass.  I've clocked approx. 30 hours on the Vali, so we'll see if this changes.
 
BTW, I'm using the CDAC+ for my DAC (it's an ODAC that runs off a 5v wall wart/power supply and has a galvanically isolated USB input).  Going to toss the Vio V800 into the mix to see how the Vali scales.. and I anticipate getting an uber Bifrost (again) some time (still kicking myself for selling it the first time I had it.. that's one of the dumber moves I've made in this hobby).
 
If the Vali is a good approximation of the house sound that EC amps possess.  I can see the intrigue.. lord help my wallet, I want an S7... now.
 
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The Uncanny Vali
 
Schiit Audio is a company.  They are well known in the audiophile world.  They make many products from headphone amps to DACs.  The newest of these products is the Vali.  It is a hybrid tube amp for only $120.  This is a new low for Schiit.  Their previous offerings with tubes were not this cheap.  This should make the headphone world tremble.  Already in the first few days it is clear that Schiit has another hit on their hands.  Designed by Jason Stoddard of Sumiko fame, the Vali is an all-out-assault on what a tube amp sounds like and costs.  Like all Schiit products, the Vali is made in America.  The Vali was introduced secretly earlier this year.  Only recently with the reviews of respected beta testers like Jude Mansilla and Warren Pchi has word leaked out of just how good this little amp is.
 
Intelligint Design
 
The Vali has tubes.  It has two RCA inputs and a 1/4" jack so it can also be used as a headphone amp.  On the front is a volume knob, this is to make the noises louder or softer with the push of a button.  On the back is a switch to turn the amp on or off, putting the power in the hands of the user.  The tubes in the vali are not just decorations.  If they were they would be on the outside.  They are part of the circuit and provide voltage gain.  This is engineer-talk for providing voltage gain.  The amp is Class AB.  Here are some numbers to consider:
 
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.2db, 5Hz-100KHz, -3dB
Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 650mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 550mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 220mW RMS per channel
Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 115mW RMS per channel
THD: <0.4%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS
IMD: <0.45%, CCIR
SNR: >93db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS
Crosstalk: >-70dB, 20 Hz-20KHz
Output Impedance: 6.5 ohms
Gain: 4 (12db)
 
As you can see, the Vali is not messing around, as evidenced by some numbers that are very real.  And meaningful also.
 
Hooked on Microphonics
 
Is there a downside to all these good things?  The numbers seem too good to be true!  There must be a catch.  Well, there are microphonics to consider.  Microphonics are like the high pitched noises you regularly hear in your head that prevent you from thinking straight and make you do bad things, only they come from a source you can identify.  How big a deal are microphonics?  To find out, I asked the average "man on the street" if they were worried about microphonics or if they thought it was a non-issue.  Most people ignored me, but one man dressed as Jesus in a diaper stated in no uncertain terms that "aliens kidnapped his baby and that's where applesauce comes from."  Strong words indeed, and something that should make Schiit think twice before downplaying microphonics in the future.
 
Competition
 
The Vali has a lot of competition.  It is part of the $119-6500 price range which has many great products. Here are some comparisons:
 
Vs the Woo WA5:
 
I know what you are thinking - it is ridiculous to compare the two when the Vali is Schiit's newest offering while the WA5 has been eclipsed by the 234.  So you should keep that in mind.  The Vali has a very neutral sound while also being very lively.  In contrast, the Woo WA5 is accurate but fun, this may be due to the WE 300B's.  The Vali has great punch whereas the Woo has more slam.  I'd recommend the Woo if you like the sound of live music but the Vali if you want to recreate sound as if you were in the concert hall.
 
Vs The Cavalli LG:
 
The LG has also been usurped by the LAu so this may also not be fair.  Both amps are hybrids, so you would expect them to sound the same.  But they do not. The Vali has weight while the LG has heft.  With the Vali you feel like you are right there while the LG has presence and immediacy. The LG is the winner for those who like Classical or folk music while the Vali shines with analog instruments.
 
Vs the Mythical Moth 6B4G:
 
There is only one of this amp in existence and I own it.  The 6B4G is somewhere in between a PX4 and a 2A3.  This amp is an OTL and sounds incredible.  You'd think the Vali couldn't compete!  But it holds its own.  The 6B4G is sweet and spacious but the Vali is saccharine and has great soundstage.  The 6B4G excels with soft passages where the Vali has nuance to pick up microdetails (or "krill.")  The Moth is clearly for dubstep connesewers while the Vali is for those who want to experience music post-lobotomy. 
 
Vs ECP DSHA-1:
 
The DSHA one is also a very rare amp.  Very few were ever made and they will be highly sought after.  It is solid state but has a character all its own.  Once again, the Vali is no slouch.  The DSHA sounds like butter while the Vali sounds like I can't believe its not butter.  The DSHA has a wonderful purity of tone while the Vali has me saying "shiver me timbre."  The DSHA sounds like the best of solid state and tube amps brought together while the Vali has all the hallmarks of a great hybrid design.  The ECP is for music lovers while the Vali is for those who appreciate it.
 
Are you a Vali Girl?
 
So who is the Vali for?  Well, here's who it isn't for:
 
  1. Terrorists 
  2. The Deaf
 
So it is important to make sure the Vali is for you and your system.
 
Conclusions
 
The Vali is a very good amp.  Not just at its price, but at other prices too.  The price could easily be different, and it would still be released.  It is clear from comparisons that the Vali has the goods.  Jason, Mike, and Sankar should all be proud of this product.  It is clear they worked hard and put thought into the amp.  My prediction is it will sell well and see many acclaims from numerous and such as.  I may not be Notre Dames, but I don't need to be a seer to see that this amp will be popular.  I'd like to thank Jason for providing the review sample and all future review samples he will provide me for long evaluation periods.  
 
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IME so far, the Vali certainly holds its own with the Crack.. but I still feel a -speedballed- Crack is the more technically capable amp (when paired with the HD600).  I think it's important to consider the differences in topology between the two amps, as well.. i.e. hybrid vs OTL.  The hybrid is, naturally, going to be a little brighter.. since the OTL's higher OI does impact the HD600's bass and treble response.  I'm trying my best to take that into account.
 
The larger soundstage is the most notable difference between the Vali & my BH Crack.  The Crack simply offers more space in every direction.  It layers and separates better, too.  The Vali is no slouch as it makes use if its (comparatively smaller) soundstage impressively well.  I'm enamored with the Vali's tonal qualities.. again, it's very reminiscent of the speedballed Crack (which, IMO, tends to take the BH amp in a stereotypically 'solid-state'-ish direction).. and what makes both amps so very fun (and addictive) to use with the HD600.. a phone which I find to have a slightly dry character.  The Vali's solid state output seems really well done.  No etch or hardness to speak of.  The amp is smooth.. but resolves mightily... especially for $120.  If I had to level some criticism, where the Vali comes up short is control.. it could afford to be a little tighter in the mid- to lower-mid bass.  I've clocked approx. 30 hours on the Vali, so we'll see if this changes.
 
BTW, I'm using the CDAC+ for my DAC (it's an ODAC that runs off a 5v wall wart/power supply and has a galvanically isolated USB input).  Going to toss the Vio V800 into the mix to see how the Vali scales.. and I anticipate getting an uber Bifrost (again) some time (still kicking myself for selling it the first time I had it.. that's one of the dumber moves I've made in this hobby).
 
If the Vali is a good approximation of the house sound that EC amps possess.  I can see the intrigue.. lord help my wallet, I want an S7... now.
How does the Ember compare to the other amps?
 
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Originally Posted by tdockweiler /img/forum/go_quote.gif
 
Basically right now with everything I attach to the Vali it sounds like a Vali.
This is the same quality I am talking about.
 
I'll speculate that this might be the sort of quality that is often mentioned about tubes - that there is a "tube sound" because tubes emphasize certain harmonics.  It could be that the 6088 does this even more than the tubes usually used in audio, like 12AX7, and that is why all the timbres sound alike.
 
(Note that this is relative to other amps, obviously Vali does reproduce some instrumental timbre.)
 
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Anybody try Vali with He-6?
Or no chance for drive this headphones with Vali?:)
 
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The Uncanny Vali

Schiit Audio is a company.  They are well known in the audiophile world.  They make many products from headphone amps to DACs.  The newest of these products is the Vali.  It is a hybrid tube amp for only $120.  This is a new low for Schiit.  Their previous offerings with tubes were not this cheap.  This should make the headphone world tremble.  Already in the first few days it is clear that Schiit has another hit on their hands.  Designed by Jason Stoddard of Sumiko fame, the Vali is an all-out-assault on what a tube amp sounds like and costs.  Like all Schiit products, the Vali is made in America.  The Vali was introduced secretly earlier this year.  Only recently with the reviews of respected beta testers like Jude Mansilla and Warren Pchi has word leaked out of just how good this little amp is.

Intelligint Design

The Vali has tubes.  It has two RCA inputs and a 1/4" jack so it can also be used as a headphone amp.  On the front is a volume knob, this is to make the noises louder or softer with the push of a button.  On the back is a switch to turn the amp on or off, putting the power in the hands of the user.  The tubes in the vali are not just decorations.  If they were they would be on the outside.  They are part of the circuit and provide voltage gain.  This is engineer-talk for providing voltage gain.  The amp is Class AB.  Here are some numbers to consider:

[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Frequency Response: 20Hz-20Khz, -0.2db, 5Hz-100KHz, -3dB[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Maximum Power, 32 ohms: 650mW RMS per channel[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Maximum Power, 50 ohms: 550mW RMS per channel[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Maximum Power, 300 ohms: 220mW RMS per channel[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Maximum Power, 600 ohms: 115mW RMS per channel[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]THD: <0.4%, 20Hz-20KHz, at 1V RMS[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]IMD: <0.45%, CCIR[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]SNR: >93db, unweighted, referenced to 1V RMS[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Crosstalk: >-70dB, 20 Hz-20KHz[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Output Impedance: 6.5 ohms[/COLOR][/COLOR]
[COLOR=8F8F8F][COLOR=000000]Gain: 4 (12db)[/COLOR][/COLOR]

As you can see, the Vali is not messing around, as evidenced by some numbers that are very real.  And meaningful also.

Hooked on Microphonics

Is there a downside to all these good things?  The numbers seem too good to be true!  There must be a catch.  Well, there are microphonics to consider.  Microphonics are like the high pitched noises you regularly hear in your head that prevent you from thinking straight and make you do bad things, only they come from a source you can identify.  How big a deal are microphonics?  To find out, I asked the average "man on the street" if they were worried about microphonics or if they thought it was a non-issue.  Most people ignored me, but one man dressed as Jesus in a diaper stated in no uncertain terms that "aliens kidnapped his baby and that's where applesauce comes from."  Strong words indeed, and something that should make Schiit think twice before downplaying microphonics in the future.

Competition

The Vali has a lot of competition.  It is part of the $119-6500 price range which has many great products. Here are some comparisons:

Vs the Woo WA5:

I know what you are thinking - it is ridiculous to compare the two when the Vali is Schiit's newest offering while the WA5 has been eclipsed by the 234.  So you should keep that in mind.  The Vali has a very neutral sound while also being very lively.  In contrast, the Woo WA5 is accurate but fun, this may be due to the WE 300B's.  The Vali has great punch whereas the Woo has more slam.  I'd recommend the Woo if you like the sound of live music but the Vali if you want to recreate sound as if you were in the concert hall.

Vs The Cavalli LG:

The LG has also been usurped by the LAu so this may also not be fair.  Both amps are hybrids, so you would expect them to sound the same.  But they do not. The Vali has weight while the LG has heft.  With the Vali you feel like you are right there while the LG has presence and immediacy. The LG is the winner for those who like Classical or folk music while the Vali shines with analog instruments.

Vs the Mythical Moth 6B4G:

There is only one of this amp in existence and I own it.  The 6B4G is somewhere in between a PX4 and a 2A3.  This amp is an OTL and sounds incredible.  You'd think the Vali couldn't compete!  But it holds its own.  The 6B4G is sweet and spacious but the Vali is saccharine and has great soundstage.  The 6B4G excels with soft passages where the Vali has nuance to pick up microdetails (or "krill.")  The Moth is clearly for dubstep connesewers while the Vali is for those who want to experience music post-lobotomy. 

Vs ECP DSHA-1:

The DSHA one is also a very rare amp.  Very few were ever made and they will be highly sought after.  It is solid state but has a character all its own.  Once again, the Vali is no slouch.  The DSHA sounds like butter while the Vali sounds like I can't believe its not butter.  The DSHA has a wonderful purity of tone while the Vali has me saying "shiver me timbre."  The DSHA sounds like the best of solid state and tube amps brought together while the Vali has all the hallmarks of a great hybrid design.  The ECP is for music lovers while the Vali is for those who appreciate it.

Are you a Vali Girl?

So who is the Vali for?  Well, here's who it isn't for:

  • Terrorists 
  • The Deaf

So it is important to make sure the Vali is for you and your system.

Conclusions

The Vali is a very good amp.  Not just at its price, but at other prices too.  The price could easily be different, and it would still be released.  It is clear from comparisons that the Vali has the goods.  Jason, Mike, and Sankar should all be proud of this product.  It is clear they worked hard and put thought into the amp.  My prediction is it will sell well and see many acclaims from numerous and such as.  I may not be Notre Dames, but I don't need to be a seer to see that this amp will be popular.  I'd like to thank Jason for providing the review sample and all future review samples he will provide me for long evaluation periods.  
I think, you sir, have just won Head-Fi.
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Out of the box, and while waiting for delivery of my HD650s, with trepidation I plugged in my SR325is and waited to be underwhelmed. I'm still waiting. There is no question that the Grados sound better with Vali than Magni--and markedly so. The first song I played was My Bloody Valentine's 'she found now', the opener from the terrific MBV album released this year, from Mac Mini at 24/96 to Modi and I can't believe the difference. I was afraid that the noise floor would be overwhelming with the low impedance 325s, but that is simply not the case. And there is more punch in the bass, better midrange, and tamed highs. I would have to say I am thrilled with this purchase.
 
Thanks, purrin, for mounting my excitement a couple of months ago, and for giving what seemed like unreasonable expectations, when in reality they were justified. This guy hits well above its weight class. 
 
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  This is the same quality I am talking about.
 
I'll speculate that this might be the sort of quality that is often mentioned about tubes - that there is a "tube sound" because tubes emphasize certain harmonics.  It could be that the 6088 does this even more than the tubes usually used in audio, like 12AX7, and that is why all the timbres sound alike.
 
That is essentially what I've been saying. That the Vali is slightly tubey sounding. Tubes are always going to commit sins of commission. The Vali's pencil tubes definitely have a certain euphonic sound to them. Just as the 300B, 2A3, 45, 6SN7, EL34, 6922, 12AX7, 5842, etc. all have a certain characteristic sound. Some tubes types leave a stronger imprint than others. I would say the 6088 is one of them.
 
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  Anybody try Vali with He-6?
Or no chance for drive this headphones with Vali?:)
 
I can borrow an HE-5 (very similar and I believe probably even less efficient than the HE-6), try it out, and report back? Might take me a few days to get my hands on one. Do you wish me to proceed?
 
  Out of the box, and while waiting for delivery of my HD650s, with trepidation I plugged in my SR325is and waited to be underwhelmed. I'm still waiting. There is no question that the Grados sound better with Vali than Magni--and markedly so. The first song I played was My Bloody Valentine's 'she found now', the opener from the terrific MBV album released this year, from Mac Mini at 24/96 to Modi and I can't believe the difference. I was afraid that the noise floor would be overwhelming with the low impedance 325s, but that is simply not the case. And there is more punch in the bass, better midrange, and tamed highs. I would have to say I am thrilled with this purchase.
 
Thanks, purrin, for mounting my excitement a couple of months ago, and for giving what seemed like unreasonable expectations, when in reality they were justified. This guy hits well above its weight class. 
 
y/w. No noise issues for you? I had some noise issues with my HF-2, so I didn't recommend Grados.
 
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Just for kicks I had a Nano Patch+, passive attenuator, around and thought I might try that with some IEM/CIEM's and the Vali.
 
The low impedance/high sensitivity IEM/CIEM's were totally unusable with the Vali due to the high levels of noise.
 
Once I put the Nano Patch+ in between the output of the Vali and my IEM's, the IEM's were certainly useable. No more noise, less ringing, etc. I have to listen more to see how much the Nano Patch affects the sound though. I think maybe a fixed attenuation cable might sound better than going through a pot. With the Noble 6 IEM prototypes I have, I had to set the attenuation to around -5dB, but I have no idea how accurate the pot and markings on the Nano Patch are.
 
Anyway, a passive attenuator or an attenuation cable might be an option for those of you who want to use low impedance IEMs or headphones with the Vali.
 
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  Just for kicks I had a Nano Patch+, passive attenuator, around and thought I might try that with some IEM/CIEM's and the Vali.
 
The low impedance/high sensitivity IEM/CIEM's were totally unusable with the Vali due to the high levels of noise.
 
Once I put the Nano Patch+ in between the output of the Vali and my IEM's, the IEM's were certainly useable. No more noise, less ringing, etc. I have to listen more to see how much the Nano Patch affects the sound though. I think maybe a fixed attenuation cable might sound better than going through a pot. With the Noble 6 IEM prototypes I have, I had to set the attenuation to around -5dB, but I have no idea how accurate the pot and markings on the Nano Patch are.
 
Anyway, a passive attenuator or an attenuation cable might be an option for those of you who want to use low impedance IEMs or headphones with the Vali.
attenuation cable... WHO the heck sells these things? I've ONLY found one person on eBay and another member here in the states who's got a 75ohm one... but outside these second hand sources... where do these originate! 
 
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  attenuation cable... WHO the heck sells these things? I've ONLY found one person on eBay and another member here in the states who's got a 75ohm one... but outside these second hand sources... where do these originate! 
http://www.ebay.com/itm/400601021200?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
^ Supposedly these are Etymotic OEMs, you can see them being sold for $25-$29 by another USA seller on Ebay. I've got one coming in tomorrow.

http://www.ebay.com/itm/271193304830?ssPageName=STRK:MEWNX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1439.l2649
^ I purchased one of these and they came very quickly from China (via HK EMS).

Both add 75ohm load on top of your headphones. There's another seller that sells multiple loads, from 50 to 300ohms. I believe if I go the EMOTIVA A-100 route, that's what's in line between the phones and amp. Or build a ladder-style attenuator box.
 
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  attenuation cable... WHO the heck sells these things? I've ONLY found one person on eBay and another member here in the states who's got a 75ohm one... but outside these second hand sources... where do these originate! 
http://microphonemadness.com/categories/attentuator_cables.html
http://www.core-sound.com/attenuator-cables/6.php
Harrison Labs 6 dB RCA Line Level Attenuator Pair
Sescom iPhone / iPod / iPad TRRS to 25dB 3.5mm Line Level and 3.5mm Monitor Jack-by-Sescom - These types of cables to attenuate from line level to mic level are all -25dB which is probably way too much attenuation though.
 
Based on my unscientific test with my Nano Patch, I am guessing -5dB to -10dB attenuation is about right for 30 ohm IEM's.
 
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