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Official Schiit Vali 2 Thread

Discussion in 'Headphone Amps (full-size)' started by inseconds99, Dec 11, 2015.
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  1. Tuneslover
    Cool pics!

    I know what you mean by things being a little off. The volume knob on my SYS and Magni2U were slightly off too. I just gently urged the knob over to center it properly. That worked nicely and looked just fine thereafter.
  2. painted klown
    Ok, now for some initial listening impressions (as I know that's what all of you really want to read anyway) [​IMG].
    When I first plugged it in, I didn't know what to expect, and was a bit taken aback at how much different it sounded from my Emotiva DC-1's headphone amp. It was immediately a very noticeable change. As noted, I played Nirvana's "Nevermind" (at varying volume levels) all the way through to, to give the amp a bit to warm up.
    I then started flipping through some of my favorite test tracks, to see what I would hear. It was sounding like it did with Nevermind. Offering up a sound that was not offensive and pretty good, but it wasn't "blowing me away" either. I then decided to test it out with some easy to drive headphones, and snagged my ATX-M50X and Grado SR80i off my headphone hook. Here's when something happened...I stood up and realized that I had forgot all about this amp having a selectable gain switch. [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Anyway, I was still curious to see how well it did with easy to drive cans, and hooked them up for very brief listens. The ATH-M50X was the first I tried. Holy mother of pearl inlays!!!! Let me just say musical, VERY musical in fact. I immediately found myself sucked into the playing Alice in Chains and had a difficult time unplugging to try the Grados. LOL! The Grados have a bit of a bright sound signature to me. In fact, I have never liked them on any of my portable devices, but enjoyed them quite a bit on the DC-1's headphone amp.  Through the Vali 2, that enjoyable Grado sound continued and didn't leave me wincing or cringing, even at high volume levels. Nice!
    While I had low impedance cans in mind, I decided to do a bit of a quick noise test. I plugged in my Skullcandy earbuds and paused the music. I cranked the Volume of the Vali 2 in low gain mode and listened for noise. If there was any noise there, it was below the threshold of my ears, and/or quieter than the noise floor was here in my living room. As quiet as anyone could wish for. Leaving the earbuds in, I flipped to high gain and cranked the volume again. This time there was an audible hiss, but it was still quieter than my DC-1 (a SS amp). Very respectable, to say the least and MUCH quieter than I had expected for tubes. Plugging the 650 back in and doing the same test on high gain revealed NO noise that I could detect. This amp is quiet. Quieter than my DC-1, or any of my portable sources, to be sure.
    With the amp left in high gain mode, and the 650 still on my ears, I decided to do more listening with some favorite test tracks. NOW we are singing! The gain switch not only seemed to make the amp go louder, it also seemed to help fill in the sound and to a VERY noticeable degree. If you had read any of my posts in the 650 impressions thread, you will note that I had mentioned the bass not being as full and robust as I had expected it. The posters in that thread said it was because the 650s needs an amp that pushes current to them, in order to really open them up. Well the Vali 2 (in high gain mode) must be pushing some serious current then! LOL! I have never heard my 650s sound this good. Period. I mean this amp is blowing my mind!
    The Vali 2 pushing the 650's is darn near a revelation to my ears. The 650 has BASS!!! And when I say that, I mean real bass. Not bloated sounding/takes everything over type of bass, but actual musical bass. It's more present and deeper than my DC-1's bass, but admittedly, it isn't as delineated as the solid state bass that I am used to from the DC-1. Weather this is a product of tubes in general, the installed stock tube, or the just the way the Vali 2 sounds, I am not sure. Having said that, the sound of the bass from the Vali 2 has a "fun factor" that just isn't present with the DC-1. It's "wow'ing" me, to be sure.
    Next I will move on to mids. The mids, as I expected from tubes, are excellent. Even the low cost stock tubes do just fine at making Norah Jones sing in my ears. The Vali 2 has a nice way of enveloping you in the music (a great quality of the 650 in general IMO), making you turn it up and "feeling it" for a bit. Playing Jack Johnson for some male vocal is equally nice, and better than on my DC-1. Sleep Through the Static has a production that I simply love. It sounds intimate, and a bit warm (bit of a bass hump) on just about any gear that can reproduce it well. When his vocal track comes in on the opening track, it is a wonderful experience with the right setup, and I often use this track to see if gear can accurately reproduce not only the timbre of his voice, but the emotion that comes pouring out at the same time. To me, the Vali 2 excels in this area, and is a clear and definite improvement over my DC-1 for this particular moment, as well as the rest of the record as I let it play. Beautiful!
    Now for the highs...the highs on this amp are very nice indeed, I have always been under the (false) impression that tubes rolled off the highs. With the stock tube in the Vali 2, I do not find this to be true at all. The highs are all nicely present and command their own space in the sonic soundscape, while never drawing undo attention to themselves by becoming bright or fatiguing in any way. This is also a strong point of the 650, so further listening with other 'phones may reveal more to me, but for the purposes of this write up, I am using the 650 exclusively.
    Ok, now for some general thoughts on the amp. This thing has power. It has insane power for the headphones I own, in fact. Once I had it in high gain mode, the 650s really opened up. I turn the volume to PAINFUL levels without a hint of harshness, sibilance, or distortion. What I mean to say is that his amp can go VERY loud without breaking a sweat. Turning the volume knob gave me more volume than I could handle (I couldn't turn it all the way up in high gain mode as my pain threshold was hit too soon) and sounded great while doing it. Loud, clean, and clear, to be sure. It reminded me of my full size system in that respect, and I was shocked at what this little amp was capable of. It always sounded nice and relaxed, no sounds of the amp straining at all. I haven't heard that outside of my full size system, ever!
    Seriously, I am in shock over here all. I honestly do not know what to say. I have never heard any tube gear prior to this, nor had I heard any Schiit product, however I must say that the Vali 2 has FAR surpassed the high expectations I had for it when I ordered it up. Simply put, this amp is killer, and at the price point Schiit has it at, it's also a steal!   [​IMG]
    All of this was IMO, and to my ears only. Bear in mind that I am a relative noob to headphone audio, and a complete noob to tubes and Schiit gear. I hope this review helps anyone that reads it.
    XERO1, riffrafff, winders and 4 others like this.
  3. painted klown
    Initial impressions have been posted.
    Thanks for the info. I will try to push them in a bit more tomorrow after work.
    I have not heard the Valhalla 2, nor any other tube gear, sorry.
  4. Deftone
    Nice to know your enjoying it dave, from my experiences tubes sound fantastic with rock/metal it really gives guitars that edge you cant get with solid state.
    painted klown likes this.
  5. bretemm
    Ok thanks, if I get it, I might get the modi2 Uber, but, I think I'll first just use the Vali2 input with my fiio headphone line out. I'm looking for a smaller more, I guess simple, setup. I have the Schiit Bifrost DS and Valhalla2.
  6. Mshenay
    Like wise! I enjoyed the first Vali very much with my higher ohm'd cans, I'm REALLY excited to hear the W1000X with it though :D it does well with tubes but is VERY sensitive so if there's noise I'll find it ;3 
  7. disastermouse
    Has anyone tried these with HE-500 yet? I'm wondering if the tubes would make them just a bit more intimate sounding.
  8. Mshenay
    Well, I'll give it a shot with my HE 4, if it drives that it'll do the HE 500 no problem 
  9. sheldaze
    Postman delivered mine early too...I think I'm enjoying toys too much these days [​IMG]
    I did not plan to listen today - worked late and stayed out late, expecting to take off and play with this tomorrow. It's warming up the sound nicely on my AKG K7XX right now, fed from m9XX DAC. Really good, but will listen and post tomorrow.
  10. lvince95
    Very nice write-up, appreciate it alot. Thanks man!
    painted klown likes this.
  11. Capt369

    I already have the Asgard 2 and love it, but... well... you... know.
  12. sheldaze
    Did the pots get better?
    My previous experiences with the volume knobs on the smaller Schiit devices (Magni 2, Vali) was not as satisfying as this is! Small incremental volume adjustments are doing exactly what I would expect. This truly feels like a better box than the previous generation. I've not had much chance to play with Magni 2 Uber and am curious if this is the same pot.
    Compared with my previous Vali, the version 2 has much, much more detail and articulation. The first generation seemed more laid back and smoothed over to my ears. Details are sharp, clear, located precisely with Vali 2. This does not take a back seat to my solid-state stable of amplifiers in that regard.
    I'm running through a few of my low-impedance cans this morning:
    1. Audeze EL-8C
    2. Fostex TH-X00
    3. Grado SR60i
    I've listened in past to tubes, through my Vali and Valhalla, but I am new to the experience of listening to a tube through low impedance headphones. There are no noise or impedance mismatch issues, as there were with my two previous tube amps. But I'm still finding the adjustments - well, interesting. My favorite match, when I had the Vali, was with my (now also sold) AKG Q701. And as I posted yesterday, my (current) AKG K7XX and the Vali 2 are just a match made from the great hall of "Valhalla" - really good stuff!
    With each of the low impedance cans, I can hear the change, going from just m9XX as AMP/DAC to m9xx (DAC) > Vali 2 (AMP). The difference is more subtle on the three cans listed, and not always my personal preferred direction. TH-X00 was already a warm sounding headphone, and needs no further tube distortion to sound its best - it sounds good as-is from pretty much any low impedance solid state source. But I must reiterate I noticed no bloat issues from an impedance mismatch - I just personally like how it sounds already on a plain solid state. I bought my EL-8C mostly for comfort in a closed headphone, and I'm a much less partial to its forward treble. I prefer its sound with my slightly warmer systems - Mojo for example. The Vali 2 is not adding or taking away from any specific frequency. The Grado paired with the Vali 2 is a definite yes! This is a pairing I could not have heard before, and it is quite nice.
    I guess what I'm trying to summarize for you is the Vali 2 imparts the tube sound quality, and can now do so on low impedance headphones - then it gets out of the way in terms of typical tube warmth and loss of clarity, at least compared to what I heard on the previous Vali. The new Vali 2 is truly a great balancing act between tube signature and solid-state clarity.
    I'll be trying my HD650 and HE-1000 shortly...just need to listen to my Grado a little longer [​IMG]
    painted klown likes this.
  13. lvince95
    The general consensus seems to be that it is much detailed and clear compared to the original Vali, as you clearly noted. What about the differences in bass quantities, extension, speed etc.? Not much has been said about the bass so far.
  14. Mshenay
    good to hear :D I would imagine my Senn Grado is going to sound really nice through the Vali 2 along with my W1000X
    Mine shuld be arriving today or tommorow 
  15. sheldaze
    Bass versus the original Vali would be hard to compare without the original Vali in hand. I will be asking/requesting/reminding, daily if need be, for our local head-fier to bring his original Vali to our Februrary meet. (Of course the original question was how does HD800 do on the new and old versions of the Vali). I sold my Q701 and the K7XX is use today have a lot more bass. Just popped my HD650 on (I like these headphones a lot too through the Vali 2) and still have to say, first thing that I hear is the clarity of the highs and soundstage depth. The Vali 2 is certainly not lacking bass energy, but I would call the sound balanced overall - for a bass-head, perhaps even a little light with respect to bass. I'm certainly not hearing the thump that I've heard at meets when listening on the Bottlehead Crack or Woo Audio WA3 (internally modified for more power). That WA3 was just craziness - you could enjoy the HD650 while standing next to the person listening [​IMG] [​IMG]
    Not sure how to characterize the bass though in the Vali 2, without having a Vali next to me [​IMG] 
    lvince95 likes this.
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