Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Dec 29, 2020 at 10:45 PM Post #69,241 of 72,756

tincanear

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Ok folks.... A bit of a change for me - moving to an office that I was planning on putting in a Ragnarok / LS50's (I'm speaker guy...), to something where that won't work... Seriously looking at headphones again, I currently have a pair of Grado 60's that are fine, but a bit "meh". At home I listen to Apogee Duetta Sigs that go all the way down LF wise, with speed and slam; I'm *not* interested in anything that merely attempts that, at least not on my budget, so I'm favoring open back. I'm also not comfortable with closed back, like to be able to hear my space.

Audeze LCD-1 vs Senn HD 650? Thoughts?

+1 for DanClarkAudio (formerly Mr speakers) Aeon series, open back version, Asgard 3/ Modi Multibit or Modi3+/Magni3+ stack
 
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Dec 30, 2020 at 12:10 AM Post #69,242 of 72,756

johnjen

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damn they seem to have the dynamic balance thing down now.
And of course this is the 'public' demonstration, which makes me wonder what the 'full' (mil spec) capabilities might be…

JJ
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 12:45 AM Post #69,243 of 72,756

pkcpga

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Ok folks.... A bit of a change for me - moving to an office that I was planning on putting in a Ragnarok / LS50's (I'm speaker guy...), to something where that won't work... Seriously looking at headphones again, I currently have a pair of Grado 60's that are fine, but a bit "meh". At home I listen to Apogee Duetta Sigs that go all the way down LF wise, with speed and slam; I'm *not* interested in anything that merely attempts that, at least not on my budget, so I'm favoring open back. I'm also not comfortable with closed back, like to be able to hear my space.

Audeze LCD-1 vs Senn HD 650? Thoughts?
I have the LS50’s, love them, to get a full range warm sound like them you’d really need to spend a little more. I own a few Audeze headphones the cheapest in their line is go is the lcd 2, they can scale up nicely with a little eq. Out of the box the lcd XC, actually closed back sound great and for some reason decently spacious. Both are power hungry so most portable amps will not suffice to get good lows, similar to the ls50’s better amp, fuller sound. If you want something a little more 3d sounding like the ls50 I’d check out ZMF headphones. The 650’s are a decent headphone that can scale up depending on what’s powering them. I personally think the ZMF sound closest, Zach’s sound signature throughout most of his headphones give a similar warm detailed sound with a decent 3d feeling and they are hand made in the US. As mentioned early the Dan Clark are ok, the open Aeon 2 has a weirdly bright with lacking bass, the closed actually sound much better. The either sound much better but that’s a big step up in price. The Focal Clear are great open headphones, great details. Good luck with your search.
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 4:16 AM Post #69,244 of 72,756

rkw

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Also, if you haven't listened to Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes in a while, it's one hell of a a good recording.
I'd like to mention that after Graceland's original 1986 release, the album was remastered in 2004 and again remastered in 2011. The remastered versions have compressed dynamics and audiophiles have preferred the original release, which takes some effort to find these days. The streaming services only have the newest remaster.
https://forums.stevehoffman.tv/thre...-2004-rhino-vs-2011-sony.271333/#post-7724929
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 5:10 AM Post #69,246 of 72,756

Zojokkeli

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New Schiit day! Elma refused to get in the picture or wear the mask, so Cacodemon will have to do.

Also, Schiit covered the import duties for some reason. Maybe as a Christmas present or because of the patient waiting for Lyr 3. Either way, excellent customer service!

If memory serves correctly, this is my 9th piece of Schiit and needless to say they’ve got a customer for life.

125E6541-0E7D-4E2A-887A-C817034B83DC.jpeg
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 6:25 AM Post #69,248 of 72,756

Zojokkeli

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Seems like my unit has a dead right channel, so it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Oh well, schiit happens. It’s not the end of the world.
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 6:43 AM Post #69,250 of 72,756

inmytaxi

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Caution: the rabbit-hole gets deep and very expensive if one is not careful.

IMO, spending 1.5x more on headphones is more like a sidegrade than an upgrade. 3x more gets one to the next level in headphones.
Sidegrading is the way to find the best value in your price category, and collect a variety of headphones that sound better for the music/amp you pair them with. I love my Jot 2 but I still love my Lyr 2 that I bought used for half price. So should I get a Nelson Pass headamp so I can upgrade? Or a Eddie Current Jr for some all tube fun at a tenth of the price?

Right now my DCA Aeon RT's are by far my favorite with respect to sound (and comfort's pretty good too!) ... just a very musical tuning.
 
Dec 30, 2020 at 8:36 AM Post #69,252 of 72,756
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2020, Chapter 17:
Anno Interruptus


Yes, Anno Interruptus. Or, in our probably-not-quite-right Latin, “Year, Interrupted.”

As in, we promised you a whole bunch of new cool stuff this year. But that didn’t happen. Because COVID. Because the whole year became a bizarre carnival of wait-till-you-see-what-happens-next craziness. Because our plans were displaced, set aside, or put off…because lead times got longer, because we chose to concentrate more on the affordable side of things, because we simply didn’t have enough time to continue development, while still making sure we were taking care of our customers, and shipping good products.

So lots of stuff just got pushed. Lots of stuff didn’t happen. Anno Interruptus.

At the same time, many amazing and wonderful things happened in 2020. Amazing like sales are stronger than ever. Amazing like we were able to find, negotiate, and purchase a building in Texas to expand production. Amazing like we did get very, very far on some really cool stuff that (circumstances willing), you will see in 2021.

Aaaannd, at the same same time, so many bizarre things happened, so many things we’d literally never seen before, that the last quarter of the year turned into a crazy game of staggering from one emergency to another, including:
  • Having a key electronic part change significantly for no reason—it still met its specs, but it was 8-10x worse than any shipment we’d ever gotten, resulting in production halts and fast changes
  • Losing two key people to weeks or months due to health problems (neither COVID)...as of this writing, one is still out…eeek
  • Running out of boxes to ship our most popular products because lead times went out so far that nobody anticipated it would ever get that bad
  • Having the factory that makes our inexpensive D/A converters burn to the ground, with lead times still undefined a couple of months later
  • Having another key connector part change significantly for no reason—as in, like 80% failure rate, resulting in even more production disruption
  • Unexpectedly strong sales during and after lockdowns (!) leading to additional challenges—extended backorders, difficulties scaling, and accordion planning
  • Ongoing parts shortages as lots of suppliers blamed COVID on literally everything going wrong, meaning we were busy qualifying alternate parts the entire year (and, in the case of things we couldn’t qualify, overbuying “just in case,” which really saved us when the AKM disaster hit
But then again, lots of other great things happened in quick succession during the last half of the year, including:
  • Much better inventory management, especially in terms of B-stock
  • Much better shipping and order fulfullment processed
  • Better understanding of our online results and optimization of those results
  • Setting the foundation for managing two production locations
  • Building a new production line workflow for the Corpus Christi location—this one from scratch, without the limitations of a building made of multiple units that grew organically
  • Embarking on new directions in digital R&D, as a result of parts availability concerns, which may result in even better audible and measured performance…and increase our independence significantly in the future
“Yeah, yeah,” you might be saying. “Enough of the Powerpoint bullets. What did you get right? What did you get wrong? What’s coming? You know, the stuff we really want to hear.”

Yep. Got it.

Let’s start with the boring stuff—the stuff we did right.


What We Did Right

I’m tempted to say, “We didn’t introduce too many bloody products,” and end it there.

But that’s a reaction to 2019. The distant past of two-thousand-and-nineteen, that dim dark time when people didn’t wear masks and gathered freely at local breweries, was a glut of products. Too many products. Yeah, we know. You like new products. But new products are a lot of work. So introducing less of them this year—in this crazy, crazy year—was the right decision.

I mean, let’s see:
  1. Jotunheim R. Designed specifically for Raal ribbon headphones, the Jotunheim R was the first “direct drive” amp for these insane loads.
  2. Modius. A high-performance balanced DAC for $199. Redefined DAC value, even when comparing to products made in low-wage countries. Affordable Unison USB™ and AES input.
  3. Magnius. A high-performance balanced, differential amp for $199. Redefined differential amp value, even when comparing to products made in low-wage countries.
  4. Vali 2+. Improving the most affordable, serious tube hybrid amp with a more linear output stage and much lower noise floor, at the same price. Measurements, schmeasurements.
  5. Modi 3+. Unison USB now at $99, with even higher performance. Simply the highest-value DAC made today, from anywhere in the world.
  6. Jotunheim 2. Nexus™ and Continuity S™ come to an affordable, do-all differential amplifier. Discrete design, precision matched parts, all-linear internal supply, quality Alps RK27114 potentiometer, modular design…stuff you might see on amps much more expensive than Jotunheim 2.
And that’s it. Six products. One every other month (if they were spaced symmetrically, but, yeah, read about all the craziness above, once again…it’s amazing they were spaced at all!)

So what did you miss? Well, with luck, nothing you won’t see in 2021. But there were at least two products I really wanted to introduce, and two others that missed narrowly. One was the transport. The rest I’ll leave to your imagination.

Aside: Urd transport update. We’re now at a point with the transport that we are getting a beta run ready. Maybe we’ll be sending those in February or so. We’ll see. By the way, the name is Urd. As in, Schiit Urd. Yep. Works for Toyota. Bite me. Look it up. “Norse Mythology, Urd.”

Beyond products, what else did we do right? Lots of stuff.
  • We reacted to COVID very early. I think we were the first audio company to sound the warning, the first audio company that outlined what we were doing to ensure our people and your shipments were safe, the first to make business plans to ensure continuity in case it became an ongoing thing. Paranoid? Sure. But I’ll take scared and alive over confident and bankrupt.
  • We got even more paranoid as things got weird. As COVID ground on, we saw lead times increase and excuses proliferate. As a result, we started buying lots and lots of parts that were critical for making our products. That really saved our bacon (or vegan bacon, if you don’t do the meat thing) when the AKM disaster struck.
  • We took steps to make sure we were around. In big-corp-speak, this is "business continuity planning." When the first round of stay-at-home orders hit, we were lucky enough to fall into a “communications” exemption in the state of California. A couple words difference would mean shutdown—as in, no support, service, or sales until the state said yay. This didn’t sit well with us, so we started looking at other places to be. At first, we opened a satellite office with our purchasing partners in Salt Lake City. Later, we did a more exhaustive search and settled on a funky little town in Texas called Corpus Christi. Now, we have a building there. Soon, we’ll be making the smaller, less expensive products there. Eventually, we’ll be designing there as well…without having to leave anyone in California behind. And that means we’ll be there to support you, no matter what comes (well, except maybe alien invasion, zombies, etc…come on, give us a break if any crazy crap like that happens.)
  • We decided to focus on infrastructure while we were at it. Two facilities is a whole lot more work than one. So we started putting things into place to make sure we could coordinate. Which had lots of great side-effects, like finally getting B-stock ongoing updates, better and more efficient shipping, and increased warehouse visibility. Boring? Sure. Necessary? Absolutely.
  • We continued with R&D. Yes, despite everything, despite the craziness, an amazing amount of R&D got done this year. This means the new product pipeline is still full (beyond the delayed 2020 products) and we discovered some really cool new things we’ll be playing with in the future. In addition, parts uncertainty, especially in terms of the AKM fire, has pushed R&D to new goals.
  • We responded to the end of SchiitrMeets with a new video series. Yeah, yeah, yeah, everyone and their dear old dog has a video series now, and I’d much much much much rather be doing in-person meets, but until this whole COVID thing has blown over, this is what we got. At least you can watch me drink wine and say stupid things—and I’ll drag in others from time to time.
I hate to go back to the old “intangibles,” metric, but here’s the thing: we feel great at the end of this year. Last year, we were beaten, exhausted, ready to take a looooonng vacation. This year, people are laughing and joking around, despite the workload, despite COVID, despite everything. The mood is wayyyy up. Everyone’s looking forward to the future. And the Texas expansion is the most exciting thing we’ve done since we started. I’ll be spending time in Texas and California, designing products both here and there…count on it!


What We Did Wrong

With the whole mood being upbeat—despite the weirdest and most challenging year ever—it’s tempting to say, “Given everything, we didn’t do a damn thing wrong. Fight me.”

And maybe I’ll leave it at that.

Hmm…

Well, no. Nothing is perfect. But given the year we were dealt, I still think we did damn good. Hell, who else has a year of AKM parts in the year the factory burned down? This could be a super debacle…and, even if sales accelerate, it’s manageable.

But what could we have done better?

Being honest, a couple of things:
  • We could have fixed our infrastructure before the looming prospect of two manufacturing facilities forced us to take a hard look at it. There’s no reason we couldn’t have assigned someone to deal with b-stock before this. There’s no reason we couldn’t have integrated our shipping and inventory systems before this. There’s no reason that, 10 years after we started in a garage, there were still aspects of our operations that were stuck in that era. The good news is that we addressed this. The bad news is it took a global pandemic for us to fix it.
  • We could've been more aggressive on bringing some of the bigger products to market. We decided to sit on a few things, which means we’re sitting on a whole lot of expensive parts, including metal and provisional kits. Given the results this year, we could have conceivably brought on someone to help us get these projects finished—while keeping current products in-stock. I mean, I can what-if the heck out of this—as in, what if the disruption from that expansion made things dicey on the current line—but we could have chosen to do this, and it might have been the right decision. But, as I’ve mentioned before, we run super-conservatively, so we weren’t going to take a chance like that this year.
And, we could have…hell, I don’t know. I’m really reaching here. Because, without becoming a whole different company, without sacrificing what makes us, er, us, there’s not a lot we could have done. You’re all gonna come back and say, “You shoulda done X product or Y product or brought back Z product,” but the reality is nothing’s going to be solved with a specific product (or product resurrection.) Bottom line, I’m super, super happy with where we ended up this year. And I’m not going to let any retrospective coulda-shoulda-wouldas harsh that groove.


What’s Coming

Short answer: with any luck, amazing things. 2021, if our plans hold, will be a completely bonkers year.

(You guys read those disclaimers, right: with any luck, if our plans hold, etc?)

Longer answer: new analog and digital products, bi-state production, and a much, much stronger foundation for products, service, and support.

Let’s start with the intangibles, like the fact that we’ll now be making products in two states. I’ve always been of the opinion that you shouldn’t get too complacent, too comfortable, too set in your ways, and our expansion into Texas turned this up 10000%. This is the most exciting thing we’ve done, ever. Lisa and I will be sharing time between California and Texas (we bought a house there). At the same time, nobody is losing their job in California. We’ve taken a short-term rental so employees can check out the area and see if it’s for them, or if they’d like to stay in CA. We’re looking for new production partners in Texas. The result is that we’re going to learn things from both Texas and California, and we’ll be a stronger company for it. We’re not going to simply assume “the way we’ve always been doing it…here” is always best. This is the best kind of shakeup. It’s, in essence, a new frontier. Everyone is excited—no matter what state they stay in.

Aside: and it was very, very fun to tell our realtor in CA—who had showed up to twist our arms on lease rates—that we’d bought a building in Texas. Suddenly the conversation wasn’t how much more we’d be paying, but what kind of discount we’d get…on top of much-deferred building improvements.

“So who cares?” someone asks. “Companies only move to cheaper places to screw their employees, how does this benefit me?”

First of all, as I’ve said a billion times before, nobody is being screwed. Nobody is being forced to move. No jobs in California are being eliminated. Anyone who moves keeps their salary. Anyone we hire in Corpus will be far, far above minimum wage, same as we do in California. Yes, good companies do exist. Unfortunately, we cannot hire everyone.

Second, it benefits you because (a) we’re super-excited about it, and (b) we may find even greater efficiencies.

The first one, (a), may sound a bit stupid, but don’t underestimate the power of morale. If we’re excited, we do better, we push harder, we achieve more. That means we’ll bring out even better products. Simple as that. So yeah, you benefit.

The second one, (b), makes more sense on the face of it, but it’s got that terrible word—efficiencies—that you might associate with companies de-contenting great products with plastic gears so they break all the time, or reducing the amount of beef they use in their hamburgers, or switching from aluminum to plastic faceplates. Well, that’s not what we mean by “efficiency.” What we mean is, “With new production partners and more engaged people, we may be able to make even better, higher-value products.” Simple as that. No diabolical plans, no de-contenting, no flavor engineers, no faux-subbed-for-real, nothing like that.

We are who we are—and, as long as Mike and I run the show, we will be what we’ll be. Which means that we still won’t be for everyone. And that’s perfectly fine.

“But you also mentioned new analog and digital products,” someone says, licking their lips. “Tell me more about those!”

Okay, fine.

But those of you who’ve read these end-of-the-year wrapups know the dance: I can’t tell you too much, because I don’t know when any of this will come to pass. And, in some cases, I don’t know if it will come to pass, period.

Aside: a great example is the “QP tech” that I mentioned last year. Yeah. Stupid idea. That was short for “Quiet Please,” a noise-nulling system I came up with that showed early promise, but in the end was a dumb idea. So nothing’s going to happen with that. OG is still in play. If I get a bit more time this month, I’ll find out if we have a product based on that.

But, to sum up what I know, starting with stuff that’s for sure.

Digital Fer Schurre:
  • Urd. We’re going into beta on this, so we are close. You’ll see our transport/digital hub this year.
  • E For Emergen...er, Extra-Special Products. If we need to, we’re ready to replace AKM in Modius, Modi, Fulla, Hel, and the AK4490 card. Hopefully we don’t need to. Realistically, we may have to do one or all. Rest assured we are working hard to make sure they perform--and sound--excellent.
Analog Yabetcha:
  • Lokiest. Still not sure what to call this crazy-ass, all-LC-filtered, remote control, relay stepped, Nexus equalizer, but it’s much more than, say, a “Lokius.” It will be at least 10x the cost of a Loki Mini, so don’t get super excited. But this one is ready to rock and roll.
  • Ampius Maximus and Minimus. No names yet, but I do want to move the speaker amp line both up and downscale. Details redacted, but you will see at least one new speaker amp from us this coming year.
Beyond that, it gets super iffy.

“Wait a sec,” someone says. “That’s super-thin! That’s all you have planned?”

Well, of course not. But we don’t talk about products that might affect current stuff we’re selling. Yes, we’re terrible. Just like Apple.

“But what about, like upgrades and stuff? Or DACs? Or replacements for some super-old stuff like Mjolnir 2 and Valhalla 2? And how about that wacky 10-tube amp you showed a picture of? Or the Processor? Surely there’s more?”

And yeah, like we said right before this, yeah, there’s definitely more. It’s just that I can’t talk about it, either because it’s too iffy or because it crashes into current products. But, to give you a bit more detail, in order of your questions:

  • Upgrades? Maybe. I wouldn’t be surprised to see some upgrades. We’ll see. Still lots of stuff in motion.
  • DACs? Hmm, not so thrilled about that. We have a good line. I’d love to see a streamlined Modi Multibit for $199, but that would mean it’s USB-powered, and there may be other compromises that make it not so thrilling. Plus, digital has to deal with the E for Extra-Special products.
  • A new Mjolnir? Hmm, also not thrilled. It’s not lighting the world on fire in terms of sales, and it is a huge, huge, huge desktop product—and I’m less thrilled about it with Jotunheim 2 on the slate.
  • A new Valhalla? Yeah, I know, it's the oldest of our amps, but still not thrilled. Do it slimmer—that means new transformers—that means a price bump. A pretty big price bump. That's not a good thing in an affordable amp. Add new features? Yeah, then it’s not a Valhalla 2 anymore. There aren't many good paths here.
  • The wacky 10-tube teaser? Yeah, I’d love to do that one. But it still needs another prototype rev, and it will be a weird chassis. And it won’t be cheap. Think $1300-1500. Not sure anyone wants that.
  • The Processor? I’m bugging Mike about this, because he wants a platform, but we're both still talking about the best way to bring this to you. Hopefully I'll know more this year. We'll see.
And now you’re all squinty-eyed. “But…still seems super thin. There’s gotta be something more!”

I laugh. Of course there is. We just aren’t going to be talking about that right now. Soon, a new chapter will be written…

Thanks again to all for sticking with us through this crazy year. I hope you and yours are doing well, and I look forward to when we can all meet again!
 
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Dec 30, 2020 at 9:10 AM Post #69,254 of 72,756

Ripper2860

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@Jason Stoddard -- Looks like it will be an exciting new year!! I already have my eye on a couple of products (Urd and Loki-palooza), much to the wife's chagrin. And now the question all Texans are asking...

Will The Corpus site also have a Schiitr?? (After COVID, of course.) :wink:
 
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