Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Mar 3, 2021 at 10:45 AM Post #72,631 of 80,233

S0undJunk1e

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Marking plagiarism... err student papers can be mind numbing at times and my mind wonders....

Listening to Tidal today (my three month subscription is ending soon and my Roon subscription ended last week) I had these thoughts:
  • Tidal on it's own does sound better than Spotify, but not in a life changing way. ("HiFi and "Master")
  • Roon makes Tidal sound much better - huge difference
  • Spotify is far better than Tidal at music suggestions and UI - I barely use Tidal on it's own
  • Roon is good at music discovery, but not Spotify good
I might go back to Roon someday, but combining Roon + Tidal is just too much for my budget

I need to find a way to make Spotify sound better on it's way to the Modi 3 (hopefully I can buy a Modi Multibit with Unison or Modious Multibit someday....

Systems I used today:
  1. Modi 3 > Asgard 3 > NightOwl and DT770 80 Ohm
  2. Topping D30>Darkvoice>HD6XX and DT770 80 Ohm
The only thing stopping me from getting Roon is the monthly subscription model. I don't get why this has the same price as a music subscription, instead of just having a software cost. Is the step up in sound quality with Tidal good enough to warrant the extra monthly cost?
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 10:47 AM Post #72,632 of 80,233

StevePNW

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Fortunately electronics are not like wine. Where they come from doesn't matter. All that matters is how they are designed and what components are used, not the earth's magnetic flux and alignment in relation to Jupiter in the precise location of assembly. Unless you believe in astrology, I suppose.
I think that for the most part what you are saying is valid. There could be an odd consideration or two for manufacturing processes due to environment. Temperature - thermal expansion/contraction, humidity - bonding processes, etc. But as long as these are understood, or controlled, if even needed, it can be accommodated.
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:15 AM Post #72,635 of 80,233

Jimmyblues1959

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2021, Chapter 3
Even Trickier


The new Loki Mini+ is just like Loki Mini, but quieter and lower distortion. That’s it. The end.

No, really.

No, totally totally serious. I mean, to create the Loki Mini+ manual, I opened the Loki Mini manual in Indesign, added a “+” after Loki Mini, and saved it again. Done.

Of course, I also had to completely re-measure Loki Mini+, and I did re-write the copy a bit.

And of course, I had to do the press release and press letter.

Oh yeah, and it is a completely different PC board, with a lot of tricks stolen from Magni 3+…

…so, hmm. Maybe there is a story in here.

Let’s look a bit deeper.

loki-mini-plus-blk-front-1920.jpg

Starting With "Why a New Loki Mini?"

Since its introduction, Loki Mini has become a really popular product—so popular, it’s one of the ones we try like heck to keep in stock.

Aside: Loki Mini has been in backorder a while, so if you’re waiting for one, you get a Loki Mini+ instead! Free upgrade!

This popularity is a bit weird, though, because you don’t really hear much about Loki Mini. You hear about Magni and Modi and Hel and Fulla, heck, even Mani and Vali. But not so much about Loki Mini. It seems that a whole lot of people are out there, simply enjoying what Loki Mini does…despite the lack of chatter, despite the dearth of reviews.

And this is one reason why we decided to take a look at it again, and see if we could make it better.

Another reason we decided to take a look at it was that it was, well, a bit of a pain in the rear end to build. Loki Mini used a “girdle” to help align its 4 knobs. This was slow and fiddly to assemble, and even then sometimes the alignment wasn’t perfect. We’d changed Magni and Vali to use “pocketed knobs,” for better alignment, so it would be ideal to take it across to Loki Mini.

And Magni 3+ provided us with the final reason: the driver stage improved performance significantly. That, together with a new two-stage power supply we were using on products as diverse as Aegir and Saga S, meant we could deliver a much lower noise floor…and lower distortion, too.

Together with Magni 3+’s matched, paired parts, that also meant that even with higher performance, Loki Mini+ would use fewer parts.

So, simpler product, higher performance, easier to assemble…win, win, win.


Why Do I Need an Equalizer, Pop?

Yeah, cool. Call me old. I don’t care. I’m Gen X, not a boomer.

And I get it…equalizers have quite a stench of hair gel and fake bark, the dying gasp of the go-go neon ‘80s, expressed in the number of LED-lit sliders they had.

But here’s the deal: they had a point.
  1. No system is perfect.
  2. No room is perfect.
  3. No recording is perfect.
Seriously. Review the above. Can you dispute any statement?

Is your system perfect? Do your speakers or headphones have perfect frequency response? If you say “yes,” please pause while I laugh.

Is your room perfect? Does it have asymmetrical walls and ceilings to reduce room modes? Do you have thousands of dollars in acoustic treatment? Applied by someone who knows acoustics? Agreed to by a consensus of industry experts that it is “perfect?” Again, yeah. Thought so.

Are your recordings perfect? All of them? Including the ping-pong stereo stuff from the 60s? The supahdry no-bass recordings from the 80s? The 0.5-db dynamic range stuff from the 00s? The overproduced and over-sonic-maximized-and-computer-harmonized stuff of today? Uh-huh. Right.

Here’s the thing. An equalizer won’t solve all ills. But it can help.

Especially if it’s a quiet, good-sounding, high-performance equalizer like Loki Mini+.

Want more reasons? Take a look at the original Loki Mini chapter.


Another Boring Development Story

Loki Mini+ is not scintillating material when it comes to development. Once I got the idea to improve the product, it really came down to how many things I was going to tweak:
  • Add the driver stage from Magni 3+?
  • Do the matched parts to reduce parts count?
  • Add the two-stage power supply for lower noise?
  • Play around with the bands a bit?
  • Do a top to eliminate the girdle?
In the end, I decided on “all of the above.” I laid out a PC board, ran a prototype, and it worked just fine. Other than a rev to re-position the potentiometers so they worked better with the non-girdle top, that was it.

Aside: the non-girdle top was a thing I thought about rolling in on Loki Mini. We actually got prototypes of the pocketed front. Then we ordered parts with the pocketed front. When I realized that the current boards wouldn’t work with a pocketed front, we shelved the idea until we had time to do a proper Loki Mini+.

I say “well, that was it,” except for a bit of tweaking.

Loki Mini, you see, was a 4-band equalizer. Which is not a ton of bands. We chose them based on where we thought they’d be most useful, which was arrived at by a lot of listening to music. The broadness or narrowness of some of the bands was a bit up for debate, though, so we decided to have a look at the bands again with Loki Mini+.

The result? We didn’t change the center frequencies significantly, but we did tweak the “Q” (broadness) of some of the bands, and also went to one larger inductor to enhance performance.

Aside: Loki Mini+, like Loki Mini, remains a single-discrete-gain-stage with LC (inductor-capacitor) filtering for 3 of the 4 bands, and gyrator-capacitor filtering for the 20Hz band. This means it is super old school. Some recording engineers may be very excited about this. Some people who are 100% into measurements may not be very impressed. It also means, however, like all products that use inductors, it may pick up hum from other components that have, say, giant transformers inside. Stick a Loki Mini+ on top of a Vidar and it will probably hum.

Aside to the aside: a single-gain-stage variable-Q LC equalizer is one approach amongst many, as I noted in the original Loki Mini chapter. I understand if you prefer constant-Q or parametric or software EQ. It’s just not Loki Mini+.

With these tweaks, we have an equalizer that is super-quiet (literally 10-15dB more than Loki Mini) and has lower distortion, thanks to the added driver in the current-feedback gain stage. Not a bad result—but, even more importantly, we think it also sounds better. (But then again, we may be crazy. I really need to do a chapter on, “How We Fool Ourselves.”)

So is that it? Just a better product for the same price, as usual around here?

Nah.


The Coming Loki(s?)

When we introduced the original Loki Mini, I hinted that there may end up being a whole line of Lokis. And, when I said that, we were deep into development on two additional Lokis. Both had remote control, and one was an all-out assault on the state of the art in equalizers (well, LC equalizers, anyway.)

But some funny things happened on the way to a Loki lineup.
  1. The mid-sized Loki, called, unimaginatively, “Loki,” was too noisy to go into production. Big inductors, a bunch of remote control potentiometer motors, and a power supply transformer didn’t coexist well in a desktop-sized chassis. Shielding the transformer didn’t help. Moving the inductors all the way to the other side of the chassis didn’t help. Plus, the size restriction meant that two of the inductors weren’t all that great, even with fancy 80% nickel cores. Plus, Loki was pretty damn expensive, once you got all those pots, inductors, knobs, and etc accounted for.
  2. The big Loki, which went by the unfortunate moniker of “Loki Max,” never worked right. First, the gain stage didn’t work well enough. Second, its ambitious relay-ladder potentiometers (NOT a relay-ladder volume control…very different) didn’t work 100%, either. Heck, even the crazy two-stage complementary megabuffers decided to go up in smoke from time to time. Despite the insane complexity of the boards, I built up four separate prototypes, none of which succeeded in passing signal.
So. Yeah. “Line.” LOL.

Well, we’re still a ways away from a lineup, but I did share a photo of what we’re calling “Loki Max,” or “Lokiest.” (We still don’t quite know what to call it…but don’t worry, that’s easy enough to change.)

Better yet, it is working.

Once the development was done on Loki Mini+, I decided to take a look at Loki Max again. And the difference between then and now was laughably extreme. The Max was so old, it used Pivot Point, not Nexus. The non-paired devices we used in the superbuffer could easily be replaced by modern parts used in any Magni 3+…parts that were much more rugged than their predecessors. The relay potentiometers didn’t work because I screwed up the truth table, and forgot I had to lose one step to make them work (seriously, this is completely nuts stuff…there are no guides out there as to how to do it.) Heck, even the shift-register/relay-driver arrangement we were using could be replaced with power logic, substantially simplifying the product.

So I did one more board…and this one, with some hacks, actually worked a bit.

It still wasn’t there, though. Because when you’re talking 4VRMS balanced signals that you can apply 15-16dB of boost to, you need a ton of headroom. Especially with Nexus, which almost requires a stacked supply in order to swing anywhere near the output rails.

So we needed another prototype. This one used stacked rails, up to +/-32V on the voltage gain stage.

Aside: Yes, 64V total. Yes, in a line-level product.

This prototype worked. Of course, it still had some hilarious issues, such as not having enough buttons for all of its functions (not kidding) and needing more regulation on the +5V rail (driving up to 67 relays takes a bit of current).

And that’s where we are today. One more proto to clean up things a bit, and make sure everything works, and we’re ready to roll.

Loki Max is completely insane. It’s really designed to take on the legendary equalizers of the past, up to and including the Cello Audio Palette, which cost $25,000…in 1989. It’s our shot at doing an equalizer that is comfortably part of the highest-end systems…for, say, about 10X Loki Mini’s cost.

“Cello Audio Palette,” some people will cry, aghast. “How can you possibly compare with something so storied, so pedigreed, so expensive?”

Cool. Yeah. Let’s see.
  • Audio Palette used custom-made switches for their settings, allowing a precise center. We are using custom-designed, microprocessor-controlled relay potentiometers for our settings, allowing a precise center.
    • Palette wins this one maybe because each channel could be individually adjusted.
    • Or maybe we win this one because we have remote control with presets.
  • Palette used all-discrete amp stages (at least the early ones), but I’m not sure if it’s constant Q or if its passive LC-filtered. We use all-discrete amp stages throughout, with passive LC filtering, including heroic 1.5 and 0.5 H 80% nickel-core inductors (yes, that’s Henries, and yes, those are completely custom.)
    • Palette wins this one maybe if you like nonconstant Q? Not sure, though.
    • We win this one if you like old skool LC
  • Palette is the size of a Ford F-250, ours is the size of Freya.
    • Palette is seriously like 9 RU or something, so if you think bigger is better, they win.
    • If you want to match Freya, we win.
You get the picture, though. A bigger EQ is coming. It’s gonna be completely nuts. I’ll save all the detail of the development (and more photos, and a real timeline) for the chapter on Loki Max/Lokiest/Whatever The Heck We Call It when it hits.

In the meantime, we have Loki Mini+. A seriously old-skool equalizer for anyone who wants fingertip control of their system…

…even if you don’t know what an inductor-capacitor equalizer is.

I've been using a LOKI Mini for the past two years and find it to be an invaluable part of my Head-Fi system.
It enables me to equalize my headphones without having to make any physical changes to them. The LOKI
Mini is a great product at an incredible price.

Now waiting for Jason and Mike to offer a balanced version with the footprint of a Modius which I will
then add to my system. 😊
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:19 AM Post #72,636 of 80,233

S0undJunk1e

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A slight correction. In Schiit's case, Texas is obviously an attractive location for expansion, for the reasons Jason has discussed.

But yes, California is struggling -- not nearly hard enough, IMHO -- to retain productive companies and workers. We've provided ridiculous economic incentives to leave, which said companies and people will confirm after running the numbers on how quickly they recover their relocation costs (after which point they move progressively ahead over time). And bright ideas like the proposed California Assembly Bill 2088 aren't helping.
Well I really like California. So, in the interest of my own selfish desires, I want everyone to leave so the property costs come down and I can move out there :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:23 AM Post #72,637 of 80,233

Mumbles06

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Well, on the bright side, everyone is leaving California, they are moving here to Texas by the truckload. The downside is, property prices aren't really dropping out there, and they are increasing here. So you are slowly getting half of what you are asking for. 🤷‍♂️
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:30 AM Post #72,638 of 80,233

Luckyleo

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A slight correction. In Schiit's case, Texas is obviously an attractive location for expansion, for the reasons Jason has discussed.

But yes, California is struggling -- not nearly hard enough, IMHO -- to retain productive companies and workers. We've provided ridiculous economic incentives to leave, which said companies and people will confirm after running the numbers on how quickly they recover their relocation costs (after which point they move progressively ahead over time). And bright ideas like the proposed California Assembly Bill 2088 aren't helping.
For those not in the know, Assembly Bill 2088 will tax wealth, not income if your wealth is above $15M (single payer). Lets say you bought 1 share of apple at $100. You own it. The stock goes up to $110 before the end of the year. You will owe tax on $110 of stock. Let's assume you have no cash to pay that tax. You will have to sell your 1 share to pay for it. If you move to AZ, or for that matter any state in the USA you will pay zero wealth tax. The legality of such a law will be challenged in court and probably lose. If you live in Cali, get out now!! Once the law passes, if you lived in Cali for 6 months (lets say as a student at UCLA). You leave after 4 years with no wealth, and no income. You move to AZ and strike it rich. You now are a millionaire 40 times over, you will owe the wealth tax to Cali for 10 years after you have left. Great incentive to stay. No more politics. Sorry.
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:32 AM Post #72,639 of 80,233

Luckyleo

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The only thing stopping me from getting Roon is the monthly subscription model. I don't get why this has the same price as a music subscription, instead of just having a software cost. Is the step up in sound quality with Tidal good enough to warrant the extra monthly cost?I
I think it does. The user interface, the sound quality, all add up to a big plus. BUT you throw in Quboz or Tidal and it's a home run. Yes, it is expensive. I personally feel it is worth it for me specifically. YMMV
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:34 AM Post #72,640 of 80,233
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To keep this from being too political, there are good sides to both California and Texas.

The problem is, either through accident or otherwise, California has become "middle-class hostile." As in, it's nearly impossible to get established in life when a small, run-down "starter house" in the LA area is $600K, and it can be very painful to keep going when you factor in the cost of living for, like, everything. This is arguably worse than any business regulations or taxes, and it's a factor that has some of our staff moving to Texas. When faced with saving for additional years for a down on a house, combined with not paying off your student loans, versus getting a house immediately and paying off your loans, that's a big incentive.

I'm personally looking forward to continuing in both CA and Texas. Texas brings additional complexity, but also opportunity, and it's valuable to get perspective beyond one place. As I've said before, there is good and bad in every place. Focus on the good, and see if you can help with the bad.

I'll be talking more in-depth about Texas at the Virtual Schittrmeet next week, when I'm back in Cali.
 
Schiit Audio Stay updated on Schiit Audio at their sponsor profile on Head-Fi.
 
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Mar 3, 2021 at 11:37 AM Post #72,641 of 80,233

S0undJunk1e

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I think it does. The user interface, the sound quality, all add up to a big plus. BUT you throw in Quboz or Tidal and it's a home run. Yes, it is expensive. I personally feel it is worth it for me specifically. YMMV
Thanks for the insight. They have a free trial, so i suppose I can find out for free.
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:42 AM Post #72,642 of 80,233

S0undJunk1e

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Well, on the bright side, everyone is leaving California, they are moving here to Texas by the truckload. The downside is, property prices aren't really dropping out there, and they are increasing here. So you are slowly getting half of what you are asking for. 🤷‍♂️
I don't see the effects on Real Estate happening for years. The whole market demand vs availability thing. I was worried about you folks in Texas kinda getting the shaft from the 'great migration'. Sounds like it's already starting (unless you already own a house there of course).
 
Mar 3, 2021 at 11:58 AM Post #72,643 of 80,233

Rensek

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600k for a rundown starter home? yikes. My starter home was 64.9 k. 1800 sq ft home, 1000 sq ft attached garage, 86 x 300 ft lot.

Granted I live in the middle of nowhere and my only friends are the bottles of whisky I collect....

In about 10 years i'm hoping to afford a second place, a lake home, somewhere in MN, while retaining my starter home.

All of that for less then half of a starter home in LA. I'll take the bitter cold and mosquitos thank you very much.
 
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Mar 3, 2021 at 12:08 PM Post #72,645 of 80,233

Ripper2860

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:smiling_imp:
 

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