Schiit Happened: The Story of the World's Most Improbable Start-Up
Dec 1, 2021 at 10:10 AM Post #85,171 of 104,219
Jun 9, 2010
Newhall, CA and Corpus Christi, TX
Tyr is massive!!!

Elvis (our ops manager in Valencia) tells me each Tyr weighs 57 lbs. He's been building them and getting them ready for boards for a while now. But yeah, that's another full boat crazy product. We'd be shipping them, except for tragedy at one of our PCB houses--their GM passed away (not from COVID), then their founder/president and technical lead both went into the hospital (for COVID.) They're both out (as of yesterday). We're still figuring out the impact on timelines, but this puts things in perspective. Getting a product to market sometimes isn't just about pulling the levers on a big, impersonal machine. There are real people out there. Try to be nice to them. And to each other.
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Dec 1, 2021 at 10:23 AM Post #85,173 of 104,219


Previously MOT: Cables For Less
Jun 1, 2016
Elvis (our ops manager in Valencia) tells me each Tyr weighs 57 lbs. He's been building them and getting them ready for boards for a while now. But yeah, that's another full boat crazy product. We'd be shipping them, except for tragedy at one of our PCB houses--their GM passed away (not from COVID), then their founder/president and technical lead both went into the hospital (for COVID.) They're both out (as of yesterday). We're still figuring out the impact on timelines, but this puts things in perspective. Getting a product to market sometimes isn't just about pulling the levers on a big, impersonal machine. There are real people out there. Try to be nice to them. And to each other.
Sorry to hear about the loss of the GM.

Normally I do not use EQ but this device intrigues me and I hope to order one after the holidays. Very nice work.

Christmas will be here soon and there may well be a Loki Max under the tree for me after all. :) I had given my son a Freya + and Bifrost 2 so maybe it is my turn.

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Dec 1, 2021 at 10:23 AM Post #85,174 of 104,219


500+ Head-Fier
Nov 26, 2017
Getting a product to market sometimes isn't just about pulling the levers on a big, impersonal machine. There are real people out there. Try to be nice to them. And to each other.
100% agree!!!
Dec 1, 2021 at 10:35 AM Post #85,176 of 104,219


1000+ Head-Fier
Jan 29, 2018
US Midwest
Sheesh im going to need to make a decision.... Keep buying new whiskeys to try or stop that and buy old, cheap reliables so that I have cash to buy newer & spendier Schiit.

Tyr looks imposing, Loki Max is awesome... new Maggies wont come cheap either...

People first, products second.
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Dec 1, 2021 at 10:43 AM Post #85,178 of 104,219


500+ Head-Fier
Nov 26, 2017
Order placed!!! Loki Max will be added to Yggy + Jotunheim R + Raal Sr1a
Dec 1, 2021 at 10:44 AM Post #85,179 of 104,219


Headphoneus Supremus
Jan 18, 2014
Valley of the Sun
In before they sell out. :)
Dec 1, 2021 at 10:47 AM Post #85,180 of 104,219


500+ Head-Fier
Nov 26, 2017
Tyr weighs 57 lbs
Omg. shipping will cost me!
But i think its time to upgrade from the Aegirs.

In the photo, the 2 Tyrs were stacked. Is that a recommended placement? or its just too big to fit nicely in the rack?
Dec 1, 2021 at 10:50 AM Post #85,182 of 104,219


100+ Head-Fier
Feb 22, 2019
2021, Chapter 14:
Full Boat Crazy


Because this is nuts.

We’re nuts for making it. And you’re nuts for wanting it.

I’m, of course, talking about Loki Max, the biggest, craziest, most ridiculous equalizer out there.

Aside: dare I say it? “Crazier than the Cello Audio Palette?” That’s like painting your butt red and mooning a bull. Everyone is gonna have an opinion, from “yeah, I get it,” to “ah, you guys are wayyyyyy too big for your britches.”

Aside to the aside: well, everyone who was alive during the Cello Audio Palette era is gonna have an opinion, that is…and, realistically, a whole bunch of people have no idea what an Audio Palette is or what I’m talking about.

So yeah, let’s say it: crazier than the Cello Audio Palette.

Which, by the way, cost $25,000 in 1989. Which is an eye-watering $56,000 today. Which you can get a ton of good cars for. If they are in stock. So LOL. There you go. Who knew we’d be living in a new-scarcity dystopia in 2021?

So how is the $1499 Loki Max crazier than a $56,000 product from decades long past?

Here you go:
  • It’s an LC equalizer. As in, it uses only inductors and capacitors for equalization, no gain stages (other than the main gain stage), no active parts for the frequency shaping at all. And those LC parts include two completely bonkers, custom-designed, custom-wound, 80% nickel-core inductors bigger than your testicles. Or an average human testicle. No judgement.
  • It has full remote control. As in, you can sit in your favorite listening chair and adjust all of the EQ bands. You can even set presets. You can even watch the knobs turn as the EQ adjusts to the presets.
  • It uses relay-switched potentiometers. And no, this is not a relay-switched attenuator, like we’ve been using on our preamps for quite some time now. A relay potentiometer is quite a different beast, and a lot harder to implement than an attenuator, requiring careful design, truth tables, and logic strike-outs to make work correctly. As far as we know, nobody else is using relay potentiometers on any other audio device. Period.
Beyond that, yeah, we’ll admit, the Cello has got us on a few things, like its custom-made switches (no potentiometers there either, soooooo pedestrian) and the fact that it was dual-mono, so you could adjust each channel individually.

Aside: but if you’re spending $56K on an EQ, maybe, ah, optimize your room so you don’t need individual adjustment? Ah, logic. So painful.

So yeah, Loki Max is full boat crazy. This is the kind of product you don’t make with market analysis, focus groups, cost constraints, measurement nervosa, or any other worries. You do it because it is full boat crazy, an indication of what is possible, rather than what makes sense.

In short, it’s the Loki I always wanted to do.

I hope you love it.

loki max detail 2 1920.jpg

Let’s Talk Uncertainty

No sane company would make this product.

No way. No how.

I mean, the day for EQ has passed, right? The grinning 31-band EQs of the 80s have long since found their dumpsters, am I not correct? I mean, no sane audiophile would use eq…

…except for room correction…​
…and people using surgical DSP eq…​
…and the many, many, many people who have Loki Mini and Lokius (but don’t talk about them much—guilty pleasure, maybe?)​

So maybe the day for EQ hasn’t passed.

But even then, no sane company would do this product.

It’s too expensive.​
It’s too much of a throwback.​
It’s wayyyyy too complex.​

No. Why bother? We can make Magnis and Modis and do very well making Magnis and Modis. Especially why bother when there’s so much pain involved—from the relay potentiometers to the gain stage, to the balanced I/O, to the inductors themselves? It would literally take years to get it right.

And it did.

If you go back through my blatherings about EQ—Loki Mini+ and Lokius—you’ll read that Loki Max was first designed at the same time as Loki Mini+, but it didn’t actually work at all until about a year ago. Heck, when it was designed, one key part of the topology—the Nexus™ gain stage—didn’t even exist. Combined with my own misunderstanding about how the relay potentiometers should work, and fits and starts on the firmware, then, later, bouts of practical considerations, like how to have enough headroom for an EQ with lots of gain running 4V balanced outputs, and yeah, it took literally years to get from “this is a cool idea,” to “this is something we can actually offer to real customers.”

And that’s exactly why no sane company would make Loki Max. It’s wayyyyy too far our there. There’s too much complexity. Too many things not worked out. Too long of a development time.

But in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not 100% sane.

Aside: I say “we may be crazy” all the time. Now you may be starting to understand what we mean.

And there was a time when I thought we wouldn’t be doing a Loki Max at all. It was simply too painful, too recalcitrant, too determined not to work.

But we worked it through.

First, Dave and I went through the truth tables for the relay potentiometers. One of the keys to a working relay potentiometer is…ah hell, I’m getting ahead of myself. More on that later. Suffice to say, we worked that out first.

Then Nexus became a real, working thing, and the balanced I/O suddenly got a lot more feasible.

Then we tackled some mechanical and functional stuff, things like getting a remote control that worked, simplifying the relay driving scheme, upsizing the transformer so it could deal with the metric asston of relays we were using…

…and suddenly, there was something that kinda-sorta-almost worked.

Except for the balanced output problem. 4V RMS with 15-16dB of gain on top of it is kinda insane in terms of voltage output. So the power supply had to have its voltage doubled…but again, I’m getting ahead of myself.

Bottom line, when I started on the design of Loki Max, I had no idea how much work it would really take. Nor did I know how close it would be to the original concept (spoiler alert: very close, in terms of look/feel/function/operations, and also very far apart, in terms of actual technical implementation).

Far too much uncertainty. Why not make more Magnis?

Because we like to push the limits. Even when we ultimately decide that the product isn’t for us (Sol), we do get the heck out there. Even when we’re still chewing on something (Urd), we’ll keep going to see where it goes.

Maybe we’re unique in loving uncertainty. Or maybe we’re simply insane.

No. Wait.

That’s selling us too short.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say we’re more comfortable with uncertainty than, well, pretty much any company out there.

I mean, have you noticed that corporations hate to be wrong? I mean hate hate hate with a raging fiery passion. They hate it so much they usually won’t ever admit it, even if their wrong-ness is served up to them on a platter, right in their face?

But Schiit?

Ah hell, we’re OK with uncertainty. We're fine with being wrong. Even in assertions. I mean, when I say, “this is the only remote control EQ that we know about,” it includes the words, “that we know about.” That’s normally anathema. If we were a normal multinational VC-funded company headed by a bunch of harrumphing board members waiting impatiently for their next round of golf, we’d get Corporate Research to vet the statement so we could use it, or so we could add some qualifier to it so we could use it.

Qualifier. Yeah. I’ve spent too many years in marketing, so here you go:

Loki Max is the only remote control LC equalizer.

Or, to hedge a bit more:

Loki Max is the only remote control, fully discrete LC equalizer.

Or, to be fully precise:

Loki Max is the only remote control, fully discrete, LC equalizer using unique relay potentiometers.

So why are we comfortable not drilling this down, and just saying, “This is the only remote EQ we know about?”

Because we’re human. We don’t know every product being made around the world, whether it’s here or in Canada or Japan or Ukraine or Indonesia or Taiwan or wherever. There’s a ton of really interesting stuff coming from all corners from the world. And to think our tiny team can know all of them is, well, kinda ridiculous. Same way it’s ridiculous to employ a team of researchers and legal beagles to weasel up some “one and only” statement caveated to hell and back.

Here’s the thing: if there are other remote controlled EQs out there (that is, actual hardware EQs, not app-controlled surgical tools), that’s great. Lots of different and interesting products are the sign of a healthy, vibrant market. A market dominated by any one single thing is dead.

So yeah. Totally nuts. Nothing wrong with that.

Let’s Talk Tech

Actually, let’s start with one number: Loki Max has 72 relays in it.


Consider: seventy-two relays. That’s 72x the relay complement of a Magni. 12x that of Jotunheim. 3X Freya+ (and it has a balanced relay attenuator!). 60 of these relays are there just to serve the 6 bands of equalization—10 per band, resulting in 31 total steps, including a center and 15 steps on either side. If all relays were on at once, it would draw more than 2A from the power supply.

Why so many relays?

It’s simple: because there’s no better way to make a connection between input and output, no better way to switch modes, and no better way to manage the logarithmic resistor ladder that makes up each relay potentiometer.

“No better way?” a skeptic says. “Somehow I doubt that.”

Cool. Fight me.

What do you want to use? FET switches? Nope, sorry, higher distortion. Solid state relays? Capacitance out the wazoo. Some integrated chip where both of the above are hidden? Yeah, uh-huh, nope. Relays are a direct mechanical contact. Everything else—literally everything else—involves electronics, sometimes a lot of electronics—and has nonlinear characteristics you need to consider.

No. It’s simple. Relays are best. They’re just a pain in the ass, which is why a lot of people don’t want to use them. They also make clicky noises, which irritates some other people. Fine. Just know that Loki Max makes plenty of clicky noises.

But, as usual in this chapter, I’m getting ahead of myself. The goal here is to talk tech. And, if you want to talk Loki Max tech, you should really break it down:
  • Relay potentiometers.I just talked about that above. But the real challenge with relay pots is they are not relay attenuators, which is what most people think you’re talking about if you’re talking about a bunch of relays in a row. That’s because we helped popularize relay attenuators in products like Saga, Freya, and Ragnarok, and bring them down to sane price points (Saga S was $299, ya know, no excuse to use a friggin volume control chip on a multi-thousand-dollar product…but please exuse my grumpitude, sometimes the prices of things get me down). But relay pots are totally different.
    • Relay potentiometers have completely different logic
    • They also have an excluded state, if they are to work right
    • They use a lot more relays for the number of steps (10 for 31 steps, vs 7 for 128 steps, for example)
    • In short, I haven’t seen relay potentiometers (with a real center tap) in other products—but, as explained previously, I don’t know everything, and I could be wrong
  • Remote control.The sharp-eyed will notice that Loki Max also has 6 motorized potentiometers, in addition to the 60 relays of the relay potentiometer bank. What the heck are these for? Three things:
    • To facilitate remote control of the equalizer, so you can adjust the sound from your favorite chair
    • To sense the position of the knobs, so the relay potentiometers can be adjusted to match
    • To match the position of the knobs to pre-set equalization curves
    • Again, I may be wrong, but I think we have the only consumer-focused hardware equalizer with a remote control here—and it has friggin pre-sets!
  • Full microprocessor management.It should go without saying, I think, but to enable the remote control, and to manage all the relays (beyond the relay potentiometers, to the input and mode-switching relays), we also have full microprocessor management, running custom firmware, to enable the storage and recall of pre-set EQ curves.
    • And yes, I know, there are only 3 presets, but ya gotta ask yourself, “At what point does the number of presets cross into nervosa?” I mean, sure, we could’ve slapped an OLED screen on there and given you 10000 presets, but do you really think you’re gonna remember what Preset 1034 actually is? One of the things we do that irritates some people is that we try to design products to minimize nervosa. So that means not a ton of presets. Sorry if that doesn’t work for you.
    • And yeah, the knobs spin when you select a preset.
    • And yeah, I know the above is super sexy and that’s probably why most people will buy a Loki Max. Ah well.
  • Fully discrete design.From input to output, Loki Max is fully discrete. From our discrete JFET summers to our two-stage superbuffer, to the single gain stage, to the Nexus balanced outputs, there are hundreds of individual components, rather than a couple of op-amps.
    • Fully discrete design gives us more control over every aspect of the stage—from its idle current (to keep it in Class A) to its open- and closed-loop gain (to optimize its performance)
    • Our fully discrete design showcases our deep understanding of analog design, including Class A current-feedback stages and unique inherently differential stages
  • Fully LC topology.In all of our other equalizers, we use LC topology whenever we can, and fall back on gyrator-capacitor topologies when we can’t (due to space or cost). In the case of Loki Max, we didn’t fall back:
    • We had custom-made inductors made throughout, including 1.5H and 0.5H inductors on 80% nickel cores, for low distortion
    • We used film capacitors throughout, as well as thin-film resistors
    • Due to the LC topology, there is only processing gain stage, instead of gain stages for each band, substantially simplifying the design.
  • An insane power supply.When the reality of all the gain we were throwing at hot balanced signals sank in, we had two choices: (1) reduce the input signal to match, or (2) increase the power supply rails. Of course we chose the latter. As a result:
    • Loki Max has 4 main analog rails, rather than 2—+/-16V and +/-32V
    • The +/-32V rails give us absolutely bonkers headroom—the ability to swing 20V RMS balanced!
In case you’ve missed it, this is a real leap—a crazy complex throwback electromechanical product that’s literally unique. It’s so far beyond Magni and Modi it’s silly. This is a true specialty product, something that isn’t for anyone, and is fairly expensive.

Aside: fairly expensive for us, that is. Let me snicker as I remember the $25,000 Audio Palette.

So if you look at this thing and think, “I don’t get it. You can do room correction and get a lot more control with digital,” or “This is way expensive, I don’t see why you’d step up to this,” then Loki Max simply isn’t for you.

And that’s fine.

No judgement.

No, seriously. When we say “Magni and Modi are all you’ll ever need,” we’re 100% serious. This is a crazy product for crazy people. And it will make some crazy people crazy happy.

Let’s Talk Changes

I mentioned the long gestation for Loki Max—the fact that it didn’t really work for years. But anything of this complexity is gonna have a lot of weirdo things, last-minute changes, unexpected problems, etc. And Loki Max had three big ones (at least the ones I remember, there are probably more).
  • The case of the flaming resistors. When I do big crazy power supplies, I don’t just use a standard regulator. There’s pre-smoothing, regulation, post-smoothing, and sometimes more. In the case of Loki Max, the pre-smoothing worked and made total sense—in a steady-state scenario. However, if the capacitors were discharged (like when you first turn it on), the inrush was sufficient to actually smoke the smoothing resistors. Ooops. Bigger resistors solved this, but this is a pretty bizarre twist.
  • The case of the missing button. We actually got to the working-product phase before I realized we were missing a button. An earlier iteration of the product had simpler input options—as in, choose one input and use it, sorry, no switching for you. Luckily, sanity prevailed and I added input switching, but not before we got boards missing the input switch, and prototype metal also sans any place for a button. Oops. Another change.
  • The case of the last minute firmware changes. When all was said and done, after first articles were in-house and approved, we started getting production quantities in. Which didn’t 100% work. As in, you’d press a remote button and the band would sometimes adjust, and sometimes not. I figured it was a simple thing, like a wrong power supply voltage, but two revisions of firmware were necessary to kill this bug. Now you know one reason things are late here…
  • The case of black only. Yeah. As in, we never got any successful aluminum anodized tops. So we’re starting with black only. So when will silver show up? I don’t know. We’re continuing to try, but I don’t have a date for you.
Good news? We worked through all the rest. And we’re shipping now. We’ll see how it is keeping crazy parts like the custom inductors in stock. And we’ll see if we can figure out the silver finish.

Let’s Talk Futures

So we have this big crazy thing now. Arguably bigger crazier than Ragnarok or Yggdrasil. You may be asking yourself, Is this a one-off? Or not? What does it mean for the future?

Well, it’s not a one-off.

Not with Tyr, Folkvangr, and Urd coming.

Yes. Stop laughing. They’ll get here. Just like your Bronco.

The point is, yeah, we’re going to be doing some crazier stuff. We’re going to be roasting some sacred cows. We’re going to be venturing into places where we shouldn’t be, so we can see what we might find.

Because, seriously, the farther we get down this path—the path, I’ll remind you, which started with the re-writing of the 95 Theses when we introduced Loki Mini—the more I think, “There are things we’ve been doing wrong…for decades.”

Am I crazy? Probably.

But I’ll refer you back to the title of this chapter.

And I sincerely hope some of you are as full boat crazy as I am.
Looks great! When silver becomes available, I'm in!

Also, the specs are listed as 5 x 3.5 x 1.25”. That can't be right...right? It looks like it matches the Freya in the picture...
Dec 1, 2021 at 11:00 AM Post #85,184 of 104,219


500+ Head-Fier
Nov 26, 2017
Order placed, woke up and ordred it. I wanted silver but I did not want to wait.
let me guess. you did not even bother to read the details? haha
Dec 1, 2021 at 11:03 AM Post #85,185 of 104,219


500+ Head-Fier
Aug 1, 2014
That was a great read. Loki Max is an insane product that most firms wouldn't have the courage to build. It's not for me - its size, price, and complexity are all out my league. Still, I appreciate the feat of engineering it represents and love seeing how Schiit swings for the fences with some of these "out-there" products.

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