No idea, but I *did* check the data sheet and pricing for the ESS ES9018K2M. $9.00 a pop in quantity; that works out to $27,000 for a 3000 pc reel. Jason mentioned they had "big quantities" of AKM on hand; at some point you need to sell those......
Seriously, think about this; the actual DAC chip in a $100 dollar product being 10% of the overall price???
Yes but Jason also mentioned that they could also be forced to switch over from AKM to ESS in only a few months time, so the quantities don't really sound that big.
Math-wise, I don't think it really matter if they use the AKM in Fulla or in Hel.
For eg, let's say the AKM cost $5 per piece vs ESS at $9 per piece, and they have 50,000 pieces of AKM, and they need to manufacture 50,000 pieces each of Fulla and Hel. No matter whether you split the AKM equally among the Fulla and Hel, or you use the AKM solely for Hel and ESS solely for Fulla, you will still need to use up all 50k pieces of AKM and purchase 50k more pieces of ESS.
So your total cost of DAC remain the same.
Of course, if Schiit needed to increase the price of Fulla 4e (and other AKM DACs) due to the ESS cost, then it is understandable why they might want to sell the AKM Fulla 4 first.
No offence meant, I'm a Schiit fan and I am sometimes interested in learning more about Jason's business mind given that I might one day be a small business owner too.
TeXas or North Carolina BBQ ... I'll leave that to the folks from those part to explain.
For Aussie, I guess for us BBQ usually is more akin to grilling. There's a famous(?) commercial to encourage travel from the USofA to down under from years back that said "Throw another shrimp on the barbie" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shrimp_on_the_barbie
Those days are behind us (mostly!) and now a big subset of devotees would be more into the smoking and "low'n'slow" BBQ. Me, as an Aussie, have graduated from a grill (or two) to a Kamado Joe, which gives me options of low and slow to sear/grill to super hot for Pizza, all charcoal fired. Best BBQ I've ever owned and tends to get used much more for "BBQ" than "Grill"
And of course, keeping the thread on track, I have muzak playing on my patio via a Schiit Modi MB Dac. Smooth like the beer I'm drinking at the time
Love the new gear! Right now I'm in record playing mode with my Sol and Mani and would love to try a few different cartridges, but these guys are obviously busy and not in stock so I thought I'd reach out and ask if anyone around here has a second or third tonearm not presently in use?
Normally I'd just take off the stock cartridge, but someone whose name I should know did a perfect job installing the one that came with it, and I'm not going to make the mistake of messing up the sound by messing with the sound.
Willing to pay full price and postage. If they don't return I'll even sell it back if you need it again.
Maybe daddy will let me drive the car on my own when I'm a little older!
My conclusion on the lp/cd debate is that for those of us who loved records as kids, the fidelity is besides the point (records sound better .
As is often the case everything has to be a trend and everyone has to jump on board. Such is the state of affairs with hazy ipa's, sour and gose beers.
Trouble is, a good sour beer is hard to make and when everybody thinks they have to have one, the good ones are few and far between.
I like sour beers but I generally avoid them and retreat to some tried and true belgians when I want a sour.
I am SOOOOO tired of hazy IPAs. My kingdom for a beautiful west cost hoppy pale ale! Ok, there are some alternatives but you have to dig for them.
Of course it is also a matter of taste. Some folks will never like a sour beer or a hoppy beer.
My favorite beer, of course, is the one in my hand.
Disclaimer: A special thanks to Schiit's Jason Stoddard for sending out the Vali 2+ for my impressions. I personally reached out to them to get a Vali 2+ for review. It was entirely on my end as I was curious about current tube amplification and how it relates to other non-tube gear.
As always, whether products are sent to me or not, I do my best in being 100% honest with my views and opinions. If I don't like a product, I will refuse to write a review of it, or at the very least mention what I don't like about them, though I like to focus on products that people would like or at the very least are interested in. The only bias I have is to my readers. No one, Schiit, Jason, or otherwise, paid or asked me for anything other than for my honest impressions. That's it.
Here is an excerpt from my 2019 Fulla 3 and Hel review (edited for Vali 2+ specificity), which still applies here:
"As I'm someone who doesn't feel comfortable with dac/amp reviews, this particular "review" will be a bit more freestyle, with a more relaxed, thoughts on paper approach to writing, as opposed to my typical review process of trying to make it as professional as I possibly can. I think it's better for it, as I don't feel right about trying to condense my thoughts into my common review style for headphones for amp/dacs. It's why you haven't seen any full on review of anything outside of the gaming dac/amps that were easier to write about due to the software features. As Schiit's dac/amps are more simplistic, without any software, it wouldn't work quite the same. This entry will not be as long as those reviews, but I'll do my best in trying to make it legible to a degree. Thanks for your understanding.
I also know those in my small corner of the audiophile community like and use virtual surround devices, which the Vali 2+ is not. So this isn't aimed at them, and here I'm writing this 'review' for everyone else who doesn't need or use stuff like that, and just want the raw, untouched, stereo sound. Besides, the Vali 2+ makes an excellent amplifier outside of gaming as well, so they may still be interested in it."
The Vali 2+ is niche within a niche, as in people who want an external amplifier, as well as the amplifier being tube based.
It's been nearly a decade since I last touched a tube amplifier of any kind. This is not because tubes don't interest me, or because I've had bad experiences. On the contrary, one of my favorite sounding amplifiers was the original Schiit Vali on stock tubes, despite their ringing and hum. It just had a really engaging sound, that just made the toes tap and forget about anything technical. It was sweetness that I don't believe can be found out of a pure solid state amplifier. On the other end, I also had the original Schiit Lyr which I felt was a bit harsher than the solid states I owned at the time, though I didn't roll any tubes at that time. I didn't stick to the tube gear for too long.
For the longest time, I just wanted the simplicity of a solid state amplifier where I never had to worry about replacing any parts, as well as not wanting anything to impart any sort of signature to a headphone's own inherent tonal qualities. The benefit of a solid state's better measurements wasn't lost on me, though I'm not someone that believes anything measured but not heard means much of anything. The proof is in the pudding, as they say. If it sounds good, I could care less about measurements that only lab equipment can pick up. It's fine if you want to chase the best possible numbers, but then you're not listening to your gear.
What better way to get back into tubes than see what Schiit has done to improve on what was my first tube amplifier back in my early days of audiophilia? The Vali 2+ has come a long way from the original Vali. It's the 3rd version of the Vali, and has been internally redone, with higher quality specs and parts, but with a simpler, single tube install, so no longer needing to match tubes or have to replace both if one goes bad, etc. Just one and done. Easiest way to get into tubes, if you ask me. I didn't get a chance to hear the plain Vali 2, so I can't comment on how the Vali 2+ improves on it, other than power output for headphones. You'd have to ask Schiit.
It may come as no surprise, but Schiit has mostly kept to the same exact outer design, dimensions, and aesthetics as their very first pieces of gear back nearly a decade ago. I've always been a fan of Schiit's product design, so this serves me just fine. It pairs and stacks up perfectly with Modis, Magnis, and Lokis. I follow the simple mindset of not fixing things that aren't broke. The Vali 2 looks great, feels solid and durable, and is small enough to fit most spaces where an amplifier would be found necessary.
Front (left to right):
There isn't much (nor should there be much to any amplifier, in my opinion). You get the Schiit logo with Vali 2 printed in front (I wish Schiit actually added the + symbol to differentiate it from the original Vali 2, but oh well).
Volume Knob - Nearing the right you get the volume knob which you can pull off with some moderate force. Not sure what kind of material it's made out of. Looks metallic, but doesn't have much weight to it. My only real gripe with the knob is that the volume indicator is almost useless. Schiit, I love you guys, but I think it's time you add a solid, colored bar as an indicator. Outside of shining a light a specific way, it's incredibly hard to see the indicator. I personally have to force my head towards the Vali in order to see where the volume level is at.
I also use the Vali 2+ as a preamp to my Jotunheim 2 (to impart some tubey effects to the Jot 2). When I do so, I set the Vali 2+ to low gain, and max out the volume pot (for line level out). Thing is, whenever I just wanna use the Vali 2+, I have to remind myself to check the volume very closely to lower the it where it won't blow my headphones. So yes, I need a better volume indicator in the future, Schiit.
1/4" headphone input - Not much to say here other than Schiit uses a very good 1/4" input. I'll take 1/4" inputs over 3.5mm any day of the week. They're easier to plug in, last longer, and it's much easier to add a 1/4" snap or screw on adapter to a 3.5mm plug rather than getting a 3.5mm to a 1/4" adapter.
Rear (left to right):
The rear is nearly as simplistic as the front.
RCA L/R In - How else would you connect your source to the amplifier? I'd much rather have RCA in, rather than 3.5mm input.
High/Low Gain switch - Labelled Hi/Low, it does what you think it does. The gain switch goes from 0db at low gain to quite a bit more at high gain. It also changes the output impedance from 0.4ohm to 1.8ohm. Schiit has some of the best 'switch feels' out there. Toggling the switch has an audible clunk that is just...perfect. Feels good man.
RCA L/R Out - If you want to use the Vali 2+ as volume controlled pre-amp, this is where you plug into, keeping in mind that plugging in any headphone in the front will mute the pre-amp out. Believe it or not, the pre-amp function is actually the main reason I wanted to try out the Vali 2+ in the first place. I wanted the ability to send the Vali 2+'s tube characteristics to be sent to a "better/more powerful" amplifier. I own a Schiit Jotunheim 2 amplifier as my main amp, and wanted to test out and utilize all that goodness, with the Vali 2+ as a tube buffer.
On/Off Switch - The same feeling switch as the Hi/Lo. Feels good to turn it on/off, and as Schiit states, "Vali 2+ has a relay mute for delayed startup and fast shut-down."
24/6 VAC input - this is the first time I've ever seen this type of input as well as its plug. Very interesting, and Schiit has more to say about it in their product page, so if you're interested, better to hear it from the Schiit themselves.
Not much here other than the main reason you'd want a Vali 2+ in the first place, the tube. The tube is surrounded by a lot of circular openings for ventilation, set in a circular pattern. The original Vali 2 had the openings set in a more octagonal pattern. Other than the real label stating what Vali you have, this is the easiest way to tell which version you have if you got the Vali secondhand.
The included 6BZ7 tube doesn't come pre-installed, so you'll have to do it yourself. The tube 'input' is pretty easy to see and recessed just enough to protect it, but not so far recessed that it'd make it hard to insert a tube.
Final Build Quality Impressions:
Not much to say if you've ever owned any piece of Schiit. It's pretty standard fare. The body feels like a solid chunk of metal, , the switches are still as amazing as they were about a decade ago, and all the inputs are juuuuust right. The only issue I have with the Vali 2+ is the volume indicator, which I sincerely hope Schiit addresses in the future. It's a recurring issue with the silver colored Schiit gear, not so much with the black variants.
Aside from that, I love how Schiit gear looks, and how hefty they are. This does not change with the Vali 2+.
The Vali 2+ comes with bare minimum. You get the Vali, the 6BZ7 tube, and the power adapter. That's it.
You'll have to source your own RCA cables, which I think is fine, since we're all likely to have our own cables of varying lengths. I prefer they omit it, rather than have throw away cables that may be too short. You can get decent RCA cables for very little these days.
Ease of Use
There's not much to learn in terms of amplifiers, so they should be easy enough for a child to use. The only thing to worry about with the Vali 2+ that makes it a little harder to use than something like a Magni, is the tube aspect. Schiit states the tube can last over 5,000 hours, so you shouldn't have to worry TOO much about the life of a tube, unless you make the mistake of always leaving the amplifier on.
Other than that, just be wary you don't accidentally hit the glass or burn yourself. The tube gets hot... though not to the point of causing instant burns.
The Vali 2+ may not be the most pet friendly amplifier. If you have cats... I'd be afraid that they'd be attracted to the tube warmth and accidentally break it, so you've been warned.
The Vali 2+ has gained a bit more power over the Vali 2, though if you're mainly interested in having power for most headphones, the Magni at $99 has quite a bit more than the Vali 2+ for quite a bit less in cost. Despite that, the Vali 2+ does offer enough power for most headphones, though with less headroom than the Magni. If you're worried about a particularly hard to drive headphone, perhaps look elsewhere. If you're using most headphones that aren't distinctly known for their inability to be driven efficiently, the Vali 2+ should more than suffice.
There are a couple of things I need to say. This isn't limited to the Vali 2+ but tube amps in general. This is going to be a hot take, so I expect this to upset some of you.
I don't follow the collective mindset that thinks everything that isn't the stock tube is better. Why? Because I consider this expectation and justification bias. People will always want tubes they spent money on to sound better than whatever tubes an amp comes with, and so they're already under the belief that anything they use that isn't stock is going to be better. The comparisons were skewed from the start. So no, I don't believe it when people are like "Oh yeah, I swapped in to 19XX XYZ tubes from Nowheresville, and it's improved the transparency, clarity, smoothness, etc, etc." They start believing their own skewed results that it becomes fact down the line.
Like... do they have another Vali 2+ with the stock tube, volume matched where they can easily blind test and A/B compare with their Vali 2+ that has their fancy tube swap? My money is on NO. So again, skewed results from the start. Also, the process to turn off the Vali 2+, swap out to another tube, turn it back on, wait for the sound to come back on, match the volume level, and then compare is waaaaaay too long to get an accurate assessment on the differences.
Do I think tube swaps offer a difference to the sound? Absolutely. That's what people need to understand. I didn't say tubes don't make a difference. I'm saying to take what people say about their tube swaps with a grain of salt, especially when they don't have two of the same amplifier, volume matched, with an easy way to A/B compare blindly. In their mind, the coke bottle tube that cost them as much as their amp is already expected to sound better than the stock tube, regardless of whether it actually does or not.
I personally think that if you're going to have a tube amp, you WANT that tube amp to offer up a distinctly different quality to the sound compared to a moderate solid state amp that is clean, linear and relatively transparent. You WANT the tube amp to sound different. Of course, this also falls under expectation and justification bias. You got a tube amp, and so you're going to believe it's different than an SS amp.
That being said, the stock 6BZ7 tube sounds fine. By fine, I mean it doesn't really impart much of tonal shift over a normal SS amp like a Magni. I don't have a Magni here at the moment, to compare, but I do have some other SS amps, and I do agree that the Vali 2+ stock tube is fairly well behaved and SS-ish in that it's not particularly "tube-y". This is both good and bad. Good in that it's a very competent amplifier out of the box, that won't drastically change how a headphone sounds. You can plug in your headphones, and they sound just as you expect. Bad in that in getting a tube amplifier, I would've wanted a noticeable change from my other gear.
Despite my thinking that a tube amp should sound different than an SS amp, having a clean, linear sounding tube stock is probably the wiser choice, in case this is the only amplifier certain people will use. You want something moderate that isn't going to skew a headphone's sound any particular way. If you want to alter the sound, that's what tube rolling is for. So I think it is best to have a linear sounding tube by default.
As for tube rolling, after doing some homework, I went with an 6922 EH gold pin, because I've heard it's one of the softest sounding tubes, which would make a great contrast to most linear sounding SS amps. While I was already affected by expectation bias since I anticipated a softer sound, I did find the very subtle difference to be enough where the 6922 gold gave me JUST enough of a contrast to my SS amps. For one, I liked the 6XX with the stock tube, but thought it leaned too far towards the smooth side with the 6922 gold, that I didn't enjoy it as much. On the positive side, it gave the Focal Elex a very minor boost in richness and warmth which made it even more enjoyable than on the stock tube. Again, we're in a game of extreme subtleties.
I won't sit here talking at length about the Vali 2+'s sound quality. All I can say is that by default, the Vali 2+ sounds great. Clean, no perceivable noise or hum, with enough power to drive many headphones with plenty of headroom. Not all, and you may feel it should've had more headroom, but I think under most circumstances, the Vali 2+ has plenty of power.
For a more positive, perhaps "I'm hearing things that may not be real type of impressions", what I'll say next is how I felt, and not so much how I absolutely think is 100% accurate to what is actually happening.
I really, really like how the Vali 2+ alone adds just a certain amount of pleasant, subtle fuzziness to the sound. Like, imagine a a sharp mountain peak, and something filed down the peak into being blunt. Imagine an upside down V becoming an upside U. That's how I feel the Vali turns things into, if only JUST. I wouldn't call it measurable. I'd call it psychoacoustic, maybe? Like, it won't change what your headphone sounds like. It's not an EQ that corrects frequencies. It's just a special little 'something' that is added.
It's more like... if say, my Jotunheim 2 is tactile, punchy and hard hitting, the Vali 2+ with the EH6922 gold tube sounds not as refined, and not as pristine, but softer, more pleasant, and easy going. It's not BETTER. It's just...different? A type of different that you can enjoy even if it's technically worse. This is why people say not to base your sound enjoyment out of what measures better.
Again, it's not better. Technically, it can definitely considered inferior, but depending on headphone, it can sound more pleasing to listen to. And as always, and as I stated before, this is very subtle, and you'd have to really pay attention to truly appreciate what's being done. I wouldn't be mad if someone said they can't hear a damn difference. I wouldn't argue that. It's that subtle, to where I question myself.
In any case, you'll definitely have to experiment with tubes, as some may just sound too close to solid state-ish that the difference is essentially imperceptible.
With that said, as subtle as these things may be, I wouldn't ever go into tube amplification thinking it's going to transform your listening experience. For that, I'd recommend you change to a different transducer, whether it's a different headphone, or a different speaker, that's what REALLY transforms the listening experience. Everything else is just minor subtleties that may not be worth the time and investment. Short of changing your headphones/speakers, something like a Schiit Loki or software EQ that specifically alters the frequencies and changes them however you want, is really what will noticeably change the sound.
As for me, the Vali 2+ is a perfect entry point into the world of tube amplification, and has made me more interested in how the better, higher end gear sprinkles the sound with their unique traits. Will I tube roll past what I have with the Vali 2+? Personally, no, not really. I merely wanted to try something to see how different it could sound from my Jotunheim 2 and other solid state amplifiers. I'm not falling deep down the rabbit hole into the world of tubes. Of course, I'd like to test out other types of tube amps like the SET designs and OTL designs like the Valhalla 2. But I'm happy sticking to the Jotunheim 2 for now. If I ever felt a need to upgrade or replace, I'd consider maybe a Lyr 3 for myself.
The main reason for me wanting to try out the Vali 2+ (as stated earlier), was to use it as a preamp for my Jotunheim 2, to inject some tubey goodness as a contrast to the SS dynamics of the Jot 2 alone. Again, I wouldn't be using the stock tube as it's already too close to SS-sound, so I swapped to the EH6922 Gold for this as well.
I also tested the Vali 2+ as a preamp to my Presonus Eris E4.5 powered monitor speakers.
So if I want to directly compare the Jot 2 as intended, or the Jot 2 with Vali 2+ flavor, all I have to do is flip a front switch on the Jot 2 from XLR to RCA input. Granted, the XLR input has a bit more gain than RCA, so volume level can't be matched unless I switch the Vali 2+ to high gain. I was able to closely match the volume. All I had to do then was switch the Jot 2's switch from XLR to RCA, which takes a fraction of a second.
What did I find? I found that in both my headphones and speakers, it was nearly indistinguishable to tell one from the other. I have absolutely zero confidence I'd ever pick one out over the other in level matched, blind test.
So for the sake of my needs, I found that using the Vali 2+ as a preamp to the Jot 2 didn't offer any real tube benefit over just going straight from the Modius to the Jotunheim 2. If it sounds disappointing, I'm sorry to say that I'm a realist and I'm not here to tell you about a magical change being done by the tubes here. This doesn't mean better tubes WON'T cause a noticeable change. It just means with the ones I had on hand, in direct comparison, the difference was basically impossible to discern. Take that as you will.
At $150, the Vali 2+ bridges the gap between the Magni and Asgard/Magnius. In almost all instances, I personally think you're better off saving $40-$50 and getting a Magni if you want a great amp that has more power and measures better, or simply stepping up to the considerably beefier Asgard or Magnius for just $50 more than the Vali.
If you're looking at the Vali 2+, it's entirely due to the fact it's the cheapest tube amplifier on the Schiit lineup, and plan on rolling tubes. So you have to go in there with the mindset of wanting a tube amp, which has the trade off of not being as well performing or as powerful as the cheaper Magni variants, and closely creeping up to the cost of the bigger amps.
In short, the Vali 2+ is for those that have done their homework, and want what the Vali 2+ has to offer, and that is a Schiit tube amp that is easy to maintain, and swap tubes for. For everyone else, get the Magni, Asgard, or Magnius. That simple. For me, if I was just getting into getting an amplifier, I'd get the Vali 2+, mainly because I just think it looks cooler than the Magnis, and it performs well enough for me.
Likes and Dislikes
Clean stock tube sound, no tube hum
Single tube maintenance
Affordable tube rolling
No power LED. Tube glow = ON
Tubes look cool, sue me
Volume knob indicator on silver body hard to see
Would like to see power output comparable to Magni 3+/Heresy
May need to roll a different tube to get actual tube sound
The preamp testing outcomes makes me question how I felt about the Vali 2+ alone as a headphone amp when using the 6922 gold pin tubes, and thinking it was softer and richer than the stock tubes. I felt that way, but it was based off a slow tube swap, so it was a flawed conclusion to begin with.
Is this evidence enough for me to believe tubes are a bunch of audio-foolery? No, not really. I do think there is merit to tubes as I will never forget just how different and brilliant I thought the original Vali sounded, that gave me a really good sense of analog "sound". It's just that the Vali 2+ is so good as an amp that it comes incredibly close to a solid state sound.
I will be the first to admit I don't have vast endless experience with tube amplifiers, having only heard so few of them, but I can with confidence say the two tubes I have on hand here didn't really impart any difference through the preamp out, and any difference I heard through the headphone out may as well been expectation bias. I'm not confident with my own assessment of the sound.
Still, this is about the Vali 2+, and as far as I'm concerned, the Vali 2+ is a fantastic starting point for those who want to get into both Schiit gear or tube amplification. Just manage your expectations on just how much tubes affect the sound, and I think you'll be just fine. Even if all you wanted was a one and done amplifier that you don't even wanna swap tubes for, the Vali 2+ is a bonafide, quality amplifier without any reservations.
When Modi 3 gets updated with ESS chips it will be very tempting to buy one just to compare it side-by-side with my old Modi 3 with AKM chips. I use multibit DACs for both my headphone and 2-channel setups, but it will be interesting to see if I can hear a difference between the two chipsets.
Regarding SQ, I don't think we have a clue what exactly makes we like a sound or not. So from that point of view I don't have any problems with MQA, if it sounds good, well OK. But I did not ask for it. I think the studio's did not ask for it. I think the world is close to perfect if production are 24 bit and 48Khz and the whole distribution chain keeps that file until I receive it to play!
I will avoid brands that include MQA (like added sugar, I avoid it)